POINTS 15 appeared in autumn of 1952. In a departure from the familiar yellow covers, this issue was in black with yellow titles, perhaps not a coincidence as the newest small journal to appear on the Paris literary scene, MERLIN, had black covers with white titles.
Commentary © James A. Harrod, COPYRIGHT PROTECTED; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
NOTES BY THE EDITOR
This issue of POINTS is out later than we expected. We apologise to our readers for this delay. As most people know, the path of a little magazine is not always smooth.
The sad lack of good short stories is most disappointing. There seems to be no shortage of writers, though, who are eager to review books, write essays and generally criticise writers and their works. This appears to be a lean period for young writers to create. Perhaps the appearance of two new magazines in Paris, MERLIN (already two issues) and PARIS REVIEW (to appear shortly) has something to do with our problem. Nevertheless the editors of this magazine wish our new "rivals" all good fortune and success.
In spite of an increase in our sales, especially in England and the U.S.A., another disturbing factor is the lack of constructive critical letters written to us by our readers. We are not printing in this issue any "Letters to the Editor", as the only ones we have
received are of the gushing type by would-be writers. In every issue this editor has encouraged readers to write in their opinions, which if of general interest, for or against the magazine, would be printed. Hope dies slowly, so we go on encouraging.
This issue has two articles which we think are unusually interesting and some "letters" from Dublin, written to us by Brendan Behan. These letters were at first not meant for publication, but after receiving several we asked the writer's permission to edit them and print them as a sort of an article. Some of the spicier words and bits had to be cut out, as we do not wish to be barred from any postal services. We also wish to remind our readers, that the opinions expressed in any articles published in this magazine are not necessarily those of this editor.
Sindbad VAIL – Notes by the Editor
Roy BONGARTZ – Watch my Angel
Adrian VINCENT – The Christmas Tree
Daniel MAUROC – Un garcon dans le soleil
John Henrik CLARKE – The Bridge
Jean-François LEMERRE – Le Courrier du Cœur
Kenneth BEAUDOIN – Poem
James E. RUOFF – The Fountain
Alan RIDDELL – Two Poems
Clive D. GREIDINGER – Interloper
KELLY – The Epic of the Man in Black
Georges ALEXANDRE – Requiem, Refuge
Hanssen RILEY – Reflexions upon the May Festival and Proposals for a Spring Offensive
D. Jon GROSSMAN - Humorous Verse and Serious Poetry
Brendan BEHAN – Letters from Ireland
Austryn WAINHOUSE – Book Reviews:
THE UNWOBBLING PIVOT and THE GREAT DIGEST of CONFUCIUS
Translated by Ezra POUND – New Directions
GUIDE TO KULCHUR
by Ezra POUND – New Directions
Poems by Louis DUDEK, Irviong LAYTON and Raymond SOUSTER
Contact Press, Toronto
THE BOOKS IN MY LIFE
Henry MILLER – New Directions
Jane PENE DU BOIS – Book Reviews:
THE RED CARNATION
a novel by Elio VITTORINI – New Directions
LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS
by William STYRON – Hamish Hamilton
by Warren CARRIER – New Directions
Rémi BERCHARD – TROIS TEMOINS
LA CHUTE DE BARCELONA
par Jacques ROLLAND – Gallimard
par Julien SEGNASIRE – Gallimard
par Yves GIBEAU – Calmann Lévy
The new contributors page was again missing from this issue, but the back pages carried several ads in POINTS 15.
The letters from Ireland written to POINTS by Brendan Behan are reproduced below (© The Estate of Brendan Behan, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED) and although edited by Sindbad Vail they do contain the N word which we hope readers will not be offended by as we do not wish to exercise any censorship in our presentation of material as it appeared in POINTS originally.
LETTERS FROM IRELAND
Brendan Behan was first published in POINTS in December,
1950. The last two years he has kept up an erratic,
but voluminous, correspondence with the Editors,
We are printing here those extracts from his letters (beginning
with the short autobiographical note he sent at the Editor's
request), which, we hope, may interest, amuse or otherwise
divert, the general reader - and also give him some idea of
life in Ireland to-day as it appears to at any rate one Irishman.
Born; Dublin 1923.
Reared in the Northside Slums. Finished School '36. Joined the I.R.A. 1937. Volunteered for the International Brigade 1938; rejected on grounds of youth. Arrested at Liverpool 1939 - Sentenced to three years Borstal for complicity in acts of terrorism. Spent a very happy two years in reform school, was house captain and pack leader of the Rugby XV. Thinks the Borstal System is very civilised but disapproves of the English Prison System. During this period was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Shares this honour with De Valera (excommunicated 1922) and his father Stephen Francis Behan (also excommunicated 1922).
