POINTS 7 was published in July-September 1950. Sindbad Vail’s notes by the editor state that the original goal was to publish six issues a year, and that he and Marcel Bisiaux had reduced this projection to five numbers as they entered their second year of publication. The fact remains that four issues were published in 1949, their first year of publication, and with issue number seven appearing in July-September chances are that four issues would be published in 1950 as well. A copy of POINTS 8 has recently been added to the collection being examined. An examination of that issue follows the presentation of POINTS 7. POINTS 8 should be regarded as a considerable achievement for Sindbad Vail and his magazine as it premiered work by Brendan Behan and Mordecai Richler. An associate editor had been added in the second year as well as noted on the back cover.
Commentary © James A. Harrod, COPYRIGHT PROTECTED; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
NOTES BY THE EDITOR
This number 7 of POINTS is the start of our second year
Originally the editors had planned to publish six issues a year.
However lack of sufficient interesting material has obliged
POINTS to reduce this to five numbers. Unfortunately
rising prices do not permit us to reduce the subscription rate
This editor thought that it would be appropriate at this
time (being a veteran editor of 1 ½ years) to publish an
article on young American writing activities over here. The
idea was all right, but naturally one had to get someone to
do it. One discovers after a little while that many young writers
who inhabit the cafes of our quarter talk a beautiful article
or story. When it comes to sitting down in front of a typewriter
for a few days and getting on with it, it becomes quite another
matter. So when a few days before going to press Emmett
Williams dropped in with his article on American writers in
Paris this editor was pleasantly surprised. This surprise
changed to slight consternation when the undersigned read
the article. Williams in his essay devoted a considerable
amount of space comparing the three magazines "ZERO",
"JANUS" and "POINTS", the three reviews which appear
with some regularity in Paris. This magazine emerged most
favourably from the fracas. However the article is certainly
interesting and informative. Any young writer who disagrees
with Williams and who violently dislikes "POINTS" is welcomed
by this magazine to write an article to that effect, and that
article will be published in our next issue. Incidentally it is
extremely doubtful that Williams would sell his soul for the
amount we pay.
When Marcel Bisiaux and myself first undertook to do
"POINTS" we had in mind a review devoted entirely to
short stories. We wanted to get away from the "little magazine"
formula so prevalent today with its precious critical articles
on modern artists, vague 17-18-19th century philosophers
and composers, and other varia. On both sides of the
Atlantic there where two very big fish in the "little magazine
pond" with whom we could not and did not want to
compete. Brave words but true. The two, "HORIZON"
(now extinct) and "PARTISAN REVIEW" were considered
by many as models for others. They were beautifully printed,
illustrated even with coloured photographs. We had
neither the skill, staff nor money for that, but sour grapes as
it may sound, neither the desire. Our only interest, was, is
and will be to publish young unknown writers and to publish
especially short stories. This issue has less short stories than
usual and that is unfortunate. But it is only a phase to go
through. Last year thanks to our short story contest we received
quite a number of good short stories, and we have great
hopes that this year's contest (see announcement at end of
magazine) will bring in many more.
In passing we would like to mention that the latest issue
of "ZERO " is a very neat piece of work with a "FLAIR"
like touch. We have been asked by some readers why
"POINTS" does not look as good and the answer is quite
simple. We would rather spend less money on the production
end and come out more often and pay the authors a little.
In this issue we have deviated slightly from our original
intention by printing some translated poems of Nazim Hikmet.
We were fortunate in obtaining these poems from a
confidential source of the great Turkish liberal still
languishing in prison.
For the interest of readers we have added an index of all
the writers who have appeared in the seven issues of "POINTS".
Previous numbers of this magazine are available at our office
in unlimited quantities.
SINDBAD VAIL – Notes by the Editor
ANTONY EVANS – Mountain Madness
JOHN SYMONDS – The Mathematician
JEAN-MICHEL JASIENKO – Noircie par la Cendre
JEAN PFEIFFER – La Vie Quotidienne
CORNELIA CLAIRBORNE – The Leper
RICHARD BRIDGMAN – The Right Liberty
JOHN B. RANSOM III – The Bend of the River
NAZIM HIKMET – Angina Pectoris – Le XX˚ Siècle – La plus belle des Créatures
ARTHUR ADAMOV – Cinq années de théâtre
D. JON GROSSMAN – Beauty Doesn’t Hurt Mr. Cummings
FRANÇOIS SENTEIN – Signalement de Jean Genet
EMMETT WILLIAMS – Wanted: Workshops and Imagination
HERB GOLD – Book Review: The Horse’s Mouth
HERB GOLD – Book Review: Beetlecreek
Notes on the Contributors
Conditions of the Contest
POINTS 7 included two advertisements on the back pages.
The notes on the contributors page once again included several authors who would continue their literary careers and leave an impressive body of work in 20th century literature.
NOTES ON THE CONTRIBUTORS
ARTHUR ADAMOV : 38, born Kislovotsk, Caucusses. In 1945 published his shattering confessions. "L'Aveu" (Editions du Sagittaire). Now a playwright with two plays published, "La Parodie" and "L'lnvasion," (Editions Chariot) and they will shortly be produced in Paris. Founded at the Liberation the magazine ''Heure Nouvelle" which had a certain success.
RICHARD BRIGDMAN : 22, American. Has never been published before. Lives in Paris and writes, writes, writes.
CORNELIA CLAIBORNE : 24, American. Has been published in POETRY and THE HUDSON REVIEW (where she was also assistant editor). Also worked on MADEMOISELLE. Now working in Paris for the C.I.M.A.D.E. an organization supported by the Church World Service.
ANTHONY EVANS : 24, English. Appeared in POINTS 6. Former student of "Old Vic". Now working for a publishing firm in London.
HERB GOLD : 25, American. Winner of POINTS 1949 short story contest. (See POINTS 4.) Now regular book reviewer of POINTS (5, 6, and 7).
