Recently a new author page was created at PennSound for poet, editor, critic, translator, and environmentalist Stanley Burnshaw. The recordings were made available through an arrangement with the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Library, at Yale University - with special support from Nancy Kuhl. We are also greateful for permission to make these recordings available given by Robert Zaller as Executor of the Estate of Stanley Burnshaw.
Here are links to the PennSound/Beinecke recordings:
1. A lecture on Robert Frost presented for the Academy of American Poets, October 9, 1990:
complete recording (6:08): MP3
2. Stanley Burnshaw reading his poems, May 16, 1963
from the Lee Anderson Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Library, Yale University:
Anonymous Alba (2:40): MP3
The Muse (trans. of Anna Akhmatova) (1:02): MP3
The Good Angel (trans. of Rafael Alberti) (1:20): MP3
L'amoureuse (trans. of Paul Eluard) (1:00): MP3
Denk nicht zu viel (trans. of Stefan George) (1:12): MP3
Passé (trans. of Paul Eluard) (1:18): MP3
Nativity (trans. of André Spire) (1:14): MP3
Nudities (trans. of André Spire) (2:16): MP3
introduction and epigraph for "Thoughts about a Garden" series (0:55): MP3
Summer (1:26): MP3
Ancient of Nights (1:11): MP3
Historical Song of Then and Now (1:41): MP3
Thoughts about a Garden (1:57): MP3
Ravel and Bind (0:37): MP3
Caged in an Animal's Mind (1:23): MP3
Symbol Curse (1:19): MP3
The Valley Between (2:04): MP3
Midnight Wind to the Tossed (1:39): MP3
Petitioner Dogs (1:13): MP3
A Recurring Vision (2:45): MP3
Father-Stones (0:46): MP3
The Axe of Eden (15:14): MP3
A River (2:01): MP3
Modes of Belief (1:15): MP3
Letter from One Who Could Not Cross the Frontier (1:08): MP3
Surface (0:36): MP3
Three in Throes (0:21): MP3
Boy over a Stream (1:21): MP3
Street for Abishag (0:34): MP3
Song of Nothings: In the Mountain's Shadow at Delphi (1:14): MP3
What Can I See (0:42): MP3
Presences (0:16): MP3
House in St. Petersburg (4:59): MP3
Looking for Papa (2:24): MP3
Blood (0:39): MP3
Bread (2:09): MP3
Outcast of the Waters (1:21): MP3
Complete reading (1:10:34): MP3
Looking forward to 1960
As the symposium has suggested, there are a number of 1960s: a year in which work from the 1950s appeared in print (the physicality of print technologies involving a time lag); a year in which the social and political landscape silenced some, even as what was published has an energy still present in 2011; the year of the New American Poetry, 1945–1960 (the subtitle, worth underlining), by now surprisingly both capacious and ordinary, closed and defying aesthetic closure. A longer view can cast even more light on the multiple facets of 1960.
In 1939 Philip Rahv proposed a distinction between “Paleface and Redskin”; his word choice makes us wince; his sense of who counted as a “redskin” — those, including Whitman, said to “control the main highway of literature” — sounds odd to our ears, as does his categorization of Eliot and Dickinson as more “paleface,” tending “toward a refined estrangement from reality.”  Rahv’s essay is primarily about novelists, but his sketch of an opposition between poetic schools seems simply to ignore innovative writers of the previous decade. A little over ten years after Rahv’s piece appeared, Paul Goodman’s essay on “Advance-Guard Writing, 1900–1950” — like Rahv’s piece published in The Kenyon Review, and focused mostly on fiction — noted that during the Depression and between the World Wars I and II, most people thought an advance-guard had simply vanished from the scene in the United States; innovative poetry did continue to be written, but no felt community persisted.  Goodman suggests as well that there was in 1950 a sense of a larger cultural mainstream against which innovative work could and should position itself. Between Rahv’s 1939 and Goodman’s 1950, there’s agreement that a poetic mainstream exists, but not about what counts as such or about what is going on outside of that mainstream.
Turning to testimony from other poetry readers in the ’50s, one can see that local reading or writing groups devoted to poetry were often still fighting rear-guard skirmishes against modernist practices. Wings: A Quarterly of Verse — a small, staplebound but relatively well-produced regional magazine from Mill Valley, California edited by Stanton Coblentz (who had studied with Witter Bynner at Stanford) — has a continuing feature: facing pages, one entitled “This IS Poetry”; the other “This is NOT Poetry.” In 1956, a sonnet by Christina Rossetti and an epigrammatic quatrain by Lady Margaret Sackville counted as poetry. A free verse piece by Kenneth Ford and Williams’ eight-line “Sonnet in Search of an Author” (reprinted from The Nation) were dismissed as “not poetry.”  In short, there was a segmentation of reading communities and reading practices: what looked publishable to The Nation, looked dismayingly innovative from Mill Valley. Meanwhile, Richard Wilbur — whose 1957 Pulitzer Prize suggests at least one form of mainstream recognition — was writing “Speech for the Repeal of the McCarran Act” in 1950, which hardly placed him in a cultural or political mainstream. By 1956, Ashbery’s Some Trees was chosen for the Yale Younger Poets Series by W. H. Auden. It seems that in ’50s America, various poets and their various readers defined what was innovative and what mainstream in so many ways that it is difficult to find a common core.
True, many clearly felt there was a mainstream. Felix Stefanile, editor of Sparrow, looked back with some nostalgia at the ’50s saying there “was a real and powerful establishment to fight. Because it deprived us, it gave us a vision of the Enemy,” while Creeley writes of Black Mountain: “we felt, all of us, a great distance from the more conventional magazines of that time. Either they were dominated by the New Critics, with whom we could have no relation, or else were so general in character that no active center of coherence was possible.”  This sense of an establishment and use of the first-person plural may have been more a function of the political culture of consensus in the fifties than a single-minded resistance to a united aesthetic front. Even Creeley’s comment notes that most poetry journals — I would add poetry readers — were not defining a single aesthetic. If anything, it was the smaller magazines that defined more unified communities, but there were multiple smaller communities. Certainly Lowell’s “tranquilized fifties” (as he said in 1959 and as would still have felt true in 1960) were poetically as well as politically and socially less homogenized than we might think. Maybe the myth of the fifties is what makes the multiple incarnations of 1960 surprising.
