Provincetown Poet of the Dunes, early Cape Cod publisher

Cape Cod  Sand Dunes

Cape Cod Sand Dunes

Provincetown’s sand dunes, now part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, have inspired many artists. One writer, closely associated with the dunes was Harry Kemp,(1883-1960) who was fondly referred to by the summer and year-round residents as “The Poet of the Dunes”. It is likely Kemp helped promote that name for himself, as one of his poetry collections he self-published in 1952 was entitled Poet of the Dunes.  Here is one of his short poems.

My Books

My books are ragged veterans

    Much leaked on in my shack;

But each of them’s bound with a rainbow

     And wears glory on its back.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Kemp first arrived in Provincetown in 1916.  His memoir, Tramping on LIfe: an Autobiographical Narrative (1922) was a bestseller during the 1920a and 30s. He was part of the elite circle of bohemian writers  of his era  that  included Upton SInclalir, Max Eastman, Eugene O’Neill, Edmund WIlson, John Dos Passos and many others. Setting down roots for a time in Greenwich Village, In the late 1920’s he started spending his summers in a Provincetown dune shack.  A heavy drinker and a womanizer, he was a master of self-promotion, performing stunts for the press in order to garner publicity and attention. Eventually his literary popularity waned, and when he could no longer find a publisher for his poetry, he founded the Provincetown Publishers and had his books printed by the Advocate Press which he sold for two dollars and autographed with a seagull feather along with an envelope of sand “gathered from the first landing place of The Pilgrims”.  Now that is marketing for you!

While the purchase of the new mystery novel Remaining in Provincetown does not include sand gathered from the dunes, it is the hope of the writer that when you read the book you will feel as if you’ve been walking on the streets of Provincetown, which usually results in a little sand in your shoes. Now available in trade paperback or on kindle at , Like us on Facebook and keep the conversation going.