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About this poet

Alfred Kreymborg was born on December 10, 1883, in New York City. The son of a cigar-store owner, he attended public school in Manhattan and became a chess phenomenon by the age of ten. Along with chess, he was very interested in music, and his desire to compose eventually led him to writing.

He began writing poetry in his late teens and soon became an active figure in the Greenwich Village literary circles. The first writer to be involved with Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery, he joined forces with the avant-garde photographer Man Ray in 1913 to create The Glebe, a Modernist journal that published writers such as H. D., Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams. When Man Ray started an artist’s colony in Ridgefield, New Jersey, that same year, Kreymborg joined. From Ridgefield, he founded Others: A Magazine of the New Verse with Skipwith Cannell, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams in 1915.

Also in 1915, Guido Bruno published Kreymborg’s first work, Edna: The Girl of the Street (Bruno’s Weekly), a fictional account of an encounter with a prostitute. This publication led to Bruno’s arrest on obscenity charges and attracted wider literary attention for Kreymborg.

His first book of poetry, Mushrooms: A Book of Free Forms (John Marshall, 1916), established him as one of the early adopters of free verse. He went on to author over a dozen more poetry collections, including The Selected Poems, 1912­–1944 (E. P. Dutton, 1945) and No More War and Other Poems (Bookman Associates, 1950). In addition, he published an autobiography, Troubadour (Boni and Liveright, 1925), as well as several puppet and radio plays, most famously Lima Beans (S. French, 1925).  He also wrote Our Singing Strength: An Outline of American Poetry, 1620-1930 (Coward-McCann, 1929), a history of American poetry that provides valuable insight into the Modernist circles.

Kreymborg also edited the prominent Modernist magazine Broom, An International Magazine of the Arts and founded the anthology series American Caravan with Paul Rosenfeld. He died on August 14, 1966.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
No More War and Other Poems (Bookman Associates, 1950)
The Selected Poems, 1912–1944 (E. P. Dutton, 1945)
Mushrooms: A Book of Free Forms (John Marshall, 1916)

Prose
Troubadour (Boni and Liveright, 1925)
Our Singing Strength: An Outline of American Poetry, 16201930 (Coward-McCann, 1929)

Poetry

Ladislaw the critic
is five feet six inches high,
which means
that his eyes
are five feet two inches
from the ground,
which means,
if you read him your poem,
and his eyes lift to five feet
and a trifle more than two inches,
what you have done
is Poetry—
should his eyes remain
at five feet two inches,
you have perpetrated prose,
and do his eyes stoop
—which Heaven forbid!—
the least trifle below
five feet two inches,
you
are an unspeakable adjective.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 27, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.  This poem is in the public domain.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 27, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.  This poem is in the public domain.

Alfred Kreymborg

Alfred Kreymborg was born on December 10, 1883, in New York City.

by this poet

poem
I am four monkeys.
One hangs from a limb,
tail-wise,
chattering at the earth;
another is cramming his belly with cocoanut;
the third is up in the top branches,
quizzing the sky,
and the fourth—
he's chasing another monkey.
How many monkeys are you?
poem
Our door was shut to the noon-day heat.
We could not see him.
We might not have heard him either—
Resting, dozing, dreaming pleasantly.
But his step was tremendous—
Are mountains on the march?

He was no man who passed;
But a great faithful horse
Dragging a load
Up the hill.
poem
There has been
Another death.
This time
I bring it to you.
You are kind,
Brutal,
You know
How to lower 
Bodies.
I ask only
That the rope
Isn't silk,
(Silk doesn't break)
Nor thread,
(Thread does.)
If it lifts
And lowers
Common things,
It will do.