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Paul Blackburn and Julio Cortázar

Paul Blackburn (1926–71) was born in Vermont and moved to Greenwich Village at the age of fourteen with his mother, poet Frances Frost. After getting out of the army, Blackburn corresponded with Ezra Pound and hitchhiked from the University of Wisconsin to visit him in Washington, D.C. at St. Elizabeths Hospital. Called the pre-spirit of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, Blackburn gave the first reading there in 1966, and both his work and recordings of early downtown readings had widespread influence across a range of poetic practices. Poet-in-Residence at City College, CUNY, from 1966–67, he published thirteen books of poetry and five major translations in his lifetime, including the medieval epic Poem of the Cid, and work by Julio Cortázar that served as one of the opening salvos of the Latin American boom. Twelve other books came out posthumously, including a reprint of Proensa: An Anthology of Troubadour Poetry in 2016. British scholar Simon Smith is working on a collected poems and a new edition of The Journals.

Julio Cortázar (1914–84) was born in Brussels where his father was in the Argentine diplomatic service. After living in both Zurich and Barcelona, the family moved back to Argentina in 1919. Cortázar’s mother—an early supporter of his literary bent—introduced him to Jules Verne as a teenager. He taught in several high schools before completing studies to become a professor of French literature. After resigning due to political pressure, he began work as a translator, a vocation that, along with his writing, supported him for the rest of his life. Cortázar moved to France in 1951 and began working for UNESCO in 1952, a position he would keep for many years. He also translated literature from several languages into Spanish, including his masterful rendition of Edgar Allan Poe’s works. An early supporter of the Cuban revolution, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and the socialist government of Allende in Chile, Cortázar’s literary works continue to have enormous worldwide influence.  

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