Berkman, Alexander (1870–1936) By Cohn, Jesse S.
Alexander Berkman (21 November 1870–28 June 1936), while largely remote from literary concerns, was closely connected to a number of key modernist figures, helping to bring radical concerns to American modernism. Upon initial analysis, it might seem odd to include Berkman, editor of Mother Earth (1907–1918) and The Blast (1916–1917), in a reference work on modernism. As a lifelong anarchist militant, jailed for his attempt to assassinate industrialist Henry Clay Frick (1892) and deported for his opposition to the First World War I (1919), he was neither an author nor a critic of modernist works per se. However, his links to key modernist figures, particularly in New York, are numerous. Berkman’s Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist (1912) was reviewed in Margaret Anderson’s Little Review (1914), and lauded by Mabel Dodge Luhan. His ideas were debated in Dora Marsden and Harriet Shaw Weaver’s Egoist (1915–16), while Lola Ridge dedicated a poem to Berkman and his lover, Emma Goldman, in Reveille (1920). Additionally, the Ferrer Centre, a popular education initiative Berkman and Goldman sponsored in New York in 1911, drew participation from such figures as Eugene O’Neill, Hart Crane, Isadora Duncan, Jack London, Man Ray, Robert Henri, Upton Sinclair, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams. Berkman committed suicide while in exile in France.