Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich Village poets’

A 1920s Village poet writes of heartbreak

September 9, 2013

teasdale“History has not been kind to Sara Teasdale,” wrote Katha Pollitt in a 1979 review in The New York Times.

But “in the teens and 1920s, her rhymed lyrics of love and loss were hugely popular—’her volumes were keepsakes and valentines, the co-ed’s unfailing companion, and the Bible of every disappointed lover,'” Pollitt quotes poet Louis Untermeyer.

VachellindsayBorn in St. Louis in 1884, Teasdale was a sheltered child who left home for Chicago and began publishing verse that was well-crafted, evocative, even fragile and focused on matters of the heart.

She also had an affair with poet Vachel Lindsay (left), but declined to marry him.

In 1914, newly wed to a businessman, she arrived in New York, living on Central Park West before moving to Greenwich Village.

Many of the poems she wrote through the 1920s use New York as a backdrop for heartbreak.

In “Union Square,” she writes:

Onefifthavenue“With the man I love who loves me not
I walked in the street-lamps’ flare;
We watched the world go home that night
In a flood through Union Square”

Summer Night, Riverside” also tackles heartache:

“In the wild soft summer darkness
How many and many a night we two together
Sat in the park and watched the Hudson
Wearing her lights like golden spangles
Glinting on black satin.”

Sarateasdale2Her take on circling the block around Gramercy Park with a romantic partner, wondering why the gates were locked and the park private, ends with this:

“Oh heavy gates that fate has locked
To bar the joy we may not win,
Peace would go out forevermore
If we should dare to enter in.”

Like so many other poets, Teasdale battled depression. She won a Pulitzer in 1918, but when she learned Lindsay had killed himself in 1931, she was deeply affected.

“She divorced in 1929 and lived the rest of her life as a semi-invalid,” states Teasdale committed suicide in 1933 by overdosing on sleeping pills in her apartment at One Fifth Avenue (above).

The Beat poet born and raised on Bleecker Street

November 3, 2010

Unlike Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and other Beat Generation writers centered in Greenwich Village in the 1950s, poet Gregory Corso was actually from the Village.

Born at St. Vincent’s Hospital in 1930 to poor immigrants living at 190 Bleecker Street (where one-bedroom apartments now fetch $2500 per month), Corso’s upbringing was rough:

He sums his bio up in a letter dated September 7, 1957 from The Accidental Autobiography: The Selected Letters of Gregory Corso:

“…mother year after me left not-too-bright-father and went back to Italy, thus I entered life of orphanage and four foster parents and at 11 father remarried and took me back….”

“…two years later I ran away and caught sent away to boys home for two years and let out and went back home and ran away again and sent to Bellevue for observation where I spent three frightening sad months with mad old men who peed in other sad old men’s mouths….”

“…from 13 to 17 I lived with Irish on 99th and Lexington, with Italians on 105th and 3rd, with two runaway Texans on 43rd etc. until 17th year when did steal and get three years in Clinton Prison where an old man handed me [The Brothers] Karamozov, Les Miserables, Red and the Black, and thus I learned, and was free to think and feel and write….”

In 1950, he met Ginsberg and Kerouac, who were impressed with Corso’s street smarts and talent. And the New York Beat scene took off.

[Photo above: Ginsberg and Corso read with publisher Barney Rosset in Washington Square Park]