Research profile

Researcher: Miriam Nichols

Department:
English

Contact:
miriam.nichols@ufv.ca , 604-504-7441, local 4295

Current research program:

Performing the Real: A Biography of Robin Blaser
“Performing the Real” will be a literary biography of the life and writings of the poet, Robin Blaser. Born in Denver in 1925, and raised in Idaho, Blaser attended the University of California at Berkeley with Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer during the 1940s and 50s, leaving with an MA and MLS in 1955. 

After stints at the Widener Library at Harvard and the California Historical Society, Blaser left the U.S. to accept a faculty position at Simon Fraser University in 1966, where he taught Modern and Renaissance literature and art until his early retirement in 1986. Although recognition has come slowly to Blaser, he has received many awards over the past five years, including the prestigious $50,000 Griffin Poetry Prize for The Holy Forest in 2008.

Beyond its value as a single author study of a poet who has hitherto received too little attention, this biography will address a number of issues of broader interest. First, from a Blaserian perspective, it will raise the question of the significance of the American postmodernists.

From the TISH poets of the 1960s to the Kootenay School writers of the 1980s, Vancouver writers have welcomed cross-border literary exchange and Blaser has remained a touchstone of this literary scene for decades. In recounting his years in Berkeley and Vancouver, the biography will also contribute a perspective on the cultural history of the west coast poetry scene.

To complete this work, I have been awarded a standard SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) research grant of $50,000. The funds will be used to pay for a research assistant over the three year term of the grant, for travel necessary to the project and for equipment.

Student researchers for 2008-09:

Over the 2008-09 academic year, I employed UFV student Mark Toews to help transcribe “Astonishments.” This work consists of 24 autobiographical audio tapes recorded by Blaser in 1974, full of stories and commentary on poetry. Mark has digitalized the audio tapes and helped to get them transcribed. Katrina Janzen, a student I employed through the work study program to help with publicity for the Canadian Writer’s reading series, also worked on transcribing the tapes when she was not busy with the series.
 
Publications related to the biography:

Ed., with introduction, annotations, and commentary.  The Fire: The Collected Essays of Robin Blaser.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006.

Ed., The Holy Forest: The Collected Poems of Robin Blaser.  Rev. Ed. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2006.

Ed., with introduction and interview.  Even on Sunday: Essays, Readings and Archival Materials on the Poetry and Poetics of Robin Blaser. Orono, ME.: National Poetry Foundation, 2002. 

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