Sunday, May 30, 2021

New World Journal

This little magazine edited by Bob Callahan had a brief run of five numbers in the 1970s; there was one double issue (2-3). It was published in Berkeley, California by the Turtle Island Foundation "for the Nezahaulcoyotl [sic] Historical Society, a non-profit corporation engaged in the study of the history and literature of the New World." The name of the historical society is spelled at least three different ways in the journal's pages; both the society and the foundation were evidently Callahan's own creations and perhaps one-man operations. According to a manifesto in No. 1 (Fall 1975),
The New World Journal will attempt to provide an ongoing review of significant writings in the field of American Literature and American Cultural History. The current plan calls for both republication of a number of early pieces that many of our readers may have missed as well as the solicitation of original works by contemporary writers and cultural historians.

The insistence of Space remains the central preoccupation of the American writer, be he or she poet or historian, and the distribution of culture and culture trait—aboriginal as well as modern—from origin point to the extant [sic] of their natural or forced perimeter remains a theme of enduring concern. Thus the recent work of Charles Olson and Carl Ortwin Sauer is invoked—yet there are issues that can be traced back through the literature at least as far as to Herman Melville and Francis Parkman, as far back perhaps as to the anonymous authors of the origin and migration myths of the Quiche [sic] Maya and the Delaware. The American writer tends to see Space in terms of Elapsed Time. Apparently he always has. Other Orders are acknowledged, often respected, but as for Cosmology, Space—and here we would allow a glyph—(Time)—is all the American writer need require.
Along with poetry by Olson, the Nicaraguan radical priest-poet Ernesto Cardenal, and (in later issues) the pianist Cecil Taylor, the journal included posthumous contributions by scholars whose work tended to mark them (fairly or not) as outsiders of one kind or another: the folklorists Jaime de Angulo and Zora Neale Hurston, the economic botanist Edgar Anderson, the anthropologist and Lovecraft collaborator Robert Barlow, and the historical geographer Carl Sauer. Only the last, who died in July 1975 and arranged with Turtle Island for the republication of some of his work, had any evident personal connection with Callahan.
The journal's West Coast orientation was clear; it had little affinity with skeptical Europe or with those urban-oriented East Coast writers for whom "the insistence of Space" might not have been a central concern. With its interest in Native America, the Southwest, and Mesoamerica, it was aligned with the shamanic blending of anthropology and poetry known as ethnopoetics. As eccentric and personal as it was, it was arguably ahead of its time in terms of multiculturalism, interdisciplinarianism, and attention to the natural environment.
Turtle Island seems to have remained active as a book publisher until at least 1991 before disappearing. (There's a Turtle Island Foundation in Canada that is unrelated to it.) Callahan himself had an interesting career, writing or editing books on Irish-Americans, comic strips (he was a Krazy Kat expert), and the JFK assassination. He was also involved in some way with Ishmael Reed's Before Columbus Foundation, which continues to exist. He died in 2008.

Below is a brief excerpt from Edgar Anderson's "The Iris," originally published in a scholarly publication in 1927 and reprinted in New World Journal 2-3. The subject is a native wildflower that seemed to expand its distribution with the spread of livestock-raising.
Years ago, Father Paradis, a mixture of saint and scalawag, founded a little colony of French Canadians in a sandy bay at the northern end of Lake Timagami. The colony finally died out but Father Paradis hung on, preaching to the Indians at the Hudson Bay Post, prospecting for gold, and raising a small herd of cattle. Today Father Paradis is dead and the forest is marching back into his little outpost clearing; his barns have fallen in, and chipmunks build their nests in his chapel. But where his cattle used to graze in a marshy pasture close to the lake, Iris versicolor grows by the thousands. When it blooms in mid-July, it is the strangest Iris garden on the continent. Bounding the horizon are the rocky cliffs and forested slopes of Lake Timagami. Except for the little clearing and the ruined walls of the farm buildings there is no sign of man. Overhead towers Father Paradis's rude wooden cross, set on a bare rock with boulders piled about its base. And for a hundred yards or so the meadow all about is blue with Iris versicolor.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Only the Moon

Lafcadio Hearn:
She could swim like a Tahitian, and before daybreak on sultry summer mornings often stole down to the river to strike out in the moon-silvered current. "Ain't you ashamed to be seen that way?" reproachfully inquired an astonished police officer, one morning, upon encountering Dolly coming up the levee, with a single wet garment clinging about her, and wringing out the water from her frizzly hair.

"Only the pretty moon saw me," replied Dolly, turning her dark eyes gratefully to the rich light. 
"Dolly: An Idyl of the Levee" (1876)

I imagine this scene as it might have been illustrated by George Herriman, (who knew a bit about levees and moons), with Krazy Kat as the swimmer and a disapproving but benevolent Offissa Pup.