Kentfield, California: Allen Press, 1962. Folio. Unsewn leaves gathered into five folded fascicles, each covered in beige paper wrappers, titled in blue, and section number stamped in blind; all five fascicles are housed in a stiff linen covered, suede-lined chemise, with spine die-stamped in blue, and matching linen covered slipcase. Unpaginated [196pp. in total]. Slipcase slightly sunned, else a Fine copy. Set in Goudy Modern and Cochin italic types, and printed on Rives mould-made paper, with hand coloured borders, marginal illustration, and initials by Mallette Dean. One of 130 copies. Twenty-one illustrations, consisting of four lithographs by Picasso, three etchings by Yves Tanguy, eight wood-engravings by Jean Arp, and reproductions of six line drawings by Fernand Léger. Item #74
Yvan Goll, born Issac Lang in the Lorraine village of Saint-Dié in 1891, was a Franco-German writer who remains undeservedly neglected in the histories of 20th Century letters. Some of the neglect, however, may be accounted for by his frequent use of pseudonyms, the fact that he wrote in French, German, and English, and that critics have found it difficult to place him within any one literary movement or tradition; he has been associated with Dada in Zurich, Expressionism in Berlin, and Surrealism in Paris. Furthermore, though Goll was foremost a poet, he also wrote plays, novels, and essays, and translated, among others, works by Whitman, Blaise Cendrars, Francois Mauriac, Henri Barbusse, Franz Werfel, Voltaire, and Joyce.
An avowed pacifist, Goll renounced his ties to France during the First World War, and left for Switzerland. In Geneva he became part of an expatriate circle centred on Romain Rolland, which included Stefan Zweig, Werfel, Hans (Jean) Arp, and Goll’s future wife, Clara (Claire) Aischmann. Goll later joined the Dadaists in Zurich, and there he befriended James Joyce. Following the War, Goll moved to Paris, and worked closely with Joyce on a translation of Ulysses into German. While in Paris, Goll also penned a Manifeste du Surréalisme, which was published in the sole issue of the organ Surréalisme (1924), a month before the appearance of Breton’s own Surrealist manifesto.
With the portent of Nazi invasion, Claire and Yvan left Paris for New York in 1939. In New York, Goll established himself with the poets and writers orbiting around William Carlos Williams; Williams, along with Kenneth Patchen and other New York literati, later translated sections of Goll’s Jean Sans Terre into English. While in New York, Goll founded and edited a journal called Hemispheres, which featured contemporary experimental writing from France, notably from St. John Perse and Henry Miller. In 1947, the Golls returned to Paris, and Yvan devoted the remaining three years of his life to writing what was arguably his greatest achievement, the cycle of poems published posthumously as Traumkraut (‘Dreamweed’).
The cycle of poems reproduced in Four Poems of the Occult were published posthumously in Paris. In the years following their publication, however, the poems themselves were overshadowed by a scandal involving Paul Celan, who had been a close friend and compeer of Goll’s towards the end of his life. Claire Goll alleged that Celan’s Mohn und Gedächtnis (‘Poppy and Remembrance), which was published in Paris in 1952, had borrowed heavily from her deceased husband’s work, citing metaphors and images which, she claimed, made their first appearance in Goll’s Traumkraut. Upon review, it was determined that Claire’s claims were spurious; but the charges were renewed again in 1960. Celan, despite his rise to prominence, did not recover emotionally from the defamation.
The rights to the poems reproduced in the present volume were obtained by Lewis Allen from Claire Goll directly. While in Paris discussing the project, Allen was also able to convince Claire to lend him eight original wood-blocks of Arp’s for use in the proposed book, but only after he had signed a liability agreement listing their value at 3, 000, 000 francs. Sensibly, Lewis opted to reproduce the Arp illustrations from proofs made by the Paris type founders Deberny & Peignot, rather than transporting the fragile blocks back to Kentfield. The imposing size of Four Poems, which was the most arduous and ambitious project undertaken at the Allen Press, may be blamed on Picasso, whose lithographs demanded a large format to be reproduced.
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