D. JON GROSSMAN : 28, American. Has translated E.E. Cummings into French. Now working on "L'Etude de la Grammaire de la Langue Anglaise". Appeared in POINTS 3 (Ars Poetica: The Twentieth Century). Has been rejected by THE NEW YORKER. SATURDAY EVENING POST, ESQUIRE, ENVOY ETC.
NAZIM HIKMET : Turkish (exact age unknown). Has languished in a Turkish prison for 14 years. His poems are smuggled out and passed on from person to person. He was jailed by the last Turkish government for liberal expressions in his works. It is hoped that the new government will release him.
JEAN-MICHEL JASSIENKO : 22, Polish father and Swiss mother. The "Guilde de Livre" of Lausanne published his translation of Tolstoi's "Cosaques".
JEAN PFEIFFER : 33, Belgian. Has had two novels published : "Le Traité de L’Aventure" (Editions de Minuit) and "L’Ineonnu" (Editions des Artistes).
JOHN B. RANSON III : 29, American, former book reviewer for the Nashville papers and "San Francisco Chronicle". The story in POINTS is his first to be published. Now writing a novel in Paris.
FRANÇOIS SENTEIN : 30. French. Published in various little French reviews and papers since 1937.
JOHN SYMONDS : 36. English. Literary editor of LILLIPUT. Author of the picaresque novel "William Waste". Has just finished a biography of Alesteir Crowley : Symonds says :
"… that the revelations in this book are too scandalous and bizarre
for the publishers to whom I have so far shown it, but I am confident that this book will appear one day and that the inside, sex-magical life story of Crowley, an Adept of the left hand path, will create a big enough sensation to satisfy even the shade of that Mystic Master himself."
"… that the revelations in this book are too scandalous and bizarre
for the publishers to whom I have so far shown it, but I am confident that this book will appear one day and that the inside, sex-magical life story of Crowley, an Adept of the left hand path, will create a big enough sensation to satisfy even the shade of that Mystic Master himself."
EMMETT WILLIAMS : 25, American. Former editor of HIKA at Kenyon College, Ohio. Now studying in Paris.
Emmett Williams essay is reproduced below:
By EMMETT WILLIAMS
"To you who now have real practical relations and a place in the old world, I should think there was no necessity of ever coming back again," wrote William James to his brother Henry, long before our time. "But Europe has been made what it is by men staying in their homes and fighting stubbornly generation after generation for all the beauty, comfort and order that they have got — we must abide and do the same."
The comfort and order the Jameses knew so well in Europe have faded with time and war yet never before in our literary history have so many American writers been abroad en masse in peacetime. This is not because life at home is a bore and untenable, but rather because of the fairy-tale generosity of the American Government. Although few of this number have as yet been able to find those “real practical relations and a place in the old world,” which even in a more favorable past were not easy to come by, many young authors have put in their bids never to go hack again.
And after this?
Well when you are all alone alone in the woods even if the woods are lovely and warm and there is a blue chair which can never be any harm, even so if you hear your own voice singing or even just talking well hearing anything even if it is all your own like your own voice is and you are all alone and you hear your own voice then it is frightening.
Like Miss Stein's Rose, the American writer seems to have been frightened into a whisper among strange noises and faces. I am writing about the young writers — not the older expatriates or the vacationers — the young American writers who have chosen Europe at least for their temporary homes, who are isolated from firsthand contact with American life and-letters, and who are in the process of sounding out an old world that is strange and new to them.
Their discoveries vary with their numbers — one searches in vain for a representative young American author in Paris. There is a remarkable absence of movements (here I must exclude a large section of Americans, by far the best known about the city, who are great conversationalists but small authors). An examination of such European channels as Janus, Zero (now published in Tangiers) and Points, and such American ones as Accent, Partisan Review, and the Tiger's Eye reveals that the young generation of experimentalists is in the United States — in spite of the household joke there that the bad boys of the arts all go to Paris.
A short stocktaking of what they have produced — culled from some plays, travel articles and other pieces — will indicate just what the young writers have been doing with their typewriters, time and energies abroad. I will be brief :
a. Poetry : scarce.
b. Experimental prose : scarce.
c. Drama ; very scarce.
d. Imitative prose fiction : same old thing and plentiful.
e. Useful things : travel, history, etc. : scarce.
If too many of my illustrations below have come out of Points, this is because Points has run longer and been published more often than the other magazines; it has presented almost exclusively the work of the young writers, who are, after all, the subject of the present article. It is, by no means, just backslapping. No more so than ignoring unpublished manuscripts because they are not available can be called discrimination.
I will start with poetry. Janus, with its first number, set out to do more particularly for poetry that which Points had already attempted for fiction : "to devote itself " almost entirely to young writers who so far have had very little opportunity to be published." Janus presented a manifesto :
1. Poetry is romantic.
2. Romantic is about love and death and what they do to each other.
3. European Poetry is as romantic today as it was a hundred
4. American Poetry is being strangled by engineers, professors, and people who think they write poetry with Brains.
5. Janus will loosen their fingers.
But in all truth, except for the fact that another definition has been added to "romantic", there has been neither revolution nor revelation. The best poems printed in Janus are hard to distinguish from the work of those who "Think they write poetry with Brains." Janus, in loosening the fingers of the professors and engineers and thinkers from the neck of American poetry, have dropped the poor gasping thing with a thud.
Especially so in the second number, in which the drawing cards are Franz Kafka ("Le Gardien dc Tombeau" — une piece inedite) and William Carlos Williams. The Kafka play is an event; the Williams poem, a warning. I will quote this warning, since it is not too long :
And who do you think "they" are?
The day when the under-cover writings
of the Russians are in, that day
we'll have an anthology, all around,
to knock their heads off.
War will grow sick, puke its guts
and if, dog-like, it wants to lick up
that, let it (after we have
put poison in it) for good and all.
