How CLWN WR Got Its Name


In 1969 I started gathering material for a magazine I was planning and was mulling over possible titles. Two that came to mind were Swift Running Clouds (which I still like) and Dirigible Poem Warp (which of course now seems like a dated artifact from the 60s). I ended up using neither, and when the issue finally appeared in 1970 it bore no title at all. It was most notable for the first publication of Paul Blackburn’s marvelous poem "The Glorious Morning." In retrospect I usually refer to it as the "Incurve [Press] one-shot."

In 1971, when Stephen Fairhurst and I were planning the magazine that became Clown War, the first title we adopted was that of Cloud Warp, which combined parts of the two unused titles from 1969. A flyer soliciting work was printed with that title and Steve did some preliminary drawings for a cover illustration. Then one day I was telling Steve how Marvin Malone’s Wormwood Review would often pun on its own title for the issue’s cover. As an example, I said Cloud Warp might become Clown War. We both decided we liked that title better, especially in light of the ongoing war. When the first issue of the magazine appeared in early 1972 that was the title it bore.

After the first couple of issues had appeared, Steve left to work on his thesis and I continued to edit Clown War by myself. By 1975 the magazine had developed a definite identity of its own, and I had grown quite weary of the old title, but kept it only for the sake of grants. I had learned from the example of a fellow editor who had altered the title of his magazine somewhat and was then required to publish three issues with the new title before he was again eligible for grants. They had considered the issue with the changed title an entirely different magazine! Since I was already receiving grants, I didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize them, so I kept the name even though I no longer liked it.

Then, in 1980, when I started the first series of small poem issues, I dropped the vowels from the cover title, so that even though the copyright page still referred to it as Clown War, the name that dominated the cover of the 23rd issue was CLWN WR. The 24th issue bore the cover title of Cloud War and the 25th, Cl’wn W’r, even while the "official" title of Clown War continued to appear on the copyright page.

When I started the magazine up again in 1988 after a long hibernation (primarily as an ephemeral "letter"), it bore the name CLWN WR as its official title, as it has ever since.



[A slightly different version of this note first appeared in a free program distributed at a reading celebrating CLWN WR at ABC No Rio on October 29, 2007.]