Emory's Woodruff Library to exhibit B-Side Modernism, counterculture materials from Danowski collection

Published 01-06-2015

by Maureen McGavin

C Comics Issue No. 2 was published in 1965. This little magazine was edited and Illustrated by Joe Brainard, with contributions by Ted Berrigan, James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest, Bill Berkson, Ron Padgett, and a number of other poets affiliated with the New York School of poets. Credit: Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, MARBL, Emory University.

The Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University will exhibit rare items, including counterculture materials, from the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library as part of the “B-Side Modernism” research fellowship and upcoming conference in January.

Funded by a Mellon Foundation grant, the B-Side Modernism fellowship was established by nonsite.org in collaboration with Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL). The nonsite.org editors selected four fellows from a competitive pool of scholars to use the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at MARBL for primary research. Their final articles will be published on nonsite.org in mid-January to coincide with the B-Side Modernism conference, which will be held Jan. 23 and 24 in the Jones Room at the Woodruff library.

The library will have a physical exhibit of materials from the Danowski Poetry Library on Level 2, which will debut on Friday, Jan. 16, 2015. The opening reception will take place in the Jones Room from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 23, in tandem with the conference. The exhibit and all events are free and open to the public.

The Danowski Poetry Library, acquired by MARBL in 2004, consists of more than 75,000 volumes of rare and first editions of 20th century poetry, as well as supplemental counterculture material influential to these poets. Nonsite.org, an online, open access, peer-reviewed quarterly journal of scholarship in the arts and humanities, is affiliated with Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

“The idea behind the B-Side Modernism project is to consider the work of 20th century poets and artists where the meaning and value have yet to be fully realized,” says Oren Izenberg, co-leader of the project for nonsite.org and associate professor of English at University of California Irvine. “The Danowski poetry library is an amazing resource. The collection – and the Mellon Foundation’s support of this project – presents a fantastic opportunity to support new scholarly work and to open up a major archive to meaningful public conversation.”

About the B-Side exhibit

The Eventorium Muse was published in 1964 as an extension of poetry readings established by Michael O'Brien and Hunter Ingalls. They were also the editors of this little magazine. Credit: Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, MARBL, Emory University.

B-Side Modernism is an apt name: “It evokes a reference to record albums and the B-side of a hit record, often a great song in its own right that didn’t get the same recognition as the A-side,” says exhibit curator Lisa Chinn, a PhD candidate in English at Emory who is also the editorial assistant for nonsite.org.

But, Chinn says, it also refers to being on the other side of modernism. Many scholars regard the height of literary modernism as occurring early in the 20th century, but most of the materials that the fellows focused on in their research – and the artifacts chosen for the exhibit – are from the 1950s-60s.

All materials in the exhibit are from the Danowski poetry library collection at MARBL. The items were chosen based on the research done by the four fellows – Joshua Adams, a doctoral candidate in comparative literature at the University of Chicago; Stephanie Anderson, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago; Rebecca Roach, a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford; and Daniel Worden, an assistant professor of English at the University of New Mexico.

The display will include:

● Samples of C Comics and C: A Journal of Poetry, a mimeographed periodical started by poet Ted Berrigan in 1963. Issues with covers created by Andy Warhol and poet/illustrator Joe Brainard will be displayed, as well as examples of Brainard’s other work such as the “I Remember” series.

Cut-ups from Williams S. Burroughs (bags of printed words cut up); a cut-in interview audio with Burroughs that visitors can listen to on headphones; and several word games created by poet and painter Brion Gysin.

● Materials about translators of poetry and the problems inherent in translation, with a particular focus on little-known Surrealist poet David Gascoyne, including his handwritten lecture notes on “The translator and His Problems,” correspondence, and his manuscript “Prolegomena to the Theocractic Revolution.”

● Little magazines published in 1963, which examined the influence of high modernism (1915-25) on this later period. Materials on display will include Nadada, and an issue of Signal magazine featuring a republication of Hart Crane’s juvenilia poem, “The Moth that God Made Blind (written in 1916).

Benefit to Emory

The four fellows’ research, the upcoming publication of their articles, and the exhibit of research-related materials highlight a lesser-known aspect of the Danowski library at Emory’s MARBL that many people may not even be aware of – the counterculture influences that affected many of the poets, writers and artists of the time. The goal of the exhibit is to encourage both scholars and non-scholars to use the Danowski collection, and the myriad other collections, housed in MARBL.

“This is material that the public doesn’t get to see very often,” Chinn says. “For those interested in literature, it provides a new perspective on the poets and writers they enjoy from this period.”

The exhibit will remain on view until March 15, 2015. The Robert W. Woodruff Library is located at 540 Asbury Circle in Atlanta, 30322. Parking is available in the Fishburne deck.

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