MSA Up-Close is a column we will run until the start of the MSA conference in order to give readers more information on periodical studies related panels at the 2010 conference. We will be posting paper descriptions, abstracts, and panel descriptions; please make comments and raise questions in the Comments section. Our first column features Liesl Olson’s paper, “Porkpackers and Poetry,” which she will present as part of the Everyday Modernism panel.
Liesl Olson (Newberry Library)
“Porkpackers and Poetry,” 13 November 2010, 830-10am
When Harriet Monroe in 1911-12 knocked on office doors in Chicago’s downtown Loop, seeking to finance Poetry magazine, some businessmen scoffed at the idea of “petty rhymesters under soft feminine editorship,” as she put it. But many other magnates of Chicago— lawyers, bankers, industrialists, and real estate tycoons—gave her enough money to get the magazine off the ground. My paper examines how Chicago commerce met modernist art, how the city’s newly built institutions accommodated the transformations of the age, and how Chicago’s civic-minded women, in particular, created spaces for astonishing cultural developments. The paper is part of a larger project that focuses on Chicago, a city defined by its geographic centrality and the mobility of its inhabitants, which generated an aesthetic of openness and innovation that was particularly hospitable to fostering modernist art. In taking Monroe’s story as a point of focus, my paper brings to light a surprising phenomenon regarding the experiments of high modernism: ordinary men and women in the middle of the country—as well as prominent “porkpackers,” as Ezra Pound called them—were among modernism’s most avid supporters.