It is the ambitious hopes of editor poets Blandine Longre and Paul Stubbs that The Black Herald only publish works that are:
“… vital and original, and above all else, might well incubate itself to the exterior world of publicity – though this is the hope of the editors, not necessarily the writers themselves.”
They continue on with…
“we will as editors continue thought to seek out the ghost of a future hypermodern vision that haunts a work now.”
Their hope – a writing free of itself. Their modus operandi – to not judge a thing too early.
If anything properly defines the beautiful work collected in The Black Herald #2 it is anti-establishment. The editors need the writers to be great – no more than great – they must also lack self-consciousness. They must hint at their age and be a whiff of something forthcoming. None of this, claims Paul Stubbs in his excellent introductory essay, is available to be ‘taught’ in the odious literary classroom and he infers, can’t be taught at all. Paul’s cry is that of the sackcloth wearing wilderness prophet – a contemporary Elijah – his Ba’al the sanitized classroom conversation preaching ‘creativity’ – instead Paul demands the best of what a human creature can produce. Paul wants none of the domestic security produced by marrying literature (Ahab) with capitalism (Jezebel) to produce works of comfort and sanctuary – the taming of perspicacity. He stands, wielding the works of Nietzsche and Rimbaud, unkempt and wild, demanding the writer produce the work
“… out of his own reality – to the point at which he is afterwards unable to endure his own work.” Nietzsche.
Paul Stubbs wants blood. And nothing other than blood is an answer to literatures call.
This sets the scene for an eclectic collection of works taken the world over. Blandine Longre is French, Paul Stubbs is British. Neither wants to maintain borders and barriers, rather embracing the notion that literature does call and in its cry is not in one language alone. Of the thirty-eight contributors at least ten different nations are represented. This does not mean, however, The Black Herald #2 lacks cohesion. This collection has been carefully picked, each piece a natural segue to the next, the respect of the hope and the future-ghost of great literature in each of the contributions.
The Black Herald #2 opens with poetry from W.S. Graham. My Glass World Tells Of Itself is translated on its opposite page into the French by Anne-Sylvie Homassel. It is our introduction to the promise Paul Stubbs makes in his opening essay, a gentle poem about the quiet within producing the art without.
Poor like a scribble my crime on a diamond
Is a gannet I am made in,
Not by your head but the beak of my diving hand.
Graham is a poet that defines the cries of The Black Herald Press. Largely overlooked in his lifetime, it took the open acknowledgement of Harold Pinter (everything works when a Nobel Laureate sings your praise) for the establishment and outside to embrace him. Toward the end of his life he received a grant that saw him produce more works. The tragedy here is, it’s likely that poverty held his works at bay – he may have produced far more had he been recognized in his life.
For our great enjoyment he has been gathered up in to the loving arms of this collection and (thanks to Anne-Sylvie Homassel) is available to be read in the French as well.
“… avant-garde temptation is to blow up the Mausoleum of tradition and to present its swirling debris as art.”
This is what Clayton Eshleman offers us in his Erratics (excerpts). He mentions Ariadne, Paul Valery, Hart Crane, and Lorca among others, summoning them up each with their own desperate stamp on the right, need and passion for self-expression. With a quiet nod to Freud, he acknowledges the crawl from his mother’s body – the journey from animal to human – the organism; Artaud’s shit-stained balcony, the sliced neck of a bird as the blood drains. These are the images of a cry for voice – the refusal to be defined by the headed masses that have no clue.
Erratics (excerpts) is a collected series of poetical passions, chronologically listed, deliciously leaving out an ‘unknown’ mass. We are haunted by what is missing as we take guided leaps of faith, but filled to bursting with the remnants of recognizable human experience. Eshleman opens us up and speaks our heart on religion, art, the orgasm and conventional poetry (here is a most unconventional poem) while teasing us with the words of the greats they may or may not have uttered. Inside the bowels of Erratics (excerpts) I read (co-opt) therefore I am.
