Commentaries - January 2013

Brilliant hoax poet

Man believed to be Ern Malley, Sydney to Melbourne night express, 29 April 1941,
Man believed to be Ern Malley, Sydney to Melbourne night express, 29 April 1941, Sun Photo Archive.

Jacket 17 is perhaps my favorite among all the forty glittering habiliments; exploring a dozen aspects of fakery and forgery, which one distinguished contributor identifies as the very heart of poetry. The jewel in the crown of Jacket 17 is the Ern Malley hoax of 1943: it inspired Ashbery as a young man, and opened the world’s eyelids to the dark energy from the bottom of the planet. Here it is, in relentless detail:
Faking Literature: Patrick Herron: Ken Ruthven’s Faking Literature (and Ern Malley)
Faking Literature: The Bibliography Ken Ruthven: — 25 pages of rare and hard-to-find source materials (including Ern Malley)
Girls on the Run: Michael Leddy: Lives and Art: John Ashbery and Henry Darger (and Ern Malley)
John Ashbery and John Kinsella and John Tranter (and Ern Malley) — ‘The Ern Malley poems’

Ern Malley Feature
Ethel Malley — Letter to Max Harris, 28 October 1943
David Lehman — The Ern Malley Hoax — Introduction

Max Harris — Introduction [his original Introduction to the Ern Malley poems in Angry Penguins magazine, Autumn 1944]
Ern Malley — The Complete Poems
Ern Malley’s recently discovered Last Will and Testament
Max Harris — Two pieces [immediately following the Ern Malley poems in Angry Penguins magazine, Autumn 1944]
David Lehman — A Note on Harold Stewart [written after a visit with ‘Uncle Harold’ Stewart in Kyoto in 1990]
John Thompson — The Ern Malley Story: audio — the 1-hour radio documentary in RealAudio, with the voices of all those involved in the hoax, made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1959. You can download the free basic model of the RealAudio plug-in for your browser here:
John Thompson — The Ern Malley Story: transcript — the full transcript of the radio documentary above; first published as an Appendix to Clement Semmler, For the Uncanny Man — Essays, Mainly Literary, 1963.
Press Clippings from 1944
FACT, 18 (?) June 1944: Ern Malley, the great poet, or the greatest hoax?
FACT, 25 June 1944: Ern Malley, Poet of Debunk: full story
     from the two authors (with McAuley and Stewart photos)
The Herald, 4 July 1944: ‘Nearly Bad Enough to be Genuine’
     ...with McAuley photo and reader's letter.
The Herald, 4 July 1944 — The Case of The Angry Penguins
Ern Malley’s Doctor of Oxometry degree (FACT magazine, 1944)
FACT’S London News Bureau, 9 July 1944 — English comment on Ern Malley
Sydney Morning Herald, 15 July 1944 — FEATHERS FLY!
The Bulletin ‘Red Page’, 19 July 1944 — ‘Hoaxed Penguins’
Unknown print source, 1944 — [a summary of the hoax]
The (Melbourne) Age, 4 November 1944 (a notice of The Darkening Ecliptic)
Voices magazine (Vermont, USA): Contents page, Number 118, Summer 1944
Max Harris: ‘Commentary on Australian Poetry’, from Voices magazine, Number 118, Summer 1944
Michael Ackland — Damaged Men — ‘ day it will be irrefutably proved that James McAuley and Harold Stewart were really figments of the imagination of the real-life Ern Malley and in fact never existed! ’ — a 50-page excerpt from the book about the brilliant hoaxers who created Ern Malley.
The Apotheosis of Ern Malley, by Gary Shead

"The Apotheosis of Ern Malley," by Gary Shead, circa 2001. Reproduced with the kind permission of the artist. The two figures in army uniform represent Harold Stewart and James McAuley.

Michael Heyward — ‘Indecent, Immoral, Obscene’: a 60-page excerpt, dealing with the obscenity trial and the public crucifixion of Max Harris, from Michael Heyward’s book The Ern Malley Affair.

