The Work

In addition to the cluster of friendships among the various “Objectivist” writers initiated in the mid- to late-1920s and cemented by regular correspondence, the core “Objectivists” were also connected by their longstanding mutual interest in one another’s poetry. Through a series of little magazines, cooperative book publishing ventures, and other schemes, these writers spent considerable time and effort reading, publishing, and reviewing one another’s work, with several continuing to send each other their new publications for the rest of their lives, in come cases almost fifty years after their initial associations.

While the first explicitly “Objectivist” poems as such appeared in the February 1931 issue of Poetry, the Zukofsky-edited An “Objectivists” Anthology (published in 1932), and the subsequent publications of The Objectivist Press, most of the poets included in that group had already been publishing their writing for some time, usually in some of the era’s many little magazines. In fact, William Carlos Williams, the oldest member of the group by more than a decade, published his first collection, Poems, in 1909, just a year after George Oppen, the youngest core “Objectivist,” was born. Apart from Williams, who published poetry and prose more or less continuously from 1909 until his death in 1963, the remainder of the “Objectivists” had two distinct periods of intense publication activity (from 1928-1935, and from 1962-1978) interrupted by an almost 30 year period of near total silence.

While each of the authors featured on this site enjoyed their own rich individual publication history, explored in greater depth on child pages for each individual writer, this page will detail several of the various collaborative publication efforts that various of these “Objectivist” writers participated in during their first period of activity (1928-1935), with a special emphasis placed on the several little magazines, anthologies and publishing cooperatives the “Objectivists” appeared in, edited, published, and financed.

“Objectivist” Publications

The “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931 issue of Poetry magazine

[move some content from the Lives section here? Note also the importance of the little magazine, as can be seen in the contributor list and notes from Zukofsky’s Poetry issue. His inclusion of Ford/Tyler/Putnam in the “Symposium” is one way to acknowledge and include them, though their poetry does not match his view of “Objectivist” principles.

Poetry

At Pound’s urging, Zukofsky was given editorial power over a single issue of Harriet Monroe’s Poetry magazine in early 1931, and however awkwardly or unwillingly, used the issue to present “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931. The issue’s chief critical statements were authored by Zukofsky singly, but the issue contained work by more than two dozen individual contributors, several of whom (Zukofsky, Williams, Reznikoff, Oppen, and, for a short time, Bunting) had formed a mutually supportive coterie centered in New York City.

Book Publishing Efforts, Real and Imagined

In addition to their involvement in a network of little magazines published during the era (discussed below), several members of this loose alliance were also united in a number of schemes to form and operate a press which would issue book-length collections. Two of these proposed publishing schemes, To, Publishers and The Objectivist Press, succeeded in issuing books by various “Objectivist”-affiliated writers in the years immediately following the appearance of the February 1931 issue of Poetry.

To, Publishers

The first “Objectivist” publishing venture was To, Publishers, a publishing firm founded in late 1931 by George and Mary Oppen. Upon his twenty-first birthday in 1929, George Oppen had come into a small inheritance from his deceased mother’s estate, and he and Zukofsky formed a plan for the Oppens to travel to France and publish books of poems there, with the Oppen’s providing the necessary operating capital and printing oversight and Zukofsky working from the United States as the firm’s salaried editor. In the summer of 1930, the Oppens left the United States for France, settling in Le Beausset, a small village in the south of France near Toulon, from which they operated To, Publishers. The Oppens employed Zukofsky as To’s salaried editor, paying him $100 a month beginning in November 1931; it was likely an expectation of this income that motivated Zukofsky to turn down an offer of continued employment teaching English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and return to New York City in the summer of 1931.1Zukofsky had been paid $1000 for teaching during the 1930-1931 academic year, but had not liked living in Madison. On October 15, 1931, Zukofsky wrote to Pound: “Geo. Oppen is planning a publishing firm—To, Publishers, and I’m the edtr.” (Qtd. in Pound/Zukofsky, 104). On December 10, 1931, Zukofsky shared To’s publishing plans with Ezra Pound, indicating that they expected to print a book every two months, and sharing their proposed list for their first year:

  1. Bill Walrus [William Carlos Williams].
  2. E[zra].P[ound]. Section I.
  3. If Oppen agrees—Tozzi/Buntn.2Pound had suggested in a letter the previous month that Bunting might translate the Italian poet Federigo Tozzi’s novel Tre croci (written in 1918 and published in just before his death of influenza and pneumonia in 1920). Bunting never produced this translation.
    only objection: we may have to pay Tozzi—is he alive?—& we cdn’t afford to pay both Bunting & Tozzi—But you write Oppen & see what he says. No, I don’t think we propose to be purely amurikun. In fact, we expect you to be on lookout for foreign material and make suggestions all the time.
  4. Possibly L[ouis].Z[ukofsky].
  5. Reznikoff. (probably)
  6. E.P. (2nd section).

Bob McA—cd. be taken care of the second year. We don’t want the same homocide squad allee time. By that time he shd. be rejected by everyone else & (have) polished off his Politics of Existence3This McAlmon book was never finished and remained unpublished at his death in 1956. A undated draft of the manuscript with a 1952 letter explaining the project of the novel can be found among his papers in Yale’s Beinecke Library. which has fine things in it—what I’ve seen—but needs to be cut (& I mean cut). Not just circumcised.4Pound/Zukofsky, 117

Sometime in late 1931 or early 1932, Oppen also sent Pound a letter from Le Beausset in which he described To, Publishers as

A new press, printing in France. Publishes chiefly brochures to sell for 8 Francs. Its program for the year includes: Prolegomena (collected prose) of Ezra Pound (to be published as a series); A Novelette and Other Prose, by William Carlos Williams; a novel by Charles Reznikoff; poems by Louis Zukofsky. and a translation of5Ezra Pound Papers, Beinecke (Yale), YCAL MSS 43, Box 38, Folder 1613

As their proposed list of publications makes clear, To, Publishers was nothing if not an “Objectivist” publishing venture: funded and operated from France by the Oppens, it employed Zukofsky as the managing editor, and planned to publish work by Williams, Pound, Zukofsky, Reznikoff, Oppen, Bunting.6Rakosi, and Rexroth as well? In February 1932, To, Publishers published their first book, William Carlos Williams’ A Novelette and Other Prose, which was followed in June 1932 by Ezra Pound’s Prolegomena 1: How to Read, Followed by The Spirit of Romance, Part 1 in June 1932. The press encountered import and distribution difficulties almost immediately, and sales of their first volumes lagged far behind their early hopes.

Their inability to recoup their initial investment meant that the publishing venture was a financial failure, and the Oppens realized that they were quickly on pace to exhaust their limited capital. In August of 1932, George Oppen informed Zukofsky that he be unable to continue operating the publishing company (or pay Zukofsky to act as its managing editor) beyond the end of the year, and that they would have to scrap nearly all of their remaining plans for publication.7Zukofsky wrote to Pound on August 8, 1932: “Latest news from O[ppen]:—”Can’t continue To.” Which means my salary goes as well when the year is up—& will probably be reduced to $50 (if George can spare that much) a month, while it lasts. “The year is up”—may be this Setp. 1932—I’m not sure when my year started, since Buddy [George’s nickname] and I made no formal legal arrangements.” (Pound/Zukofsky, 132). Zukofsky’s salary was in fact reduced to $50, with October 1932 being the last month he received payment (Zukofsky, Letters to Pound, 8 October 1932, Yale).

An “Objectivists” Anthology

Though it proved short lived as a publishing concern, To, Publishers did issue one additional book, An “Objectivists” Anthology, which the Oppens had printed in August 1932 in Dijon. Edited by Zukofsky, the An “Objectivists” Anthology was divided into three sections: lyric (section 1), epic (section 2), and collaborations (section 3) and contained work by 14 poets, eight of whom also had also appeared in the “Objectivists” 1931 issue of Poetry.8The eight authors included in both publications were: Bunting, Rakosi, Reznikoff, Oppen, Williams, Zukofsky, Robert McAlmon, and Kenneth Rexroth. Of the six writers who appeared in the anthology but not in Poetry, Pound and Eliot should be well-known enough not to need an introduction here. Zukofsky had attempted to include work by both men in his issue of Poetry, but had not been able to persuade either to give him work. The other four authors were Mary Butts (1890-1937), a English modernist writer who was well-known to Ezra Pound who had previously been married to the poet and publisher John Rodker; Frances Fletcher, a teacher and graduate of Vassar College who had published a slim volume of poetry in 1926; Forrest Anderson, who had published frequently in BluesPagany, and transition; and R.B.N. Warriston, an acquaintance of Zukofsky’s who lived in White Plains, New York and who had published poems in Pagany. The anthology also included a collaboration between Zukofsky and his friend and former student Jerry Reisman. More detailed biographies of each of these contributors is available in The Lives section of this site. 

In a long letter to Pound dated May 11, 1933, Zukofsky gave Pound an updated report on sales of To’s publications:

Since you ask: Bruce Humphries have brought [sic] to date from To
25-W.C.W. [Williams’ A Novellette]
75 – H.T.R. [Pound’s How to Read]
71 – “Obj” [An “Objectivists” Anthology]

To‘s total sales in U.S.A.:
150 – W.C.W. (Bill bought 50)
109- H.T.R.
130- Obj.

In Europe as far as I know
12-W.C.W.
28- H.T.R.
10-Obj.9The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 102.

Writer’s Extant

Chastened but not wholly discouraged by the failure of To, Publishers and his own loss of a monthly editor’s salary, Zukofsky’s next scheme was a proposed writer’s union (to be called Writers Extant) with a publishing arm to be called W.E., Publishers. Early in 1933, Zukofsky circulated a detailed prospectus for the idea among several friends, including both Pound and Williams, asking them for their feedback and support. In a letter to Ezra Pound, Zukofsky indicated that the editorial board was to be comprised of Tibor Serly, René Taupin, and himself, and its members to include Reznikoff and Williams, and possibly Rexroth, Moore, and McAlmon, Mina Loy, Wallace Stevens, and others.10Qtd. in Sharp’s dissertation: http://sharpgiving.com/Objectivists/sections/22.history.html?visited=1#22history-51, Zukofsky, Letter to Pound, 17 April 1933, Yale and referenced in Pound/Zukofsky, 141-142. In early April 1933, Williams sent an initial reply, which was decidedly negative: 

What the hell can I say about Writers Extant? I don’t see how it can be done. I think your prospectus is too complex. Where in hell is one to begin?

It’s all very well to name off twenty or more names of those you’d like to see members of such an organization but can you get them and can you keep them and can you manage them when you have them? I doubt it very much.

Personally I could at a pinch give up a couple of hundred dollars, but why? For two hundred dollars I could in all probability get my poems published and although that is a most selfish viewpoint yet it <is> one which must have weight with me since a sum of that sort is not easy for me to detach from my ordinary expenses. And unless I gave it I wouldn’t take a thing from the organization.

It is possible that we might get a book that would sell and so bring us in a profit. But don’t imagine for one minute that if some book were profitable it wouldn’t be taken away from us damned quick by the author or the firm to which he would sell out his rights.11The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 154

Williams’ next letter, sent on May 6, offers a more conciliatory tone, and references Zukofsky’s upcoming trip to Europe, for which Ezra Pound had given money (unclaimed) the year previously, and which Zukofsky was shortly to undertake with financial contributions from Pound, Williams, and other mutual friends:

Having thought (waited!) doubtfully with your “Writers Extant” in mind I have come to the conclusion that there’s no other way out of our difficulties. It is basically the only way for us to proceed. BUT I do not think we have as yet hit upon either the correct name for the venture nor upon the proper method or procedure.

You have made a start and the motion is not lost. We are all searching for the phraseology. Part of the next step and it may take some time to develop it, come what may, is for you to see the men involved, personally. It will not be until after that that a program can be put down on paper. When you have done this (supposing for the moment that you are the permanent secretary indicated in your project) and after you have seen certain theoretical scripts, including my White Mule. Then we can band together, publish one book, the best we can find, and then, with some solid ground under our feet and snarl in our voices we can begin. LAST will come what is written down as a contract – after we have had some experience. Everything else must be tentative up to that time.12The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 155.

Along with that letter, Williams also included his own revised and severely abbreviated version of Zukofsky’s lengthy prospectus which he instructed him to show to Tibor Serly:

The Writers Publishers, Inc.

1. Membership in the group is limited to those writers who have in actual possession an available and complete book manuscript of high quality which is unacceptable to the usual publisher.

2. Manuscripts to be published by the group are to be selected (with advice) by a Director who shall be elected by a majority of the group members for the term of one year.

3. The business end of the group activities will be under the direction of a paid Secretary-Treasurer, under bond, who shall occupy the office indefinitely, or until removed by a two thirds vote of the existing membership at any time.

4. Initial funds are to be contributed by the charter members as may be agreed upon, to be added to later as the business of the group may prove profitable. 

5. The first membership will be made up of a selected, voluntary group who by a majority vote, after the first requisite is satisfied, will add to their numbers from time to time.

6. Resignation from the group may take place at the discretion of the member by which he is absolved from further financial responsibility at the same time relinquishing any claim he has had upon the group’s resources.

7. Dissolution of the group as an organization will be conditional upon an equal distribution among the members of all funds and other rights enjoyed by the group under its incorporation.

8. Further additions to these rules will be made from time to time.13The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 156-157. 

Williams urged that any revision be kept to no more than “2 pages in all” and indicated that “a few paragraphs may be added: Reznikoff can take care of a proper arrangement of the items.”14The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 156. Zukofsky forwarded Williams’ revisions to his prospectus Pound within the week, urging Pound to take his own turn at revising them:

Continuinwith organization—objection has been raised to “exclusiveness” of trade name. The Writers Publishers, Inc. has been suggested instead—& I enclose a copy of Bill’s revision” of the prospectus. I don’t think he gets the real purpose of the original prospectus. But maybe you can do better in an idle moment. I mean tho his draft wd seem to be more business-like than mine he doesn’t see how he‘s trapped himself again in the “highbrow licherary circle of viciousness.” Fer gord’s sakez, you don’t think I wrote all the detail of that prospectus—the Organization section especially—without for a moment having my tongue in my cheek! But the serious intent of the prospectus which makes it a thing not merely of this administration (an attempt to work with the dead), but at least a working chance that shd. fit in with the new” economy when people begin to realize it—and they’ll have to—is in the prospectus, I mean L.Z.’s. No use backsliding, whatever the difficulties ” of “style.And if you’re afraid that “the idea is no good until L.Z. starts trying to write simple readable prose”—you write to letters to edtrs. now, you can write declarations in the future as of the Board of Writers Pubs. And L.Z. doesn ‘t intend to sit down to write 4 pg. Prospectii in the future. When the time comes he‘ll find it more simple to use the technique of advertising, and say: Prof. So & So is still going to the stool, ethically. Messrs. Splinters and Plate persist in cutting the razor of morality.15The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 98-100.

Pound does not appear to have attempted a revision, but the proposal remained very much on Williams’ mind, as he wrote Zukofsky twice more in May to express his concerns about their proposal. His first letter, dated May 24, 1933, read:

I’ve tormented my soul long enough over our Writer-Publisher proposal: I think it’s no go and we should give it up. As far as you personally are concerned I think it would be an excellent thing for you to get to see Pound this summer. I’ll be glad to contribute my bit to assist you as agreed with Serly. I’ll believe we’d all derive some benefit from it by clarifying our present more than a little muddle thinking. Go and take a look. In the fall we can appraise the situation again if we want to.

And don’t forget that with every advantage in their favor large publishing houses are going broke. While even such a venture as Angel Flores’ Dragon Press has cost its sponsor two or three thousand dollars which he’ll never see again. It can’t be done today. Pound said it over and over again in his letter. We’ve got to heed such evidence.

The only possible way out of our difficulties, aside from hoping against hope, would be to print a series of six books at our own expense and then give someone like Harcourt, Brace 15% to market them – as others have done before us. But could we find six saleable new books? I doubt it. And even if we could find them, where would the next six come from? No, I can’t see it.16The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 158.

A week later, Williams wrote again:

It means this: I saw [Nathaniel] West and <he> would have nothing to do with a self publishing venture. Quite correctly I think, he pointed out that no book should be self-published until it had been the rounds of all the commercial publishers. This would take a year. ANd if all of them turned it down you could be reasonably sure that it would not sell fifty copies under any circumstances. We should simply lose our money.

Besides, there are not twelve books in the country that would be available for our uses.

As for Josephine Herbst: she is about to become a successful author. Under those circumstances I refuse point blank to approach her. What for? To ask her for money? Never. To ask her for a script? Insane.

[Wallace] Stevens is under contract to Knopf.

It’s simply an impossible situation.17The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 159.

Zukofsky left for his tour of Europe at the end of June, during which time Zukofsky met with Tibor Serly (in Budapest), René Taupin (in Paris), and Pound and Bunting (at Rapallo). By the end of the summer both Zukofsky and the Oppens had returned to New York City from Europe, and on September 24, 1933, Zukofsky arranged a meeting, attended by himself, Williams, Reznikoff and the Oppens, to discuss his proposal for a mutual publishing scheme at the Oppens’ apartment at 214 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn.

The Objectivist Press

In this meeting, the group organized an editorial board with plans for Zukofsky to serve as the executive secretary, made a tentative publishing list, and drew up a plan to request subscriptions. A letter from Williams to Zukofsky dated October 2, 1933 included a synopsis of their meeting the month previous:

Writers-Publishers to be incorporated:

  1. A possible list of subscribers to 1 book of poems to be circularized and approached by whatever means possible. The book to sell at $2 and to be the most saleable we can find.
  2. This book to be published on the basis of whatever advance subscriptions are obtained.
  3. The proceeds, if any, from this sale to be divided, 60% to the author, 40% to the group which 40% is to be used to publish book #2 and to pay the Executive Secretary who will be the sole officer of the group.
  4. On this basis book are to be continued to be printed and sold as often and for as long a time as practicable.

Notes: When the first book is advertised it will be put forward as one of a series of four which will all be published and offered, separately, for subscription during the first year.

The original suggestion of E[zra].P[ound]. to be rewritten to conform to this plan.

As a feature of the plan distinguished (?) modernists of the day will write introductory pages to these books – their names (with consent) to be given out when the first notices appear: such names as Marion [sic] Moore, T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, etc etc. This in effect will be a sponsoring Committee without putting too much of a burden on names.

Harriet Monroe and Poetry to be approached from the first with intent to get as much backing from that source as being the official (?) poetry organization in U.S.

Mr. Zukofsky be named to Executive-Secretary etc. etc. with power to keep records, see individuals, arrange for publishing, correct proofs ? ? ? select format, wrote letters, devise lists, compose advertising matter, push sales, etc, etc# – God help him!18The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 165-166.

Williams also included his enthusiasm for the plan, telling Zukofsky that “That scheme as outlined has the earmarks of feasibility, the best yet! I am grateful to you for your vision and persistence, I’ll back you in every way possible. To begin with you may count on me for the first hundred toward my book. I’d pay it all but I decided long ago not to. And I’ll go after Marianne and Wallace Stevens at once.”19The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 165.

Over the next few weeks, the group considered other names for their venture (including two of Williams’ suggestions: Writers-Publishers and Cooperative Publishers), ultimately settling on the singular form of Reznikoff’s proposed The Objectivists Press.20On October 23, 1933, Zukofsky had written to Pound asking him to join himself, Williams, and Reznikoff as a partner in The Objectivists Press (a spelling he also included in a follow-up query to Pound dated October 29), but by November they had dropped the plural and reverted to The Objectivist Press, which is the name under which all their subsequent books were published. They also adopted a simple statement of purpose, proposed by Reznikoff, which was printed on the books’ dust wrapper: “The Objectivist Press is an organization of writers who are publishing their own work and that of other writers whose work they think ought to be read.”

The press launched itself into existence through the publication of Williams’ Collected Poems 1921-1931, which was printed in January 1934 in an initial edition of 500 by J.J. Little and Ives Company, in New York, and was sold by subscription. As the first book issued by the Objectivist Press, the book’s dust jacket prominently featured the press’ name and address,2110 West 36th Street, located two blocks northeast of the Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan as well as praise from Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, and René Taupin. Williams’ book, which featured a preface written by Wallace Stevens, was a modest success, both critically and commercially; it was reviewed by Charles Poore in the New York Times Book Review in February, and nearly sold out its initial edition at $2 a copy, which would have netted the press a small profit. The press also published Reznikoff’s Testimony (a prose work which featured an introduction by Kenneth Burke) in January 1934, George Oppen’s Discrete Series, published in March with an introduction by Ezra Pound), and two volumes of Reznikoff’s poetry: Jerusalem the Golden and In Memoriam: 1933.

The back cover of George Oppen's Discrete Series

The back cover of the dust jacket for George Oppen’s Discrete Series (1934), with publication information for The Objectivist Press.

The back cover of the dust jacket for Oppen’s book (shown at right) is particularly illuminating in regards to how The Objectivist Press presented itself: it began with Reznikoff’s formulation of the press’ mission, listed their previous publications and announced their plans to bring out “verse and prose by Basil Bunting, Tibor Serly, Carl Rakosi, René Taupin, Louis Zukofsky and others,” and indicated that the press’ advisory board was made up of Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky (Sec’y).22Williams shared his first year’s publication suggestions with Zukofsky in a letter written sometime late in 1933: “The names I’d suggest for the first year would be my own (not because I wish it so but because the general opinion seems to be that my book would be a good one to start with) the Zukofsky, Bunting, Rakosi. I believe we’ll have our hands full trying to get a book out every 3 months” (The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 166-167).

While the press had begun with both Zukofsky’s lofty ambitions and a lengthy list of works they intended to publish, the Objectivist Press did not prove to be a long-lived concern, collapsing as a functional cooperative after less than a year. A number of things contributed to the press’ demise: Zukofsky and Oppen quarrelled, apparently over Oppen’s stated preference for his own poetry to Zukofsky’s,23In Meaning a Life, Mary Oppen relates one version of the story: “Walking with Louis when Discrete Series was in manuscript, George was discussing it with him before showing it to anyone else. Louis turned and with a quizzical expression asked George, “Do you prefer your poetry to mine?” “Yes,” answered George, and the friendship was at a breaking point” (Meaning a Life, 145). and the Oppens quit poetry to devote their energies to direct political action, Williams’ plan to develop an opera with Zukofsky’s friend Tibor Serly fell apart, damaging Williams’ friendship with Zukofsky, and Zukofsky resigned as the press’ secretary. The relationship between Williams, Zukofsky, and the Oppens appears to have been strained by late 1934; Zukofsky wrote to Pound in November 1934 asking about the possibility of Faber & Faber printing his poem “Mantis,” and again in February 1935 asking explicitly for help in getting his 55 Poems manuscript published in England with Faber & Faber, both of which I take as signs that the Objectivist Press had failed, since Zukofsky had clearly intended for the press he worked so hard to establish to publish his own work.24Williams had offered some encouraging words regarding the upcoming publication of Zukofsky’s manuscript in a few letters from early 1934, though it did not come off in the end. Zukofsky wrote to Pound in a letter dated February 17, 1935: “You can, if it won’t hurt your own name, try and get me published with Faber & Faber. Serly off to Europe with my final arrangement and additions to 55 Poems–a most commendable typescript for you to look at. Time fucks it, and if I keep my MSS. in my drawer or my drawers, I might as well shut up altogether. … If you consent, think it opportune etc, to try my 55 on Faber & Faber, you need not worry about an introduction–I don’t want it–you can write a blurb for the dust-proof jacket if it jets out of you. Noo Yok at a standstill. Haven’t heart from Bill Willyums in moneths.” (Pound/Zukofsky, 160-161). Further confirmation of the timing of the split can be found in a letter from Williams to Zukofsky in March 1935 which indicates both that Williams hadn’t heard from Zukofsky for roughly 6 months and that he had heard that Zukofsky and the Oppens had had a falling out.25See The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 212. Lacking the capital to finance the publication of his 55 Poems through The Objectivist Press and unable to persuade Pound to intercede with Eliot on his behalf at Faber & Faber, Zukofsky did not manage to publish this manuscript until 1941.26Zukofsky’s book was eventually published, in a handsome hardcover edition, by the James A. Decker Press of Prairie City, Illinois, which had previously published attractive volumes of poetry by several other contemporary poets, including Zukofsky’s friends Norman Macleod, Charles Henri Ford, and Harry Roskolenko.

The various schisms between Zukofsky, Williams, Pound, and the Oppens and their departures from or disillusionments with the press left Reznikoff alone among the collective’s founding members. Reznikoff, who had both trained as a lawyer and was the only member of the group to own, in the form of a hand-operated printing press, the literal means of production, also retained the copyright for the press. Following Reznikoff’s publication of his collection Separate Way under the imprint in 1936, by which time the Press had long since ceased to operate as a cooperative, the Objectivist Press imprint remained dormant until Louis and Celia requested its use from Reznikoff for their private publication of Louis’ A Test of Poetry in 1948. While the Zukofskys corresponded for a time in the late 1940s and early 1950s using The Objectivist Press letterhead with their home address as its current location, the imprint was never again used for future book publications. The collapse of The Objectivist Press also led Williams to seek other publishers for his poetry; he turned first to Ronald Lane Latimer’s Alcestis Press, publishing his collections An Early Martyr and Other Poems and Adam & Eve & the City with Latimer in 1935 and 1936, before James Laughlin’s New Directions Press became his regular publisher starting with the publication of his Complete Collected Poems in 1938.

[more needed here … How to read Zuk’s disavowal of leadership of any movement in 1934: He had tried to start a group/movement: halfheartedly, at first, and with some resistance. He really had tried, however, and had devoted a great deal of energy to trying to form a two publishing collectives for which he had provided the central organizing force and served as editor. For all of Zukofsky’s editorial skill and critical acuity, he was not a great businessman or bookseller: he was described as being an “indifferent, sometimes negligent bookseller” when working at his brother Morris’ Greenwich Village bookstore in the late 1920s;27After Whittaker Chambers was fired from his job at the New York Public Library in April 1927 when dozens of “missing” books were found in his coat locker, Zukofsky found him a job working with him at his brothers bookshop. Chambers’ biographer Sam Tanenhaus writes: “Chambers and Louis were supposed to help customers at noon, when the regular staff broke for lunch, but were indifferent, sometimes negligent booksellers, seldom stirring from their seats. Henry Zolinsky, a frequent visitor, once put them to a test, asking for a volume. When Chambers and Zukofsky assured him it was not to be found, Zolinksy walked over to the shelves and pulled down the book himself” (Whittaker Chambers: A Biography, 56-57). Pound wrote about hearing of others’ total lack of confidence in his business sense by 1931,28Barry Ahearn quotes a November 29, 1931 letter from Pound to Zukofsky, in which Pound tells Zukofsky that “[Rene] Taupin has filled Basil [Bunting] with firm belief in yr. utter incapacity to transact ANY business operation” (Pound/Zukofsky, 121). the Oppens cut him off in 1933 after failing to sell many books, and his Writers Extant venture never seemed quite convincing to Williams and didn’t even manage to bring out his own book. It’s hard not to see this as Zuk trying, but failing, and the disavowal of the ‘movement’ as a function of anger/embarrassment at that failure. A May 11, 1935 letter to Pound is perhaps Zukofsky’s most explicit statement on what he took as the lessons of the failure of his publishing efforts:

But you needn‘t tell me that “All good books are Blocked by the present fahrty system”—why ‘n hell do you think I asked your aid? Between the New Masses crowd who can’t get the distinction that yr. poetry is one thing & yr. economics another, & yr. unwillingness to even look at my work to see what it says because I won’t embrace Social Credit, these last 3 years—I’ve not only lost whatever chance I might have had with commercial publishers, but have ostracized myself completely. I ain’t weeping about it—I‘m just seeing by my own lights. … I’ve sacrificed a good deal of my time with To, Objectivist Press, corresponding with 152 “poets” etc. to get up an issue of Poetry, an anthology etc., & the good things which resulted were their own cheque. However, I don’t care to do it again. I‘ve even stopped seeing “close friends” who’ve envied my station-to put an end to the bad taste of it all. For example, it is amusing & to a slight degree cheering that The Rocking Horse 5 years after my advent at the Univ. of Wis. has got round to speaking about E.P., W.C.W. etc. as if they were not exactly taboo-but I’m not going to commend the kids or take up correspondence with ’em to keep you & Bill “in shape” as you say. It won’t mean anything to you 1 yr. from now-& it won’t get me anywhere.” 29The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 120

Other 1930s Anthologies

Profile

In May 1932, Ezra Pound published Profile, a 142 page anthology printed privately in an edition of 250 copies for John Schweiller in Milan. The anthology included a prefatory note from Pound describing it as “A collection of poems which have stuck in my memory and which may possibly define their epoch, or at least rectify current ideas of it in respect to at least one contour,” and featured a very short introduction, “Spectacle,” in which Pound states: “I am making no claim to present the “hundred best poems” but merely a set of poems that have ut supra remained in my memory. I have tried to omit repetitions, whether by the same author or a different one.”30Profile, 10. The anthology itself offers a patchy historical narrative of the previous few decades in English poetry according to Pound, beginning with an assertion that

This ‘anthology’ is merely the collection of poems that I happen to remember, that is, it is selected by a given chemical process. I don’t mean that I could quote these poems verbatim, but that they have had, each of them, during the last 30 years sufficient, individual character to stick in my head as entities.

The omission of certain writers before 1920 implies generally a direct censure or disapproval, that of writers since 1920 implies merely unfamiliarity or ignorance of their work.31Profile, 13

Of the “Objectivists,” Pound’s old friend Williams is the best represented in the anthology, with four poems in total, including his early poems “Hic Jacet,” dated about 1910, “Postlude,” dated 1912, and “Portrait of a Woman in Bed,” published in 1917, as well as “The Botticellian Trees,” which Zukofsky had included in the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry. Pound also includes work by six other writers Zukofsky had presented as “Objectivists” the year previously, including McAlmon’s 1924 poem “The Bullfight”; the third, fourth and fifth “movements” of Zukofsky’s “Poem Beginning ‘The'”; Howard Weeks’ “Stunt Piece”; sections 1 and 2 of Bunting’s “Villon”; Emanuel Carnevali’s “The Girls in Italy” and “Italian Farmer”; and Parker Tyler’s “Experience Without Succedent.”

Pound is spare with his prose commentary, and reticent with his praise in this anthology, but much of his approval is reserved for Williams and Zukofsky. For example, he follows a brisk summary of the appearance and impact of Des Imagistes by noting “Out of several hundreds of American writers, Williams still continues to develop,” and describes two tendencies in “the individualist American verse” over the previous dozen years, one of which, “only recently apparent or effective … perhaps showed first in Carlos Williams’ prose The Great American Novel and later in his poetry … [in which] a new sort of unity has been achieved, and that the parts are more definitely of the entirety han they had been in earlier sorts of poem which could be taken piecemeal or in quotation.”32Profile, 46, 127. Pound also indicates a considerable overlap between his and Zukofsky’s editorial preferences when he lists the following “extant” writers: “Post war: Hemingway, McAlmon, Cummings. 1925 and after: Zukofsky, Dunning, Rakosi, Macleod, Bunting,”33113. particularly when one notes that of the five writers listed in the last group, only Ralph Dunning, an expatriate poet from Detroit who died in Paris from a combination of tuberculosis and starvation in 1930, was not included among Zukofsky’s “Objectivists.” In case one had any doubt, Pound makes his approval explicit by noting on the anthology’s final page that the reader in search of further information seek out “Zukofsky’s notes in “Symposium” for Jan. and “Poetry” for Feb. 1931″ as well as the “Objectivist number of Poetry … and Mr. Zukofsky’s Objectivist Anthology, announced for publication.”34Profile, 142.

If one reads Profile in the terms with which Pound attempted to define it, namely as “a critical narrative” in which he “attempted to show by excerpt what had occurred during the past quarter of a century,”35The prefatory “Note” included in his Active Anthology, 5. He described it in similar terms in Contempo, writing that the anthology was “a narrative of what has happened to verse during the past twenty-five years. the most ready conclusion to hand is that he considered Zukofsky’s “Objectivist” editorial projects, along with his own The Exile, as the source of the most significant developments in modern poetry since 1925.

Active Anthology
Active Anthology (1933) cover

The dust jacket cover of the Active Anthology, edited by Ezra Pound and published in 1933 by Faber & Faber.

On October 12, 1933, Ezra Pound published another anthology, this time with the London-based publishing firm Faber & Faber, where T.S. Eliot served as a literary advisor. In an explanatory note preceding the table of contents, Pound noted that

My anthology Profile was a critical narrative, that is I attempted to show by excerpt what had occurred during the past quarter of a century. In this volume I am presenting an assortment of writers, mostly ill known in England, in whose verse a development appears or in some case we may say “still appears” to be taking place, in contradistinction to authors in whose work no such activity has occurred or seems likely to proceed any further.

Pound would title the anthology Active Anthology, indicating in his preface that he was “confining [his] selection to poems Britain has not accepted and in the main that the British literary bureaucracy does NOT want to have printed in England” and suggesting that:

the unwelcome and disparate authors whom I have gathered in this volume have mostly accepted certain criteria which duller wits have avoided. They have mostly, if not accepted, at any rate faced the demands, and considered the works, made and noted in my “How to Read”. That in itself is not a certificate of creative ability, but it does imply a freedom from certain forms of gross error and from certain kinds of bungling which will indubitably consign many other contemporary writings to the ash-bin. …

I have not attempted to represent all of the new poets, I am leaving the youngest, possibly some of the brightest, to someone else or to future effort, not so much from malice or objection to perfect justice, as from inability to do everything all at once.

There are probably fifty very bright poems that are not here assembled. … Someone more in touch with the younger Americans ought to issue an anthology or a special number of some periodical, selected with criteria, either his or mine.

The assertion implicit in this volume is that after ten or twenty years of serious effort you can consider a writer uninteresting, but the charges of flightiness or dilettantism are less likely to be valid.36”Praefatio,” 23-24.

Pound repeated many of these points in a brief “Notes on Particular Details” at the end of the anthology, writing

I do not in the least doubt that quite a number, say 20 or 30 poets between the ages of 20 and 40 have written better poems that some of those here included. Bu in a fair proportion of the cases where I have considered inviting an author and then refrained from doing so, I have very strong doubts as to that author’s capacity to progress or develop any further.

I expect or at least hope that the work of the included writers will interest me more in ten years’ time than it does now in 1933.37253

Pound’s list of eleven authors for the anthology included a strong “Objectivist” core, featuring work by William Carlos Williams, Basil Bunting, Louis Zukofsky, and George Oppen among its contributors.38In addition to these four core “Objectivists,” Active Anthology also featured writing by Louis Aragon (translated by E. E. Cummings), E. E. Cummings, Ernest Hemingway, Marianne Moore, D. G. Bridson, T. S. Eliot, and Pound himself. Pound assembled the anthology fairly quickly, circulating a carbon copy of a call for the anthology along with a letter to Zukofsky on 23 February 1933 in which he told the younger poet:

I take it this is a chance to print all of THE and all of A. that is ready /

also send suggestions/ re other of yrs/ the chewing gum poem, and items of interest.
//
also has Rakoski anything new/ or have you any snug gestions

Oppen meritus causa?? couple of short poems??
lemme know if there are?

Basil [Bunting] seems to think Reznikoff is some good??? any piece d’evidence?

Can you help ole Bill Walrnss [Williams] to sort hiz self out.39Pound/Zukofsky, 143.

Zukofsky complied, sending Pound work by Williams, Reznikoff, Rakosi, and Rexroth for consideration. Pound’s next letter to Zukofsky, sent in April 1933, expresses enthusiasm for Williams, Zukofsky and Oppen’s work

The Bill W[illia]ms/ is damn good. Shall prob. omit Footnote/ Ball Game / and Portrait of Lady ( the latter simply because the subject is less interestin’ than a lot of Bill’s other work.) I want another 15 Pages of him.

Your best stuuf is “The” and parts of A. …

Young Oppen has sent in stuff/ think three of ’em good enough to include.”40Pound/Zukofsky, 144

and lays out his reservations regarding Reznikoff, Rakosi and Rexroth:

The Reznikoff will appear to the Brit. reader a mere immitation [sic] of me, and they will howl that I am merely printin my followers.

It is I think just as good as parts of Lustra (1915, 1916) neither better nor worse. Very cleanly done but no advance in methodology. ((in most of it.))

Possibly by pickin’ out the Hebe element we can get something that will arouse interest. Remember an anth. like this has got to AROUSE interest without AT ANY POINT terminating ANY of the interest it arouses.

Its the sample of next weeks film, not the giving away of the end of the story.

The title of the Anth. is “The Active Element”. If I omit H.D. how am I to put in most of the Reznikoff you have sent.

my thesis bein that the ART of writing is (is still now continuously developing

… So far        Rakosi weak. Rexroth and the rest unsatisfactory.41Pound/Zukofsky, 144.

In keeping with his simultaneously promotional and critical style, Pound used his final editorial statement to both draw attention to the group and simultaneously sound a note of caution in stating that “a whole school or shoal of young American writers seems to me to have lost contact with language as language. … In particular Mr Zukofsky’s Objectivists seem prone to this error, just as Mr Eliot’s followers tend toward neo-Gongorism,” later wondering aloud “How far is a writer justified in “mathematical” rather than linguistic use of language? … I think the good poem ought probably to include that dimension without destroying the feel of actual speech. In this sense Zukofsky’s earlier poem is better than his later, though you cannot expect a writer to develop all his merits simultaneously and pari passu. I know of no case where an author has developed at all without at least temporarily sacrificing one or several of his initial merits42254-255.

