Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - MS. A Literary Workshop
By Adam Davis
Wright, Talbot & Stephen Matthews, eds. MS. A Literary Workshop.
Los Angeles: Ms. A Literary Workshop, 1940-44. 8vo. First two issues each two folded, unbound sheets mimeographed from typescript on rectos only; subsequent issues mimeographed from typescript and drawing on both recto and verso, and saddle-stapled in printed card wraps. Final four issues offset printed. Some moderate dampstaining to no. 5, else all issues very good with expected toning.
After a long search, I was able to track down what I believe to be all issues published of this early west coast little magazine of the Mimeograph Revolution, published "on behalf of the new writers of Southern California". Editorship is not explicitly named in any issue; the correspondence address for the first two issues was Talbot Wright, and changed to Stephen Matthews for subsequent issues.
MS. belongs to that strain of the Mimeograph Revolution which developed out of the anti-war sentiment of the Second World War (such as Untide and Compass).
MS. published the work of renegade poets who worked well away from established literary centers, using the technology of Mimeograph to overcome their geographical isolation, in common with such magazines as Judson Crews’ Motive, and the first version of Kenneth Beaudoin’s Iconograph – MS. shared writers with both of those publications, and also Crescendo, Matrix, etc. This strand of the Mimeograph Revolution that happened in the forties away from the established literary centers deserves its own book length study, as most of these magazine are criminally overlooked.
Primarily a literary magazine, later issues also included some woodcuts and linocuts, including some beautiful linocuts in red by Connie Stengal in issue 8.
Issue 10 includes some very early work by Jay Rivkin, predating her better known assemblage work (the biographical note here states that Rivkin “attended no art school, does pottery and greeting card art.") The magazine was notable for the inclusion of a higher than normal ratio of women contributors, and it also included contributions from a number of active and retired members of the armed forces.
The masthead of issue 9 notes that it included the magazines Perspective, The Morgue, Newsletter, and Memo. At this point the war took a heavy toll on little magazines. In issue 8 the editor announced the beginning of his own service, and around this time changed the spelling of his name to “Steven Matthews” (unless editorship actually passed to another individual). Issue 9 bore a lament on the difficulties of publishing the magazine while in active service.
At least one further number was published, no. 10, in ’43 or ’44, which was perhaps the most politically involved issue. It includes the poem “Dig the Grave Deep”, by an anonymous Polish Guerilla, and a protest against the concentration camp internment of Japanese Americans by Harry Yanos, with three letters from Japanese Americans. No editors or correspondence name is listed for this issue. The contributor notes were written by Jack Hughes. In the shop talk section, Alan Swallow lists the fellow little magazines that had ceased publication due to manpower and paper shortages; also, “Finding worthwhile material is troublesome with so many writers in the military.” We are aware of no further issues of the magazine; perhaps it fell prey to the same wartime stresses that caused so many fellow magazines to cease publication.
Authors published across the numbers include Stephen Guy, Oliver Sudden, Max Bowman, Gregory Ames, Leo W. Fielding, William Peterson, Mark Keats, Josephine Ain, J. Andrews, Ralph Lee, Leo Baefsky, Sidney Siegel, Harry Cimring, Leonard Lickerman, Gilbert Romaine, Robert Thorson, Mata Rae Friedman, Victor Tarrish, Cecile Kyle, Richard Lake, Ben Macin, Mark Keats, Steve Pratt, Catherine Ruth Smith, Joseph Crowley, H. N. Baker, Connie Stengal, Elizabeh Knapp, Mary Graham Lund, Oscar Collier, Rita Michaels, Veta Griggs, Sylvia Logan, Marion Lee, Manfred Carter, Raymond Kresensky, James Franklin Lewis, Jay Rivkin, Irving Meyers, Fritz Eichenberg, Judson Crews, Kenneth Beaudoin, Wendell Anderson (very early work, done while he lived in Oregon), Scott Greer, Charles Angoff, Alan Swallow, and Taro Suzuki (a member of the Nisei Writers Club). Hoffman et al. p. 354 (though they were only able to find two single issues to consult).
OCLC locates six holdings, most of which appear to be incomplete, and none which note an issue past no. 10. Decidedly uncommon.
(Posted on Spineless & Stapled, presented here by permission of the author.)