1970s sighting of a 1930s communist poet
When writing my books, Modernism from Right to Left and Counter-Revolution of the Word: the Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945–60, I spent a great deal of time studying poets who in the 1930s had joined CPUSA and/or were attracted to the communist movement. And who, I should add, were shunned and even explicitly red-baited in the 1950s. It was part, I have argued, of the postwar anticommunist effort at deradicalizing innovative poetry and forcing a separation between prewar modernists and prewar leftists in the poetry community — they who had never really been so separate.
Eve Merriam was in this mix. She was indeed a member of CPUSA, appeared in radical left anthologies and magazines, and joined a number of anti-fascist and anti-racist organizations. My research on Merriam never got past about 1956. And, frankly, after a while I forgot about her.
I have written about Merriam’s experience at the University of Pennsylvania for Jacket2 previously. One day, in response to that posting, an alumnus of Penn got in touch with me, knowing of my interest in the history of the university and in old left poets. It turns out that Penn’s alumni magazine, the Pennsyvlania Gazette, “found” Eve Merriam and ran an article about her in 1978. The profile presents a portrait of an artist who seemed by then to have had many lives and had remained in the arts in various ways. Some of what she is quoted as saying in this piece didn’t square with the Eve Merriam I know from the earlier work. But it does fill out the view. So for documentary purposes, I present a PDF copy of the article here. That way, researchers on 1930s/40s left-wing poets, searching for Merriam, might pick this up in a search result and see this eccentric take.