David and I were in Atlanta, Georgia over Labor Day weekend and while there we stopped by the Woodruff Library at Emory University to take in this stunning exhibit curated by Kevin Young, who made the selections for the just-published 2011 volume of the Best American Poetry. On Sunday, Kevin, David, and contributor Natasha Trethewey read from the book at the Decatur-AJC Book Festival, a joyous affair. Prior to the session, Kevin took some time to talk to us about the exhibit, which is worth a special trip to the Emory campus. Of Harry and Caresse Crosby's Black Sun Press and its importance to the international avant-garde in post-WWI literary life, Young notes that the Paris-based press published "many of the key figures of modernism, often championing authors that others refused to print – from D.H. Lawrence to James Joyce. Perhaps Black Sun’s most famous book remains the first edition of Hart Crane’s long poem, The Bridge, which included the first photographs by Walker Evans to appear in book form. The Black Sun Press roster is a testament not only to the Crosbys’ good taste, but their bravery in the face of censorship and worse, achieving a rare mix of high-quality writing and sophisticated, luxe printing"
When you tour the exhibit, you experience the pleasure of reading handwritten letters by a whole roster of great authors; Harry Crosby himself annotated copies of his books with his own hieroglyphic code You leave the exhibit with a renewed appreciation of this singular character, so rich and so representative a figure of the "lost generation" of expatriate artists in Paris in the 1920s. There is also an engrossing documentary about Caresse Crosby, a rare beauty, born a Boston Brahmin, who survived her recklessly handsome volatile husband.and went on, many years later, to buy a castle in Italy and turn it into an artist colony. The exhibit will remain on view through March, 2012.