Scarlet

Five issues, edited by Douglas Oliver and Alice Notley (1990-1991)

Full PDFs of each issue are available by clicking the button below the descriptions of individual issues.

Scarlet No. 1, published September 1990

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from "Editorial": "Editorials in this kind of newspaper being out of fashion, that's the first point. We don't much like the fashion in poetry/literary magazines which aims for wimpish purity of text: too boring.

Kurt Schwitters is here to say it for us: it's dumb to be smart, smart to be dumb. Or, as we'd put it, smartness is dumb because it is wrong-spirited. Smartness in our line says: 'There is a particular kind of poetry, uniquely apt for our age.' The alternative to this is not eclecticism: it is not to prejudice stylistic questions by a defining act of mind but, instead, to try to trust spirit. Equally smart, equally dumb, would be to preconceive what right spirit is. This would cut a straight line through culture and insist that it is appropriate to know certain things. There is inequality in education and inequality of talent: but in right spirit there is utter democracy of the soul.

There must be a reason why everyone is having to restate everything just now. Yes, because the 80s were so dreadful."


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Scarlet No. 2, published Fall 1990

 

 

 

 

     

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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from "Editorial": "A punk-anarchist bookstore, 'Sabotage,' has shut down after months of 3 a.m. shouting, brawls, and a triple stabbing committed against its hangers-on. The demos have quieted down: fewer parades disturb the peace with 'No Police State!' and 'It's Our Fucking Park!'--our park, dominated by the homeless, has been policed crudely. New demos are taking over: 'Oh no! We won't go. / We won't fight for Texaco!'

We're not grumpy about a neighborhood celebrated for anarchy: the sufferings of the poor at our doorstep are sickening."

The most difficult-to-find issue of Scarlet, the issue opens with poems by Fanny Howe and prose by Amiri Baraka. The above excerpt from this issue's "Editorial" references the ongoing demonstrations around Tompkins Square Park, marked by the riots two years earlier. The anarchist bookstore Sabotage was located at 96 St Marks Place across the street from the editors' apartment.


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Scarlet No. 3, published Winter 1991

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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from "Editorial": "Like all our readers, we are haunted by themes of death just now; and we've had hastily to change our projected outline of this SCARLET so that it does not turn a bland aesthetic eye towards the tragic events in the Gulf. War, the very epitome of divisions that will not heal, divides the best impulses of conscience within the individual mind, as if bravery and heroic assistance to the oppressed lay on one side and generous, loving humanism on the other--and all this becomes vastly complicated by quite prudential read-outs of the actual political situation.

We haven't wanted to hustle up a clutch of poor anti-war poems but have delved into our current contributions to find work about AIDS, hospitals, the war itself: sombre themes--and then some lighteners, so as to show poetry at its work not of conducting emotional propaganda but of awakening realizations about our common humanity--realizations that international politicians may manipulate but cannot fundamentally alter."


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Scarlet No. 4, published Spring 1991                         

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from "Editorial": "Poetic scandal being in short supply these days, we were going to put in this space a slightly scandalous poetry dialogue that we received from old Beat circles. The larger scale international scandals continue, however; new revelations about Hussein's Iran-war era atrocities against Kurds; Bush Administration officials still fudge both Iraqi casualty figures and their own responsibility for the gruesome aftermath of the bombing. Ethiopia, as if it hadn't suffered enough, becomes a new stage for ambitious Administration foreign policy meddlers. Thus possession of the best military technology in the world apparently proves something or other about democracy. While political vanity presents these new dangers to the world, poetry remains rather fearfully locked in the bathroom wondering how, or even if, to turn the key, as a rather indecorous poem by one of us points out..."

Notably featuring Alice Notley's poem "Naming of Americans," which is the conclusion of the above editorial, and a selection of journals, "from Tunnel Tower Journal," by artist Donna Dennis tracking her work on the sculpture "Tunnel Tower" over about three weeks in 1980.


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Scarlet No. 5, published September 1991                 

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from "Editorial": "You may think you now know what to except from SCARLET. We hope not. If there's any risk of reaching that point our editorial policy is to put a bomb under the proceedings. We light a small fuse with this issue.

First, we have thanks to catch up with. We are very grateful to Etan Ben-ami and Sparrow and performers at SCARLET benefit they kindly organized at the Poets' Cafe. Also to the Funding for Poetry for a welcome grant, and to particularly generous subscribers: Rudy Burckhardt and Joe Brainard.

The present issue contains, of course, the solid bedrock of SCARLET: strong poems and prose by outside contributors which are not mere parades of genre (and are of many genres) but have something positive or disturbing to say."

Of particular interest in this last regular issue of Scarlet are two essays by Alice Notley, "Women & Poetry," which was included Coming After, and "What Can Be Learned From Dreams?", an important essay which has not been republished.


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The Scarlet Cabinet, published March 1992

 

 

 

From the editorial in Scarlet No. 5: "Then we thought...Who says that a newspaper kept rigidly to 24 pages is the only way to publish SCARLET? Supposing we really liked those medieval bound bundles of manuscripts in which several disparate books were made into one book. We have the luxury of not normally being grant-aided--no-one's looking over our shoulder--so if we could afford it why shouldn't SCARLET issues #6, 7, and 8 be a single book composed of two or three long works by each of the two editors? Most likely three or four long poems, a whole novel, and some poetical or other tracts. Soit! Let it be done! Let SCARLET take on the willful personality its name implies and be just what it likes to be any moment."

These "three-issues-in-one" became The Scarlet Cabinet, containing three works by Oliver--Penniless PoliticsSophia ScarlettNava Sūtra--and four works by Notley--The Descent of AletteBeginning With A StainTwelve Poems Without Mask, Homer's Art--in addition to riotous introductions by both editors. This is the first publication of Notley's The Descent of Alette, which was reissued in 1996 by Penguin. The button below leads to front matter, table of contents, and introduction to the book.