Released from Borstal and deported from England 1941. Arrested in Dublin 1942 after a gun battle with detectives and sentenced to fourteen years penal servitude. Released 1946 after four and a half years. Arrested Manchester 1947, having helped in the escape of an l.R.A. prisoner. Sentenced to four months for breach of expulsion order.
Has contributed to Republican journal and to Envoy, The Bell, Comhar, Feasta, (all of Dublin) and is one of the few living Gaelic Poets, translated (or worth translating) into English. Reads Joyce and Joyce and Joyce and 0' Casey and Shaw and Evelyn Waugh.
P.S. — Mother's brother wrote the National Anthem.
Dublin, May 1951
Some months ago, I wrote you that I had started a book. I am calling it Borstal Boy.
Here is a bit of it.
I might see you in the summer if you are still there. I was in Dieppe last month but only on a jump with an Irish boat. Got drunk on the North Wall and - off with them. Had no papers and so could not go up to Paris... and came home, armed with bottles of Pernod, 200 fr. ex-bond, which was what I principally came for.
Dublin, June 1951
You must excuse the terrible typing. It was not my fault. I had to do it myself. No typist in Dublin would look at it.
A woman that used to do a bit for me I fell out with.
I have no copy of that mss. I wonder would it be a terrible big thing to ask you to do whatever excising you would think necessary?
For the... and so forth, could you manage an initial and a dash?
It is an extract from a novel. Why shouldn't it read like that?
Poems of mine in Gaelic are being broadcast from Radio Eireann, but apart from not understanding Irish, Radio Eireann is but barely audible in the pub next door.
Sometime I will explain to you the feeling of isolation one suffers writing in a Corporation housing scheme. The literary pubs are not much good to me. I prefer to drink over the north side where the people are not so strange to me. Cultural activity in present day Dublin is largely agricultural. They write mostly about their hungry bogs and the great scarcity of crumpet. I am a city rat. Joyce is dead and O'Casey is in Devon. The people writing here now have as much interest for me as an epic poet in Finnish or a Lapland novelist.
I decided to go to work as a free-lance hack writer to get enough money to finish my novel in peace. That's an easier trade than house painting, that is...
I made a packet, and very nearly lost my sanity, in the process. I was drunk night, noon and morning. Now, outside of reform school and Borstal, I have been a steady drinker from from the age of fifteen, but this wasn't that sort of drinking. It wasn't even like going in for one into the Mabillon or the Reine Blanche (one bit of Paris I do not miss), and finishing in Les Halles the next morning, or in the Rue Cordellieres (up at Port Royal, at the Salvation Army - a bit more usual for me); it was just:... "Givvez three thousand on...., Brendan, will you ? Usual rates, ... guineas a thousand and the shillings for me-self"... "Do iz an ould proagramme for the Easter commemoration and I'll see Sean about the other".
And I finally said, to hell with it, I'll go down and do my own which is what I'm doing now, and am broke, and it is a matter of some scoff for next week. The mountains are lovely. I wish I had a snap, and this is an old hideout of the I.R.A., there was a man shot dead by the Free State Army at the very window I'm writing this. And for all I run down the I.R.A. in my writing they were the only damn ones, when I had no place to write in peace, to say, "That's all right Brendan, you go down there and use G..., it's no good to us now, it's too well known." So here I am and very happy and I'll have the novel finished in its entirety before Christmas, and I'll submit to you a few thousand words...
Dublin, October 1952
A piece of verse in Gaelic I had in the the Irish Times Saturday Book-page, with accompanying translation by Donagh Mac Donagh, was about the death of Wilde in the Hotel d'Alsace. It was much praised by the local mandarins or mandarineens, and then the next issue, Monday, had a most vicious letter attacking it as "brutal and ugly"... Jesus help my wit, didn't think I was a great man altogether, when complete strangers would go to the trouble of abusing me thus (for, as you know, it's better to be adversely criticised than ignored), till I discovered that the — that wrote the letter was some — that disliked me on grounds purely racial and social, and thought it a disgrace that me likes should be allowed into print at all, unless it would be into the criminal intelligence.
Grossman will discover a rejection slip lurking between the headlamps of Mary Wyatt.
(Mr. Behan refers to a letter published in POINTS n° 14. Ed.)
