American Surrealism

Tracking Neruda’s legacy through the surrealist Rhizomaze we meet Robert Bly 40 and experience the suction of early 60s American poets into the American surrealist skein, wisp thin until then, its whisperings only audible in the poetry of Charles Henry Ford, 41 through the 30s, and as an influence on the Beat poets of the 50s. 13 Bly is in the New York Public Library, reading H. R. Hays’ translations of Neruda’s poetry in 12 Spanish American Poets. Here, and sparked too by his negative critical assessment of Ben Belitt’s 1961 translations, begins a passionate enthusiasm for Neruda translation which proves contagious, inspiring a decade of translations by 60s North American poets, and inevitably influencing their own work. Clayton Eschleman, Jerome Rothenburg, Robert Kelly, James Wright, Selden Rodman, 42 W.S. Merwin, Charles Simic, Charles Wright, and Mark Strand 43 all turn their hand to Neruda translation, often offering their version of the same poems, such as ‘Walking Around’, 44 ‘There’s No Forgetting’ and poems from his trilogy Residencia en la Tierra. US poet, translator and literary critic Donald Hall coins the term ‘Deep Image’ poetry in reference to the surrealist tilt in the work of Bly and Wright, which ‘eschews logic and other conventional structures’ and utilises ‘the fantastic image that comes from the unconscious mind’. 45

map | menu