 Philip Rahv, “Paleface and Redskin,” Kenyon Review 1, no. 3 (1939), 251–256.
 Paul Goodman, “Advance-Guard Writing, 1900–1950,” Kenyon Review 8, no. 3 (1951), 357–380.
 Wings: A Quarterly of Verse, ed. Stanton A. Coblentz (1956), 20–21.
 Felix Stefanile, “The Little Magazine Today,” The Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History, ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie (Yonkers: Pushcart Press, 1978), 649; Robert Creeley, “On the Black Mountain Review,” The Little Magazine in America, 253.
The gendered language of Dadaist dress
In 1922, Jean Heap characterized Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven in the pages of The Little Review as “the first American dada … the only one living anywhere who dresses dada, loves dada, lives dada.” This heraldic description, in which dressing, loving, and living Dada interlace, calls attention to the risks the Baroness took as an artist and highlights her radical sartorial imagination. Both manifested in her quotidian performances, which muddled the lines separating art and fashion; clothes and skin; bodies, images, and commodities.
This essay limns the prescient feminism in the Baroness’s performances, and argues that poetry is crucial to their critique of the female body’s commodification in modern art and culture, as it provided a space to detach from and defend against sexist reinscriptions and misperceptions of her work.
When writers and scholars describe the Baroness’s performances, it might seem as though they are giving us a full picture of the artist: verbal analogies to visual depictions in which her body is undeniably central and hypervisible. However, when delineating her sculpted and ornamented appearance, their prose takes on the qualities of still-life poetry. The words, as well as the images to which they refer, accumulate on the page, and the Baroness “herself” becomes difficult to see. Drawing from Robert Reiss’ memoir, “My Baroness” (1986), Amelia Jones (whose feminist readings of the Baroness I build upon here) portrays her as “mov[ing] throughout the city with shaved and painted scalp, headdress made of birdcages and wastepaper baskets, celluloid curtain rings as bracelets, assorted tea balls attached to her bust, spoons to her hat, a taillight to her bustle.” In the afterword to Irene Gammel’s biography, Gisela Barnonin Freytag V. Loringhoven writes that her relative
expressed the protest against traditions and civilization by staging her body as a work of art in New York with long ice-cream-soda spoons dangling from her ears, shining feathers on her hat, white teaballs served as pearls in her necklace. The material she used was often stolen from department stores or picked out from the gutter: buttons, beads, curtain rings, tin toys, and other decorative materials. She also wore empty tin tomato cans in lieu of a bra.
In these displays of her body, decorated with refuse and objects ripped from their proper uses and places, the Baroness enacted her unique contribution to the Dadaist critique of consumer culture.
The readymade emblematized this critique. In one simple sense, it marks the proliferation of mass-produced objects in everyday life. From a feminist perspective, the readymade can serve as a metaphor for prefabricated ideas about gender put into ideological circulation so they appear to be without context or origin. This metaphor makes even more sense when we consider that in the early years of the twentieth century, commodity culture took on a “feminine” guise. In the words of Jones, “women [became] the primary consumers in an expanding market economy and female bodies the purveyors of commercial value in advertisements.”
It is easy to forget Dada's link to the history of clothing: Man Ray’s father was a tailor and Hannah Höch designed dress patterns for the magazines Die Dame and Die Praktische Berlinerin. Terms like “readymade” and “ready-to-wear” function as shorthand for the fact that modern clothing was more likely to be produced on the assembly line and the factory floor than in the home, the couture studio, or the tailor’s shop. The Baroness’s assemblages denaturalized clothing; they reminded onlookers of its status as an arrangement of mass-produced objects and highlighted the prefabricated dimensions of bodily experience at the beginning of the twentieth century.
By adorning her body with commodities, the Baroness mimed the readymade dimensions of gender and femininity; she enacted the mythical suturing of the female body and femininity to commodification in order to destabilize it. Luce Irigaray’s concept of mimesis, formulated in her 1977 essay “The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of the Feminine,” coincided with the emergence of feminist performance art in the 1970s, which many contend the Baroness presciently foresaw. Irigaray argues that because patriarchal thinking is so pervasive, women must self-consciously represent the ideas they are expected to automatically embody. The purpose of mimesis is to repeat, but with a critical difference. Registering the impact of the difference mimesis puts into circulation requires a receptive audience and discourse, otherwise the categories meant for defamiliarization can easily be reinforced and reinscribed. After relaying the scene in which the Baroness entered the studio of George Biddle and offered her body for modeling work — nude except for the tin tomato cans and green string she was using for a bra — Irene Gammel writes: “The Baroness’s body is saturated with signifiers that cry out to be read as gender acts.” It is difficult to imagine that in the decades before Western feminism made a widespread impact, there were many people who could discern and actively read the feminist subversions in these displays.
The Baroness presented her body as object, sculpture, and stage, but ultimately the Dada concept of the female body was both too fixed and too fungible to truly reward its subversions: the Dadaist female body conveniently but obliquely announced the male artist’s distance from and therefore mastery over mass production and commodification. Therefore, it was all too easy to let the Baroness’s performances — and the Baroness herself — catapult back onto the assembly line of gender production, the fast track to obsolescence. Indeed, the Baroness would end up destitute and penniless, the result of becoming, according to Jones, “increasingly unbounded and ultimately ‘disappeared.’”
