Arthur Cravan

Introducing: SJ Fowler

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Editors’ note: As we head towards publication, we thought we would introduce our contributors.

SJ Fowler has been exploring the boundaries of European poetry in his Maintenant series, a project that takes its name from pugilist, poet, hoaxer and nephew of Oscar Wilde, Arthur Cravan. It’s an astonishing project, one that has profiled the work of almost 100 contemporary poets, placing the likes of Frédéric Forte, Tadeusz Różewicz and George Szirtes alongside Ann Cotten, Luna Miguel, Holly Pester and Ragnhildur Jóhanns. Says Fowler,

“For years I was completely isolated in my reading too…and as such I was in a bubble, didn’t have the chance to develop any sense of prejudice against poetry in translation, or avant garde work, as somehow otherly. That’s perhaps why I read this kind of work alongside poetry that might be better known in this country in equal measure.”

A lost soul


Arthur Cravan writes to Mina Loy from Mexico City, December 10, 1917:

Since leaving I have become tremendously pure, and if I manage to survive I’m thinking of becoming a saint. But I don’t think I will survive. If you don’t get any more letters you’ll know that I’m dead or else that I’ve gone mad. If you can’t console me I’d rather disappear from the world of the senses or at least of the intelligence. I can no longer see a star or read a book without being filled with horror. I have almost no strength left for writing to you. and if I knew I was doing it in vain, I would kill myself in five minutes. All I do is think about suicide. As you have probably never been in this state, you can’t understand. If you had suffered half as much as I do, you would fly to my side. Listen, Mona, I would almost ask you to lie. The idea of death fills me with horror, so even if you couldn’t come, could you give me the sweet illusion that I will see you again? I could never bear the truth. Madness terrifies me more than death. My brain can’t manage to repair the losses, and the only thing I really grasp is that I am lost. Wire me for God’s sake. This is the Christmas of a lost soul. It will be the New Year of a man who is condemned to death…. Mina, I can’t believe, I don’t dare believe, that you will abandon me. If you come, I swear to you on my eternal soul that I will never cause you pain and that your life will be sweeter than that of any other woman. Forget the past. I was full of lies, but now I only want to live for the truth.

From the New Yorker.