Blast

Wyndham Lewis, editor.
Blast: Review of the Great English Vortex. No. 1 (June 1914) and no. 2 (July 1915).
London and New York: John Lane, The Bodley Head: 1914, 1915. (AFR3100)

Bound by Silvia Rennie, 1991. Gift of Decherd Turner on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday in honor of Helen Warren DeGolyer, 1997. 

In these first and only two issues of the journal Blast, the American-born but British-reared enfant terrible and artist-writer Wyndham Lewis (1882–1957) set out not only to define his movement Vorticism, but to fiercely cull from it cultural detritus. The Manifesto which begins the text vehemently proceeds as its first order of business with the condemnation of England. Lewis presents his text in large and small type and uses irregular capitalization that charges the text with a fervent hyperbole.

BLAST First (from politeness) ENGLAND   CURSE ITS CLIMATE FOR ITS SINS AND INFECTIONS   DISMAL SYMBOL, SET round our bodies, of effeminate lout within.   VICTORIAN VAMPIRE, the LONDON cloud sucks the TOWN’S heart.   A 1000 MILE LONG, 2 KILOMETER Deep BODY OF WATER even, is pushed against us from the Floridas, TO MAKE US MILD.   OFFICIOUS MOUNTAINS keep back DRASTIC WINDS   SO MUCH VAST MACHINERY TO PRODUCE   THE CURATE OF “Eltham”   BRITANNIC AESTHETE   WILD NATURE CRANK   DOMESTICATED POLICEMAN   LONDON COLISEUM   SOCIALIST-PLAYWRIGHT   DALY’S MUSICAL COMEDY   GAIETY CHORUS GIRL   TONKS

The literary and typographic diatribe continues to blast, curse, damn, and even bless its targets: France, The Post Office, the vast planetary abstraction of the OCEAN, the HAIRDRESSER, Castor Oil, and Petty Officer Curran, among many features, aspects, and personalities of modern culture (1914–15). The terms of The Manifesto follow in seven sections, each with several clauses, such as “We fight first on one side, then on the other, but always for the SAME cause, which is neither side or both sides and ours.” The eleven signatories included British, French, and American painters, sculptors, poets, writers, a journalist, and an illustrator, including Ezra Pound whose poems appear after The Manifesto. Publisher John Lane censored Pound’s poem criticizing modern English and French poetry by striking through three lines of verse that he deemed overly inflammatory.

The second issue, printed after the start of World War I continues in the same manner, featuring additional poems by Pound, and adding works by T. S. Eliot, Ford Maddox Ford, and others. Inked designs and halftone reproductions of artwork by the contributors appear through both issues.

This book was given by Decherd Turner (1922–2002), founding director of Bridwell Library, in honor of his friend, bookbinder Helen Warren DeGolyer (1926–1995). Turner commissioned Silvia Rennie, a noted bookbinder living in New Mexico, to clad the pages of Blast. Rennie adopted the vivid pink of the original wrapper, now visible only as residue on the inner edge of the title page, as an active component of her binding and protective box.

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Blast