Harriet Sohmers Zwerling 1928-2019

Harriet Sohmers Zwerling joined the IRP in the Fall of 1996.   Her Wikipedia bio     describes her as “an American writer and an artist’s model.”  We knew her as an inimitable and indomitable colleague.   In her last years she required a walker to preserve balance, but she still went everywhere in her little red car.

Harriet spent most of the decade of the 1950’s in Europe, a period she chronicled in her memoir, Abroad:  An Expatriate’s Diaries.  She was associated with many of the most famous literary figures of the time, including James Baldwin and Norman Mailer.  She had relationships with both Susan Sontag and Maria Irene Fornes. and she appears in documentary films about both these women.

She then returned to the United States, married, and had a long career as a public school teacher in Brooklyn.   She is survived by her son Milo, a musician.

Harriet was open about her sexual activities and interests, and her writing was vivid and fearless.  She was a regular contributor to Voices, and her first book, Notes of a Nude Model, includes two pieces originally published in Voices.

Mary Elwood sent us the following remembrance of Harriet:
“Harriet went to Black Mountain College, a famous progressive school in North Carolina which lasted from the Thirties to the Fifties.   A few years ago, IRP offered a study group about the College, and Harriet graciously agreed to address our class about her experience as a student.   She was fascinating, bringing immediacy to a history that was already a bit misty.
“Harriet didn’t tell the class, but favored us coordinators with her memory of having Anni Albers look over at H. in the BMC dining hall, and remark to her husband, Josef (both were mainstays as instructors at the College for more than fifteen years),  ‘That girl herself is a work of art,’  “

Here are links to Harriet’s pieces that appeared in Voices Online.

Her prose:

Her poetry