Archive for May, 2016


Marianne Moore’s Poems (1921)

   Posted by: rring    in book history, Classes, Students

Moore1[Posted by Joel Kalodner for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

“That Darwinian Gosling”

If the wishes of American poet Marianne Moore had been honored, this slim collection of her poetry — her first publication outside the pages of literary magazines and landmark Modernist journals such as Dial and the Egoist — would have remained unmade and unread.

Famously resistant to publication after several early disappointments, and with a well-deserved reputation for perfectionism, Moore had by 1921 weathered several years’ worth of importuning in favor of a collection from friends and admirers including Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, H.D, Yvor Winters and Robert McAlmon. Eliot offered his personal assistance from post-war London, writing to Moore that “[Your poetry] interests me. I wish that you would make a book of it, and I should like to try to get it published here. I wish you would let me try.” Pound, likewise, was enthusiastic and just before Christmas, 1918 wrote to tempt her with a prime spot in his Modernist pantheon: “[C]an I get one into print for you? … I have got Joyce, and Lewis, and Eliot, and a few other comforting people into print, by page and by volume.” More scathing was her friend Yvor Winters’ critique, who, while once again advocating for publication, chided Moore for her reticence: “People who leave poems littered around in the magazines are so very much like people who leave papers around in the parks. But that, I suppose, is their own affair.”

Moore2By late 1920, some of her advocates had had enough and together the poet H.D., the historical novelist Bryher (pen name of Winifred Ellerman), and Ellerman’s soon-to-be husband Robert McAlmon agreed to take matters into their own hands. Selecting twenty-four of Moore’s poems from various magazines, the group contacted Harriet Shaw Weaver, then publisher of the Egoist Press in London, with a plan to publish the collection; Weaver was herself intimately familiar with the poet’s position on the topic, having suffering a fresh, albeit polite, rejection after she’d proposed a similar book to Moore as recently as that May. Despite the unusual circumstance, Weaver agreed to go behind the poet’s back and produced the volume without ever securing her approval.

We can imagine Moore’s shock when, one morning in early July of 1921, a similar volume to the Watkinson’s showed up in her mailbox shipped straight from the Egoist Press, London, her name gracing its cover and the very poems she’d so vigorously guarded now printed within. Although she refused to indulge in anger or assign blame, explaining at the time that she knew her friends had acted “out of love,” Moore nonetheless had sharply wry words for Bryher in a letter written that afternoon: “I received a copy of my poems this morning with your letter and a letter from Miss Weaver … In Variations of Plants and Animals under Domestication, Darwin speaks of a variety of pigeon that is born naked and without any down whatever. I feel like that Darwinian gosling.”

A Passion for Revision

Moore4Of particular note in the Watkinson’s copy of Poems (1921) is the presence of hand-written corrections to the text by Marianne Moore herself. This extraordinary habit was apparently characteristic of the poet, who made it her practice to revise, in pen, those things within her previously published volumes which had come to displease her. In the Watkinson’s copy, inscribed by Moore herself to noted bibliophile and Trinity stalwart Harry Bacon Collamore in 1957, we witness the poet carefully editing ‘mistakes’ fixed into print some thirty-six years previous, with a firm hand and a practiced attention to detail: not ‘Talisman’ but rather ‘A Talisman’ she insists, appending the new letter both to the table of contents and the head of the poem, even as she attentively re-works the notices of prior publication to correct what she must have felt were unforgivable failures made during the placement of commas in the original.

Grace Schulman, editor of the Penguin Classics collection of Moore’s poetry, recalls the poet sending Schulman a copy of her book Nevertheless “with textual insertions and deletions she had made in ink,” a practice Schulman associates with what she calls Moore’s “passion for revision.” The Watkinson’s copy too bears these marks left behind by Moore’s ceaseless, systematic review of her prior work, and stands as evidence of her dedication to change, her steady refusal to accept notions of fixed textual permanence which often attach to the event of publication.Moore3


Finally, a note for the typographically inclined — throughout this edition we encounter an unusual type of ligature, which is a term typesetters use for any connection inked between two otherwise distinct letters, such as the joined ‘æ’ still employed at times in modern English. In the Watkinson’s Egoist Press edition of Poems, however, there are ligatures on virtually every page, most often linking adjacent s-t and c-t pairs in a purely decorative fashion; this was a ‘house style’ characteristic of their London typesetter, and which was thought to lend text a certain ‘archaic’ quality, reminiscent for readers of the much more widespread use of such decorative techniques by publishers of the past.

