with an introduction by Allen Fisher.
By ERIC MOTTRAM.
In 1974, Eric Mottram set out the basis for the Kent Journal in his preface. The work, published in a personal edition of ten copies, embraces and develops open-field and montage practices, already evident in his seminars at the Institute of United States Studies and King’s College London. It is also part of a continuity with his own poetic practice and his rich support for the best poetry in Britain and America in the period.
His first book of poetry, Inside the Whale, was published by Bob Cobbing’s Writers Forum in 1970, followed in 1971 by Shelter Island and the Remaining World, published by Bernard Stone’s Turret Books, and in 1973, the he expression from Aloes Books. During the process of writing the Kent Journal in America, Poet & Peasant published his Two Elegies.
Eric’s range of commitment to poetry had been evident for many years. In 1971, Eric was appointed as the editor of the British Poetry Review (an editorship that continued until 1977). From April to July 1971, the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) ran Poetry Information, a series of weekly colloquies on contemporary French, American and East European poetry, organised by Ann Lauterbach. Eric ran the sessions on American work.2 In May 1973, Eric Mottram with Roger Guedalla and Chris Brookeman put together the Modern American Poetry Conference at the PCL (Polytechnic of Central London), featuring Robert Duncan, Jerome Rothenberg, Jonathan Williams, George Oppen and, at the last minute, Ted Berrigan. Eric and Chris extended this to the Modern British Poetry Conference in May and June 1974 with seventeen poets and the group abAna and this was followed in October with a second Modern British Poetry Conference with a further fifteen poets.3
The Kent Journal demonstrates Eric’s reappraisal of poetics in Britain and America as an undercurrent and preparation for poetry and art practice with political engagement. This appraisal can be seen in terms of Charles Olson’s A Curriculum for the Study of the Soul, started in 1968 with Olson’s Pleistocene Man, and then, edited by Jack Clarke and Albert Glover, a range of more than 20 publications by a number of American poets.4 In 1973, they issued Ed Sanders’ Egyptian Hieroglyphs and in 1974 Robert Duncan’s Dante, both poets in conversation with Eric.5 Eric Mottram’s resource was as large and varied as the Curriculum. The Kent Journal also evokes in its method Walter Benjamin’s 1930s’ montage practice, exemplified in The Arcades Project, but Eric’s intent is clearly radically different and differently organised.6 The following annotated extract from pages 1-9 can provide an indication of its extent.
—Allen Fisher, April 2022.
Between January 3 and April 1 1974 I went to America for the sixth time. On my way to holding classes at Kent State University, Ohio, I visited New York briefly, and then returned after the semester’s work, by way of Buffalo and Warwick in New York State. I had three months in which to get certain matters fairly clear; since King’s College, University of London, does not or will not permit sabbatical years off for study, I had to work out urgently during strenuous teaching at Kent, and while accepting the eager demands American students will make on a teacher. One graduate course called Confidence concerned relationships between cultural and self confidence, and confidence trickery in both culture and self, over a period of one hundred and fifty years in America. The other course called The Wasted Sacrifice dealt with certain writers of fiction in the twentieth century, from Ernest Hemingway to Thomas Pynchon. These were the continuum of every other activity. So I decided to keep a journal for the first time in order to cope with demands made on myself under these pressures. Recurrent themes and interactions are obvious and have been left along with rough drafts of poems and possible poems and notes on the lives of friends, as they were hastily recorded in the time left from teaching and living. The journal has been typed for use.
January 7. The wife of Mark Wagler: then a social worker in Boston: a black commune: she was met by a black gang in town, oil or petrol thrown over her, to be burned alive: last year: I am told as gently as possible by students who remembered that Mark had been in my classes in 1968 and had returned from his Chicago commune to see me here in 1970, after the murders.7
Gerry Casale shows me an advertisement for radioactive-guard panties, for cunt and arsehole.
long trains across huge states, warning whistles sink into snow banks
brittle larch needles
whistle in lake wind
from the North
a north of storms
The continual sense in rhetoric, private conversation, TV advertisements, food sales, etc. – that everything is for a purpose, nothing is for itself, always something behind, you are used, everything is for the invisible scheme –
soapers – or so I thought – Soper’s: muscle *relaxing, mind* observing – the kids’ new one. Ohio State University is soper/soaper center of America.
Pollution fall-out killed Beverly Bridger’s lizard last year in Salem.
where by my power
your heart was
where by my power
your head was
snow sluices Cuyahoga slopes
giant trucks haul
South hiss horizon words
what thinking can overreach
buildings over copperized windows
for trees. nothing overshadows
no winter jasmine
gleam on grain
drifts over foxed plains
mounds beside portage
hills and light
Dennis Oppenheim: Traps and Cowhides: September, 1969.8 Tobago, West Indies – the work is in fact a photograph of cowhide on the ocean floor off Sandy Point. The art is called “ocean projects”.
