February 16, 2013

BLAST (Magazine)/Vorticism

BLAST (Magazine) / VORTICISM  (England)

 Edited primarily by British fiction writer and poet Wyndham Lewis and the American poet Ezra Pound, the magazine Blast, which appeared in two issues in 1914 and 1915, grew out of

a frustration with the Italian Futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s visit to London in 1910 at London’s Lyceum Club, in which addressed the audience as being “victims of…traditionalism and its medieval trappings.” Although at first galvanized by Marinetti rhetoric, Lewis and others became quickly disturbed by the poet’s arrogance. In an Futurist manifesto of 1914, “Vital English Art,” co-written by Marinetti and British author C. R. W. Nevinson, Lewis found himself as a signatory in which he’d had no involvement.

      In a performance by Marinetti on June 12th of that year of the Italian’s poem “The Battle of Adrianople,” with Nevison accompanying him on the drums, Lewis, T. E. Hulme, Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Edward Wadsowth and others broke up the performance with jeering and shouting.

     Joining together Lewis’ friend Pound, the group began to formulate a new poetic and art movement which Pound named “Vorticism.” As Douglas Messerli has noted in his essay “Vorticist Lewis/Vorticist Pound,” that although the word meant something far different to each of the two major figures, the “movement” galvanized them and others in their attempt to establish a new English-language alternative to Futurism, giving Lewis a forum to promote art by Gaudier-Brzeska, Epstein, Gore, Wadsworth and himself, and providing Pound with an alternative to break with Imagism, which he felt had been usurped by Amy Lowell into what he described as "Amygism.” Most of the first volume’s early pages were devoted to a Vorticist manifesto written by Lewis and Pound, and signed by them, Wadsworth, William Roberts, Helen Sauders, Lawrence Atkinson, Jessica Dismorr, and Gaudier-Brzeska. The issue also contained a critique of Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art and works by Ford Maddox Hueffner (Ford Maddox Ford) from his The Good Soldier, Rebecca West, and others.

      The Manifesto itself includes ten major points, the first of which reveals its self-publicizing aims:

1.      Beyond Action and Reaction we would establish ourselves.
2.      We start from opposite statements of a chosen world. Set up
violent structure of adolescent clearness between two extremes.
3.      We discharge ourselves on both sides.
4.      We fight first on one side, then on the other, but always for th
one side, then on the other, but always for the SAME cause,
which is neither side or both sides and ours.
5.      Mercenaries were always the best troops.
6.      We are primitive Mercenaries in the Modern World.
7.      Our Cause is NO-MAN’S
8.     We set Humour at Humour’s throat. Stir up Civil War among
peaceful apes.
9.      We only want Humour if it has fought like Tragedy.
10.  We only want Tragedy if it can clench its side-muscles like hands
                      on its belly, and bring to the surface a laugh like a bomb. 

     The second issue, and last, of Blast was published on July 20, 1915, which contained a short play by Pound, T. S. Eliot’s Preludes and Rhapsody on a Windy Night, and works by Gaudier-Brzeska, killed in Verdun in World War I, and others.

      The declaration of the First World War thirty days after the second issue, virtually brought an end to the magazine and the Vorticist movement. Not only Gaudier-Brezeska, but T. E. Hulme was killed in battle. Others lost their faith during the war in Modernist tenants. Moblized in 1916, Lewis fought in France for a while before working as a war artist for the Canadian government. Although Lewis continued to advocate for Vorticism, and planned a third issue of Blast, but as critic Richard Cook noted, “the whole context of pre-war experimentation had been dispersed by the destructive power of mechanized warfare,” which the movement, like Futurism, had inherently advocated.
Douglas Messerli


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