Black Mountain College, North Carolina , ca. 1942. Photo: Will Hamlin.

Walking the Black Mountain College Grounds (now a Summer Camp) with Gwendolyn Knight: 

Four Simultaneous Versions

 

By David Schuster

Black Mountain College in western North Carolina was an experimental progressive school which was founded in 1933 and closed in 1957. Though in existence for a short period of time, its influence on the arts, education, and even popular culture reverberates to the present. A list of those who attended or taught at the college reads like a roll call of the American avant garde including Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Josef and Anni Albers, Jacob Lawrence, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Cy Twombly, Kenneth Noland, Franz Kline, Arthur Penn, Buckminster Fuller, M.C. Richards, Charles Olson and Robert Creeley to name a few. Such notable events as John Cage’s first happening, Bucky Fuller’s first dome, and the formation of Merce Cunningham’s dance company took place on its grounds which is now a summer camp for children.

 

Before her passing in 2005, I had the privilege of visiting the old Black Mountain College site with Gwendolyn Knight.  She and her husband Jacob Lawrence, both great artists and central figures in the Harlem Renaissance, had been at the college in its heyday.

To hear David Schuster read his poem, please click on this player: 

I

 

We follow her

ogle her

push me pull you her

support her

divining rod her

around 

this summer camp 

thick with 

fathers and daughters

and moss –

 

Fathers and daughters

who at this 

very moment

care nothing about

Bucky’s dome collapsing

Cage’s happening

or the Gropius manifesto

 

Could care less Brother –

today we are swimming.

 

 

II

 

It is here

it was here

prove

it is here

here he

stood here. The tree smells

of here

this is 

here

happened here

collapsed here

danced here

somewhere here

we misplaced

the manifesto

 

III

 

We stare

at her words

stare 

at her memories and

she becomes a bird

who flutters

about the pylons

beneath

the old Bauhaus 

pylons with painted murals

now chipped

by target practice 

and leaning canoes

 

Could care less Brother - 

today we are boating.

 

 

IV

 

A psalm is recited like a hymnal:

For in death there is no remembrance of thee

In the grave who shall give thee thanks.

 

We sing it loud

We sing this tree

We sing he stood

We sing this smell

 

Pockmarks on sculpture

bullets 

on the ground

and this is war

here is

war

this is 

war

and 

she flies

 

flies over vapors

rising from the moss

 

children peeing 

into the lake

Buckminster Fuller, The Supine Dome at Black Mountain College, 1948.

David Schuster is a writer of poetry and fiction whose work has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Iodine, Pharos and Asheville Poetry Review among other publications.  He is a doctor of medicine and a professor at Emory University.

Black Mountain - David Schuster
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