“I have found that people who go into parks at night go there for immoral purposes. My exper as police officer might under certn circs., tinge my apprecn of literature.”
The court typist’s transcript, in full, of the trial of Max Harris, an editor of Angry Penguins magazine, for the offence of publishing indecent advertisements. The trial was held in the Adelaide Police Court in September 1944. Mr Harris was convicted of the offence and fined. The original has 74 typed pages. Edited by John Tranter in 2005, with emendations and notes.

Max Harris, Detective Vogelsang, and others — ‘Indecent Advertisements’: photographic copies of five pages from the transcript of the trial of Max Harris charged with the offence of ‘Indecent Advertisements’ in the Adelaide Police Court, 5 September 1944, courtesy Philip Mead.

McKenzie Wark — ‘Black Swan of Trespass’ — a postmodern response.
See also John Miles — Lost Angry Penguins in Jacket 12: with the deaths of D.B. Kerr and P.G. Pfeiffer as young Royal Australian Air Force airmen during World War II, Australia lost two original and promising poets. They were also among the founders of the Angry Penguin movement.
See also Jacket 29 — David Brooks: “Petit Testament”: A Reading [on the Ern Malley hoax]

poet Eduardo Espina of Texas A&M

Call for Papers
Symposium: Poetics Versus Philosophy:
Life, Artifact, and Theory
Texas A & M University

April 11, 12, 13, 2013

The Departments of Hispanic Studies, Philosophy, and Digital Humanities, along with the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas will host a symposium titled Poetics Versus Philosophy: Life, Artifact, and Theory on April 11-13, 2013.

Since Plato, the controversy between poetry and the philosophical project has been legendary, repeated in multiple variations throughout history until the present day. This initial antagonistic gesture by the ancient philosopher against poets, can perhaps lead us to expand our range of reflection about crucial topics today, regarding for example; the semantic and syntactic mysteries of artistic and scientific artifacts, or the imaginary value that dwells within theoretical speculation. Creating an interdisciplinary dialogue between fields such as art and architecture, philosophy, political and natural sciences, poetical and literary studies is unavoidable. The unresolved ancestral conflict between poetry and rational knowledge must be restated in the XXI Century, and serve as a metaphor around which this symposium is conceived.

Possible Topics for discussion include but are not limited to:

  • Reception of American poetics in Spanish writing
  • Reception of Hispanic poetics in American writing
  • Aesthetic theory and philosophy of art in the Spanish language
  • The hidden political character of poetic and artistic invention
  • New horizons in aesthetics
  • Scientific and artistic artifacts helping us to understand the complexity of life
  • The nature of the artist´s meditation
  • Utopia and possibility of unification of human knowledge
  • New sources of architectural thinking
  • Poetical a priorities in theoretical models
  • Authors on authors
  • Translation and Trans-creation
  • Memory and Mourning
  • Exile and artistic thinking on displacement
  • The teaching of creative thinking and writing
  • Visual thinking

Papers can be written in English or Spanish. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted to:

Professor DIANE ROLNICK  <dmrolnick    @>
The deadline for submission is February 20th, 2013.

Keynote speaker: MARJORIE PERLOFF

Grzegorz Wroblewski

Marcus Slease, a native of Portadown, N. Ireland, moved to Las Vegas at the age of twelve and now lives in London. Recently he recorded English translations of Grzegorz Wróblewski’s poems. Wróblewski has appeared in Jacket and Jacket2 previously, e.g. here and here.

Hooper: Writing Galicia into the World -- translation and its challenges

In post 13, when I spoke of Blanchot and translation as a step outside time, I briefly mentioned UK critic and Galician literary scholar Kirsty Hooper. Her landmark book Writing Galicia into the World is also a step outside time, one important to translation in a critical sense and in a wider optic. Its mission is other, but it opens up the stakes of translation itself, in a way that is co-incident with, and that has learned from, ideas of writers such as Édouard Glissant and Gilles Deleuze. Her work allows us to look anew at what it means to cross the borders of language, and better understand literature’s role in this crossing.