Moore5The professional term for such a ligature, that is, a ligature which is purely discretionary and used solely for ornament, is a ‘gadzook’ — a term coined, like the curse word which shares its origin, as a variant of the blasphemous “God’s hooks,” referring to the nails used to attach Christ to the cross (that long-time British favorite, ‘bloody,’ is similarly evolved from the blasphemous “God’s blood!”). While the specific origin of this usage in typography is obscure, the visual reference, along with its nod to archaism, remains perfectly clear.


Schulze, Robin G., ed. Becoming Marianne Moore: The Early Poems, 1907-1924. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Print.

Schulman, Grace, ed. The Poems of Marianne Moore. New York: Penguin Books, 2005. Print.

Shin, Nick. “Diggin’ It: The Buried Treasures of Typography.” Graphic Exchange mag. N.d. Web. 21 April 2016.


Manikin Number Three and Marianne Moore

   Posted by: rring    in book history, Classes, Students

[Posted by Mollie Hantman-Weill for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Moore1At only a few inches tall and a few millimeters wide, Monroe Wheeler’s Manikin Number Three, a printing of Marianne Moore’s poem “Marriage,” is tiny and unassuming. The copy was presented to me in a red cover with an envelope taped to the inside binding. Once opened, the envelope reveals the small copy of Marianne Moore’s work. The cover is bright blue, with a Greco-Roman style depiction of a scene from Homer’s The Odyssey. Printed in 1923, this is one of 200 copies that were produced. Monroe Wheeler, a publisher and New York native, had previously published Manikin Number One, a very small collection of poetry by Janet Lewis, and Manikin Number Two, a printing of William Carlos Williams poem “Go Go” only months earlier. Harry Bacon Collamore, a lover of poetry, who gave many books of poetry to the library, donated this copy of Manikin Number Three to the Watkinson Library.


Moore2The font is particularly interesting. The cover and title page is printed in a type set called Narcissus Roman, named after the hunter of the Greek myths, and was invented by Walter Tiemann in 1921, two years before Wheeler’s publication. This font was commissioned for a sandpaper company and was inspired by a series of ornamental inline capitals first made in 1745 in France. Narcissus Roman aims to inspire thoughts of early 1700’s era Paris, and of Louis XVI. This typeset is also credited for sparking the revival of 18th century Parisian-style typography in 1920’s America.

The first few pages of the printing are not bound to the rest of the pages. Glenway Wescott, American poet (though an expatriate living in Paris for much of his life) wrote a few hundred words on Marianne Moore to be included in Manikin Number Three. Why Wescott? As it turns out, Wescott and Wheeler were dating for much of their lives, the relationship not ending until Wescott’s death. Wheeler must have convinced his boyfriend to write a forward for his publication. Wescott’s introduction, called “Miss Moore’s Observations,” is a slightly rambling, four page compliment of Moore’s work. He speaks to Moore’s talent, even going so far to recommend the reader other poems by Marianne Moore he thinks they would enjoy. My favorite except of his writing is as follows:

An untrampled field of experience presents itself to Miss Moore’s unquailing mild untroubled stare. She has then, naturally enough, no desire to be radical or secretive in her meaning. She wishes to convey or evoke. If the idea and its emotion seem obscure to anyone it is because they are unusual. I have a friend to whom no concept seems single and unified which is not made up of components joined in a familiar way by familiar desires or drama. Those who miscomprehend Miss Moore, unless they are wholly indolent, are like him. So much for the ‘meaning.’