Clayton Eshleman is the author of more than thirty books and a translator from the Spanish of Neruda and Vallejo and from the French of Artaud and Cesaire. In The Black Herald, he takes the baton for all the writers in the magazine, being the second to rise to the challenge laid down by Stubbs. His series of poetic writing slices tantalize us with the missing numbers, and promise us - flesh laid bare – of the highest standard of things to come. Our journey through the selection has begun and Eshleman wants us to ask where voice, art and expression come from.
Onno Kosters offering, translated for us into the english in partnership with Sherry Macdonald is Core Hold. This poem is the very turning of literature upon itself. The darkroom bringing your ‘negatives’ into the light – the process of identification of you – a photograph and your confused metamorphosis into something outside of yourself.
When I take your picture, I take your image and I form a ‘not-you’ that embodies you to the beholder and the inner you is forced to conform or not conform but respond in some strong way to all that is within the depths of the image that I the photographer claim you are. I hold the inner you to ransom. You fall into the chemical falseness of ‘real’ only to find your swim bring you to a new beginning.
Onno Kosters takes us on The Black Herald #2 journey, into ourselves. The structure of this work, becoming so small you can inhale it, brings the idea of the original me, the primeval me, the mud slung me into the fore as I am waiting and waiting and waiting for my image to be revealed on the paper that will tell both the lie about me and the truth I can never properly know.
Kosters has a special interest in intertexuality - stretching beyond the original definitions by Kristeva. This shows in this beautiful poem. It’s a declaration of a symbiotic relationship between the lens, the darkroom, and the cellular componants of what goes into the makeup of me. I’m lifted up and out of myself in the journey deeper into my own core. My Core Hold.
Dumitru Tsepeneag’s La Photograf, translated into the English by Patrick Camiller as At the Photographers follows on perfectly from the Kosters poem – partners in the revealing lens.
This beautiful short story tells of the strangeness of a wedding as told through the eyes of the young brother of the bride. His big sister, ‘The Princess’ is making her move into life, and the boy has a sense of a profound change, such that he responds with his mixture of love and trepidation and childish competitiveness in this internalizing of the loss of his sister. All this is seen through the photographers lens as the family line up for the photographs. But it is not the photographer, it is the pose that reveals most to this elegant young observer:
“Look, there she is on the other side of the street, laughing as she climbs out of the car, while Gigi stands stiff as a poker and smiles like a street-lamp. Father and Aunt Luiza are also there on the pavement, as well as another fat person who looks as if she could be a woman. A car has pulled up, and another. Everyone is happy and flapping their arms, as if to rise in the air – what a strange crowd!”
‘The Princes’ is giving up a lot to be married. She was told to complete her studies but after days of tantrum throwing was told she could marry. The eye of the younger brother provides a perfect basis for this modern take on a neorealist style. But there is a deeper sense, in the brother, that the family are losing her. That in the fat euphoria of transition and major life choice, the subtle smaller things can be lost when they have been underappreciated.
“No one said anything; only Aunt Luiza sobbed her heart out. The photographer was half hidden in a box behind the camera, so that only his hands were visible. it became quiet and a few lowered their heads as if guilty of something – or ashamed. They held themselves stiff.”
Driven by the miraculous, and in the honest tradition of all Neorealism / Surrealism, the wedding couple float away – guided by bliss? Fleeing judgement? Responsibility? Burden of the expectation? The couple flee, this is what we know. And the younger brother understands and the younger brother is thrilled.
Here is a writer who does not dream – he generates the dream. Those who escape the photograph, cannot be pinned down.
Dumitru Tsepeneag is one of the founders of the Romanian Oniric group – a commitment that sees him in exile in France to this day. He remains a theorist of the Onirist trend in Romanian literature.
This completes my first review of The Black Herald #2. Expect the subsequent reviews in the next few days.