The risks the Baroness took displaying her body become quite clear in a black-and-white photograph that appears in a letter Man Ray sent to Tristan Tzara in 1921. She appears completely nude, her pubic hair shaved, her labia prominently displayed. Her right arm shoots up from her shoulder and bends at the elbow so her hand hides behind her head. The Baroness’s left arm is posed in the opposite direction; her elbow bends into a sharp angle at the waist. With her left leg thrust to the side and bent at the knee, the Baroness’s body has contorted into a set of triangles that echo the shape of her vagina. To the left of the photograph, Man Ray has written “de l’a”; to the right he has written “merique!” The Baroness appears like a fleshy letter of the alphabet that interrupts and exceeds the word “America.” The image of her body works as a visual passageway for this message between two men. Plastered above the photograph like a tickertape are the letters “MERDELAMERDELAMER- DELAMER,” which concatenates and mocks the words “mère” (mother), “America,” and “merde” (shit), and therefore may suggest the disposability of the postcard or the Baroness herself. It is in the context of this postcard that Jones writes, “[r]ather than representing Dada concepts […] the baroness lived them.”
The Baroness is not naked but “wearing” her nudity as a kind of pornographic armor, but it is easy to miss this fiction and instead see this photograph as a trace of her actual body. In the words of Rosalind Krauss, the photograph is “rooted to the spot at which an event occurred” and therefore could represent, to the eyes of many, the woman herself as she really was or is. Krauss argues that this “rooted” aspect of the photograph is “the very opposite of a circuit of exchange,” but I would contend that photographs representing women often build upon notions of photographic actuality to circulate truths about their gender and femininity. On this photograph, Jones writes: “The baroness’ body (her performed self) signifies Americanness / Dada / the stripping bare of the bride of capitalism: through the body-self she took the ultimate risk of riding the almost invisible line between subject and object, woman as artist and woman as object (body as commodity).”
Conflating the object of art with the woman herself is a mistake that is harder to make with the Baroness’s poetry. There, the body is not contorted into a letter of the alphabet, but appears on subtextual and imaginary levels, present but not wholly visible in the net of words. The poetry allowed the Baroness to represent more than to live Dada. The poems are densely physical performances, “shouts,” propelled by bodily forces that block the assumption that the body from which they emerge is accessible, unprotected by the paternal signifier, and therefore up for grabs. As Gammel elegantly puts it: “The jagged lines, erotic jolts, and violent intensity of her poetry are ultimately crucial to understanding the unusual personality she constructed for the public.” While I concur with Gammel that the Baroness’s poetry shares many of the qualities of her performances — loud and outlandish, deliberately jarring, messy, and raw — it also can be understood as a linguistic buffer that helps to mark the critical difference and distance I think she wanted to highlight in her performances. Roland Barthes famously called attention to the “written garments” that compose a crucial aspect of fashion, and here I argue that the Baroness’s poetry functions as a kind of textured Dadaist dress that resists the conflation of a woman and her image.
To understand the force of the Baroness’s resistance, it is important to remind ourselves that women’s bodies became sites through which Dadaist artists explored the links and distinctions between human flesh and various forms of machinery. Jones contends that “in the case of New York Dada, the (largely male) artists’ antagonism toward bourgeois culture was articulated primarily in terms of mechanical tropes that encoded the anxieties of this threatened masculinity in relation to American industrial capitalism.” Think of Man Ray’s paired photographs from 1918, which epitomize the Dadaist obsession with simultaneously establishing and undoing sexual difference: Homme (Man) depicts a hand-held egg beater and its spindly shadow, and Femme (Woman) depicts a set of photographer’s mirrored lamps above a wood drying rack. Think of Man Ray’s 1920 Pormanteau (Coatstand), a black-and-white photograph of a naked woman standing behind a mannequin. Viewers of Portmanteau can see the real woman’s breasts, torso, hips, and legs. Although one leg seems to be gone, it is actually covered by a black stocking. Her face and arms are occluded by the mannequin’s doll face, complete with cartoonish wide eyes and puckered lips; the long wooden arms are outstretched for the purpose of holding up coats. From a wooden base, a metal pole vertically splits the woman in half to further the fragmentation of the image.
Since the “Great Masculine Renunciation” in the eighteenth century, when men began wearing sober rather than ostentatious clothes, women not only wore but became symbolically linked to the eye-catching spectacles of sartorial display. With the mass production of clothing and the rise of both consumer culture and the middle class, women came to represent the shallowness of all three. Male Dadaist artists did not exempt their work from this conflation. Art that depicts feminine figures as or in proximity to consumer objects points to the deskilling at the heart of Dadaism. Apolinère Enameled (1916–1917) is one of Marcel Duchamp’s “corrected readymades”: a metal display sign for an enamel paint company. A young girl wearing a dress, a hair ribbon, and black patent shoes earnestly paints a bedpost; she is the figure for the artist, and the advertisement’s play on assumptions about a girl’s simplistic, unskilled approach to painting allows Duchamp to make a joke about the obsolescence of painting as an art form and his own detached understanding of its demise. In Apolinère Enameled, the advertisement is the primary readymade, but readymade forms of femininity implicitly bolster its recognizability as well the Dadaist critique of it.
Within the Dadaist imagination, what Simone de Beauvoir described as the “mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity” lends itself to the poles of dense materiality and disembodied abstractions. These poles of femininity are deployed with brilliant if cruel wit in the portraits mécaniques of Francis Picabia. Fille née sans mere (Girl Born Without a Mother, 1916–18) is one such portrait, an illustration of a steam engine most likely culled from a technical journal. Picabia painted the wheel and shaft black and emerald green. The background has been rendered to resemble the gold of Greek orthodox icons. Jones explains that this image “both replace[s] women’s role in procreation with a model of God-like creation and ensure[s] that the ‘girl’ will be around for the whims of the remaining world of men.”
The Baroness herself had a different perspective on rendering the female body through the language of machinery. Her poems, which are relentless in their attention to the materiality of language, impede assumptions about access to that which is beyond the worlds they create, including the female body. In “Holy Skirts” (1920), she quite sarcastically compares nuns’ sexual organs to
empty cars — running over religious track — local — express —
according to velocity of holiness through pious steam — up to heaven!