By publishing this bad fragment from a first-rate poet, the editors have retarded the force of their intended rescue work, and are, in my opinion, trying to get a response from the wrong crowd — or sell subscriptions, which, I realize, is necessary for life. At the same time, I think the editor of Points names the best policy : "We do not "want to publish leftovers from the arrived. If occasionally we receive a good text from an established writer, it would not be refused, but then we would really have to like it, and we mean that; we'll say straight off that we'd publish a 'medium' article from an unknown before we would a 'bad' one from a known."
When Sindbad Vail has published the works of "the arrived", he has not deviated from his words above. In Points 6, David Gascoyne's "Six Poems. from a Zodiak for K.J.R." demonstrate the soundness of this policy, and suggest that all magazines of this type should wait to be solicited by the "arrived", rather than the other way around.
By far the most ambitious of the poems printed abroad recently is Lionel Ziprin's "Moth Glass", still in progress, of which Zero has already printed over five hundred lines. It is worth waiting for its completion in the near future, when many of its present loose allusions will, one hopes, be tied together. There is considerate stylistic tension, suggesting, for example, Pound and Stevens exchanging poetics and conversation at an old-fashioned fish-fry :
The sun in Priam is not Hector's sun.
The Pisan can't betray old Ching.
The sailor whipped in Tyre
Cannot fathom in the reading of his snail,
One day, that mamtic Henry
Would thrust thumbs at Papaldom
The preauthenticated fact,
To take example, was a stone,
Ounces, four, squares, nine...
Its home a beach at Northport.
I carried it with me a mile.
The question though,
Was not that it survived the change
But how in being changed at all
It posed identity.
makes us conscious of, and more content with the more original and earnest lyricism of much of the poem :
The gaping dog. like a flower dappled was his hide,
No face or paw for him was good.
What plants he grew in wind
Kennels of grain were his treasures then,
Leashes and bits of braid.
A heaviness possessed him. And thus was
Root bound in fire, and thus was stem become
The radial beatitude
Of light in twin light blanched.
Such lines appear to be the least derivative, stylistically, though they are not necessarily the best sections of the poem. I think the three passages I have picked quite at random illustrate the poet's ability to shift, also at random, to diverse moods, methods, and dictions. We must wait for its completion to comment its logical structures; and it will be interesting to see Jean Rubin's French version, to discover just what linguistic and stylistic problems she has run into with such an ambitious poem.
Zero and Janus have paid more attention to the poets than Points, yet Points has found some of the most exciting. I have in mind Sharon Sciama's "To Sit at the Angle of his Heart" and D. Jon Grossman's "Ars Poetica : The Twentieth Century." Sharon Sciama writes the kind of poetry Janus talked about in its manifesto :
Call my stallion
Call my boots
Cut my hair
Burn my brain...
Each word laid here
Is but a vulgar line
Yet each word meant
My sweet Papa...
though the poems were but dirt
My love were oysters
And I’ll say again
"Papa, I love you.”
and Grossman the very opposite :
Through a clerical error
(or because of your Scots ancestry)
Lift up thy voice with strength! Lift it up! Be not Afraid!
After leaving yale you forsook your false gods,
Turning for inspiration to your spiritual mother,
The Harvard Law School...
And so on, for some fourteen very readable pages of parody and burlesque, with sections on Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Frost, Amy Lowell, Cummings and others:
Ogden Nash attended Harvard University for one year;
he seems to have suffered no ill effects.
William Ellery Leonard, on the other hand,
acquired a degree and several neuroses.
Someone might say that this kind of parody is facile and worthless,
and offer Pound's own advice to Eliot when Eliot was trying to parody Alexander Pope: "Pope has done this so well that you cannot do it better; and if you mean this as a burlesque, you had better suppress it for you cannot parody Pope unless you can write better verse than Pope- and you can't" Neither can Grossman write better verse than Pound, yet he teases us on for fourteen rich pages, demonstrating occasionally the need we have of the poet and the form he has chosen to parody. Grossman is well worth reading.
Bernard Frechtman, translator of Sartre, Camus, and Jean Genet's "Our Lady of the Flowers", is one of the busiest young Americans in Paris. Points, Zero, and Janus have published his poems, more conscious of craft and diction than those of his colleagues, and written in a variety of poetic forms.
Perhaps I have deluded myself with this small selection of poets, for there has been nothing about which to scowl for very long. But on to new and more crowded fields, via a little more talk about poetry.
You can say good things about prisons, vaccination, dictatorships, and abortion — and it is the same with poetry, only easier : for when you talk about poetry you don't have to concern yourself with utility values. Especially when the poets are craftsmen and they know how to seduce you with pretty logic, new music, and bold pictures. That they have nothing much that is new to talk about distinguishes them from their betters — but they can still be very good.
The expatriate poetry of 1950 demonstrates at least one thing with certainty : the political poetry of the thirties under the leadership of Auden, and the corresponding propaganda poetics of the last war, are both just about dead. We have had our fill of it, and do not miss it now. Social reform never really fell under the jurisdiction of the arts, although it did give us things to talk about for a while. What really happened then, and happens now in some quarters, is that the reformers have reached out more and more to the arts for sanctuary. It is a useful combination, easily swallowed, and it' might help win battles — but ,it is only accidentally art.
We have, in general, seen through this erection of useful structures as an excuse for the niceties and exclusiveness of art. To such an extent have our points of view changed on this problem, I am sure it would be impossible for one good writer to send another the kind of letter John Dos Passes sent Scott Fitzgerald in their very different world : "Why Scott — you poor miserable bastard — it was damned handsome of you to write mc... I've been wanting to see you, naturally, to argue about your Esquire articles — Christ, man, how do you find time in the middle of the general conflagration to worry about all that stuff ?... Most of the time the course of world events seems so frightful that I feel absolutely paralyzed... We're living in one of the damnedest tragic moments in history... Forgive the locker room peptalk."