The Cathedral of Tomorrow makes a loan with the Teamsters Union – 8½ million dollars – in Cleveland
Reich: Ether, God and Devil (58)9
– “Everything natural and great is simple … The simple is alien to the armoured organism … Complexity is a life expression peculiar to the armoured.”
Reich: Cosmic Superimposition: Man’s Orgonotic Roots in Nature (9)10 – “Man is part of nature: he grew out of natural functions.”
the maples of Moosalookmogoontic Lake11
where Reich first established his N. Maine base at Rangeley.
“W. R. on Einstein” – note on the back of The Einstein Affair –12
Einstein succeeding in fascinating the first half of the twentieth century just because he had emptied space. Emptying space, reducing the whole universe to a static nothing, was the only theory that could satisfy the desert-like character of man of this age. Empty, immobile space and a desert character structure fit well together. It was a last attempt on the part of armoured man to withstand and
withhold knowledge of a universe full of life energy, pulsating in many rhythms, always in a state of development and change: in one word, functional and not mechanistic, mystical or relativistic. It was the last barrier, in scientific terms, to the final breakdown of armouring.
Reich: Selected Writings (243) –13
What we experience as pleasure is an expansion of our organism. The automatic nerves, in pleasure, actually stretch out toward the world … In anxiety, on the other hand we feel a crawling-back into the self, a shrinking and tightness. What we experience here is the actual process of contraction in the automatic nervous system.
away to his north
his desires immobile
It is either requisite to be silent or to say something better than silence. – Pythagoras.
in hot streets
tight jerking balls
is fear and hatred
diesels choppers trucks
birds on their sides
beside beercans on highway
ramps. then route 80
:: shaking and shouting at a man in a frayed bowler hat that what I did was important and justified – not father but a strange combination of a number of decaying authority figures … musty, green and white tubes.
The Cell Cycle – Daniel Mazin – professor of zoology at Berkeley – Scientific American, January 1974 –
“The goal has been to discover just which events are the ones that drive the cell through time, moving it from one phase of its history to the next …”
– result of experiment: “… that there is a something that is responsible for starting the replication of chromosomes. The something, moreover, pervades the cell; it can force any nucleus, ready or not, to enter the S phase. If the something is a special kind of molecule that can switch on replication, then its identification will be an important discovery indeed. It is also possible that the signal for starting chromosome replication is not a special molecule but is instead some change in the internal environment of the cell …”
“The part played by the cell membrane in the governance of cell reproduction … The cell membrane is not a wall or a skin or sieve. It is an active and responsive part of the cell; it decides what is inside and what is outside and what the outside does to the inside. Cell membranes have ‘faces’ that enable cells to recognise and influence one another. The membranes are also communications systems. Things outside a cell do not necessarily act on the cell interior by passing through the membrane; they may simply change the membrane in some way that causes the membrane, in turn, to make changes in the cell interior.”
“The study of surface differences between cells that are contact-inhibitable and cells that are not is being hotly pursued because one key to the governance of the cell cycle may be found here. The surfaces of the two cells are different.”
op. cit. David N. Schramm – The Age of the Elements (Texas at Austin)14
– rate of decay since elements first found: e.g. uranium 238, “no mater what its origin, will gradually change into lead, and … at a rate such that half of the uranium atoms will have become lead in 4.5 billion years. There is no reason to believe that the nature or the rate of this process was any different in the very remote past, when the universe was new.”
“the history of such nuclear events is written in the chemical elements out of which the earth and the rest of the universe are made … The scientific discipline that is concerned with these techniques is called nucleocosmochronology …”
“Besides nucleocosmochronology the two principle means of dating cosmological events are measurements of the expansion of the universe and observation of the stars in the globular clusters associated with many galaxies, including our own.”
“In the primordial fireball with which we assume the universe began only the lightest elements – hydrogen, helium and possibly some lithium – could have been produced. All the rest of the elements had to have been synthesised later in stars.”
– main interesting decay chronometers: thorium 232, uranium 235, uranium 238, plutonium 244
– the three techniques yield consistent ages for the universe: from 10 to 15 billion years old – but estimate approximately 10 billion.
Great Zimbabwe: radiocarbon dates – 11th to 15th centuries. Great Wall trade goods cache held Chinese coladon stoneware (early 15th century); and an inscribed Persian bowl of 13th or 14th century
“The Rhodesian museums no longer employ an archeologist” – Great Zimbabwe:
– P.S. Garlake, 1973.
