Penelope Rosemont

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Penelope Rosemont
Penelope Rosemont.jpg
Penelope Rosemont signing at Chicago's Women and Children First, 2007.

Penelope Rosemont (born 1942 in Chicago, Illinois) is a visual artist, writer, publisher, and social activist who has been involved with the Surrealist movement in the United States since the 1960s. With Franklin Rosemont, Bernard Marszalek, Robert Green and Tor Faegre, she established the Chicago Surrealist Group in 1966. She was in 1964-1966 a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), commonly known as the Wobblies, and participated in organizations like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the 1967-68. She attended Lake Forest College. Her influences include Andre Breton and Guy Debord of the Situationist International, Emma Goldman and Lucy Parsons.[1]

Visual Art[edit]

In 1986, Penelope Rosemont’s painting the “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” was in the Venice Biennale selected by Arturo Schwartz to be in the Art and Alchemy section. A painter, photographer, and collagist, Rosemont is credited with having invented a number of surrealist collage methods including the "landscapade" and "insect music" [in which cut-out shapes are placed on the background of a musical score].[2] Rosemont is a writer and graphic designer for Arsenal/Surrealist Subversion and other publications.[3] Her painting The Night Time is the Right Time "was selected by the Chicago Jazz Institute for the 2000 Chicago Jazz Festival T-shirt".[4] A number of Rosemont's drawings and artwork appear in her books and are particularly abundant in Surrealist Experiences: 1001 Dawns, 221 Midnights.

Surrealism in and outside of Chicago[edit]

The Rosemonts write a great deal about their meeting with Andre Breton and other living Surrealists during a trip to Paris in 1965. Penelope writes about this important event in her life in the books Surrealist Experiences: 1001 Dawns, 221 Midnights and in Dreams and Everyday Life: Andre Breton, Surrealism, Rebel Worker, SDS, & the Seven Cities of Cibola, A 1960s Notebook while Franklin discusses it in his final book, An Open Entrance into the Shut Palace of Wrong Numbers. In the book Surrealist Experiences, Penelope Rosemont writes about a nascent group of Surrealists that had already formed in Chicago, the Rebel Worker group, before they met Breton and in fact, this was the impetus to go to Paris, to meet some of the Surrealists they had been corresponding with. She writes that the initial plan was for Penelope and Franklin to go to London first and then to Paris. She writes "thanks to a spiteful, mean-spirited British immigration bureaucrat," they were diverted to Paris first rather than being able to go to London as planned. That event was fortuitous because as Penelope Rosemont describes it, Breton "became seriously ill a few months later."[5]

The Rosemonts are also referenced in Helena Lewis' 1988 book on Surrealism and Politics, Dada Turns Red.. There, Lewis wrote:

"There was also a group of young people in Chicago in the late 1960s who made a connection between Surrealism and the old IWW, The Rebel Worker in which translations of Surrealist writing appeared . . . and they also published an art anthology of Surrealist political texts, in which the editor, Franklin Rosemont, explained how Surrealism was relevant to his movement." [6]

While Lewis failed to mention anyone outside of Franklin Rosemont and presented American/Chicago Surrealism as his movement, this does show that other scholars outside of Chicago recognize the importance of both Rosemonts to the contemporary Surrealist cause worldwide.

The Chicago Surrealist group, under their imprint Black Swan Press, published the journal Arsenal/Surrealist Subversion sporadically from 1970 to 1989 which featured work from Richard Huelsenbeck, Andre Breton, Georges Bataille, Ted Joans Jayne Cortez and many other Surrealists and fellow travelers, well-known and lesser known. Franklin and Penelope Rosemont were on the editorial board, along with (for issue 4), co-editors Paul Garon, Joseph Jablonski. and Philip Lamantia.

Books: Poetry, Memoirs, History[edit]

Rosemont is the editor of Surrealist Women: An International Anthology (University of Texas, 1998), a book of over 500 pages of writing by women in the Surrealist movement, both past and present, dating back to the beginnings of Surrealism in the 1920s. ' It features such women as Meret Oppenheim, Mary Low, Leonora Carrington, Nancy Cunard, Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Tanning, Elisa Breton, Kay Sage, Jayne Cortez, and Rikki Ducornet (who has written the preface and introduction to a number of Rosemont's books], just to name a few.

Her latest book is “Make Love, Not War: Surrealism 1968!” With Don LaCoss and Michael Lowy (Kerr Publishing, Chicago 2018) She is the author of Surrealist Experiences: 1001 Dawns, 221 Midnights (Black Swan Press, 2000), and books of poetry, including Beware of the Ice, and Athanor (1971).

In 1997, Black Swan Press released the book The Forecast is Hot!, Tracts and Other Collective Declarations of the Surrealist Movement in the United States, which Penelope co-authored with her husband Franklin and fellow Chicago Surrealist Paul Garon.

