Thursday, April 21, 2016

A library sale treasure and "modern" poetry

This volume of "Modern British Poetry" was copyrighted in 1920, reprinted in 1925, and contains poems by the following: Thomas Hardy (including my fav., "The Darkling Thrush"), Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, A. E. Housman, William Butler Yeats, Rudyard Kipling, G. K. Chesterton, D. H. Lawrence, Seigfied Sassoon, Rupert Brooke, Robert Graves, and many others.

Most of the poets I've listed above were alive when this volume was first published. What a thrill to read the table of contents and see only the dates of their birth; to consider a time in history when they were all alive, possibly well, and perhaps still writing.

But what I find most fascinating about this collection is the use of the word "modern" in the title. The modernist movement was just getting underway when this collection was published. Between printings, a youngish T. S. Eliot -- an American writing in England -- would published "The Waste Land." Seven years previous, he gave the world "Prufrock."

Those poems are not included here. They wouldn't have to wait long, but it would be another day before they were collected into anything similar. By then, only a handful of the poems included in this library sale treasure would be considered valuable enough to stand beside the peach-stained rolled trousers of Alfred J. Prufrock.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rosalie K. Fry, World War II, and the Orkney Islands

Image originally found in Child of the Western Isles,
hand copied and colored.

A few years ago, a wonderful Fry fan mailed me Something About the Author Autobiography series. vol. 11, which includes a chapter written by Rosalie K. Fry. As Child of the Western Isles is my favorite Fry book, I was fascinated by the following excerpt in which Fry describes the lovely setting of one of her WRNS posts, a naval base in the Orkney Islands:

"We were based on Hoy, the second-largest island of the group and, incidentally, the hilliest and most beautiful of them all. Here we were housed in long wooden huts with thick hawsers fastened over their roofs at intervals to hold them down securely during the tremendous gales that sweep across these islands. As a defense against the wind, we always wore our hats tied on with woolen scarves.

Beyond the immediate surroundings of the naval base, Hoy was wild and very beautiful. As a watchkeeper I was often off duty in the daytime. So I was determined to explore as many of the islands as possible and bought a detailed map on which to plot my many trips...

Whenever one went on the islands there were seals and rare birds to be seen and luxurious masses of wildflowers which always seemed to be more brilliantly coloured than their counterparts elsewhere. There were also prehistoric remains, standing stones and buildings, and one marvelous Pictish village probably dating from about 500 BC...

Some years later these lovely islands helped to provide the settings for Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry and Mungo."

Image originally found in Child of the Western Isles,
hand copied and colored

Note: The Secret of Roan Inish film was based on Fry's 1957, London-published Child of the Western Isles, which in 1959 was published in the US as The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Poem: The Year Jackie Became a Widow

Just months before Dallas,
Mom and Dad posed
on their new land
and Mom’s heels sunk in the mud
while the wind blew Dad’s suit
and carried his cologne across earth
which later cemented into the street
Gary would cross (after his crew grew
and long after Bobby got shot)
to see forbidden Sandy
while her brother danced hoop dreams
into everyone’s sleep.

Poem: The Poplar Tree


Childhood was observed by a tree

which was already grown

before the smell of almost replaced the sound of mud

and long before you could feel


in the sidewalk.


It watched us through croquet and dates

especially when boys brought us to the step,

except for Greg, who was timid of trees,

and who wanted to stay in the car;

he didn’t know the tree had sent its seeds

to the roof across the street so it could watch us



Frondi tenere e belle

del mio plantano amato.

Seasons swirled through its branches

and its leaves thundered down Grand

and echoed past the tracks

(where the train’s whistle smashed our pennies)

all the way to the forest

where its seeds will whisper long

of its children, forever gone.  


 (This bit of nostalgia was published by a Scottish journal sometime in the 2000s but I have lost the link).

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Skiing Through Time

On the street opposite the graveyard
I veer to the side so the car
hits the puddle head-on
and creates spray reminiscent
of my lost world.

But there, for a moment,
besides the ancient headstones,
I am water skiing once more,
no longer earth-bound.