The poem is printed following Wescott’s introduction. At the end of the poem, Marianne Moore signed and dated the copy (November 7, 1953). I am confident that if she had seen any misprints in the poem, she would have corrected them when she signed it, but, as there were not marks on the copy other than the signature, we can assume that the poem was printed exactly as she wanted it to be. I do not know why Wheeler choose this specific poem to be the only Moore poem to print, besides that it is an excellent work, but one guess is the length of the poem. “Marriage” is close to three hundred lines long, making it just long enough for the print to be substantial without needing multiple poems, which would make it a collection.

Moore3The copy ends with a quote, chosen by Wheeler, from The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, published in 1621. The quote reads, “Even so might Virginia, and those wild Irish have been civilized long since, if that order had been hitherto taken, which now begins, of planting colonies, etc.” Below that is the price of the item, circa-1923, and Monroe Wheeler’s street address. Today, this copy would be sold from anywhere between four hundred dollars to one thousand dollars, depending on condition and whether or not it was signed.


Baskin’s Crane

   Posted by: rring    in book history, Classes, Students

Baskin1[Posted by Justin Martin for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Hart Crane’s visage (who could mistake his decimating eyes) stares from atop a torso-like mass of dark veins and lines on the second title page of Voyages: Six Poems by Hart Crane, an artistic rendering of Crane’s celebrated erotic suite published 25 years after his suicide. The poems, which feature threads of nautical imagery throughout, take on strange new meaning in the print: “The sea lifts, also, it’s reliquary hands.” Hart Crane now lies somewhere within that sea, and his poetry continues to find new light and appreciation in his absence, in this case in the accompaniment of Leonard Baskin’s wood engravings, which, as well, are a part of the bold title card pasted to the front of the book’s four-fold case.

Leonard Baskin, born in 1922, was 10 years old when Hart Crane passed away. In 1942, while studying at Yale University, Baskin founded the Gehenna Press, initially for the purpose of publishing fine pressings of his own works – the company’s first two releases were books of Baskin’s own poetry and wood engravings, respectively. These first two books, On a Pyre of Withered Roses and A Little Book of Natural History, were published nine years apart, the second’s release delayed by Baskin’s time serving in WWII. Baskin’s purpose in founding and developing the Gehenna Press, one might speculate, was to follow the lead of William Blake’s duality as poet and bookmaker. Leonard’s poetry on its own never claimed much right to legacy, but he certainly had insights into the workings of the craft and an appreciation for influential predecessors like Crane.

Baskin2The book itself mimics the qualities Crane takes on at times in the Voyages: sensitive, textured, always hinting at something deep and monstrous beyond the surface. Crane’s poetry is printed on Amalfi handmade paper, accompanied by seven of Baskin’s engravings printed in one instance on the aforementioned Amalfi paper, but for the most part on much thinner, transparent japanese paper, which is, in one instance, bound into the book’s spine, and, otherwise, pasted quite precariously onto the other, thicker pages.

One particular print, a circular design which frames an abstract landscape of lines and fractured details, accompanies the third voyage, perhaps the most iconic of the six, on a green sheet of the thin japanese which is pasted across the top edge, horizontally, to the opposite page, left to hang unglued on all other sides, like some ghastly hanging curtain. Scattered vertical line fragments in the wave-like texture resemble “ribboned water lanes…/ laved and scattered…”


Baskin3The book held at the Watkinson is one of 975 copies originally printed, all by hand. It is a slender little thing. The cover is worn, presumably by time. It commands a certain amount of spectacle as its quad-folding encasement opens at all angles, only to reveal the actual book inside to be near-identical to the encasement’s cover. The book itself forces one to be intimate with it: the thin, fragile Japanese pages peer out from behind their thicker, whiter counterparts, and, as one progresses through the Voyages, prove to be pasted in at differing angles, prompting one to constantly adjust their attention so as to avoid tearing the things out.