Gammel makes “Holy Skirts” an example of the Baroness’s “strikingly American form of dada, in which the sexual and religious images violently implode each other tearing down the patriarchal sign system itself.” In her poem “The Modest Woman” (1921), the Baroness sarcastically lacerates prude and overly dressed forms of bourgeois femininity and posits herself as the engineer of her own mechanical form:
Your skirts are too long — out of ‘modesty’, not
decoration — when you lift them you do not do it elegantly —
Why should I — proud engineer — be ashamed of my
machinery — part of it?
For the Baroness, “machinery” serves as a metaphor of sexual emancipation, but the fact that she poses a question (even if it is defiant and rhetorical) hints at the instability of that figuration and signals her awareness that not everyone shares her view.
In her “Ready-to-wear/ American Soul Poetry” (lines from one of her poems), the Baroness was able to mock the prevalence of consumer culture without physically and immediately embodying it. Her series “Subjoyrides” (1919–20) is crammed with images and slogans from advertisements. In these verbal performances, the Baroness mimes and reassembles the language of commodities. The swift pace of these texts enacts both the movement of the subway and the speed with which spectacle culture locks into perception and consciousness. “Subjoy Ride V” is a call to create experiences that are not deadening, but dirty and thrilling:
Wake up your passengers —
Large and small — to ride
On pins — dirty erasers and
These three graces operate slot
for 5 cents.
Don’t envy Aunt Jemima’s
Laxative knitted chemise
With that chocolaty
Taste — use pickles in pattern
Follow green lyons. 
Notice that the accumulation of objects in the third and fourth lines (pins, dirty erasers, and knifes) are images that figure for the subway’s metallic machinery, but the poem moves through them quite quickly, and therefore does not allow the metaphors to stick. This is an example of poetic thinking that de-essentializes things and their qualities, an important aspect of this poem’s implicit feminist critique and connects to the Baroness’s propensity to resist commonsense assumptions about what kind of thing the body is. There is a body in this “Subjoyride,” but it is speculative, imaginary, yet to appear, awaiting the possibility of an experience that exceeds American readymades. After the word “Knifes” cuts into the poem with its striking singularity, the three graces appear; their nude and harmoniously arranged bodies are a classic feature of Western art. In “Subjoy Ride V,” however, the three graces are not posed for aesthetic contemplation or delectation; they “operate slot” instead. The “machines” missing from this phrase reinforces the internal rhyming between “operate” and “slot,” and allows “slot” to hang on the edge of the line with new scatological suggestions, its aural proximity to the words “slit” and “slut.” The parallelism the Baroness creates between “three graces” and “5 cents” highlights capitalism’s capacity to blaspheme the canon or perhaps reveals the sexual exchanges at work in classical painting and sculpture long before the invention of slot machines.
In the last half of the poem, images from consumer culture pile on top of each other and blur. This blurring leads into a manifesto that could be possible only in the imaginary and does not require the body’s immediate presence. Following “5 cents,” the speaker of the poem tells readers not to envy “Aunt Jemima’s / Selfraising crackerjack.” By the time the Baroness wrote this poem in 1919, “Aunt Jemima” and “Crackerjack” had become ubiquitous as products and brands. Boxes of Crackerjacks began to offer a small plastic prize in 1912, which made them highly sought after, and in 1914, the image of Aunt Jemima was popular enough that the Pearl Milling Company was named after her. “Selfraising” is the word for commercially produced flour, but since the Baroness warns her readers against envying Aunt Jemima, the poet seems to be punning on some early twentieth-century concept of “self-esteem,” or the idea of raising oneself to legitimacy through self-commodification. The Aunt Jemima image comes out of the minstrelsy tradition, and Nancy Green, a former African American slave, was the woman who posed in the guise of that racist persona, a fact that attests to the highly circumscribed image-repertoire through which black femininity could appear in the early twentieth century. It is hard to know whether Aunt Jemima’s appearance in “Subwayjoy Ride V” signals the Baroness’s racism, her critique of racial capitalism, or some strangely misguided synthesis of both. The image of a “Laxative knitted chemise / With that chocolaty / Taste” reveals the extent to which the Baroness’s scatological imagination turns the body inside out and, in so doing, exposes consumer culture’s packaging of waste and refuse.
When the poem concludes with the inspiring call to “use pickles in pattern / Follow green lyons,” the Baroness turns away from the body and offers a meta-commentary on poetic composition. The word “pattern” signals the poem’s interest in arrangement, and indeed the Baroness here becomes the arranger of the poetic composition, not a contorted body vulnerable to the conduits of masculine exchange. The alliteration in the phrase “pickles in a pattern” announces her fearlessness about consciously utilizing poetic techniques to almost absurd degrees. The final line “follow green lyons” links back to the pickles through the color green, and may refer to an alchemical process that tinges metal with gold, Nancy Green’s last name, or an urban/animal hybrid that wears a coat of green. Whatever the green lyons are, I think it is clear the Baroness compels readers to follow them in the hopes of imagining a visual economy that differs from depthless images whirring past subway riders.
Lest I be misunderstood, I am not arguing that the Baroness’s poetry is superior to her performances or that her performances were misguided capitulations to woman-as-spectacle. Rather, I want to draw attention to the risks the Baroness undertook in her performances without a substantial audience to recognize and affirm the feminism moving through them with swift and beautiful trouble. The poetry gives us a chance to better see how the Baroness mimed the logic of the commodity in order to subvert its implicit link to the visible female body and its assumed affinity with disposability. To borrow a phrase from Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans (1903–1911), the Baroness was performing for herself and strangers. Her poetry addresses these strangers, this audience yet to come, while also shielding her from the risks of raw exposure and dressing her against becoming a bride stripped bare by capitalism and Dadaist artists alike.
8. Gammel, “Mirror Looks: The Visual and Performative Diaries of L. M. Montgomery, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, and Elvira Bach,” in Interfaces: Women, Autobiography, Image, Performance, ed. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002), 303.