“tape manipulation, channel-to-channel ‘ping-pong’ effects, and overdubbing of instruments played backwards”
– Jimi Hendrix studio recordings
on stage: feedback methods – effects of “when a microphone is placed in such a
relationship to a speaker that the mike picks up not only the sound of the performer
but also the same sound as it comes out the speaker, so that in effect the sound comes
out of the speaker, goes through the mike, comes out of the speaker again and is
picked up again an infinite number of times in a given instant, so that the system is overloaded and produces a sound of its own – something like a scream of anguish.”
(Loron Means – “Glissando Experienced” – Fusion No. 93, Jan. 74)
[The Journal continues here in pdf format.]
ERIC MOTTRAM, who died in 1995, was a British teacher, critic, editor and poet who was one of the central figures in the British Poetry Revival.
ALLEN FISHER is a poet, painter and art historian. His most recent exhibitions: Kunsthall Olso, September 2022 and at tactileBOSCH with Penny Hallas in Cardiff, September 2021. Work in public collections include Tate Gallery, King’s Archive, Hereford and Reykjavik. He is editor of Spanner and co-publisher of Aloes Books. His website is here. Recent publications include Black Pond (2020), Imperfect Fit (essays on Aesthetics, Facture & Perception, University of Alabama), No Longer Alone (poetry with photographs by Paige Mitchell). Place (1971-1981) and Gravity as a Consequence of Shape (1983-2007) are now available in a complete form from Reality Street Editions.
NOTES in addition to those citations in the attached pdf.
- This is an annotated extract using pages 1-9 of Eric’s Kent Journal which was issued in 10 copies in September 1974. The whole text extends from January 7 to April 1st 1974, over 57 large format (334 x 240mm) pages.
- The colloquies on contemporary American poetry were run by Eric Mottram using tape recordings of Charles Olson, Ed Dorn, Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Frank O’Hara and the New York School (incl. Kenneth Koch) and a live reading from John Ashbery.
- A fourth, PCL British Poetry conference was held in June 1977 with twenty-one poets.
- ‘A Plan for a Curriculum of the Soul’, which Charles Olson had sent for publication in The Magazine of Further Studies, was used as a basis by Jack Clarke to select 28 ‘subjects’ and to each one Clarke added the name of a poet who might write a fascicle using the term as a title. In 2016 a two-volume trade edition, collecting these unique books, was published by Spuyten Duyvil press.
- Eric’s correspondence with Duncan (1971-74, 1977, ’79 and ’86) appears in Amy Evans and Shamoon Zamir (eds.). The Unruly Garden. Robert Duncan and Eric Mottram Letters and Essays (Oxford, Bern &c.: Peter Lang, 2007).
- Walter Benjamin. The Arcades Project, translated by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: The Belknap Press, 1999).
- John Lang. ‘The day the Vietnam War came home’ (Scripps Howard News service, May 4, 2000). The ‘murders’, also known as the ‘May 4 massacre’ and the ‘Kent State massacre’, ‘were the killings of four and wounding of nine other unarmed Kent State University students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970, in Kent, Ohio. The killings took place during a peace rally opposing the expanding involvement of the Vietnam War into Cambodia by United States military forces as well as protesting the National Guard presence on campus. The incident marked the first time that a student had been killed in an anti-war gathering in United States history. Twenty-eight National Guard soldiers fired approximately 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis. Students Allison Beth Krause, 19, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20, and Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, died on the scene, while William Knox Schroeder, 19, was pronounced dead at Robinson Memorial Hospital in nearby Ravenna shortly afterward.’
- A report on the work now appears here.
- Wilhelm Reich. Ether, God and Devil. Cosmic Superimposition (New York: Orgone Institute Press, 1949 and 1951). Banned from circulation in USA in 1954 and burned under FDA supervision 1956-1960. The book was republished by Farrer, Strauss and Giroux, New York in 1973.
- Wilhelm Reich. Superimposition: Man’s Orgonotic Roots in Nature (New York: Orgone Institute Press, 1951).
- Mooselookmeguntic Lake is located in Franklin County and Oxford County, Maine.
- Wilhelm Reich. History of the Discovery of the Life Energy. Documentary volume A – XI -E. The Einstein Affair (New York: Orgone Institute Press, 1953). Reich and Einstein met at least twice in 1941.
- Wilhelm Reich. Selected Writings. Introduction to Orgonomy (New York: Farrer, Strauss and Giroux, 1960).
- Scientific American, January 1974.