One of Baskin’s most powerful contributions to the poetry: the sprawling circuitry of a beak emerging from the engraving accompanying Voyage IV. The bird lies motionless on the page, its talons seemingly hanging from the mess of intricate lines which makes up the bird’s body (so delicately spacing out and unraveling within its breast). The cut is a haunting rendition of, perhaps, the “chilled albatross’ white immutability”.

A print of Voyages by Gehenna and the Museum of Modern Art could cost anywhere between $200 and $700, depending on wear on the copy and whether it is signed or not, and can be found fairly easily via a google search or on websites like

Baskin4The print can be taken as a work firstly and perhaps solely done by Baskin himself, since its publishing date, 1957, is before Baskin turned over his position as sole printer of the Gehenna Press. Baskin obviously wanted to not only present, but interact with the poetry in his printing, creating an entirely new experience out of Crane’s Voyages, intimately giving texture, in both the two- and three-dimensional senses, to his verses. Crane’s eyes in his portrait seem to speak to this intimacy; their openness spills down into the sharp and tense mass of tendrils below, within the ribcage.



An unknown Frost poem?

   Posted by: rring    in Americana, book history, Classes, Students

[Posted by Cameron Driscoll for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Frost1For my Modern Poetry class with David Rosen, I was assigned to find something interesting at the Watkinson Library pertaining to the poet Robert Frost. While looking at some of the books donated by a Mr. Henry Bacon Collamore, I came across a copy of North of Boston. Inscribed on the inside of the front cover was a poem—specifically a sonnet in iambic pentameter, personally written by Robert Frost for Mr. Collamore.

Here is a picture of the poem in its original condition

The poem was written in Frost’s cursive handwriting, and was a bit hard to transcribe, but after some help from the team at the Watkinson, I was able to figure out what was written. Low and behold, when I was done, I realized this was a totally new poem by Robert Frost— one unknown to the outside world. Here I present publically for the first time, “A Convention” by Robert Frost:




A Convention

While they beneath bepennoned gardens yearned

With blare of brass and eloquence amain

For legislation to relieve the pain

Of living having been too hardly earned,

Something went right: outside the weather tunnels,

The drouth was broken with a little rain;

And in that merely momentary gain

Their meeting, cause, and party were adjourned.


Yet there had been the surest of the sure

About the malady if not the cure:

It was a case of desert: earth would soon

Be as uninhabitable as the moon

What for that matter had it ever been?

Who advised man to come and live therein?

Firstly, I should say that frost uses quite a bit of archaic language in this poem that was very hard to recognize, and therefore to transcribe. Instead of using the more modern “abound” or “surround” frost uses the word “amain”. This example of archaic language appears to be uses entirely for form in order to rhyme with the word “pain”. Next, he used the word “drouth” which is an archaic synonym for the word “drought”. One word in particular, appearing in the first line, was the most difficult to transcribe: “bepennoned”. Firstly, you will not find this word on any online dictionary, or for that matter in any handheld dictionary that I could find. I asked in my Modern Poetry class if anyone had any idea what it meant, and there were various ideas, however, none of them seemed satisfactory. Luckily, my mom is an English major, and a very smart one at that, so I asked her, and after 10 minutes she came back to me with the answer. Thanks mom, you rock.

The poem appears to be about a town meeting that is about to discuss a drought that has left a town without water. The town is full of symbols of wealth and abundance: they have gardens with pennants hung between them, everything is “eloquent” and brass instruments are used to convene the convention to order. However, despite this societal wealth, they are resource poor in water, as they haven’t had any rain, and, of course, cannot support the town without it. Frost wrote a lot about the relationship between man and nature, and I think this poem is an example of Frost pointing out how man often tries to claim a certain knowledge about nature that is entirely unfounded, and more generally, how men are often far too sure of themselves.

They are ‘legislating’ to “relieve the pain” of this drought.  However, as they discuss this problem, all of the sudden a light rain storm comes and breaks the drought. This is in some ways a bit ironic, as several in the convention were among the “surest of the sure” that the drought was a “case of desert” that would soon render the whole planet as “uninhabitable as the moon”.