15. Kaja Silverman, “Fragments of a Fashionable Discourse,” in Theorizing Feminism: Parallel Trends in the Humanities and Social Sciences, ed. Anne C. Herrmann and Abigail J. Stewart (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994), 78.
Else Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven's German poetry
In her “Autobiography,” written in the 1920s in Europe, Baroness Else von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874–1927) reminisces in an associative and expressive style about the first thirty-five years of her life. Her account provides an exact mirror image of the events described in the 1905 novel Fanny Essler by Felix Paul Greve (1879–1948), but with additional details and observations that benefit from hindsight. Greve’s novel ends with the heroine’s death at the precise moment when she would have been rudely awakened by some terrible revelation about her lover. The real-life event was Greve’s arrest for fraud in Bonn in May 1903. The novel’s transparent intertextual references to Flaubert’s Madame Bovary are confirmed in the Baroness’s autobiography: Greve admired the French author to a point that he wanted to be like him. The Baroness’s narrative goes well beyond the novel’s time frame, and reflects the entire decade she lived with Greve from 1903 to 1911. Unfortunately, she provides little information for the years following, and her voluminous correspondence also offers only a few rare glimpses.
Much of the Baroness’s German poetry in her archives at the University of Maryland Collection complements the details in her autobiography and Greve’s novel. Many of her poems contain dedications to the influential persons described in both texts. But while the 1905 roman-à-clef persiflages the bohemian circle surrounding the poet Stefan George in Berlin and Munich in the 1890s under fake names, Else’s autobiography echoes her experiences in clear text. Her involvement with artist Melchior Lechter in 1896, her stormy affair with writer Ernst Hardt in 1898, her platonic travel through Italy with photographer Richard Schmitz, her May 1900 enrolment in the artists’ colony Dachau near Munich and meeting her first husband August Endell there, their contacts with Karl Wolfskehl, their moving to Berlin in 1901, her “womb-squeeze excursion” to a North Sea sanatorium on the island Föhr where she was treated for hysterical tantrums occasioned by Endell’s impotence, her epistolary romance with dashing dandy Greve which became an openly flaunted affair at Christmas 1902, and the affair’s devastating effect on the doubly betrayed Endell during the trio’s communal boat trip to Palermo: all are described in the Baroness’s narrative without distortions or cosmetic touches.
In the Baroness’s largely unpublished German poems, many are remembered in rather cryptic dedications, like “Tse” (Endell), “Erni” (Hardt), “Marcus” (Behmer), “Jorkan” (R. Schmitz) or “FPG” (Greve). Accordingly, they were filed in folders marked “Unidentified German” until Dr. Beth Alvarez, curator of Literary Manuscripts, instigated a major reorganization in 2001. At that point, they and related snippets of correspondence could be attached to persons from the Baroness’s past, ranging from Behmer to “Dr. Phil” (Wolfskehl). As in her autobiography, Greve takes the lion’s share in the Baroness’s poems. In a note on her poem “Wolkzug,” she evokes Palermo, Greve’s 1903 arrest, and his 1911 abandonment in Kentucky within a year after being reunited. All references to Sparta, Kentucky, or Ohio in her poetry are more or less explicitly linked to this traumatic event, and memories of it appear almost obsessively in her writings.
In her autobiography, the Baroness describes how she composed her first poem “Kornblumen” (Cornflowers) at the tender age of twelve (30). It was so good that her teacher and her own mother accused her of plagiarizing Goethe. The next mention of poetry is related to Greve, who, after some blissful Palermo weeks, had left her involuntarily for the first time: his lavish lifestyle was financed by his student friend Herman Kilian, who lured Greve back to Bonn and had him arrested and sentenced for fraud. During Greve’s year in prison, the Baroness turned to poetry to alleviate her longing for him (92). Seven beautifully crafted poems published by “Fanny Essler” in the journal Die Freistatt in 1904–05 were the result of these lonesome labors.
When the Baroness picked up Greve upon his release in June 1904, he quickly whisked her away first to Wollerau in Switzerland, then in mid-1905 to Paris-Plage, France. This is significant, since these foreign locations are invariably close to, but at a safe distance from, larger cities like Zürich, Paris, or later Cincinnati, where the “wilderness” of Sparta, Kentucky, provided the rural isolation Greve continued to impose on her in 1910–11. In other words, he liked to keep her under lock and key. Even in Berlin, where they lived from 1906 to 1909, he made sure that their social contacts were reduced to a minimum.
In late July 1909, Greve left the Baroness for a second time, this time rather more deliberately. He had just double-sold his latest literary translation, and was facing repeat criminal charges. Greve preferred a hasty retreat to America, leaving a suicide note to make a clean break. More than six weeks passed before the Baroness wrote a hysterical note to Insel publisher Anton Kippenberg. His immediate reply reveals that she held him responsible for her husband’s demise, since he had been overworked, underpaid, and unfairly criticized by the publisher. Though the Baroness initially may have believed that Greve had perished, she eventually must have received word that he was alive and well in New York. Perhaps on his advice, she then made the rounds of Greve’s publishers to extract enough sympathy money to rejoin him in Pittsburgh in June 1910. There she was soon arrested for cross-dressing and smoking in public. According to the New York Times, both she and the “deceased” Greve threatened to complain at the German embassy.
Else Greve is listed as a writer in various German literary dictionaries, yet she seems not to have published anything under her own names Ploetz (maiden name), Endell (as divorcée), or Greve. This last name was however used for two of her lover’s Flaubert translations well before they were married. Her only known contribution is therefore camouflaged under the couple’s joint pseudonym “Fanny Essler” used for the 1904–1905 poetry cycle. Greve had only three other poems published in Germany, as documented in D. O. Spettigue’s seminal 1973 book FPG: The European Years, which documents his capital findings that the Canadian author Frederick Philip Grove was in fact the Baroness’s Felix Paul Greve. Greve’s known penchant for pseudonyms — Karl Wolfskehl wittily called him a “pseudologist” — makes it likely that the scandalous pair, singly or combined, marketed further creative products still awaiting discovery. Greve may have published poems called “Lieder eines Irren” (Songs of a Madman, echoing his model Flaubert’s “Mémoires d’un fou”), Grove offered pornography to Canadian publishers under assumed names, and in 1918, the Baroness wished her first poems for The Little Review to appear under the pseudonym Tara Osrik.
