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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Sands that Inspired The Poet of the Dunes

Columbus Day weekend brought stunning weather to Cape Cod and my family took full advantage, heading off on a road trip to the Lower Cape. We hiked some trails in Truro, stopped at Ballston Beach, and eventually made our way to the Province Lands visitor’s center in Provincetown.
There, I was intrigued by a display about Harry Kemp, the so-called “Poet of the Dunes” and a longtime resident of the town’s dune shacks. At home, I did some research about Harry and learned he was talented rake. In addition to being known as the man who stole Upton Sinclair’s wife, he was also recognized as a skilled writer and actor who counted some of the early 20th century’s artistic elite as his friends and collaborators.

One of those individuals was Eugene O’Neill. Back in the summer of 1916, Mr. Kemp and other members of the Provincetown Players staged the playwright’s Bound East for Cardiff. More about that show and the history of the Provincetown Players can be found in the University of Virginia’s digital collection: In the Brilliancy of the Footlights: Creating America’s Theatre. That collection includes copies of playbills from Provincetown Players’ productions and a photograph of the Bound East for Cardiff cast.

Kemp’s own work, Tramping on Life, an Autobiographical Narrative is available full text from Google Books and the Internet Archive, as are a number of his poetry collections. Kemp died in a Provincetown artist’s shack in the summer 1960.

The image at top shows Provincetown’s Province Lands on Sunday afternoon. The image at left is  Harry Kemp’s portrait from his autobiography. At left is Tasha Shack, one of the Provincetown dune shacks Kemp called home.

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