The poem ends by asking two interesting questions. Essentially, he is asking about the origins of man. The first question appears to be rhetorical and can be taken one of two ways: either Frost is saying that the plant had never been “uninhabitable as the moon” or it always has.

The second question is even a bit stranger, “who advised man to come and live therein?” Is Frost trying to say that God was mistaken in putting man on Earth? Is he asking more specifically about who’s idea it was to ship people over to North America? I am unsure, however, I am certain some other young English student will come across this poem and will continue the work I have started here.

The Watkinson rocks.

Have a great summer.




[Posted by Bridget Reilly for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Stevens1Wallace Stevens’ Esthétique du Mal was published in July 1945. Holly Stevens, the poet’s daughter, gave the book to the Watkinson and it is one of 300 copies printed. The modestly sized book is made from luxurious materials that Stevens personally selected. The cover is decorated with vibrant blue Natsume straw-paper and the poem is printed on supple pace paper. Abstract illustrations by Wightman Williams accompany the poem. Stevens3George Dillon, the critic who reviewed the book when it was first published, likened Williams’ designs to the “marginal doodlings of his satanic majesty” (97). Dillon’s assessment seems an apt description of the bizarre illustrations. However, the drawings and the fine materials Stevens selected make the book a visually interesting object. Dillon admitted that the book was an artistic achievement and called it “a blue phenomenon” (97). He writes, “his [Stevens’] new long poem […] has been made into something which belongs to the décor of opulence” (97).

Stevens, no doubt, would have been pleased by Dillon’s assessment. His 1945 correspondence reveals that he was deeply concerned with how the book would look and function, not poetically, but as a physical art object. Between June and November, Stevens wrote three times to his friend and multimedia artist James Guthrie. In each letter, all of which can be found at the Watkinson, Stevens talks almost exclusively about the book, its materials, its design, and the process of its printing. In his responses to Stevens’ letters, Guthrie attempts to open up the discussion and talk about current events and his own poetic endeavors, but Stevens always directs the conversation back to Esthétique du Mal. It seems that for the good portion of 1945, the book’s production was one of Stevens’ main interests, and, at times, the cause of great stress.

Stevens2However, in June, Stevens writes optimistically about Cummington Press, the small boutique printer he was working with. He informs Guthrie that the press is “really the work of not that much more than one man [Harry Duncan],” and his partner Wightman Williams (the books illustrator). He explains that the work they do is “quite extraordinary” (June 25 1945).

By October, Stevens was still certain that the book’s printing job “definitely add[ed] to the text.” However, in his letters, Stevens seems less happy with the book and the press. He mentions to Guthrie that he is weary about Duncan’s and Williams’ desire to “use color to some extent” in the poem’s text. Stevens downplays his reluctance to Guthrie, but in a letter to Duncan, Stevens does not hold back. Stevens explains, “I cannot think of a decent book that I have in which the text is printed in colored ink, and I am strongly against it. However, I leave the make of the book to you” (Cummington Press Correspondence10). Not surprisingly, the poem was printed in black ink.

In addition to questioning Duncan’s and Williams’ creative sensibilities, Stevens was also displeased with the delay of the book’s publication. He explains to Guthrie that the book’s production is behind schedule and that the press “feels victimized.” Considering the technology Duncan and Williams were dealing with and the bullying tone Stevens often took with them, perhaps the pair had good reason for feeling that way. The hand-press, which “was operated manually by two people and resembled the press that Gutenberg invented,” could only work on cool days with high humidity (NewYorkTimesObit). This made printing mostly seasonal and not nearly as efficient as the high-powered executive poet would like it to be. In addition, because of World War II the press continuously experienced paper shortages. At one point, Duncan and Williams had to use Pink straw-paper for the cover instead of the blue Stevens had selected. As one can imagine, Stevens was not pleased. For Stevens, neither the war nor technological glitches seemed good reasons for the delay of the book’s printing. He writes to Guthrie that the book really “ought to have been published by this time” (Oct 18 1945).

