Sunday, November 29, 2009

Forgotten Giants: Nancy Cunard (1896 - 1965)

Nancy Cunard
* * *

Anaïs Nin saw her printing Spanish Civil War pamphlets, remarked on her cadaverous state—olive green, her large-scale jewelry, her work on behalf of Negro rights.

Nancy traveled across the ocean to Harlem, where she lived. Olive green. An amethyst existence. A cadaverous state. Remarkable. Luxurious. No anthologies. Was it so terrible, or was she really so good? Myra Viveash. Lucy Tantamount. Irene? She shocked the world. Drunk and bull-like she emerged from a cafe with a cigarette inserted in each nostril, pelting dogs with tomatoes. Wasted. Decadent. Publisher (discovered Beckett), editor, journalist, anarchist, activist, befriender of blacks and artists and, they say, a poet. Where is her poetry? Slid into the ocean. In Valle de los Caídos. Frothed over.

Lying on a table, having energy therapy, he was speaking of how as an intellectual, his brain was stronger than his heart. "I use my brain more often than my heart," he said. Then, as Nancy was massaging his chest, he had the sensation an armored vest was being removed.

She was a muse.

* * *

She gave it up. Her home in Réanville. She wanted to own nothing. To be free. To see all the northern continents stretch out before her under winter sunsets. To look into the psychology of Iceland, and plumb the imaginations of strange people in faraway lands. If she were free. But someone, somewhere, was suffering.

The bombed-out of Barcelona. Red Russians raping in the basements of Berlin. The black boys of Scottsboro burned by Bill Callahan. And Nancy Cunard—declared insane. Found on the street, a mere 60 pounds. Destitute. Alone. A Buchenwald corpse. All that remained was a furious sense of indignation.

Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise, Paris. Urn 9016.

* * *

nancy cunard
"It's impossible to discuss the intellectual history of the early 20th century without discussing Nancy Cunard." —Louis Aragon

"One of the major phenomena of history." —William Carlos Williams

"Her body had wasted away in a long battle against injustice in the world. Her reward was a life that had become progressively lonelier, and a god forsaken death." —Pablo Neruda


Hectocotylus said...

a bouquet compiled by rearranging and reimagining some unknown text i found in an ancient file on my computer, stuck together with various particles.

Hectocotylus said...

More photographs of Nancy Cunard.