Wednesday, 26 November 2008

'Alex Trocchi - Cosmonaut of Inner Space'

literary outlaw,
pig farmer,
underground organiser
and antique book dealer

Alexander Trocchi began writing poetry and prose in the late 1940’s, and by the early 1950’s was an established member of the artistic avant-garde. With Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse he edited Merlin a literary magazine that published Ionesco, Genet, Beckett, Creeley, Sartre, and Miller, for seven issues from 1952-1955. He was also an editor of Paris Quarterly from 1952-1955 and of Moving Times, which published work by William S. Burroughs, Trocchi, and Jeff Nuttall. Trocchi’s association with Merlin led to his collaboration with Maurice Girodias at Olympia Press.'He was the quintessential bohemian...he seemed to have no grasp on conventional reality.'TERRY SOUTHERN
Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, Trocchi helped Girodias publish books, wrote catalog copy, and contributed a large number of pornographic writings, including Helen and Desire, The Carnal Days of Helen Seferis, White Thighs, Vol. 5 of My Life and Loves by Frank Harris, and School for Sin. Most of his work was banned in England, France, and America. At the same time he worked with these publishing efforts, Trocchi was involved with other projects, including painting, sculpting, joining Asgar Jorn in the International Situationist movement, and pursuing his own writing.
'He was an individual...that's it. They don't make 'em like that any more.' WILLIAM BURROUGHS
His first novel, Young Adam (1954), a tale of immorality and justice, was followed by his more famous Cain’s Book, a roman a clef which detailed his adventures as a heroin addict living on a scow on the Hudson River. The book’s frank depiction of drug addiction and sex was the source of an obscenity trial in 1963 and the book was banned in England.
His other literary works included The Outsiders (1961), a collection of stories and a revision of Young Adam, and Man at Leisure (1972) a collection of poems.'As much insight into the drug addicts world as Burroughs', and I think a better writer, better stylist.' NED POLSKY
In the 1960’s, Trocchi devoted most of his energy toward organizing a broad collaboration of international underground movements under the auspices of what he called the Sigma Project. It was an eclectic and protean effort, with no concrete direction, but with a wide focus. The Sigma Project resulted on more than 30 varied publications, and attracted a great deal of attention. Although it took up much of his time, Sigma was only one of Trocchi’s activities in the 1960’s. He also organized the 1965 Albert Hall poetry reading, which brought the work of Allen Ginsberg, Laurence Ferlinghetti, and others to the attention of a large British audience.
'His skin was grey...We'd never seen skin quite that shade of grey before.' LEONARD COHEN
He was visiting lecturer in sculpture at St. Martin’s School of Art (London), and he translated the work of a number of French novelists, including Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues, Jan Cremer, Harriet Daimler. Rene de Obaldia and Valentine Penrose.
Trocchi painting a 'futigue'
The George Best of Scottish Literature.' IRVINE WELSH
Trocchi continued writing but published little. He also became a book dealer (& drug dealer??) with a small business near his kensington home. He was known locally as Scots Alec.His lifelong addiction to heroin eventually incapacitated him and he died in 1984.

'Alex Trocchi Cosmonaut of Inner Space'
( William Burroughs introduction to Man at Leisure, April 1972)
It was at the 1962 Writer's Conference in Edinburgh that i first heard Alex describe himself in these terms, standing in front of a large audience and said a pause in which he seemed to be at a loss for words
'i am a cosmonaut of inner space.'
Alex is a forceful and decisive public speaker and his pauses are worth waiting for. This conference, organised by John Calder, established the books that have grown out of the underground culture as literature and the writers of these books as important literary figures.
the poems in this book are reminiscent of John Donne and the metaphysical poets, and I had already described Alex as a modern metaphysical poet before I across his poem to John Donne. Alex writes spirit, flesh and death and the vision that comes through the flesh...
'Somewhere between Nice and Monte Carlo and must depart soon in beds, fields, cinemas and pig sties centuries of rock laugh white at death in a brown land children play dirty in market places crunching sugar skulls cats laugh their ted teeth from the wet streets a boy's cry over the city'
my personal Ides' he said.
wrote at night red ink on cheap paper
i wonder when a woman will walk naked to me?'
chalk marks on a wall in the black cave "
Ob scene
Ab sent
shut the lavatory door and lock it like he was hot see?
the Milky Way whips my sperm to the sky starship text book for today warm blood snake thrust pure salt visibility excellent on what fantastic world in the desert distances are far not a whisper of a tent plague above the city and the weapons of war are perished. Fuck. Good luck.'
Perhaps writers are actually readers from hidden books. These books are care-fully concealed and surrounded by deadly snares. It is a dangerous expedition to find one of these books and bring back a few words. Genet said of a Catholic pederast who shall be nameless here 'il n'a pas le courage d'etre ecrivain.'

Alex has this courage so essential to a writer. He has been there and has read what he writes. I remember reading Cain's Book for the first time: the barge the dropper the heroin you can feel it and see it. He has been there and brought it back. Many writers when they start to write withdraw from the source of their writing, but Alex has not done this and if his life may have taken time from his work it gives back a rare vitality. The poems in this book are buoyant with that vitality and the hope which is so much a part of Alex's personality, One always feels better after seeing Alex and that is indeed a precious gift, a quality that has brought to his door hundreds of young people over the years. Alex has been for them the focal point in the underground literary scene which he pioneered with Cain's Book. He has come a long way since then. One hopes that his long boat will turn into a long book about that trip through inner and outer space.

buy books by Alex Trocchi here

A Moveable Void: Tom McCarthy on Alex Trocchi’s Cain’s Book


Mona said...

Hope that yopu don't mind but I just discovered your post on Trocchi and have linked to it here:

Mona said...

Sorry forgot to say that I also had put up jalal's album today and then discovered that you had put it up too
A bit of weird synchronicity. What inspired my Trocchi post was meeting some people the other night and they knew all about the beats but not Mr T!

teifidancer said...

nice one, cheers xx