Based on his correspondence, it is clear that Stevens spent a lot of time thinking about the book’s production and its appearance. Indeed, as far as Esthétique du Mal was concerned, Stevens was as much, if not more, interested in how the booked looked as he was with the poetry it contained. When the book was finally finished in November, four months after publication date written on the title page, Stevens sent a copy to good old Guthrie. In his letter he writes, “I shall be interested to know what you, yourself, think, not about the poetry, but about the book” (Nov 23 1945).  Stevens’ preoccupation with the aesthetic appearance of this material object seems to give credence Robert Frost’s critique that Stevens was a poet of “bric-a-brac” (NewYorker). Admittedly, Stevens’ discussion of the book suggests that it can be seen as one of many beautiful objects that interested the insurance executive, who lived well and was unopposed to weaving images of material comfort into his poetry. When publishing Esthétique du Mal, Stevens insured that the book could fit seamlessly into the world he depicts in “Sunday Morning.” Indeed, we can picture it now: there is the woman in her “peignoir,” there is the green  “cockatoo/ upon the rug,” and there is the blue phenomenon lying casually on the drawing room table.

Works Cited

Dillon, Geroge. “A Blue Phenomenon: Esthétique du Mal by Wallace Stevens, Wightman Williams.” Poetry 68.2 (1946): 97-100. Print.

Masel, Carolyn, ed. “Stevens, Wallace. Wallace Stevens-Cummington Press Correspondence, 1941-1951.” Libraries of the University of Missouri: Special Collections and Rare Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2016. <>.

Pace, Eric. “Harry Duncan, 80, Hand Printer of Literary Works, Dies.” New York Times [New York] 23 Apr. 1997, Art.

Schjeldahl, Pater. “Insurance Man.” The New Yorker 2 May 2016.


Pound, Paper, Pomp

   Posted by: rring    in book history, Classes

canto cover[Posted by Dan George for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Magisterial and imperious, I found the first edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos 17-27 at the Watkinson. The ten cantos and their accompanying initials illustrated by Gladys Hynes span over about thirty pages, though the grandeur of the poem smolders with hugely outsized ambition.

In a volume over a foot tall, beneath a cover that divulges the bare minimum in gilded letters, Ezra Pound’s poetry lives. The presentation of the book is stylized like an unearthed medieval illuminated text. The initials span more than half the page of most of the cantos they precede and present the content of the canto in a succinct tableau.

It strikes me that the cantos contained in this volume, as well as the preceding cantos and a few to follow, did not enter trade publishing editions for years. The first cantos were printed in 1925, this installment came in 1928, the first trade edition went into print in 1933. During those years, Ezra Pound’s work was only available in these exclusive limited editions. The fissure of time (and, frankly, of the artistic quality in the printings) between these luxurious first editions and the trade editions suggests to me that this is how Pound primarily imagined a reader’s encounter with The Cantos. There is much to read into this gesture of exclusivity and extravagance.

canto 17 iiOnly 94 copies of this book were printed on to four types of extremely fine quality paper. The first, most valuable set of four are signed by the author and artist, printed on fine calf vellum. The next set of five are signed by Pound and printed on Imperial Japan Paper. A set of fifteen on Whatman Paper, of which the edition in the Watkinson Library is one. The majority of the printing, seventy in total, are printed on Roma Paper.

The selection of these four types of paper seems to be significant — they do more than make this book a valuable curio. Vellum represents the very dawn of print culture and is predated only by stone carved print and papyrus. Imperial Japan Paper is culled from a tradition of printed word that developed discretely from the Western European developments. This paper is a nod to Basho, and Confucius, and the pictogrammatic language that he appropriates for the Cantos. The Roma Paper is an archival quality of paper produced in Italy bearing a distinctive Romulus and Remus watermark. Pound’s fascination with eras of Italian Empire, and his eventual fanatical fascism, are gestured towards with this paper.

