In the spring and summer of 1949, Jerrold Levy and Richard Negro—two teenage pranksters with the right mix of bad attitude and artistic ingenuity—composed, circulated, and performed a collection of poems on the campus of Black Mountain College, an experimental school located just outside Asheville, North Carolina.
Now, BookThug is bringing this previously unpublished work to light for the first time in Poems by Gerard Legro, edited with annotations by noted Canadian poet and scholar Alessandro Porco.
Porco’s insightful work (including a critical introduction, explanatory notes, and rare photographs sourced from archival documents and historical materials) offers an enlightening exploration of a side of the Black Mountain College canon that’s rarely seen. Rich with aleatory compositional methods and found materials, and replete with scatological puns, doggerel rhymes, and surreal imagery, Poems by Gerard Legro was meant to be a critique of the ‘obscurity’ of modernist poetry from two disaffected teens in post-war America who were desperate to fight back against aesthetic and moral codes of maturity, propriety, and sophistication.
This unique and timely addition to the canon of Black Mountain College will appeal to poetry and art enthusiasts and students—especially those interested in twentieth-century American poetry and literature, the work of Black Mountain College scholars, and major art figures like Salvador Dali, Frida Khalo, Julien Levy, Ilya Bolotowsky, Herbert Bayer, and Josef Albers.
Watch the BookThug Author Interview with Alessandro Porco:
Listen to the Book Launch:
Watch the Book Launch and Reading:
Praise for Poems by Gerard Legro:
“Beautiful Gerard Legro is alive. At Black Mountain College two students rebelled against their teachers, Josef Albers and Charles Olson, to create a mythic figure—part hoax, part avatar of disenchanted youth—who is entirely their own.… These poems are a vital addition to the history of the extraordinary educational experiment that was Black Mountain.” —Kaplan Harris, co-editor of The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley
“The literary history of Black Mountain College has received a useful amplification and illumination in the form of Poems by Gerard Legro…. Through his detailed and insightful introduction, and in his careful annotation of both the poems and the circumstances of their composition and (non-)dissemination, Alessandro Porco equips the contemporary reader not just to get the joke(s), but also to appreciate the significance of a fascinating project, equal parts homage and satire, that has too long languished in archival storage. A valuable recovery.” —Steve Evans, coordinator of the New Writing Series at the University of Maine
“Alessandro Porco has rescued a collaborative work of poetry that is emblematic of the efficacy of the teaching methods at Black Mountain College. For it was at Black Mountain in 1949 that Jerrold Levy and Richard Negro, two undergrads, in the best transgressive prankster tradition, combined to become Gerard Legro. Despite their worst intentions, they created real poetry—‘Or in Summer’s subways lifting / The subtle subterfuge of ladies skirts’—if only they’d been able to follow it. Their Albers poem is actually beautiful in its limitation. Porco’s impeccable scholarship allows readers finally to appreciate Legro’s steps and missteps.” —Vincent Katz, editor of Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art
“An archivist’s wonder and joy.” —Kirby, Knife Fork Book blog
“An impressive feat of archival necromancy and, for those with a pre-existing interest, it is well worth checking out.” —Joel Robert Ferguson, Broken Pencil Magazine
Interviews and Profiles:
The Entitled Interview with Alessandro Porco —Open Book Toronto
Alessandro Porco is a poet, critic, and scholar from Toronto, Canada. He earned his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo. His research focuses on twentieth-century poetry and poetics. Porco lives in Wilmington, where he is an Assistant Professor of English at UNCW.
Jerrold Levy (b. 1930 – d. 2002) was born and raised in New York City. He is the grandson of poet Mina Loy and son of art dealer Julien Levy. He attended Black Mountain College from 1947 to 1950, studying under Ilya Bolotowsky, Merce Cunningham, and Charles Olson. In 1959, Levy received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago.
Richard Negro (b. 1929 – unknown) grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, a suburb located twenty-five miles outside New York City. He attended Black Mountain College from 1947 to 1950 and was a star pupil of physicist Natasha Goldoswki and poet M.C. Richards. He later studied physics at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.