Sonnenberg, Benjamin

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Constantine Cavafy was born on April 29, 1863, lived most of his life in Egypt, and died on the same date in 1933 in Alexandria (Egypt). Although he published little work, he is regarded as one of the foremost modern Greek poets. Skeptical and nonconformist, he was critical of Christian and nationalistic morality and was one of the first to write openly about homosexuality. Among his best-known poems are THE CITY and WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS.

From the description of Constantine Cavafy photograph collection, 1865-1933. (Peking University Library). WorldCat record id: 63051746

Native New Yorker Ben Sonnenberg, Jr., is best known as the founder and editor of Grand Street, an influential literary and cultural magazine based in New York City in the mid-1980s and 1990s. Sonnenberg's exposure to the New York literary scene began early in his life: he was the son of Benjamin Sonnenberg, the famous press agent who transformed the family home at 19 Gramercy Place into a central hub for the city's business and literary circles. Sonnenberg both resisted and embraced his cosmopolitan upbringing, recalling his childhood as that of a "younger son in a family of great English furniture." In and out of private schools as a child, he eschewed college in favor of a rigorous program of reading and self-education, traveling abroad and establishing close relations with other writers including W.S. Merwin and Ted Hughes, both with whom he would correspond extensively over the next three decades. In 1963, Sonnenberg completed his first play, Jane Street, shortly before returning to New York to pursue his literary career.

In 1981, Sonnenberg invested his inheritance in founding Grand Street, a "little magazine" dedicated to literature, politics, and cultural criticism. Hailed in the tradition of The Dial and the Partisan Review, Grand Street quickly established itself as a major New York literary organ, with Sonnenberg hosting informal gatherings with friends and contributors at his apartment on Riverside Drive. As an editor, Sonnenberg was known for unprecedented generosity and trust in his writers, as well as his oft-spoken desire to enfranchise rising talent: "[I want] the money to go into their pockets," he frequently said of his contributors. Early contributors included writers like Susan Minot and Anne Carson, whose work he assiduously promoted in Grand Street and through private foundations; the magazine also regularly published works by Edward Said, Arthur Danto, Grover Amen, James Salter, Padgett Powell, James Laughlin, Alice Munro, Edward Sorel, and others.

Through the 1980s, Sonnenberg's work at Grand Street was increasingly inhibited by failing health. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 34 and spent most of his adult life as a paraplegic, composing his correspondence and literary materials by dictation. Sonnenberg retired from the magazine in 1989; in 1991 he published his memoir, Lost Property: Memoirs and Confessions of a Bad Boy, a well-received account of his adolescence and his subsequent years abroad. Sonnenberg continues to write poetry and film criticism, with essays appearing in Raritan, The Nation, and other venues. He lives in New York with his wife, Dorothy Gallagher.

From the description of Ben Sonnenberg papers, 1956-2001. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 299031229

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Hughes, Ted, 1930-1998. Letters to Ben Sonnenberg, 1961-2000. Emory University Library, Special Collect Department
creatorOf Byron, George Gordon Byron, Baron, 1788-1824. Oscar of Alva : autograph manuscript of stanzas 23 and 26, [1807]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Grand Street Publications, Inc. Grand Street Publications editorial files, 1981-1990. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Sonnenberg, Ben,. Constantine Cavafy photograph collection, 1865-1933. Princeton University Library
creatorOf Sonnenberg, Ben. Ben Sonnenberg papers, 1956-2001. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Amen, Grover. person
associatedWith Byron, George Gordon Byron, Baron, 1788-1824. person
associatedWith Carson, Anne. person
associatedWith Cavafy, Constantine, 1863-1933 person
associatedWith Danto, Arthur Coleman, 1924- person
associatedWith Grand Street Publications, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Hughes, Ted. person
associatedWith Kavaphēs family family
associatedWith Laughlin, James. person
associatedWith Mailer, Norman. person
associatedWith Merwin, W. S. person
associatedWith Minot, Susan. person
associatedWith Munro, Alice. person
associatedWith Powell, Padgett. person
associatedWith Said, Edward. person
associatedWith Salter, James. person
associatedWith Sonnenberg, Benjamin, Jr. person
associatedWith Sorel, Edward. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)
Little magazines


Active 1865

Active 1933



Ark ID: w6w67tb1

SNAC ID: 36004084