With this fragment belongs Arthur Mizener's comment : "Certainly this sounds uncomfortably strained, like so much of our talk about ideas which we know ought to move us but don't, and don't because a moment in history is not tragic. Only a person is tragic."
If the poets have seen through the mist, and have substituted vision and imagination for political action, why have not many of our young prose fictionists followed suit. It appears that fiction seems destined still to include most of the things the arts have already rejected; that many writers still consider "realism" a genre rather than a school or movement or attitude; that misery and misunderstanding will continue to be passed off as tragedy and the mysterious.
Two stories, both printed in early Points, are illustrations of these delusions. The first is about an attempted seduction in the bushes, a bar of soap which doesn't ordinarily get sold to old negroes in Georgia unless a good white happens along- with plenty of "I tried to get my hand in her dress, but..." The other story concerns two cigar-smoking Americans, Big Ed Finerty and Frank Denison, who smoke the best cigars money can buy, unbutton their trousers after eating the biggest and best meals in Havana, pat their stomachs, belch, do all the thing Soviet films let fat, evil Americans do, and" prove three things : "you can't beat a Cuban with nigger blood in her;" "There ain't nothin' more disgustin' than a filthy Cuban... Even their piss stinks"; and finally, "You ain't cheatin' on the wife when you do it with a greaseball. Not as if she was a white woman."
However noble and commendable the motives for reform which give impetus to these stories, as art they fall far below the mark. Their emphasis, whea the drive for reform gave way at all to the demands of art. was on imitation of the same old things, forgettting, as I said before, that realism is a movement not a genre. Stories of this type are numerous among the young American writers, and break down something like this : stories about bad Americans abroad; good American expatriates abroad; politics made easy; recollections of the battlefront; prejudiced America; good old America; "sex" stories.
The writers who offend most have produced that which they know best from 'experience and reading, that which comes easiest to them. They have put their experiences past and present to much use. But experience, however interesting a teacher, is a very incompetent literary agent — especially when it has made itself seem more fashionable than imagination.
I suppose "imagination" needs a little commenting. It is the "mental faculty", a standard dictionary has it, "of forming images of external objects not present to the senses," Now it might be argued that all fiction partakes of this definition. Imagination, however, is not the opposite of reality or of truth, nor does a dreamed-up plot characterize imaginative writing. For example, I have just now made up a plot: a soldier runs to the aid of his commanding officer, who has just been partially blinded by an exploding grenade. The commanding officer, thinking him the enemy, shoots the soldier through the head. I know what soldiers, commanding officers, grenades, guns, blindness, etc. are like from experience, though the plot, to my conscious knowledge, is entirely invented. If I choose to expand the plot into a short story, it will be worth only the sum of all the linguistic tricks I use to bring it off. Plots cost nothing; stories demand imagination. It is this concretion of make-believe details superimposed on the stuff of experience that determines style, that leads us from the language of mere reportage or business or science to the language of literature,
In such delicious circumstances do we find writers like Herb Gold, Paul Bowles, Elliott Stein and Roy Bongartz. All the preachments of the craftsmen are known to this group — They are all competent writers. In their work — because of their age their early work — the sins of good writers can be found along with the virtues that reveal their energies and talents.
It happens that in the four stories from these writers I have chosen, sex rears its head time and time again. Never, of course, with the consciousness of pornography — which abounds among the young writers. Instead, as in Herb Gold's "And Sat Down Beside Her" we implicate big man Roy and little girl Cecily in all the perverse activities our Freudianly-endowed sex imaginings permit — while author Gold coolly deepens the airy substance of this dollhouse drama in disciplined, crystal clear prose.
Paul Bowles' exciting "The Delicate Prey" tells us about Driss, a Filala, and his two uncles who are on the way to sell leather in Tabelbala; a stranger whom they meet and befriend on the desert, slyly kills the uncles and, later, in hashish madness, cuts off Driss’ penis, stuffs it into his slit navel, then violates his suffering body "vociferous and leisurely in his enjoyment." A Filala in Tabelbala causes the stranger’s theft of leather to he found out; the stranger is buried in the desert, head shaved, and abandoned: "When they had gone the Moungari fell silent, to wait tbrough the cold hours for the sun that would bring first warmth, then heat, thirst, fire, visions. The next night he did not know where he was, did not feel the cold- the wind blew dust along the ground into his mouth as he sang."
Bowles' precious vein can, like Gold's, bear some rereading. Both bring the exotic into play, and where is little or no real story, there is the brilliance of being lost or, at least, where no one has ever been before. And what is more lost, or more brilliant this way than Bowles' translation of Ramon Gomez de La Serna's "8 Minute Stories"?
Elliot Stein, editor of Janus, has written a good-bad story called "The Atoll": The story of a. mailman looking for one Jason Walker. At first broadly humorous and expansive, it reminds one of a Cocteau scenario; a boy on a bicycle who, after sticking out his tongue at the mailman, falls into a pile of horse manure; a woman ("The puckered skin that draped her face had many layers. There had been a picture in his grammar school geography of lava from a tropic mountain that had flowed by rocks and after years had dried and cracked beneath the sun.) who slaps a baby on its buttocks until it is swinging like a pendulum; a young man "seated on the carpet in front of a full-length mirror... his legs were crossed, Indian style, and he stared at himself intently as he masturbated"; and a seductress who says" ten cents. A small supplement will keep me for the night. There is no extra charge for incest. Will you sign the book?" Everybody is the Jason Walker he seeks, he is Jason Walker, she is his "mother-bride-sister-daughter", et al. This violent idea is escorted by the symbol of a hissing and very uninteresting snake which infects the typography and the reader with a sense of how absurd this kind of story mismanaged, can get.
