Issue 11

Welcome to issue 11 of Junction Box, a very special edition, featuring a number of papers delivered at the Black Mountain College symposium, which took place in Crickhowell, Wales, over a weekend in May 2018. Black Mountain College, USA, which functioned with varying degrees of cogency from 1933 right through to 1957, was an educational experiment which, on the whole put the arts at the centre of its curriculum, and allowed students to create their own schemes of study across many disciplines. Whether as faculty or as visiting teachers/performers in the legendary summer festivals, Black Mountain attracted some of the most progressive thinkers, craftspeople and artists of the age, many of which were highly influential at the time, or became so later, as did a number of its students. In...

1. Olson Then: A Necessary Clearing A succinct summing up of Olson’s place in poetry was given on the back cover of Ralph Maud’s corrective biography of Olson, entitled Charles Olson at the Harbor. After suggesting that Olson was “without question the most influential of the ‘New American Poets’ published by Grove Press in the mid-twentieth century,” the blurb states: "Synthesizing the experimental avant-garde of the Black Mountain School with the uncompromising existentialism of the Beat Generation; the new structuralism of the San Francisco Renaissance; and heralding the postmodern deconstructionism of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets; his spirit, mind and intellect are ubiquitous in late twentieth century poetry".   To read this article click here: Pierre Joris: Olson...

Basil King: Mirage Directed by Nicole Peyrafitte and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte RUN TIME: 22 minutes ‘I am a painter and a writer, and I follow these two habits, making lines that are not always linear,’ says 77 years old Brooklyn working artist Basil King. This 22-minute film depicts the vital ongoing dedication and intimacy between writing and painting. The mapping of multiple layers of King’s interior terrain is structured via his reading and autobiographical poem ‘Mirage’ and his paintings. King’s syncretic aesthetics were shaped by early childhood in WWII London, friendship with San Francisco Renaissance poets, apprenticeship to Abstract Expressionist painters Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, and Mark Rothko, by his mentors and friends at Black Mountain College, including...

Black Mountain College Celebration, Crickhowell, 2018. Notes for a preamble. For our purposes here I have drawn up a set of five ideas that have been structural undercurrents to my practice for just over 50 years and which could partly be attributed to the encounters at Black Mountain College. ONE a critique of logical discourse. Olson writes: ‘We have lived long in a generalising time, at least since 450 [B.C.E.]. And it has had its effect on the best of [humankind] … Logos, or discourse, for example, has in that time, so worked its abstractions into our concept and use of language that language and language’s other function, speech, seems so in need of restoration …’ The bad habits bred by this system of discourse have cut humankind off from elemental contact with the phenomenal...

In February 1935, during her intensive U.S. public lecture tour – 74 lectures in 37 cities across 23 states – Gertrude Stein was staying in Charleston, South Carolina when John Rice, then rector of Black Mountain College, telegraphed asking whether she would like to give a lecture as well as talk informally to the faculty who according to Rice were "suitably addicted to conversation and not unacquainted with [Stein's play] Four Faints [i.e. Saints]" (Burns, 15). The invitation had arisen through the novelist Thornton Wilder who having spent five days at Black Mountain the previous year wrote to Stein recommending it as “a live little experimental college that has long read your work” (Burns, 14). Stein replied to Wilder asking why she and Alice B. Toklas hadn’t heard of Black Mountain...

Regarding Olson’s idea of the use of breath to determine line lengths, I am on the side of John Cage. Cage knew Olson from Black Mountain College but (says Fetterman (1996), when asked if he was using such a framework said that he did not really understand what Olson meant at the time but later said he liked it. Before we look more closely at ‘breath’, it puts the idea in context to check out some life-line comparisons between the two writers who are the subject of this short exploration: Charles Olson who lived from 1910-1970, enjoyed some years parallel to David Jones’ span of 1895-1974. In this paper of slightly glissando comparisons between the authors I have not yet found any reference by either of them to each other’s work yet I believe they were independently ploughing...