 Whatman Paper came into being in the second half of the 18th century. Whatman developed a process of making laid paper that became the recognizable sheet of paper we are veritably awash in today. The improvement from a woven paper, the standard for European texts dating back to the medieval period, to a more industrially reproducible laid paper made a more widely profuse print culture possible.

One can glean much about the poem only considering little more than the paper of these original editions. In crafting these special editions, we get a glimpse at the promethean Pound. There is Pound the aesthete, the decadent with his uncompromising vision of how the poem must be. There is Pound the witting entrepreneur exasperating the demand for his poems with a cruelly cutting supply. There is Pound the literary snob that only wants to be cherished in elite coterie circles and would rather his poems stay off of every middle-class shelf. There is Pound the visionary that presents the poem and the presentation of the poem inextricably bound. There is Pound the maddening and maddened withholder.

pound's papersAnd then I think of the flimsy recycled pulp on which I first read these cantos, without the festive initials. I cannot help but feel that my first encounter of this poem was a pale simulacrum of the one I found in the Watkinson. The bombast with which The Cantos are presented here creates an occasion for a very different aesthetic experience with the poem. It is not a poem to be dipped into between train stops or waiting for a kettle on the boil. It is not a poem to be stuffed into a jacket pocket or tossed into a tote. One has to make time to be in the presence of it: maybe light a few candles, set some flowers in a vase, or rub fragrant oils on wrists. It is the occasion for a conjuring or a communing with the past.

[Posted by Aidan Willner for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Frost1Robert Frost published his sixth collection of poetry titled West-Running Brook in 1928 with the Henry Holt publishing company. The limited special edition featured woodcuts by his friend J.J. Lankes. I was lucky enough to find the 172nd copy of this limited edition at the Watkinson Library here at Trinity College. The book contains all forty two poems that would be found in the first edition separated only by four beautiful woodcut prints. While West-Running Brook did not receive one of Frost’s unfathomable four pulitzer prizes it was a noticeable continuation of prolific career. The front cover is the only other noticeable difference between the special edition and the first edition with an artful spread of falling leaves and tissue paper cover underneath the dust jacket. I thought this jacket was iconic Frost due to the humble presentation. There were no fancy gold letters or intricate designs, just a simple yet appealing arrangement of colorful leaves. This image fits Frost as he wished to present himself as a simple nature poet to the general public.

Frost2Frost3The first edition and special edition were both signed by Frost, but the special edition that I found in the Watkinson has an additional personal touch on the front page. Frost wrote out his poem Canis Major in full with one change from the printed version. The only change comes at the end and shifts the word roams to romps and is made out to Harry Bacon Collamore. Little evidence remains proving the friendship between H. Bacon Collamore and Robert Frost but this subtle clue provides a fair amount of insight. Collamore was a major donor to Trinity College and The Watkinson and it is significant that Frost signed his note to Harry Bacon Collamore instead of abbreviating. This could be proof that the two were on a friendly first name basis with each other.

The other interesting thing about the personal note is the edit Frost made to his own poem. The edition is in great condition and not a mark has been placed upon the text save for Frost’s opening note and a single penned change on the text of Canis Major. After Frost had written his note to Collamore he went in and made the same change of roams to romps on the text itself. This change would later be made to all subsequent versions and is thought to represent the one flaw that Frost and his editors missed before the original version of West-Running Brook printed.

Frost4Another interesting addition to West-Running Brook is the Athenian Owl Drachma on the title page. The Owl represents the ancient greek symbol for wisdom as well as perspicacity and erudition. It is unlikely that Frost chose this mark for his title page. Henry Holt may have consulted Frost before including the symbol but it would have been his decision to make. The symbol was appropriated during the turn of the 20th century in the west as a symbol of knowledge and eduction. It became widespread and this is likely what led Holt to include it. The image itself is of a Greek drachma coin and has since been used on the back side of the euro in Greece.



Auden artifact

   Posted by: rring    in book history, Classes

[Posted by Sean Flynn for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Auden artifact unearths interesting connection between poets and their readers.

