Companion Spider: Essays
Author: Clayton Eshleman
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press (2002)
Companion Spider is the accumulated work of a poet and translator who goes more deeply into the art and its process and demands than anyone since Robert Duncan. Clayton Eshleman is one of our most admired and controversial poets, the translator of such great international poets as César Vallejo, Aimé Césaire and Antonin Artaud, and founder and editor of two important literary magazines, Sulfur and Caterpillar. As such, Eshleman writes about the vocation of poet and of the poet as translator as no one else in America today; he believes adamantly that art must concern itself with vision, and that poets learn best by an apprenticeship that is a kind of immersion in the work of other poets.
Companion Spider opens with a unique eighty-page essay called "Novices: A Study of Poetic Apprenticeship" addressed to the poet who is just starting out. Subsequent sections take up the art of translation, poets and their work, and literary magazine editing. The title is drawn from an extraordinary visionary experience which the author had, which becomes a potent metaphor for the creative process. Through the variety of poets and artists to whom he pays homage, Eshleman suggests a community which is not of a single place or time; rather, there is mutual recognition and responsiveness, so that the reader becomes aware of a range of artistic practices [they] might explore.