Redefining the Black Mountain Poets

Jonathan C. Creasy at the Paris Review:

Grouping writers into “schools” has always been problematic. The so-called Black Mountain poets never identified themselves as such, but the facts of their union spring from a remarkable instance of artistic community: Black Mountain College and the web of interactions the place occasioned. Founded in the mountains of western North Carolina in 1933 and closed by 1956, the college was one of the most significant experiments in arts and education of the twentieth century. In recent years, a number of international exhibitions and publications have showcased the range of artwork produced at the college’s two campuses, the first situated in the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, and the second at Lake Eden in the Swannanoa Valley. The list of famous names associated with Black Mountain is as impressive as it is unlikely, given that the college never housed more than a hundred students and faculty at a time, often far fewer.

Difficult questions persist in attempting to define a “Black Mountain” school of poets. Do we look to the physical and historical circumstances of Black Mountain College, or the complex pattern of friendships, influence, correspondence, publication, and collaboration that constitute the broader notion of this artistic coterie?

more here.