As a contrast, Roy Bongartz's story "The End Begins in About Five Minutes" is successful fantasy. This story, which appeared in the first issue of Points and was republished subsequently (with how prophetic a title) in the late Horizon, teasingly opens with a funeral procession:
Roll oat your rubber tired carriage
Roll out your rubber tired hack,
There's eleven men goin' to the graveyard,
And twelve are comin' back.
and ends with a one day old infant who will, tomorrow, the day of
its birth, cause no end of consternation. All the mysterious things in this story are known quantities. Stories, good stories of this type are never cheaply and sensationally occult or ramblingly unexplained where the subject does not warrant it. Such fictions are worked out, with the grace of art, into completely operative worlds of thought and action.
Bongartz, by the way, seems most successful in pin-pointing his experiences and surrounding them with a rich area of novelty in his letters from Budapest, Germany, etc. — though his tendency is to enrich his contributions to this genre with tricks from the New Yorker: he is already beyond such a market stylistically.
In its second number Points printed a story by one Lester Mansfield — "Here, Pretty Kitty" — in my mind the finest piece of fiction yet to appear in Points, Janus, or Zero. The author is a mature stylist who reminds us at once of Italo Svevo : "I suppose that I really considered her no longer a cat, but as a tiger. Yet how could my parents suspect. They saw only a child and a harmless house pet playing in innocence on the livingroom floor together. They could not guess that my heart burned with hate and frustration, and that I even hated my father for having introduced me to the dreadful creature. They could not guess that always I was plotting a way to get rid of her, that I thought of plunging a kitchen knife into her lovely fur, or throwing her into the furnace." This kind of psychoanalysis of the ways of psychoanalysis is as successful, all the way through the story, as Svevo's product. Why more of Lester Mansfield's works have not appeared since not been explained to me — but I hope the answer will be forthcoming.
Such fine stories are not representative: these experiments are rare. Most of the writing examined in my brief stocktaking demonstrated that when many young writers had important things to say, they lacked the craft (knowledge of how to apply imaginative details) to write it well. Lacking this, they relied on incident and outlook to replace experiment and intensity in their writing. Good writers do not simply tell stories — they write them. Alexander Woolcott was a fine raconteur; Hemingway writes fine stories; the difference is severe enough to be very obvious. Themes, tones, outlooks cannot replace the hard-worked experimentalism that matures and tames. Experiment — finding out what can be. done with language itself — belongs to youth; yet most of the young writers abroad today are writing more and more like tired old men who never really grew up because they refused to be young in the beginning.
There are good strong, reasons for this state of affairs. Let's face it. Most of the young writers in Paris today are still students. Unlike their colleagues in America, they do not have the discipline of the colleges and universities. More and more in America the schools are utilizing good novelist, poets, playwrights and critics to take literature away from the word-counting Ph.D.'s and present it handsomely and in large doses to the younger writers. Such teachers and their students are writing away hard — and hopes for reaching print in either the good college publications, the quarterlies and little mags, or the professional market are not too remote. They have the advantages of a real workshop, a great number of at home markets, and finally, a native country in which everything that happens is to some degree meaningful, exploitable without the fascination of contrast or misunderstanding that so often minimizes the value of present-day expatriate writing. The young American writer abroad looks hard for such discipline,
such opportunities. The schools and universities are foreign schools, and few Americans manage to work up sound, meaningful relations with, for example, the young French writers. They have come to a country in which they are strangers. As writers, their only gains have been the personal liberties they could not find at home.
I am going to quote a short text that contradicts everything I have written in the last two sections. The source is Meyer Levin, an American author and publisher here in Paris, who recently inaugurated Authors Press. "Today's writer does not consider himself detached from his American sources because he happens to be working for a time in Paris. We must cultivate a world attitude to complement our national attitude."
There is no question in my mind of detachment from "American sources " — and every writer, wherever he may be, has still the roots that clutch : a native language and literary tradition being the hardest from which to withdraw. As for "national attitude", I would say it is far from binding either our writers at home or those abroad, excepting always those writers in the government information offices. Here in Paris one can meet Southern agrarians, Bromfield mid-westerners, devotees of other regional group back home, Catholic poets, neo-Moslems, and strikingly divergent political cults among the American literary colonists. Just how a "world attitude" would complement what seems to be a non-existent national attitude is not clear. It certainly raises extra-literary questions.
Here is Mr. Levin talking about esoteric and off-color books :
"That line is passe. It's gone, just like the houses for which Paris was notorious. "We simply want to put out good books that have useful meaning."
I assume the houses he refers to are bawdy houses — and even they Are not quite passe. But Paris was and is still notorious for far more important things than bawdy houses — a multitude of institutions, places, and ways of life that have worked hand-in-hand with the offcolor and esoteric work of Rabelais, Joyce, Stein, Miller, Pound and countless others whose artistry and hard work we would do ourselves proud to emulate today.
Is Meyer Levin a spokesman for the young American writers in Europe today? In my opinion, a venture which seeks to publish only "good books that have useful meaning" would exclude most of the best writing that will eventually come from young writers abroad — unless we all go overboard for "useful meaning" in the arts. But utility value, to the best of my knowledge, has never seriously been offered as a touchstone for literary value in any free and wholesome society.
Mr. Levin might conceivably ask the present writer just what the young writers in Paris have to offer any publisher anywhere. One could not say simply "Look at so-and-so or look at Norman Mailer and "The Naked and the Dead " because the so-and-so's are not that distinguished and Norman-Mailer is not a G. I. in Paris anymore. One might show him Points, Zero, and Janus: he would not be impressed, as publisher, except for the fact that Janus offers an unpublished play of Franz Kafka, the new Zero presents thirteen illustrations, and Points still prints nothing but young writers in two languages. Certainly the best contributions to these magazines have been off-color and esoteric — while for Mr. Levin that line is passe.
Perhaps he might say with Lionel Abel (Points 3) that "they should have to make their way, force themselves to be recognized, despite their youthfulness and not because of it; they should have to overcome their youthfulness to get a hearing and not have a review handy which will not be too critical of something written in view of the age of the one who wrote it. This kind of pampering of the young is of a piece with progressive education: it is optimistic and silly, and creates a totally wrong sense not only of the meaning of literature, but of the meaning of youth as well."
