“Are you still alive, Djuna?”

That’s what e.e. cummings reportedly shouted out his window on Patchin Place, the West Village gated alley where he and fellow writer Djuna Barnes were neighbors for many overlapping years.

Djunabarnes1925Cummings resided in a house at #4, while Djuna had a studio on the second floor at #5 across the way. She lived like a recluse, so occasionally cummings checked up on her. 

Barnes had been a true Bohemian, moving to Greenwich Village in the teens and advocating free love, sleeping with both men and women. After years spent in Europe (where the photo at left was taken in 1925), she moved to Patchin Place in 1940.

And she never left. Barnes made her home in that one-room flat for 42 years, her $49.50 per month rent paid for by a stipend.

Djunabarnes1962She barely published anything for the rest of her life, but her literary rep grew, and she spent her later years chasing away fans who rang her bell wanting to discuss her work. She died in 1982.

Today, a plaque commemorates cummings’ home at #4. But no plaque marks #5, even though Barnes was a literary heavyweight. Her 1936 novel Nightwood was lauded by T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas. 

The photo at right, of Barnes posing beside the Patchin Place gate, was taken in 1962 by e.e. cummings’ wife, poet Marion Morehouse.

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2 Responses to ““Are you still alive, Djuna?””

  1. KR Blog » Wunderkammer: Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood Says:

    [...] a Greenwich Village apartment (#5) where she lived for forty years until her death in 1982 with a monthly rent of  $49.50. Djuna at Patchin Place (Ephemeral New [...]

  2. New York’s last gas lamp in a Village alley « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] It’s shabby-romantic, the former home of many early 20th century writers. [...]

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