To tweak from the press website[1], the book’s “key theoretical contribution is to model a relational approach to a nation’s cultural history, which allows us to reframe a culture often dismissed as peripheral or minor as an active participant in a network of relation that connects local, national and global.”

The exciting thing is that it opens many possibilities to future investigators, and not just to those who study Galician culture (though, please, folks, do study Galician culture!). Hooper’s work is also co-incident and co-intuitive with ideas such as Anne-Marie Losonczy’s “cosavoir,” or “co-knowledge,” a current influence on the production of Quebec poet Chantal Neveu and others.

Hooper’s conclusion resonates: “Writing Galicia is, and could only ever be, the first step in a much bigger and hopefully collective project.” Among the pressing questions she realizes still need to be addressed: “is the question of the alófonos, those writers who publish in Galician even though it is not their native language.” “Many of their works… share a spatialized view of cultural identity, which is played out in the geopoetical frameworks they create.”

This to me is the stakes of translation played out in another way, for translators too enter as allophones, non native speakers, into a language and culture, and bear the seismic risks of their move, their bearing of that language back into their own. A generosity prevails, but the move can also cause fractures. Translation can be a kind of fracking, if we’re not taking care.

Articulations based in analysis and comparative research in literature, history and philosophy such as Hooper’s and Losonczy’s provide essential thinking for translators, as well as for critics. Spatialization, indeed!

Hooper, further: “The value of the maps, the co-ordinates, the networks of relation considered in Writing Galicia lies in their potential to address not only the community of Galician readers, but outwards, transforming the ‘very conditions of possibility’ of the other reading communites of the Spanish state, but also—potentially—of the English-speaking world.”

“Ultimately,” she ends, “the power of the readings that emerge lies in their dynamic interaction with the multiple networks of relation which, in the words of Éduoard Glissant, are ‘not prompted solely by the defining of our identities, but by their relation to everything possible as well—the mutual mutations generated by this interplay of relations.’” This interplay is relentless and beautiful, and affects our ongoing relationship to translation into English, creating new, contiguous spaces for writers and critics to explore.

[1] which really says: “Its key theoretical contribution is to model a relational approach to Galician cultural history, which allows us to reframe this small Atlantic culture, so often dismissed as peripheral or minor, as an active participant in a network of relation that connects the local, national and global.”

Roland Green and associates have done a tremendous job in revising Terry Brogan’s and Alex Preminger’s magisterial 3d edition of this classic work. It’s a vast compendium of poetic lore, terminology, technique, and history with an astutely chosen set of contributors. At 1664 pages, I am still cruising the book and wishing I had the  digital edition as well. This is a work to dip into at any page for a wealth of detailed and often absorbingly arcane information. PEPP is up to date, with entries for new poetic developments right up to the present (yes, Lavinia, Conceptual poetry, Kootenay school, and Flarf have entries, along with my own précis on “absorption,” and new entries on antropofagia, codework, cognitive poetics, Xul, Sanskrit poetry, and many more). The index alone is worth the price of admission. Here is “F” from the topical index (available on-line): 

fractal verse
Frankfurt school
frottola and barzelletta
furor poeticus

As a kid (and as the kid I still am) I read through dictionaries and encyclopedias, a to z; this book holds that same kind of transfixing fascination.It also shows how new encyclopaedias (I prefer that spelling) can remain relevant in the wake of Wiki. Each of the entries is signed and bears the stamp of its author. While scholarly and descriptive in tone, the book has a thousand different points of view of what poetry is and how it works, hundreds of contradictory, or at least competing, programs.  As with the best compendia of odd facts and magical formulae, the wild swerve from one entry to the next offers delight upon delight.



I wrote this for Lemon Hound's December feature of recommended books.