Arthur Cravan–poet, traveller, boxer, charlatan and possible forger published the proto-Dadaist magazine ‘Maintenant’ in Paris beteween 1912 and 1915. The 5 issues are now very scarce and can command over a thousand dollars each. The market for them is probably slim and collectors of this material tend not to have deep purses but the mystery of his life and death is still pretty potent..
.He was in the news in 2007 when someone turned up at the New York ABAA book fair with a bunch of Oscar Wilde manuscripts of intense value (if they had been right.) They were pronounced forgeries, and Cravan (or Fabian Lloyd as he was born) was mentioned as the possible source and maker of the fakes. Cravan was actually the son of Wilde’s brother in law and was born in Lausanne in 1887. He grew to 6 foot 6 inches and weighed 18 stone. At one point he became the boxing champion of Europe and even fought the World Champion Jack Johnson (poster above) in a rigged fight in Barcelona to get enough money to travel to New York to avoid the military call-up. A relentless world traveller, he wrote “I have twenty countries in my memory and trail in my soul the colors of one hundred cities.” He also wrote in Maintenant that “Every great artist has the sense of provocation” –the key to his style.
I was reminded of Cravan recently on hearing of the death of another poet and boxer Vernon Scannell. How many other boxers wrote poetry? Muhammad Ali made a pretty good fist of it (as it were) Roy Campbell was something of a bruiser, T.E. Hulme fought Wyndham Lewis in Soho Square, Marlowe died in a pub brawl – possibly there are more. With Cravan all you can collect are the five issues of Maintenant and two or three boxing posters, the one to the left can be bought in ‘limited edition’ facsimile for £200. The originals have got to be well into four figures sterling. Continue reading