Modern Things

In 1934, The Galleon Press published in New York a 92 page anthology entitled Modern Things. Edited by Parker Tyler, the anthology was intended to

present an elect body of work, composed by those moderns who have worked successfully in literary styles for a number of years to the accompaniment of ever-growing critical and general recognition, together with those younger moderns who, not yet intrenched in the libraries with volumes of their own or with anthology reputations, and while not, consistently, so typical of thoroughly individuated styles, have had successes definitely meriting critical attention. These poems have been collected with applied reference to the unity of a continuous contemporary literary impulse, operating through related and developing modes of writing. If any work pertinent to this process has been omitted, the omission is either casual or, where certain fakeries are involved, deliberate.43”Introduction,” 5.

Of “Objectivist” writers, Tyler included Eliot’s “Triumphal March”; excerpts from Pound’s “Canto XXXIV”; Williams’ “St. Francis Einstein of the Daffodils,” “Tree and Sky,” “Flowers by the Sea,” “Simplex Sigilum Veri:,” “Wedded are the River and the Sky,” “The Death of See,” and “The Locust Tree in Flower”; Charles Henri Ford’s “Roots,” “Voyage,” “Syllabus,” and “Commission”; Rakosi’s “The Beasts” and “The Wedding”; Zukofsky’s “Tibor Serly” and “Madison, Wis., Remembering the Bloom of Monticello (1931)”; and his own “Hollywood Dream Suite,” “Address to My Mother,” “Sleep Mood,” and “To Raskolnikoff.”44The full list of contributors to the anthology is as follows: T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, E.E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Gertrude Stein, Harold Rosenberg, H.R. Hays, Paul Eaton Reeve, Joseph Rocco, Lionel Abel, Charles Henri Ford, Carl Rakosi, Louis Zukofsky, Raymond Larsson, and Parker Tyler. In describing certain tendencies among the poets he selected for inclusion in the anthology, Tyler wrote:

the techniques of symbolism, imagism and Rimbaudian hallucination have determined the effect on the purely technical side, while Corbière-Laforguian irony and Pound’s theory of poetry as history have determined it largely on the more emotional and ideational side. For instance Wallace Stevens has an elegant form suggestive of both Laforgue and valery, Mallarmé’s disciple and various poets, such as Marianne Moore and Louis Zukofsky, have types of contemporary documentation influenced by Mr. Pound’s notion of the complementariness of historic facts, or what might be called the solution of the past in the present. In this way, tradition has been emphasized rather than slurred in modern poetry.45Ibid, 8.

In explaining his inclusion of Rakosi and Zukofsky, Tyler wrote:

Carl Rakosi, who has the excellence of a sterling pupil. He has been influenced largely by Pound and Williams and forms an inescapable similarity to Louis Zukofsky, than whom, however, he is less variable; his good workmanship and confidence of carriage always command attention, and his poems often seem to be fresh and whole results, despite the tendency toward framentariness.

Louis Zukofsky, who brings a gracile metric and a swift apprehension to his subjects; he is as philosophical as an experimenter can be, and when he observes a certain precautious depth is always rewarding. His “note” is usually in exact musical place. …

It is apparent, in my opinion, … that Mr. Rakosi and Mr. Zukofsky are passionate masters of their apprenticeship.46Ibid, 11-12

RMR Press

In the early 1930s, Kenneth Rexroth planned to found a press with his friends Milton Merlin and Joseph Rabinowitch. As they conceived it, the RMR Press (the initial letters of their last names) would publish a series of pamphlets and short books, with a special emphasis on poetry. Zukofsky, Pound, and Williams all wrote to Rexroth in support of the venture, offering selections of their own work for consideration and providing extensive lists of authors they felt might be interested in being included in the series. Zukofsky named Reznikoff, Oppen, Bunting, René Taupin, Whittaker Chambers, George Crosby, and Harry Roskolenko; and among his many literary contacts in England and France Pound recommended Rexroth approach Wyndham Lewis, Man Ray, Hilaire Hiler, Robert McAlmon, and Ford Madox Ford. Pound and Zukofsky discuss Rexroth and his possible publishing venture in several letters from 1931 and 1933, with … [include more from the Pound/Zukofsky letters]

Carl Rakosi, in particular, appears to have believed that Rexroth would be shortly publishing a book of his poems, telling both Richard Johns and Harriet Monroe in the summer of 1931 that he was “planning to put out a book soon.”47Pagany letters from Rakosi, U Delaware, and Poetry papers U Chicago. Unfortunately for Rakosi and others who may have had been making similar plans with Rexroth, the RMR Press never advanced beyond the planning stage, despite the several recommendations and clear expressions of interest by both Pound and Zukofsky.48For more background on RMR, see Linda Hamalian’s A Life of Kenneth Rexroth, pp. 65, 75-76.

Little Magazines

The little magazine is something I have always fostered; for without it, I myself would have been early silenced. To me it is one magazine, not several. It is a continuous magazine, the only one I know with an absolute freedom of editorial policy and a succession of proprietorships that follows a democratic rule. There is absolutely no dominating policy permitting anyone to dictate anything. When it is in any way successful it is because it fills a need in someone’s mind to keep going. When it dies, someone else takes it up in some other part of the country – quite by accident – out of a desire to get the writing down on paper. I have wanted to see established some central or sectional agency which would recognize, and where possible, support little magazines. I was wrong. It must be a person who does it, a person, a fallible person, subject to devotions and accidents.

— William Carlos Williams49In The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams, 266.

The value of fugitive periodicals “of small circulation” is ultimately measured by the work they have brought to press. The names of certain authors over a space of years, or over, let us say, the past score years, have been associated with impractical publication. Carlos Williams has communicated with his readers almost exclusively via the reviews I have mentioned or by others even less public. …

The last twenty years have seen the principle of the free magazine or the impractical or fugitive magazine definitely established. It has attained its recognized right to exist by reason of work performed.

The work of writers who have emerged in or via such magazines outweighs in permanent value the work of the writers who have not emerged in this manner. The history of contemporary letters has, to a very manifest extent, been written in such magazines. The commercial magazines have been content and are still more than content to take derivative products ten or twenty years after the germ has appeared in the free magazines. There is nothing new about this.

Work is acceptable to the public when its underlying ideas have been accepted. The heavier the “overhead” in a publishing business the less that business can afford to deal in experiment. This purely sordid and eminently practical consideration will obviously affect all magazines save those that are either subsidized (as chemical research is subsidized) or else very cheaply produced (as the penniless inventor produces in his barn or his attic).

Literature evolves via a mixture of these two methods.

— Ezra Pound50In in “Small Magazines,”The English Journal 19.9 (November 1930), pp. 689-704.

In addition to the explicitly “Objectivist” publications already referenced, members of this group operated or were concentrated in a handful of little magazines and plotted or participated in several other publication schemes between 1928 and 1935. In many ways, Zukofsky’s invention and subsequent promotion of the group should be understood as a strategy oriented primarily around publishing concerns (chiefly, how could various members of the group consistently see that their work was printed), and as deeply intertwined with some of Ezra Pound’s long-term literary and cultural ambitions. While it be too simplistic to say that Zukofsky simply invented a purely fictional “movement” simply for the access that doing so offered him to Poetry and the promise of future publication, no attempt to understand the historical formation of the “Objectivists” can succeed without a deeper understanding of the landscape (and economics) of literary publishing in the United States in the preceding decade, especially the significant role played by anglophone little magazines.

The emergence of the “Objectivists” coincided with the trough of the Great Depression, an economic event which produced a precipitous decline in literary publishing, especially of poetry. Al Filreis has noted that while American publishers had recorded sales of 214 million new books (and corresponding profits of $42 million) in 1929, that number had been almost halved by 1933, with sales falling to just 111 million. Poetry publishing was hit especially hard, with the number of new poetry titles issued in the United States decreasing more than 20% in 1932 alone.51Modernism from Left to Right, 114. As depression-era economics contracted a book publishing market for poetry which had already shown profound disinterest in their work, not only did Zukofsky and his fellow “Objectivists” attempt to print and distribute books through the several publishing schemes previously described, they also participated vigorously in the longtime staple of the avant-garde, the little magazine.

Though the circulation of these magazines tended to be fairly small,52Circulation estimates for many of the era’s little magazines can be found in […] little magazines had been crucial in the promulgation of both modernism and avant-garde or experimental American literature at least since the 1910s.53Harriet Monroe founded Poetry in 1912 with Ezra Pound as foreign editor, to cite just one very well-known example, with the magazine playing an very important role beginning the next year in promoting what later came to be known as imagism. These aspirational, combustible, and often short-lived publications were particularly important in the emergence and formation of a group of writers like the ‘Objectivists,’ many of whom were little-known writers who not only lacked the means needed to reliably print their own work but whose aesthetic sensibilities (and ethnic/religious identities) frequently placed them squarely outside the mainstream of their age.

In fact, a careful study of the “Objectivists” and their pre-February 1931 publishing history offers abundant evidence of the importance of little magazines to each of the group’s core members, and even the most cursory perusal of their correspondence indicates that frustration about reliable access to publication (especially in the United States) was among their chief literary concerns. Pound and Williams, the group’s eldest affiliates, had been active in reading, contributing to, and occasionally editing little magazines since as early as 1909, when Pound made his first appearance in Ford Madox Ford’s English Review, and both men continued actively engaging with little magazines on both sides of the Atlantic well into the 1930s.54In a chapter entitled “Pound, Founder of Periodical Studies” from their book Modernism in the Magazines, Robert Scholes and Clifford Wulfman offer a thorough account of Pound’s shifting but frequently intense involvement with various literary magazines through the first several decades of his career. They point out that for the 9 year period from 1912-1920 (his prime years in London), Pound averaged around one magazine publication per week, and in the four year stretch from 1917-1920 he averaged more than 91 magazine publications a year. Furthermore, from 1909-1923, Pound was involved in various capacities with ten separate magazines in England and the United States (pp. 4-7, especially). While their close attention to Pound’s involvement with literary magazines wanes after 1923, Pound continued to be deeply interested in the quality of literature available to readers in both England and the United States, and continued to make suggestions, interventions, and attempts at editorial colonization well into the 1930s. Scholes and Wulfman observe that while his anti-semitism and support for fascism “have not endeared him to many people,” they also argue that “the Pound of the first three decades of the twentieth century was a different figure: a brilliant and indefatigable supporter of other writers and artists, a talented and learned poet, and a literary and cultural critic of enormous energy and biting wit. … Quite simply he had more to do with our present understanding of modernism than any other individual. He was a pioneer of comparative literary studies, of cultural studies, and of periodical studies … However one may rank his creative achievement as a poet, one much put him at the very top as an impresario and propagandist for the view of modernism that prevailed in the English-speaking world” (viii). Leonard Greenbaum provides a more balanced and less laudatory view of Pound’s combustible and often predatory relationship to little magazines in his The Hound & Horn: The History of a Literary Quarterly, though he does note that Pound served as an editor or foreign correspondent for at least 9 separate little magazines between 1912 and 1935: namely, Poetry (from 1912-1917), The New Freewoman (1913), The Egoist (1914), Blast (1914), The Little Review (from 1917-1921), Two Worlds (from 1925-1927), his own magazine The Exile (published between 1927- 1928), The New Review (from 1931-1932), and Westminster Magazine (1935). See pages 96-124 especially.

At the time that the “Objectivists” were first presented to the Poetry-reading public, the extent to which nearly all of the issue’s contributors would have been known by American readers (and to Zukofsky himself) would have been achieved almost entirely by other little magazines. Of all the writers Zukofsky included in the February 1931 issue of Poetry, only Williams and Reznikoff had previously published volumes of any of their work in the United States.55While Williams was certainly the best-known writer included in the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry, the list of books he had published in the United States was limited to his self-published 1909 collection Poems (which he later regarded as embarrassing juvenilia), his 1917 collection Al Que Quiere!, his 1920 hybrid work Kora in Hell: Improvisations, and his 1921 collection Sour Grapes (all published by Four Seas in Boston), and his prose works In the American Grain (published by Albert and Charles Boni in 1925) and Voyage to Pagany (published by the Macaulay Company in 1928). Robert McAlmon had published several of his books by this time (mostly through Contact Editions, a publishing company which he owned and operated), but all had been printed in Europe. McAlmon’s Contact Editions had also published Carnevali’s A Hurried Man from Paris in 1925. Basil Bunting had published a private edition of his collection Redimiculum Matellarum from Milan in 1930, but this collection would have been obscure even to the most assiduous collector of poetry in the United States. Even these two exceptions can be a little misleading, however, since in 1931 it had been 8 years since Williams had published a volume of his own poetry in the United States or in Europe,56His hybrid work Spring and All (published by McAlmon’s Paris-based Contact Editions) and his chapbook Go Go (published by Monroe Wheeler’s Manikin Press in New York City) were both issued in 1923. meaning that for almost a decade any new poetry by Williams would have appeared exclusively in little magazines. Similarly, the only volumes of Reznikoff’s poetry that were not self-published had been issued more than a decade previously: Poems, a slim collection issued in 1920 by the Samuel Roth Bookshop, and Uriel Accosta: A Play and a Fourth Group of Verse, published by the Cooper Press in 1921.57A prose work by Reznikoff, By the Waters of Manhattan, had been published by Charles Boni in 1930. Neither of these, it’s fair to say, had attracted much notice and, as Zukofsky’s essay on Reznikoff’s work in the “Objectivists” 1931 issue evinces, Reznikoff’s largely self-published poetry would have been quite obscure outside of a very small circle in New York City.58Apart from the three titles previously described, Reznikoff had self-published three volumes of poetry, three collections of drama, and a prose work prior to 1931, each of which had been typeset and printed by hand on a small printing press which Reznikoff owned and operated from the basement of his apartment building.

During the mid to late 1920s and early 1930s, the years during which the “Objectivist” nexus was first formed, Pound, Williams, and Zukofsky each enjoyed fluctuating editorial affiliations with a number of little magazines, many of which served as overt and sometimes covert vehicles for the development and promotion of the “Objectivists” both singly and as a group. In fact, Zukofsky gathered most of the “Objectivists” from a handful of little magazines that he and Williams had been actively involved with over the previous two years; of the … [some numbers and claims here]

A few surviving letters from the era help to document the contours of interest for various members of the group when it comes to the then-extant little magazines. One particularly interesting document, entitled “Publications in English,” was sent by George Oppen to Ezra Pound, probably either late in 1931 or early in 1932. “Publications in English” comprises 3 typed pages which give Oppen’s brief survey and description of several contemporary little magazines, including Blues, which “[p]ublishes excellent work … [m]any would wish, however, that there should be indicated some distinction between the work of Williams and work still relying for distinction chiefly on ‘modernity’,” Pagany, which “publishes work by the group of authors also represented in Blues, (tho they can be classified as a group only by a similarity in degree of merit), but maintains that standard more consistently,” The New Review, which “contains the best of available work … [and is] less inhibited in explaining itself to the “general public” than are most magazines of its class,” Hound and Horn, which was “ordinarily described as scholarly. Certainly can be relied on for an intelligent and informed attitude,” American Mercury, edited by H.L. Mencken, who “is said to have a large following among college students, and is probably in accord with the most intelligent to be found in any number. It would not be accurate to say that the magazine is devoted to advertising, but it is probably felt that the justification of its existence is indicated by the price it is able to charge for space,” Poetry, described as a “fairly conservative publication. Nevertheless often of interest,” and Contempo, a “magazine concerned with liberal or radical political theses” which had “praised or declared allegiance to William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Burke, Benjamin de Casseres, and Eugene O’Neil[l].”59This document, owned by Yale’s Beinecke Library, can be accessed online: https://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/4300755.

Similarly, a letter Zukofsky sent to Ezra Pound on February 5, 1931, provides another glimpse into the little magazines Zukofsky was most aware of at the time of the “Objectivists” creation. Commenting on Pound’s recent suggestion in Norman Macleod’s magazine The Morada that American writers organize their own publishing cooperative, Zukofsky advised Pound:

why not begin with your suggestion in Morada 5 and organize a writer’s syndicat (membership rules up to you) You can get 100 writers to contribute $5—or you can get 50 writers to contribute $5 and 10 to contribute $10 and use that to pay for your first or first two volumes. You can, or should be able to, get free advertising (or credit) from Hound & Horn, Symposium, Blues, Pagany, Morada, Front, The New Review, Criterion, etc. That should give you the 300 or 400 or 500 subscribers you want. There are also the subscription lists (?) of these magazines to circularize. Breathes there a pote with putt so dead he wd. spent more than 10¢ for breakfast even if [he] had the $5 I suggest he “give away” to his syndicat?60Pound/Zukofsky, 91.

[better transition to next section giving little mag histories still needed here]

The Dial

Years in operation: 1916-1929
Editors: Scofield Thayer [1920-1926], Gilbert Seldes [1921-1923], Kenneth Burke [1923], Alyse Gregory [1923-1925], Marianne Moore [1925-1929]
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky

While The Dial never functioned as an “Objectivist” outlet per se, it was significant as the preeminent American little magazine devoted to literature in the years just prior to the formation of the “Objectivists.” In addition, it had also provided, at various points in the 1920s, a hospitable forum for writing by both Pound and Williams, and was the second paying publication to publish Zukofsky’s poetry.61The first was Poetry, which had published his sonnet “Of Dying Beauty” in the January 1924 issue: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=16224.

Publishing History

The Dial62Named after Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous transcendentalist magazine of the mid-19th century was founded as a political literary fortnightly in Chicago in 1880 by Civil War veteran Francis F. Browne, who published it continuously until his death in 1913. His heirs sold the magazine a few years later to Martyn Johnson, who announced himself as the magazine’s new publisher in July 1916. Following his purchase of the magazine, Johnson quickly began work on two tasks: the installation of a new editorial staff and the relocation of the magazine’s headquarters to New York City. After his first choice for editor, George Bernard Donlin, was forced to leave the magazine to pursue treatment for his tuberculosis, Johnson hired the former New York Post reporter Harold Stearns to serve as associate editor, and Stearns persuaded Clarence Britten to leave his teaching post at the University of Wisconsin to serve as the magazine’s assistant editor. By the spring of 1918, Johnson had recruited Scofield Thayer, a Harvard graduate and son of a wealthy wool merchant in Worcester, Massachusetts, to act as the magazine’s financial backer and had relocated the magazine to an editorial office at 152 West Thirteenth Street in Greenwich Village, where it would be housed until it ceased publication in 1929. Johnson and Thayer had a series of disagreements over the board’s editorial policy. These came to a head late in 1919, when Thayer joined forces with Dr. James Sibley Watson, a fellow Harvard graduate and the grandson of two of the founders of the Western Union Telegraph Company, to buy the magazine outright from Johnson.

Following Watson and Thayer’s purchase of the magazine, all of The Dial‘s previous editorial staff departed, save Clarence Britten, who remained on staff to aid in the transition to new ownership. Watson became the magazine’s publisher, Scofield Thayer became its editor, and Stewart Mitchell was hired as managing editor. Watson and Thayer also reorganized the magazine as a monthly publication and began to place a greater emphasis on its coverage of literature and the arts. In February 1920, Gilbert Seldes was added as the second associate editor, with Britten leaving the magazine before the publication of the April 1920 issue. Mitchell resigned as managing editor by the end of the year, following which Seldes became managing editor. Shortly after The Dial‘s reorganization, Thayer also hired Ezra Pound as a foreign advisor, proposing in March 1920 that Pound be paid $750 a year to act as an agent in finding suitable work.63Not long previously Pound had left The Little Review, where he had served for more than two years as their “London editor.” Pound continued working in this capacity until April 1923, when Thayer informed him he was no longer wanted.[documentation needed] In addition, Thayer worked assiduously not only to attract contributions from well known writers, but also recruited a series of European correspondents who sent regular letters with updates on developments in arts and literature from their various locales; The Dial’s list of foreign correspondents included Ezra Pound,64Pound’s first “Paris Letter” appeared in the October 1920 issue. John Eglington,65Eglington’s first “Dublin Letter” appeared in the March 1921 issue. T.S. Eliot (who had been Scofield Thayer’s schoolmate at both Milton Academy and at Harvard),66Eliot’s first “London Letter” appeared in the April 1921 issue. Hugo von Hofmannsthal,67Hofmannsthal’s first “Vienna Letter” appeared in the August 1922 issue. and Thomas Mann.68Mann’s his first “German Letter” appeared in the December 1922 issue.

In July 1921, shortly after Seldes’ appointment as managing editor, Thayer left New York City for Europe, settling in Vienna and submitting to psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud by the end of that year. For the next two years, Thayer was both significantly engaged with the publication of The Dial and active in European literary and cultural circles, meeting a number of significant continental writers and amassing a significant collection of modern art. In January 1923, Seldes took an extended trip to Europe where he worked with Thayer on assembling Living Art, a book containing reproductions of artworks in Thayer’s collection, and writing his own book The Seven Lively Arts. Upon Seldes’ departure, Kenneth Burke began serving as de facto managing editor of the magazine, with significant assistance from Sophie Wittenberg. Thayer returned to New York City in July 1923 and initiated a weekly series of “Dial dinners” at the end of that year. Unfortunately, Thayer’s mental health began to deteriorate, and he shuttled between New York, Bermuda, and Europe through much of 1924.

Seldes did not return from Europe until September 1923, and despite Burke’s pleading, he never resumed his managing editor duties. When a burned-out Burke temporarily departed the magazine in late 1923, The Dial was functionally without a managing editor until January 1924, when Seldes was officially replaced as managing editor by Thayer’s close friend Alyse Gregory, who retained Whittenberg and Burke as assistants. Early in 1925, however, Gregory informed Thayer that she would shortly be returning to England with her husband, the novelist Llewelyn Powys, and would be thereafter unable to continue her duties with The Dial. Thayer moved sought to recruit Marianne Moore to replace Gregory; in late April 1925, Moore agreed to leave her job at the New York Public Library and Thayer announced her appointment as the magazine’s new acting editor in the May 1925 issue.69Sophie Wittenberg also left the magazine at this time and was replaced as an assistant by Thayer’s cousin Ellen Thayer.

Soon after Moore’s editorial appointment, Thayer left New York City for Europe again, and effectively ceased fulfilling any editorial duties for the magazine. The Dial announced Thayer’s resignation as editor of the magazine in June 1926 (though it continued to list him as an “advisor”), and Moore promotion to full editor in January 1927, but Thayer’s involvement in the day-to-day affairs had been essentially nil since early in 1926.70In February 1926, while living in Germany, Thayer suffered a severe mental breakdown, and was institutionalized for several months following his return to the United States. No known extant correspondence to any of his previous literary or artistic contacts from Thayer exists after February 1926, and Thayer spend much of the rest of his life in and out of sanatoria and accompanied by caretakers and guardians. This thumbnail sketch relies heavily on both Nicolas Joost’s Schofield Thayer and the Dial: An Illustrated History, especially pp. 3-20, 30, 74-113 and the overview to Schofield Thayer’s papers, held by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Moore carried on editing The Dial for three more years, but without Thayer’s subsidy, the magazine eventually suspended publication after issuing its July 1929 issue.

While The Dial had enjoyed a fairly large circulation for a literary review, it had always been operated at a fairly steep deficit, and the magazine’s inability to increase its subscription or advertising revenues and heavy reliance on subsidy from its wealthy owners was to prove its downfall later in the 1920s.71Nicholas Joost estimates that the magazine had a circulation of roughly 10,000 in 1920, and that while printing costs were around $750 per issue, the magazine’s running deficit was $4,000-5,000 per month. Thayer wrote to Ezra Pound in September 1920 that their current deficit was about “$84,000 annually” and that they would need to increase circulation tenfold to ever clear expenses. The magazine’s business manager would later estimate the cash deficit for 1920 at around $100,000, offset by cash receipts of just $24,000. By 1922, they had nearly doubled cash receipts (to $45,000) but cash deficits had only been cut to $65,000, with some 85% of this total going to editorial and manufacturing costs. Sales from newsstands averaged about 3,500 per issue in 1920, climbing to just over 4,500 by November 1922 and reaching a high-water mark of 6,261 with the December 1922 issue (which contained Eliot’s The Waste Land). Typical monthly sales figures ranged between 4,000-5,000, and revenues from these sales can be estimated using the published sales price: 35 cents a copy for first several four months of 1920, 40 cents per copy from May-December of 1920, and then 50 cents per copy from January 1921 until its final issue in July 1929. Subscriptions, which had numbered just under 3,000 in 1920, had risen to 7,440 by February 1923. The print run appears to have peaked with the January 1923 issue, of which 18,000 copies were printed. While The Waste Land had been an enormous success, nothing else the magazine was to print would have quite an impact on sales, or the international literary world. For more details on the finances and circulation of the magazine, see Schofield Thayer and the Dial, 20, 30, 40-42, and Alan Golding’s “The Dial, The Little Review, and the Dialogics of Modernism” in Little Magazines and Modernism: New Approaches, especially n. 10 on p. 70). During its heyday in the 1920s, however, The Dial published a broad range of important literary and artistic work from a broad base of transatlantic contributors,72T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” published in the November 1922 issue thanks to Ezra Pound’s intervention, was its most noteworthy success. and through its generous rates for accepted work, did much to subsidize the production of modernist visual and literary art through the 1920s. In particular, The Dial was notable for its annual award, announced in June 1921 and first given in January 1922, of two thousand dollars to “acknowledge the service to letters of some one of those who have, during the twelvemonth, contributed to its pages,” as well as the generous regular rates it offered to its contributors: it paid two cents per word for prose in English, twenty dollars per page of verse, and twenty-five dollars per picture for the right to reproduce a picture or object which had not been previously exhibited, all of which were considerably higher rates than those on offer from most other comparable literary reviews of the time.73Schofield Thayer and the Dial: An Illustrated History (52, 59-61).

Connection to the “Objectivists”

As far as the “Objectivists” are concerned, the magazine’s strongest connections were with Pound and Williams, each of whom appeared frequently in the magazine, during the years that Pound served as foreign correspondent and again when Marianne Moore was its editor. Both men were also chosen as chosen as recipients of the Dial’s lucrative annual award, with Williams receiving it in 1926 and Pound in 1927. While Williams frequently bad-mouthed the magazine in letters to Pound, Zukofsky, and his friend Kenneth Burke (who worked for The Dial), his feelings about the publication were not so negative as to lead him to stop sending them new work for publication (they were the best paying game in town, after all). Marianne Moore also also published four poems by Louis Zukofsky’s in the December 1928 issue, among his earliest publications.74The poems were “tam cari capitis”; “Song Theme”; “Someone said, ‘earth’”; and “The silence of the good”. Apart from his appearance earlier that year in two issues of Pound’s The Exile, Zukofsky’s only previous publication in a national magazine had been his sonnet “Of Dying Beauty,” which had appeared in the January 1924 issue of Poetry.

The Little Review

Years in operation: 1914-1926; 1929 [one issue]
Editors: Margaret Anderson [1914-1923], Jane Heap [1916-1929]
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Carl Rakosi

Publishing History

Often mentioned in the same breath with The Dial in histories of influential American Modernist magazines, The Little Review was a monthly literary magazine founded in Chicago in March 1914 by Margaret Anderson, who had previously worked as a book reviewer and critic for a number of publications, including The Dial. In its earliest issues, the magazine championed the anarchism of Emma Goldman and evinced strong sympathies for both feminist issues and Imagist-inflected poetry. In 1916, Anderson met and formed an intense friendship with the artist Jane Heap, with Anderson inviting Heap to become a co-editor of the magazine shortly thereafter. Anderson and Heap briefly moved the magazine to the San Francisco Bay Area before relocating to Greenwich Village in 1917, the same year they enlisted Ezra Pound to serve as the magazine’s “London editor.”75Pound’s affiliation with the magazine was announced in the April 1917 issue and he published an editorial explaining his decision to join The Little Review in the following month. Pound remained the magazine’s “London editor” until until 1919. His name was absent from the editorial page of the May 1919 issue and the June 1919 issue contained only the cryptic note “Ezra Pound has abdicated and gone to Persia. John Rodker is now the London Editor of the Little Review.” Pound returned to the editorial staff of the magazine in 1921 at the invitation of Margaret Anderson (by which time he was living in Paris and serving as the foreign correspondent for Scofield Thayer’s The Dial). His name is featured in the “Administration” section of the magazine’s front matter along with Anderson, Francis Picabia and jh [Jane Heap] beginning with the Autumn 1921 issue, and remained there until he left the magazine for good in the spring of 1923. For more on Pound and Anderson’s relationship, see Pound/The Little Review: The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson: The Little Review Correspondence, published in 1989 by New Directions. Heap and Anderson continuing publishing the magazine as a monthly until the conclusion of their sixth volume, when financial strains prompted them to begin publishing the magazine first as a bi-monthly (starting in May 1920) and quickly thereafter as a quarterly (starting in September 1920).

While the magazine never had anything approaching the financial clout or circulation numbers enjoyed by The Dial,76The Little Review did not pay its contributors, for example, and estimates of its circulation have generally ranged between 1,000-2,000. The Little Review nonetheless did enjoy a reputation as a bold and daring publication, earned by its willingness to discover and publish significant modernist and avant-garde visual art and writing from a impressive range of international contributors.77See Margaret Anderson’s The Little Review Anthology, published in 1953, for a good cross-section of work published by the magazine during its heyday. The Little Review, to a much greater extent than The Dial, also revelled in its avant-gardism, describing itself in the Spring 1922 issue, for example, as “AN ADVANCING POINT TOWARD WHICH THE ‘ADVANCE GUARD’ IS ALWAYS ADVANCING.”78See here. The remark is unattributed, but should probably be ascribed to one or more of the listed editorial staff, which at this point consisted of Anderson, Heap, and Pound. Anderson and Heap also gained some measure of infamy (and respect) both for championing the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s Dadaist poetry and for serializing James Joyce’s Ulysses.79Anderson and Heap published 23 installations of Joyce’s work, beginning with their March 1918 issue and ending with their September-December 1920 issue. Three of the issues containing installments from Joyce’s work were seized by the United States Post Office and burned as obscene, but it was Joyce’s “Nausicaa” chapter which appeared in the July-August 1920 issue which directly precipitated the obscenity suite. This latter decision ultimately led to a high-profile obscenity case in February 1921 which Anderson and Heap lost (they were fined $100 and ordered to cease publishing installments of Ulysses).80Shortly after the trial concluded, Anderson published her own an account of the trial, “‘Ulysses’ in Court,” in the January-March 1921 issue of The Little Review and discussed the case at some length in her 1930 autobiography, My Thirty Years’ War. For later scholarly discussions of the obscenity trial, see Holly Baggett’s “The Trials of Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap.” A Living of Words: American Women in Print Culture. Ed. Susan Albertine. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995 (169-188) and Marisa Anne Pagnattaro’s “Carving A Literary Exception: The Obscenity Standard And Ulysses”Twentieth Century Literature: A Scholarly and Critical Journal 47.2 (2001): 217-240.

In 1923, Anderson turned over most of the magazine’s editorial duties to Heap and moved to France, where she became, at Heap’s urging, a student at G.I. Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at a château just south of Paris. In January 1924, Heap opened The Little Review Gallery, a gallery dedicated to modern art, in New York City, operating it at first from the magazine’s offices before moving it into its own space on 5th Avenue (now home to the Parsons School of Design) in late 1925, and to a Midtown address near Bryant Park in 1927, where it survived just a few months before it closing permanently. Late in 1925, Heap moved to France to study more closely with Gurdjieff, and following the publication of the Autumn 1926 issue of The Little Review, Anderson and Heap suspended publication of the magazine until May 1929, when they published a final issue of the magazine from Paris which included over 50 responses to a questionnaire designed by Heap.

Connection to the “Objectivists”

While its importance as a vehicle for significant modernist artistic expression is well established, the The Little Review‘s relationship to the “Objectivists” is far subtler, being comprised of a deep but fairly early connection to both Pound and Williams and the publication of three poems by Rakosi in 1925. Between 1917 and 1920, The Little Review frequently published work by both Williams and Pound, who served as the magazine’s foreign editor for much of this time.81Williams’ first appearance in the magazine came with the the October 1917 issue, which featured three of his “Improvisations.” He appeared in another eleven issues between 1917 and the May-June 1920 issue, which carried his story “Danse Pseudomacabre.” His relationship with the magazine was much reduced after Jane Heap took over primary editorial duties, though he did publish a notable letter in the Autumn 1922 issue praising the magazine’s Spring 1922 issue, which had featured the work of the French painter Francis Picabia, whom Williams admired. The Little Review‘s other connection to the “Objectivists” was as the organ which provided Carl Rakosi with his first “major” literary publication. In 1925, at the recommendation of his friend, the novelist Margery Latimer, Rakosi called upon Jane Heap at her Greenwich Village office/apartment and presented her with a sheaf of his own writing. To his surprise and great joy, Heap agreed on first sight to publish his poetry in The Little Review, and Rakosi’s “Sittingroom by Patinka,” “The January of a Gnat,” and “Flora and the Ogre” appeared in the Spring 1925 issue.82Rakosi, who was at that time a young and totally unknown poet who had just moved to the city after Madison, Wisconsin, would later describe this success as one of the great moments of his life. See his biography on this site for more details. As wwith The Dial, The Little Review should be seen as an immediate predecessor to the “Objectivists,” it was a magazine that many of these poets had read, but which they were not quite ready to publish in themselves by the time that each magazine folded. [Question of timing–with the exception of Rakosi, the magazine folded before Zukofsky and the others were ready to appear in it. It’s also true that Anderson would likely have been much more amenable to their work than Heap, who was less interested in imagism and more interested in surrealism.]

The Hound & Horn

Years in operation: 1927-1934
Editors: Lincoln Kirstein [1927-1934], Varian Fry [1927-1929], R.P. Blackmur [1928-1929], Bernard Bandler [1928-1934]
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Norman Macleod, John Wheelwright

Publishing History

The Hound & Horn was founded in 1927 by Harvard undergraduates Lincoln Kirstein and Varian Fry. Initially published as a magazine for the Harvard undergraduate community (it had been subtitled “A Harvard Miscellany”),83There was a Harvard undergraduate literary magazine then extant (the Harvard Advocate), but Kirstein and Fry both felt that the current editorial staff was uninterested in admitting them to their clubbish circle. They initially appear to have sought to establish their breakaway publication on the model provided by The Harvard Monthly, which had been published at Harvard between 1885 and 1917 and which had been edited by and published contributions from several Harvard undergraduates who later went on to achieve various measures of literary success. the magazine took its title from the concluding couplet of Ezra Pound’s 1908 poem “The White Stag”:”Tis the white stag, Fame, we’re a-hunting / Bid the world’s hounds come to horn!” From the magazine’s inception, Kirstein and Fry were clear about their intentions to use the magazine to break from nineteenth century aesthetic influences and more fully embrace the spirit of literary modernism on the Harvard campus.84In the first issue, Fry published an “Announcement” which concluded by asserting that “THE HOUND & HORN takes as its point of departure what is at once a valediction and a call to action. … [I]t bids farewell to land whose long familiar contours have ceased to stir creative thought: it bids farewell — and sounds the hunting horn” Fry would further clarify his editorial intentions, writing in a 1934 letter that he wrote to “hail the new and glittering world they [Joyce, Eliot, Stein, Picasso and Stravinsky] and their influences were creating, and to bid farewell to the stodgy in the nineteenth century and its heavy hand on the twentieth” (Quoted in Leonard Greenbaum’s The Hound & Horn: The History of a Literary Quarterly, 26-27).

In the summer of 1928, the magazine added two new editors, Bernard Bandler, a close friend of Kirstein’s who later went on to a significant career in psychiatry, and R.P. Blackmur, a  cultured autodidact who ran a Cambridge bookshop and later went on to an illustrious career as a critic, poet, and English professor at Princeton University. Of the two founding editors, Kirstein had grander ambitions for the magazine, seeking to model the magazine on T.S. Eliot’s The Criterion, and hoping to occupy some of the cultural space that had previous bee filled by The Dial, which ceased publication in the summer of 1929.85In his foreward to The Hound & Horn Letters, Kirstein wrote that “The Criterion, later the Dial, were models of what magazines might be; both seemed so elevated and comprehensive in their spectra that, at the start, The Hound & Horn aimed to have been modestly enough, a mere “Harvard Miscellany.” But we printed a trial issue and secretly hoped that somehow it would please Eliot [the issue had included a two-part critical essay on Eliot by R.P. Blackmur and a bibliography of Eliot’s published work by Varian Fry]. … Eliot seemed to me, at the time, the most important authority in the world for anything and everything that could occupy me” (xvi). Like Kirstein, Bandler and Blackmur both wanted The Hound & Horn to expand into an international literary periodical, an opportunity which seemed particularly ripe with the recent failure of The Dial. Disagreement over this issue, along with Bandler’s editorial enthusiasm for the Humanism movement, became a major source of tension with Fry, who quit the magazine late in 1929. Fry’s departure was followed a short time later by Blackmur’s resignation as an editor, for reasons unclear, though he continued to be a regular contributor to the magazine.