A challenge, perhaps.
But I would suggest that although they are young in years,
inexperienced in their art, it would be far better for the young writers to begin their apprenticeships in the craft of writing now, in any handy review set up for that very purpose, than visit the finishing school of their elders. To help them in the formative years of their devotion to the craft is not the same thing as "pampering" them. To encourage them to put away their first strivings is to charm them away from their earliest creative impulses into a world populated by their more accomplished elders who have already served their apprenticeships. It would deny them the workshop their fellows in America have found so advantageous in learning the craft.
For craft is everything in the beginning. Because they have tried to grow too rapidly as artists, to keep up with the growth of their experiences during the war and after, they have ignored their craft. But why not begin now. What is so urgently needed now in Paris is a workshop in which they can serve their apprenticeships— a magazine or many magazines like Points, Zero, and Janus, devoted entirely to young writers, to encourage experiment and frown on poor imitation. The work of the young writers abroad must be printed, looked at, talked about — otherwise, as the case is at present, they will continue to rediscover the wheel, or what is worse, so polish their products that the function of the craft will be forsaken for that which glitters.
EMMETT WILLIAMS (©The Estate of Emmett Williams)
Emmett Williams, 81, Fluxus-Movement Poet, Dies
Emmett Williams in 2004.
By ROJA HEYDARPOUR
Published: March 1, 2007, New York Times
Emmett Williams, an American poet whose transposition of words into visual art and performances made him one of the founding artists of Fluxus, a performance-oriented avant-garde art movement of the 1960s, died on Feb. 14 in Berlin. He was 81 and had lived in Berlin for many years.
His wife, Ann Noël, confirmed his death. Mr. Williams became a prominent part of the European faction of the Fluxus movement when its first performance festival took place in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1962. Fluxus sprang from a group of international artists, writers and musicians who began working together to stage happenings and performances. There was never an institutional base for Fluxus, and it never even defined itself as an art movement because it was anti-authoritarian in nature. Nevertheless, it helped give birth to video art, performance art and conceptual art.
Mr. Williams was living in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1962 when he began correspondence with George Maciunas, the originator of Fluxus. He joined Mr. Maciunas and several other artists, most of them European, in performing his poetry, which Fluxus artists would later refer to as a score.
In 1966 Mr. Williams took a job as editor in chief of The Something Else Press, a publishing house in New York City founded by Dick Higgins, another pioneer of Fluxus. By 1967 Mr. Williams had edited “The Anthology of Concrete Poetry” and written “Sweethearts,” two of his most widely recognized works. He went on to write many essays and musings on Fluxus.
“When I have exhibitions, I do not say I am a Fluxus artist, I say it is my work,” Mr. Williams said in an interview with Umbrella magazine in March 1998. “And that makes me very comfortable. And it’s nice to outlive descriptive titles like that.”
Emmett Williams was born in Greenville, N.C., and grew up in Newport News, Va. He joined the Army in 1943 and taught celestial navigation in Florida during World War II. He graduated from Kenyon College in 1949. Mr. Williams went to Paris that same year for his honeymoon and decided to live in France and later Switzerland. He eventually settled in Darmstadt, where he worked as the features editor of Stars and Stripes, the United States military newspaper.
After 14 years in the United States, Mr. Williams won a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service and in 1980 moved to Berlin, where he worked up until his death.
Mr. Williams taught at the California Institute of the Arts and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. He has been an artist in residence at Harvard and the University of Kentucky.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Williams is survived by his son Garry, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, from his marriage to Ms. Noël; and his children from a previous marriage, Eugene, of Honeydew, Calif., Laura, of Darmstadt, and Penelope, of Frankfurt, Germany.
POINTS 8 was published in December 1950 - January 1951.
POINTS 8 was published in December 1950 - January 1951.
NOTES BY THE EDITOR
Here is number 8 of POINTS, the issue in which the winning stories of our short story contest were supposed to appear. Unfortunately the contest this year proved to be a flop. Last year we received over 200 entries, this year not even 20 had arrived in time to be submitted to the jury. The latter properly decided that in view of the insufficient quantity and quality of the short stories that this year's contest should be cancelled. The editors ruefully agreed. In the French section the results were even more disappointing. Last year there were 400 stories submitted, this year exactly 2 stories for the "Prix du Reportage" were entered. Of the short stories published in this issue only one "Too Late" fulfilled the conditions and was sent in time for the contest. This lack of interest and lack of talent is in our opinion very disturbing. It may be that because of the extremely troubled times we live in, that young people who would otherwise be writing, are more concerned with the state of world affairs and gaining a livelihood. Needless to say many young writers today must eat, and undoubtedly they are sending in most of their work to American publishers where payment is obviously much better than that which this magazine can afford to give. As it is we operate at a great loss and if both lack of good material and better sales prevail (the back bone of a little magazine are subscribers) we shall be obliged to appear even more infrequently than hitherto. Still unless there is a world conflagration this magazine will not fold up.
In this issue we have relied on our two standbys, Emmett Williams and D. Jon Grossman for our articles. I do not think our readers will be disappointed. We have short stories by writers entirely new to POINTS, one Canadian, one Irish, one South African, and two American. Thus the international flavour is preserved. Herb Gold has done a book review and the editor himself has tried his hand at a couple. We have two poems by David Gascoyne which ought to raise the level of that rather neglected department. In spite of everything we think that this is a very satisfactory issue.
May we remind editors of other little magazines all over the world that we are willing to exchange advertisements. We also have to remind writers that when they submit manuscripts they must send postage stamps or international postal coupons and self addressed envelopes if they wish their works returned to them. Otherwise we are not responsible for the manuscripts after a month's delay.
We hope to appear again in February 1951, and we urge all hopeful writers to send in manuscripts as soon as possible. After all nothing tried nothing gained.
