Franklin Rosemont has passed on

The following obituary for Franklin Rosemont was written by Séamas Cain, a writer I know here in the Duluth, Minnesota area.

Franklin Rosemont, surrealist poet, artist, historian, street speaker, & labor activist, died of an aneurysm on Sunday, April 12th in Chicago, Illinois. He was 65 years old. With his partner & comrade, Penelope Rosemont, & lifelong friend Paul Garon, he co-founded the Chicago Surrealist Group, a remarkable presence in the art & activism landscape of Chicago for forty years.

Rosemont did not separate scholarship from art, or art from political & social revolt. His books of poetry include “The morning of a machine gun” (Chicago : Surrealist Editions, 1968); “The apple of the automatic zebra’s eye” (Cambridge, Massachusetts : Radical America, 1971); “Lamps hurled at the stunning algebra of ants” (Chicago : Surrealist Editions & Black Swan Press, 1990); & “Penelope” (Chicago : Surrealist Editions, 1997).

Rosemont was a leading figure in the reorganization of America’s oldest labor press, the Charles H. Kerr Company. Under the mantle of the Kerr Company, Franklin edited & printed the work of some of the most interesting & important figures in the development of the political left: C.L.R. James, Martin Glaberman, Staughton Lynd, David Dellinger, Cornelius Castoriadis, Sam Dolgoff, Paul Goodman, Grace Lee Boggs, Paul Avrich, Augustin Souchy, Mother Jones, Lucy Parsons, Benjamin Péret, Utah Phillips, Paul Buhle, T-Bone Slim, George Woodcock, and, in a new book released just days before Franklin’s death, Carl Sandburg. In later years, Franklin Rosemont created & edited the Surrealist Histories series at the University of Texas Press, in addition to continuing his work with the Kerr Company & Black Swan Press.

Franklin Rosemont was a friend & valued colleague of such persons as Studs Terkel, Mary Low, the poets Philip Lamantia, Diane di Prima, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dennis Brutus, the painter Leonora Carrington, & the historians David Roediger, John Bracey, & Robin D.G. Kelley.

I first encountered Franklin Rosemont face-to-face during the Chicago protests of August 1968. Then & since, I found him to be an amazing blend of contradictions, at once cordial yet cantankerous, amiable yet dismissive, spontaneous & enthusiastic yet grim, social yet unmistakably self-absorbed, creative yet singularly overpowering. Indeed, he was a unique personality.

My condolences & solidarity to Penelope Rosemont, the Chicago group & its affiliates.

Séamas Cain

Elaine Harger, co-founder of the Progressive Librarians Guild, had this to add on the PLG listserv:

Franklin and Penelope Rosemont are tied to PLG’s story in that they organized PLG’s first outing at an ALA conference. They gave us a tour of the Waldheim Cemetary in Chicago, burial place of many leftists. We have a photo of PLGers with the Rosemonts standing in front of the monument erected to the Haymarket Martyrs. Here is a picture of the monument:

The Alternative Press Center is organizing a presentation by Paul Buhle, a friend of Franklins, for this summer’s ALA conference. Perhaps PLG can do something to remember Franklin. He and Kerr publishers have “kept the flame alive” for many years.