Avant-garde is defined as new and unusual or experimental ideas, especially in the arts. Indeed, Hofstra Special Collection's Avant-Garde archive houses art and literary works that were (and in some cases, still are) considered experimental during the time periods in which they were composed. For our class exhibit, we focused on literary and poetry journals from the 1960's and 1970's thought to be unconventional and somewhat radical during the later part of the 20th century. These journals contain images, fiction, and poetry that reflect the turbulent time period of the 1960's and 1970's. During this time, artists gave a voice to the growing dissatisfaction of the American public with politics, discrimination, and world events. Radicalism aside, some of these literary magazines feature poems that also demonstrate one of the main themes of our class: form mirroring content in poetry.
One of the journals in the Avant-Garde collection that we examined is Chelsea. Chelsea was a small American, biannual literary magazine based in New York City. The influential journal published poetry, prose, and book reviews from 1958 to 2007. Chelsea featured famous (and not so famous) poets and writers such as Raymond Carver, Sylvia Plath, Umberto Eco, and Grace Paley.
The photos featured here are of various Chelsea covers from the 1960's and 1970's that reflect a time of great social unrest in the United States, as well as the reluctant acceptance by the public of emerging technology.
Epoch is a literary magazine published triannually founded in 1947 and published through Cornell University.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Epoch featured the first published fiction of Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, and early stories by Philip Roth, Stanley Elkin, and Joyce Carol Oates, as well as poetry from various poets including Ruthie Wantling. In Wantling's poem "A Note to her Poet," she uses syntax, specifically punctuation, to convey the poem's meaning: a broken-hearted speaker sarcastically wishing a former lover well while admitting defeat through short terse sentences.
The Lampeter Muse was a literary journal published through Bard College. It does not appear to be in publication any longer but at one time, gave writers and poets a vehicle to express themselves and make comments about society at large. This particular issue was published in December 1967 and features two men, one of them leaning on an uncomfortable woman, perhaps commenting on the subjugation of women during this time period; form mirroring content in a different genre.
This issue of The Great Society is rare (it is one of only 600 copies made). Like The Lampeter Muse, The Great Society no longer appears to be in publication. This particular issue features a poem by Allen Ginsberg, as well as the one below by Judie Perez.
Judie Perez is a poet that appears to have disappeared from public consciousness. Nonetheless her poem, "For Jeanie" is a touching example of form mirroring content as she uses indentation of words, onomatopoeia, and syntax to convey the physical tenderness exchanged between a young child and her mother.
To the left are other examples of literary and poetry magazines from this time period. Again, these examples demonstrate both the radical nature of avant-garde literature, as well as the turbulent time period the items were composed.
THE ARTS: AVANT-GARDE ARTICLES
Because Avant-Garde exists as a ever-morphing and shaping facets of poetics, it is critical to note that while there is no set definition, scholars have honed in on several schools of art. Duke University press in their article "Introduction: Poetics of Avant-Garde Poetries" inquire: "What were the lasting contributions of the historical Avant-gardes, includ- ing Imagism, Futurism, Expressionism, Vorticism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Objectivism, the Beats, Concrete Poetry, the New York and Black Mountain schools, the Tel Quel circle, Language Poetry, etc.? What aspects of which figures of these historical avant-gardes remain misunderstood, under-appre- ciated or even undiscovered? How do the practices of the historical avant- gardes relate to each other and to the contemporary state of the art? * What arrangements have the avant-gardes negotiated with established?"
Through the various materials in Hofstra's Special Collection, I seek to show that the avant-garde has actually established a profund and brilliant body of with the institution.