Having emerged victorious in his conflict with Fry, Kirstein pushed ahead with his plan to establish The Hound & Horn as the American equivalent of Eliot’s The Criterion and position it as the cultural successor to The Dial. While the Hound & Horn did not pay contributors as handsomely as had The Dial, its rates were far more generous than most other little magazines, which helped it to attract intelligent criticism and modernist-inflected literature during the darkest years of the Great Depression.86For more on Hound & Horn‘s relationship to The Dial, see Greenbaum’s The Hound and Horn, 40-44. Regarding payment for contributors, The Dial had paid $20 / page for poetry and $10 / page for prose. In a 1929 letter to Ezra Pound, R.P. Blackmur indicated that the Hound & Horn provided rates of $7.50 / page for poetry and $3.50 for prose. While much reduced from the rates offered by The Dial in its heyday, this was still considerably more than that offered by other prominent modernist little magazines. For example, Eugene Jolas’ transition had paid contributors just 50 cents / page, while Margaret Anderson’s The Little Review did not pay contributors at all (The Hound & Horn Letters, 25). Following Kirstein’s graduation from Harvard in 1930, he and Bandler moved the magazine’s editorial offices to Manhattan, where it operated until  ceasing publication in 1934. In October 1931, the magazine added A. Hyatt Mayor to the editorial staff, and early in 1932 added Allen Tate and Yvor Winters as regional contributing editors (with Tate serving as “southern editor” and Winters as “western editor”).87For a thorough history of the magazine, see Leonard Greenbaum’s The Hound & Horn: The History of a Literary Quarterly (Mouton, 1966) and Mitzi Berger Hamovitch’s The Hound & Horn Letters (University of Georgia Press, 1982).

Heavily subsidized by Lincoln Kirstein (or, to be more accurate, by Kirstein’s father, Louis, the chairman of Filene’s, a prominent Boston-based department store chain),88Greenbaum indicates that the magazine’s financial records show that it the magazine’s circulation fluctuated between 1,500 and 4,000 and that the magazine operated at a loss of roughly $10,000 annually–a sum that would be roughly equivalent to $140,000-$180,000 in 2017 terms. See Greenbaum’s “The Hound & Horn Archive,” The Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. 39, No. 3 (January 1965), 145: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40858055. the magazine folded following the publication of the Summer 1934 issue, when Kirstein withdrew his patronage in order to devote his energies and resources towards the foundation of the School of American Ballet and the New York City Ballet with George Balanchine. Kirstein would later recall:

I abandoned the magazine after seven years, not entirely because my interests had altered and I was otherwise magnetized (by the ballet). The real reason I did not fight to continue Hound & Horn … was that I didn’t give a damn for politico-philosophical tendencies which I felt were devouring the magazine’s space, and I was neither equipped to deal nor interested in dealing with them. I felt inadequate, and still do, with those delighted by ratiocination, with energies that mentate as sport.89The Hound & Horn Letters, xi-xii.

Connection to the “Objectivists”

The relationship of the “Objectivists” to The Hound & Horn was accomplished primarily through Ezra Pound and, to a lesser extent, through Louis Zukofsky and William Carlos Williams. Following the discontinuation of his own magazine The Exile in 1928 and the The Dial in 1929,90Pound had served as The Dial‘s “foreign advisor” and editor from 1920-1923 and had work published in four of the magazine’s first six issues. After one his typical spats with the editor, he resumed more friendly relations when Marianne Moore assumed editorship of the magazine in 1925. Pound received the magazine’s Dial Award (which included a $2000 prize) in 1927, and published work in each of the magazine’s final three issues. Pound was in search of other outlets through which to exert his influence on American artistic and literary culture. Responding to a letter from R.P. Blackmur soliciting a recent Canto for the magazine in 1929, Pound first asked about the magazine’s willingness “to do what The Dial and Criterion won’t” and then appears to have proposed forming an “overt alliance” with the magazine, offering to serve as the magazine’s foreign editor.91Quoted language appears in letters from Blackmur to Pound, dated 20 May and 2 October 1929, which appear to quote previous messages from Pound (The Hound & Horn Letters, 25-27). Blackmur responded to Pound’s overtures in October 1929 with a mixture of enthusiasm and qualified caution, declining his offer of an overt alliance but reemphasizing his interest in publishing new Cantos and suggesting that the magazine would “take everything you send us (especially poems and stories), do our best to agree with you, and publish so much as we can of it. … This would amount to your gracing us as Contributing Editor.”92The Hound & Horn Letters, 27.

Shortly after receiving Blackmur’s offer, Pound sent along three poems from Basil Bunting, urging the editors to “give this precedence in time over other mss. I have sent on” and publish all three poems together in the magazine. To Pound’s annoyance, Blackmur and Kirstein declined to publish Bunting, though they did gratefully accept and publish three of Pound’s Cantos (XXVIII–XXX) in their April-June 1930 issue, and included excerpts from Pound’s correspondence in several subsequent issues. Following Blackmur’s departure as managing editor, Pound began directing his recommendations and editorial judgment toward Kirstein, repeatedly urging Kirstein to publish several writers he felt enthusiastic about, including Bunting, McAlmon, and Zukofsky. While Kirstein and Bandler ignored most of Pound’s recommendations, Hound & Horn did publish Zukofsky’s lengthy critical essay on notable Harvard man Henry Adams,93This was serialized in three parts, the first of which appeared in the April–June 1930 issue. Pound was pleased with this, singling it out as worthy of note in a review of “Small Magazines” he published in the November 1930 issue of English Journal: “At the present moment there are a number of free reviews in activity. Of these The Hound and Horn appears to me the most solid. It has taken over the heritage of whatever was active in the Dial. It has got rid of nearly all the Dial‘s dead wood and rubbish. This purgation may endanger its safety. The advance in critical writing which I have mentioned seems to me apparent in Zukofsky’s essay on Henry Adams, serialized in Hound and Horn, and in Hyatt Mayor’s criticism of painting” (792). his poem “Aubade, 1925,” and his review of William Carlos Williams’ involvement with Pagany in the January–March 1931 issue.94Zukofsky had also submitted a review of Pound’s Cantos to Hound & Horn sometime in 1930, but Bandler rejected it for publication as being “only a partial review,” since, in his view, while Zukofsky had “elucidated Pound and interpreted him” he had “seen him completely from within” and had not “attempted to estimate him from without” (The Hound & Horn Letters, 144-145).

Pound also suggested, in March 1931, that Kirstein form a personal acquaintance with both Williams and Zukofsky, though Kirstein does not appear to have followed up on this suggestion.95 “as to local scene / I shd/ advise you to dig out ole Bill Williams// not necessary to AGREE. I shd/ also advise you to put up with being irritated by Zuk” (The Hound & Horn Letters, 60). A short time later, Pound angrily terminated his relationship with Hound & Horn, ostensibly over Kirstein’s failure to publish Olga Rudge’s translation of Jean Cocteau’s “Mystère Laïc,” writing in July 1931:

It only remains for me to express sincere regret for the time wasted by me in correspondence with H & H and say that taken as a whole our relations have been thoroughly unsatisfactory to me. I wish I had never heard of yr / magazine and I think you a god damn fool not to have printed the M.L. both for its integral quality and for its value proportionally to what you do print.96The Hound & Horn Letters, 63. Pound’s relationship with Hound & Horn was probably doomed as soon as Blackmur left the magazine as an editor, since none of the subsequent editors seemed to value his editorial opinions very much. The relationship between Pound and Hound & Horn already seemed to be faltering by November 1930, when Bernard Bandler wrote to Pound rejecting his essay “Terra Italica,” and continued to deteriorate over a series of letters exchanged through Pound’s final angry outburst in July 1931. For more on the collapse of Pound’s relationship with Hound & Horn, see Greenbaum’s Hound & Horn 109-124, Michael Flaherty’s “Hound & Horn (1927-1934),” in The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines and The Hound & Horn Letters, 36-37, 43, 58-59, 62-64, 80.

After Kirstein’s association with Pound had been severed, Hound & Horn was a less hospitable place for Zukofsky and others in Pound’s circle to seek publication, particularly since Kirstein’s associates and editorial advisors Dudley Fitts, A. Hyatt Mayor, and Yvor Winters already held strongly negative views of both Zukofsky and Basil Bunting.97In April 1931, Fitts wrote to Kirstein that “I read Zuk. once, with extreme distaste … I didn’t get the Gug[genhiem Fellowship]. Ransom did; and that’s grand—apparently he needed it. Glad somebody like Zuk. or Bunting didn’t. …” (The Hound & Horn Letters 79). On October 25, 1931, Mayor wrote to Kirstein that “Pound refuses to do anything for H. J. number. He suggests that when we have finished commemorating the illustrious dead, we might make a memorial number for him. He does, however, suggest that we get Zukofsky to make extracts from Pound’s long notes on H J in Instigations. A poor idea, I think, because Zukofsky is, to my thinking, rotten. However, what about Foster Damon’s doing something about these notes of Pound’s?” (The Hound & Horn Letters 96-97). Winters wrote to Kirstein in 1932 that “Our own generation, and the kids who are coming up, seem to be divided more or less clearly between those whose intellectual background is incomprehensible to the older men and who therefore remain largely meaningless to them, and those who imitate them feebly and flatter them in numerous ways (Zukofsky is the most shameless toady extant) and who are therefore praised by them” (The Selected Letters of Yvor Winters, 195). The Hound and Horn published Yvor Winters’ negative review of Zukofsky’s An ‘Objectivists’ Anthology in the January-March 1933 issue, as well as a heated exchange between Basil Bunting and Yvor Winters on the subject of Winters’ review in the next issue, which ended with Winters challenging Bunting to fight him.98See the correspondence section of the April-June 1933 issue of Hound & Horn. Winters’ response: “Mr. Bunting appears to offer me some kind of challenge. I shall be glad to encounter him at his own weapons—any kind of prose or verse—or, if he will come to California, with or without gloves, Queensbury rules” (The Hound & Horn 6:3, 323). A letter from Zukofsky to Kirstein giving his side of the dispute with Winters can be found in The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 82-84.

In July 1931, Kirstein sent Zukofsky the manuscript of some Rakosi’s poems, asking for Zukofsky’s opinion regarding publication. While Zukofsky replied to Kirstein urging their publication and offering detailed criticism of Rakosi’s work (and a recommendation that Kirstein solicit work from Kenneth Rexroth), The Hound & Horn ultimately declined to publish Rakosi.99See The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 78-80. This decision can’t have been helped by Pound’s angry repudiation of the magazine that same month, though Zukofsky wrote to Pound of Kirstein’s seeming acceptance of his poem “Her Soil’s Birth” on September 3, 1931: “Mr. Kirstein will probably use the enclosed poem. Doesn’t know—probably—I stole it from [seventeenth century English poet Edmund] Waller, but thinks my Helen Kane-Jefferson poem [“Madison, Wis., remembering the bloom of Monticello (1931)”] takes off from Mauberly! Oyoi—and then he wants me to read half the poems of half a nation & advise him & will probably take my advice?!”100Pound/Zukofsky, 98-99.

Unsurprisingly, considering the level of misunderstanding seemingly apparent from exchanges like this, Zukofsky would soon have his own falling out with the editors. It appears that on at least two occasions, Kirstein accepted a manuscript of Zukofsky’s for publication, only to subsequently reject it after further consultation with other editors. The second time this occurred it was in relation to a heated exchange of letters between Yvor Winter and Zukofsky regarding René Taupin’s L’Influence du symbolism francais sur la poesie Americaine. These letters, which had reached the proof stage, were ultimately pulled from publication in the magazine, along with poems which Zukofsky had submitted a few months previously. Zukofsky suspected that Winters may have had some hand in the letters being withdrawn from publication, and wrote Kirstein asking for an explanation and the return of his manuscripts, if the decision not to publish was in fact final.101See The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 82-84. Kirstein returned the manuscripts, effectively ending Zukofsky’s relationship with the magazine.

Recalling his magazine’s association with Pound, Kirstein himself would later write: “We printed nearly everything he sent us, but finally, in spite of his lovely poems and his marvelous letters, we couldn’t face the attendant coterie of lame duck discoveries he was always capriciously harboring, and we were relieved to let him be obscene about us other ‘little’ magazines.”102Quoted in Greenbaum, The Hound & Horn, 104. It’s difficult to draw any other conclusion from a phrase like “lame duck discoveries” than that Kirstein and the other editors of Hound & Horn had little but contempt for Bunting, McAlmon, Zukofsky, and Rakosi.

The only other writers affiliated with the “Objectivists” to have had work published in The Hound & Horn were William Carlos Williams, whose poem “Rain” appeared in the October–December 1929 issue and whose “In a ‘Sconset Bus,” appeared in the July–September 1932 issue, and the peripheral figures Norman Macleod and John Wheelwright103104Three brief items of correspondence between Williams and Kirstein are included in The Hound & Horn Letters, pp. 138-140. Macleod’s published a poem in the Winter 1931 issue and Wheelwright’s poem “Wise Men on the Death of the Fool” appeared in the Spring 1931 issue.

The Exile

Years in operation: 1927-1928
Editor: Ezra Pound
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Carl Rakosi, Robert McAlmon, Howard Weeks

Ezra Pound’s short-lived magazine The Exile, which consisted of just four issues published in 1927 and 1928, might properly be considered the first proto-“Objectivist” publication.105Tom Sharp has argued not only that The Exile was the group’s “first public meeting place,” but that the publication of work by some many writers later identified as “Objectivists” in the magazine establishes the group firmly within the Poundian poetic tradition and “expresses many of the principles, especially about the importance of group activity, that Pound continued to impress upon them” (http://sharpgiving.com/Objectivists/sections/01.history.html) A look at the writers published in the final three issues of Pound’s magazine shows a fairly high degree of overlap with Zukofsky’s editorial selection, with Pound publishing work by Zukofsky, Rakosi, Williams, Robert McAlmon, and Howard Weeks, each of whom Zukofsky would include in the “Objectivists” 1931 issue of Poetry.106Zukofsky’s first major publication, “Poem Beginning ‘The'” appeared in The Exile 3, the same issue in which Weeks poem “Stunt Piece” appeared. Pound published four poems by Rakosi and a McAlmon short story in The Exile 2, and Rakosi’s “Extracts from A Private Life” in The Exile 4, which also contained Williams’ “The Descent of Winter,” several poems by Zukofsky, and an essay on Gertrude Stein by McAlmon. The Exile represented Pound’s first (and only) attempt to edit and publish his own magazine, and its failure demonstrated some of his limitations as an editor and publisher. While Pound was justly proud of his ability to identify significant voices early in their career and recommend them to more established publications, he does appear to have been temperamentally unsuited to the careful, patient, politic work of editing a longstanding, catholic literary journal, in the way that, say, Harriet Monroe proved to be with Poetry.107For a balanced appraisal of Monroe’s considerable skills as an editor and publisher as against the self-serving accounts Pound and his acolytes have tended to promote, see John Timberman Newcomb’s excellent “Poetry‘s Opening Door: Harriet Monroe and American Modernism” (pp. 85-103) in Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches, edited by Suzanne Churchill and Adam McKible. 

Publishing History

Pound issued the first issue from of The Exile in the Spring of 1927, from Dijon, France, where it had been printed by Maurice Darantiere.108Dariantiere was known to Pound both as the printer who had handled many of Robert McAlmon’s Contact Editions books and as the printer Sylvia Beach turned to when she had been unable to find a printer in Britain or the United States willing to issue James Joyce’s Ulysses. Pound had hoped that the magazine might be able to be readily imported into England and the United States and made arrangements for the first issue of the magazine to be sold by authorized agents in New York, Paris, and London. To his great exasperation, Pound found that importing a publication printed abroad to the United States met with all kinds of expensive bureaucratic difficulties. Consequently, beginning with the second issue, published in Autumn 1927, Pound published The Exile through an American publisher, the Chicago-based Pascal Covici.109Covici would later move to New York City and form a publishing firm with Donald Friede, who had been vice-president of Boni-Liveright. Covici-Friede were best known for limited editions of literary works, but they published some commercial fiction during the Depression. Covici formed a significant and long-lasting friendship and publishing relationship with John Steinbeck, and when Covici-Friede went bankrupt in 1938, Covici moved to Viking Press, and brought Steinbeck along with him. Covici died in 1964. A longer explanation of this change in site of publication would appear in the third issue, but the second issue did include the following acerbic single page “Note re 1st Number” from Pound:

Extract of Mr. Price’s account of the New York Customs House.

“An assistant customs appraiser grabbed my arm the other day and said, ‘Say, the fellow that wrote that stuff in your magazine must be a narcotic fiend! Nobody has thoughts like those except under the influence of drugs! We don’t want stuff like that here—we’re going to have to defend our women and children against the Bolsheviks pretty soon!!’ ”

In fact, the behavior of a customs department plus the state of our copyright laws are such that but for Mr. Covici undertaking to print this second issue, the the editors would have desisted.

Why the United States has a copyright law designed chiefly to encourage theft, I am unable to say.

As to Mr. Coolidge’s economic policy, I have one further suggestion—namely, that he can completely eliminate the cost of lunatic asylums by dressing the present inmates in customs uniforms and placing them in ports and along the frontiers. This will dispense with the present employees entirely and the public will be just as well served.110Ezra Pound, “Note re 1st Number”, The Exile, Volume 2 (Autumn 1927), 120.

The second issue also featured a changed and reduced list of authorized agents, which now comprised just the Gotham Book Mart in New York City and Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Co. in London (there was no Paris agent), giving some indication of Pound’s intended (anglophone) audience. The issue itself contained editorial material by Pound as well as a long selection from John Rodker’s poem “Adolphe 1920,” poems by R.C. Dunning, and Carl Rakosi, a short prose selection from Joe Gould’s legendary Oral History, and longer prose pieces from Robert McAlmon and Stella Breen.111Breen’s story, “My Five Husbands,” was the only piece of writing by a woman included in all four issues of Pound’s journal. Even by the standards of the time, this is stunningly poor representation, and reflects poorly on Pound’s catholicity of taste. George Oppen’s judgement on gender matters as they relate to Pound seems particularly fitting; among the scraps of paper Oppen had pinned to the walls of his writing space in his last years was this “Note to Pound in Heaven”: “Only one mistake, Ezra! / You should have talked / to women.” (Selected Prose, Daybooks, and Papers, 235).

The third issue of The Exile was published in Spring 1928, and contained the longest and most varied list of contributors. The issue began with poems by William Butler Yeats (four sections each from the poems “Sailing to Byzantium” and “Blood and the Moon”), Zukofsky’s “Poem Beginning ‘The’,” a portion of Pound’s own “Canto XXIII,” and the conclusion of Rodker’s “Adolphe 1920.” Pound also gave space in the issue to prose and poems by R. C. Dunning, poetry by Clifford Gessler, Howard Weeks, and Herman Spector, prose pieces from Payson Loomis and Morley Callaghan, and a smattering of Pound’s editorial pronouncements on various topics, most of which touch on his contempt and despair for the American cultural and political scene, with a few jabs thrown in at various European nations for good measure. The issue also contained a single page “Desideria” from the editor:

Quite simply: I want a new civilization. We have the basis for a new poetry, and for a new music. The government of our country is hopelessly low-brow, there are certain crass stupidities in administration that it is up to the literate members of the public to eradictae [sic]. … I say “new” civilization, I don’t know that I care about its being so very different from the best that has been, but it must be as good as the best that has been.112108

Pound also gave greater context to the issues and difficulties he had encountered in trying to import the first issue and the reasoning behind his decision to move publication to Chicago and the delays in publication the magazine has suffered, writing:

The first issue of The Exile printed in Dijon was strictly my own affair. Mr. [John] Price113John Price was a New York newspaperman that Pound had partnered with in publishing and importing the magazine. See The Ezra Pound Encyclopedia, 113-115. assured me that America cd. absorb 300 copies. The Port of Noo York assured Mr. Price that magazines were not dutiable. On that understanding I had no need of anyone’s cooperation.

The Port of New York saw Exile, found that it was dated “Spring 1927” instead of “April 1927” and proclaimed that Exile was not a magazine but a “book”. Thereby illustrating the nature of the bureaucratic mindersatz.

The tax imposed on “books” at the American frontier as result of our governing powers, ever desirous of maintaining the present state of national stupidity, wd. effectively preclude the possibility of my printing Exile in my own front yard and shipping it to the scattered intelligentzia of Texas, Albany and the outlying gehennae. I mean save at greater expense that it is worth.

Hence the delays in the appearance of subsequent numbers. For any enjoyment the present issue affords the famished reader, the said reader may thank Mr. Covici.114”Interaction,” 109

Pound published a fourth and final issue of The Exile in Autumn, 1928.115Covici had informed Pound by September both that he was planning to form a partnership with Donald Friede and move their operations to New York City and that Pound’s magazine had been too unprofitable for him to continue publishing it. This issue included some 30 pages of assorted political and social commentary by Pound, William Carlos Williams’ “The Descent of Winter,” a lengthy mix of prose and poetry that Zukofsky had been instrumental in editing from Williams’ private journals,116Williams wrote to Pound on May 17, 1928: “Your spy Zukofsky has been going over my secret notes for you. At first I resented his wanting to penetrate- now listen! – but finally I sez to him, All right, go ahead. So he took my pile of stuff into the city and he works at it with remarkably clean and steady fingers (to your long distance credit be it said) and he ups and choses a batch of writin that yous is erbout ter git perty damn quick if it hits a quick ship – when it gets ready – which it aren’t quite yit. What I have to send you will be in the form of a journal, each bit as perfect in itself as may be. I am however leaving everything just as selected by Zukofsky. It may be later that I shall use the stuff differently” (Pound/Williams, 82). Zukofsky and Williams had first met in April, which means that Williams had known Zukofsky for less than 2 months at the time that he sent Pound this remarkable indication his editorial trust. a brief review of Gertrude Stein’s work by Robert McAlmon, more than a dozen pages of prose and poetry by Zukofsky, poetry by Carl Rakosi, excerpts from recent correspondence Pound had had with Samuel Putnam, short works by John Cournos, Falkoff-Kliorin, and Benjamin Perret, and “Data,” an article in which Pound attempted to “set down a few dates, and give a list of the periodicals where the struggle took place. Sic: [places where] Contemporary americo-english non-commercial literature struggled into being,”117104 provided a bibliography of his own work as well as that of Williams and McAlmon, and offered a rambling catalogue of various of his other enthusiasms, including the violin playing of his mistress, Olga Rudge.118It really is a pity that Pound didn’t have access to a micro-blogging platform and a large social media marketing budget. He would have loved it.

Reflecting on The Exile in 1930, Pound summarized its accomplishment thusly: “In Exile I managed to publish [John Rodker’s] Adolphe and a little work by McAlmon, W. C. Williams, Louis Zukofsky, and one poem by Howard Weeks.” 119”Small Magazines” English Review, 701

Blues

Years in operation: 1929-1930 [9 issues]
Editors: Charles Henri Ford [1929-1930], Kathleen Tankersley Young [1929], Parker Tyler [1930]
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Carl Rakosi, Kenneth Rexroth, Norman Macleod, Harry Roskolenko [Roskolenkier], Richard Johns, Parker Tyler, Charles Henri Ford

In February 1929, the twenty-one year old Charles Henri Ford and the African-American poet Kathleen Tankersley Young published the first issue of their magazine Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms from Ford’s apartment in Columbus, Mississippi. The magazine was a direct outgrowth of Harriet Monroe’s rejection of Ford’s poems for publication in Poetry, as Monroe’s rejection spurred Ford into founding his own magazine to ensure that he had access to print for his own poetry. Ford and Young had met in San Antonio, Texas the year previous thanks to a letter of introduction from the legendary Greenwich Village character Lew Ney. Encouraged by both Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, whom Young had persuaded to lend his name to the magazine as a contributing editor, Ford and Young launched Blues as a monthly publication dedicated almost exclusively to “new” poetry, much of which was written by young authors who admired or were in some way connected with Ezra Pound.120Pound wrote in a 1928 letter to his father Homer: “C. H. Ford is starting a local show, with [Herman] Spector, Bill Wms. and Vogel, and printing Zuk. Let’s see what they can do.” Quoted in Ezra Pound to His Parents, 618

Blues introduced itself as a magazine “of a more complete revolt against the cliche and commonplace, welcoming poetry and prose radical in form, subject or treatment,” with the editors announcing it the inaugural issue that it was intended to serve as “a haven for the unorthodox in America and for those writers living abroad who, though writing in English, have decided that America and American environment are not hospitable to creative work.”

[Both Henry Spector and Joseph Vogel were mentioned by Ezra Pound in his February 1, 1929 letter of advice to Charles Henri Ford. Ford was about to begin Blues (“out of a blue sky, a magazine of new rhythms,” promised an introductory advertisement that summer in transition) which included Spector and Vogel among its contributing editors, along with Eugene Jolas, Oliver Jenkins, William Carlos Williams and Jacques le Clercq.

“As you don’t live in same town with yr. start contribs, you can not have fortnightly meeting and rag each other. Best substitute is to use circular letters. For example write something (or use this note of mine), add your comments, send it on to Vogel, have him show it to Spector, and then send it to Bill Wms. each adding his blasts or blesses or comment of whatever-damn natr. Etc. When it has gone the rounds, you can send it back here.”

Pound had told Ford “every generation or group must write its own literary program. The way to do it is by circular letter to your ten chief allies. Find out the two or three points you agree on (if any) and issue them as program. . . .” He did urge the magazine’s support for his own program, including passage of some “decent and civilized copyright act” and amendment of Article 211 of the Penal Code with the 12 words “This statute does not apply to works of literary and scientific merits.”

The letter to Ford continued: “You shd. look into Art. 211 and the copyright mess. If you don’t want to attend to that part of the mag, get Vogel or Spector or some of the huskier and more publicke minded members to do the blasting.”

Before the first issue of Blues appeared, Pound wrote: “If it is any use, I shd. be inclined not to make an effort to bring out another Xile until one has seen whether Blues can do the job. Or do you consider this excessive on my part? I don’t see that there is room or need for two mags doing experimental stuff . . . at present moment.” He lent further encouragement with “Seems to me a chance for the best thing since The Little Review and certainly the best thing done in America without European help.”

Pound, who had published Spector’s brief prose piece “Cloaks and Suits” in the Spring 1928 issue of Exile, corresponded considerably with Herman during the period which followed but unfortunately none of his letters to the young writer were saved. In 1973 Louis Zukofsky confirmed tersely that he was responsible for Spector’s first publication in Exile: “Yes, I was. Can’t say more.” …]

Publication History and Connection to the “Objectivists”

The first issue of Blues (February 1929) contained just under 30 pages of poetry from a dozen contributors, including two short poems by Louis Zukofsky, as well as work by Parker Tyler and Norman Macleod. The second issue (March 1929) carried a brief “program” from Pound, a manifesto from Williams about the role and direction of a new little magazine in America devoted to poetry, and three more poems by Zukofsky. At the end of the contributors note to the second issue, the editors also announced “An Expatriate Number of Blues is planned for the near future, containing poems and stories by those writers living abroad who, though writing in English, have decided that America and American environment are not hospitable to creative work.”121”Notes,” 52 This expatriate issue would appear in July 1929.

The third issue (April 1929) included three short poems by Norman Macleod as well as Kenneth Rexroth’s first ever published poem, entitled “Poem”; the fourth issue (May 1929) contained Williams’s prose statement “A Note on the Art of Poetry,” two additional Macleod poems, and four poems by Zukofsky; and the fifth issue (June 1929) included poetry by Parker Tyler, Kenneth Rexroth, and Harry Roskolenkier. The sixth issue, published in July 1929, was the promised expatriate number, and was the editors’ most ambitious undertaking to date, with new work by a host of significant American modernist writers living in Europe: Gertrude Stein, H.D., Kay Boyle, Eugene Jolas, Walter Lowenfels, Harry Crosby, Leigh Hoffman, Harold Samelson, and Laurence Vail.

Blues 7 announcement

The announcement, published in the sixth issue of Blues that the magazine would be switching to a quarterly format with its next issue.

The sixth issue also included an announcement that Blues “proclaiming a greater war against stupidity and standardization” would be switching to a quarterly publishing schedule, with the next issue “greatly enlarged in scope and content” to be issued in Fall 1929 at sold for 75 cents a copy. The seventh issue also featured the magazine’s first major aesthetic overhaul, complete with a new cover design by Andrée Dutcher Rexroth (Kenneth’s wife), the first change to the editorial masthead since the magazine was founded (Parker Tyler was listed as an associate editor and Joseph Vogel was dropped from the list of contributing editors) and reflects an attempt at internationalization of audience, listing the sales price on the cover of the issue in three different currencies for the first time.122”75 cents—20 francs—3 shillings” The issue itself included a short prose “introduction to a collection of modern writings” from Williams, in which Williams wrote:

We live, gentle reader, in a world very much gone to pot, the thought of it tortured, the acts of it blind, the flight from it impossible.

What to do?

Either retreat, swallowing whole, as complete as it is the Summa Theologica, the philosophy dependent therefrom and the poetry pinned thereto and go to rest with John Donne in that tight little island of dreams where all past wealth is garnered; or face the barren waves— …

We now boldly assert that saving the retreat there is no other way for writing in the present state of the world than that which BLUES has fostered.

“You MUST come over.”123”introduction to a collection of modern writings,” 3.

and included poetry by Williams, Parker Tyler, Kenneth Rexroth, Norman Macleod, Charles Henri Ford, and new contributors Richard Johns and Forrest Anderson, for whom his publication in Blues marked his first ever poetic publication anywhere. The issue also included various letters from correspondents in Europe and across the United States, with Harold Samelson supplying a “Paris Letter,” Parker Tyler writing some New York Notes, “Augustus Tiberius” writing a letter from San Diego, and Kenneth Rexroth providing a “Letter from San Francisco.”

Prior to the publication of the eighth issue in Spring 1930, Ford moved Blues from his home in rural Mississippi to New York City’s Greenwich Village. Greenwich Village was the natural choice for Ford for several reasons. First, it was where Kathleen Tankersley Young, his associate editor had been based, and the base from which she had worked to promote the magazine. Second, the bohemian reputation and sexual permissiveness of the village was a strong attractor for the openly gay Ford, who stifled under the provincial and inhibiting restraints of his Mississippi hometown.124For an intimate personal account of Ford’s years in Greenwich Village, see Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler’s 1933 novel The Young and Evil. For a more academic summary of this period in the history of Blues, see Alexander Howard’s “Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms and the Belated Renovation of Modernism” in The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies, Volume 5, Number 2, 2014, especially pp. 188-190. Finally, Young and Ford had already established a strong relationship with Lew Ney, who became the magazine’s patron and publisher upon Ford’s move to the city. Ney, born Luther Emanuel Widen, was already publishing the little magazines Parnassus (“A Wee Poetry Magazine”) and Bohemia (“A Magazine of Good Fellowship”) and was such a prominent fixture in the community that he was known colloquially as the “Mayor of Greenwich Village.” Ney and Ford operated Blues from an address at 12 E 15th Street, on the edge of Union Square Park, and less than half a mile from the Gramercy Park address that Richard Johns would relocate Pagany to later in 1930.

The eighth issue of Blues featured a slight reshuffling of the editorial board, with Tankersley Young being listed as a contributing instead of associate editor, Oliver Jenkins being dropped from the list of contributing editors, and Lew Ney being added to the masthead as the magazine’s publisher. The issue itself featured four poems by Zukofsky, two by Williams, and one each by Parker Tyler, Forrest Anderson, and Charles Henri Ford. This issue was followed was followed by a ninth and final issue of the magazine in Fall 1930.The issue makes no mention of Lew Ney, listing instead Ford’s old address in Columbus, Mississippi, and also had a much reduced editorial board, listing only Ford and Tyler as editor and associate editor, respectively, and describing William Carlos Williams and Eugene Jolas as “advisory editors.” This last issue, which touted on its cover an article entitled “Can the Poet Change the World?” by Gottfried Benn and Johannes R. Becker, also included Williams’ prose statement “Caviar and Bread Again: A Warning to the New Writer,” along with poetry by William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Henri Ford, Forrest Anderson, and Parker Tyler. In “Caviar and Bread Again,” Williams’ argued that too much modern writing, even when it attended to the necessity of experimenting with technique, neglected the importance of substance, writing:

There is one major phase of modern poetry on which both critics arid their begetters have gone astray. That is substance. So riled have the former been over the modern radical changes in technique that as far as any substance can be distilled out of what they have had to say such substance is thoroughly negligible. …

But it is from the poet himself that the trouble really arises. We’ve heard enough of the cant that the artist is a born weakling, that his works are effects of a neurosis, sublimations, escapes from the brutal contact with life that he, poor chap, horribly fears. This has always been said, and Freud seemed to put the last nail in the coffin with his discoveries. But, as reported in the last number of transition, an abler man than Freud, Dr. C. G. Jung, has finally revealed the true state of affairs td be profoundly in favor of the poet. It is he, the poet, whose function it is, when the race has gone astray, to lead it— to destruction perhaps, but in any case, to lead it.

This he will not do by mere blather but by a magnificent organization of those materials his age has placed before him for his employment.

At the same time he usually invents a technique. Or he seems to do so. But really it is that he has been the fortunate one who has gathered all the threads together that have been spun for many centuries before him and woven them into his design.

What I am driving at is some kind of an estimate of what is going on today, some kind of estimate of the worth of modern poetry before condemning it for the lack of substance which strikes one in such a magazine as Blues.

The older poetry is worn out for us along with all new work which follows the older line. No amount of re-inflation after Eliot’s sorry fashion can help it. At most we can admire Eliot’s distinguished use of sentences and words and the tenor of his mind, but as for substance—he is for us a cipher. We must invent, we must create out of the blankness about us, and we must do this by the use of new constructions.

And for this we cannot wait until—until—until Gabriel blow his horn. We must do it now— today. We must have the vessel ready when the gin is mixed. We’ve got to experiment with technique long before the final summative artist arrives and makes it necessary for men to begin inventing all over again.

On the poet devolves the most vital function of society: to recreate it— the collective world— in time of stress, in a new mode, fresh in every part, and so set the world working or dancing or murdering each other again, as it may be.

Instead of that— Lord, how serious it sounds!—let’s play tiddlywinks with the syllables. And why not? It doesn’t cost anything except the waste of a lot of otherwise no-good time. And yet we moderns expect people actually to read us—even to buy our magazines and pay for them with money. . . .

Experiment we must have, but it seems to me that a number of the younger writers has forgotten that writing doesn’t mean just inventing new ways to say “So’s your Old Man.” I swear I myself can’t make out for the life of me what many of them are talking about, and I have a will to understand them that they will not find in many another.

If you like Gertrude Stein, study her for her substance; she has it, no matter what the idle may say. The same for Ezra Pound, for James Joyce. It is substance that makes their work important. Technique is a part of it— new technique; technique is itself substance, as all artists must know; but it is the substance under that, forming that, giving it its reason for existence which must be the final answer and source of reliance.

We must listen to no blank-minded critic, without understanding, when it comes to what we shall do and how we shall do it; but we must realize that it is a world to which we are definitely articulating— or to which we might be, were we all able enough.125”Caviar and Bread Again,” 46-47.

This stunning attack on Blues and its contributors was caveated in the magazine’s back matter with this an admirable note from the editors: “Blues asked Dr. Williams for an interior criticism; the result is published on the part of the editors with the disregard for personal feelings which they have striven to make a principle.”126”Notes on Contributors,” 52. If Benn and Becker’s cover article was intended to open a conversation about the role of the artist, Williams’ reflections seem like a more fitting conclusion to a conversation, a brutal and slightly cranky summation of the efforts of an experimental magazine which had given voice to a number of young modernist poets. Williams’ critique of the magazine might also serve as a kind of last word for and on Blues, as well, since Ford and Ney could not make the magazine a viable concern, despite their best efforts, and Blues suspended publication of the magazine immediately after this ninth issue appeared in Fall 1930.

Even as their influence in Blues began to wane and the magazine folded, Williams and Zukofsky had already identified in Richard Johns’ Pagany another possible vehicle for spreading both their work and some of their ideas about the role and function of writing. A quick glance at the contributor list for both Blues and Zukofsky’s “Objectivists” issue of poetry is quite telling, however. Of the 23 individual contributors Zukofsky published in the February 1931 issue of Poetry, almost half had been previously published in Blues. While Ford and Tyler, the magazine’s editors were not given their own space in Zukofsky’s issue, he did feature their ideas and their poetry in a “symposium” included in the magazine, showing the magazine’s relative influence and importance in the nucleation of those writers Zukofsky chose to present as “Objectivists.” Blues was, in other words, one of the major literary gathering places for Zukofsky, a fact borne out by the close correspondence of publication’s contributor list with that of “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931.

Pagany

Years in operation: 1930-1933 [12 issues]
Editor: Richard Johns
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, Carl Rakosi, Basil Bunting, Robert McAlmon, Kenneth Rexroth, Norman Macleod, Charles Henri Ford, R B N Warriston, Parker Tyler, Richard Johns, Emanuel Carnevali, Forrest Anderson, Mary Butts, Frances Fletcher, Harry Roskolenko [Roskolenkier]

If Blues had been, in some form a continuation of Pound’s The Exile, and an important proto-“Objectivist” publication, Pagany was perhaps even more significant in the formation and consolidation of the group, with fourteen of the writers included in the “Objectivists” 1931 issue and all but George Oppen, T. S. Eliot, and Jerry Reisman of the poets included in An “Objectivists” Anthology appearing in Pagany during its three year, twelve issue run.

