Anaïs Nin’s Artistic Associations: Daisy Aldan

During the 1950s, New Yorker Daisy Aldan (1918-2001), poet and renegade publisher, gained notice for her revolutionary translation of enigmatic French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s masterpiece, “Un Coup De Des” (“A Toss of the Dice”), and was the first to open the door to serious study of Mallarmé in the English-speaking world (the translation can be found in To Purify the Words of the Tribe). She founded Tiber Press in 1953, publishing her own work and that of Village poets such as John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, James Schuyler, Storm De Hirch, Charles Olson, and Harriet Zinnes, as well as the artwork of Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchel, Larry Rivers, Robert Motherwell, and Grace Hartigan.  Her Folder Magazine was for years a home to the work of then-unknown artists whose careers in many cases became stellar.

Although a recipient of many awards and Pulitzer Prize nominations, Aldan’s own career never achieved the heights of some who filled Folder Magazine’s pages. To support herself, she worked as a teacher at New York’s prestigious High School of Art and Design, where her presence became an institution; she retired in 1973 to devote herself to her writing. To this day, her former students’ blogs remember her glowingly.

In 1959, Aldan befriended Anaïs Nin, who at that time was a struggling novelist with a small but dedicated following. Aldan and Nin shared bold points of view, and both suffered the trials of self-publishing. Both women had to wage fierce battles to be heard and put into print. Nin noted in her diary, “Daisy is a magnificent poet, of the highest quality, yet she has to publish her poetry herself. Her teacher’s salary goes into that.”

Daisy Aldan and Anaïs Nin collaborated on many projects, including a 1960 reading of “Un Coup De Dés” at the Maison Française in New York, where Nin read the original French, and Aldan read her English translation. The reading was recorded and broadcast on radio. Aldan was also one of Nin’s New York friends who helped her keep her “trapeze life” (her bicoastal relationships with Rupert Pole and Hugh Guiler) from imploding. She often took calls from Rupert Pole (whom Nin told she was staying with Aldan) and explained that Anaïs “had just stepped out” and would have her return the call. She then referred to a card index upon which Nin’s schedule was written, call her with Rupert’s message, and she would then call him back, never missing a beat. According to Aldan, she was but one of many who partook in this very complicated process.

Daisy Aldan, 1970s

Daisy Aldan, 1970s

During the early 1960s, Aldan took over the editorship of poetry for the French/English literary magazine Two Cities which Anaïs Nin had co-edited. Contributors included Nin, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, and Richard Wright. In the meantime, Aldan’s poetry was gaining recognition, and it was during this time (1963) she, through Two Cities Press in Paris, published her first acclaimed volume, The Destruction of Cathedrals and Other Poems (all of which is now included in her Collected Poems of Daisy Aldan), with several more to come. There was never an end to her experimentation in style, whether it was poetic or visual. She worked until her health began to decline in the mid-1990s, still managing to publish the translations Mallarme’s major verse poems in 1998, and her Collected Poems was published less than a year after her death in 2001.

The late Stanley Kunitz, when he was Poet Laureate of the United States, said of Aldan: “The world that engages her imagination lies beyond the ‘merely temporal and physical.’ Like Mallarmé, to whom she has devoted much of her primary and influential work as a translator, her poems evoke an interior landscape of dream and reverie, from which she ‘wakes to the miraculous.’”

Comments

10 Responses to “Anaïs Nin’s Artistic Associations: Daisy Aldan”
  1. Virginia A Nestler says:

    I am a student of Daisy Aldan. I graduated from the High School Of Art & Design in 1961. Ms. Aldan was my Creavtive Writing Teacher. She also was Editor of our yearbook that year. I was on the Yearbook staff as well as as a poetry contributor.

    Ms. Alda inspired me to write. She saw talent that I didn’t know I had for expressing myself thru both Art & Poetry. She took me to readings all over the City and exposed me to other authors of her generation. She was truly a mentor at a time I was just beginning my lifes journey.

    I will never forget her.

  2. Adele C. Geraghty says:

    As a student at the HS of Art & Design, Daisy Aldan was not only my teacher, but my mentor. Because of her, I am an author today and, have started my own small press, ‘BTS (Between These Shore) Books’. Indeed, my own book, ‘Skywriting In The Minor Key; Women, Words, Wings’, contains a posthumous acknowledgement to Daisy.

    Daisy didn’t simply teach; she inspired us and dared us to challange ourselves and, to imagine the heights we could attain and the magnitude of people we could touch, through our work.

    Shortly before she died, she told me she had carried my writing with her throughout the world, for twenty five years, as an example of her student’s work. It was truly the most wonderful compliment I have ever been paid. I could go on and on about Daisy; the stories are endless! One could not know her, without being enriched on so many levels.

    My sincere thanks to you for your generous offer. I take every chance I can to acquaint people with her work and wish you the greatest of success in your efforts.

