Ernest Hartsock – New Georgia Encyclopedia
Ernest Hartsock was an award-winning poet, editor and publisher. Although largely forgotten, Hartsock and his press, Bozart, existed at the center of Atlanta’s poetic scene in the 1920s.
Ernest Abner Hartsock Jr. was born in Atlanta on May 5, 1903 to Ernest Abner Hartsock Sr. and Alta May Sanner, both from Maryland. After attending Boys High School, where he wrote for the school newspaper, Hartsock received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Emory University in 1925 and 1926, respectively. As an undergraduate, Hartsock worked for the Latin department, then taught English classes while earning his master’s degree. In 1925 Hartsock published his first collection of poetry, Romance and Stardust. He was also editor-in-chief of emory phoenixthe university’s literary magazine, and has been published in national poetry journals.
After earning his master’s degree, Hartsock was hired to teach English at the Georgia School of Technology (later Georgia Institute of Technology). While at Georgia Tech, Hartsock founded Bozart Press, future publisher of the “little magazine” Bozart: the bimonthly poetry magazine and fifteen books of poetry. The distinctive name of the press was adopted in response to HL Mencken, who ridiculed the South and its cultural milieu, calling it “the Sahara of the Bozarts”. Bozart would become the nation’s second-largest poetry publication, claiming among its subscribers the upper echelon of the poetry world. In 1927 Hartsock published his second book of poetry, Narcissus and Iscariot.
Thornwell Jacobs, president of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, appointed Hartsock the first professor of poetics in 1929, a position Hartsock would hold until his death. Also in 1929, the Poetry Society of America awarded Hartsock its first annual award for his poem “Strange Splendor”. Hartsock, unable to afford the trip to the New York ceremony, was sponsored by the Atlanta Journal, for which he often wrote book reviews.
Based on the success of his publication and the notoriety gained by his published poems, Hartsock was in great demand as a guest speaker and columnist. He traveled extensively throughout the Southeast visiting poetry societies and universities offering readings and presentations. Struggling financially throughout his life – he supported his mother and father – Hartsock lectured and taught until his doctors ordered him to bed. Hartsock’s health deteriorated dramatically in the fall of 1930, and on December 14 he succumbed to pernicious anemia at Wesley Memorial Hospital (later Emory University Hospital) in Atlanta. His last book of poetry, strange splendor, had been published two months before his death. Historian C. Vann Woodward, one of Emory’s closest friends, was at his side during his death.
Today, few physical reminders of Hartsock remain. The Philip Weltner Library at Oglethorpe University features a bronze bust of German-born sculptor and Oglethorpe art teacher Fritz Zimmer, as well as a plaster bust of fellow Atlanta poet and friend of Hartsock, BlossomTucker. Hartsock’s papers are housed in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archive, and Rare Book Library at Emory.
Hartsock was buried in Westview Cemetery in Atlanta. His father and mother were later buried there in 1938 and 1960, respectively. A large bronze plaque with his poem “Second Coming” stands on the Hartsock family grounds. After their son’s death, Hartsock’s parents transferred ownership of the Bozart press and newspaper to Oglethorpe. Jacobs and Benjamin Musser, a New Jersey-based poet and friend of Hartsock, would serve as co-editors.
Fans published memories of Hartsock in national periodicals after his death, and friends and family mourned his passing at memorials in Atlanta. A plaque, now lost, was unveiled at the main branch of the Atlanta Public Library. There was even a brief movement to buy his last home and create a memorial and poetry museum near Emory University’s Decatur campus.