The following is a short assessment of Kreymborg’s role in the Provincetown Players, as well as brief analyses of “Lima Beans” and “Manikin and Minkin.”
Below I’ve listed and discuss some of the more important figures whose careers are indebted to The American Caravan anthologies, which were edited by Kreymborg, Lewis Mumford, and Paul Rosenfeld between 1927-1931.
As a peripheral figure in the groups of convening artists in Paris in the 1920s, Kreymborg’s interpretation and recollection of the expatriate experience is necessarily different from other Modernist figures that inhabited the artistic circles of the Left Bank. Though he was introduced to the literary circles during his visit to Paris in 1921, he never became an active member of “the Crowd,” as Robert McAlmon called it. Passages in Troubadour show that Kreymborg was never entirely comfortable during his time in Paris—as he says, in the third person, “Krimmie’s French was a severe handicap. He must have seemed queer to these Parisians. Every foreigner spoke French of a sort and few Frenchmen ever descended to another language” (288). Aside from a language barrier, Kreymborg apparently did not enjoy the company of the congregations of artists—as opposed to the importance that he grants to his time amidst artists in Grantwood and New York. In a letter sent to Gertrude Stein from Italy in August of 1921, he wrote, “In Paris we saw too much of Americans and of artists. We don’t know a single high-brow here, and god, the blessing of it” (UVA Special Collections). His remarks to Stein—and his time in Paris more generally—represent a tension throughout Troubadour, as well as throughout his life: he acknowledges the benefits and support that come from working in a community of artists, yet he also believes, as he suggests in Troubadur, that “when [the artist] turns sociable it is usually at the expense of some compromise with his inner being” (159). Because he was not as sociable as other literary figures that wrote memoirs of the ‘20s, Troubadour focuses more on drawing attention to and promoting authors, rather than engaging in gossip or criticism. As Craig Monk points out in Writing the Lost Generation, Kreymborg’s generous treatment of writers in Troubadour shows that his “modernism was already distinguishing itself by its Catholicism, its heterogeneity” (39).
In his discussion on the various intentions and functions of poetry anthologies, Robert McDowell argues of Kreymborg’s An Anthology of American Poetry: Lyric America, 1630-1930 (1930), “Alfred Kreymborg’s Anthology of American Poetry (and before that his Others anthologies…) first brought together the work of Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, and other leading Modernist poets. Kreymborg intended to establish the credibility and authority of a new generation and represent the open-minded, dynamic energy of American verse” (McDowell 594). Though McDowell’s article focuses mainly on contemporary poetry anthologies, he approvingly cites Kreymborg’s claim that the confident critic needs an “essential detachment” when acting as anthologist (McDowell 596). And while McDowell does not explicitly claim that Kreymborg was the ideal anthologist, he ends his article with a description of necessary qualifications of an anthologist that could be easily applied to Kreymborg; he suggests that anthologists “must buck the current habit of elevating personalities above the work itself…[and] if they are also to be poets, it would be better if they had already established a legitimate track record in editing” (McDowell 608). Having worked as an editor on Musical Advance, The Glebe, Others, and Broom, Kreymborg had the necessary “track record in editing,” and the “essential detachment” that he attributed to his catholicity of judgment ensured that he elevated the work above the personalities.