Steven Weiner, Computer Specialist and Aesthetic Realism associate, writes:
What does it mean to see people and their possibilities truly? And how much does beauty take in? In 4 articles of 90 or so years ago, written by Eli Siegel and now reprinted in The Right Of, you’ll see those are questions he was passionately interested in early in his life. You’ll see some of his intellect and kindness, which later took the form of Aesthetic Realism. These avant-garde articles are fresh and alive—relevant now! “Honesty, Then and Always” is the not-to-be-missed new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
It is an honor to reprint here four quite early articles by Eli Siegel. The first three appeared in the Baltimore American in March 1925.
In February 1925 Eli Siegel, at age 22, won the celebrated Nation Poetry Prize for his great “Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana.” He immediately became famous. The Baltimore American (he grew up in Baltimore) invited him to write for that paper. I quote this description of Mr. Siegel then, given by Donald Kirkley 19 years later in an article in the Baltimore Sun:
Baltimore friends close to him at the time will testify to a certain integrity and steadfastness of purpose which distinguished Mr. Siegel….He refused to exploit a flood of publicity which was enough to float any man to financial comfort….He took a job as a newspaper columnist at a respectable salary, and quit it when he found that he would not be allowed to say what he wanted at all times.
Justice to People
The first Baltimore American article by Eli Siegel included here is about something that at the time was immensely and increasingly fashionable, with “scientists,” politicians, and the public as such: eugenics, the idea that genetically some persons and ethnicities are inevitably superior (or inferior) to others. Just last month (5-20-2019), a writer in Time magazine, commenting on a new book by Daniel Okrent, noted:
Politicians [of the ’20s] came to embrace the racist junk science of the eugenics movement in order to keep their country the way they wanted….Eugenics gave anti-immigration advocates a new veil of legitimacy.
In March 1925—not decades later but at the time it was widely acclaimed—we see Eli Siegel showing that eugenics is unscientific, lacks logic, is untrue. He does so with ease, kindness—and courage. Two years earlier, in his Modern Quarterly essay “The Equality of Man,” he had written that people have not had an equal chance to be as actively powerful as they might be. And if they had been given an equal chance to use all the powers they had at birth, they would be equal….I wish very much to show the Equality of Man to be true. It is my business to go on showing it to be so.
He was faithful all his life to that statement.
A Hair Style—& Its Value
The second article we reprint is on a very different subject: “bobbed” hair. By 1925, short hair for women had become popular, though still looked on askance by many persons. Eli Siegel’s writing in this article has a lightness, but is serious too. He is the philosopher who was to explain what beauty is—all beauty, whether in a poem, a play, a leaf, or a style: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” In this early article there is respect for beauty in the largest sense. And there is something he had always: respect, in the fullest sense, for women….Read more