December 2, 2003 – Clayton Eshleman: “Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination & the Construction of the Underworld”

Tuesday, December 2 / 4:30 PM / Stevenson 150

A program of one and a half hours based on the just-published book, Juniper Fuse (Wesleyan), which presents the fruits of a 25-year poetic investigation of the origins of image-making (and, by implication, the roots of poetry) via the Ice Age decorated caves of southwestern France. Eliot Weinberger writes of Juniper Fuse:

“The invention of the historical other has become almost programmatic in twentieth-century American poetry; for Pound, ancient China; for H.D., classical Greece; for Olson, Mesopotamia; for Snyder, the Neolithic. Eshleman has pushed the historical back about as far as it can go: to the Upper Paleolithic, and the earliest surviving images made by humans. As a result of his literal and imaginative explorations of the painted and gouged caves, Eshleman has constructed a myth, perhaps the first compelling post-Darwinian myth: that the Paleolithic represents the “crisis” of the human “separating out” of the animal, the original birth and original fall of man. From that moment, human history spins out: from the repression of the animal within to the current extinction of the animals without: the inversion from matriarchy to patriarchy, and the denial of the feminine; the transformation of the fecund underworld into the Hell of suffering; and the rising of Hell, in the twentieth century, to the surface of the earth: Dachau, Hiroshima. The poet’s journey is an archetypal scenario of descent and rebirth: he has traveled to the origin of humanness to reach the millennium, end and beginning.”

Clayton Eshleman, a seminal figure in American poetry, has published 13 collections of poetry with Black Sparrow Press, and several collections of essays, most recently Companion Spider (Wesleyan), with an introduction by Adrienne Rich. He is also the primary American translator of Cesar Vallejo, Aime´ Ce´saire, Antonin Artaud, and Michel Deguy. He founded and edited two pioneering literary journals, Caterpillar and Sulfur. He has received the National Book Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and several prestigious awards for translation. Eshleman is currently a professor in the English Department at Eastern Michigan University.

Co-sponsored by the IHR, the Living Writers Research Unit, and the department of Anthropology