POINTS in future will publish a "Letters to the Editor" section. We will gladly publish letters from readers containing either comments, suggestions, criticism or even praise. We prefer letters to be short and to the point (roughly not more than 300 or 400 words).
POINTS No. 8 December 1950-January 1951
SINDBAD VAIL - Notes by the Editor
DAVID CLAY JENKINS - Ten, If You Count the Jail
I.J. WEISS - Too Late
ANNIC KERR - Les Condoles
MORDECAI RICHLER - Shades of Darkness (Three Impressions)
BORIS SCHREIBER - La Millieme Nuit
DAVID GASCOYNE - Poems (On The Grand Canal and Sizzling Seclusion. Rumba)
MARTIN J. COHN - Renewed Acquaintance
JEAN FLECKSTEIN - L'Enfant Sage
F. MASPERO - Rhapsodic du Temps
JAN RABI - The War of the Rabbits
BRENDAN BEHAN - After the Wake
D. JON GROSSMAN - Decline and Fall or A Handful of Novels
HENRI THOMAS - La Poesie en France depuis la guerre, ou La Mort de 1'Image
EMMETT WILLIAMS - Theory, Therapy and the Exabiphallus
HERB GOLD - Book Review; Vaudeville For A Princess
SINDBAD VAIL - Book Reviews: Across The River and
Into the Trees and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
MARCEL BISIAUX - Le Concours
Notes on New Contributors
NOTES ON NEW CONTRIBUTORS
BRENDAN BEHAN : 27, Irish. Born and raised in the Northside Dublin slums, is one of the few living Gaelic poets to have been translated into English; has contributed to Republican and Communist journals and to Envoy, The Bell, Comhar and Feasta. Has been arrested several times for activities in the Irish Republican Army, which he joined in 1937, and in all has been sentenced to 17 years in gaol, has in fact served about 7 years in Borstal and Parkhurst Prison. Disapproves of the English Prison System. At present working as a housepainter on the State Railways.
J. FLECKENSTEIN et F. MASPERO are young French poets who previously have only been published in little country magazines.
DAVID GASCOYNE : 34, English. Was in early youth associated with the Surrealists, and published a "A Short Survey of Surrealism" in 1935; also a number of surrealist poems and translations. Later published an essay and a poem-sequence on "Holderlin's Madness". During the war published "Poems 1937-1942", which contains nothing surrealist. Is not a Catholic. Is publishing: "A Vagrant; and other poems" in England this Autumn.
DAVID CLAY JENKINS ; 24, American, Born and raised in Alabama. Studied creative writing under Hudson Strode. At present studying at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, on a Fulbright Scholarship. Has published in Janus (Mexico City) and Y Ddraig.
ANNIC KERR : 31, French. Born Ouessant, Brittany. Speaks several languages, and is a journalist by occupation. Formerly a sheep-breeder.
MORDECAI BICHLER : 19, Canadian. Born Montreal. Has done newspaper work in Canada and is now living in Paris and working on a play. "Shades of Darkness", which he wrote three years ago; is his first publication.
BORIS SCHREIBER : 24, French. Has never been published before. Has written a novel which is to be published soon.
HENRI THOMAS ; 38, French. Born in the Vosges. Poet, novelist, essayist and translator (English, German and Russian). Publications in poetry include; Travaux d'Aveugle, Le Monde Absent, Nul Desordre (N.B.F.); and in prose, Le Seau, a Charbon, Le Precepteur (N.R.F.) and Le Porte-a-Faux (Ed. de Minuit) and numerous contributions to reviews. Is Poetry Critic to Jeans
Paulhan's Cahiers de la Pleiade.
I. ]. WEISS, American and is in his early twenties. Has published in Commentary and other magazines. Is married and now living in Italy.
AFTER THE WAKE
When he sent to tell me she was dead, I thought that if the dead live on—which I don't believe they do—and know the minds of the living, she'd feel angry, not so much jealous as disgusted, certainly surprised.
For one thing she told me, quoting unconsciously from a book I’d lent him, “A woman can always tell them—you kind of smell it on a man—like knowing when a cat is in the room.”
We often discussed things like that—he, always a little cultured—happy, and proud to be so broadminded—she, with adolescent pride in the freedom of her married state to drink a bottle of stout and talk about anything with her husband and her husband’s friend.
I genuinely liked them both. If I went a week without calling up to see them, he was down the stairs to our rooms, asking what they’d done on me, and I can’t resist being liked. When I’d go in she’d stick a fag in my mouth and set to making tea for me.
I’d complimented them, individually and together, on their being married to each other—and I meant it.
They were both twenty-one, tall and blonde, with a sort of English blondness.
He, as I said, had pretentions to culture and was genuinely intelligent, but that was not the height of his attraction for me.
Once we went out to swim to a weir below the Dublin mountains.
It was evening time and the last crowd of kids—too shrimpish, small, neutral cold to take my interest—just finishing their bathe.
When they went off, we stripped and watching him I thought of Marlowe’s lines—which I can’t remember properly:
“Youth with gold wet head, thru’ water gleaming, gliding, and crowns of pearlets on his naked arms.”
I haven’t remembered it at all, but only the sense of a Gaelic translation I’ve read.
When we came out we sat on his towel, our bare thighs touching, smoking and talking.
We talked of the inconveniences of tenement living. He said he’d hated most of all, sleeping with his brothers—so had I, I’d felt their touch incestuous—but most of all he hated sleeping with a man older than himself.
He’d refused to sleep with his father, which hurt the old man very much, and when a seizure took him in the night, it left him remorseful.
“I don’t mind sleeping with a little child,” he said, “the snug way they round themselves into you—and I don’t mind a fellow my own age.”
“The like of myself,” and I laughed as if it meant nothing. It didn’t apparently, to him.
“No, I wouldn’t mind you, and it’d be company for me, if she went into hospital or anything”, he said.
