JPR01 John Hawke
Melbourne : Stream, 1931-1931.
— PDF: You can view the A5-sized PDF format of this article here.
— Provenance: The article was written by John Hawke for the exhibition catalogue ‘Fifty books from fifty years: Celebrating a half century of collecting’, essays written by Monash University academics and researchers for the Rare Books Library at Monash University. ‘It demonstrates the importance of the Monash University Library Rare Books Collection in the research community. The fifty participants have chosen items they have consulted in the course of their work.’ Curator: Richard Overell, Rare Books Librarian. September 2008. Sent via email to JPR by John Hawke, 2014. Edited by John Tranter, 2014.
— For a right-wing remark from a much older Cyril Pearl, see his ‘On The Margin’ column from 1970 reprinted in this issue of JPR, here.
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The accepted view about the belated Australian response to literary Modernism overlooks the existence of the Melbourne journal Stream, which published three issues in 1931. Edited by Cyril Pearl, with the assistance of Bertram Higgins – an expatriate poet who had returned to Australia in 1930 – Stream announced itself as ‘a medium of international art expression’, promising that ‘the current European scene will be adequately interpreted by translations from the outstanding periodicals of France, Germany, Italy, Russia’. With an Art Deco cover featuring a nude figure with paintbrush in one hand and a copy of T.S.Eliot’s Poems in the other, Stream presented articles on the international Modernist movement in art, music, theatre, film and literature.
The first issue (July 1931) takes its ‘Credo’ from Remy de Gourmont – the writer ‘should create his own aesthetics, and we should admit as many aesthetics as there are original minds’. It features an extended interview with Aldous Huxley by Frederic Lefevre, which discusses Finnegans Wake in relation to Surrealism; a story by the Dadaist Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes; an essay on film music by Arthur Honneger (Cocteau’s collaborator); and a revealing discussion of the banned Lady Chatterley’s Lover. As Cyril Pearl notes in his humorous wrap-up, ‘La Ligne Générale’, the most advanced literary taste of the era seems to have been demonstrated by the Federal Customs Department who had seized copies of Dubliners and A Farewell to Arms, along with other key Modernist works. There is also a scathing ‘Glance at the Melbourne National Gallery’ by French critic, Lucien Bonnard, translated especially for local readers: ‘the choice of this tedious mass of ballast – which, excluding a few old pictures of quality and two or three modern ones, is quite crushing – is due to a critical spirit that is on the whole deficient and harmful’, he writes.
Among the Australian contributions are examples of the proto-Modernist poetry of Bertram Higgins, as well as ‘free verse’ by Alwyn Lee and others; further discussion of Higgins’ work follows in later issues. Nettie Palmer reviews Edmund Wilson’s pioneering study of the Anglo-American Modernists, Axel’s Castle, which had just been published. Issue 2 (August 1931) extends the journal’s cultural survey to include cinema, with a column quoting major statements by Eisenstein and Pudowkin, and features an analysis of the theatre of Pirandello. It also includes Fernand Leger’s essays ‘Modern Life and Art’ and ‘The Cinema’, making these key statements about modernity (‘Speed is the law of the world’) available to Australian readers for the first time.
Evidence of the journal’s contacts with leading international figures is provided in the note to this issue: ‘Ezra Pound, in a letter to the Editors, has granted Stream the Australian rights of publishing any of his new work. A selection of Mr Pound’s recent writings will follow shortly’. While an extract from Pound’s 1930 ‘Credo’ concludes Issue 3 (September 1931), the journal did not survive to fulfil this promise. However, this issue does feature Pound’s English amanuensis, Basil Bunting, whose ‘Directory of Current English Authors’ provides a bracingly modern survey that dismisses most English writers, championing instead authors such as Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, William Carlos Williams, H.D., as well as the uncollected Cantos. A story by Robert McAlmon – another associate of Pound’s – is also included in Stream 3, along with essays on Wagner, contemporary Soviet literature, and an interview with Thomas Mann (mostly concerning Nietzsche).
There is also a translation of Russian Futurist Vladimir Mayakovsky’s most celebrated poem, ‘A Cloud in Trousers’, by Sacha Youssevich.
John Hawke received his PhD in English from the University of Sydney, where his thesis was awarded the Dame Leonie Kramer Prize in 1999. From 1997-2006 he taught literary theory within the Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong; he is currently a Senior Lecturer, specializing in poetry, in the Department of English at Monash University in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
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