Commentaries - November 2011

Susan Schultz on genocide and dementia redux

On September 15, 2011, I began my conversation with Susan Schultz by somewhat rudely/unfairly asking her a huge question: “Are you able to associate your interest in genocide [she’d been teaching about the Cambodian genocide] and your interest in dementia and memory loss?”

PB : Non-causal, expressive correspondences

So Pat had access to a typesetting machine + layout facilities + there was an old offset press in the office where she worked. We scrounged the paper to do the book from offcuts or somewhere + asked a friend if he'd print it. So four of us went to occupied the office after hours with a flagon of wine + probably a few joints + printed, collated + stapled the book in a night. With that book there was no copyright - this was because of my wonderfully noble + idealistic anarchism — + the opening statement in the book read "if anyone wants these poem use them" + they were used - they turned up in magazines and so on. So the book cost very little, I think we spent about $20 + I also learned a bit about layout, printing + collating. So I had had the big light bulb go on for me, a highly illuminating experience + I loved the idea of publishing + the freedom of self-publishing where you could design + construct a book in any way you wished, you could say whatever you wanted to — NO LIMITS, no restriction.            

The next year Pat drove moved to Sydney, driving up from Melbourne with an offset press in her V.W. – with a few clothes, no furniture or other possessions – the press taking priority in the car. She moved into the our house + the offset press was set up in the front room until it became too chaotic + a space in an old ex barbershop in Glebe was found for it. this was the So that's part of the story of the beginning of Tomato Press.

(Pam Brown, notes from a talk on self-publishing, given at the Women & Arts festival, Sydney, 1982. 'Pat' refers to Pat Woolley, publisher with Tomato Press and later, Wild & Woolley. I transcribed these notes from a scan of Pam's handwriting that she was kind enough to send to me. Apologising for the roughness, she commented on pre-digital note-taking, when "PowerPoint was a nightmare up ahead somewhere." I've honoured the cross-outs and false-starts because they are perfect records of almost-instaneous edits. Note the shift from "went to" to "occupied.")

When the right thought of itself as poetry & of the left as prose

"Saturday Review of Literature" cartoon reprinted in 1949

“No, he's not writing a book. He's holding up his end of a literary feud that began in 1903.” (Saturday Review of Literature, August 14, 1943, p. 13. Reprinted in 1949 during the Ezra Pound/Bollingen Prize controversy.)

The choice of year (1903!) seems intended to suggest both that the feud has something to do with the first shocks of the modern era — incited among critics by, for instance, Kandinsky's first exhibitions — and that the message seems in part to be, c'est la guerre. The scene at first seems settled, well-off, bourgeois and perhaps suburban, the home of the culturally mature. But the writer’s wife hints at the domestic dystopia of nonlyricism. The romantic heretical poet-figure has become the settled write-at-night critic-figure, the letter-to-editor writer, entrenched in back-'n-forth prose. Conservatives such as poet-critic Peter Viereck — darling of New Right intellectuals in the 1950s — were at the time explicit in associating prose with liberalism, poetry with conservatism, and hardly anything could irk an antimodernist more than the brazen way in which the communist poet ignored the distinction between the proper stations and functions of prose and poetry. CPUSA-affiiliated poet Eve Merriam for instance in a poem called “Said Prose to Verse”:

Listen, my insinuating poem,
stop poking your grinning face into every anywhere.
I have trouble enough keeping my house in order
without a free-loading moon-swigging boarder around
making like of solid ground.

How to Be European: a video by Anya Lewin

Imagine a school where one learns how to be European in a changing Europe.