In April 1929, Richard Johns, the 24 year old son of prominent Boston attorney Benjamin Newhall Johnson, wrote to William Carlos Williams declaring his intention to establish a new quarterly magazine published from Boston and dedicated to presenting the work of writers born in the United States, including those then living abroad. Johns’ own literary credentials were meager: he had not graduated from either high school or college (though he had attended Classical High School in his hometown of Lynn and taken courses in poetry and literary theory at Columbia) and had at that time only published a very small number of his own poems, and those in little-known magazines. Johns was, however, both wealthy and ambitious enough to attempt to recruit Williams’ aid in launching his publishing venture. In his introductory letter, Johns informed Williams of his desire to name the magazine Pagany, in tribute to Williams’ recently published novel A Voyage to Pagany, invited Williams to serve as an associate editor for the magazine, and asked him to contribute both a manifesto and “a good bit of your work” for the magazine. 127Quoted in Pagany: Toward a Native Quarterly, 3. Williams and Johns exchanged a series of letters in July of that year, with Williams eventually replying:

Yes, I am with you but I’d like best not to have any official editorial status–unless you prefer otherwise. I can’t see that my name would help you. Besides, I am now american representative for a french quarterly and Blues has my name on its stationary – meaning nothing. Yet, if you want my name you may use it. …

My suggestion is that I write for each quarterly a few pages, five to twenty, in which I shall be permitted to develop a theme, slowly and steadily, the native theme and its implications. In addition you may occasionally accept a poem, or a prose bit now and again. But the pages I write will be signed and published on my own responsibility, not that of the magazine. You could then attack me in the same issue as you may care to. Is that what you want? …

Le’s see more of your mind relative to the undertaking. Then I’ll write the manifesto, yes I will, after which you may open the screen door and point to the exit if you wish to without in the least offending …

[as a postscript] But I’m for you and I like your deliberation. I’ll do everything I can to further your project which may be important if it can be organized on some basis of decency (not moral)128Quoted in Pagany: Toward a Native Quarterly, 11-12.

Publication History
Pagany 1.1 cover

The cover of the first issue of Richard Johns’ Pagany: A Native Quarterly, published in January 1930.

Having secured both Williams’ approval and a fifteen hundred dollar loan from his father to subsidize the first year of publication, Johns pushed forward with his plans, printing a thousand copies of the first issue of Pagany: A Native Quarterly in January 1930. Like each of the subsequent issues, the first issue of the magazine was printed in black on a brightly colored cover stock (in this case, orange), and prominently featured the magazine’s visual mark, a stylized tree within growing in a fenced enclosure, which had been designed by Johns’ friend Virginia Lee Burton, and a complete list of the magazine’s contributors, with each contributor’s name printed in the same size type.

In the announcement which inaugurated the magazine’s first issue, Johns offered the following explanation of the title: “Pagus is a broad term, meaning any sort of collection of peoples from the smallest district or village to the country as an inclusive whole. Taking America as pagus, any one of us as the paganus, the inhabitant, and our conceptions, our agreements and disagreements, our ideas, ideals, whatever we have to articulate is pagany, our expression.” (A Return to Pagany, 50). Throughout its twelve issue run, Johns made only a handful of exceptions to Pagany‘s “Americans only” publication policy.129He printed the prominent English modernist Mary Butts and the French poet and graphic artist Georges Hugnet (through the intervention of Gertrude Stein), he published Olga Rudge’s translation of Jean Cocteau’s “Mystère Laïc” after Hound & Horn had failed to publish it in a timely enough fashion for Pound, and he printed Basil Bunting’s loose translation of a Horatian ode, “A Cracked Record,” though one could argue that this was not strictly an exception to his rule, as Bunting had submitted the poem while living in New York as a newlywed.

Though Williams had declined Johns’ offer to appear on the magazine’s masthead as an associate editor, the first page of the first issue of the magazine did include a brief manifesto he had written, and throughout the magazine’s run Williams solicited and reviewed contributions from many of his friends and acquaintances, offered occasional editorial suggestions and publishing advice, and regularly contributed his own writing (most notably, his novel White Mule, which was written for and serialized by Pagany). Williams also put Zukofsky and several others in touch with Johns early enough to have their work included in the first issue130Zukofsky’s first letter to Johns, indicating that Williams “has suggested that I get in touch with you,” was dated November 7, 1929. University of Delaware Special Collections, MS 110, Box 10, Folder 260

In gathering contributors to his new magazine, Johns was also aided and encouraged by a number of other avant-garde publishers and editors, most notably Johns’ hometown friend Sherry Mangan, who had edited the recently defunct magazine Larus;131Both Mangan and Johns lived in Lynn, Massachusetts and both were the sons of prominent Boston-area professionals with Harvard pedigrees. Mangan’s father, John Joseph Mangan, had earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and had established a children’s clinic in Lynn, and was also an accomplished historian, having written a history of Lynn and a massive biography/psychological portrait of the Dutch humanist theologian Desiderius Erasmus. The younger Mangan had printed a poem by Johns in the final issue of Larus, and the relationship between the two men was amicable enough that they arranged for Larus unfulfilled subscriptions to be absorbed by Pagany. Blues editor Charles Henri Ford;132Ford included advertisements announcing the founding of Pagany in several issue of Blues and should be credited with connecting Johns to several writers he had published, including Kenneth Rexroth, Erskine Caldwell, Noman Macleod, Parker Tyler, Kathleen Tankersley Young, and Forrest Anderson. Gorham Munson, who had edited the expatriate journal Secession from 1922-1924 and would later found the Social Credit journal New Democracy;133In July 1929, Munson replied to Johns’ query about his experiences with Secession by sending the names and addresses for elevent potential contributors to the magazine, including Kenneth Burke, Jean Toomer, and Hart Crane. See Pagany: Toward a Native Quarterly, 14-15. and Ezra Pound, each of whom encouraged their literary acquaintances and former contributors to consider sending their new work to Pagany.

Connection to the “Objectivists”

While neither Johns nor Pagany could ever said to have acted as the mouthpiece for a single group or movement, “Objectivist” writers had ready access to the magazine and appeared in nearly every issue. The connection between Johns and the other Objectivists was facilitated by Williams and Zukofsky, and began with the magazine’s founding more than a year before the appearance of the Poetry issue which would announce and name the “group.” The January 1930 issue included poetry by Zukofsky, Rexroth and McAlmon, as well as Williams’ manifesto and a short critical essay on the work of Gertrude Stein. In Williams’ brief manifesto he suggested that “the scientific age is drawing to a close” and that amidst a proliferation of “bizarre derivations,” the mind needed a place to search “for that with which to rehabilitate our thought and our lives.” His proposal was greater fidelity “[t]o the word, a meaning hardly distinguishable from that of place, in whose great, virtuous and at present little realized potency we hereby manifest our belief,”134Quoted in Pagany: Toward A Native Quarterly, 50 an idea which he further developed in his essay on the writing of Gertrude Stein published later in the same issue.135Here, Williams wrote: “How in a democracy, such as the United States, can writing, which has to compete with excellence elsewhere and in other times, remain in the field and be at once objective (true to fact) intellectually searching, subtle and instinct with powerful additions to our lives? It is impossible, without invention of some sort, for the very good reason that observation about us engenders the very opposite of what we seek: triviality, crassness, and intellectual bankruptcy. And yet what we do see can in no way be excluded. Satire and flight are two possibilities but Miss Stein has chosen otherwise. But if one remain in a place and reject satire, what then? To be democratic, local (in the sense of being attached with integrity to actual experience) Stein, or any other artist, must for subtlety ascend to a plane of almost abstract design to keep alive. To writing, then, as an art in itself. Yet what actually impinges on the senses must be rendered as it appears, by use of which, only, and under which, untouched, the significance has to be disclosed. It is one of the major problems of the artist. “Melanctha” is a thrilling clinical record of the life of a colored woman in the present day United States, told with directness and truth. It is without question one of the best bits of characterization produced in America. It is universally admired. This is where Stein began. But for Stein to tell a story of that sort, even with the utmost genius, was not enough under the conditions in which we live, since by the very nature of its composition such a story does violence to the larger scene which would be portrayed. … The more carefully the drawing is made, the greater the genius involved and the greater the interest that attaches, therefore, to the character as an individual, the more exceptional that character becomes in the mind of the reader and the less typical of the scene. … Truly, the world is full of emotion — more or less — but it is caught in bewilderment to a far more important degree. And the purpose of art, so far as it has any, is not at least to copy that, but lies in the resolution of difficulties to its own comprehensive organization of materials. And by so doing, in this case, rather than by copying, it takes its place as most human. To deal with Melanctha, with characters of whomever it may be, the modern Dickens, is not therefore human. To write like that is not, in the artist, to be human at all, since nothing is resolved, nothing is done to resolve the bewilderment which makes of emotion an inanity. That, is to overlook the gross instigation and with all subtlety to examine the object minutely for “the truth” — which if there is anything more commonly practised or more stupid, I have yet to come upon it. To be most useful to humanity, or to anything else for that matter, an art, writing, must stay art, not seeking to be science, philosophy, history, the humanities, or anything else it has been made to carry in the past.” (Quoted in Pagany: Toward A Native Quarterly, 58-59.)

Immediately after reading the first issue of Pagany, Zukofsky wrote to Johns, sharing his praise for the format and subject matter of Pagany and submitting an additional seven poems for consideration for future issues, three of which were selected for the second issue of Pagany.136In a letter dated January 8, 1930, Zukofsky wrote: “The format seems to me excellent: quite the proper thickness, and the matter being honest – to say the least – what else is there to say.” University of Delaware Special Collections, MS 110, Box 10, Folder 260. In addition to Zukofsky’s poems, the second issue (April-June 1930) contained Williams’ brief story “Four Bottles of Beer.” Williams, who wrote Johns with his private criticism of each issue, concluded his critique of this issue with praise for Zukofsky: “As you know I highly prize whatever Louis Zukofsky does. I think his poem the best in the issue if not the best – oh well.” In a subsequent letter written June 5, 1930, he informed Johns that “Louis Zukofsky has a swell essay on the American phase of the modernists in poetry, what they have said and done. It is rather prejudiced in my favor but it is good. Why not write asking him to let you see it?”137Quoted in Pagany: Toward A Native Quarterly, 124, 127).

On April 15, 1930, Zukofsky sent Johns another cluster of poems and an essay,138Johns never published any of Zukofsky’s prose, but Zukofsky’s poem “For a Thing By Bach” did appear in the magazine’s fourth issue. and informed Johns shortly thereafter that he had recently seen Charles Reznikoff and hoped to have some of his work to share with Johns soon. Zukofsky did in fact forward Johns some of Reznikoff’s poems, which Johns had reviewed and accepted by mid-July 1930.139Zukofsky wrote to Johns on July 19, 1930, telling him “I am glad you are keeping the Reznikoff poems,” sharing Reznikoff’s Bronx address and encouraging him Johns to get in touch with him directly. In October 1930, Zukofsky enlisted Johns to write a letter of support for his application in late 1930 for a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in early November Zukofsky informed Johns that he would be editing an issue of Poetry magazine and asked to see any of Johns’ own work. Johns duly complied, with Zukofsky writing back on November 17, indicating that he was potentially interested in Johns’ poem “The Sphinx” and asked for his assent to some editorial pruning. Johns and Zukofsky exchanged several additional letters before a final version of “The Sphinx” satisfied both the author and its editor, with this poem eventually being included in the February 1931 issue of Poetry.

Johns was also instrumental in encouraging Williams to work in earnest on White Mule, Williams’ first attempt at pure fiction. The first chapter of the novel appeared in the third issue of Pagany (July-September 1930), and Johns printed future chapters of the book in serial form as quickly as Williams was able to produce them, ceasing only when the magazine folded. Apart from the first chapter of White Mule and a short story by McAlmon, the third issue also included poems published by Emanuel Carnevali.140Carnevali was an Italian-born poet who had briefly served as an associate editor of Poetry magazine, and was a friend of Williams’. Zukofsky included two of his translations of Arthur Rimbaud poems in the February 1931 issue of Poetry. The fourth issue of the magazine (October-December 1930) included another poem from Carnevali, two short poems by Williams: “Flowers by the Sea” and “Sea-Trout and Butterfish,” Zukofsky’s “For a Thing By Bach,” and Charles Reznikoff’s poem “The English in Virginia, April 1607.”

Late in 1930, Johns decided to move Pagany from the one-room apartment he had occupied in Boston to a new apartment/office at 9 Gramercy Park in Manhattan, a move which he completed by December 1930. Johns’ relocation to New York City gave him access to an expanded circle of writers and literary figures, including both Williams and (following his return to New York City after his brief stint at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) Zukofsky. Sometime late in 1930, Zukofsky also forwarded some of Rakosi’s work to Johns, just as he had done with Reznikoff, and Zukofsky and Johns met for the first time in person when Zukofsky returned to New York City from Madison during the winter break.141Zukofsky references their meeting in a February 1931 letter to Pound, stating that Johns was “very quiet when I saw him in N.Y. this Xmas—said he wd. do at least a second year of Pagany” (Pound/Zukofsky, 92). In a letter dated December 31, 1930, Zukofsky expressed his pleasure at Johns’ accepting some of Rakosi’s work and gave Johns postal addresses for both Rakosi (Callman Rawley) and Kenneth Rexroth.142Rexroth was apparently a regular visitor to Johns’ office at Gramercy Park during the short time Rexroth was in New York City, where Rexroth frequently helped Johns arrange type and otherwise assist in production and pre-publication work (A Return to Pagany, 275-278). After learning from Zukofsky that Johns had accepted some his poems for publication, Rakosi wrote Johns almost immediately, offering newer revisions and asking to see a copy of the magazine. In his very next letter, undated but almost certainly written in early 1931, Rakosi asked Johns about the magazine’s price and expressed a desire to see back numbers of the magazine, in particular any previous “numbers in which the work of Pound, Williams, Reznikoff, and Zukofsky have appeared.”143Undated letter to Richard Johns. Archive of Pagany, 1925-1970 (Box 8, Folder 188). University of Delaware Library Special Collections, Newark, Delaware. Rakosi’s request here is particularly interesting since it gives a very clear indication that Rakosi at least had some sense of his involvement with something like a group prior to the appearance of the “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931 issue of Poetry, and that he had formed this affinity despite being located in Texas, hundreds of miles from the other writers listed.

The first issue of the second volume (published in January 1931) included another installment of Williams’ White Mule, a poem by McAlmon and four from Zukofsky, and a rambling, prickly review and critique of Pagany‘s first year by Ezra Pound. In February 1931, Zukofsky published Johns’ poem “The Sphinx,” which was dedicated to Williams and offers a description of Williams happily building and destroying sand sculptures on a beach vacation with his family in the “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931 issue of Poetry.144The events described in Johns’ poem took place at Good Harbor Beach during an eight day vacation the Williams family had taken with Johns and “a lady friend” to East Gloucester, Massachusetts in late summer 1930. Williams describes the trip briefly in a September 9, 1930 letter to Zukofsky included in The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 70, and Johns also described the episode in a brief prose story, “Figure,” which he published in the April-June 1931 issue of Pagany. Rakosi made his first appearance in Pagany in the April-June 1931 number, which included three of his poems along with Reznikoff’s “A Group of Verse,” Zukofsky’s “Blue Light,” a poem by Howard Weeks, and another installment of Williams White Mule. The July-September 1931 issue included three of Pound’s Cantos, four poems by Norman Macleod, Basil Bunting’s “A Cracked Record,” Rakosi’s “The Founding of New Hampshire,” and a further chapter of White Mule.145Sometime in 1931 Johns had hosted a dinner party for Basil Bunting at Lou and Bill Chapman’s in Bethel, Connecticut, which Williams and possibly Zukofsky attended. In March 1931, Zukofsky forwarded three poems by R. B. N. Warriston to Johns, and by late June, Zukofsky had returned to New York City from Madison, Wisconsin, after an unhappy year teaching there and expressed his eagerness to meet again with Johns in person. Zukofsky continued to send his own work to Johns, and invited Johns in September 1931 to send along any of his own work and any work by previously unpublished authors he wished to have considered for inclusion in the “Objectivists” anthology Zukofsky was then preparing. The same month, Zukofsky also forwarded work by Frances Fletcher, encouraging Johns to contact her and his friend Warriston directly.

Pagany‘s fourth and final 1931 issue continued to display heavy “Objectivist” sympathies, as it contained a new chapter from Williams’ White Mule, a story by McAlmon, two poems by Norman MacLeod, single poems by Zukofsky and Carnevali, and three new poems by Carl Rakosi. The January-March 1932 issue of Pagany featured six poems by Norman Macleod, three from Carl Rakosi, another White Mule chapter, and a new story from McAlmon.

In early January 1932, Williams wrote to Johns to explain his growing involvement in plans to revive his little magazine Contact. In his letter Williams appears to be sensitive to what may have a felt to Johns like a potentially competitive move to Johns, plying Johns with both praise and reassurances that he saw Contact filling a narrower and therefore complementary literary function to that provided by Pagany:

I wish I could sit down and finish White Mule. I have never enjoyed writing anything more. But since you are willing to go on taking the bits as they come I’m not going to rush it. It is a real pleasure to me that you are pleased because I am writing it for you. The last Pagany shows the results of your experience in publication during the last two years, it is uniformly excellent reading from beginning to end. I have read the last issue particularly carefully inasmuch as I want all the help I can get in making up Contact. The only result of my cogitations so far has been an appreciation of your work. But C. will not have the general reading appeal that you have sought. In the first place I will not be able to use so much material and in the second I want to bear down more than you have cared on the significance of the word, as material. One feature of C. will be my own Comments. Perhaps this is sheer vanity. I dunno. But it is my purpose for all that and the thing that has made me want to take the trouble to go on – and to give up the time. I want to speak of Pagany (sooner or later) as the result of effective good taste in selecting material the hide bound minds of present day publishers have muffed. But Contact, rightly or wrongly, is more narrowly aimed. Perhaps that will be what’s the matter with it. Anyhow it is half printed and will be out by the end of the month – as it looks now.146Quoted in A Return to Pagany, 378.

Whatever his reassurances meant to Johns, the reemergence of a Williams-edited Contact, particularly when combined with the emergence of the collaborative book publishing ventures, certainly siphoned off most of Johns’ “Objectivist” contributors. Apart from regular installments of Williams’ White Mule, the only work from core “Objectivist” writers to appear in the final three 1932 issues of Pagany was the first section of Zukofsky’s “A,” which Johns included in the July-September issue, though the final year of Pagany did also feature a handful of poems by Norman Macleod and a single poem by Harry Roskolenko, both of whom were included in Zukofsky’s issue of Poetry.147Zukofsky had been discussing the possibility of publishing selections from “A” as early as October 1930, when he first mentioned the project to Johns in a letter.

Williams’ withdrawal from offering active editorial advice on poetry submissions coincided with the death of Johns’ father (and benefactor) Benjamin Johnson in February 1932. The disposition of his father’s estate dramatically reduced Johns’ source of financial support and contributed significantly to the demise of Pagany. While Johns’ magazine did publish fiction and poetry by an extraordinary array of significant American writers, like many of the little mags of its era, Pagany had never been a commercial success. In part, Johns was hampered by poor timing. Black Tuesday (October 29, 1929) took place just as Johns was finalizing his first issue, and resulted in the immediate loss of all his major advertisers (more than half a dozen prominent Boston businesses had taken out paying ads in the first issue). Johns paid contributors fairly generous sums: $3 / page for prose and a minimum of $3 for a half-page poem, but the loss of advertising revenue when combined with the usual lack of subscribers and dwindling sales from bookshops meant that Johns was never able to make Pagany a profitable enterprise, no matter its literary quality. In the face of increasing debts and diminished prospects of continued subsidy from family funds, Johns ceased publication of Pagany following the belated appearance of the magazine’s twelfth issue in February 1933.

In 1934, Johns married Veronica Parker, with whom he collaborated on a series of mystery novels, before moving to Cuttingsville, Vermont and devoting himself to photography and horticulture. In 1969, Johns collaborated with Stephen Halpert to produce A Return to Pagany, which includes a wealth of documentary information related to the magazine. The full archives for the magazine, including extensive correspondence between Johns, Williams, and Zukofsky are held in the University of Delaware’s Special Collections.

In relation to the “Objectivists,” Pagany provided an important and congenial outlet for the work of a whole network of loosely affiliated writers both immediately before and after the appearance of Zukofsky’s issue of Poetry. When it came to the poetry he published in Pagany from 1930 through early 1932, Johns’ editorial decisions were clearly influenced by the views of Williams and Zukofsky, and it is possible that the network and community fostered by Pagany also had some influence on the editorial choices Zukofsky made when selecting the contributors he included in his issue of Poetry, just as was true of The Exile and Blues.148No other little magazine had a greater overlap of contributors with Zukofsky’s issue of Poetry as Pagany, as Johns published poetry by Williams, Zukofsky, Bunting, Reznikoff, Rakosi, McAlmon, Rexroth, Macleod, Howard Weeks, Harry Roskolenko, Charles Henri Ford, Parker Tyler, and Emanuel Carnevali in Pagany.

This relationship, however, has been largely neglected and poorly described in the scholarly literature to date. For example, in her Barbed-Wire Entanglements: The “New American Poetry,” 1930-1932,” Marjorie Perloff seeks to explore what she calls Zukofsky’s “‘Objectivist’ experiment” through the lens of a close examination of Johns’ Pagany. While Perloff’s effort is notable in the degree of attention it pays to understanding Zukofsky and the other “Objectivists” in relation to a little magazine of the era, she gets a number of important facts wrong, claiming for example that “In his capacity as informal poetry advisor, moreover, Zukofsky evidently persuaded Johns to publish poems by his “Objectivist” friends Carl Rakosi, Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, and Basil Bunting, by Kenneth Rexroth and Yvor Winters, Mary Butts and Mina Loy.” 149Barbed-Wire Entanglements: The “New American Poetry,” 1930-1932,” Modernism/Modernity 2:1 (January 1995), 148. This essay was also included in Perloff’s 2004 book, Poetry On and Off the Page, published by the University of Alabama Press. Firstly, Johns never printed any work by Oppen, nor did Zukofsky (or any one else) ever publish or describe Loy as an “Objectivist.” More glaringly, it is strange indeed to imagine as plausible the suggestion that Mary Butts and Yvor Winters’ appearance in Pagany might be attributable to Zukofsky’s editorial persuasion; in the first place, both Butts and Winters had work included in the inaugural issue of Pagany, well before Zukofsky’s editorial influence on Johns had been established,150The correspondence from Zukofsky to Johns contained in the Pagany archive, which Perloff concedes in a footnote that she did not herself consult, includes only a single, brief handwritten note from Zukofsky to Johns written prior to the publication of the first issue of Pagany. Johns’ letters to Zukofsky do not appear to have survived. and in the second place, Winters and Zukofsky were not on friendly terms, with the two men engaging in a vicious public spat in the pages of The Hound & Horn just a few years later.

Apart from questions of editorial influence, there is no disputing that Johns was a significant figure both personally and creatively for Williams in the early 1930s, as his encouragement and the outlet provided by Pagany were largely responsible for Williams trying his hand at fiction and effort spent writing White Mule which, once completed, later spawned two sequels: In the Money and The Build-Up. Williams admitted as much himself in a gracious letter he wrote to Johns in June 1937 just after New Directions had published the novel in full:

These are orders for you not to buy White Mule. As you may know it was released by Laughlin June 10 and has received a very good break from the reviewers, so much so that it looks like a winner. If it turns out to be a big success I want you to realize that I realize the important part you have played in the matter from the first. Without your early appreciation and most generous backing it might never have been written. Your critical acumen in suggesting that I leave out another complicating element in the story is also appreciated by me. Therefore, Mr. Richard Johns, it will give me the greatest pleasure in the world to sent to you (as soon as I get it) the first presentation copy of the book outside of my immediate family–and good luck to you. In just a few days you’ll have the book. It’s well made. I wish I could present it in person.151Quoted in A Return to Pagany, 512).

Contact

Years in operation: 1920-1921, 1923 [first run, 5 issues]; 1932 [second run, 3 issues]
Editors: William Carlos Williams, Robert McAlmon [1920-1921], Monroe Wheeler [1923], Nathanael West [1932]
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, Carl Rakosi, Robert McAlmon, Parker Tyler

In 1920, shortly after the then 25 year old Robert McAlmon had arrived in New York City, he met the then 37 year old William Carlos Williams at a party hosted by the anarchist poet Lola Ridge. The two men quickly became friends, and before long, joint publishers of a little magazine, which they called Contact. Between December 1920 and the summer of 1921, when McAlmon left for Paris, McAlmon and Williams published four issues of Contact, and in June 1923, Williams published the fifth and final issue of Contact‘s first run with assistance from Monroe Wheeler.152The initial run of Contact can be read here: (pdf). For most of its first run, Contact was a fairly homely, homespun affair with a quite limited range. While its circulation never rose above 200 copies, Contact did provide an early outlet for Williams to develop and air his idiosyncratic views about the possibilities for a modern American literature rooted both in vernacular speech and a distinctly American locality.

In February 1921, McAlmon entered into marriage of convenience with Bryher (Annie Winifred Glover), the daughter of Sir John Ellerman, one of the wealthiest men in Britain.153Byher proposed to McAlmon on Valentine’s Day (during tea at a New York City hotel), and they married later the same day at the New York City Hall. McAlmon described their marriage in a letter to Williams as “legal only, unromantic, and strictly an agreement. Bryher could not travel and be away from home, unmarried. It was difficult being in Greece and other wilder places without a man. She thought I understood her mind, as I do somewhat and faced me with the proposition. Some other things I shan’t mention I knew without realizing.” (The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams, 219). This last sentence appears to be an allusion to Bryher’s lesbianism; she had been involved for some time in a romantic relationship with H.D. Involving herself in a traditional heterosexual marriage, Bryher felt, would protect both her and H.D. from unwanted accusations of impropriety or worse. Following their marriage, McAlmon and Bryher moved to London (which McAlmon hated) and then to Paris, where McAlmon used his father-in-law’s wealth to found the Contact Publishing Company and the Contact Editions imprint, publishing work by a range of significant modernist writers, including his wife Bryher (Annie Ellerman), Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Williams and himself.154For a good description of Bryher/Ellerman’s and McAlmon’s relationship, see Shari Benstock’s Women of the Left Bank: Paris 1900-1940, especially pp. 357-362.

Following closely on the heels of Zukofsky’s “Objectivists” 1931 issue of Poetry magazine, Williams was persuaded, late in 1931, to resurrect Contact as a quarterly magazine (subtitled “An American Quarterly Review”). The impetus (and funding) for the magazine’s revival was provided by Sally and Martin Kamin and David Moss, ambitious but inexperienced publishers who earlier in the year had also resuscitated McAlmon’s Contact Editions imprint to publish Nathanael [“Pep”] West’s novel The Dream Life of Balso Snell in New York City. Williams was listed as the magazine’s editor, and while both Robert McAlmon and Nathanel West were listed as “associate editors” on the masthead, McAlmon was not involved in the actual editing and publishing of the second run of the magazine, though he did contribute writing.

Though Williams’ involvement with the magazine had been accompanied by a surge of excitement, he began to evince doubts about his involvement almost immediately, confessing to Zukofsky just a week after he had relayed details about the planned contents of the magazine’s first issue in November 1931 that “Were it not for Reznikoff’s thing [The prose piece published in the first two issues as “My Country Tis of Thee”] I’d quit the Kamin quarterly at once, as is I’m holding on only long enough to see if I can put over the first issue. Maybe I won’t even last as long as that. The more I think of it the more certain I become that it’s the wrong lead for me.”155The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 111. Williams’ ambivalence is made even more plain by the fact followed this letter just a few days later with another to Zukofsky in which he equivocated “And perhaps after all I am going on with Contact – I dunno for sure yet. It’s like the weather.” before ultimately writing “yes, I’m going on with it.” in by hand between the two sentences.156The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 113.

By December 1931, Williams was once again working on preparing the final set of manuscripts, ultimately cutting Reznikoff’s original “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” manuscript in half, within a plan to print the second part in a subsequent issue. After several printing delays, the first issue of Contact‘s second run appeared in February 1932.

Contact 2.1 cover

The cover of the first issue of the second run of William Carlos Williams’ Contact: An American Quarterly Review , published in February 1932.

Like PaganyContact carried very little criticism and primarily printed poetry and short stories, announcing on the editorial page of the first issue its intention to “attempt to cut a trail through the American jungle without the use of a European compass.” Of the work included in this issue, Williams was most enthusiastic about Charles Reznikoff’s “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” a long prose account derived from old legal records which Zukofsky had recommended to him,157See his letters to Zukofsky in The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky , pp. 105-111. but the issue also featured McAlmon’s story “It’s All Very Complicated,” and two poems by Zukofsky (“Ferry” and “Madison, Wis. Remembering the Bloom of Monticello”), and Parker Tyler’s “Idiot of Love”. In addition to this work by his “Objectivist” peers, Williams also published three of his own prose pieces in the issue: an editorial (“Comment”), a remembrance of African-American women he had known (“The Colored Girls of Passenack — Old and New”) and a brief account of small magazines (“The Advance Guard Magazine”).

Williams’ “Comment,” which led off the magazine, offered a pugnacious and misanthropic defense of non-instrumental writing, anticipating his later, more famous declaration in “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower” that “It is difficult / to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there,” by first asking “what in the world is writing good for anyway?” and then asserting that “the underlying significance of all writing which is the writing itself.”158”Comment,” 7

Put to its full use writing has nothing to convey, either pungently or crassly; it is neither stream-of-consciousness or bare-bitter-truth, has nothing to do with truth but is true or not as the case may be, a pleasure of the imagination. But the moment we are cheated by an impost, “literature” among the rest, we sense it and our pleasure falls.

You might say: People are in distress the world over, writing will not relieve them (or make them worse’ off). Why not take the money there is for a magazine like this and give it away—as food—to the bums, for instance living in packing cases over near the East River these winter nights?

But what makes you think money has any value?  there’s food enough rotting now in the world, even within sight of the place where these men’ are hanging out, to feed them every day in the year. Money has nothing to do with it. Bad writing has though: it’s the same sort of stupidity.

What in the world good are we any of us anyhow—except hypothetically, a pure question of the imagination? What difference would it make if any or all of us die tomorrow? It would be a blessed relief if most of us did, promptly, and left the rest room—There’s no sense in slobbering at the mouth over humanity and writing that way: We die every day, cheated—and with written promises of great good in our hands. To plead, a social cause, to split a theory, to cry out at the evil which we all partake of—gladly; that’s not writing.

The words themselves must stand and fall as men. A writer has no use for theories or propaganda, he has use for but one thing; the word that is possessing him at the moment he writes. Into that focus he must pour all he feels and has to say, as a writer, regardless of anything that may come of It. By word after word his meaning will then have been made clear.

A magazine without opinions or criteria other than words moulded by the impacts of experience (not for the depths of experience they speak of but the fulfillment of experience which they are) such a magazine would be timely to a period such as this. It can never be a question of its being read by a million or by anybody, in fact. Value for value our minds are justified when we can place over against those who are enjoying or failing beside us, words—that cannot be eaten or made into cloth or built into a roof to shelter them, but which have-been nevertheless subject to the same rigors which they suffer and the same joys which they were born out of their mothers’ bellies ‘to share.

Good writing stands by humanity in its joys and sorrows because under all it is—and just because it is—so many words.159”Comment,” 8-9.

It’s a curious way to start a new magazine in the depths of the Great Depression, and Williams’ proud unwillingness to encourage ideological propaganda is heightened by the opening lines of the poem which immediately followed his “Comment,” e. e. cummings’: “let’s start a magazine / to hell with literature / we want something redblooded // lousy with pure / reeking with stark / and fearlessly obscene // but really clean / get what I mean / let’s not spoil it / let’s make it serious // something authentic and delirious / you know something genuine like a mark / in a toilet”160”Four Poems,” 10.

Williams’ essay on “The Advance Guard Magazine” is also of particular interesting, both because it immediately preceded the first installment of David Moss’ very detailed bibliography of little magazines published in American since 1900 and because gave a brief account of Williams’ perception of the history of little magazines over the past two decades. After summarizing the rise and fall of several magazines, Williams concluded:

In all, the “small magazine” must, in its many phases, be taken as one expression. It represents the originality of our generation thoroughly free of an economic burden. Technically many excellent services to writing have been accomplished. Nothing could be more useful to the present day writer, the alert critic than to read and re-read the actual work produced by those who have made the “small magazine’’ during the past thirty years.161”The Advance Guard Magazine,” Contact 2.1 (February 1932), 89-90.

 

Williams had been displeased at several points with printing delays leading up to the magazine’s appearance, and was unhappy with the final product once the magazine was printed, writing to Zukofsky in mid-March 1932: “Yes Contact is out – down and out in so far as I am concerned: the first issue is the cheapest sort of a subterfuge for good faith in carrying out an agreement.” Zukofsky’s response to the issue echoed this disappointment: “Lowenthal brought his copy of Contact around the other day to show me. Moskowitz & Kaminsky’s job sure looks poor. They space my first poem wrong, & there are misprints in both,” but tempers his concern somewhat by continuing to enquire about the possibility of publication in future issues: “What about the second issue? All made up? Or could you use the preface to An “Objectivists” Anthology I once read to you in Grey’s restaurant? Or Movements 1, 5, and 6, or any one of em, of “A”? Or is Number 2 not coming out?” In response to Zukofsky’s query about whether there would even be a second issue, Williams replied “I don’t think I’ll use anything of yours in the next issue – if there is one. But if the second, or next, issue shows any kind of improvement over number 1 then– I’ll use your new Cantos of A in the third // At present I am holding back the material for no 2 until I have some assurance that I shall not be disgraced again.”162To read the full exchange in context, see The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 124-126.

Williams continued to express ambivalence about his editorial involvement in letters to Zukofsky, but told him in early June 1932 that while he “var[ied] from disgust to confidence … the damned thing seems to have a root.”163The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 129 The root had taken strong enough hold in Williams that a second issue of Contact (dated May 1932 on its title page) was published in late June. This issue featured another McAlmon story, entitled “Mexican Interval,” two poems and an editorial comment from Williams, and the second part of Reznikoff’s “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee,” complete with set of nineteenth century illustrations featuring depictions of “Oratorical and Poetical Gestures” and “Simple Bodily Pain,” “Love,” “Gratitude,” and “Simple Laughter” which Williams had inserted into the text.164He wrote to Zukofsky on July 4, 1932: “You’ll see that we’ve taken liberties with Reznikoff’s contribution. If you should hear from him I’d like to know what he says. And I’d appreciate your own reaction. The cuts are from a book of about the time the incidents in his collect occurred and do set off his findings rather nicely – in my opinion. If he wants to use the cuts in his book as it will later appear I’ll be glad to let him have them. I hope at least that he will not take exception to what I have done.” A few weeks later Zukofsky replied indicating that while he hadn’t seen Reznikoff, he “seemed pleased in a letter.” The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 131-132. Williams’ editorial comment was brief but direct, offering a defense of writing which roots itself in fidelity to “the object of our lives” in “this primitive and actual America,” concerning itself primarily with language, by both “holding firm to the vernacular” and concerning itself with new and “difficult form[s]” 165”Comment,” 109-110.

In only one thing have we grounds for belief: the multiple object of our life itself.

When we are forced by a fact (a Boston, a Chicago even—provided we avoid sentimentality) it can save us from insanity, even though we do no more than photograph.

Eye to eye with some of the figure of our country and epoch, truthfully—avoiding science and philosophy—relying on our well-schooled sense, we can at least begin to pick up the essentials of a meaning.

This primitive and actual America—must sober us. From it revealing aspects of what might be an understanding may be seized for the building of our projects.

There is nothing to help us but ourselves. If we cannot find virtue in the object of our lives, then for us there is none anywhere. We won’t solve or discover by using “profound” (and borrowed) symbolism. Reveal the object. By that we touch authentically the profundity of its attachments—if we are able. But able or otherwise there is no other way for us.

But always, at this point, some black idiot cries out, “Regionalism”! Good God, is there no intelligence left on earth. Shall we never differentiate the regional in letters from the objective immediacy of our hand to mouth, eye to brain existence?

Take verse: Certainly by inversion and cliche, bad observation and pig-headedness, we can somehow make verse looks something “like” the classic. Without violence to our language, we cannot imitate those models and have what we do, anything but imitation.

But clinging first to the vernacular, we simply cannot turn out slick, clipped verses today and have them include anything of the breadth, depth, scope that we feel and know to be our lives. It is impossible; no mold has as yet been made to receive that much.

We can only, holding firm to the vernacular, seek that difficult form which cannot be an imitation, but is the new of our imperative requisites.

Writing is our craft calling for unending exertions. It needs an eye, a mind, the clean drive of inspiration—but work, work, work. Language is our concern. In revealing the character of an object, it must adapt itself to the truth of our senses. Cliches must disappear; the simple, profound difficulties of our art then become clear to us. It is to represent what is before us that dead stylisms disappear. Hard down on it—laboring to catch the structure of the thing, language must be moulded.

By this we are able to learn from the thing itself the ways of its own most profound implications, as all artists, everywhere, must be doing.166”Comment,” 109-110.

