University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


PAUL BOWLES, 1910 - 1999


POETRY

Poem

Although Paul Bowles is best known today for his fiction, his initial literary efforts and first significant publications were in poetry. A member of the Class of 1928 of Jamaica High School in Long Island, Paul Bowles was an active contributor to the school's literary magazine, The Oracle. While in high school, Bowles discovered the Paris-based avant-garde literary magazine transition

and submitted several poems. Two of his poems, "Spire Song" and "Entity," were accepted and appeared in transition numbers 12 (March 1928) and 13 (Summer 1928). Apart from his writing for The Oracle, these two poems represent his first official publications. Over the next several years Paul Bowles's poetry was published in some of the most celebrated little magazines of the period, including Tambour, Blues, The Morada, This Quarter, Poetry, and Pagany.

By the early 1930s, Bowles had been to France twice, met Gertrude Stein, and heard her pronouncement that his writing was "not poetry." Consequently, Bowles's work as a composer and music critic took center stage and he turned his attention to poetry less frequently. Still, Bowles's poetry surfaced in fits and starts throughout his career. His first published book, Two Poems (1933), was a small chapbook issued by Modern Editions Press in New York, which also published work by Bob Brown, Kay Boyle, Carl Rakosi, Kathleen Young, and others during its brief existence. Bowles's efforts as a poet lay dormant until the late 1960s when the American poet and photographer Ira Cohen asked

Blues.  NY, Spring 1930.

2. Blues: a Magazine of New Rhythms (New York), Number 8 (Spring 1930)

him to contribute a poem to Gnaoua, the legendary little magazine Cohen edited. Bowles contributed several poems originally written in Taxco, Mexico, in 1940, which Cohen also used in The Great Society, another small magazine.California publisher John Martin saw The Great Society issue and suggested that Bowles allow him to publish a collection of his poems. With the

Next to Nothing Mss

7a. [Next to Nothing]. Typescript and autograph manuscript, n.d.

Black Sparrow Press publication of Scenes (1968), Paul Bowles's poetry was issued for the first time in a collection. Scenes was followed by several other Black Sparrow collections of Bowles's poems, including The Thicket of Spring (1972) and Next to Nothing (1981). Bowles's poetry was also published occasionally in chapbooks and appeared in periodicals throughout his career.

The University of Delaware Library's collection of Paul

Bowles's papers houses manuscripts and other resources relating to his poetry. Among the most
interesting materials which were present in the 1999 additions to the papers are several earlypoems which date between 1928 and 1940. Some of the earliest autograph and typescript poems are signed by Bowles and bear his parents' Jamaica, New York, address; others are signed and dated

Can we make wounds beautiful? Mss

4. "Can we make wounds beautiful?" Untitled typescript, dated "Taxco 1940"

"Taxco 1940"from the fertilewriting period Bowles spent in Mexico. Galley proofs, and other publishing and editorial materials are present, as are literary magazines in which Bowles's poetry first appeared.

Poetry: Items in the Exhibition

 

1. "Poem." Autograph manuscript, signed "Paul Frederic Bowles / 34 Terrace Avenue / Jamaica, N.Y.C., États-Unis," n.d., 1 p.
Bearing the address of his parents' home in Jamaica, Long Island, Bowles apparently prepared this unpublished poem for submission to one of the French literary magazines that he was reading.


2. "Taedium Cupiditatis," in Blues: a Magazine of New Rhythms (New York), Number 8 (Spring 1930), p. 13.

3. Two Poems. New York: Modern Editions Press, [1933].
This chapbook prints the poems "Watervariation" and "Message." Two Poems is Paul Bowles's first published book.

4. "Can we make wounds beautiful?" Untitled typescript, dated "Taxco 1940," 1 p.
Verses 1, 2-3, 4, and 5-6-7 from this untitled poem of death and decay, written during a stay in Mexico, appear as Scenes VIII, VI, VII, and IX, respectively, in the 1968 Black Sparrow Press collection Scenes.

5. Scenes. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1968.
This is number 48 of 250 copies signed by the author.

6. The Thicket of Spring: Poems, 1926-1969. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1972.
This is number 146 of 200 copies signed by the author and is accompanied by the publisher's prospectus.

Next to Nothing

7b. Next to Nothing: Collected Poems, 1926-1977. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1981.


7a. [Next to Nothing]. Typescript and autograph manuscript, n.d., 29 pp.
This is the original manuscript of the 1981 Black Sparrow collection; two pages of the manuscript are written on the verso of letters to Bowles dating from 1975. Accompanied by an envelope marked "Orig. ms. of Next to Nothing" in Bowles's hand.

7b. Next to Nothing: Collected Poems, 1926-1977. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1981.
This is copy N of 26 lettered copies signed by the author.

No eye looked out from any crevice

8a. Jeffrey Miller to Paul Bowles, typed letter signed, May 13, 1997, 1 p.
Miller discusses editorial matters relating to the Cadmus Editions publication of No Eye Looked Out from Any Crevice and encloses proofs of the small book.

8b. No Eye Looked Out from Any Crevice. San Francisco: Cadmus Editions, 1997.
This is copy H of 26 lettered copies signed by the author. In his introduction, Lee Perron describes the discovery of this 1928 poem, sixty years after Bowles had sent a handwritten copy of the poem to a high school friend on the staff of a Syracuse University literary magazine. Not used by his friend, the poem was tucked into a book and neglected until the manuscript was identified by a bookseller and published by Jeffrey Miller in this limited edition.

8b. No Eye Looked Out from Any Crevice.
San Francisco: Cadmus Editions, 1997 /
8a. Jeffrey Miller to Paul Bowles, May 13, 1997
 


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