Editor's Corner

corner: n. 1. a. The position at which two lines or surfaces meet. b. The immediate interior or exterior or exterior region of the angle formed at this position, bounded by the two lines or surfaces. 2. A vertex, esp. the interior region of a vertex, formed by the sides of roads or streets that join, meet, or intersect. 3. A threatening or embarrassing position, esp. one from which escape is difficult or impossible. 4.a. A part, quarter or region. b. A remote, secluded, or secret place. 5. A guard or decoration fitted on a corner, as of a bookbinding. 6. A speculative monopoly of a stock or commodity created by purchasing all or most of the available supply in order to raise its price.

(The American Heritage Dictionary)

This issue is dedicated to the memory of Anna Balakian (1915-1997)

Since the 1970s the women artists and writers associated with the avant-garde movements (in particular Surrealism) have increasingly attracted the attention of critics. One of the pioneers in feminist critique of Surrealism was Xavière Gauthier. Her book Surréalisme et sexualité (1971) inspired further important scholarship related to the marginalization of women in relation to "the avant-garde." One of the first essays dedicated to women Surrealists was a survey article by Gloria Feman Orenstein published in the Spring 1973 issue of The Feminist Art Journal. In 1977, the French review Obliques devoted its special issue to La Femme Surréaliste. In 1980, Lea Vergine's L'Autre Moitié de l'avant-garde documented the lives and works of women artists associated with all major European avant-garde movements. Three years later, in 1983, Jacqueline Chénieux discussed the works of women surrealist writers in Le Surréalisme et le roman. Other scholars have contributed to feminist explorations of the avant-garde. They include, among others, Renée Riese Hubert, Whitney Chadwick, Mary Ann Caws, Rudolf Kuenzli, and Susan Rubin Suleiman. Their important works allow for continued exploration and reflection about women and the avant-garde. [1]

The essays included in this CORNER offer different critical approaches to the work of women artists and writers associated in a direct or indirect way with the avant-garde. In order to reevaluate the marginal spaces, Iris Garland and Carlota Caulfield talk about the forgotten Spanish dancer Tórtola Valencia, whose art deserves attention. Her life was marked by la Belle Epoch, Modernism and the avant-garde movements of the beginning of the XX Century. She was one of the most famous solo women dancers in Europe between 1908-1930, but her contribution to modern dance is not documented in the English language history of dance. Her experiments in movement and her search for the "absolute dance" link her to the New German Dance of 1917, in particular to Mary Wigman's experimental work, as well as to artistic explorations of the dadas (in particular Hugo Ball).While Caulfield's essay-note gives a general presentation about the dancer, Garland in her "Modernismo and the Dancer Tórtola Valencia" engages in a more complete discussion about the pioneer role that Valencia played in the evolution of modern dance, and her role as muse for many modernistas from Spain and Latin America.

Stephen Ratcliffe's "MEMO/RE: Reading Stein" returns to Modernism and experimentation. His essay is part of an important body of critical work that brings new light to the nature and the history of Anglo-American Modernism, acknowledging and giving deserved recognition to the work of writers like Gertrude Stein. Ratcliffe discusses Stein's early writing and how it works on a reader/listener. He focuses on Stein's Melanctha, her portraits of Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso, and Tender Buttons.

Renée Riese Hubert's essay recognizes the work of Leonor Fini. Born in Buenos Aires of an Italian father and a mother of mixed German, Slav and Venetian heritage, Fini spent her childhood in Trieste. From 1937 to 1944, she made her home in Paris and met many avant-garde artists including Max Ernst, Paul Eluard, Man Ray and Salvador Dali. Fini always kept her independence as an artist and questioned the exclusion of women from the centers of avant-garde activity. As Hubert's essay notes, Fini's talents were numerous. In the late 1940s, besides being a powerful painter, she designed sets and costumes for famous ballet productions such as Georges Balanchine's "The Crystal Place" and Roland Petit's "Maidens of Night," In later years, she was the designer for many other major ballet, film and theatre productions. She also authored numerous collections of tales including Mourmour, Contes pour Enfants Velus and L'Oneiropompe, as well as a book about cats (her life's passion). Hubert's "Le Livre de Leonor Fini: Self-Portrait and Autobiography" analyses the autobiographical, visual and narrative aspects of Fini's fascinating text(s).

