Having recently made all of the New Orleans Mystery books written by my late husband, John William Corrington, and myself available as e-books and paperbacks on Amazon, I have embarked on a project to make my late husband’s more serious literary work also available.
Corrington began his writing career as a poet in the 1960s, publishing many poems in the “little magazines” so prevalent at the time and in the literary journals published by various universities. In 1962 he submitted a poetry manuscript to a Charioteer Press competition. He won the competition and the reward was the publication of his first book of poetry, Where We Are. The title was drawn from a W. H. Auden quotation: “…Lest we should see where we are,/Lost in a haunted wood,/Children afraid of the night/Who have never been happy or good.”
As Richard Whittington noted of Corrington’s poetry, “…significant qualities…[link] it with the Eliot-Auden lineage. One is its objectivity….an ever-expanding, all-encompassing ‘I’ is alien to Corrington’s temperament, imagination and expression.” While this is characteristic of Corrington’s early poetry, his style changed under the influence of the “Ginsberg-Patchen-Corso-Ferlinghetti-Bukowski group” as Whittington termed it.
In the 1960s, Corrington began a long-running correspondence with Charles Bukowski. On reading Where We Are, Bukowski wrote to Corrington, “A good enough set but not as well as you are doing NOW which is all the more for the good, ya.”
What Corrington was writing NOW was contained in his second book of poetry, The Anatomy of Love and Other Poem, and his third book of poetry, Mr. Clean and Other Poems, both published in 1964. Ralph Adamo wrote that “One thing is certain of The Anatomy of Love: it finds Corrington at the height of his powers as a poet, confident of his themes and his moves, brimming with a molten language, forging ideas that burn and melt as they roll onward.”
Corrington’s last book of poetry, Lines to the South, was published in 1965. Bukowski wrote of the title poem, “The lines of yours. LINES TO THE SOUTH damn near immortal and if this is overpraise, I am sorry.”
Corrington’s poetry earned a few favorable reviews but not as much attention as his novels. Writing in The Massachusetts Review, Beat poet and critic Josephine Miles approvingly noted two of Corrington’s poems from Lines, “Lucifer Means Light” and “Algerien Reveur,” alongside poetry by James Dickey, but her comments were more in passing than in depth. Dickey himself, it should be noted, admired Corrington’s writing, saying, “A more forthright, bold, adventurous writer than John William Corrington would be very hard to find.”
The poems published in these four books total only 61, thus most of Corrington’s poetry which found print in the “little magazine” and journals has not been collected in book form. The Collected Poems of John William Corrington is intended to remedy this.
After this 1960s, Corrington devoted himself largely to prose, publishing four novels and three books of short stories. The Upper Hand, Corrington’s second novel, is now available as an e-book.