RARA-AVIS: The Wild Party

From: Jay Gertzman ( jgertzma@earthlink.net)
Date: 09 Aug 2003

Joseph Montclure March's "The Wild Party" (it's great narative poetry, as is the companion poem, "The Set Up," about boxing) was written in the mid-20s. Richard Simon, of Simon and Schuster, was just starting out in 1926, when he wanted to publish the poem. He asked the "town censor," John Sumner of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, what would happen if he did so. Sumner said he would be put in jail. Covici published it in a limited ed. 2 years later. There is plenty of hard boiledness in the poem, but it was probably the "inversion" (gay and lesbian characters) that caused the problems. It could not be said that ythe poem was subversive of conventional morality, in that there are no admirable characters among the decadants at the party. But all the characters are portrayed in a way that makes them memorable, and worth thinkinbg about. The book's quality was recognized early, which is why avant-garde shops like the Gotham Book Mart in NYC could get copies, for their trusted customers.

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