Scholars of modern American poetry – including its ties to early rock & roll songwriting – will benefit from a collection of research and letters recently donated to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) Libraries by Martin Jack Rosenblum, a senior lecturer in the Peck School of the Arts.
Rosenblum teaches music history and literature, and helped establish the graduate creative writing program at UWM in the 1970s. A centerpiece of his recent donation is the stockpile of correspondence between himself and poets and writers who were friends and colleagues between 1965-2002. The donated materials also include the final manuscript of Rosenblum’s unpublished critical biography of Objectivist poet Carl Rakosi, his research materials relating to Rakosi and other Objectivist poets, and rare photographs of Rakosi at his home during the summer of 1974.
Poets known as Objectivists comprised the second generation of American Modernist poets, who emerged in the 1930s. The core group of seven was grouped for their common treatment of the poem as an object and emphasis on the poet’s clear view of the world. Influenced by the work of Ezra Pound, they rejected the language of sentimentality in favor of focusing on everyday life, using common American speech.
“Rakosi was intent upon creating an exclusively American art form,” says Rosenblum, who taught the first Objectivist poetry course in the nation at UWM in the 1970s.
He accumulated the donated materials as he was researching and writing his dissertation on Rakosi and the impact of Objectivist poetry, and his Rakosi biography, which was completed in 1981.
“Objectivist poetry, while remaining buried inside modern American poetry, was actually its primary instigator,” says Rosenblum. “Many poets wrote groundbreaking work after the Objectivists but the connection had been unrevealed by scholars and even the poets themselves. The poets with whom I spoke, from Allen Ginsberg to Paul Blackburn, all acknowledged the Objectivists as mentors yet never published anything about this influence.”
The collection features interviews and correspondence with a range of poets, many of them with Wisconsin or Minnesota ties. Besides Objectivist core members Rakosi, George Oppen, Louis Zukofsky and Charles Reznikoff, the collection includes correspondence with poets Cid Corman, Ted Enslin, Karl Young and Robert Bly, as well as Norman Holmes Pearson, professor of English and American Studies at Yale University, who edited The Oxford Anthology of American Literature in the 1930s.
In addition, some of the letters discuss a connection between modern poetry and song lyrics in rock & roll of the early 1960s, initiated by Bob Dylan. While many believe inclusion of literary aspects in songwriting was inspired by Beat poets, Rosenblum presents evidence that the most important influencers were the Objectivists.
Rosenblum, an Appleton, Wis. native, earned his Ph.D. in literature at UWM. With Morgan Gibson and the late Jim Hazard, he launched UWM’s graduate creative writing program in the 1970s. Also a musician, Rosenblum has alternated practicing both art forms his entire career. He is a recording artist on the Rounder Records label, a Harley-Davidson historian emeritus and the author of several books of poetry.
His 1980 doctoral dissertation, “Carl Rakosi’s Americana Poems: Objectivist Word Machines from an American Assembly Line,” is available in the UWM Libraries general collection. View contents list of the donated collection online.