Caulfield 's "Textual and Visual Strategies in the World of Remedios Varo" discusses Varo's piece of experimental writing De Homo Rodans. The essay emphasizes the verbal and visual games of this Surrealist painter. Varo was also an accomplished writer, who under the pen name Hälikcio von Fuhrängschmidt, composed a series of new surreal theories on the origins of humans and their ancestors. Fascinated by Varo's umbrellas and wheels, the critic explores the dimensions of the "marvelous," in her work as well as the presence in her paintings of assertive female subjects constructed out of Varo's own mythologies and spiritual values. Returning to Surrealism, Pilar Viviente's "Surrealismo y tradición esotérica en Remedios Varo" discusses the surrealists' fascination with the occult as a way of understanding the relationship of automatism and creativity. Viviente extends her discussion of the technique of automatism to Varo's interest in experimental verbal and visual languages.

Within surrealist spaces and visions, thanks to Antonio Beneyto, CORNER presents for the first time in English, four letters of Alejandra Pizarnik to Beneyto himself. The letters dated October 26, 1969, November 8, 1969, and November 27, 1969 were published in Spanish in the literary review Hora de Poesía in 1993; the first letter has never been published. Pizarnik's letters offer the reader the opportunity to appreciate the literary and personal ties between the Argentinean poet, and noted writers such as Beneyto, Julio Cortázar, Silvina Ocampo, Olga Orozco, Antonio Bioy Casares and A. Pieyre de Mandiargues, among others. They are written in an informal tone and with an extraordinary sense of humor in which word plays and literary and personal references abound. We witness through them the development of a strong epistolary friendship that began in 1969 and lasted until the poet's suicide in 1972. CORNER's readers also have the unique opportunity of seeing examples of Pizarnik's original letters illustrating the translations.

Faithful to her Author's Note to Book One where Loba is presented as a work in "progress" ("The author reserves the right to juggle, re-arrange, cut, osterize, re-cycle parts of the poems in future editions. As the Loba wishes, and the Goddess dictates"), Di Prima continues writing her long, multifoliate poem, which she began in 1971. Jack Foley's essay-review of the new Loba describes the "flesh," "soul," and "spirit" of Books One, Two and Three that continue to integrate the work until the present. Di Prima is the only major woman poet of the Beat Generation. She was a power on the New York literary scene, with her Poets Press and Floating Bear. In 1958 she played an important role when the conflict between the sexes arose on the poetry scene. Her "The Practice of Magical Evocation" was a response to Gary Snyder's "Praise for Sick Women." In the 60s she moved to San Francisco and became well-known on the poetry scene. Di Prima is considered an anarchist-Zen-avant-garde-beatnik poet. About her Loba poems, Adrienne Rich wrote that they are "an epic act of language, a great geography of the female imagination."[2]

Kathleen McClintock's interview with the dancer Molissa Fenley presents a dialogue in movement. Fenley talks about her career, the evolution of her aesthetic with regard to her dances, as well as her experiences in the dance world as a solo artist. This conversation discusses in detail how Fenley's approach to dance has modified over the course of her twenty-five years of making dances and how she is still considered a unique voice of the avant-garde dance scene.

In order to finish with the marginalization of the Catalan visual poets, Xavier Canals looks at the work of Teresa Hereu, Montserrat Felip, Montserrat Ramoneda, Fina Miralles, Eugènia Balcells, Cuca Canals and María Mercè Marçal in his "La poesia visual de les dones catalanes, una ab/pre sència." More links to the Catalan visual world of women artists are presented in the Dossier Carme Riera. One of the most important and interesting of Catalan contemporary artists, Riera's world is characterized by constant experimentation. Thanks to the art critic Antonia Bovè, a selection of short essays about Riera's work and illustrations of many of her collages, visual poems and paintings take the reader/viewer on a rewarding journey.