She also edited The Story of Mary Maclane & Other Writings by Mary Maclane in 1998, which was re-released by Charles H. Kerr, having originally been published in 1902. MacLane has been "hailed as the first 'New Woman' in literature, the first flapper and a precursor of surrealism."[7]

In 2008 her memoir came out, Dreams & Everyday Life, André Breton, Surrealism, Rebel Worker, SDS & the Seven Cities of Cibola, a collection of stories about her life in the 1960s from radicalism in Chicago to meeting Andre Breton in Paris, to London and back again to Chicago in 1968.

A collection of true stories of Chicago, Armitage Avenue Transcendentalists edited by Rosemont and Janina Ciezadlo came out in 2009. She also wrote a forward to Crime & Criminals: Address to the Prisoners in the Cook County Jail & Other Writings on Crime by Clarence Darrow.

Women and Surrealism[edit]

In addition to editing the anthology Surrealist Women, Rosemont has written extensively about women, including Toyen, specifically, as well as naming a number of French Surrealist women, who are often omitted from the history of Surrealism, in her book Surrealist Experiences. The story of Mary MacLane also appears in Surrealist Experiences approximately 3 years before Charles H. Kerr republished the memoirs of a free spirited woman at the turn of the 20th century and beyond. She has also been involved with several public discussions and articles involving the women of Surrealism. By her presence in the American Surrealist movement, her activism, and her publishing, she has been one of the people who have raised the profile of women in the movement.

Charles H. Kerr Publishing[edit]

In 1983 she and her husband Franklin Rosemont became directors of Charles H. Kerr & Company, a publisher of books on history and radical history in Chicago[8]

The Alternatives in Publication Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association awards the Jackie Eubanks Memorial Award, which "recognizes outstanding achievement in promoting the acquisition and use of alternative materials in libraries.".[9] In 2001, the Rosemonts and Carlos Cortez received the award for their work "rescuing and re-charging" Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company. Based in Chicago, CHK Publishing is "one of the oldest going publishers of socialist books and pamphlets in the United States."[10]

Social Activism[edit]

Penelope Rosemont was a member of the IWW (Wobblies) and SDS in the 1960s. Her late husband Franklin Rosemont compiled a collection consisting of pamphlets, wall posters, and periodicals focusing on the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the 1968 Democratic convention, which was donated to the Newberry Libraryin 2008[11] by Penelope, who had worked in the SDS office in 1968. Her book Armitage Avenue Transcendentalists details stories in the lives of a number of activists, including famous Chicagoan Studs Terkel.

In 1977, continuing the Surrealist tradition of protesting bourgeois art, Rosemont was arrested for handing out leaflets as part of a Surrealist action denouncing the city of Chicago's expenditure of $100,000 to erect a Claes Oldenberg sculpture the Batcolumn.[12]

In 2007, there was a meeting of activists held at Loyola University, that Penelope Rosemont attended, feeling hopeful about the chances of building a new SDS. At that meeting, she urged people to "remember our history will effect what happens in the future; that we must examine those days, what we did, how we organized to be able to develop new strategies and avoid old mistakes; support a movement with a large left spectrum; support young anarchists in their efforts and not abandon our utopian visions."[13]"


External links[edit]


  1. ^ Rosemont, Frankin, Penelope Rosemont, and Paul Garon. The Forecast is Hot! Tracts and Other Declarations of the Surrealist Movement in the United States, 1966-1976. Black Swan Press, 1977, p. 173.
  2. ^ G. Jurek Polanski. "SURREALIST EXPERIENCES: 1001 Dawns, 221 Midnights.: By Penelope Rosemont, Foreword by Rikki Ducornet (Book Review)". Retrieved June 21, 2007. 
  3. ^ Buhle, Mari Jo (1983). Women and the American Left: A Guide to Sources. G.K. Hall. p. 243. 
  4. ^ Rosemont, Franklin (2003). Revolution in the Service of the Marvelous. Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company. p. 49. ISBN 0-88286-350-9. 
  5. ^ Rosemont, Penelope. Surrealist Experiences: 1001 Dawns, 221 Midnights. Black Swan Press, 2000. p. 1-2.
  6. ^ Lewis, Helena. Dada Turns Red: The Politics of Surrealism. Edinburgh University Press, 1988. p. 172.
  8. ^ Ruff, Allen. "We Called Each Other Comrade": Charles H. Kerr and Company, Radical Publishers. University of Illinois. 
  9. ^ "Jackie Eubanks Memorial Award". Retrieved June 21, 2007. 
  10. ^ Social Responsibility Roundtable Newsletter, American Library Association,
  11. ^ Newberry Library Collection abstract,
  12. ^ Hyde Park Herald,
  13. ^ Smith, T. CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL! First National Convergence of the Movement for a Democratic Society. Indymedia Los Angeles.