Both Grove’s and Spettigue’s papers are held at the University of Manitoba, and until Spettigue could link the Baroness’s autobiography to Greve in the late 1980s, the best proof of FPG’s identity was Greve’s poem “Erster Sturm” (Schaubühne, 1907), which matches the text of Grove’s “Die Dünen fliegen auf …” (The Dying Year, in his own translation). As we shall see, the Baroness had intimate knowledge of her husband’s pet poem with its Nietzschean Fall/Storm/Genius overtones. She artfully incorporated parts of it in poems about their 1910–11 Kentucky experience, which she explicitly dedicated “To FPG.”
From Grove’s autobiographical A Search for America (1927), in which he describes the three years he roamed the United States before coming to Canada in 1912, his year with the Baroness, and indeed the Baroness herself, are conspicuously missing. Both do, however, dominate his first Canadian novel, Settlers of the Marsh (1925). The entire book is a therapeutic exercise in coming to terms with the author’s third and final abandonment of her in 1911, barely a year after the couple had resumed their strained relations on a Kentucky farm. As in the novel, the Baroness reveals that Greve had reverted to his old virgin ideal in her absence, and that he practiced sexual abstinence while absorbed in his Rousseau-like struggle with the soil (“Autobiography,” 92). Their union having always been very physical, this change spelled trouble. She gives a spirited account of her blond and blue-eyed rivals of the “Gretchen” type cast in Goethe’s Faust (“Autobiography” 75). That Grove adhered to that type after he relocated to Canada is amply proved by his choice of a second wife, and by the women he idealized in his autobiographies and the allegorical epic “Konrad, the Builder.” As in the 1925 novel, Greve may very well have longed to kill the Baroness in Sparta, but instead he just meekly left her (“Autobiography,” 72). In her “Wolkzug” note, the Baroness bitterly states that Greve left her destitute in Kentucky, where she hardly spoke English and was considered insane.
This dismal post-Greve condition drove the Baroness to Cincinnati, where her priorities were perforce not of the creative kind. In order to survive, she was posing at the local Art Academy, where most of the faculty were of German-American origin. Frank Duveneck (1848–1919) taught there from 1900 to 1919, and had trained in Munich with Leibl and Diez. He even established a summer school there for “Duveneck boys” like Robert Henri (1865–1929), who was later influential in Philadelphia and New York. The Baroness may have modeled in the nude for both artists in all three American locations. She also appears to have worked as some kind of chorus girl in Cincinnati’s German entertainment district. Her comic poems “Herr peu-à-peu” and “Vernunft” suggest surroundings similar both to her early days in Berlin, when she was on display in DeVry’s famous “living sculptures,” and to her New York posing career after 1914–15.
The Baroness and Leo were married in New York in November 1913, but they could have met in “Cinci, the City of Pork” in 1911–12, where, as an intriguing note by Freytag-Loringhoven’s biographer Djuna Barnes suggests, the Baron may have been “selling beef.” This would account for travels to Mississippi, or to Akron, Ohio, where, according to a letter by Hart Crane, local photographer Harvey Minns claimed to have known the Baroness long before she moved to New York. The Baroness’s poems about domestic life with her third husband may thus reflect a setting in the Midwest rather than in New York’s Ritz hotel.
After Baron Leo went to fight in World War I, the Baroness soon became a notorious model, and again seems to have taken part in theatrical productions. Two Library of Congress photos show her in exotic garb and pose. In one she leans on the Jamaican poet Claude McKay, also in oriental costume. A 1915 article in the New York Times mentions that she posed as “Semiramide, the turbulent queen of the East [in a] painting recently shown here.” A related stage production with an oriental theme (perhaps Rossini’s Semiramis?) could have brought the two together as early as 1915. Their well-documented collaboration on the left-wing journal The Liberator in 1922, when the Baroness published two poems under McKay’s editorship, may therefore have had roots in a longstanding rather than a recent affiliation.
The Baroness’s creative writing career took off in 1918 with The Little Review. Some thirty poems, several of them in German, appeared there over the next seven years. Publications in other journals like The Liberator, Broom, Transition, and Transatlantic are scant, but attest to the Baroness’s association with Peggy Guggenheim, her cousin Harold Loeb, Ford Madox Ford, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and other literary notables.
As she had previously done when abandoned by Greve, the Baroness likely resorted to writing her many Kentucky poems about him in Cincinnati, while she was still close in time and space to the scene of his crimes. What matters is that she drew on their old “Fanny Essler” poems to create more powerful, negative “portraits” of Greve. Here is where the Baroness’s clever skills in combining the old and the new come into play. In May 1990, following a lead about Greve’s astounding 1904 “Fanny Essler” plans in Claude Martin’s masterly edition of Gide’s 1904 encounter with Greve, “Conversation with a German,” I found the seven impressive “Fanny Essler” poems. Greve selfishly laid claim to what was in fact a collaboration with the Baroness along the lines of form (his) and content (hers). At least, he gave the Baroness indirect credit by adopting a female pseudonym. This is more than he did with the two novels about her, where his name sits squarely as the author’s on the title page. The Baroness sums up Greve’s exploitation in this way: “It was my life and persons out of my life. He did the executive part of the business, giving the thing the conventional shape and dress” (“Autobiography,” 34).
