[Marxism] Franklin Rosemont
markalause at gmail.com
Wed Apr 15 05:26:45 MDT 2009
I was fortunate enough, for a short time, to work as closely as any
with Franklin and Penny. Our loss of this firebrand leaves our world
a little dimmer.
Franklin Rosemont, 1943-2009: Surrealist poet, labor historian
By Trevor Jensen | Tribune reporter
April 15, 2009
Franklin Rosemont, a surrealist poet and labor historian, maintained
Chicago's long history of leftist activism through prolific writing
and his stewardship of 123-year-old radical publishing house Charles
Mr. Rosemont, 65, died Sunday, April 12, in the University of Illinois
Medical Center, after possibly suffering a stroke or an aneurysm, said
his wife, Penelope. He was a resident of Chicago's Rogers Park
The son of a printers union activist, Mr. Rosemont joined the
Industrial Workers of the World, a leftist trade group nicknamed the
Wobblies, when he was 7, adopting a faith from which he never wavered.
At 15, influenced by the works of Jack Kerouac and other Beat writers,
he hitchhiked to California and met poet and City Lights bookstore
owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among others. At the suggestion of his
brother, he got a Marine-style crew cut before the trip to make
hitching rides earlier.
"When he got there, I imagine the Beatniks were a little confused,"
his wife said.
He met his future wife and studied anthropology with the
African-American scholar St. Clair Drake at Roosevelt University
before dropping out for an extended sojourn in Paris. There he met
surrealism's founder, Andre Breton.
"He came back boiling over with ideas and enthusiasm," his wife said.
"He just thought surrealism was the greatest idea, and he wasn't going
to abandon it for anything."
Mr. Rosemont and his wife started the Chicago Surrealist Group, which
combined art and poetry with radical politics with the goal of
transforming society, said Paul Garon, a longtime associate who met
Mr. Rosemont in 1968 at the Solidarity Bookshop on Armitage Avenue.
"The imagination was our main weapon," Garon said.
Mr. Rosemont pursued multiple avenues of expression. He was a
surrealist poet whose collections include "Lamps Hurled at the
Stunning Algebra of Ants" and "The Apple of the Automatic Zebra's
He also drew and created assemblage art, notably a piece titled
"Entrance to the Non-Euclidean Zoo" which was shown at Old Town's
Gallery Bugs Bunny in a notable 1968 surrealist show.
Capable of "the most incredibly vituperative manifestoes," he produced
leaflets that he passed out at demonstrations or on the steps of
museums. One called for a second Chicago Fire, another railed against
Claes Oldenburg's "Batcolumn" sculpture on West Madison Street.
More seriously, he produced deeply researched histories on his twin
interests, labor and surrealism.
His books included "Joe Hill, the IWW & the Making of a Revolutionary
Workingclass Counterculture," a study of the early 20th Century labor
movement, and "Jacques Vaché and the Roots of Surrealism," a biography
of a surrealist pioneer. He edited and wrote introductions for "The
Rise & Fall of the Dil Pickle," a history of an early 20th Century
nightspot, and "From Bughouse Square to the Beat Generation."
"His book on Joe Hill is the best model of all the things labor
history can be," said David Roediger, a University of Illinois history
professor who co-edited "Haymarket Scrapbook," an illustrated labor
history, with Mr. Rosemont.
Mr. Rosemont was also editing a series on surrealism for the
University of Texas.
Many of his books were published by Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co.,
where he essentially served as editor-in-chief. He and his wife
enlisted a younger generation to write and work for the company, many
drawn by Mr. Rosemont's infectious personality.
"He had a lot of enthusiasms," his wife said.
Mr. Rosemont is also survived by a brother, Henry Rosemont Jr.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.
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