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142 ISAAC ROSENBERG: THE POETS'S PROGRESS IN PRINT By Joseph Cohen (Newcomb College, Tulane University) When Isaac Rosenberg died on the Western Front in 1918, he was on the threshhold of a major literary career. After six years of struggling for recognition, critical acceptance and possibly fame were within the young poet's grasp. But fame was denied him and he was remembered simply as a poet of enormous promise. Subsequent reassessments of his works, however, have revealed and emphasized the degree of achievement in the small quantity of mature poetry he left to posterity.' Through a handful of verses he became, along with Wilfred Owen, one of the principal articulators of the disillusioned and embattled generation which followed, and he seems to be emerging now (in Great Britain certainly) as a more acceptable spokesman than Owen, because his attitude of classical despair has been more consistently a part of this century's concept of total war than has Owen's attitude of spiritual redemption through sacrifice. Long before his talent was developed, Rosenberg believed strongly in its possibilities . He knew the talent was there, though for a time he was uncertain about his mode of expression. His attraction to painting was almost as strong as his devotion to poetry, and he was torn between the two until three years before his death, when he decided to concentrate on his verses. From the beginning he yearned to see them in print more than he wanted to see his drawings and paintings exhibited, and between 1912 and 1918 he spent much of his time putting his poems through the press. This was relatively simple, for Rosenberg lived in London's East End where the teeming immigrants from Eastern Europe brought into existence a number of multilingual presses. I·.'i thin a block of his home Rosenberg found a printer who met all his requirements, even to the extending of credit on the poet's fanciful assumption that his little pamphlets of poems would produce enough revenue to cover costs. They never did, of course. In 1912 Rosenberg was 22 years of age, an art student in the Slade School of the University of London. He spent his days in the Slade studios drawing and painting, his nights composing verses, reading in the Whitechapel Library, and hanging about the Cafe Royal. His days and nights were filled with talk of art and literature and endless projects for attracting the attention of critics and the buying public. Many of his conversations were with John Rodker, another aspiring East End writer who subsequently established the Ovid Press and is most often remembered as the publisher of T. S. Eliot's ARA VOS PREC. At the time Rosenberg and Rodker were together, Rodker had not yet decided upon a publishing career, and he is not likely to have advised Rosenberg about printing his poems. As the first of Rosenberg's three pamphlets appeared over two years before Rodker's first pamphlet, it may be that Rosenberg influenced Rodker. Rosenberg's first pamphlet was entitled NIGHT AND DAY. In soft grey covers, it included a table of contents, the long title poem and nine other short poems in its twenty-four pages. About fifty copies were printed in July, 1912, for which the poet paid his printer two pounds. Though British law required an imprint, none is to be found. The type and the workmanship, however, point to the tiny firm of I. Narodiczky, who operated a printshop at 48 Mile End Road from I9OO to 1943. 143 Since all three of Rosenberg's pamphlets came from his press, some mention of his work is included here, though the history of the Narodiczky Press is in itself worthy of a full hearing. Narodiczky left Russia in I898 with the intention of resettling in South Africa. Stopping off in London, he was fascinated by the city and remained. Mastering English rapidly, he established himself as a printer, specializing In Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers, tracts, and, occasionally, books. Since he wanted to concentrate on Hebrew and Yiddish, he purposely deleted his imprint when printing in other languages. In 1911 he was investigated by the police, who traced...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 142-146
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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