The new “Fanny Essler” poetry treasure was eagerly incorporated into my then-budding Greve/Grove poetry edition, increasing its German poetry component from six to fourteen poems. Then, in April 1991, during my first visit to the University of Maryland with Gisi von Freytag-Loringhoven, I could identify two directly related poems by the Baroness: “Schalk” draws on “Fanny Essler’s” sonnets, which paint an unflattering “portrait” of Greve in 1904. “Du” (You) is clearly based on “Fanny Essler’s” last two poems inspired by her 1902 “womb-squeeze” excursion. They describe the moody landscape on the North Sea shores, where the lonely “Fanny” laments her lover’s absence (“Husum, Herbst 1902” and “Snow Poem”). “Du” exists in many variants with titles like “Natur,” “Naturbild,” “Natürlich,” or “Freude.” They illustrate nicely how the Baroness usually starts out with a conventionally formed poem, which she reduces in several rounds until she arrives at barebone lists of nouns and adjectives. These she then translates and presents as Dada products. As a side-by-side display shows, “Du” (You) is an early version of the Baroness’s “snow” poems, and corresponds closely to its 1905 equivalent.
Freytag-Loringhoven’s poem “Schalk” is intricately linked to the Baroness’s abandonment in Kentucky. It bears the unique reference “An FPG, Sparta, Kentucky, am Eagle Creek” (To FPG, Sparta, Kentucky, on the Eagle Creek). It exists in even more variants than “Du,” with versions entitled “Herbst,” “Gläsern,” “Verrat,” “October,” “Don Quixote,” or “Ruf.” More variants may have escaped my awareness, especially, if English versions were separated from their German counterparts. For example, the poem “In the Midst” on the University of Maryland’s Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven Digital Library site is related to the “Schalk”/”Herbst” cluster, since it concludes with the words “in Sparta, Kentucky.” It also confirms once more that the Baroness, in ever progressively reductive manner, arrives at word lists, which she then offers as modern English expressionist (longer versions) or Dadaist poems (shorter ones). The end results are barely recognizable when compared with the original texts.
The composition history of “Schalk” is far more complex than for “Du.” “Schalk” not only draws on the three central “Fanny Essler” sonnets, but also on Greve’s favorite “Fall”/Herbst poem of 1907. In Grove’s archives it exists both as the manuscript poem “Die Dünen …,” but also as “The Dying Year” in Grove’s own translation.
On the University of Manitoba’s website, the Baroness’s version “Herbst”/Fall has been chosen to illustrate her artful adaptation techniques. In the static and timeless centerpiece of the “Fanny Essler” triptych, three Petrarchan sonnets about his eyes, hands, and mouth presented a mere half-bust of Greve. The Baroness now adds to Greve’s Eye (steely-blue, stanza 2), Mouth (poppy-leaf-shrill, stanza 3), and Hand (chalk-white, murderous, stanza 5) his Thighs (alabaster-dead, stanza 4), his chiseled, Cain-like Face (stanza 6), his Forehead (stanza 7), and his metallic golden Hair (stanza 8), thus transforming with imagery of cold metals, stones, and marbles the “portrait” into a full-length statue. At the pivotal juncture stands his “rigid Heart” (“sein Sonnenherz ist starr,” stanza 8), placing Greve/Fall’s moral inadequacy and essential coldness at eye level with the more superficial physical characteristics. The second half of the poem continues to focus on the destructive effects of his actions, and culminate in “Es ist der Trüger Herbst — der Tod — der Sturm” (It is Crook Fall — Death — Storm, stanza 11).
On the “Schalk” version, the Baroness specifies in a marginal note that the “Herbst is a portrait of FPG,” then goes on with these hyperbolic abstractions: he is “Annihilation” and “Rage” (Vernichtung and Wut, stanza 12), the “Pain of Icy Cold,” an “Executioner” (der Kälte eisig Weh, Henker, stanza 13), and again “Death/Decay” in the seductive guise of a colorful, tropical bird (Tod, stanza 14). With this devastating full-length “portrait” the Baroness triumphs over Grove’s feeble attempts in Settlers to come to grips with his cowardly flight from Sparta, Kentucky. She weaves several layers of biographical details and old poems into entirely new creations. Thus she, who readily admits to an amateurish quality in her early poetry (“Autobiography,” 30), shows that she has achieved full formal mastery in her own right. Moreover, her poems, endowed with amazing powers of expression and supported by pleasing visual configurations, multicolored ink, and a lavish use of hyphens, surpass by far Grove’s entire conventional poetic output.
Greve’s and the Baroness’s 1904–05 “Fanny Essler” poems clearly have an intensity much more akin to her expressive poetry than to his. Her judgment of FPG’s talents hits the mark when she declares that the main characteristics of his 1902 Wanderungen are “utter artificiality,” and then links them to Stefan George’s circle, which Greve tried to emulate at the time: “His poems were as well cut gems of language juggling without blood-call — but the call of an ambitious, industrious spirit […]. The most impressive part about this kind of poetry is paper, print and numbered privacy. It stood for the top-notch of culture” (“Autobiography,” 165 ff.). She also denies Greve the “genius” status he craved, rightly cutting him down to size. He was largely an imitator, and, unbeknownst to her, he would remain one for the rest of his life. As Grove, he never budged from the ossified poetics he had embraced around 1900, and persisted in applying Stefan George’s precious rules, albeit in slightly less pretentious tones. He likewise kept imitating the sober prose style of Flaubert’s symbolic realism he had used as Greve in his first two novels about the Baroness. Already then the Baroness had judged the Fanny Essler novel “abrupt […], dry and artificial, having no carrying power or convincing quality of its own,” and, though she credits FPG with “business genius,” she questions his creative talent: “that was the first time, I think, when the seed of doubt about his genius — at least as artist — was sewn in me” (“Autobiography,” 35). Her later judgment is firmer: “He made, in spite of his intelligence, the mistake of thinking himself an artist. How that is possible I don’t know! He was just the opposite […]. [It] shows an amazing lack of observation, self-analysis and intellect” (34).