Though Williams was more pleased with the printing of this second issue, he recognized that the magazine cost more to produce than it could realistically hope to recoup in sales, and continued to express frustration with the editorial duties, writing to Zukofsky in late July that he was “next to hopeless about Contact. a dull chore – not enough good work or too much. I can’t tell which: a quarterly can’t be just amusing, must be weighted – if to be excused.” In his his next letter to Zukofsky he confided that “I have gently told Kamin that after this year there will be no Contact (in all probability) for little Willie.”167The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 133, 135

Williams was serious about his discontent, and contributed to just one more issue of the magazine, resigning as an editor late in 1932. The third and final issue (October 1932) contained McAlmon’s poem “Farewell to Alamos,” and two poems each by Carl Rakosi (published under the joint title “African Theme, Needlework, Etc.”) and Louis Zukofsky (“Song 9” and “Song 10”), Williams’ story “For Bill Bird,” as well as a final brief editorial comment by Williams precipitated by and in response to T. S. Eliot’s recent appointment at Harvard:

There is a heresy, regarding the general character of poetry, which has become widely prevalent today and may shortly become more so through academic fostering: it is, that poetry increases in virtue as it is removed from contact with a vulgar world.

I cannot swallow the half-alive poetry which knows nothing of totality.

It is one of the reasons to welcome communism. Never may it be said, has there ever been great poetry that was not born out of a communist intelligence. … It is also one with the imagination. It will not down nor speak its piece to please, not even to please “communism”.

Nothing is beyond poetry. It is the one solid element on which our lives can rely, the “word” of so many disguises, including as it does man’s full consciousness, high and low, in living objectivity.

It is, in its rare major form, a world in fact come to an arrest of self realization: that eternity of the present which most stumble over in seeking …

Before anything else it is the denial of postponement. If poetry fails it fails at the moment since it has not been able enough to grasp the full significance of its day. And every school which seeks to seclude itself and build up a glamour of scholarship or whatever it may be, a mist, that is, behind which to hid, does so in order to impose itself rather shabbily on whatever intellience it seeks most to please.168”Comment,” 131-132.

It appears from Williams’ and Zukofsky’s correspondence that there were initially plans to bring out a fourth issue of Contact (to complete the series) under the editorship of a “‘group’ – proletarian in feeling,” for which Zukofsky had submitted two poems each by himself and by Oppen.169Williams’ wrote to Zukofsky on December 15, 1932: “Nope! I’m out, completely out – so am returning the poems herewith. The one about the sink is the best to my taste and an excelent composition, perhaps you’d care to send it to “Contact #4″ directly,” and returned Oppen’s submission courtesy of Zukofsky in February 1933. In the same letter, he told Zukofsky that he had declined James Leippert’s offer to serve as associate editor of his planned magazine The Lion and Crown, telling Zukofsky: “No sir, not twice in the same trap.” See The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 145-146. The mooted fourth issue never appeared, however, and Contact folded following the loss of both Williams and West, who left New York to pursue a screenwriting career in Los Angeles, as editors, having published just three issues in its second run.170Scans of much of the second run of Contact can be viewed here: (pdf). For more on McAlmon and Williams’ involvement with Contact, see Paul Mariani’s William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked, pp. 174-186 (the first run), and pp. 319-339 (the second run).

The New Review

Years in operation: 1931-1932 [6 issues]
Editor: Samuel Putnam
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Basil Bunting, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert McAlmon, Norman Macleod, Parker Tyler, Forrest Anderson, Emanuel Carnevali

In January 1931, Samuel Putnam established The New Review as “An international notebook for the arts, published from Paris,” a bi-monthly magazine whose editorial statement announced that it would be

the organ of no school or movement. It has, however, a very definite program, and a trend which will become apparent as the successive numbers appear. Its purpose is an international reportage for the arts, the higher journalism of ideas. Its character will, therefore, be largely critical, but in something more than the book-reviewer’s sense of the term. The editors believe that there is a need for such a magazine at the present moment …

THE NEW REVIEW will devote particular attention to the modern arts, such as photography, the cinema, sound and talking films, phonograph records, radio, etc.

The first issue listing Ezra Pound as the first of the magazine’s three associate editors,171The other two were Maxwell Bodenheim and Richard Thoma. The first issue also listed two contributing editors: George Antheil, for music, and George Revey, for Russia. and it was likely Pound’s affiliation with this new publication that empowered him to decisively cut off relations with Kirstein and The Hound & Horn as and when he did, since he appears to have believed that Putnam and The New Review would prove more a tractable outlet for his editorial judgment. Pound’s influence over Putnam’s magazine can be plainly seen as early as the second issue, which contained “A”-3 and “A”-4, two movements from Zukofsky’s ongoing epic autobiographical poem, as well as “Imagism,” Zukofsky’s review of René Taupin’s L’Influence du Symbolisme Français sur le Poésie American (de 1910 à 1920), which had been the occasion of Zukofsky’s heated war of words with Yvor Winters.

[more on the relationship between Putnam and Pound and Zukofsky. Zukofsky includes Putnam’s sonnet in the “Symposium” section of the “Objectivists” as something which he felt Parker Tyler and Charles Henri Ford ought to be interested in … from Tom Sharp: “Zukofsky wrote on 25 April 1931 to ask Pound to convince Putnam to publish an anthology of “Objectivists” which he would edit—and also, to improve Zukofsky’s reputation, a book of his poetry.1 Putnam had already accepted for publication in the spring issue of the New Review Zukofsky’s “‘A’, Third and Fourth Movements,” and “Imagism,” Zukofsky’s review of René Taupin’s L’Influence du Symbolisme Français sur le Poésie American (de 1910 à 1920). This issue also included a poem by Donal McKenzie, criticism by Pound, and a long editorial by Putnam, “Black Arrow.”]

Front and Morada: Norman MacLeod’s Magazines

In 1927(?), while an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico, Norman Macleod founded jackass, a “magazine of the Southwest,” which published an issue in January 1928. The magazine was short-lived, but while working as a custodian in the Petrified Forest National Monument in Holbrook, Arizona, Macleod founded and published a single issue of Palo Verde, a “Southwestern poetry magazine.” Neither Jackass nor Palo Verde survived the year, but Macleod, who had received special acknowledgement from Charles Henri Ford for his role in forming an “invaluable advisory board in the launching of Blues” already had plans to found a third magazine, placing an advertisement in the January 1929 issue of Blues announcing that a magazine to be called Brogan would be forthcoming in Autumn of that year. The announcement published in Blues 6 described the magazine as “an attempt to develop a literature of affirmation,” which was to be “experimental and radical in content and technic” and gave Macleod as the editor and listed Harold Salemson and Charles Henri Ford as contributing editors.172Salemson’s contributor note to the sixth issue of Blues read: “Harold J. Salemson, born in Chicago in 1910 and educated in France and America, now lives in Paris where he edits Tambour, a French-English review. He has contributed in English to transitionPoetry and The Modern Quarterly; in French to La Revue Européenne, Europe, Monde, Le Mercure de France and Anthologie.”

“I was writing very conventional, rather poor, imitative verse at the time. It was Herman Spector and also Parker Tyler who wrote me advising me to climb out of that rut and so it was they who first influenced me in the direction of experiment and in trying to find my own voice and new forms–or at least to say what I was trying to say in language that was not distorted by restrictive English metrical patterns.” [Norman Macleod, quoted in Bastard in the Ragged Suit]

The Morada

Years in operation: 1929-1930 [5 issues]
Editor: Norman Macleod, Donal McKenzie [European editor, issue 5]
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, Louis Zukofsky, Robert McAlmon, Kenneth Rexroth, Richard Johns, Norman Macleod, Forrest Anderson, Charles Henri Ford

Brogan was ever published, but in Autumn 1929, Macleod did launch The Morada, a quarterly magazine which gave as its editorial board Macleod, William Flynn, C. V. Wicker and Donal McKenzie. The first issue, which listed Sydney Hunt, Harold Salemson, Ralph Cheyney, and Walter Barber as correspondents and Benjamin Musser, Joseph Vogel, Joseph Kalar, Harry Crosby, Herman Spector, Catherine Stuart, George W. St. Clair, Charles Henri Ford, and Dean B. Lyman Jr. as contributing editors, included work from 23 contributors, including Ezra Pound and a handful of writers, like Ford, Rexroth, Salemson, and Harry Crosby, who had also been recently published in Blues. The second issue of Morada (Winter 1929) was designated as a “Harry Crosby Number,” and appeared just a few weeks after Crosby’s sensational murder-suicide in New York City, including work from roughly two dozen contributors, including poetry by Macleod, Ford, and Richard Johns. The third issue of The Morada (Spring 1930) included poems by Johns and Macleod, and excerpts from a letter by Pound.

After printing four issues of The Morada, Macleod founded another little magazine which he called Front, the first issue of which appeared in December 1930, complete with an advertisement for what Macleod called “The New Morada,” describing the magazine as “a tri-lingual advance-guard review.” The fifth and final issue of Morada was also published in December 1930, a featured a significantly changed format: announcing itself as The Tri-lingual Morada, the magazine also listed a greatly changed editorial board consisting of Donal McKenzie, the “european & expatriate” editor, Norman Macleod, the American editor, and contributing editors Joseph Kalar, Georges Linze, Fernand Jonan, Eugene Jolas, Frantisek Halas, Richard Johns, Sonja Prins, Ralph Cheyney, and Solon R. Barber. This issue of The Morada contained work in English, German, and French, and solicited future submissions at an editorial address near Lago di Garda, Italy. The issue included McAlmon’s short story “New York Harbour,” commentary by Ezra Pound, and poems by Macleod (in both English and German), Zukofsky, Johns, Forrest Anderson, and Samuel Putnam.173A PDF scan of the first three and fifth issue of The Morada can be viewed here.

Though MacLeod, like Charles Henri Ford, was isolated geographically from American centers of literary activity, he nonetheless managed to engage in a vigorous literary correspondence with a number of significant writers, and published writing by a range of modernist writers then living in both the United States and Europe.

MacLeod suspended publication of The Morada upon his move to New York City in January 1931 to take a position working as an editorial assistant for Walt Carmon, then the managing editor of New Masses, the best known Marxist journal of its era. Carmon decided to take a vacation soon after Macleod’s arrival and Macleod selected most of the material included in the March 1931 issue, including Whittaker Chambers’ famous short story “Can You Hear Their Voices?” In addition to his work for New Masses, by early 1931, Macleod had begun funneling much of his editorial energy into Front, an ambitious trilingual literary review published from The Hague, Netherlands for which he served as the American editor.

Front

Years in operation: 1930-1931 [4 issues]
Editor: Norman Macleod
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Basil Bunting, Robert McAlmon, Richard Johns, Norman Macleod, Charles Henri Ford

Front was published as a bi-monthly magazine beginning with its first issue, printed in December 1930 and running through a fourth number, published in June 1931. Despite a very short run, it printed work by a number of significant international contributors, including …

[Macleod and Spector were “also among the New Masses poets who had work selected about the same time for translation into the French to be published in Poémes D’Ouvriers Americains, a small anthology “brought out by probably the communists in Paris.””]

Contempo

Years in operation: 1931-1934
Editors: Milton Abernethy [1931-1934], Anthony Buttitta [1931-1932], Mina Abernethy [1932-1934]
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, Rakosi?, Bunting?, Robert McAlmon, Frances Fletcher, Forrest Anderson

In January 1931, Milton Abernethy met Anthony Buttitta in an English course at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill taught by the playwright Paul Eliot Green. Abernethy, then a 20 year old undergraduate and member of the Communist party, was at UNC largely because he had been too radical and outspoken for his peers at North Carolina State174While at NCSC, Abernethy contributed several articles to Wautagan, a student journal, which were critical of school practices and policies. In the last of these, “The Game of Cheating at North Carolina State College is Not Equal to Any Other Sport,” Abernethy accused his fellow students of endemic academic dishonesty, which led to the student council voting to expel him for “disservice to the school.” Abernethy appealed his expulsion and won the case, but transferred shortly thereafter to UNC-Chapel Hill. See Jim Vickers’ “A Week or Three Days in Chapel Hill: Faulkner, Contempo, and Their Contemporaries,” in The North Carolina Literary Review 1:1 (Summer 1992), pp. 17-29. Buttitta, born in Monroe, Louisiana to Sicilian immigrant parents, was seeking a master’s degree in English literature and had previously published plays and stories while an undergraduate at Louisiana State Normal College and the University of Texas. Within a few months, the two literary-minded young men had recruited three of their classmates, Shirley Carter, Phil Liskin, and Vincent Garoffolo, and founded both a little magazine which they called Contempo: A Review of Books of Personalities, and The Intimate Bookshop, a book store which they briefly operated out of Abernethy’s dorm room before moving to a storefront in Chapel Hill.175In an early issue of Contempo, Abernethy wrote an advertisement for the store: “Not many people know of the existence of such an agency as The Intimate Bookshop. [It is] a place where one can read without cost and buy with regular discount any book from The Death of the Gods to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a place one goes for a quiet hour or so to browse about books that seem to stick his imagination, feel the intimate and personal touch of writers that lived to live, literature move before him as a vital and dynamic force rather than as a support for the dust of the ages.” The Intimate Bookshop long outlasted Contempo, and was operated by Milton and Minna Abernethy at 205-207 Franklin Street in Chapel Hill from 1933 until 1950, when anti-communist sentiment community induced the Abernethys to sell the store to Paul and Isabel Smith and move to New York City, where Milton eventually became a successful stockbroker (oh the irony!). In 1955, the Smiths moved the bookshop to a building which had previously housed the Berman Department Store at 119 Franklin Street, and sold the business in 1964 or 1965 to Walter and Brenda Kuralt, who opened an additional eight franchises throughout North Carolina. The last surviving Intimate Bookshop, on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, closed in the late 1990s. See https://www.facebook.com/chapelhillhistoricalsociety/photos/pb.977057475709905.-2207520000.1463618918./982196798529306/. By August 1931, all three of Abernethy and Buttitta’s classmates had left the magazine, leaving Abernethy and Buttitta as the magazine’s sole editors.

The first issue of Contempo was published in May 1931 and featured an editorial describing the publication as a review of “ideas and personalities of some significance that demand immediate comment.” [Combining literature and a progressive political slant (while avoiding the championship of “any particular group or definite order” Contempo featured poetry, fiction, and literary and social criticism by a variety of writers, including Kay Boyle, Erskine Caldwell, William Faulkner, Langston Hughes, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.] Contempo was issued 18 times a year (roughly every three weeks) and cost ten cents per issue, with annual subscriptions available for $1. As a publication, Contempo had the appearance of a newspaper, with issues typically consisting of four pages and some mixture of poetry, editorial comment, reviews, and other prose. The editors frequently published special-topic issues with guest editors and quickly gained a reputation for its willingness to publish avant garde poetry as well as engage with progressive political issues. It devoted two issues, for example, to the Scottsboro Boys case, famously publishing Langston Hughes’ “Christ in Alabama” on the cover of their December 1, 1931 issue, in between editorials by Hughes and Lincoln Steffens, the well-known socialist muckraking journalist.

[In mid 1933, Buttitta and Abernethy, Contempo’s remaining editors, quarreled and parted ways. Abernethy and his wife Mina continued to edit Contempo until February, 1934, when it ceased publication, apparently for lack of funds.]

Connection to the “Objectivists”

Contempo published poetry or criticism by Pound, Rakosi, Reznikoff, Williams, Zukofsky, Bunting, and McAlmon. The Oppens admired the magazine, with George describing it in a letter to Ezra Pound as “a magazine concerned with liberal or radical political theses” and noting that a recent issue had been devoted to the Scottsboro case and had featured poetry by Countee Cullen and “other negro writers.” 176In “Publications in English,” Undated letter to Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound Papers, 1868-1976 (Box 38, Folder 1613). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University Library, New Haven, CT.

James G. Leippert’s Magazines 

James G. Leippert, whose was also known as J. Ronald Lane Latimer and a host of other pseudonyms during his brief but significant publishing career, was an eccentric character177Eccentric is perhaps too charitable. Allen Tate recalled him as a “fly-by-night opportunist” and one of his closest friends and longtime collaborator Willard Maas described him privately as a “psychopathic worm” (qtd. in Al Filreis’ Modernism from Right to Left, 115). For a brief biographic account of Leippert’s life, see Ruth Graham’s “Mystery Man” article for the Poetry Foundation, which draws heavily on Al Filreis’ research. who published a series of very-short lived little magazines in the early 1930s before founding The Alcestis Press, which published handsome limited editions of poetry by Wallace Stevens, Williams Carlos Williams, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, and others between 1935 and 1937.

Leippert’s first attempt at publishing poetry came with his founding of the monthly magazine The new broom and Morningside, which he launched in January 1932 while still an undergraduate at Columbia University. Leippert described the magazine to potential contributors as a successor to both Broom, an international quarterly magazine which had been published from Italy and edited by Harold Loeb and a rotating cast of associate editors and Morningside, the longtime undergraduate literary journal at Columbia University. Leippert was an enormous enthusiast of T. S. Eliot’s and wrote to him soliciting work for publication in his new magazine, though Eliot politely declined his overtures. The new broom and Morningside failed after its fourth issue (published in April 1932), and was quickly succeeded by The Lion and Crown.

The Lion and Crown

Years in operation: 1932-1933 [2 issues]
Editor: James Leippert
“Objectivists” published: Carl Rakosi, Charles Reznikoff, Basil Bunting, George Oppen, Forrest Anderson, Jesse Loewenthal, Frances Fletcher, Norman Macleod, Jerry Reisman

Early in 1932, as he was planning the launch of The Lion and Crown, Leippert wrote to William Carlos Williams, inviting him to serve as associate editor. Williams quickly declined Leippert’s offer, no doubt thinking of his recent experiences with Pagany and Contact. He did, however, recommend that Leippert contact his friend Louis Zukofsky, and Zukofsky greatly assisted Leippert with assembling the first issue of this new magazine. Zukofsky’s assistance was so great that it warranted his being the subject of the the following special acknowledgement printed inside the first issue: “The editors of The Lion & Crown wish to thank Mr. Louis Zukofsky for his interest, and to dedicate to him whatever of the publication is theirs to dedicate.”178Quoted in Pound/Zukofsky, 135.

The inaugural issue of The Lion & Crown, published in Fall 1932, shows clear evidence of Zukofsky’s editorial influence, as it featured writing by Reznikoff, Rakosi, and Bunting, contributions from peripheral “Objectivists” Frances Fletcher, Forrest Anderson, and Jesse Loewenthal, and a review of Williams’ A Novelette and Other Prose (which had been published by To, Publishers) by Zukofsky’s friend Jerry Reisman. The contents page also included a list of contributors which would appear in future issues, a list of 13 authors which contained a healthy number of “Objectivists,” including Williams, Reznikoff, Rakosi, Oppen, and Frances Fletcher.

Leippert only managed to publish one additional issue of the magazine (printed in early 1933), though it did include two poems each by Oppen and Norman Macleod.179Other notable contributors to the issue included Gertrude Stein (“Basket”), Erskine Caldwell (“Crown-Fire”), and Jose Garcia Villa. Leippert also appears to have been planning an entire special issue devoted solely to William Carlos Williams and possibly another issue dedicated to Zukofsky, but neither issue ever materialized.180See vague references to a special critical number of Leippert’s magazine in Pound/Zukofsky pp. 145, 147 and Basil Bunting to Leippert, September 26, 1932 in the Ronald Lane Latimer papers at the University of Chicago Library. Pound and Zukofsky discussed Leippert’s seeming interest in publishing work by Zukofsky and other “Objectivists” in a series of letters exchanged between August 1932 and early 1933,181See Pound/Zukofsky, pp. 134-135, 145, 147. but by May 1933, Zukofsky seems to have lost any confidence he may have had in Leippert, telling Pound: “Will write Leippert again, & if he doesn’t answer to hell with him. I don’t think he has an asset. Think, in fact, he’s a quack & quacks are quickly uncovered these days … He’s off on a magazine proposition now—wants to get the [James Branch] Cabells, [Robert] Nathans, etc. to join him. They won’t if we’re goin’ to be anywhere near ’em. They won’t anyway”182The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 102.

Alcestis

The magazine proposition Zukofsky described Leippert as being “off on” was a poetry quarterly for which Leippert first began soliciting contributions in November 1933. Initially planned to appear under the name Flambeau, and later, Tendency: A Magazine of Integral Form, the first issue of Leippert’s third little magazine in as many years was eventually published in October 1934 as AlcestisAlcestis survived a bit longer than Leippert’s previous efforts, publishing work by William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, e. e. cummings, and a host of other then-prominent poets, but it too suspended operations within a year of its founding, with the fourth and final issue, a “revolutionary number” edited by the poet Willard Maas, appearing in July 1935.183See Al Filreis’ Modernism from Left to Right, pp. 118-128. The failure of the magazine Alcestis was followed by Leippert’s establishment of a publishing press, also called Alcestis. Between 1935 and 1937, Leippert’s Alcestis Press issued nine very attractive volumes of modern poetry, fine printed on rag paper, including Wallace Stevens’ Ideas of Order and Owl’s Clover, and William Carlos Williams’ An Early Martyr and Adam & Eve & the City, and it is conceivable that Leippert may have become Williams’ regular publisher had not James Laughlin emerged when he did.[ref]The full list of books published under The Alcestis Press imprimatur also included Allen Tate’s The Mediterranean and Other Poems, Robert Penn Warren’s first volume of poetry, Thirty-Six Poems, John Peale Bishop’s Minute Particulars, Willard Maas’ Fire Testament and Ruch Lechlitner’s Tomorrow’s Phoenix. According to Al Filreis, Leippert had also sought to publish what would have been Elizabeth Bishop’s first book of poems, made a serious offer to publish new cantos and a collected poems by Ezra Pound which Pound ultimately refused, and nearly published a book by H.D. See Modernism from Right to Left, 121.

The Westminster Review

1935: Pound is involved. They publish Zukofsky, Williams, Niedecker, and others. See especially the Spring-Summer 1935 issue, edited by Pound, John Drummond, and T.C. Wilson.

References   [ + ]

1. Zukofsky had been paid $1000 for teaching during the 1930-1931 academic year, but had not liked living in Madison. On October 15, 1931, Zukofsky wrote to Pound: “Geo. Oppen is planning a publishing firm—To, Publishers, and I’m the edtr.” (Qtd. in Pound/Zukofsky, 104).
2. Pound had suggested in a letter the previous month that Bunting might translate the Italian poet Federigo Tozzi’s novel Tre croci (written in 1918 and published in just before his death of influenza and pneumonia in 1920). Bunting never produced this translation.
3. This McAlmon book was never finished and remained unpublished at his death in 1956. A undated draft of the manuscript with a 1952 letter explaining the project of the novel can be found among his papers in Yale’s Beinecke Library.
4. Pound/Zukofsky, 117
5. Ezra Pound Papers, Beinecke (Yale), YCAL MSS 43, Box 38, Folder 1613
6. Rakosi, and Rexroth as well?
7. Zukofsky wrote to Pound on August 8, 1932: “Latest news from O[ppen]:—”Can’t continue To.” Which means my salary goes as well when the year is up—& will probably be reduced to $50 (if George can spare that much) a month, while it lasts. “The year is up”—may be this Setp. 1932—I’m not sure when my year started, since Buddy [George’s nickname] and I made no formal legal arrangements.” (Pound/Zukofsky, 132). Zukofsky’s salary was in fact reduced to $50, with October 1932 being the last month he received payment (Zukofsky, Letters to Pound, 8 October 1932, Yale).
8. The eight authors included in both publications were: Bunting, Rakosi, Reznikoff, Oppen, Williams, Zukofsky, Robert McAlmon, and Kenneth Rexroth. Of the six writers who appeared in the anthology but not in Poetry, Pound and Eliot should be well-known enough not to need an introduction here. Zukofsky had attempted to include work by both men in his issue of Poetry, but had not been able to persuade either to give him work. The other four authors were Mary Butts (1890-1937), a English modernist writer who was well-known to Ezra Pound who had previously been married to the poet and publisher John Rodker; Frances Fletcher, a teacher and graduate of Vassar College who had published a slim volume of poetry in 1926; Forrest Anderson, who had published frequently in BluesPagany, and transition; and R.B.N. Warriston, an acquaintance of Zukofsky’s who lived in White Plains, New York and who had published poems in Pagany. The anthology also included a collaboration between Zukofsky and his friend and former student Jerry Reisman. More detailed biographies of each of these contributors is available in The Lives section of this site.
9. The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 102.
10. Qtd. in Sharp’s dissertation: http://sharpgiving.com/Objectivists/sections/22.history.html?visited=1#22history-51, Zukofsky, Letter to Pound, 17 April 1933, Yale and referenced in Pound/Zukofsky, 141-142.
11. The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 154
12. The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 155.
13. The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 156-157.
14. The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 156.
15. The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 98-100.
16. The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 158.
17. The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 159.
18. The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 165-166.
19. The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 165.
20. On October 23, 1933, Zukofsky had written to Pound asking him to join himself, Williams, and Reznikoff as a partner in The Objectivists Press (a spelling he also included in a follow-up query to Pound dated October 29), but by November they had dropped the plural and reverted to The Objectivist Press, which is the name under which all their subsequent books were published.
21. 10 West 36th Street, located two blocks northeast of the Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan
22. Williams shared his first year’s publication suggestions with Zukofsky in a letter written sometime late in 1933: “The names I’d suggest for the first year would be my own (not because I wish it so but because the general opinion seems to be that my book would be a good one to start with) the Zukofsky, Bunting, Rakosi. I believe we’ll have our hands full trying to get a book out every 3 months” (The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 166-167).
23. In Meaning a Life, Mary Oppen relates one version of the story: “Walking with Louis when Discrete Series was in manuscript, George was discussing it with him before showing it to anyone else. Louis turned and with a quizzical expression asked George, “Do you prefer your poetry to mine?” “Yes,” answered George, and the friendship was at a breaking point” (Meaning a Life, 145).
24. Williams had offered some encouraging words regarding the upcoming publication of Zukofsky’s manuscript in a few letters from early 1934, though it did not come off in the end. Zukofsky wrote to Pound in a letter dated February 17, 1935: “You can, if it won’t hurt your own name, try and get me published with Faber & Faber. Serly off to Europe with my final arrangement and additions to 55 Poems–a most commendable typescript for you to look at. Time fucks it, and if I keep my MSS. in my drawer or my drawers, I might as well shut up altogether. … If you consent, think it opportune etc, to try my 55 on Faber & Faber, you need not worry about an introduction–I don’t want it–you can write a blurb for the dust-proof jacket if it jets out of you. Noo Yok at a standstill. Haven’t heart from Bill Willyums in moneths.” (Pound/Zukofsky, 160-161).
25. See The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 212.
26. Zukofsky’s book was eventually published, in a handsome hardcover edition, by the James A. Decker Press of Prairie City, Illinois, which had previously published attractive volumes of poetry by several other contemporary poets, including Zukofsky’s friends Norman Macleod, Charles Henri Ford, and Harry Roskolenko.
27. After Whittaker Chambers was fired from his job at the New York Public Library in April 1927 when dozens of “missing” books were found in his coat locker, Zukofsky found him a job working with him at his brothers bookshop. Chambers’ biographer Sam Tanenhaus writes: “Chambers and Louis were supposed to help customers at noon, when the regular staff broke for lunch, but were indifferent, sometimes negligent booksellers, seldom stirring from their seats. Henry Zolinsky, a frequent visitor, once put them to a test, asking for a volume. When Chambers and Zukofsky assured him it was not to be found, Zolinksy walked over to the shelves and pulled down the book himself” (Whittaker Chambers: A Biography, 56-57).
28. Barry Ahearn quotes a November 29, 1931 letter from Pound to Zukofsky, in which Pound tells Zukofsky that “[Rene] Taupin has filled Basil [Bunting] with firm belief in yr. utter incapacity to transact ANY business operation” (Pound/Zukofsky, 121).
29. The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 120
30. Profile, 10.
31. Profile, 13
32. Profile, 46, 127.
33. 113.
34. Profile, 142.
35. The prefatory “Note” included in his Active Anthology, 5. He described it in similar terms in Contempo, writing that the anthology was “a narrative of what has happened to verse during the past twenty-five years.
36. ”Praefatio,” 23-24.
37. 253
38. In addition to these four core “Objectivists,” Active Anthology also featured writing by Louis Aragon (translated by E. E. Cummings), E. E. Cummings, Ernest Hemingway, Marianne Moore, D. G. Bridson, T. S. Eliot, and Pound himself.
39. Pound/Zukofsky, 143.
40. Pound/Zukofsky, 144
41. Pound/Zukofsky, 144.
42. 254-255.
43. ”Introduction,” 5.
44. The full list of contributors to the anthology is as follows: T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, E.E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Gertrude Stein, Harold Rosenberg, H.R. Hays, Paul Eaton Reeve, Joseph Rocco, Lionel Abel, Charles Henri Ford, Carl Rakosi, Louis Zukofsky, Raymond Larsson, and Parker Tyler.
45. Ibid, 8.
46. Ibid, 11-12
47. Pagany letters from Rakosi, U Delaware, and Poetry papers U Chicago.
48. For more background on RMR, see Linda Hamalian’s A Life of Kenneth Rexroth, pp. 65, 75-76.
49. In The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams, 266.
50. In in “Small Magazines,”The English Journal 19.9 (November 1930), pp. 689-704.
51. Modernism from Left to Right, 114.
52. Circulation estimates for many of the era’s little magazines can be found in […]
53. Harriet Monroe founded Poetry in 1912 with Ezra Pound as foreign editor, to cite just one very well-known example, with the magazine playing an very important role beginning the next year in promoting what later came to be known as imagism.
54. In a chapter entitled “Pound, Founder of Periodical Studies” from their book Modernism in the Magazines, Robert Scholes and Clifford Wulfman offer a thorough account of Pound’s shifting but frequently intense involvement with various literary magazines through the first several decades of his career. They point out that for the 9 year period from 1912-1920 (his prime years in London), Pound averaged around one magazine publication per week, and in the four year stretch from 1917-1920 he averaged more than 91 magazine publications a year. Furthermore, from 1909-1923, Pound was involved in various capacities with ten separate magazines in England and the United States (pp. 4-7, especially). While their close attention to Pound’s involvement with literary magazines wanes after 1923, Pound continued to be deeply interested in the quality of literature available to readers in both England and the United States, and continued to make suggestions, interventions, and attempts at editorial colonization well into the 1930s. Scholes and Wulfman observe that while his anti-semitism and support for fascism “have not endeared him to many people,” they also argue that “the Pound of the first three decades of the twentieth century was a different figure: a brilliant and indefatigable supporter of other writers and artists, a talented and learned poet, and a literary and cultural critic of enormous energy and biting wit. … Quite simply he had more to do with our present understanding of modernism than any other individual. He was a pioneer of comparative literary studies, of cultural studies, and of periodical studies … However one may rank his creative achievement as a poet, one much put him at the very top as an impresario and propagandist for the view of modernism that prevailed in the English-speaking world” (viii). Leonard Greenbaum provides a more balanced and less laudatory view of Pound’s combustible and often predatory relationship to little magazines in his The Hound & Horn: The History of a Literary Quarterly, though he does note that Pound served as an editor or foreign correspondent for at least 9 separate little magazines between 1912 and 1935: namely, Poetry (from 1912-1917), The New Freewoman (1913), The Egoist (1914), Blast (1914), The Little Review (from 1917-1921), Two Worlds (from 1925-1927), his own magazine The Exile (published between 1927- 1928), The New Review (from 1931-1932), and Westminster Magazine (1935). See pages 96-124 especially.
55. While Williams was certainly the best-known writer included in the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry, the list of books he had published in the United States was limited to his self-published 1909 collection Poems (which he later regarded as embarrassing juvenilia), his 1917 collection Al Que Quiere!, his 1920 hybrid work Kora in Hell: Improvisations, and his 1921 collection Sour Grapes (all published by Four Seas in Boston), and his prose works In the American Grain (published by Albert and Charles Boni in 1925) and Voyage to Pagany (published by the Macaulay Company in 1928). Robert McAlmon had published several of his books by this time (mostly through Contact Editions, a publishing company which he owned and operated), but all had been printed in Europe. McAlmon’s Contact Editions had also published Carnevali’s A Hurried Man from Paris in 1925. Basil Bunting had published a private edition of his collection Redimiculum Matellarum from Milan in 1930, but this collection would have been obscure even to the most assiduous collector of poetry in the United States.
56. His hybrid work Spring and All (published by McAlmon’s Paris-based Contact Editions) and his chapbook Go Go (published by Monroe Wheeler’s Manikin Press in New York City) were both issued in 1923.
57. A prose work by Reznikoff, By the Waters of Manhattan, had been published by Charles Boni in 1930.
58. Apart from the three titles previously described, Reznikoff had self-published three volumes of poetry, three collections of drama, and a prose work prior to 1931, each of which had been typeset and printed by hand on a small printing press which Reznikoff owned and operated from the basement of his apartment building.
59. This document, owned by Yale’s Beinecke Library, can be accessed online: https://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/4300755
60. Pound/Zukofsky, 91.
61. The first was Poetry, which had published his sonnet “Of Dying Beauty” in the January 1924 issue: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=16224.
62. Named after Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous transcendentalist magazine of the mid-19th century
63. Not long previously Pound had left The Little Review, where he had served for more than two years as their “London editor.”
64. Pound’s first “Paris Letter” appeared in the October 1920 issue.
65. Eglington’s first “Dublin Letter” appeared in the March 1921 issue.
66. Eliot’s first “London Letter” appeared in the April 1921 issue.
67. Hofmannsthal’s first “Vienna Letter” appeared in the August 1922 issue.
68. Mann’s his first “German Letter” appeared in the December 1922 issue.
69. Sophie Wittenberg also left the magazine at this time and was replaced as an assistant by Thayer’s cousin Ellen Thayer.
70. In February 1926, while living in Germany, Thayer suffered a severe mental breakdown, and was institutionalized for several months following his return to the United States. No known extant correspondence to any of his previous literary or artistic contacts from Thayer exists after February 1926, and Thayer spend much of the rest of his life in and out of sanatoria and accompanied by caretakers and guardians. This thumbnail sketch relies heavily on both Nicolas Joost’s Schofield Thayer and the Dial: An Illustrated History, especially pp. 3-20, 30, 74-113 and the overview to Schofield Thayer’s papers, held by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
71. Nicholas Joost estimates that the magazine had a circulation of roughly 10,000 in 1920, and that while printing costs were around $750 per issue, the magazine’s running deficit was $4,000-5,000 per month. Thayer wrote to Ezra Pound in September 1920 that their current deficit was about “$84,000 annually” and that they would need to increase circulation tenfold to ever clear expenses. The magazine’s business manager would later estimate the cash deficit for 1920 at around $100,000, offset by cash receipts of just $24,000. By 1922, they had nearly doubled cash receipts (to $45,000) but cash deficits had only been cut to $65,000, with some 85% of this total going to editorial and manufacturing costs. Sales from newsstands averaged about 3,500 per issue in 1920, climbing to just over 4,500 by November 1922 and reaching a high-water mark of 6,261 with the December 1922 issue (which contained Eliot’s The Waste Land). Typical monthly sales figures ranged between 4,000-5,000, and revenues from these sales can be estimated using the published sales price: 35 cents a copy for first several four months of 1920, 40 cents per copy from May-December of 1920, and then 50 cents per copy from January 1921 until its final issue in July 1929. Subscriptions, which had numbered just under 3,000 in 1920, had risen to 7,440 by February 1923. The print run appears to have peaked with the January 1923 issue, of which 18,000 copies were printed. While The Waste Land had been an enormous success, nothing else the magazine was to print would have quite an impact on sales, or the international literary world. For more details on the finances and circulation of the magazine, see Schofield Thayer and the Dial, 20, 30, 40-42, and Alan Golding’s “The Dial, The Little Review, and the Dialogics of Modernism” in Little Magazines and Modernism: New Approaches, especially n. 10 on p. 70).
72. T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” published in the November 1922 issue thanks to Ezra Pound’s intervention, was its most noteworthy success.
73. Schofield Thayer and the Dial: An Illustrated History (52, 59-61).
74. The poems were “tam cari capitis”; “Song Theme”; “Someone said, ‘earth’”; and “The silence of the good”. Apart from his appearance earlier that year in two issues of Pound’s The Exile, Zukofsky’s only previous publication in a national magazine had been his sonnet “Of Dying Beauty,” which had appeared in the January 1924 issue of Poetry.
75. Pound’s affiliation with the magazine was announced in the April 1917 issue and he published an editorial explaining his decision to join The Little Review in the following month. Pound remained the magazine’s “London editor” until until 1919. His name was absent from the editorial page of the May 1919 issue and the June 1919 issue contained only the cryptic note “Ezra Pound has abdicated and gone to Persia. John Rodker is now the London Editor of the Little Review.” Pound returned to the editorial staff of the magazine in 1921 at the invitation of Margaret Anderson (by which time he was living in Paris and serving as the foreign correspondent for Scofield Thayer’s The Dial). His name is featured in the “Administration” section of the magazine’s front matter along with Anderson, Francis Picabia and jh [Jane Heap] beginning with the Autumn 1921 issue, and remained there until he left the magazine for good in the spring of 1923. For more on Pound and Anderson’s relationship, see Pound/The Little Review: The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson: The Little Review Correspondence, published in 1989 by New Directions.
76. The Little Review did not pay its contributors, for example, and estimates of its circulation have generally ranged between 1,000-2,000.
77. See Margaret Anderson’s The Little Review Anthology, published in 1953, for a good cross-section of work published by the magazine during its heyday.
78. See here. The remark is unattributed, but should probably be ascribed to one or more of the listed editorial staff, which at this point consisted of Anderson, Heap, and Pound.
79. Anderson and Heap published 23 installations of Joyce’s work, beginning with their March 1918 issue and ending with their September-December 1920 issue. Three of the issues containing installments from Joyce’s work were seized by the United States Post Office and burned as obscene, but it was Joyce’s “Nausicaa” chapter which appeared in the July-August 1920 issue which directly precipitated the obscenity suite.
80. Shortly after the trial concluded, Anderson published her own an account of the trial, “‘Ulysses’ in Court,” in the January-March 1921 issue of The Little Review and discussed the case at some length in her 1930 autobiography, My Thirty Years’ War. For later scholarly discussions of the obscenity trial, see Holly Baggett’s “The Trials of Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap.” A Living of Words: American Women in Print Culture. Ed. Susan Albertine. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995 (169-188) and Marisa Anne Pagnattaro’s “Carving A Literary Exception: The Obscenity Standard And Ulysses”Twentieth Century Literature: A Scholarly and Critical Journal 47.2 (2001): 217-240.
81. Williams’ first appearance in the magazine came with the the October 1917 issue, which featured three of his “Improvisations.” He appeared in another eleven issues between 1917 and the May-June 1920 issue, which carried his story “Danse Pseudomacabre.” His relationship with the magazine was much reduced after Jane Heap took over primary editorial duties, though he did publish a notable letter in the Autumn 1922 issue praising the magazine’s Spring 1922 issue, which had featured the work of the French painter Francis Picabia, whom Williams admired.
82. Rakosi, who was at that time a young and totally unknown poet who had just moved to the city after Madison, Wisconsin, would later describe this success as one of the great moments of his life. See his biography on this site for more details.
83. There was a Harvard undergraduate literary magazine then extant (the Harvard Advocate), but Kirstein and Fry both felt that the current editorial staff was uninterested in admitting them to their clubbish circle. They initially appear to have sought to establish their breakaway publication on the model provided by The Harvard Monthly, which had been published at Harvard between 1885 and 1917 and which had been edited by and published contributions from several Harvard undergraduates who later went on to achieve various measures of literary success.
84. In the first issue, Fry published an “Announcement” which concluded by asserting that “THE HOUND & HORN takes as its point of departure what is at once a valediction and a call to action. … [I]t bids farewell to land whose long familiar contours have ceased to stir creative thought: it bids farewell — and sounds the hunting horn” Fry would further clarify his editorial intentions, writing in a 1934 letter that he wrote to “hail the new and glittering world they [Joyce, Eliot, Stein, Picasso and Stravinsky] and their influences were creating, and to bid farewell to the stodgy in the nineteenth century and its heavy hand on the twentieth” (Quoted in Leonard Greenbaum’s The Hound & Horn: The History of a Literary Quarterly, 26-27).
85. In his foreward to The Hound & Horn Letters, Kirstein wrote that “The Criterion, later the Dial, were models of what magazines might be; both seemed so elevated and comprehensive in their spectra that, at the start, The Hound & Horn aimed to have been modestly enough, a mere “Harvard Miscellany.” But we printed a trial issue and secretly hoped that somehow it would please Eliot [the issue had included a two-part critical essay on Eliot by R.P. Blackmur and a bibliography of Eliot’s published work by Varian Fry]. … Eliot seemed to me, at the time, the most important authority in the world for anything and everything that could occupy me” (xvi).
86. For more on Hound & Horn‘s relationship to The Dial, see Greenbaum’s The Hound and Horn, 40-44. Regarding payment for contributors, The Dial had paid $20 / page for poetry and $10 / page for prose. In a 1929 letter to Ezra Pound, R.P. Blackmur indicated that the Hound & Horn provided rates of $7.50 / page for poetry and $3.50 for prose. While much reduced from the rates offered by The Dial in its heyday, this was still considerably more than that offered by other prominent modernist little magazines. For example, Eugene Jolas’ transition had paid contributors just 50 cents / page, while Margaret Anderson’s The Little Review did not pay contributors at all (The Hound & Horn Letters, 25).
87. For a thorough history of the magazine, see Leonard Greenbaum’s The Hound & Horn: The History of a Literary Quarterly (Mouton, 1966) and Mitzi Berger Hamovitch’s The Hound & Horn Letters (University of Georgia Press, 1982).
88. Greenbaum indicates that the magazine’s financial records show that it the magazine’s circulation fluctuated between 1,500 and 4,000 and that the magazine operated at a loss of roughly $10,000 annually–a sum that would be roughly equivalent to $140,000-$180,000 in 2017 terms. See Greenbaum’s “The Hound & Horn Archive,” The Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. 39, No. 3 (January 1965), 145: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40858055.
89. The Hound & Horn Letters, xi-xii.
90. Pound had served as The Dial‘s “foreign advisor” and editor from 1920-1923 and had work published in four of the magazine’s first six issues. After one his typical spats with the editor, he resumed more friendly relations when Marianne Moore assumed editorship of the magazine in 1925. Pound received the magazine’s Dial Award (which included a $2000 prize) in 1927, and published work in each of the magazine’s final three issues.
91. Quoted language appears in letters from Blackmur to Pound, dated 20 May and 2 October 1929, which appear to quote previous messages from Pound (The Hound & Horn Letters, 25-27).
92. The Hound & Horn Letters, 27.
93. This was serialized in three parts, the first of which appeared in the April–June 1930 issue. Pound was pleased with this, singling it out as worthy of note in a review of “Small Magazines” he published in the November 1930 issue of English Journal: “At the present moment there are a number of free reviews in activity. Of these The Hound and Horn appears to me the most solid. It has taken over the heritage of whatever was active in the Dial. It has got rid of nearly all the Dial‘s dead wood and rubbish. This purgation may endanger its safety. The advance in critical writing which I have mentioned seems to me apparent in Zukofsky’s essay on Henry Adams, serialized in Hound and Horn, and in Hyatt Mayor’s criticism of painting” (792).
94. Zukofsky had also submitted a review of Pound’s Cantos to Hound & Horn sometime in 1930, but Bandler rejected it for publication as being “only a partial review,” since, in his view, while Zukofsky had “elucidated Pound and interpreted him” he had “seen him completely from within” and had not “attempted to estimate him from without” (The Hound & Horn Letters, 144-145).
95.  “as to local scene / I shd/ advise you to dig out ole Bill Williams// not necessary to AGREE. I shd/ also advise you to put up with being irritated by Zuk” (The Hound & Horn Letters, 60).
96. The Hound & Horn Letters, 63. Pound’s relationship with Hound & Horn was probably doomed as soon as Blackmur left the magazine as an editor, since none of the subsequent editors seemed to value his editorial opinions very much. The relationship between Pound and Hound & Horn already seemed to be faltering by November 1930, when Bernard Bandler wrote to Pound rejecting his essay “Terra Italica,” and continued to deteriorate over a series of letters exchanged through Pound’s final angry outburst in July 1931. For more on the collapse of Pound’s relationship with Hound & Horn, see Greenbaum’s Hound & Horn 109-124, Michael Flaherty’s “Hound & Horn (1927-1934),” in The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines and The Hound & Horn Letters, 36-37, 43, 58-59, 62-64, 80.
97. In April 1931, Fitts wrote to Kirstein that “I read Zuk. once, with extreme distaste … I didn’t get the Gug[genhiem Fellowship]. Ransom did; and that’s grand—apparently he needed it. Glad somebody like Zuk. or Bunting didn’t. …” (The Hound & Horn Letters 79). On October 25, 1931, Mayor wrote to Kirstein that “Pound refuses to do anything for H. J. number. He suggests that when we have finished commemorating the illustrious dead, we might make a memorial number for him. He does, however, suggest that we get Zukofsky to make extracts from Pound’s long notes on H J in Instigations. A poor idea, I think, because Zukofsky is, to my thinking, rotten. However, what about Foster Damon’s doing something about these notes of Pound’s?” (The Hound & Horn Letters 96-97). Winters wrote to Kirstein in 1932 that “Our own generation, and the kids who are coming up, seem to be divided more or less clearly between those whose intellectual background is incomprehensible to the older men and who therefore remain largely meaningless to them, and those who imitate them feebly and flatter them in numerous ways (Zukofsky is the most shameless toady extant) and who are therefore praised by them” (The Selected Letters of Yvor Winters, 195).
98. See the correspondence section of the April-June 1933 issue of Hound & Horn. Winters’ response: “Mr. Bunting appears to offer me some kind of challenge. I shall be glad to encounter him at his own weapons—any kind of prose or verse—or, if he will come to California, with or without gloves, Queensbury rules” (The Hound & Horn 6:3, 323). A letter from Zukofsky to Kirstein giving his side of the dispute with Winters can be found in The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 82-84.
99. See The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 78-80.
100. Pound/Zukofsky, 98-99.
101. See The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 82-84.
102. Quoted in Greenbaum, The Hound & Horn, 104.
103. [ref]Three brief items of correspondence between Williams and Kirstein are included in The Hound & Horn Letters, pp. 138-140. Macleod’s published a poem in the Winter 1931 issue and Wheelwright’s poem “Wise Men on the Death of the Fool” appeared in the Spring 1931 issue.
104. Three brief items of correspondence between Williams and Kirstein are included in The Hound & Horn Letters, pp. 138-140. Macleod’s published a poem in the Winter 1931 issue and Wheelwright’s poem “Wise Men on the Death of the Fool” appeared in the Spring 1931 issue.