Jumping the Limits: the interaction of art forms at Black Mountain & beyond, including UK practice. I Fielding Dawson says Black Mountain “had no sides (literally). It was wide open in the mountain.”[1] This is a useful reminder that physical space can influence or determine thought. It was significant that the kinds of exploration associated with the college occurred far from recognized centres of learning. You could call it the permission of outlaws, and Ed Dorn, a son of the Prairie, perhaps brings this to fruition with the cinematic-linguistic slides of Gunslinger. On the other hand, no space is definitive, and a key aspect of the Black Mountain community was its willingness to bring people in to work on projects for a limited period. The corollary of this is that skills...

‘I threw the I-Ching yesterday / it said there might be some thunder at the well.’ Bob Dylan, New York Sessions version of ‘Idiot Wind’, mid-seventies. While Cage’s compositions for magnetic tape seem at first far removed from the organic, proprioceptive aesthetic that has come to be associated with Black Mountain, his zen-conscious, mushrooming-gathering, mud-pie making ambience is highly ethically Black Mountain in nature. And Cage’s approach to making is holistic enough to include the inorganic within the organic, so to speak. The pioneering electronic piece Williams Mix was to be my exemplar of the co-operative spirit of experimentation at Black Mountain. However, its place in the history of the College is slightly awkward, for reasons that will become clear. Nevertheless,...

I am interested in how through innovation and experimentation various women writers have used open field and bodily energy as defined by Charles Olson's Projective Verse essay. In particular I will examine how women writers have challenged gender as a construction using innovation and open field poetics, re-writing the feminine in terms of traditionally masculine forms and subject matters. My main focus is on the long poem and epic which are traditionally masculine forms with masculine subject. With reference to Olson's The Maximus Poems I will explore how the body is used as an engine to propel the energy of the poem. Influencing my reading are notions of the body feminine outlined by theorists such as Helen Cixous and Luce Irigary. With these theorists in mind I consider to what extent the...

Given the long overdue recognition of the work of Anni Albers and her contribution to art and design education (her drawings, prints, weavings, wall-hangings and textiles are currently on show at Tate Modern until 27.01.19), now is the ideal time to reconsider the work of other women artists associated with Black Mountain College. During her early years at Black Mountain, in a typescript modestly entitled ‘Weaving in a College’, Anni Albers states that ‘the interlacing of the vertical and the horizontal threads is in thousands of variations possible, a constructive task that gives free play to fantasy and intellect’. Making use of the grid as ‘an open weave’ incorporating ‘an active line’ informed Anni’s aesthetic. In the work of those students who studied at Black Mountain...

Looking back, I realize, Robert Creeley taught me how to read. Sometime after my second year exams – the summer of 1988 – I went looking for a poet to examine in my undergraduate dissertation. I didn’t have much in the way of criteria. I started off knowing that I wanted to avoid anyone we’d studied in class; I gradually realized that I wasn’t keen to focus on anyone I’d read before. I’d enjoyed the American Poetry course and the American shelves were nearest the library stairs. So they were the first I came across, when my hunt got under way. A fat, pale-jacketed Collected Poems of someone calledRobert Creeley drew me, partly for its size and partly because the ticket pasted on the inside of the cover revealed it had yet to be borrowed at all. Best of all, though, were the...

from Sector Lights 4) My lighthouse is in Dungeness. There are two. The old and the new. Yes you can read about history, but you can only live in the past.   I have decided to write letters to the lighthouse and throw them into the sea. Everything else is illusion.   We all fall down.   These letters will be destroyed. The old and the new. I will learn nothing and neither will you. Yes, you can read about history. But you can only live on the path.   & watch the rain falling. Falling into the sea. Watch the rain falling.   Falling into the sea.   6) I is inside and outside. I am outside. I am only inside when I am staring at the sea. I throw stones into the sea. Rocks.   The...

Glasfryn Project

GLASFRYN, LLANGATTOCK, POWYS NP8 1PH
+44(0)1873 810456 | LYN@GLASFRYNPROJECT.ORG.UK