MANIFESTO: A Century of Isms

Mary Ann Caws, Editor MANIFESTO: A Century of Isms Edited by

During what prolific translator and critic Caws (The Surrealist Look; etc.) calls the "Manifesto Moment"—from the 1909 publication of the futurist manifesto in Paris's Le Figaro, to Lyubov Popova's suprematist "statement"—the manifesto had a "madness about it," but always, even when positing an "us" against a "them," invited the reader to become one of the new breed. Most of the classic ripostes are here, including Whistler's "The Ten O'Clock," several essays by Apollinaire and Marinetti, the dada manifestos by Tzara, the Russian futurists' "Slap in the Face of Public Taste," Pound's "A Few Don't's by an Imagist" and vorticist writings, South American manifestos by Borges and Huidibros, Olson's "Projective Verse," and manifestos of negritude by Cesaire and others. Caws expands the definition of "manifesto" to include milder statements of principles (from the language poets, for example); some poems (parts of Whitman's "Song of Myself"); fragments from the writings of Cage, Duchamp and others; Oscar Wilde's preface to Dorian Gray; Poe's "The Philosophy of Furniture"; one of the few writings of Jacques Vaché—Breton's inspiration for surrealism; Schwitters's offbeat "Cow Manifesto" and much more. Though the scholarship feels idiosyncratic, and there are nitpicks to be made about the selections, this enormous book is the perfect companion to the two-volume, international, 20th-century poetry anthology Poems for the Millennium, and is in some ways a more immediate and satisfying portrait of modernist poetics and modernism. (Apr.)

Forecast:This book is a guarantee for university libraries, and it will be a steady seller via syllabi in 20th-century poetry, art, politics and history. Its size and relevance to art movements may inspire booksellers to stock it on art book tables; steady sales from the poetry section are also probable, despite the price.

Reviewed on: 02/19/2001
Release date: 12/01/2000
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