  3. In 1961 I arrived at The High School of Art & Design in Manhattan not knowing that what I was writing was called “Stream of Consciousness” prose poetry. I showed it to Daisy at the request of my English Teacher. A short while later, Daisy knocked on the door of the class I was in, and asked me if I could lisp. I said “Yeth.” Next thing I knew I was with her in front of Dr. Stone, the head of the school’s department of English. Daisy wanted to convince him that I had a speech impediment so that she could snare me for several hours during the week to teach me about poetry. We were given the go ahead, and then shared a little room in which she told me about Rimbaud, the Surrealists and Dadaists, Lautreamont, and more. We became close friends, allies in poetry. I consider her to be my Spiritual mother, and the person without whom I would not have ever entered the literary culture of New York. She introduced me to Anais Nin at one of her readings with Serge Gavronsky, as a surprise for me. Upon rising from my seat and turning to hold Nin’s outstretched hand I fell over another chair and landed prone at her feet. She helped me up, laughing melodically, and holding my hand in both of hers said, “I have been greeted on two continents by many of the world’s great artists and poets but you are the only one to throw themselves at my feet. I will never forget you or this moment.” I have remained flattered and somewhat embarrassed ever since. I love that I had that opportunity. I know that Aldan is under-rated and remains unknown in the forward looking march of poetry. I miss her humor and muse. She had the same effect on others she had on me, which, as a teacher, was that she generated creativity, like a fountain produces
    water. it naturally flowed from her gigantic poet’s spirit, as a nectar from which we all sipped. I’ve been thinking
    about putting up a tribute site on Myspace. I will need pictures for it, if anyone is interested in helping. Send them to darkroadout123@yahoo.com. Get in touch with me, please. I’d love to hear from any of you.

    Chuck Goldman

  4. Ronald DuBois says:

    When I entered Daisy Aldan’s class, somewhere between 1958 and 1960, I had nothing going for me but a love of English and letter-writing. I was fascinated to hear the different styles of writing and poetry, but was shy, socially, and didn’t participate as much as most students. This didn’t mean I wasn’t listening or learning. She had a profound effect on me, that kicked in not too long after my 1960 graduation, when I would do occasional
    essays or poems. My mind always ran ahead of the rest of me, so I wrote a lot in stream of consciousness until I got older and learned to slow down. I found there was also much that could be said well in concise sentences, using precise words. Since then, I write a lot; it doesn’t really matter what. Ideas just pop into my mind, and I’m off. I’ve written essays, poetry, screenplays, children’s stories, short stories, etc. Some has been published, and I got some prizes, but I really write for myself. The only work I’m excited about, and I think Daisy would have enjoyed it, is a series of children’s stories that are currently being illustrated by a well-known children’s-book illustrator. It’s about the adventures of Isador and Isabel, where Isador is a door and Isabel is a bell (doorbell). Leave it to my quirky mind to come up with adventures for them to have.
    I have had so many years of enjoyment, writing and being creative, and reading with a perspective I doubt I would currently have, if it wasn’t for the time I spent with Daisy Aldan. I’ve thought of her often, always with affection. One of the nicest complements I was ever given, which I still remember, was from Daisy. I was on leave from the Navy, in the sixties, and went to visit her in uniform. As I took my leave, she stopped me, and said, “you’re the only man I know that looks good in a uniform.” I still smile when I recall that.

  5. Darec McDaniel says:

    I am a devoted fan of Anais Nin, so it look forward to seeing what Daisy Aldan can do for me.
    Thank you for this outstanding offer to spread the literary word.

    7860 Jasper Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32211

  6. Thank you for your comment, Darec… The news of the offer has gone somewhat viral, or should I say “by mouth,’ as several responses have come from friends who’ve been alerted by friends. While Daisy is widely respected as a translator (To Purify the Words of the Tribe: The Major Verse Poems of Stephane Mallarme) and an editor (Folder Magazine), her talent as a poet is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Keep spreading the word, everyone.

  7. Berta Rubin Geller says:

    Daisy Aldan was my English teacher at Art and Design in the 1960’s. She was an incredible and inspirational teacher. I recently moved my household and found two of her books, including the collection of poems you have generously offered for free. I am so lucky to have been a student of hers.

  8. Gail Davis says:

    Daisy Aldan was my creative writing teacher at Art & Design in 1972. She was enormously inspiring and empowering. It is largely because of her that I had the courage to become a published author. Thank you for creating such a beautiful tribute to this amazing woman.

  9. Laura Kagel says:

    For 2 consecutive years, 1972 & 1973, I was especially lucky to have Daisy Aldan as my creative writing teacher.
    To this day, I can still picture her, and hear her voice. Ms. Aldan made me feel, everything about me was so valuable. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her, for 2 remarkable years.

  10. Rita Deutsch says:

    At Art and Design, Ms. Aldan was an instructor…she was a deliberate and intense woman. She took her
    craft very seriously. She was in charge of the literary portion of our yearbook. I was fortunate enough to
    be published, under her watchful eye.

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