Then he told me what she herself had told me sometimes before—that there was something the matter with her—something left unattended since she was fourteen or so and that soon she’d have to go into hospital for an operation.
From that night forward, I opened the campaign in jovial earnest.
The first step—to make him think it manly—ordinary for manly men—the British Navy—“Porthole Duff,” “Navy Cake” stories of the Hitler Youth in captivity, told me by Irish soldiers on leave from guarding them.
To remove the taint of “cissiness,” effeminacy, how the German Army had encouraged it in Cadet Schools, to harden the boy-officers, making their love a muscular clasp of friendship, independent of women—the British Public Schools, young Boxers I’d known, (most of it about the Boxers was true) that Lord Alfred Douglas was son to the Marquess of Queensbury and a good man to use his dukes himself. Oscar Wilde throwing old “Q” down the syairs and after him his Ballyboy attendant.
On the other front, appealing to the hope of culture—Socrates, Shakespeare—Marlowe—lies, truth and half-truth.
I worked cautiously but steadily. Sometimes, (on the head of a local scandal) in conversation with them both.
After I’d lent him a book about an English Schoolmaster, she’d made the remark about women knowing, scenting them as she would a cat in a dark, otherwise empty room.
Quite undeliberately, I helped tangle her scents.
One night we’d been drinking together, he and I, fairly heavily up in their rooms.
I remember when he’d entered and spoken to her, he said to me.
“Your face lights up when you she her” —and why wouldn’t it? Isn’t a kindly welcome a warming to both faith and features.
I went over and told her what he’d said.
“And my face lights up when I see yours,” she said, smiling up at me in the charming way our women have with half drunk men.
The following morning I was late for work with a sick head.
I thought I’d go upstairs to their rooms and see if there was a bottle of stout left, that would cure me.
There wasn’t, and tho’ she was in, he was out.
I stopped a while and she gave me a cup of tea, tho’ I’d just finished my own down below in our place.
As I was going she asked me had I fags for the day. I said I had—so as not to steal her open store, as the saying has it— and went off to work.
She or someone told him I’d been in and he warned me about it the next time we were together.
He didn’t mind (and I believed him) but people talked etc.
From that day forward I was cast as her unfortunate admirer, my jealousy of him, sweetened by my friendship for them both.
She told me again about her operation and asked me to prasy for her—when I protested my unsuitability as a pleader with God—she quoted the kindly, highly heretical Irish Catholicism about the prayers of the sinner being first heard.
The night before she went into hospital we had a good few drinks—the three of us together.
We were in a singing house on the Northside and got very sob-gargled between drinking whiskey and thinking of the operation.
I sang “My Mary of the Curling Hair” and when we came to the Gaelic chorus, “suil a grandh” — “walk my love” —she broke down in sobbing and said how he knew as well as she that it was to her I was singing, but that he didn’t mind. He said that indeed he did not, and she said how fearful she was of this operation, that maybe she’d never come out of it. She was not sorry for herself, but for him, if anything happened her and she died on him, aye, and sorry for me too, maybe, more sorry, “Because, God help you,” she said to me, “that never knew anything better than going down town half-drunk and dirty rotten bitches taking your last farthing.”
Next day was Monday, and at four o’clock she went into the hospital—she was operated on Thursday morning and died the same evening at about nine o’clock.
When the doctor talked about cancer, he felt consoled a little. He stopped his dry-eyed sobbing and came with me into a public-house where we met his mother and and hers and made arrangements to have her brought home and waked in her own place.
She was laid out in the front room on their spare single bed which was covered in linen for the purpose.
Her habit was of blue satin and we heard afterwards that some old ones considered the colour wrong—her having been neither a virgin nor a member of the Children of Mary Sodality.
The priest, a hearty man who read Chesterton and drank pints, disposed of the objection by saying that we were all Children of Mary since Christ introduced St. John to our Lady at the foot of the Cross—Son, Behold thy Mother; Mother, behold Thy Son.
It is a horrible thing how quickly death and disease can work on a body.
She didn’t look like herself anymore than the brown parchment thin shell of a mummy looks like an Egyptian warrior.
Worse than the mummy, for he at least is dry and clean as dust. Her poor nostrils were plugged with cotton-wool and her mouth hadn’t closed properly, but showed two front teeth, like a rabbit’s.
All in all, she looked no better than the corpse of her granny, or any other corpse for that matter.
There was a big crowd at the wake—thewy shook hands with him and told him they were sorry for his trouble, then they shook hands with his and her other relatives, and with me, giving me an understanding smile and licence to mourn my pure unhappy love.
Indeed, one old one, far gone in Jameson, said she was looking down on the two of us, expecting me to help him bear up.
Another old one, drunker still, got lost in the complications of what might have happened had he died instead of her, and only brought herself up at the tableau—I marrying her and he blessing the union from on high.
At about midnight, they began drifting away to their different rooms and houses and by three o’clock there was only his mother left with us, steadily drinking.
At last she got up a little shakily on her feet and proceeding to knock her people, said that they’d left bloody early, for blood relatives, but seeing as they’d given her bloody little in life it was the three of us were best entitled to sit waking—she included me and all.
When his mother went, he told me he felt very sore and very drunk and very much in need of sleep. He felt hardly able to undress himself.
I had to almost carry him to the big double bed in the inner room.
I first loosened his collar to relieve the flush on his smooth cheeks, took off his shoes and socks and pants and shirt, from the supply muscled thighs, the stomach flat as an altar boy’s and noted the golden smoothness of the blond hair on every part of his firm white flesh.
I went to the front room and sat by the fire till he called me.
“You must be nearly gone yourself,” he said, “you might as well come in and get a bit of rest.”
I sat on the bed, undressing myself by the faint flickering of the candles from the front room.
I fancied her face looking up from the open coffin, on the Americans who, having imported wakes from us, invented morticians themselves.
© The Estate of Brendan Behan