WHAuden-Spain(1)-1“That is just what I think is wrong with modern poetry – The poets are not writing for the people, for a vast audience – They are writing for a small clique – And then the members of this small group interpret these poems to the public through books, articles and reviews,” writes former Trinity College Vice President Albert E. Holland.

When Albert E. Holland donated an original copy of “Spain” by W.H. Auden to the Trinity College graduating class of 1946, he gave his classmates a clear explanation why. An overview of Holland’s thirteen-year journey between his junior year in 1934 and graduating year in 1946 suggests that Holland interpreted the poem as analogous to his darkest moments as a college dropout.

The Watkinson library houses the gift of Holland within a collection of modern poetry artifacts. Along the inside cover of “Spain,” readers find “Gift of Albert E Holland, Class of ’34,” written across the bottom of the page. Dedications like this often transform a large “I found it at the Watkinson” assignment into specific project, more appropriately titled, “I indirectly learned this at the Watkinson.” Brief research on Holland reinforced the fruitfulness of the latter.

In 1933, the Great Depression stole Holland’s senior year at Trinity College. Becoming a workingman prematurely, Holland entered a tanking American economy that summer. But Holland’s fluency in German helped him secure several prestigious positions abroad. In 1937, when W.H. Auden published “Spain,” a poetic treatise on the Spanish Civil war, Holland established himself as the point person for Brown Brothers Harriman office in Berlin. Perhaps Holland, who then stood at the apex of his private sector ascent, did not find value in the poem like he did when donating an original copy to the Trinity class of ‘46.

After working on projects in Germany, Netherlands, and the United States, the North Negros Sugar Company of Manila culled Holland in 1941. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan invaded Philippines, where Holland, his wife, and two young children lived. For three years they remained incarcerated at the Santo Tomas internment camp. Holland spent the next thirty-seven months reading and keeping an extensive diary.

In the daily entries, Holland documents air raids and his day-to-day mindset.

“Today Lt. Shiragi said that we should kill all the dogs in the camp & serve them on the food line – I agree that the dogs should be killed – They are a menace to our health – But I do not relish eating these mangy mongrels – This shows while I may be very hungry, I am not yet starving – Otherwise I would make no such objection,” writes Holland.

Despite obvious struggles as a prisoner of war, Holland displays a poised and thoughtful demeanor throughout his diaries. He cites a range of books and modern poets who helped him cope, including Auden. “Auden, Spencer, MacNeice, Stevens, E. E. Cummings & – in many poems T. S. Eliot – all apparently disdain us – Look at Eliot’s “Wasteland,” The same is true of Stein, Wolfe & Joyce in the novel – It is never necessary to be incomprehensible – And I detest poems composed of words put down for their musical effect & not for their meaning,” writes Holland.

While Holland criticized modern poets that wrote “incomprehensible” lines, Holland certainly viewed Auden’s “Spain” as comprehensible. When the Japanese internment camp released Holland and his family in 1945, Trinity let Holland walk with the class of 1946. His first donation to Trinity was a copy of Auden’s Spain. Since Auden wrote the poem about the Spanish Civil War, while addressing the grave byproducts of war, perhaps Holland drew many parallels between the poem and his own experience as a POW.

Trinity hired Holland as a freshmen advisor in 1946. He transitioned into various fundraising positions and later became vice president at the college. In 1966, Hobart and William Smith named Holland president, but the school forced his resignation two years later. Fittingly Holland’s early exit stems from an allegiance with Reverand Daniel Berrigan-a Vietnam war activist Holland invited to speak on campus. He finished his career at Wellesley College and retired from higher education in 1977.

That Holland lived to tell his story is nothing short of a minor miracle. The Watkinson library assignment unearthed his seldom-shared story. Yet when Holland dedicated a poem on war and struggle to Trinity, the former administrator told his classmates something else.

Holland lived a reader’s life.

The Auden poem and a typed replication of Holland’s prison diaries can be found at the Watkinson Library.