Showing posts with label Alfred Kreymborg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alfred Kreymborg. Show all posts

Friday, January 13, 2012

A gathering in New Jersey for the journal Others in 1916.
Alfred Kreymborg, front row, second from the left, in front of Marcel Duchamp & left of WCW (holding cat).
Duchamp has his arm looped with Walter Conrad Arensberg, Man Ray folding his arms,
Maxwell Bodenheim on the far right.

One day last year, I was driving in the rain through southern Chester County when I happened to pass Baldwin’s Book Barn, one of the quirkier book establishments hereabouts. While Baldwin’s is on the web these days, it appears in situ to have largely managed not only to have ignored the digital age, but even the world after the Second World War, when paperbacks took over publishing.¹ The Book Barn claims to have 200,000 books somewhat anarchically shelved in its rambling establishment, perhaps 99% of which are hard cover. I always need the map they hand out at the counter to find my way to the poetry section & this time returned with a signed copy of Alfred Kreymborg’s The Little World: 1914 and After, published by Coward McCann in 1932 for the price of a paperback.

In 1932, Kreymborg would have been 49, publishing for over 20 years & widely known as an editor with some serious (if waning) avant-garde cred. The first literary figure to become a regular at Alfred Stieglitz’ 291 gallery, Kreymborg and Man Ray brought out a magazine called The Glebe in 1913 & ’14, the fifth issue of which was Ezra Pound’s anthology of Des Imagistes. While the younger Man Ray (the imaginatively reinvented Emmanuel Radnitzky of New Jersey) went on to establish himself primarily as a visual artist in Paris, Kreymborg stayed literary, editing a series of magazines and anthologies. Two years prior to The Little World, Coward McCann had published Kreymborg’s Lyric America: An Anthology of American Poetry (1630 – 1930), which, while aimed at the general reader, included not one, but three sections of its final age cohort of poets, those born from the mid-1880s & after, one large one focused on modernists (Amy Lowell, Sandburg, Sherwood Anderson, Lola Ridge, Pound, H.D., Williams, Walter Conrad Arensberg, Stevens, Loy, Moore, Hartley, Cummings, Eliot & even Haniel Long among others now forgotten), the second focused on formalists (DuBose Heyward, Aiken, Ransom, Allen Tate, Merrill Moore, Robert Penn Warren & George Dillon, but also Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, Fenton Johnson, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes & Countee Cullen²) & finally a third group of more eclectic or relaxed quietists³ (MacLeish, Tristram Coffin, Dorothy Parker, Mark Van Doren, Robert Silliman Hillyer, Edmund Wilson, Malcolm Cowley, Stephen Vincent BenĂ©t, Babette Deutsch, Louise Bogan, Kenneth Fearing, Horace Gregory, Stanley Kunitz, Stanley Burnshaw &, last but not least, Hart Crane), hybridism avant la lettre.

The work I’d seen of Kreymborg’s earlier anthologies, mostly compilations of poetry published in his journal Others, had led me to pigeonhole him as a later, lesser imagist, although already by the 1930 anthology Kreymborg’s selection of his work own suggests a gradual move away from the modernist group – where he positioned his work in Lyric America – toward the third tendency. By the end of his career, Kreymborg was giving readings accompanying himself on the mandolute, a larger version of the mandolin, anticipating by a few decades Robert Bly’s similarly folksy performance style. I wasn’t prepared for the work that forms the dominant strain of The Little World, political doggerel – think of deadline poet Calvin Trillin – presented in imagist format.