The Exile

Years in operation: 1927-1928
Editor: Ezra Pound
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Carl Rakosi, Robert McAlmon, Howard Weeks

Ezra Pound’s short-lived magazine The Exile, which consisted of just four issues published in 1927 and 1928, might properly be considered the first proto-“Objectivist” publication.[ref]Tom Sharp has argued not only that The Exile was the group’s “first public meeting place,” but that the publication of work by some many writers later identified as “Objectivists” in the magazine establishes the group firmly within the Poundian poetic tradition and “expresses many of the principles, especially about the importance of group activity, that Pound continued to impress upon them” (http://sharpgiving.com/Objectivists/sections/01.history.html)

105. Tom Sharp has argued not only that The Exile was the group’s “first public meeting place,” but that the publication of work by some many writers later identified as “Objectivists” in the magazine establishes the group firmly within the Poundian poetic tradition and “expresses many of the principles, especially about the importance of group activity, that Pound continued to impress upon them” (http://sharpgiving.com/Objectivists/sections/01.history.html) A look at the writers published in the final three issues of Pound’s magazine shows a fairly high degree of overlap with Zukofsky’s editorial selection, with Pound publishing work by Zukofsky, Rakosi, Williams, Robert McAlmon, and Howard Weeks, each of whom Zukofsky would include in the “Objectivists” 1931 issue of Poetry.[ref]Zukofsky’s first major publication, “Poem Beginning ‘The'” appeared in The Exile 3, the same issue in which Weeks poem “Stunt Piece” appeared. Pound published four poems by Rakosi and a McAlmon short story in The Exile 2, and Rakosi’s “Extracts from A Private Life” in The Exile 4, which also contained Williams’ “The Descent of Winter,” several poems by Zukofsky, and an essay on Gertrude Stein by McAlmon.
106. Zukofsky’s first major publication, “Poem Beginning ‘The'” appeared in The Exile 3, the same issue in which Weeks poem “Stunt Piece” appeared. Pound published four poems by Rakosi and a McAlmon short story in The Exile 2, and Rakosi’s “Extracts from A Private Life” in The Exile 4, which also contained Williams’ “The Descent of Winter,” several poems by Zukofsky, and an essay on Gertrude Stein by McAlmon. The Exile represented Pound’s first (and only) attempt to edit and publish his own magazine, and its failure demonstrated some of his limitations as an editor and publisher. While Pound was justly proud of his ability to identify significant voices early in their career and recommend them to more established publications, he does appear to have been temperamentally unsuited to the careful, patient, politic work of editing a longstanding, catholic literary journal, in the way that, say, Harriet Monroe proved to be with Poetry.[ref]For a balanced appraisal of Monroe’s considerable skills as an editor and publisher as against the self-serving accounts Pound and his acolytes have tended to promote, see John Timberman Newcomb’s excellent “Poetry‘s Opening Door: Harriet Monroe and American Modernism” (pp. 85-103) in Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches, edited by Suzanne Churchill and Adam McKible.
107. For a balanced appraisal of Monroe’s considerable skills as an editor and publisher as against the self-serving accounts Pound and his acolytes have tended to promote, see John Timberman Newcomb’s excellent “Poetry‘s Opening Door: Harriet Monroe and American Modernism” (pp. 85-103) in Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches, edited by Suzanne Churchill and Adam McKible. 

Publishing History

Pound issued the first issue from of The Exile in the Spring of 1927, from Dijon, France, where it had been printed by Maurice Darantiere.[ref]Dariantiere was known to Pound both as the printer who had handled many of Robert McAlmon’s Contact Editions books and as the printer Sylvia Beach turned to when she had been unable to find a printer in Britain or the United States willing to issue James Joyce’s Ulysses.

108. Dariantiere was known to Pound both as the printer who had handled many of Robert McAlmon’s Contact Editions books and as the printer Sylvia Beach turned to when she had been unable to find a printer in Britain or the United States willing to issue James Joyce’s Ulysses. Pound had hoped that the magazine might be able to be readily imported into England and the United States and made arrangements for the first issue of the magazine to be sold by authorized agents in New York, Paris, and London. To his great exasperation, Pound found that importing a publication printed abroad to the United States met with all kinds of expensive bureaucratic difficulties. Consequently, beginning with the second issue, published in Autumn 1927, Pound published The Exile through an American publisher, the Chicago-based Pascal Covici.[ref]Covici would later move to New York City and form a publishing firm with Donald Friede, who had been vice-president of Boni-Liveright. Covici-Friede were best known for limited editions of literary works, but they published some commercial fiction during the Depression. Covici formed a significant and long-lasting friendship and publishing relationship with John Steinbeck, and when Covici-Friede went bankrupt in 1938, Covici moved to Viking Press, and brought Steinbeck along with him. Covici died in 1964.
109. Covici would later move to New York City and form a publishing firm with Donald Friede, who had been vice-president of Boni-Liveright. Covici-Friede were best known for limited editions of literary works, but they published some commercial fiction during the Depression. Covici formed a significant and long-lasting friendship and publishing relationship with John Steinbeck, and when Covici-Friede went bankrupt in 1938, Covici moved to Viking Press, and brought Steinbeck along with him. Covici died in 1964. A longer explanation of this change in site of publication would appear in the third issue, but the second issue did include the following acerbic single page “Note re 1st Number” from Pound:

Extract of Mr. Price’s account of the New York Customs House.

“An assistant customs appraiser grabbed my arm the other day and said, ‘Say, the fellow that wrote that stuff in your magazine must be a narcotic fiend! Nobody has thoughts like those except under the influence of drugs! We don’t want stuff like that here—we’re going to have to defend our women and children against the Bolsheviks pretty soon!!’ ”

In fact, the behavior of a customs department plus the state of our copyright laws are such that but for Mr. Covici undertaking to print this second issue, the the editors would have desisted.

Why the United States has a copyright law designed chiefly to encourage theft, I am unable to say.

As to Mr. Coolidge’s economic policy, I have one further suggestion—namely, that he can completely eliminate the cost of lunatic asylums by dressing the present inmates in customs uniforms and placing them in ports and along the frontiers. This will dispense with the present employees entirely and the public will be just as well served.[ref]Ezra Pound, “Note re 1st Number”, The Exile, Volume 2 (Autumn 1927), 120.

110. Ezra Pound, “Note re 1st Number”, The Exile, Volume 2 (Autumn 1927), 120.

The second issue also featured a changed and reduced list of authorized agents, which now comprised just the Gotham Book Mart in New York City and Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Co. in London (there was no Paris agent), giving some indication of Pound’s intended (anglophone) audience. The issue itself contained editorial material by Pound as well as a long selection from John Rodker’s poem “Adolphe 1920,” poems by R.C. Dunning, and Carl Rakosi, a short prose selection from Joe Gould’s legendary Oral History, and longer prose pieces from Robert McAlmon and Stella Breen.[ref]Breen’s story, “My Five Husbands,” was the only piece of writing by a woman included in all four issues of Pound’s journal. Even by the standards of the time, this is stunningly poor representation, and reflects poorly on Pound’s catholicity of taste. George Oppen’s judgement on gender matters as they relate to Pound seems particularly fitting; among the scraps of paper Oppen had pinned to the walls of his writing space in his last years was this “Note to Pound in Heaven”: “Only one mistake, Ezra! / You should have talked / to women.” (Selected Prose, Daybooks, and Papers, 235).

111. Breen’s story, “My Five Husbands,” was the only piece of writing by a woman included in all four issues of Pound’s journal. Even by the standards of the time, this is stunningly poor representation, and reflects poorly on Pound’s catholicity of taste. George Oppen’s judgement on gender matters as they relate to Pound seems particularly fitting; among the scraps of paper Oppen had pinned to the walls of his writing space in his last years was this “Note to Pound in Heaven”: “Only one mistake, Ezra! / You should have talked / to women.” (Selected Prose, Daybooks, and Papers, 235).

The third issue of The Exile was published in Spring 1928, and contained the longest and most varied list of contributors. The issue began with poems by William Butler Yeats (four sections each from the poems “Sailing to Byzantium” and “Blood and the Moon”), Zukofsky’s “Poem Beginning ‘The’,” a portion of Pound’s own “Canto XXIII,” and the conclusion of Rodker’s “Adolphe 1920.” Pound also gave space in the issue to prose and poems by R. C. Dunning, poetry by Clifford Gessler, Howard Weeks, and Herman Spector, prose pieces from Payson Loomis and Morley Callaghan, and a smattering of Pound’s editorial pronouncements on various topics, most of which touch on his contempt and despair for the American cultural and political scene, with a few jabs thrown in at various European nations for good measure. The issue also contained a single page “Desideria” from the editor:

Quite simply: I want a new civilization. We have the basis for a new poetry, and for a new music. The government of our country is hopelessly low-brow, there are certain crass stupidities in administration that it is up to the literate members of the public to eradictae [sic]. … I say “new” civilization, I don’t know that I care about its being so very different from the best that has been, but it must be as good as the best that has been.[ref]108

112. 108

Pound also gave greater context to the issues and difficulties he had encountered in trying to import the first issue and the reasoning behind his decision to move publication to Chicago and the delays in publication the magazine has suffered, writing:

The first issue of The Exile printed in Dijon was strictly my own affair. Mr. [John] Price[ref]John Price was a New York newspaperman that Pound had partnered with in publishing and importing the magazine. See The Ezra Pound Encyclopedia, 113-115.

113. John Price was a New York newspaperman that Pound had partnered with in publishing and importing the magazine. See The Ezra Pound Encyclopedia, 113-115. assured me that America cd. absorb 300 copies. The Port of Noo York assured Mr. Price that magazines were not dutiable. On that understanding I had no need of anyone’s cooperation.

The Port of New York saw Exile, found that it was dated “Spring 1927” instead of “April 1927” and proclaimed that Exile was not a magazine but a “book”. Thereby illustrating the nature of the bureaucratic mindersatz.

The tax imposed on “books” at the American frontier as result of our governing powers, ever desirous of maintaining the present state of national stupidity, wd. effectively preclude the possibility of my printing Exile in my own front yard and shipping it to the scattered intelligentzia of Texas, Albany and the outlying gehennae. I mean save at greater expense that it is worth.

Hence the delays in the appearance of subsequent numbers. For any enjoyment the present issue affords the famished reader, the said reader may thank Mr. Covici.[ref]”Interaction,” 109

114. ”Interaction,” 109

Pound published a fourth and final issue of The Exile in Autumn, 1928.[ref]Covici had informed Pound by September both that he was planning to form a partnership with Donald Friede and move their operations to New York City and that Pound’s magazine had been too unprofitable for him to continue publishing it.

115. Covici had informed Pound by September both that he was planning to form a partnership with Donald Friede and move their operations to New York City and that Pound’s magazine had been too unprofitable for him to continue publishing it. This issue included some 30 pages of assorted political and social commentary by Pound, William Carlos Williams’ “The Descent of Winter,” a lengthy mix of prose and poetry that Zukofsky had been instrumental in editing from Williams’ private journals,[ref]Williams wrote to Pound on May 17, 1928: “Your spy Zukofsky has been going over my secret notes for you. At first I resented his wanting to penetrate- now listen! – but finally I sez to him, All right, go ahead. So he took my pile of stuff into the city and he works at it with remarkably clean and steady fingers (to your long distance credit be it said) and he ups and choses a batch of writin that yous is erbout ter git perty damn quick if it hits a quick ship – when it gets ready – which it aren’t quite yit. What I have to send you will be in the form of a journal, each bit as perfect in itself as may be. I am however leaving everything just as selected by Zukofsky. It may be later that I shall use the stuff differently” (Pound/Williams, 82). Zukofsky and Williams had first met in April, which means that Williams had known Zukofsky for less than 2 months at the time that he sent Pound this remarkable indication his editorial trust.
116. Williams wrote to Pound on May 17, 1928: “Your spy Zukofsky has been going over my secret notes for you. At first I resented his wanting to penetrate- now listen! – but finally I sez to him, All right, go ahead. So he took my pile of stuff into the city and he works at it with remarkably clean and steady fingers (to your long distance credit be it said) and he ups and choses a batch of writin that yous is erbout ter git perty damn quick if it hits a quick ship – when it gets ready – which it aren’t quite yit. What I have to send you will be in the form of a journal, each bit as perfect in itself as may be. I am however leaving everything just as selected by Zukofsky. It may be later that I shall use the stuff differently” (Pound/Williams, 82). Zukofsky and Williams had first met in April, which means that Williams had known Zukofsky for less than 2 months at the time that he sent Pound this remarkable indication his editorial trust. a brief review of Gertrude Stein’s work by Robert McAlmon, more than a dozen pages of prose and poetry by Zukofsky, poetry by Carl Rakosi, excerpts from recent correspondence Pound had had with Samuel Putnam, short works by John Cournos, Falkoff-Kliorin, and Benjamin Perret, and “Data,” an article in which Pound attempted to “set down a few dates, and give a list of the periodicals where the struggle took place. Sic: [places where] Contemporary americo-english non-commercial literature struggled into being,”[ref]104
117. 104 provided a bibliography of his own work as well as that of Williams and McAlmon, and offered a rambling catalogue of various of his other enthusiasms, including the violin playing of his mistress, Olga Rudge.[ref]It really is a pity that Pound didn’t have access to a micro-blogging platform and a large social media marketing budget. He would have loved it.
118. It really is a pity that Pound didn’t have access to a micro-blogging platform and a large social media marketing budget. He would have loved it.

Reflecting on The Exile in 1930, Pound summarized its accomplishment thusly: “In Exile I managed to publish [John Rodker’s] Adolphe and a little work by McAlmon, W. C. Williams, Louis Zukofsky, and one poem by Howard Weeks.” [ref]”Small Magazines” English Review, 701

119. ”Small Magazines” English Review, 701

Blues

Years in operation: 1929-1930 [9 issues]
Editors: Charles Henri Ford [1929-1930], Kathleen Tankersley Young [1929], Parker Tyler [1930]
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Carl Rakosi, Kenneth Rexroth, Norman Macleod, Harry Roskolenko [Roskolenkier], Richard Johns, Parker Tyler, Charles Henri Ford

In February 1929, the twenty-one year old Charles Henri Ford and the African-American poet Kathleen Tankersley Young published the first issue of their magazine Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms from Ford’s apartment in Columbus, Mississippi. The magazine was a direct outgrowth of Harriet Monroe’s rejection of Ford’s poems for publication in Poetry, as Monroe’s rejection spurred Ford into founding his own magazine to ensure that he had access to print for his own poetry. Ford and Young had met in San Antonio, Texas the year previous thanks to a letter of introduction from the legendary Greenwich Village character Lew Ney. Encouraged by both Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, whom Young had persuaded to lend his name to the magazine as a contributing editor, Ford and Young launched Blues as a monthly publication dedicated almost exclusively to “new” poetry, much of which was written by young authors who admired or were in some way connected with Ezra Pound.[ref]Pound wrote in a 1928 letter to his father Homer: “C. H. Ford is starting a local show, with [Herman] Spector, Bill Wms. and Vogel, and printing Zuk. Let’s see what they can do.” Quoted in Ezra Pound to His Parents, 618

120. Pound wrote in a 1928 letter to his father Homer: “C. H. Ford is starting a local show, with [Herman] Spector, Bill Wms. and Vogel, and printing Zuk. Let’s see what they can do.” Quoted in Ezra Pound to His Parents, 618

Blues introduced itself as a magazine “of a more complete revolt against the cliche and commonplace, welcoming poetry and prose radical in form, subject or treatment,” with the editors announcing it the inaugural issue that it was intended to serve as “a haven for the unorthodox in America and for those writers living abroad who, though writing in English, have decided that America and American environment are not hospitable to creative work.”

[Both Henry Spector and Joseph Vogel were mentioned by Ezra Pound in his February 1, 1929 letter of advice to Charles Henri Ford. Ford was about to begin Blues (“out of a blue sky, a magazine of new rhythms,” promised an introductory advertisement that summer in transition) which included Spector and Vogel among its contributing editors, along with Eugene Jolas, Oliver Jenkins, William Carlos Williams and Jacques le Clercq.

“As you don’t live in same town with yr. start contribs, you can not have fortnightly meeting and rag each other. Best substitute is to use circular letters. For example write something (or use this note of mine), add your comments, send it on to Vogel, have him show it to Spector, and then send it to Bill Wms. each adding his blasts or blesses or comment of whatever-damn natr. Etc. When it has gone the rounds, you can send it back here.”

Pound had told Ford “every generation or group must write its own literary program. The way to do it is by circular letter to your ten chief allies. Find out the two or three points you agree on (if any) and issue them as program. . . .” He did urge the magazine’s support for his own program, including passage of some “decent and civilized copyright act” and amendment of Article 211 of the Penal Code with the 12 words “This statute does not apply to works of literary and scientific merits.”

The letter to Ford continued: “You shd. look into Art. 211 and the copyright mess. If you don’t want to attend to that part of the mag, get Vogel or Spector or some of the huskier and more publicke minded members to do the blasting.”

Before the first issue of Blues appeared, Pound wrote: “If it is any use, I shd. be inclined not to make an effort to bring out another Xile until one has seen whether Blues can do the job. Or do you consider this excessive on my part? I don’t see that there is room or need for two mags doing experimental stuff . . . at present moment.” He lent further encouragement with “Seems to me a chance for the best thing since The Little Review and certainly the best thing done in America without European help.”

Pound, who had published Spector’s brief prose piece “Cloaks and Suits” in the Spring 1928 issue of Exile, corresponded considerably with Herman during the period which followed but unfortunately none of his letters to the young writer were saved. In 1973 Louis Zukofsky confirmed tersely that he was responsible for Spector’s first publication in Exile: “Yes, I was. Can’t say more.” …]

Publication History and Connection to the “Objectivists”

The first issue of Blues (February 1929) contained just under 30 pages of poetry from a dozen contributors, including two short poems by Louis Zukofsky, as well as work by Parker Tyler and Norman Macleod. The second issue (March 1929) carried a brief “program” from Pound, a manifesto from Williams about the role and direction of a new little magazine in America devoted to poetry, and three more poems by Zukofsky. At the end of the contributors note to the second issue, the editors also announced “An Expatriate Number of Blues is planned for the near future, containing poems and stories by those writers living abroad who, though writing in English, have decided that America and American environment are not hospitable to creative work.”[ref]”Notes,” 52

121. ”Notes,” 52 This expatriate issue would appear in July 1929.

The third issue (April 1929) included three short poems by Norman Macleod as well as Kenneth Rexroth’s first ever published poem, entitled “Poem”; the fourth issue (May 1929) contained Williams’s prose statement “A Note on the Art of Poetry,” two additional Macleod poems, and four poems by Zukofsky; and the fifth issue (June 1929) included poetry by Parker Tyler, Kenneth Rexroth, and Harry Roskolenkier. The sixth issue, published in July 1929, was the promised expatriate number, and was the editors’ most ambitious undertaking to date, with new work by a host of significant American modernist writers living in Europe: Gertrude Stein, H.D., Kay Boyle, Eugene Jolas, Walter Lowenfels, Harry Crosby, Leigh Hoffman, Harold Samelson, and Laurence Vail.

Blues 7 announcement

The announcement, published in the sixth issue of Blues that the magazine would be switching to a quarterly format with its next issue.

The sixth issue also included an announcement that Blues “proclaiming a greater war against stupidity and standardization” would be switching to a quarterly publishing schedule, with the next issue “greatly enlarged in scope and content” to be issued in Fall 1929 at sold for 75 cents a copy. The seventh issue also featured the magazine’s first major aesthetic overhaul, complete with a new cover design by Andrée Dutcher Rexroth (Kenneth’s wife), the first change to the editorial masthead since the magazine was founded (Parker Tyler was listed as an associate editor and Joseph Vogel was dropped from the list of contributing editors) and reflects an attempt at internationalization of audience, listing the sales price on the cover of the issue in three different currencies for the first time.[ref]”75 cents—20 francs—3 shillings”

122. ”75 cents—20 francs—3 shillings” The issue itself included a short prose “introduction to a collection of modern writings” from Williams, in which Williams wrote:

We live, gentle reader, in a world very much gone to pot, the thought of it tortured, the acts of it blind, the flight from it impossible.

What to do?

Either retreat, swallowing whole, as complete as it is the Summa Theologica, the philosophy dependent therefrom and the poetry pinned thereto and go to rest with John Donne in that tight little island of dreams where all past wealth is garnered; or face the barren waves— …

We now boldly assert that saving the retreat there is no other way for writing in the present state of the world than that which BLUES has fostered.

“You MUST come over.”[ref]”introduction to a collection of modern writings,” 3.

123. ”introduction to a collection of modern writings,” 3.

and included poetry by Williams, Parker Tyler, Kenneth Rexroth, Norman Macleod, Charles Henri Ford, and new contributors Richard Johns and Forrest Anderson, for whom his publication in Blues marked his first ever poetic publication anywhere. The issue also included various letters from correspondents in Europe and across the United States, with Harold Samelson supplying a “Paris Letter,” Parker Tyler writing some New York Notes, “Augustus Tiberius” writing a letter from San Diego, and Kenneth Rexroth providing a “Letter from San Francisco.”

Prior to the publication of the eighth issue in Spring 1930, Ford moved Blues from his home in rural Mississippi to New York City’s Greenwich Village. Greenwich Village was the natural choice for Ford for several reasons. First, it was where Kathleen Tankersley Young, his associate editor had been based, and the base from which she had worked to promote the magazine. Second, the bohemian reputation and sexual permissiveness of the village was a strong attractor for the openly gay Ford, who stifled under the provincial and inhibiting restraints of his Mississippi hometown.[ref]For an intimate personal account of Ford’s years in Greenwich Village, see Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler’s 1933 novel The Young and Evil. For a more academic summary of this period in the history of Blues, see Alexander Howard’s “Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms and the Belated Renovation of Modernism” in The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies, Volume 5, Number 2, 2014, especially pp. 188-190.

124. For an intimate personal account of Ford’s years in Greenwich Village, see Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler’s 1933 novel The Young and Evil. For a more academic summary of this period in the history of Blues, see Alexander Howard’s “Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms and the Belated Renovation of Modernism” in The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies, Volume 5, Number 2, 2014, especially pp. 188-190. Finally, Young and Ford had already established a strong relationship with Lew Ney, who became the magazine’s patron and publisher upon Ford’s move to the city. Ney, born Luther Emanuel Widen, was already publishing the little magazines Parnassus (“A Wee Poetry Magazine”) and Bohemia (“A Magazine of Good Fellowship”) and was such a prominent fixture in the community that he was known colloquially as the “Mayor of Greenwich Village.” Ney and Ford operated Blues from an address at 12 E 15th Street, on the edge of Union Square Park, and less than half a mile from the Gramercy Park address that Richard Johns would relocate Pagany to later in 1930.

The eighth issue of Blues featured a slight reshuffling of the editorial board, with Tankersley Young being listed as a contributing instead of associate editor, Oliver Jenkins being dropped from the list of contributing editors, and Lew Ney being added to the masthead as the magazine’s publisher. The issue itself featured four poems by Zukofsky, two by Williams, and one each by Parker Tyler, Forrest Anderson, and Charles Henri Ford. This issue was followed was followed by a ninth and final issue of the magazine in Fall 1930.The issue makes no mention of Lew Ney, listing instead Ford’s old address in Columbus, Mississippi, and also had a much reduced editorial board, listing only Ford and Tyler as editor and associate editor, respectively, and describing William Carlos Williams and Eugene Jolas as “advisory editors.” This last issue, which touted on its cover an article entitled “Can the Poet Change the World?” by Gottfried Benn and Johannes R. Becker, also included Williams’ prose statement “Caviar and Bread Again: A Warning to the New Writer,” along with poetry by William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Henri Ford, Forrest Anderson, and Parker Tyler. In “Caviar and Bread Again,” Williams’ argued that too much modern writing, even when it attended to the necessity of experimenting with technique, neglected the importance of substance, writing:

There is one major phase of modern poetry on which both critics arid their begetters have gone astray. That is substance. So riled have the former been over the modern radical changes in technique that as far as any substance can be distilled out of what they have had to say such substance is thoroughly negligible. …

But it is from the poet himself that the trouble really arises. We’ve heard enough of the cant that the artist is a born weakling, that his works are effects of a neurosis, sublimations, escapes from the brutal contact with life that he, poor chap, horribly fears. This has always been said, and Freud seemed to put the last nail in the coffin with his discoveries. But, as reported in the last number of transition, an abler man than Freud, Dr. C. G. Jung, has finally revealed the true state of affairs td be profoundly in favor of the poet. It is he, the poet, whose function it is, when the race has gone astray, to lead it— to destruction perhaps, but in any case, to lead it.

This he will not do by mere blather but by a magnificent organization of those materials his age has placed before him for his employment.

At the same time he usually invents a technique. Or he seems to do so. But really it is that he has been the fortunate one who has gathered all the threads together that have been spun for many centuries before him and woven them into his design.

What I am driving at is some kind of an estimate of what is going on today, some kind of estimate of the worth of modern poetry before condemning it for the lack of substance which strikes one in such a magazine as Blues.

The older poetry is worn out for us along with all new work which follows the older line. No amount of re-inflation after Eliot’s sorry fashion can help it. At most we can admire Eliot’s distinguished use of sentences and words and the tenor of his mind, but as for substance—he is for us a cipher. We must invent, we must create out of the blankness about us, and we must do this by the use of new constructions.

And for this we cannot wait until—until—until Gabriel blow his horn. We must do it now— today. We must have the vessel ready when the gin is mixed. We’ve got to experiment with technique long before the final summative artist arrives and makes it necessary for men to begin inventing all over again.

On the poet devolves the most vital function of society: to recreate it— the collective world— in time of stress, in a new mode, fresh in every part, and so set the world working or dancing or murdering each other again, as it may be.

Instead of that— Lord, how serious it sounds!—let’s play tiddlywinks with the syllables. And why not? It doesn’t cost anything except the waste of a lot of otherwise no-good time. And yet we moderns expect people actually to read us—even to buy our magazines and pay for them with money. . . .

Experiment we must have, but it seems to me that a number of the younger writers has forgotten that writing doesn’t mean just inventing new ways to say “So’s your Old Man.” I swear I myself can’t make out for the life of me what many of them are talking about, and I have a will to understand them that they will not find in many another.

If you like Gertrude Stein, study her for her substance; she has it, no matter what the idle may say. The same for Ezra Pound, for James Joyce. It is substance that makes their work important. Technique is a part of it— new technique; technique is itself substance, as all artists must know; but it is the substance under that, forming that, giving it its reason for existence which must be the final answer and source of reliance.

We must listen to no blank-minded critic, without understanding, when it comes to what we shall do and how we shall do it; but we must realize that it is a world to which we are definitely articulating— or to which we might be, were we all able enough.[ref]”Caviar and Bread Again,” 46-47.

125. ”Caviar and Bread Again,” 46-47.

This stunning attack on Blues and its contributors was caveated in the magazine’s back matter with this an admirable note from the editors: “Blues asked Dr. Williams for an interior criticism; the result is published on the part of the editors with the disregard for personal feelings which they have striven to make a principle.”[ref]”Notes on Contributors,” 52.

126. ”Notes on Contributors,” 52. If Benn and Becker’s cover article was intended to open a conversation about the role of the artist, Williams’ reflections seem like a more fitting conclusion to a conversation, a brutal and slightly cranky summation of the efforts of an experimental magazine which had given voice to a number of young modernist poets. Williams’ critique of the magazine might also serve as a kind of last word for and on Blues, as well, since Ford and Ney could not make the magazine a viable concern, despite their best efforts, and Blues suspended publication of the magazine immediately after this ninth issue appeared in Fall 1930.

