Stanley Burnshaw

Stanley Burnshaw

We are pleased to publish Robert Zaller’s summary of Stanley Burnshaw’s life and work to mark the occasion of PennSound’s acquisition of two recordings of Burnshaw — one a talk, the other a 1963 reading.  Zaller is a poet, critic, historian and activist, and serves as the executor of the Burnshaw Estate. Years ago I interviewed Burnshaw with Harvey Teres and spoke with him about his affiliation with radical writers in the 1930s and his encounter (by way of a negative review of Ideas of Order) with Wallace Stevens; we add my note (and a link to the PDF of the interview transcript) to this little Burnshaw feature.

Stanley Burnshaw: The poet in the world

Stanley Burnshaw, one of America’s most versatile, influential, and longlived men of letters, was born in New York City on June 20, 1906, to Ludwig Bernstein, an immigrant from Latvia, and his Russian-born wife, Sonya. Burnshaw (his Anglicized name was taken from an English relative) grew up in Pleasantville, NY, where his father had established an innovative cottage-style orphanage for destitute Jewish children. Ludwig’s philanthropic example deeply impressed his son, as did the communitarian arrangement of the orphanage.

Stanley Burnshaw comes to PennSound

Stanley Burnshaw in his 90s
Photo © Susan Copen Oken

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.

Stanley Burnshaw

nuanced commie critic

Stanley Burnshaw, who died at 99 years of age just a few years ago, reviewed Wallace Stevens's Ideas of Order critically in the communist New Masses in 1935. Although Stanley left his association with the Party fairly early (he'd never been a member, so far as I know--and he was always skeptical of aesthetic "lines"), and was very active as a translator and anthologist, and later as a senior editor at Henry Holt, the poetry world forgot about him as he developed his literary portfolio and sensibility. They seemed to prefer Burnshaw, frozen in Depression time, as the angry young lefty, hurling Marxist critique at the insular modernist. But Stanley was right there, all along, to be found and talked to. I came to know him in the 80s and eventually spent many hours at his apartment, with Harvey Teres (then at Princeton, writing a book about Partisan Review). We recorded the interview, then excerpted it and, with Stanley, edited it. Then published it in the Wallace Stevens Journal in 1989. I've been digging around my old things, as readers of this blog will have noted, and found the interview. Made a PDF of it and here it is.

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