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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: 


We follow her
ogle her
push me pull you her
support her
divining rod her
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.


It is here
it was here
it is here
here he
stood here. The tree smells
of here
this is 
happened here
collapsed here
danced here
somewhere here
we misplaced
the manifesto

We stare
at her words
at her memories and
she becomes a bird
who flutters
about the pylons
the old Bauhaus 
pylons with painted murals
now chipped
by target practice 
and leaning canoes

Could care less Brother - 
today we are boating.


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
on the ground
and this is war
here is
this is 
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.

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