Even as their influence in Blues began to wane and the magazine folded, Williams and Zukofsky had already identified in Richard Johns’ Pagany another possible vehicle for spreading both their work and some of their ideas about the role and function of writing. A quick glance at the contributor list for both Blues and Zukofsky’s “Objectivists” issue of poetry is quite telling, however. Of the 23 individual contributors Zukofsky published in the February 1931 issue of Poetry, almost half had been previously published in Blues. While Ford and Tyler, the magazine’s editors were not given their own space in Zukofsky’s issue, he did feature their ideas and their poetry in a “symposium” included in the magazine, showing the magazine’s relative influence and importance in the nucleation of those writers Zukofsky chose to present as “Objectivists.” Blues was, in other words, one of the major literary gathering places for Zukofsky, a fact borne out by the close correspondence of publication’s contributor list with that of “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931.

Pagany

Years in operation: 1930-1933 [12 issues]
Editor: Richard Johns
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, Carl Rakosi, Basil Bunting, Robert McAlmon, Kenneth Rexroth, Norman Macleod, Charles Henri Ford, R B N Warriston, Parker Tyler, Richard Johns, Emanuel Carnevali, Forrest Anderson, Mary Butts, Frances Fletcher, Harry Roskolenko [Roskolenkier]

If Blues had been, in some form a continuation of Pound’s The Exile, and an important proto-“Objectivist” publication, Pagany was perhaps even more significant in the formation and consolidation of the group, with fourteen of the writers included in the “Objectivists” 1931 issue and all but George Oppen, T. S. Eliot, and Jerry Reisman of the poets included in An “Objectivists” Anthology appearing in Pagany during its three year, twelve issue run.

In April 1929, Richard Johns, the 24 year old son of prominent Boston attorney Benjamin Newhall Johnson, wrote to William Carlos Williams declaring his intention to establish a new quarterly magazine published from Boston and dedicated to presenting the work of writers born in the United States, including those then living abroad. Johns’ own literary credentials were meager: he had not graduated from either high school or college (though he had attended Classical High School in his hometown of Lynn and taken courses in poetry and literary theory at Columbia) and had at that time only published a very small number of his own poems, and those in little-known magazines. Johns was, however, both wealthy and ambitious enough to attempt to recruit Williams’ aid in launching his publishing venture. In his introductory letter, Johns informed Williams of his desire to name the magazine Pagany, in tribute to Williams’ recently published novel A Voyage to Pagany, invited Williams to serve as an associate editor for the magazine, and asked him to contribute both a manifesto and “a good bit of your work” for the magazine. [ref]Quoted in Pagany: Toward a Native Quarterly, 3.

127. Quoted in Pagany: Toward a Native Quarterly, 3. Williams and Johns exchanged a series of letters in July of that year, with Williams eventually replying:

Yes, I am with you but I’d like best not to have any official editorial status–unless you prefer otherwise. I can’t see that my name would help you. Besides, I am now american representative for a french quarterly and Blues has my name on its stationary – meaning nothing. Yet, if you want my name you may use it. …

My suggestion is that I write for each quarterly a few pages, five to twenty, in which I shall be permitted to develop a theme, slowly and steadily, the native theme and its implications. In addition you may occasionally accept a poem, or a prose bit now and again. But the pages I write will be signed and published on my own responsibility, not that of the magazine. You could then attack me in the same issue as you may care to. Is that what you want? …

Le’s see more of your mind relative to the undertaking. Then I’ll write the manifesto, yes I will, after which you may open the screen door and point to the exit if you wish to without in the least offending …

[as a postscript] But I’m for you and I like your deliberation. I’ll do everything I can to further your project which may be important if it can be organized on some basis of decency (not moral)[ref]Quoted in Pagany: Toward a Native Quarterly, 11-12.

128. Quoted in Pagany: Toward a Native Quarterly, 11-12.

Publication History
Pagany 1.1 cover

The cover of the first issue of Richard Johns’ Pagany: A Native Quarterly, published in January 1930.

Having secured both Williams’ approval and a fifteen hundred dollar loan from his father to subsidize the first year of publication, Johns pushed forward with his plans, printing a thousand copies of the first issue of Pagany: A Native Quarterly in January 1930. Like each of the subsequent issues, the first issue of the magazine was printed in black on a brightly colored cover stock (in this case, orange), and prominently featured the magazine’s visual mark, a stylized tree within growing in a fenced enclosure, which had been designed by Johns’ friend Virginia Lee Burton, and a complete list of the magazine’s contributors, with each contributor’s name printed in the same size type.

In the announcement which inaugurated the magazine’s first issue, Johns offered the following explanation of the title: “Pagus is a broad term, meaning any sort of collection of peoples from the smallest district or village to the country as an inclusive whole. Taking America as pagus, any one of us as the paganus, the inhabitant, and our conceptions, our agreements and disagreements, our ideas, ideals, whatever we have to articulate is pagany, our expression.” (A Return to Pagany, 50). Throughout its twelve issue run, Johns made only a handful of exceptions to Pagany‘s “Americans only” publication policy.[ref]He printed the prominent English modernist Mary Butts and the French poet and graphic artist Georges Hugnet (through the intervention of Gertrude Stein), he published Olga Rudge’s translation of Jean Cocteau’s “Mystère Laïc” after Hound & Horn had failed to publish it in a timely enough fashion for Pound, and he printed Basil Bunting’s loose translation of a Horatian ode, “A Cracked Record,” though one could argue that this was not strictly an exception to his rule, as Bunting had submitted the poem while living in New York as a newlywed.

129. He printed the prominent English modernist Mary Butts and the French poet and graphic artist Georges Hugnet (through the intervention of Gertrude Stein), he published Olga Rudge’s translation of Jean Cocteau’s “Mystère Laïc” after Hound & Horn had failed to publish it in a timely enough fashion for Pound, and he printed Basil Bunting’s loose translation of a Horatian ode, “A Cracked Record,” though one could argue that this was not strictly an exception to his rule, as Bunting had submitted the poem while living in New York as a newlywed.

Though Williams had declined Johns’ offer to appear on the magazine’s masthead as an associate editor, the first page of the first issue of the magazine did include a brief manifesto he had written, and throughout the magazine’s run Williams solicited and reviewed contributions from many of his friends and acquaintances, offered occasional editorial suggestions and publishing advice, and regularly contributed his own writing (most notably, his novel White Mule, which was written for and serialized by Pagany). Williams also put Zukofsky and several others in touch with Johns early enough to have their work included in the first issue[ref]Zukofsky’s first letter to Johns, indicating that Williams “has suggested that I get in touch with you,” was dated November 7, 1929. University of Delaware Special Collections, MS 110, Box 10, Folder 260

130. Zukofsky’s first letter to Johns, indicating that Williams “has suggested that I get in touch with you,” was dated November 7, 1929. University of Delaware Special Collections, MS 110, Box 10, Folder 260

In gathering contributors to his new magazine, Johns was also aided and encouraged by a number of other avant-garde publishers and editors, most notably Johns’ hometown friend Sherry Mangan, who had edited the recently defunct magazine Larus;[ref]Both Mangan and Johns lived in Lynn, Massachusetts and both were the sons of prominent Boston-area professionals with Harvard pedigrees. Mangan’s father, John Joseph Mangan, had earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and had established a children’s clinic in Lynn, and was also an accomplished historian, having written a history of Lynn and a massive biography/psychological portrait of the Dutch humanist theologian Desiderius Erasmus. The younger Mangan had printed a poem by Johns in the final issue of Larus, and the relationship between the two men was amicable enough that they arranged for Larus unfulfilled subscriptions to be absorbed by Pagany.

131. Both Mangan and Johns lived in Lynn, Massachusetts and both were the sons of prominent Boston-area professionals with Harvard pedigrees. Mangan’s father, John Joseph Mangan, had earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and had established a children’s clinic in Lynn, and was also an accomplished historian, having written a history of Lynn and a massive biography/psychological portrait of the Dutch humanist theologian Desiderius Erasmus. The younger Mangan had printed a poem by Johns in the final issue of Larus, and the relationship between the two men was amicable enough that they arranged for Larus unfulfilled subscriptions to be absorbed by Pagany. Blues editor Charles Henri Ford;[ref]Ford included advertisements announcing the founding of Pagany in several issue of Blues and should be credited with connecting Johns to several writers he had published, including Kenneth Rexroth, Erskine Caldwell, Noman Macleod, Parker Tyler, Kathleen Tankersley Young, and Forrest Anderson.
132. Ford included advertisements announcing the founding of Pagany in several issue of Blues and should be credited with connecting Johns to several writers he had published, including Kenneth Rexroth, Erskine Caldwell, Noman Macleod, Parker Tyler, Kathleen Tankersley Young, and Forrest Anderson. Gorham Munson, who had edited the expatriate journal Secession from 1922-1924 and would later found the Social Credit journal New Democracy;[ref]In July 1929, Munson replied to Johns’ query about his experiences with Secession by sending the names and addresses for elevent potential contributors to the magazine, including Kenneth Burke, Jean Toomer, and Hart Crane. See Pagany: Toward a Native Quarterly, 14-15.
133. In July 1929, Munson replied to Johns’ query about his experiences with Secession by sending the names and addresses for elevent potential contributors to the magazine, including Kenneth Burke, Jean Toomer, and Hart Crane. See Pagany: Toward a Native Quarterly, 14-15. and Ezra Pound, each of whom encouraged their literary acquaintances and former contributors to consider sending their new work to Pagany.

Connection to the “Objectivists”

While neither Johns nor Pagany could ever said to have acted as the mouthpiece for a single group or movement, “Objectivist” writers had ready access to the magazine and appeared in nearly every issue. The connection between Johns and the other Objectivists was facilitated by Williams and Zukofsky, and began with the magazine’s founding more than a year before the appearance of the Poetry issue which would announce and name the “group.” The January 1930 issue included poetry by Zukofsky, Rexroth and McAlmon, as well as Williams’ manifesto and a short critical essay on the work of Gertrude Stein. In Williams’ brief manifesto he suggested that “the scientific age is drawing to a close” and that amidst a proliferation of “bizarre derivations,” the mind needed a place to search “for that with which to rehabilitate our thought and our lives.” His proposal was greater fidelity “[t]o the word, a meaning hardly distinguishable from that of place, in whose great, virtuous and at present little realized potency we hereby manifest our belief,”[ref]Quoted in Pagany: Toward A Native Quarterly, 50

134. Quoted in Pagany: Toward A Native Quarterly, 50 an idea which he further developed in his essay on the writing of Gertrude Stein published later in the same issue.[ref]Here, Williams wrote: “How in a democracy, such as the United States, can writing, which has to compete with excellence elsewhere and in other times, remain in the field and be at once objective (true to fact) intellectually searching, subtle and instinct with powerful additions to our lives? It is impossible, without invention of some sort, for the very good reason that observation about us engenders the very opposite of what we seek: triviality, crassness, and intellectual bankruptcy. And yet what we do see can in no way be excluded. Satire and flight are two possibilities but Miss Stein has chosen otherwise. But if one remain in a place and reject satire, what then? To be democratic, local (in the sense of being attached with integrity to actual experience) Stein, or any other artist, must for subtlety ascend to a plane of almost abstract design to keep alive. To writing, then, as an art in itself. Yet what actually impinges on the senses must be rendered as it appears, by use of which, only, and under which, untouched, the significance has to be disclosed. It is one of the major problems of the artist. “Melanctha” is a thrilling clinical record of the life of a colored woman in the present day United States, told with directness and truth. It is without question one of the best bits of characterization produced in America. It is universally admired. This is where Stein began. But for Stein to tell a story of that sort, even with the utmost genius, was not enough under the conditions in which we live, since by the very nature of its composition such a story does violence to the larger scene which would be portrayed. … The more carefully the drawing is made, the greater the genius involved and the greater the interest that attaches, therefore, to the character as an individual, the more exceptional that character becomes in the mind of the reader and the less typical of the scene. … Truly, the world is full of emotion — more or less — but it is caught in bewilderment to a far more important degree. And the purpose of art, so far as it has any, is not at least to copy that, but lies in the resolution of difficulties to its own comprehensive organization of materials. And by so doing, in this case, rather than by copying, it takes its place as most human. To deal with Melanctha, with characters of whomever it may be, the modern Dickens, is not therefore human. To write like that is not, in the artist, to be human at all, since nothing is resolved, nothing is done to resolve the bewilderment which makes of emotion an inanity. That, is to overlook the gross instigation and with all subtlety to examine the object minutely for “the truth” — which if there is anything more commonly practised or more stupid, I have yet to come upon it. To be most useful to humanity, or to anything else for that matter, an art, writing, must stay art, not seeking to be science, philosophy, history, the humanities, or anything else it has been made to carry in the past.” (Quoted in Pagany: Toward A Native Quarterly, 58-59.)
135. Here, Williams wrote: “How in a democracy, such as the United States, can writing, which has to compete with excellence elsewhere and in other times, remain in the field and be at once objective (true to fact) intellectually searching, subtle and instinct with powerful additions to our lives? It is impossible, without invention of some sort, for the very good reason that observation about us engenders the very opposite of what we seek: triviality, crassness, and intellectual bankruptcy. And yet what we do see can in no way be excluded. Satire and flight are two possibilities but Miss Stein has chosen otherwise. But if one remain in a place and reject satire, what then? To be democratic, local (in the sense of being attached with integrity to actual experience) Stein, or any other artist, must for subtlety ascend to a plane of almost abstract design to keep alive. To writing, then, as an art in itself. Yet what actually impinges on the senses must be rendered as it appears, by use of which, only, and under which, untouched, the significance has to be disclosed. It is one of the major problems of the artist. “Melanctha” is a thrilling clinical record of the life of a colored woman in the present day United States, told with directness and truth. It is without question one of the best bits of characterization produced in America. It is universally admired. This is where Stein began. But for Stein to tell a story of that sort, even with the utmost genius, was not enough under the conditions in which we live, since by the very nature of its composition such a story does violence to the larger scene which would be portrayed. … The more carefully the drawing is made, the greater the genius involved and the greater the interest that attaches, therefore, to the character as an individual, the more exceptional that character becomes in the mind of the reader and the less typical of the scene. … Truly, the world is full of emotion — more or less — but it is caught in bewilderment to a far more important degree. And the purpose of art, so far as it has any, is not at least to copy that, but lies in the resolution of difficulties to its own comprehensive organization of materials. And by so doing, in this case, rather than by copying, it takes its place as most human. To deal with Melanctha, with characters of whomever it may be, the modern Dickens, is not therefore human. To write like that is not, in the artist, to be human at all, since nothing is resolved, nothing is done to resolve the bewilderment which makes of emotion an inanity. That, is to overlook the gross instigation and with all subtlety to examine the object minutely for “the truth” — which if there is anything more commonly practised or more stupid, I have yet to come upon it. To be most useful to humanity, or to anything else for that matter, an art, writing, must stay art, not seeking to be science, philosophy, history, the humanities, or anything else it has been made to carry in the past.” (Quoted in Pagany: Toward A Native Quarterly, 58-59.)

Immediately after reading the first issue of Pagany, Zukofsky wrote to Johns, sharing his praise for the format and subject matter of Pagany and submitting an additional seven poems for consideration for future issues, three of which were selected for the second issue of Pagany.[ref]In a letter dated January 8, 1930, Zukofsky wrote: “The format seems to me excellent: quite the proper thickness, and the matter being honest – to say the least – what else is there to say.” University of Delaware Special Collections, MS 110, Box 10, Folder 260.

136. In a letter dated January 8, 1930, Zukofsky wrote: “The format seems to me excellent: quite the proper thickness, and the matter being honest – to say the least – what else is there to say.” University of Delaware Special Collections, MS 110, Box 10, Folder 260. In addition to Zukofsky’s poems, the second issue (April-June 1930) contained Williams’ brief story “Four Bottles of Beer.” Williams, who wrote Johns with his private criticism of each issue, concluded his critique of this issue with praise for Zukofsky: “As you know I highly prize whatever Louis Zukofsky does. I think his poem the best in the issue if not the best – oh well.” In a subsequent letter written June 5, 1930, he informed Johns that “Louis Zukofsky has a swell essay on the American phase of the modernists in poetry, what they have said and done. It is rather prejudiced in my favor but it is good. Why not write asking him to let you see it?”[ref]Quoted in Pagany: Toward A Native Quarterly, 124, 127).
137. Quoted in Pagany: Toward A Native Quarterly, 124, 127).

On April 15, 1930, Zukofsky sent Johns another cluster of poems and an essay,[ref]Johns never published any of Zukofsky’s prose, but Zukofsky’s poem “For a Thing By Bach” did appear in the magazine’s fourth issue.

138. Johns never published any of Zukofsky’s prose, but Zukofsky’s poem “For a Thing By Bach” did appear in the magazine’s fourth issue. and informed Johns shortly thereafter that he had recently seen Charles Reznikoff and hoped to have some of his work to share with Johns soon. Zukofsky did in fact forward Johns some of Reznikoff’s poems, which Johns had reviewed and accepted by mid-July 1930.[ref]Zukofsky wrote to Johns on July 19, 1930, telling him “I am glad you are keeping the Reznikoff poems,” sharing Reznikoff’s Bronx address and encouraging him Johns to get in touch with him directly.
139. Zukofsky wrote to Johns on July 19, 1930, telling him “I am glad you are keeping the Reznikoff poems,” sharing Reznikoff’s Bronx address and encouraging him Johns to get in touch with him directly. In October 1930, Zukofsky enlisted Johns to write a letter of support for his application in late 1930 for a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in early November Zukofsky informed Johns that he would be editing an issue of Poetry magazine and asked to see any of Johns’ own work. Johns duly complied, with Zukofsky writing back on November 17, indicating that he was potentially interested in Johns’ poem “The Sphinx” and asked for his assent to some editorial pruning. Johns and Zukofsky exchanged several additional letters before a final version of “The Sphinx” satisfied both the author and its editor, with this poem eventually being included in the February 1931 issue of Poetry.

Johns was also instrumental in encouraging Williams to work in earnest on White Mule, Williams’ first attempt at pure fiction. The first chapter of the novel appeared in the third issue of Pagany (July-September 1930), and Johns printed future chapters of the book in serial form as quickly as Williams was able to produce them, ceasing only when the magazine folded. Apart from the first chapter of White Mule and a short story by McAlmon, the third issue also included poems published by Emanuel Carnevali.[ref]Carnevali was an Italian-born poet who had briefly served as an associate editor of Poetry magazine, and was a friend of Williams’. Zukofsky included two of his translations of Arthur Rimbaud poems in the February 1931 issue of Poetry.

140. Carnevali was an Italian-born poet who had briefly served as an associate editor of Poetry magazine, and was a friend of Williams’. Zukofsky included two of his translations of Arthur Rimbaud poems in the February 1931 issue of Poetry. The fourth issue of the magazine (October-December 1930) included another poem from Carnevali, two short poems by Williams: “Flowers by the Sea” and “Sea-Trout and Butterfish,” Zukofsky’s “For a Thing By Bach,” and Charles Reznikoff’s poem “The English in Virginia, April 1607.”

Late in 1930, Johns decided to move Pagany from the one-room apartment he had occupied in Boston to a new apartment/office at 9 Gramercy Park in Manhattan, a move which he completed by December 1930. Johns’ relocation to New York City gave him access to an expanded circle of writers and literary figures, including both Williams and (following his return to New York City after his brief stint at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) Zukofsky. Sometime late in 1930, Zukofsky also forwarded some of Rakosi’s work to Johns, just as he had done with Reznikoff, and Zukofsky and Johns met for the first time in person when Zukofsky returned to New York City from Madison during the winter break.[ref]Zukofsky references their meeting in a February 1931 letter to Pound, stating that Johns was “very quiet when I saw him in N.Y. this Xmas—said he wd. do at least a second year of Pagany” (Pound/Zukofsky, 92).

141. Zukofsky references their meeting in a February 1931 letter to Pound, stating that Johns was “very quiet when I saw him in N.Y. this Xmas—said he wd. do at least a second year of Pagany” (Pound/Zukofsky, 92). In a letter dated December 31, 1930, Zukofsky expressed his pleasure at Johns’ accepting some of Rakosi’s work and gave Johns postal addresses for both Rakosi (Callman Rawley) and Kenneth Rexroth.[ref]Rexroth was apparently a regular visitor to Johns’ office at Gramercy Park during the short time Rexroth was in New York City, where Rexroth frequently helped Johns arrange type and otherwise assist in production and pre-publication work (A Return to Pagany, 275-278).
142. Rexroth was apparently a regular visitor to Johns’ office at Gramercy Park during the short time Rexroth was in New York City, where Rexroth frequently helped Johns arrange type and otherwise assist in production and pre-publication work (A Return to Pagany, 275-278). After learning from Zukofsky that Johns had accepted some his poems for publication, Rakosi wrote Johns almost immediately, offering newer revisions and asking to see a copy of the magazine. In his very next letter, undated but almost certainly written in early 1931, Rakosi asked Johns about the magazine’s price and expressed a desire to see back numbers of the magazine, in particular any previous “numbers in which the work of Pound, Williams, Reznikoff, and Zukofsky have appeared.”[ref]Undated letter to Richard Johns. Archive of Pagany, 1925-1970 (Box 8, Folder 188). University of Delaware Library Special Collections, Newark, Delaware.
143. Undated letter to Richard Johns. Archive of Pagany, 1925-1970 (Box 8, Folder 188). University of Delaware Library Special Collections, Newark, Delaware. Rakosi’s request here is particularly interesting since it gives a very clear indication that Rakosi at least had some sense of his involvement with something like a group prior to the appearance of the “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931 issue of Poetry, and that he had formed this affinity despite being located in Texas, hundreds of miles from the other writers listed.

The first issue of the second volume (published in January 1931) included another installment of Williams’ White Mule, a poem by McAlmon and four from Zukofsky, and a rambling, prickly review and critique of Pagany‘s first year by Ezra Pound. In February 1931, Zukofsky published Johns’ poem “The Sphinx,” which was dedicated to Williams and offers a description of Williams happily building and destroying sand sculptures on a beach vacation with his family in the “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931 issue of Poetry.[ref]The events described in Johns’ poem took place at Good Harbor Beach during an eight day vacation the Williams family had taken with Johns and “a lady friend” to East Gloucester, Massachusetts in late summer 1930. Williams describes the trip briefly in a September 9, 1930 letter to Zukofsky included in The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 70, and Johns also described the episode in a brief prose story, “Figure,” which he published in the April-June 1931 issue of Pagany.

144. The events described in Johns’ poem took place at Good Harbor Beach during an eight day vacation the Williams family had taken with Johns and “a lady friend” to East Gloucester, Massachusetts in late summer 1930. Williams describes the trip briefly in a September 9, 1930 letter to Zukofsky included in The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 70, and Johns also described the episode in a brief prose story, “Figure,” which he published in the April-June 1931 issue of Pagany. Rakosi made his first appearance in Pagany in the April-June 1931 number, which included three of his poems along with Reznikoff’s “A Group of Verse,” Zukofsky’s “Blue Light,” a poem by Howard Weeks, and another installment of Williams White Mule. The July-September 1931 issue included three of Pound’s Cantos, four poems by Norman Macleod, Basil Bunting’s “A Cracked Record,” Rakosi’s “The Founding of New Hampshire,” and a further chapter of White Mule.[ref]Sometime in 1931 Johns had hosted a dinner party for Basil Bunting at Lou and Bill Chapman’s in Bethel, Connecticut, which Williams and possibly Zukofsky attended.
145. Sometime in 1931 Johns had hosted a dinner party for Basil Bunting at Lou and Bill Chapman’s in Bethel, Connecticut, which Williams and possibly Zukofsky attended. In March 1931, Zukofsky forwarded three poems by R. B. N. Warriston to Johns, and by late June, Zukofsky had returned to New York City from Madison, Wisconsin, after an unhappy year teaching there and expressed his eagerness to meet again with Johns in person. Zukofsky continued to send his own work to Johns, and invited Johns in September 1931 to send along any of his own work and any work by previously unpublished authors he wished to have considered for inclusion in the “Objectivists” anthology Zukofsky was then preparing. The same month, Zukofsky also forwarded work by Frances Fletcher, encouraging Johns to contact her and his friend Warriston directly.

Pagany‘s fourth and final 1931 issue continued to display heavy “Objectivist” sympathies, as it contained a new chapter from Williams’ White Mule, a story by McAlmon, two poems by Norman MacLeod, single poems by Zukofsky and Carnevali, and three new poems by Carl Rakosi. The January-March 1932 issue of Pagany featured six poems by Norman Macleod, three from Carl Rakosi, another White Mule chapter, and a new story from McAlmon.

In early January 1932, Williams wrote to Johns to explain his growing involvement in plans to revive his little magazine Contact. In his letter Williams appears to be sensitive to what may have a felt to Johns like a potentially competitive move to Johns, plying Johns with both praise and reassurances that he saw Contact filling a narrower and therefore complementary literary function to that provided by Pagany:

I wish I could sit down and finish White Mule. I have never enjoyed writing anything more. But since you are willing to go on taking the bits as they come I’m not going to rush it. It is a real pleasure to me that you are pleased because I am writing it for you. The last Pagany shows the results of your experience in publication during the last two years, it is uniformly excellent reading from beginning to end. I have read the last issue particularly carefully inasmuch as I want all the help I can get in making up Contact. The only result of my cogitations so far has been an appreciation of your work. But C. will not have the general reading appeal that you have sought. In the first place I will not be able to use so much material and in the second I want to bear down more than you have cared on the significance of the word, as material. One feature of C. will be my own Comments. Perhaps this is sheer vanity. I dunno. But it is my purpose for all that and the thing that has made me want to take the trouble to go on – and to give up the time. I want to speak of Pagany (sooner or later) as the result of effective good taste in selecting material the hide bound minds of present day publishers have muffed. But Contact, rightly or wrongly, is more narrowly aimed. Perhaps that will be what’s the matter with it. Anyhow it is half printed and will be out by the end of the month – as it looks now.[ref]Quoted in A Return to Pagany, 378.

146. Quoted in A Return to Pagany, 378.

Whatever his reassurances meant to Johns, the reemergence of a Williams-edited Contact, particularly when combined with the emergence of the collaborative book publishing ventures, certainly siphoned off most of Johns’ “Objectivist” contributors. Apart from regular installments of Williams’ White Mule, the only work from core “Objectivist” writers to appear in the final three 1932 issues of Pagany was the first section of Zukofsky’s “A,” which Johns included in the July-September issue, though the final year of Pagany did also feature a handful of poems by Norman Macleod and a single poem by Harry Roskolenko, both of whom were included in Zukofsky’s issue of Poetry.[ref]Zukofsky had been discussing the possibility of publishing selections from “A” as early as October 1930, when he first mentioned the project to Johns in a letter.

147. Zukofsky had been discussing the possibility of publishing selections from “A” as early as October 1930, when he first mentioned the project to Johns in a letter.

Williams’ withdrawal from offering active editorial advice on poetry submissions coincided with the death of Johns’ father (and benefactor) Benjamin Johnson in February 1932. The disposition of his father’s estate dramatically reduced Johns’ source of financial support and contributed significantly to the demise of Pagany. While Johns’ magazine did publish fiction and poetry by an extraordinary array of significant American writers, like many of the little mags of its era, Pagany had never been a commercial success. In part, Johns was hampered by poor timing. Black Tuesday (October 29, 1929) took place just as Johns was finalizing his first issue, and resulted in the immediate loss of all his major advertisers (more than half a dozen prominent Boston businesses had taken out paying ads in the first issue). Johns paid contributors fairly generous sums: $3 / page for prose and a minimum of $3 for a half-page poem, but the loss of advertising revenue when combined with the usual lack of subscribers and dwindling sales from bookshops meant that Johns was never able to make Pagany a profitable enterprise, no matter its literary quality. In the face of increasing debts and diminished prospects of continued subsidy from family funds, Johns ceased publication of Pagany following the belated appearance of the magazine’s twelfth issue in February 1933.

In 1934, Johns married Veronica Parker, with whom he collaborated on a series of mystery novels, before moving to Cuttingsville, Vermont and devoting himself to photography and horticulture. In 1969, Johns collaborated with Stephen Halpert to produce A Return to Pagany, which includes a wealth of documentary information related to the magazine. The full archives for the magazine, including extensive correspondence between Johns, Williams, and Zukofsky are held in the University of Delaware’s Special Collections.

In relation to the “Objectivists,” Pagany provided an important and congenial outlet for the work of a whole network of loosely affiliated writers both immediately before and after the appearance of Zukofsky’s issue of Poetry. When it came to the poetry he published in Pagany from 1930 through early 1932, Johns’ editorial decisions were clearly influenced by the views of Williams and Zukofsky, and it is possible that the network and community fostered by Pagany also had some influence on the editorial choices Zukofsky made when selecting the contributors he included in his issue of Poetry, just as was true of The Exile and Blues.[ref]No other little magazine had a greater overlap of contributors with Zukofsky’s issue of Poetry as Pagany, as Johns published poetry by Williams, Zukofsky, Bunting, Reznikoff, Rakosi, McAlmon, Rexroth, Macleod, Howard Weeks, Harry Roskolenko, Charles Henri Ford, Parker Tyler, and Emanuel Carnevali in Pagany.

148. No other little magazine had a greater overlap of contributors with Zukofsky’s issue of Poetry as Pagany, as Johns published poetry by Williams, Zukofsky, Bunting, Reznikoff, Rakosi, McAlmon, Rexroth, Macleod, Howard Weeks, Harry Roskolenko, Charles Henri Ford, Parker Tyler, and Emanuel Carnevali in Pagany.

This relationship, however, has been largely neglected and poorly described in the scholarly literature to date. For example, in her Barbed-Wire Entanglements: The “New American Poetry,” 1930-1932,” Marjorie Perloff seeks to explore what she calls Zukofsky’s “‘Objectivist’ experiment” through the lens of a close examination of Johns’ Pagany. While Perloff’s effort is notable in the degree of attention it pays to understanding Zukofsky and the other “Objectivists” in relation to a little magazine of the era, she gets a number of important facts wrong, claiming for example that “In his capacity as informal poetry advisor, moreover, Zukofsky evidently persuaded Johns to publish poems by his “Objectivist” friends Carl Rakosi, Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, and Basil Bunting, by Kenneth Rexroth and Yvor Winters, Mary Butts and Mina Loy.” [ref]Barbed-Wire Entanglements: The “New American Poetry,” 1930-1932,” Modernism/Modernity 2:1 (January 1995), 148. This essay was also included in Perloff’s 2004 book, Poetry On and Off the Page, published by the University of Alabama Press.

149. Barbed-Wire Entanglements: The “New American Poetry,” 1930-1932,” Modernism/Modernity 2:1 (January 1995), 148. This essay was also included in Perloff’s 2004 book, Poetry On and Off the Page, published by the University of Alabama Press. Firstly, Johns never printed any work by Oppen, nor did Zukofsky (or any one else) ever publish or describe Loy as an “Objectivist.” More glaringly, it is strange indeed to imagine as plausible the suggestion that Mary Butts and Yvor Winters’ appearance in Pagany might be attributable to Zukofsky’s editorial persuasion; in the first place, both Butts and Winters had work included in the inaugural issue of Pagany, well before Zukofsky’s editorial influence on Johns had been established,[ref]The correspondence from Zukofsky to Johns contained in the Pagany archive, which Perloff concedes in a footnote that she did not herself consult, includes only a single, brief handwritten note from Zukofsky to Johns written prior to the publication of the first issue of Pagany. Johns’ letters to Zukofsky do not appear to have survived.
150. The correspondence from Zukofsky to Johns contained in the Pagany archive, which Perloff concedes in a footnote that she did not herself consult, includes only a single, brief handwritten note from Zukofsky to Johns written prior to the publication of the first issue of Pagany. Johns’ letters to Zukofsky do not appear to have survived. and in the second place, Winters and Zukofsky were not on friendly terms, with the two men engaging in a vicious public spat in the pages of The Hound & Horn just a few years later.

Apart from questions of editorial influence, there is no disputing that Johns was a significant figure both personally and creatively for Williams in the early 1930s, as his encouragement and the outlet provided by Pagany were largely responsible for Williams trying his hand at fiction and effort spent writing White Mule which, once completed, later spawned two sequels: In the Money and The Build-Up. Williams admitted as much himself in a gracious letter he wrote to Johns in June 1937 just after New Directions had published the novel in full:

These are orders for you not to buy White Mule. As you may know it was released by Laughlin June 10 and has received a very good break from the reviewers, so much so that it looks like a winner. If it turns out to be a big success I want you to realize that I realize the important part you have played in the matter from the first. Without your early appreciation and most generous backing it might never have been written. Your critical acumen in suggesting that I leave out another complicating element in the story is also appreciated by me. Therefore, Mr. Richard Johns, it will give me the greatest pleasure in the world to sent to you (as soon as I get it) the first presentation copy of the book outside of my immediate family–and good luck to you. In just a few days you’ll have the book. It’s well made. I wish I could present it in person.[ref]Quoted in A Return to Pagany, 512).

151. Quoted in A Return to Pagany, 512).

Contact

Years in operation: 1920-1921, 1923 [first run, 5 issues]; 1932 [second run, 3 issues]
Editors: William Carlos Williams, Robert McAlmon [1920-1921], Monroe Wheeler [1923], Nathanael West [1932]
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, Carl Rakosi, Robert McAlmon, Parker Tyler

In 1920, shortly after the then 25 year old Robert McAlmon had arrived in New York City, he met the then 37 year old William Carlos Williams at a party hosted by the anarchist poet Lola Ridge. The two men quickly became friends, and before long, joint publishers of a little magazine, which they called Contact. Between December 1920 and the summer of 1921, when McAlmon left for Paris, McAlmon and Williams published four issues of Contact, and in June 1923, Williams published the fifth and final issue of Contact‘s first run with assistance from Monroe Wheeler.[ref]The initial run of Contact can be read here: (pdf).

152. The initial run of Contact can be read here: (pdf). For most of its first run, Contact was a fairly homely, homespun affair with a quite limited range. While its circulation never rose above 200 copies, Contact did provide an early outlet for Williams to develop and air his idiosyncratic views about the possibilities for a modern American literature rooted both in vernacular speech and a distinctly American locality.

In February 1921, McAlmon entered into marriage of convenience with Bryher (Annie Winifred Glover), the daughter of Sir John Ellerman, one of the wealthiest men in Britain.[ref]Byher proposed to McAlmon on Valentine’s Day (during tea at a New York City hotel), and they married later the same day at the New York City Hall. McAlmon described their marriage in a letter to Williams as “legal only, unromantic, and strictly an agreement. Bryher could not travel and be away from home, unmarried. It was difficult being in Greece and other wilder places without a man. She thought I understood her mind, as I do somewhat and faced me with the proposition. Some other things I shan’t mention I knew without realizing.” (The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams, 219). This last sentence appears to be an allusion to Bryher’s lesbianism; she had been involved for some time in a romantic relationship with H.D. Involving herself in a traditional heterosexual marriage, Bryher felt, would protect both her and H.D. from unwanted accusations of impropriety or worse.

153. Byher proposed to McAlmon on Valentine’s Day (during tea at a New York City hotel), and they married later the same day at the New York City Hall. McAlmon described their marriage in a letter to Williams as “legal only, unromantic, and strictly an agreement. Bryher could not travel and be away from home, unmarried. It was difficult being in Greece and other wilder places without a man. She thought I understood her mind, as I do somewhat and faced me with the proposition. Some other things I shan’t mention I knew without realizing.” (The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams, 219). This last sentence appears to be an allusion to Bryher’s lesbianism; she had been involved for some time in a romantic relationship with H.D. Involving herself in a traditional heterosexual marriage, Bryher felt, would protect both her and H.D. from unwanted accusations of impropriety or worse. Following their marriage, McAlmon and Bryher moved to London (which McAlmon hated) and then to Paris, where McAlmon used his father-in-law’s wealth to found the Contact Publishing Company and the Contact Editions imprint, publishing work by a range of significant modernist writers, including his wife Bryher (Annie Ellerman), Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Williams and himself.[ref]For a good description of Bryher/Ellerman’s and McAlmon’s relationship, see Shari Benstock’s Women of the Left Bank: Paris 1900-1940, especially pp. 357-362.
154. For a good description of Bryher/Ellerman’s and McAlmon’s relationship, see Shari Benstock’s Women of the Left Bank: Paris 1900-1940, especially pp. 357-362.

Following closely on the heels of Zukofsky’s “Objectivists” 1931 issue of Poetry magazine, Williams was persuaded, late in 1931, to resurrect Contact as a quarterly magazine (subtitled “An American Quarterly Review”). The impetus (and funding) for the magazine’s revival was provided by Sally and Martin Kamin and David Moss, ambitious but inexperienced publishers who earlier in the year had also resuscitated McAlmon’s Contact Editions imprint to publish Nathanael [“Pep”] West’s novel The Dream Life of Balso Snell in New York City. Williams was listed as the magazine’s editor, and while both Robert McAlmon and Nathanel West were listed as “associate editors” on the masthead, McAlmon was not involved in the actual editing and publishing of the second run of the magazine, though he did contribute writing.