The Baroness remembered the 1904/5 “Fanny Essler” complex in poetry and prose for decades. In the 1922–23 issue of Broom, the Baroness’s poem “Circle” appeared alongside a Mexican fresco-like illustration on page 128, while the frontispiece on page 2, completely out of character with this modernist journal published in New York, Rome, and Berlin by Peggy Guggenheim’s cousin Harold Loeb, shows an 1840 lithograph of the romantic dancer Fanny Elssler by G. Leybold. The juxtaposition of the old and the new has a comic effect. This impact is even stronger when, in a 1922 issue of The Little Review, Freytag-Loringhoven’s “Portrait of Marcel Duchamp” sculpture, a combination of feathers and metal parts, follows immediately upon Joseph Stella’s traditional sketch with the same title.
In April 1923, when most her friends had either returned or emigrated to Europe, the Baroness came to postwar Berlin at the worst possible inflationary time. Soon, she was reduced to selling newspapers on the Kurfürstendamm, and was in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Her hilarious narrative poems about former lover Ernst Hardt and former husband Endell stem from this troubled period. Though excellent satires, they are far from a mere squaring of old accounts. When the addressees’ biographies are probed, the poems take on a decidedly sinister shade as blatant blackmail tools. For Hardt, who had been married to the Greek diplomat’s daughter Pollyxena von Hoesslin since 1899, the Baroness’s poem may have occasioned a sudden separation in 1923. For Endell, who married Anna Meyn in 1909 and held a reputable position at the Breslau Art Academy, the toll of her “fun poem” (Spottgedicht) had perhaps even more dire consequences: the very timing of his rapid decline in 1923–24 and a premature death in April 1925 permits this speculation. In a strange letter draft to “Tse” (Endell), the Baroness refers to this very poem, and evokes happier times around 1900, as if she had completely forgotten about her adultery with Greve in late 1902.
Many of the Baroness’s German poems in the University of Maryland Freytag-Loringhoven Collection stem from the Cincinnati and New York days; many more were written in Berlin and Paris in the 1920s. The most Dada-like word columns were likely composed in her European years. At all times, however, she drew on autobiographically inspired and traditionally crafted materials. With her artful adaptations, she met the highest avant-garde standards of the times. Her open-mindedness, her adaptability, and her flexibility make even an aging Baroness truly “modern.” This is more than can be said for most German poets of her generation, who tended to adhere, like FPG/Grove, closely to turn-of-the-century aesthetic lines.
Anderson, Margaret. My Thirty Years’ War. London: Knopf, 1930.
Cohen, George M. A History of American Art. New York: Dell, 1971.
Crane, Hart. Letters of Hart Crane, 1906–1932. New York: Hermitage, 1952.
---. “Portrait of Marcel Duchamp.” Sculpture. Photo in TLR 9, no. 2 (1922): 2. See also F. Naumann’s April 2002 Freytag-Loringhoven Exhibit Catalog, Back Cover. 2002–2003.
Gammel, Irene. Baroness Elsa: Gender, Dada, and Everyday Modernity—a Cultural Biography. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.
Gide, André. “Conversation avec un allemand.” Bulletin des amis d’André Gide, edited by Claude Martin, 32 (October 1976): 23–41. See also the bilingual e-edition at the University of Manitoba.
Greve, Felix Paul. “Erster Sturm.” 1907. [Side-by-side with F. P. Grove, “Die Dünen fliegen auf …” Ca. 1928.]
---. Fanny Essler: ein Berliner Roman. Stuttgart: A. Juncker, .
Grove, Frederick Philip. “Die Dünen fliegen auf …” Ca. 1928. [Side-by-side with F. P. Greve, “Erster Sturm,” 1907.]
---. The Letters of Frederick Philip Grove. Edited by D. Pacey. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976.---. Poems/Gedichte. By/von F. P. Grove, F. P. Greve, and/und “Fanny Essler.” Edited by Gaby Divay. Winnipeg: Wolf-Verlag, 1993.
Hjartarson, Paul. “Of Greve, Grove, and Other Strangers: The Autobiography of the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.” In A Stranger to My Time, by Grove, 269–284. Edmonton: NeWest Press, 1986.
---. “The Self, Its Discourse, and the Others: The Autobiographies of Frederick Philip Grove and Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.” In Reflections: Autobiography and Canadian Literature, edited by K. P. Stich, 115–129. Ottowa: University of Ottowa Press, 1988.
Kippenberg, Anton. Letter to Else Greve, September 21, 1909. In The Letters of Frederick Philip Grove, 550–552. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976.
Naumann, Francis M. Conversion to Modernism: The Early Work of Man Ray. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003.
---. New York Dada, 1915–23. New York: Abrams, 1994.
Reichel, Klaus. Vom Jugendstil zur Sachlichkeit: August Endell, 1871–1925. Dissertation. Bochum, 1974.
Reiss, Robert. “My Baroness: Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.” In New York Dada, edited by Naumann, 81–101.
Schüssler, Susanne. Ernst Hardt: eine monographische Studie. Frankfurt and New York: Peter Lang, 1994.
Spettigue, D. O. FPG: The European Years. Ottawa: Oberon, 1973.
1. All references to Freytag-Loringhoven’s “Autobiography” are to the 205-page typescript prepared by Djuna Barnes from various manuscript sources. All poems or correspondence addressed also stem from the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven Papers, Literary Manuscripts, University of Maryland, College Park.
8. Much of what is said here about the “Fanny Essler” complex is explored in my Arachne article “Fanny Essler’s Poems: Felix Paul Greve’s or Else von Freytag-Loringhoven’s?”; much about the Baroness’s blackmail poems is covered in my “Abrechnung und Aufarbeitung im Gedicht: Else von Freytag-Loringhoven über drei Männer (E. Hardt, A. Endell, F. P. Greve).”
9. There is yet another biographical layer here: Endell’s only known published poem “Schneetag,” published in Pan 2, no. 3 (1896): 215, is similar to, though more somber than, Else’s “snow poem”: see part 5 of “Fanny Essler’s Poems.”