Hayden Carruth (1921-2008)

The American poet Hayden Carruth passed away several weeks ago at the age of 87. He seemed to pass away as quietly as his poetry took root and grew around us: 30 books. I don’t recall hearing any announcements of his death on the news. The news of his death reached me by way of a small newspaper clipping sent down from family in Chicago.

I first encountered Hayden Carruth in high school when we were using his comprehensive anthology of American Poetry The Voice That Is Great Within Us. That anthology seems ground breaking that in included many poets who stood outside the canon, or the established schools of poetry, or the university poets. It was in this anthology that I first encountered the work of Cid Corman. Cid’s work struck me immediately and would have a large influence on my life as I would eventually come to know him in Japan and learn from him. In Japan, I would learn from Cid that he never allowed his work to be anthologized. In this one case, with Hayden, he made an exception. When Hayden asked Cid to contribute something to the anthology, Cid refused, initially – and this despite their friendship. The way I understand the story, Cid would not contribute unless Hayden was willing to take a collection of poems, something like four or five poems, a group of poems that would be representative of his work. Corman had an additional request as well. He asked that several other poets be included – poets that he felt were doing significant work. Fortunately, Hayden accommodated Corman’s requests. If Hayden had not, I probably would have never encountered Corman’s work as Cid lived in far away in Japan and did not publish much in established literary magazines in the United States. In thinking of this today, I feel a desire to acknowledge my gratitude toward Hayden Carruth, not only for the poetry he gave us, but for his work as anthologist – for the poetry he introduced us to.