Though Williams’ involvement with the magazine had been accompanied by a surge of excitement, he began to evince doubts about his involvement almost immediately, confessing to Zukofsky just a week after he had relayed details about the planned contents of the magazine’s first issue in November 1931 that “Were it not for Reznikoff’s thing [The prose piece published in the first two issues as “My Country Tis of Thee”] I’d quit the Kamin quarterly at once, as is I’m holding on only long enough to see if I can put over the first issue. Maybe I won’t even last as long as that. The more I think of it the more certain I become that it’s the wrong lead for me.”[ref]The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 111.

155. The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 111. Williams’ ambivalence is made even more plain by the fact followed this letter just a few days later with another to Zukofsky in which he equivocated “And perhaps after all I am going on with Contact – I dunno for sure yet. It’s like the weather.” before ultimately writing “yes, I’m going on with it.” in by hand between the two sentences.[ref]The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 113.
156. The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 113.

By December 1931, Williams was once again working on preparing the final set of manuscripts, ultimately cutting Reznikoff’s original “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” manuscript in half, within a plan to print the second part in a subsequent issue. After several printing delays, the first issue of Contact‘s second run appeared in February 1932.

Contact 2.1 cover

The cover of the first issue of the second run of William Carlos Williams’ Contact: An American Quarterly Review , published in February 1932.

Like PaganyContact carried very little criticism and primarily printed poetry and short stories, announcing on the editorial page of the first issue its intention to “attempt to cut a trail through the American jungle without the use of a European compass.” Of the work included in this issue, Williams was most enthusiastic about Charles Reznikoff’s “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” a long prose account derived from old legal records which Zukofsky had recommended to him,[ref]See his letters to Zukofsky in The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky , pp. 105-111.

157. See his letters to Zukofsky in The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky , pp. 105-111. but the issue also featured McAlmon’s story “It’s All Very Complicated,” and two poems by Zukofsky (“Ferry” and “Madison, Wis. Remembering the Bloom of Monticello”), and Parker Tyler’s “Idiot of Love”. In addition to this work by his “Objectivist” peers, Williams also published three of his own prose pieces in the issue: an editorial (“Comment”), a remembrance of African-American women he had known (“The Colored Girls of Passenack — Old and New”) and a brief account of small magazines (“The Advance Guard Magazine”).

Williams’ “Comment,” which led off the magazine, offered a pugnacious and misanthropic defense of non-instrumental writing, anticipating his later, more famous declaration in “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower” that “It is difficult / to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there,” by first asking “what in the world is writing good for anyway?” and then asserting that “the underlying significance of all writing which is the writing itself.”[ref]”Comment,” 7

158. ”Comment,” 7

Put to its full use writing has nothing to convey, either pungently or crassly; it is neither stream-of-consciousness or bare-bitter-truth, has nothing to do with truth but is true or not as the case may be, a pleasure of the imagination. But the moment we are cheated by an impost, “literature” among the rest, we sense it and our pleasure falls.

You might say: People are in distress the world over, writing will not relieve them (or make them worse’ off). Why not take the money there is for a magazine like this and give it away—as food—to the bums, for instance living in packing cases over near the East River these winter nights?

But what makes you think money has any value?  there’s food enough rotting now in the world, even within sight of the place where these men’ are hanging out, to feed them every day in the year. Money has nothing to do with it. Bad writing has though: it’s the same sort of stupidity.

What in the world good are we any of us anyhow—except hypothetically, a pure question of the imagination? What difference would it make if any or all of us die tomorrow? It would be a blessed relief if most of us did, promptly, and left the rest room—There’s no sense in slobbering at the mouth over humanity and writing that way: We die every day, cheated—and with written promises of great good in our hands. To plead, a social cause, to split a theory, to cry out at the evil which we all partake of—gladly; that’s not writing.

The words themselves must stand and fall as men. A writer has no use for theories or propaganda, he has use for but one thing; the word that is possessing him at the moment he writes. Into that focus he must pour all he feels and has to say, as a writer, regardless of anything that may come of It. By word after word his meaning will then have been made clear.

A magazine without opinions or criteria other than words moulded by the impacts of experience (not for the depths of experience they speak of but the fulfillment of experience which they are) such a magazine would be timely to a period such as this. It can never be a question of its being read by a million or by anybody, in fact. Value for value our minds are justified when we can place over against those who are enjoying or failing beside us, words—that cannot be eaten or made into cloth or built into a roof to shelter them, but which have-been nevertheless subject to the same rigors which they suffer and the same joys which they were born out of their mothers’ bellies ‘to share.

Good writing stands by humanity in its joys and sorrows because under all it is—and just because it is—so many words.[ref]”Comment,” 8-9.

159. ”Comment,” 8-9.

It’s a curious way to start a new magazine in the depths of the Great Depression, and Williams’ proud unwillingness to encourage ideological propaganda is heightened by the opening lines of the poem which immediately followed his “Comment,” e. e. cummings’: “let’s start a magazine / to hell with literature / we want something redblooded // lousy with pure / reeking with stark / and fearlessly obscene // but really clean / get what I mean / let’s not spoil it / let’s make it serious // something authentic and delirious / you know something genuine like a mark / in a toilet”[ref]”Four Poems,” 10.

160. ”Four Poems,” 10.

Williams’ essay on “The Advance Guard Magazine” is also of particular interesting, both because it immediately preceded the first installment of David Moss’ very detailed bibliography of little magazines published in American since 1900 and because gave a brief account of Williams’ perception of the history of little magazines over the past two decades. After summarizing the rise and fall of several magazines, Williams concluded:

In all, the “small magazine” must, in its many phases, be taken as one expression. It represents the originality of our generation thoroughly free of an economic burden. Technically many excellent services to writing have been accomplished. Nothing could be more useful to the present day writer, the alert critic than to read and re-read the actual work produced by those who have made the “small magazine’’ during the past thirty years.[ref]”The Advance Guard Magazine,” Contact 2.1 (February 1932), 89-90.

161. ”The Advance Guard Magazine,” Contact 2.1 (February 1932), 89-90.

 

Williams had been displeased at several points with printing delays leading up to the magazine’s appearance, and was unhappy with the final product once the magazine was printed, writing to Zukofsky in mid-March 1932: “Yes Contact is out – down and out in so far as I am concerned: the first issue is the cheapest sort of a subterfuge for good faith in carrying out an agreement.” Zukofsky’s response to the issue echoed this disappointment: “Lowenthal brought his copy of Contact around the other day to show me. Moskowitz & Kaminsky’s job sure looks poor. They space my first poem wrong, & there are misprints in both,” but tempers his concern somewhat by continuing to enquire about the possibility of publication in future issues: “What about the second issue? All made up? Or could you use the preface to An “Objectivists” Anthology I once read to you in Grey’s restaurant? Or Movements 1, 5, and 6, or any one of em, of “A”? Or is Number 2 not coming out?” In response to Zukofsky’s query about whether there would even be a second issue, Williams replied “I don’t think I’ll use anything of yours in the next issue – if there is one. But if the second, or next, issue shows any kind of improvement over number 1 then– I’ll use your new Cantos of A in the third // At present I am holding back the material for no 2 until I have some assurance that I shall not be disgraced again.”[ref]To read the full exchange in context, see The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 124-126.

162. To read the full exchange in context, see The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 124-126.

Williams continued to express ambivalence about his editorial involvement in letters to Zukofsky, but told him in early June 1932 that while he “var[ied] from disgust to confidence … the damned thing seems to have a root.”[ref]The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 129

163. The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 129 The root had taken strong enough hold in Williams that a second issue of Contact (dated May 1932 on its title page) was published in late June. This issue featured another McAlmon story, entitled “Mexican Interval,” two poems and an editorial comment from Williams, and the second part of Reznikoff’s “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee,” complete with set of nineteenth century illustrations featuring depictions of “Oratorical and Poetical Gestures” and “Simple Bodily Pain,” “Love,” “Gratitude,” and “Simple Laughter” which Williams had inserted into the text.[ref]He wrote to Zukofsky on July 4, 1932: “You’ll see that we’ve taken liberties with Reznikoff’s contribution. If you should hear from him I’d like to know what he says. And I’d appreciate your own reaction. The cuts are from a book of about the time the incidents in his collect occurred and do set off his findings rather nicely – in my opinion. If he wants to use the cuts in his book as it will later appear I’ll be glad to let him have them. I hope at least that he will not take exception to what I have done.” A few weeks later Zukofsky replied indicating that while he hadn’t seen Reznikoff, he “seemed pleased in a letter.” The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 131-132.
164. He wrote to Zukofsky on July 4, 1932: “You’ll see that we’ve taken liberties with Reznikoff’s contribution. If you should hear from him I’d like to know what he says. And I’d appreciate your own reaction. The cuts are from a book of about the time the incidents in his collect occurred and do set off his findings rather nicely – in my opinion. If he wants to use the cuts in his book as it will later appear I’ll be glad to let him have them. I hope at least that he will not take exception to what I have done.” A few weeks later Zukofsky replied indicating that while he hadn’t seen Reznikoff, he “seemed pleased in a letter.” The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 131-132. Williams’ editorial comment was brief but direct, offering a defense of writing which roots itself in fidelity to “the object of our lives” in “this primitive and actual America,” concerning itself primarily with language, by both “holding firm to the vernacular” and concerning itself with new and “difficult form[s]” [ref]”Comment,” 109-110.
165. ”Comment,” 109-110.

In only one thing have we grounds for belief: the multiple object of our life itself.

When we are forced by a fact (a Boston, a Chicago even—provided we avoid sentimentality) it can save us from insanity, even though we do no more than photograph.

Eye to eye with some of the figure of our country and epoch, truthfully—avoiding science and philosophy—relying on our well-schooled sense, we can at least begin to pick up the essentials of a meaning.

This primitive and actual America—must sober us. From it revealing aspects of what might be an understanding may be seized for the building of our projects.

There is nothing to help us but ourselves. If we cannot find virtue in the object of our lives, then for us there is none anywhere. We won’t solve or discover by using “profound” (and borrowed) symbolism. Reveal the object. By that we touch authentically the profundity of its attachments—if we are able. But able or otherwise there is no other way for us.

But always, at this point, some black idiot cries out, “Regionalism”! Good God, is there no intelligence left on earth. Shall we never differentiate the regional in letters from the objective immediacy of our hand to mouth, eye to brain existence?

Take verse: Certainly by inversion and cliche, bad observation and pig-headedness, we can somehow make verse looks something “like” the classic. Without violence to our language, we cannot imitate those models and have what we do, anything but imitation.

But clinging first to the vernacular, we simply cannot turn out slick, clipped verses today and have them include anything of the breadth, depth, scope that we feel and know to be our lives. It is impossible; no mold has as yet been made to receive that much.

We can only, holding firm to the vernacular, seek that difficult form which cannot be an imitation, but is the new of our imperative requisites.

Writing is our craft calling for unending exertions. It needs an eye, a mind, the clean drive of inspiration—but work, work, work. Language is our concern. In revealing the character of an object, it must adapt itself to the truth of our senses. Cliches must disappear; the simple, profound difficulties of our art then become clear to us. It is to represent what is before us that dead stylisms disappear. Hard down on it—laboring to catch the structure of the thing, language must be moulded.

By this we are able to learn from the thing itself the ways of its own most profound implications, as all artists, everywhere, must be doing.[ref]”Comment,” 109-110.

166. ”Comment,” 109-110.

Though Williams was more pleased with the printing of this second issue, he recognized that the magazine cost more to produce than it could realistically hope to recoup in sales, and continued to express frustration with the editorial duties, writing to Zukofsky in late July that he was “next to hopeless about Contact. a dull chore – not enough good work or too much. I can’t tell which: a quarterly can’t be just amusing, must be weighted – if to be excused.” In his his next letter to Zukofsky he confided that “I have gently told Kamin that after this year there will be no Contact (in all probability) for little Willie.”[ref]The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 133, 135

167. The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 133, 135

Williams was serious about his discontent, and contributed to just one more issue of the magazine, resigning as an editor late in 1932. The third and final issue (October 1932) contained McAlmon’s poem “Farewell to Alamos,” and two poems each by Carl Rakosi (published under the joint title “African Theme, Needlework, Etc.”) and Louis Zukofsky (“Song 9” and “Song 10”), Williams’ story “For Bill Bird,” as well as a final brief editorial comment by Williams precipitated by and in response to T. S. Eliot’s recent appointment at Harvard:

There is a heresy, regarding the general character of poetry, which has become widely prevalent today and may shortly become more so through academic fostering: it is, that poetry increases in virtue as it is removed from contact with a vulgar world.

I cannot swallow the half-alive poetry which knows nothing of totality.

It is one of the reasons to welcome communism. Never may it be said, has there ever been great poetry that was not born out of a communist intelligence. … It is also one with the imagination. It will not down nor speak its piece to please, not even to please “communism”.

Nothing is beyond poetry. It is the one solid element on which our lives can rely, the “word” of so many disguises, including as it does man’s full consciousness, high and low, in living objectivity.

It is, in its rare major form, a world in fact come to an arrest of self realization: that eternity of the present which most stumble over in seeking …

Before anything else it is the denial of postponement. If poetry fails it fails at the moment since it has not been able enough to grasp the full significance of its day. And every school which seeks to seclude itself and build up a glamour of scholarship or whatever it may be, a mist, that is, behind which to hid, does so in order to impose itself rather shabbily on whatever intellience it seeks most to please.[ref]”Comment,” 131-132.

168. ”Comment,” 131-132.

It appears from Williams’ and Zukofsky’s correspondence that there were initially plans to bring out a fourth issue of Contact (to complete the series) under the editorship of a “‘group’ – proletarian in feeling,” for which Zukofsky had submitted two poems each by himself and by Oppen.[ref]Williams’ wrote to Zukofsky on December 15, 1932: “Nope! I’m out, completely out – so am returning the poems herewith. The one about the sink is the best to my taste and an excelent composition, perhaps you’d care to send it to “Contact #4″ directly,” and returned Oppen’s submission courtesy of Zukofsky in February 1933. In the same letter, he told Zukofsky that he had declined James Leippert’s offer to serve as associate editor of his planned magazine The Lion and Crown, telling Zukofsky: “No sir, not twice in the same trap.” See The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 145-146.

169. Williams’ wrote to Zukofsky on December 15, 1932: “Nope! I’m out, completely out – so am returning the poems herewith. The one about the sink is the best to my taste and an excelent composition, perhaps you’d care to send it to “Contact #4″ directly,” and returned Oppen’s submission courtesy of Zukofsky in February 1933. In the same letter, he told Zukofsky that he had declined James Leippert’s offer to serve as associate editor of his planned magazine The Lion and Crown, telling Zukofsky: “No sir, not twice in the same trap.” See The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 145-146. The mooted fourth issue never appeared, however, and Contact folded following the loss of both Williams and West, who left New York to pursue a screenwriting career in Los Angeles, as editors, having published just three issues in its second run.[ref]Scans of much of the second run of Contact can be viewed here: (pdf). For more on McAlmon and Williams’ involvement with Contact, see Paul Mariani’s William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked, pp. 174-186 (the first run), and pp. 319-339 (the second run).
170. Scans of much of the second run of Contact can be viewed here: (pdf). For more on McAlmon and Williams’ involvement with Contact, see Paul Mariani’s William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked, pp. 174-186 (the first run), and pp. 319-339 (the second run).

The New Review

Years in operation: 1931-1932 [6 issues]
Editor: Samuel Putnam
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Basil Bunting, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert McAlmon, Norman Macleod, Parker Tyler, Forrest Anderson, Emanuel Carnevali

In January 1931, Samuel Putnam established The New Review as “An international notebook for the arts, published from Paris,” a bi-monthly magazine whose editorial statement announced that it would be

the organ of no school or movement. It has, however, a very definite program, and a trend which will become apparent as the successive numbers appear. Its purpose is an international reportage for the arts, the higher journalism of ideas. Its character will, therefore, be largely critical, but in something more than the book-reviewer’s sense of the term. The editors believe that there is a need for such a magazine at the present moment …

THE NEW REVIEW will devote particular attention to the modern arts, such as photography, the cinema, sound and talking films, phonograph records, radio, etc.

The first issue listing Ezra Pound as the first of the magazine’s three associate editors,[ref]The other two were Maxwell Bodenheim and Richard Thoma. The first issue also listed two contributing editors: George Antheil, for music, and George Revey, for Russia.

171. The other two were Maxwell Bodenheim and Richard Thoma. The first issue also listed two contributing editors: George Antheil, for music, and George Revey, for Russia. and it was likely Pound’s affiliation with this new publication that empowered him to decisively cut off relations with Kirstein and The Hound & Horn as and when he did, since he appears to have believed that Putnam and The New Review would prove more a tractable outlet for his editorial judgment. Pound’s influence over Putnam’s magazine can be plainly seen as early as the second issue, which contained “A”-3 and “A”-4, two movements from Zukofsky’s ongoing epic autobiographical poem, as well as “Imagism,” Zukofsky’s review of René Taupin’s L’Influence du Symbolisme Français sur le Poésie American (de 1910 à 1920), which had been the occasion of Zukofsky’s heated war of words with Yvor Winters.

[more on the relationship between Putnam and Pound and Zukofsky. Zukofsky includes Putnam’s sonnet in the “Symposium” section of the “Objectivists” as something which he felt Parker Tyler and Charles Henri Ford ought to be interested in … from Tom Sharp: “Zukofsky wrote on 25 April 1931 to ask Pound to convince Putnam to publish an anthology of “Objectivists” which he would edit—and also, to improve Zukofsky’s reputation, a book of his poetry.1 Putnam had already accepted for publication in the spring issue of the New Review Zukofsky’s “‘A’, Third and Fourth Movements,” and “Imagism,” Zukofsky’s review of René Taupin’s L’Influence du Symbolisme Français sur le Poésie American (de 1910 à 1920). This issue also included a poem by Donal McKenzie, criticism by Pound, and a long editorial by Putnam, “Black Arrow.”]

Front and Morada: Norman MacLeod’s Magazines

In 1927(?), while an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico, Norman Macleod founded jackass, a “magazine of the Southwest,” which published an issue in January 1928. The magazine was short-lived, but while working as a custodian in the Petrified Forest National Monument in Holbrook, Arizona, Macleod founded and published a single issue of Palo Verde, a “Southwestern poetry magazine.” Neither Jackass nor Palo Verde survived the year, but Macleod, who had received special acknowledgement from Charles Henri Ford for his role in forming an “invaluable advisory board in the launching of Blues” already had plans to found a third magazine, placing an advertisement in the January 1929 issue of Blues announcing that a magazine to be called Brogan would be forthcoming in Autumn of that year. The announcement published in Blues 6 described the magazine as “an attempt to develop a literature of affirmation,” which was to be “experimental and radical in content and technic” and gave Macleod as the editor and listed Harold Salemson and Charles Henri Ford as contributing editors.[ref]Salemson’s contributor note to the sixth issue of Blues read: “Harold J. Salemson, born in Chicago in 1910 and educated in France and America, now lives in Paris where he edits Tambour, a French-English review. He has contributed in English to transitionPoetry and The Modern Quarterly; in French to La Revue Européenne, Europe, Monde, Le Mercure de France and Anthologie.”

172. Salemson’s contributor note to the sixth issue of Blues read: “Harold J. Salemson, born in Chicago in 1910 and educated in France and America, now lives in Paris where he edits Tambour, a French-English review. He has contributed in English to transitionPoetry and The Modern Quarterly; in French to La Revue Européenne, Europe, Monde, Le Mercure de France and Anthologie.”

“I was writing very conventional, rather poor, imitative verse at the time. It was Herman Spector and also Parker Tyler who wrote me advising me to climb out of that rut and so it was they who first influenced me in the direction of experiment and in trying to find my own voice and new forms–or at least to say what I was trying to say in language that was not distorted by restrictive English metrical patterns.” [Norman Macleod, quoted in Bastard in the Ragged Suit]

The Morada

Years in operation: 1929-1930 [5 issues]
Editor: Norman Macleod, Donal McKenzie [European editor, issue 5]
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, Louis Zukofsky, Robert McAlmon, Kenneth Rexroth, Richard Johns, Norman Macleod, Forrest Anderson, Charles Henri Ford

Brogan was ever published, but in Autumn 1929, Macleod did launch The Morada, a quarterly magazine which gave as its editorial board Macleod, William Flynn, C. V. Wicker and Donal McKenzie. The first issue, which listed Sydney Hunt, Harold Salemson, Ralph Cheyney, and Walter Barber as correspondents and Benjamin Musser, Joseph Vogel, Joseph Kalar, Harry Crosby, Herman Spector, Catherine Stuart, George W. St. Clair, Charles Henri Ford, and Dean B. Lyman Jr. as contributing editors, included work from 23 contributors, including Ezra Pound and a handful of writers, like Ford, Rexroth, Salemson, and Harry Crosby, who had also been recently published in Blues. The second issue of Morada (Winter 1929) was designated as a “Harry Crosby Number,” and appeared just a few weeks after Crosby’s sensational murder-suicide in New York City, including work from roughly two dozen contributors, including poetry by Macleod, Ford, and Richard Johns. The third issue of The Morada (Spring 1930) included poems by Johns and Macleod, and excerpts from a letter by Pound.

After printing four issues of The Morada, Macleod founded another little magazine which he called Front, the first issue of which appeared in December 1930, complete with an advertisement for what Macleod called “The New Morada,” describing the magazine as “a tri-lingual advance-guard review.” The fifth and final issue of Morada was also published in December 1930, a featured a significantly changed format: announcing itself as The Tri-lingual Morada, the magazine also listed a greatly changed editorial board consisting of Donal McKenzie, the “european & expatriate” editor, Norman Macleod, the American editor, and contributing editors Joseph Kalar, Georges Linze, Fernand Jonan, Eugene Jolas, Frantisek Halas, Richard Johns, Sonja Prins, Ralph Cheyney, and Solon R. Barber. This issue of The Morada contained work in English, German, and French, and solicited future submissions at an editorial address near Lago di Garda, Italy. The issue included McAlmon’s short story “New York Harbour,” commentary by Ezra Pound, and poems by Macleod (in both English and German), Zukofsky, Johns, Forrest Anderson, and Samuel Putnam.[ref]A PDF scan of the first three and fifth issue of The Morada can be viewed here.

173. A PDF scan of the first three and fifth issue of The Morada can be viewed here.

Though MacLeod, like Charles Henri Ford, was isolated geographically from American centers of literary activity, he nonetheless managed to engage in a vigorous literary correspondence with a number of significant writers, and published writing by a range of modernist writers then living in both the United States and Europe.

MacLeod suspended publication of The Morada upon his move to New York City in January 1931 to take a position working as an editorial assistant for Walt Carmon, then the managing editor of New Masses, the best known Marxist journal of its era. Carmon decided to take a vacation soon after Macleod’s arrival and Macleod selected most of the material included in the March 1931 issue, including Whittaker Chambers’ famous short story “Can You Hear Their Voices?” In addition to his work for New Masses, by early 1931, Macleod had begun funneling much of his editorial energy into Front, an ambitious trilingual literary review published from The Hague, Netherlands for which he served as the American editor.

Front

Years in operation: 1930-1931 [4 issues]
Editor: Norman Macleod
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Basil Bunting, Robert McAlmon, Richard Johns, Norman Macleod, Charles Henri Ford

Front was published as a bi-monthly magazine beginning with its first issue, printed in December 1930 and running through a fourth number, published in June 1931. Despite a very short run, it printed work by a number of significant international contributors, including …

[Macleod and Spector were “also among the New Masses poets who had work selected about the same time for translation into the French to be published in Poémes D’Ouvriers Americains, a small anthology “brought out by probably the communists in Paris.””]

Contempo

Years in operation: 1931-1934
Editors: Milton Abernethy [1931-1934], Anthony Buttitta [1931-1932], Mina Abernethy [1932-1934]
“Objectivists” published: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, Rakosi?, Bunting?, Robert McAlmon, Frances Fletcher, Forrest Anderson

In January 1931, Milton Abernethy met Anthony Buttitta in an English course at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill taught by the playwright Paul Eliot Green. Abernethy, then a 20 year old undergraduate and member of the Communist party, was at UNC largely because he had been too radical and outspoken for his peers at North Carolina State[ref]While at NCSC, Abernethy contributed several articles to Wautagan, a student journal, which were critical of school practices and policies. In the last of these, “The Game of Cheating at North Carolina State College is Not Equal to Any Other Sport,” Abernethy accused his fellow students of endemic academic dishonesty, which led to the student council voting to expel him for “disservice to the school.” Abernethy appealed his expulsion and won the case, but transferred shortly thereafter to UNC-Chapel Hill. See Jim Vickers’ “A Week or Three Days in Chapel Hill: Faulkner, Contempo, and Their Contemporaries,” in The North Carolina Literary Review 1:1 (Summer 1992), pp. 17-29.

174. While at NCSC, Abernethy contributed several articles to Wautagan, a student journal, which were critical of school practices and policies. In the last of these, “The Game of Cheating at North Carolina State College is Not Equal to Any Other Sport,” Abernethy accused his fellow students of endemic academic dishonesty, which led to the student council voting to expel him for “disservice to the school.” Abernethy appealed his expulsion and won the case, but transferred shortly thereafter to UNC-Chapel Hill. See Jim Vickers’ “A Week or Three Days in Chapel Hill: Faulkner, Contempo, and Their Contemporaries,” in The North Carolina Literary Review 1:1 (Summer 1992), pp. 17-29. Buttitta, born in Monroe, Louisiana to Sicilian immigrant parents, was seeking a master’s degree in English literature and had previously published plays and stories while an undergraduate at Louisiana State Normal College and the University of Texas. Within a few months, the two literary-minded young men had recruited three of their classmates, Shirley Carter, Phil Liskin, and Vincent Garoffolo, and founded both a little magazine which they called Contempo: A Review of Books of Personalities, and The Intimate Bookshop, a book store which they briefly operated out of Abernethy’s dorm room before moving to a storefront in Chapel Hill.[ref]In an early issue of Contempo, Abernethy wrote an advertisement for the store: “Not many people know of the existence of such an agency as The Intimate Bookshop. [It is] a place where one can read without cost and buy with regular discount any book from The Death of the Gods to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a place one goes for a quiet hour or so to browse about books that seem to stick his imagination, feel the intimate and personal touch of writers that lived to live, literature move before him as a vital and dynamic force rather than as a support for the dust of the ages.” The Intimate Bookshop long outlasted Contempo, and was operated by Milton and Minna Abernethy at 205-207 Franklin Street in Chapel Hill from 1933 until 1950, when anti-communist sentiment community induced the Abernethys to sell the store to Paul and Isabel Smith and move to New York City, where Milton eventually became a successful stockbroker (oh the irony!). In 1955, the Smiths moved the bookshop to a building which had previously housed the Berman Department Store at 119 Franklin Street, and sold the business in 1964 or 1965 to Walter and Brenda Kuralt, who opened an additional eight franchises throughout North Carolina. The last surviving Intimate Bookshop, on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, closed in the late 1990s. See https://www.facebook.com/chapelhillhistoricalsociety/photos/pb.977057475709905.-2207520000.1463618918./982196798529306/.
175. In an early issue of Contempo, Abernethy wrote an advertisement for the store: “Not many people know of the existence of such an agency as The Intimate Bookshop. [It is] a place where one can read without cost and buy with regular discount any book from The Death of the Gods to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a place one goes for a quiet hour or so to browse about books that seem to stick his imagination, feel the intimate and personal touch of writers that lived to live, literature move before him as a vital and dynamic force rather than as a support for the dust of the ages.” The Intimate Bookshop long outlasted Contempo, and was operated by Milton and Minna Abernethy at 205-207 Franklin Street in Chapel Hill from 1933 until 1950, when anti-communist sentiment community induced the Abernethys to sell the store to Paul and Isabel Smith and move to New York City, where Milton eventually became a successful stockbroker (oh the irony!). In 1955, the Smiths moved the bookshop to a building which had previously housed the Berman Department Store at 119 Franklin Street, and sold the business in 1964 or 1965 to Walter and Brenda Kuralt, who opened an additional eight franchises throughout North Carolina. The last surviving Intimate Bookshop, on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, closed in the late 1990s. See https://www.facebook.com/chapelhillhistoricalsociety/photos/pb.977057475709905.-2207520000.1463618918./982196798529306/. By August 1931, all three of Abernethy and Buttitta’s classmates had left the magazine, leaving Abernethy and Buttitta as the magazine’s sole editors.

The first issue of Contempo was published in May 1931 and featured an editorial describing the publication as a review of “ideas and personalities of some significance that demand immediate comment.” [Combining literature and a progressive political slant (while avoiding the championship of “any particular group or definite order” Contempo featured poetry, fiction, and literary and social criticism by a variety of writers, including Kay Boyle, Erskine Caldwell, William Faulkner, Langston Hughes, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.] Contempo was issued 18 times a year (roughly every three weeks) and cost ten cents per issue, with annual subscriptions available for $1. As a publication, Contempo had the appearance of a newspaper, with issues typically consisting of four pages and some mixture of poetry, editorial comment, reviews, and other prose. The editors frequently published special-topic issues with guest editors and quickly gained a reputation for its willingness to publish avant garde poetry as well as engage with progressive political issues. It devoted two issues, for example, to the Scottsboro Boys case, famously publishing Langston Hughes’ “Christ in Alabama” on the cover of their December 1, 1931 issue, in between editorials by Hughes and Lincoln Steffens, the well-known socialist muckraking journalist.

[In mid 1933, Buttitta and Abernethy, Contempo’s remaining editors, quarreled and parted ways. Abernethy and his wife Mina continued to edit Contempo until February, 1934, when it ceased publication, apparently for lack of funds.]

Connection to the “Objectivists”

Contempo published poetry or criticism by Pound, Rakosi, Reznikoff, Williams, Zukofsky, Bunting, and McAlmon. The Oppens admired the magazine, with George describing it in a letter to Ezra Pound as “a magazine concerned with liberal or radical political theses” and noting that a recent issue had been devoted to the Scottsboro case and had featured poetry by Countee Cullen and “other negro writers.” [ref]In “Publications in English,” Undated letter to Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound Papers, 1868-1976 (Box 38, Folder 1613). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University Library, New Haven, CT.

176. In “Publications in English,” Undated letter to Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound Papers, 1868-1976 (Box 38, Folder 1613). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University Library, New Haven, CT.

James G. Leippert’s Magazines 

James G. Leippert, whose was also known as J. Ronald Lane Latimer and a host of other pseudonyms during his brief but significant publishing career, was an eccentric character[ref]Eccentric is perhaps too charitable. Allen Tate recalled him as a “fly-by-night opportunist” and one of his closest friends and longtime collaborator Willard Maas described him privately as a “psychopathic worm” (qtd. in Al Filreis’ Modernism from Right to Left, 115). For a brief biographic account of Leippert’s life, see Ruth Graham’s “Mystery Man” article for the Poetry Foundation, which draws heavily on Al Filreis’ research.

177. Eccentric is perhaps too charitable. Allen Tate recalled him as a “fly-by-night opportunist” and one of his closest friends and longtime collaborator Willard Maas described him privately as a “psychopathic worm” (qtd. in Al Filreis’ Modernism from Right to Left, 115). For a brief biographic account of Leippert’s life, see Ruth Graham’s “Mystery Man” article for the Poetry Foundation, which draws heavily on Al Filreis’ research. who published a series of very-short lived little magazines in the early 1930s before founding The Alcestis Press, which published handsome limited editions of poetry by Wallace Stevens, Williams Carlos Williams, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, and others between 1935 and 1937.

Leippert’s first attempt at publishing poetry came with his founding of the monthly magazine The new broom and Morningside, which he launched in January 1932 while still an undergraduate at Columbia University. Leippert described the magazine to potential contributors as a successor to both Broom, an international quarterly magazine which had been published from Italy and edited by Harold Loeb and a rotating cast of associate editors and Morningside, the longtime undergraduate literary journal at Columbia University. Leippert was an enormous enthusiast of T. S. Eliot’s and wrote to him soliciting work for publication in his new magazine, though Eliot politely declined his overtures. The new broom and Morningside failed after its fourth issue (published in April 1932), and was quickly succeeded by The Lion and Crown.

The Lion and Crown

Years in operation: 1932-1933 [2 issues]
Editor: James Leippert
“Objectivists” published: Carl Rakosi, Charles Reznikoff, Basil Bunting, George Oppen, Forrest Anderson, Jesse Loewenthal, Frances Fletcher, Norman Macleod, Jerry Reisman

Early in 1932, as he was planning the launch of The Lion and Crown, Leippert wrote to William Carlos Williams, inviting him to serve as associate editor. Williams quickly declined Leippert’s offer, no doubt thinking of his recent experiences with Pagany and Contact. He did, however, recommend that Leippert contact his friend Louis Zukofsky, and Zukofsky greatly assisted Leippert with assembling the first issue of this new magazine. Zukofsky’s assistance was so great that it warranted his being the subject of the the following special acknowledgement printed inside the first issue: “The editors of The Lion & Crown wish to thank Mr. Louis Zukofsky for his interest, and to dedicate to him whatever of the publication is theirs to dedicate.”[ref]Quoted in Pound/Zukofsky, 135

178. Quoted in Pound/Zukofsky, 135.

The inaugural issue of The Lion & Crown, published in Fall 1932, shows clear evidence of Zukofsky’s editorial influence, as it featured writing by Reznikoff, Rakosi, and Bunting, contributions from peripheral “Objectivists” Frances Fletcher, Forrest Anderson, and Jesse Loewenthal, and a review of Williams’ A Novelette and Other Prose (which had been published by To, Publishers) by Zukofsky’s friend Jerry Reisman. The contents page also included a list of contributors which would appear in future issues, a list of 13 authors which contained a healthy number of “Objectivists,” including Williams, Reznikoff, Rakosi, Oppen, and Frances Fletcher.

Leippert only managed to publish one additional issue of the magazine (printed in early 1933), though it did include two poems each by Oppen and Norman Macleod.[ref]Other notable contributors to the issue included Gertrude Stein (“Basket”), Erskine Caldwell (“Crown-Fire”), and Jose Garcia Villa.

179. Other notable contributors to the issue included Gertrude Stein (“Basket”), Erskine Caldwell (“Crown-Fire”), and Jose Garcia Villa. Leippert also appears to have been planning an entire special issue devoted solely to William Carlos Williams and possibly another issue dedicated to Zukofsky, but neither issue ever materialized.[ref]See vague references to a special critical number of Leippert’s magazine in Pound/Zukofsky pp. 145, 147 and Basil Bunting to Leippert, September 26, 1932 in the Ronald Lane Latimer papers at the University of Chicago Library.
180. See vague references to a special critical number of Leippert’s magazine in Pound/Zukofsky pp. 145, 147 and Basil Bunting to Leippert, September 26, 1932 in the Ronald Lane Latimer papers at the University of Chicago Library. Pound and Zukofsky discussed Leippert’s seeming interest in publishing work by Zukofsky and other “Objectivists” in a series of letters exchanged between August 1932 and early 1933,[ref]See Pound/Zukofsky, pp. 134-135, 145, 147.
181. See Pound/Zukofsky, pp. 134-135, 145, 147. but by May 1933, Zukofsky seems to have lost any confidence he may have had in Leippert, telling Pound: “Will write Leippert again, & if he doesn’t answer to hell with him. I don’t think he has an asset. Think, in fact, he’s a quack & quacks are quickly uncovered these days … He’s off on a magazine proposition now—wants to get the [James Branch] Cabells, [Robert] Nathans, etc. to join him. They won’t if we’re goin’ to be anywhere near ’em. They won’t anyway”[ref]The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 102.
182. The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 102.

Alcestis

The magazine proposition Zukofsky described Leippert as being “off on” was a poetry quarterly for which Leippert first began soliciting contributions in November 1933. Initially planned to appear under the name Flambeau, and later, Tendency: A Magazine of Integral Form, the first issue of Leippert’s third little magazine in as many years was eventually published in October 1934 as AlcestisAlcestis survived a bit longer than Leippert’s previous efforts, publishing work by William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, e. e. cummings, and a host of other then-prominent poets, but it too suspended operations within a year of its founding, with the fourth and final issue, a “revolutionary number” edited by the poet Willard Maas, appearing in July 1935.[ref]See Al Filreis’ Modernism from Left to Right, pp. 118-128.

183. See Al Filreis’ Modernism from Left to Right, pp. 118-128. The failure of the magazine Alcestis was followed by Leippert’s establishment of a publishing press, also called Alcestis. Between 1935 and 1937, Leippert’s Alcestis Press issued nine very attractive volumes of modern poetry, fine printed on rag paper, including Wallace Stevens’ Ideas of Order and Owl’s Clover, and William Carlos Williams’ An Early Martyr and Adam & Eve & the City, and it is conceivable that Leippert may have become Williams’ regular publisher had not James Laughlin emerged when he did.[ref]The full list of books published under The Alcestis Press imprimatur also included Allen Tate’s The Mediterranean and Other Poems, Robert Penn Warren’s first volume of poetry, Thirty-Six Poems, John Peale Bishop’s Minute Particulars, Willard Maas’ Fire Testament and Ruch Lechlitner’s Tomorrow’s Phoenix. According to Al Filreis, Leippert had also sought to publish what would have been Elizabeth Bishop’s first book of poems, made a serious offer to publish new cantos and a collected poems by Ezra Pound which Pound ultimately refused, and nearly published a book by H.D. See Modernism from Right to Left, 121.