In yesterday’s entry, I wrote about my visit to Tryon and the Lanier Library Poetry Festival. Today I’d like to follow-up with some additional notes on Tryon and its rather astonishing literary and fine arts legacy.
Prior to visiting Tryon for the Festival, I stumbled upon the poem, “April – North Carolina” by Harriet Monroe, the founder of Poetry and its first editor – which amazingly references Tryon in its very first line. I was thunderstruck and more than gratified. April is of course National Poetry Month and, miraculously, I was to be in Tryon on April 26 (two days ago) – not to mention such a find was absolutely perfect fodder for a blog entry.
Based on that find, I decided to check in with Mike McCue, a one-man clearinghouse archivist for everything literary/fine arts in Tryon. Mike and I became friends through the North Carolina Humanities Council. We’re both Council Trustees. Mike’s email subject line responses to me were titled Tryon Research, a Vortex of the Literary Universe.
What follows is a synthesis of everything Mike related to me in a series of fascinating emails during our exchanges. He deserves all the credit for this wealth of information and I haven’t included even a fourth of all he dispensed. He has my triple gratitude and affection for so graciously permitting the ensuing act of licensed plagiarism. If you spy quotation marks, it’s because paraphrase could not approximate what Mike said so inimitably. On to the vortex.
In all likelihood, Harriet Monroe came to Tryon because of Madeline Yale Wynne, a Chicago writer who wrote “The Little Room.” You can read the entirety of “The Little Room” in an embedded link in the link above. In fact, the famous literary club in Chicago took its name after Wynne’s story. Wynne and her partner Annie Cabot Putnam owned a home in Tryon. Mike mentioned that he’s pored through a biography of Monroe, and Tryon is barely mentioned. But Mike does go on to say that while Monroe was in Tryon, so was Edward Waldo Emerson, the son of Ralph Waldo Emerson. William Dean Howells may have celebrated his 80th birthday in Tryon, and his sojourn in the town may have intersected with Monroe’s.
Mike maintains a file on Harriet Monroe and it’s a rather extraordinary trove. It contains, for instance, a photocopy of the title as well as front-endpapers to Monroe’s The New Poetry, a groundbreaking anthology. Mike’s copy is signed by Elizabeth Howland Webster, of Tryon, a patron of Lanier Library, who knew Monroe personally. The file also contains a review by Monroe – dated February 1, 1914, from the Chicago Sunday Tribune – of landscape paintings by Lawrence Mazzanovich of Chicago, a renowned Impressionist painter, who became a permanent resident of Tryon. Mike is also in possession of “a holographic poem, possibly written by Monroe,” titled “Grief.” The poem is written on “tissue paper” and “slipped out of” Mike’s copy of New Poetry.
Mike started his archive fifteen years ago as vertical files for pre-1945 Tryon Artists. It then “morphed into vertical files of published authors pre-1950. Then it morphed into other interesting personalities of the Tryon colony of any time, even living figures. Then [he] completely lost control and there are living, dead, famous, infamous, and obscure personalities associated with Tryon.” He’s recently added Jasper Johns because Johns travelled to Tryon to visit an old art teacher of his who lived in a Tryon nursing home.
Tryon has a few famous hotels that hosted famous writers: but, as Mike points out, “all the hotel guest registers are lost, [including] the one from Pine Crest Inn (which would have had F. Scott Fitzgerald, for example) …. By the way, the last meeting between Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe took place at the old Oak Hall Hotel across from Lanier Library, where the Oak Hall condos are now … Their afternoon encounter is in Mabel Wolfe’s book Thomas Wolfe and His Family.” Apparently Ernest Hemingway also stayed at the Pine Crest, but I’ll hold off declaring this with any certainty, since I didn’t hear it first from Mike.
Georgann Eubanks, in her extraordinary Literary Trails of the North Carolina Mountains (the first book of her Literary Trails of North Carolina series, published by the University of North Carolina Press), also expertly holds forth on the literary wonders of Tryon. Georgann’s three volumes are crucial to anyone interested in the literature of North Carolina, to anyone interested in North Carolina. Period.
I read yesterday at McIntyre’s Bookstore at Fearrington Village, between Pittsboro and Chapel Hill with the elegant Betty Adcock, long one of North Carolina’s great poets, a generous mentor and brilliant teacher. As always, she was a presence at the podium. She and her poems stay with you long after she stops reading. Here are a couple of her poems: “January,” and “Lousiana Line.”
Today is also the birthday of Sylvia Freeman. Happy Birthday, Sylvia. Here’s her poem, “You Start with a Vase,” seen here for the first time.
You Start with a Vase
clear glass, preferably green.
fill half way with water.
add three daffodils,
first ones of the season.
posit in morning light.
pour a cup of coffee
as you linger.
reflect the table, cup,
objects on the sill,
magnify stems, leaves
zig zag patterns
create shapes and forms
you didn’t know were there
or even existed.
what a beautiful way
to usher in the spring
Sylvia Freeman was born into a family of musicians. Her Uncles Basil and Cecil Freeman had a dance band, so she says she was weaned on jazz. She is co-founder of Yoga for Women which meets at Common Ground Theater in Durham.