In his essay "Escritura desdoblada y simulacro del sujeto: Zona de Clivaje, de Liliana Heker," Héctor Mario Cavallari analyzes the novel of the Argentinean writer as the site for the production of a double spectacularization: that of a represented vital process and of the writing practice which inscribes it. Cavallari approaches the textual representation of the links between sexuality, identity, and women's gender conditions through the novel's manifest quest for discourse spectacularized as a genealogy of writing. His analysis is articulated as a form of intervention based on three generative textual structures: silenced speech, repressed sexuality, and the simulacrum of the feminine subject.

We return to Catalan visual avant-garde subversions and transgressions in "Ester Xargay responde a Antoni Clapés." Xargay, one of Catalonia's most important experimental poets and performance artists, talks about her own writing, her obsession with existentialism as well as her visual affinities with Marcel Duchamp, Laurie Anderson, Joan Brossa and Benet Rossell. In discussing her work, Xargay also presents a fine-grained historical analysis of the vanguard (including Fluxus and Zaj) and rescue from the margins of the work of several women performers and artists.

The last essay of this CORNER is "El sueño oscuro: La poesía de Blanca Andreu y la crítica" where Isabel Navas Ocaña traces the footsteps of Andreu's literary career and presents the critical discourses that originated in the poet's work. The critic discusses in particular De una niña de provincias que se vino a vivir en un Chagall, a polydimensional book rich in hallucinatory and surreal images that established Andreu as one of the most important poets in the 80s. Navas Ocaña also addresses here the theme of the Spanish vanguard in a series of associations and historical perspectives that present a new approach to Spanish Contemporary Poetry.

As in our first on-line issue, we have included a Selected (Short and Powerful) Bibliography of essays and books related to Women and the Avant-Garde.

I don't want to leave this corner without thanking the people who have provided me with suggestions and encouragement for this second issue. I am most grateful to Antonio Beneyto, Jaime D. Parra, Xavier Canals and Teresa Henreu for their support. The first issue of CORNER was displayed as part of the exhibition "Poesía Visual Catalana" which opened in the Centre d'Art Santa Mònica of Barcelona on January 14, 1999 and is now a traveling exhibition in Catalonia. Many newspapers, such as El País, El Temps, La Vanguardia, Avui and Lateral have dedicated important notes and articles to the Catalan Visual Poetry and to its CORNER.

Most of all, I thank Servando González, the Webmaster of CORNER for his heartwarming enthusiasm and his excellent design. CORNER was selected by the Internet Free-Press Library as a good example of an electronic journal, worthy of being visited as such by visitors to their web page.

I have dedicated this second issue of CORNER to Anna Balakian. I am especially grateful to her for offering me advice and encouragement in my work related to the avant-garde, and in particular to Alejandra Pizarnik. I met Balakian in 1990 at an International Conference on Surrealism and the Oneric Process, organized by Joseph Tyler in Atlanta. Having been familiar with her Surrealism, The Road of the Absolute as well as with many of her articles, I admired Balakian without knowing her. Meeting her did not disappoint me. She not only welcomed me and opened new possibilities for my research, but asked me, as well, to send her my work about Alejandra Pizarnik and wrote back with very valuable observations about it. She also shared some anecdotes of her visit to Buenos Aires when she met Pizarnik in 1970, as well as a valuable letter written from Pizarnik to her, where the Argentinean poet talks about her poetry as well as some personal matters related to the Surrealists she frequented in Paris. But enough of analysis! As Balakian says at the end of her introduction of Rosamel del Valle's Eva the Fugitive, let us now move freely out of this Editor's Corner into the other CORNER.

1. I refer the reader to our Selected Bibliography.

2. Quoted on Diane di Prima, Loba. Parts I-VIII (Berkeley: Wingbow Press, 1978).