It's a thing we all do. I had a story rejected by... here one time and went round the city saying the Editor was long known to the G.H.Q. of the I.R.A. as an agent of the British Government
Things here are much as usual, except that Paddy, the wanker poet and peasant, is in London, which is as near home as he can get, not having the fare to Boston or New York. The disciples he left behind him still line the bars and give me an odd pint of porter or glass of malt, if I can listen respectfully enough to the old chat about Angst. A generation or so ago, they were arsing round the bog and a bowl of stirabout and a couple of platefuls of spuds would have cured all the Angst from here back to Norway; but since the changeover in Twenty-two, when they got well down to the porridge pot, there's no holding them. It started off with top-hats and white-ties, and getting into the gentry, and then to chatting about the servant problem with the Horse-Protestants, and it went from that till late dinner, and now it's Angst, no less.
Not that the aforesaid Horse-Protestants were any better. They've been longer at it. They are just as ignorant except that their ill manners are sharpened by time: The myth of the Anglo-Irish (Brinsley Sheridan, a peasant's grandson; Yeats, artist's son; Wilde, a doctor's son; WolfeTone, a coach-painter's son; Parnell, the grandson of an American sea-captain; Robert Emmet, a doctor's son; Bernard Shaw, a clerk), and the present attempt to drag Irish writers who happened to be Protestant after the fox-hunt and the Royalist inanity, would have us believe that most rapacious rack-renting in Europe were really lamps of culture in a bog of darkness, doing good by stealth and shoving copies of HORIZON under the half-doors of the peasantry after dark and making wedding presents to the cottagers of Ganymed Press reproductions of Gaugin.
There is of course no such thing as an Anglo-Irishman, as Shaw pointed out in the preface to "John Bull's Other Island"; except as a class distinction. All Protestant genius, even, is not nobbled for the stable boys and girls. It must at least wear a collar and tie. Sean O'Casey is not claimed as an Anglo-Irish writer, because he had no land except what a window-box would hold on the sill of a Northside tenement: The Belfast industrial workers who are the thickest concentration of Royalism and pro-Britishism in Ireland are never claimed as Anglo-Irish, and Lady... would feel herself a brood sister to a Shankill Road Orangeman only at such times as the Mick niggers were getting out of hand and he could shoulder a gun for her, like Scarlett O'Hara and the poor white.
I got a Penguin "Plato's Symposium". With difficulty: The Censorship can hardly get after him at this time of day, but as one bookman (saving your presence) said to me, "We saw a slight run on it, and the same sort of people looking for it, so we just took it out of circulation ourselves. After all, we don't have to be made decent minded by Act of the Dail. We have our own way of detecting smut, no matter how ancient." In common with most of my babu countrymen, he had the sort of English accent which would make you laugh, sort of Western Brothers from Western Connacht, and pronounced your man's name "Plate-o," rather as if it were something you put in soup.
About the novel. I have about fifty thousand words done. I haven't done much to it lately, because I'm writing a play for the Abbey and have had to do some jobs for the radio and various journals to live. As it turned out, the strain of meeting the sort of people who have to do with journalism was so great that, for the first time In my life, I drank from pure nervous strain. I have a feeling I toid you ail this before. (So have you, more than likely, by the time you get this far).
...I'm Jesuswell starved of any kind of contact at the moment. The worst feature of the angsters is that they have it mixed with fox-hunting and meeting horses. I never knew a horse (to speak to, I mean) till I went to the nick in England and they put me ploughing on the farm because I was an Irishman. The end of my tussle with horse was that I ran away, and a warder fired at me, he thought ( was trying to escape. So I was, from the bloody horse.
I can get over to Paris easily, but I'm getting too old for just landing in a city on my arse, flat broke...
G.S. I met peculiarly enough, through POINTS. I was talking to some students in a booser at Lincoln Place, and this lad introduced me and said I wrote for POINTS. I was delighted at this, of course it being a bit of a change to being introduced as a man that writes funny bits for Radio Eireann or has his life story running in.... and asked him did he read POINTS. Another fellow said "Does he read it? Certainly he reads it, and what's better, writes for it." So G. and I had a good piss-up together, as happy with one another as if we were both natives of East Jesus. Kansas, newly met in the Rue Scribe... He was nothing of an angster, or like a sensible chap kept it for his writing; and his fancy-woman, a homely tub of a girl from the country, fried us rashers and eggs to soak up the porter...
..Slan agus beannacht,