The literary magazine of the Vorticist movement BLAST only survived two issues
BLAST 1 was published weeks before the beginning of the First World War, while BLAST 2 (with a woodcut by Wyndham Lewis on the cover) came out a year later. It was considerably reduced and muted in colour, and lacked the visual drama of the first one. It was subtitled ‘War Number’, indicating the reason for its reduced size and ambition.
The content in Blast 2 is by dominated by Lewis. There are poems by Ezra Pound as well as a number of poems and pieces of prose by Helen Saunders, Jessie Dismorr and others. Saunders’ contributed an essay-cum-poem called, rather evocatively, A Vision of Mud. Famously Blast 2 includes two poems by T.S. Eliot; Preludes and Rhapsody on a Windy Night. Because of the power of the visual images and the graphic design, especially of the first issue, it is often forgotten that Blast was as much a literary journal as anything else. Poetry, prose, and art criticism sit alongside manifesto statements and pictures. In Blast 2 many of the images refer to the war, with such titles as Combat and War-Engine.
The most moving and expressive part of Blast 2 is a piece by Gaudier-Brzeska called Vortex, with the subtitle: Written from the trenches. At the end of it there is a little notice announcing that the artist had been killed on 5 June after months of fighting.
Chris Stephens is co-curator of The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World and Curator (Modern British Art) & Head of Displays at Tate Britain. The exhibition runs until 4 September.