Thursday, February 13, 2014

Alfred Kreymborg

Alfred Kreymborg [Poetry Foundation]

from Alfred Kreymborg's autobiography, Troubadour:

One day, shortly before the printing press was due, a bizarre, special-delivery package, post-marked London, arrived in Grantwood. The cover resembled the stout paper butchers use for wrapping meat. Krimmie [aka the author, writing of himself in the third person] untied the parcel, and a sheaf of manuscripts of various dimensions, edited with bold, marginal notes and caustic instructions, emerged. A vigorous letter, in a large confident scrawl, warned Krimmie "that unless you're another American ass, you'll set this up just as it stands!" In a postscript, Pound added promises of further material provided The Glebe behaved itself and its editors didn't dash his faith by degenerating into some Puritanical policy. . . . Krimmie readily understood why poets attached themselves to Pound. In a world where most people slavishly coddled their own egos, here was a fellow with a heart and intelligence at the service of other contemporaries.

The pages he held in his hands and leafed over and over were an exotic manifestation of something extraordinarily alive and beautiful. Outside of an Elizabethan lyric by an unknown, named James Joyce, nearly all of the pieces moved without rhyme or a traditional metre. There were even some bits of prose, Chinese prose poems by Allen Upward, and a rollicking satire on the fogs of London by the irrepressible Ponce de Leon, Ford Madox Hueffer. The bulk and most beguiling of the manuscripts had been contributed by H. D., Aldington, Flint, Cannéll and Pound. There was a single poem by Amy Lowell and a single poem (in the Greek manner) by William Carlos Williams, who, Pound wrote, "is my one remaining pal in America — get in touch with old Bull — he lives in a hole called Rutherford, New Jersey." The title the editor insisted must go on the cover read: Des Imagistes, An Anthology.

Man [Ray] and Krimmie indulged in a delirious war-dance. They would run these poems as the very first issue of The Glebe. But they were doomed to a tragic disappointment. On a Saturday afternoon, the printing press arrived in a small cart dragged by an aged horse and driven by two wizened men. It had come from downtown Manhattan, across the Fulton Street Ferry, up the Jersey banks of the Hudson, over the Palisades and down to the shack without mishap. Then, in removing the press, the old men were just careless enough to let it slip to the ground between them, and an excited examination disclosed that only the most important parts were broken. If the editors cared to go to a certain expense, the damage could be repaired. But as usual, neither Man nor Krimmie, nor Man and Krimmie combined, had the requisite funds. . . .

On a Sunday, quite a group would make the trip out to Grantwood, bring their own bundles of lunch, distribute the contents and then loll about on the hillside rolling away from the shack. Bringing these bundles saved Christine [Krimmie's wife] a good deal of labor and Krimmie a good deal of expense. It was never a solemn crowd that arrived — in ones and twos and threes. Nor did all of them make the trip from the other side of the Hudson. One man, looking like Don Quixote de la Mancha driving the rusty Rosinante, came in a battered, two-seated Ford. Though the actual place he started from was an ugly little town called Rutherford, there was enough of the Spaniard in his blood and the madman in his eye and profile to have warranted the comparison. Whenever he climbed down from the saddle, with an oath or a blessing, he disclosed the bold or bashful features of Ezra Pound's old and Krimmie's new friend, Dr. William Carlos Williams. It was for Bill, even more than any of the others, Krimmie would steal outdoors, shade his eyes and watch for a cloud of dust along the horizon.

Mary Carolyn Davies, a lanky Oregonian, undertook the journey from a sort of settlement house on the lower westside, accompanied now and then by an astonishing person with Titian hair, a brilliant complexion and a mellifluous flow of polysyllables which held every man in awe. Marianne Moore talked as she wrote and wrote as she talked, and the consummate ease of the performance either way reminded one of the rapids of an intelligent stream. . . .

[some years later]

Krimmie insisted on being driven straight to Amherst, without the slightest forewarning to the author of North Of Boston, whom he had never met and with whom he hadn't even corresponded. Marion Sheffield led Krimmie into her car, and urged on by her excited guest, broke several records en route. After many questions put to pedestrians, who confessed they had never heard of Mr. Frost, a farmer directed the wayfarers to an obscure cottage just out of town. Mrs. Frost, who graciously received them at the door, directed them to a tennis court where they would find "Robert" in a desperate engagement with his eldest son. Krimmie stole up behind the man whose work he admired as much as that of anyone writing English at the time, and with a preliminary, "Pardon me for disturbing you, sir," introduced his hostess and himself. "Holy Smoke," returned Mr. Frost, dropping his racket, grabbing Krimmie by the arm and leading the way back to the cottage.

For something like eight or nine hours, Robert and Krimmie gossiped without interruption. Marion Sheffield had to depart without her guest, leaving him to the tender mercies of his new hosts. But there was no such mercy in Robert. He wanted to know everything about everybody and Krimmie was so completely captivated that he talked as he had never talked before. To his astonishment, he learned that Robert had been reading various issues of Others [Kreymborg's latest literary journal] to his classes, "just to keep the boys alive to new doings," and that Lima Beans [one of Kreymborg's plays] had been one of the exhibits. Krimmie regaled his host with affectionate portraits of Williams, Bodenheim, Marianne Moore, Stevens and others. In the midst of the general excitement, Robert, with a far-away expression Krimmie soon learned was habitual with the New Englander, asked: "I wonder do you feel as badly as I do when some other fellow does a good piece of work?" Krimmie nodded with pleasure, and Robert added: "But let him attack such a man and I'm up in arms for him."

At two or three in the morning, the gossips were still at it, and had to be shooed off to bed, but at seven, Robert knocked at Krimmie's door, dragged him off to breakfast and they started all over again. The two men parted on a note of intimacy which no circumstance has ever altered. Many a time later on, when Krimmie learned that someone had been saying things behind his back — fine things in quarters that benefited him — he discovered that the instigator of these subtle attentions was the man he had disturbed in his lair down east. He rarely heard from the hermit — except through such indirect channels.

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