OPEN STACKS | #31 Modernisms: Jed Perl, Liesl Olson & Sho Sugita

December 10th, 2017

This week, we explore modernist art and literature from Chicago to Paris to Tokyo.

Art critic Jed Perl talks about his new biography of Alexander Calder, Calder: The Conquest of Time. Liesl Olson shares revelations from Chicago Renaissance: Literature and Art in the Midwest Metropolis. Poet and translator Sho Sugita reads poems by Japanese futurist poet Hirato Renkichi.

The music from this episode is clipped from John Cage's Living Room Music, which you can hear in full here.

Below are his instructions for playing the piece. The lyrics are taken from Gertrude Stein's children's book, The World is Round, which tells the story of a young girl named Rose.


Stein spent a bit of time here in Hyde Park, where she stayed in the home of Thornton Wilder, met with University of Chicago students, and gave lectures that would be collected as Narration

She declared Chicago her favorite American city, and on trips here, met with Fanny Butcher, one of the many figures of Chicago modernist literature who Liesl Olson mentions. Butcher wrote about her encounters with Stein in her journals, which you can read more about courtesy of the Newberry Library, here.

Fanny was fond of personalized greeting cards, which can also be found via the Newberry:

Calder, too, spent time in Chicago, as Perl recalls. Aside from his beloved mobiles and other sculptures, the artist created miniature circuses, such as this one:

Lastly, we exit the West. Sho Sugita's translation of Hirato Renkichi's poems bring English-language attention to the poet, whose work in the early 20th century laid the foundation for avant garde literature in Japan. The translator, his own edition, and Renkichi's original poems:

As Renkichi's contemporary, dadist poet Hagiwara Kyojiro, wrote, “Poetry is a bomb! Poets are dark criminals hurling bombs at the hard walls and doors of prisons!”