AMERICAN POETS






John Peale BISHOP, born May 21, 1892, in Charles Town, West Virginia: poet, novelist, and critic, a member of the lost generation and a close associate of the American expatriate writers in Paris in the 1920s. At Princeton University, from which he graduated in 1917, Bishop formed lifelong friendships with Edmund Wilson, the future critic, and with the novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who depicted Bishop as the highbrow writer Tom D'Invilliers in This Side of Paradise. Bishop published his first volume of verse, Green Fruit, in 1917. During the war, he served with the 84th Division, and served in the Argonne. After the war he was an editor at Vanity Fair magazine in New York City from 1920 to 1922. He married into wealth and traveled throughout Europe. From 1926 to 1933, he lived in France and acquired a deep admiration for French culture. His collection of stories about his native South, Many Thousands Gone (1931), was followed with a volume of poetry, Now with His Love (1933). Act of Darkness, a novel tracing the coming of age of a young man, and Minute Particulars, a collection of verse, both appeared in 1935. He became chief poetry reviewer for The Nation magazine in 1940. That year he published perhaps his finest poem, "The Hours," an elegy on the death of F. Scott Fitzgerald. His Collected Poems (1948) was edited by the poet Allen Tate and his Collected Essays (1948) by Edmund Wilson.


E.E. CUMMINGS, born Oct. 14, 1894 , Cambridge, Massachusetts. Entered Harvard College in 1911, specializing in Greek and other languages, and contributed poems to Harvard periodicals. While at Harvard he formed lasting friendships with a number of artists and writers, including John Dos Passos and Robert Hillyer. In 1915 Cummings graduated magna cum laude, and delivered the commencement address on "The New Art." In 1916 he receives an MA from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. During 1917 he lived for a time in New York, with the painter Arthur Wilson, and worked for P. F. Collier & Son. When war was declared in April, Cummings joined the Norton-Haries Ambulance Corps, and sails for France on the La Touraine, where he met another Harjes-Norton recruit, William Slater Brown. After several weeks in Paris, Cummings & Brown were assigned to ambulance duty on Noyon sector. However, in September, due to the suspicions of a French army censor who found Brown's letters home seditious, Brown & Cummings were arrested, and when Cummings refused to dissociate himself from his friend, both young men were sent to a concentration camp at La Ferte Mace. Cummings was released in December. By the first of the year (1918), Cummings was back in New York. During the summer he was drafted, and was stationed at Camp Devens until his discharge, shortly after the Armistice. . He remained in New York through 1920, marrying, working at his painting, and becoming associated with the writers at The Dial, including Marianne Moore, Kenneth Burke & Edmund Wilson. In September of 1920, he began work on his first book, a novel, based on his experiences in the French prison camp, The Enormous Room. During the next year he traveled to Portugal and Spain with Dos Passos, then to Paris, which served as his home base for the next couple years. During this period he formed friendships with Ezra Pound, Hart Crane, John Peale Bishop, Lewis Galantiere, Gorham Munson, Malcolm Cowley & Archibald MacLeish.. The Enormous Room appeared in 1922, published in a mutilalated version by Boni and Liveright, New York.


Joyce KILMER. Born December 6, 1886, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He attended Columbia University, graduating in 1908. From 1909 to 1912 he was associated with Funk and Wagnall's Company, working as an editor on their dictionary. He served as Literary Editor of the The Churchman, an Anglican newspaper, and in 1913 joined the staff of The New York Times. When the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917, Kilmer enlisted as a private in the Seventh Regiment, New York National Guard. At his request, and with the assistance of Father Duffy, he transfered into the 165th Infantry, the old Fighting 69th. While the Regiment was at Camp Mills he transfered to Company H, Headquarters Detachment, and assumed the position of Senior Regimental Statistician. Once in France he was promoted to Sergeant and was attached to the newly organized Regimental Intelligence staff as an observer. In that capacity, he was to spend many nights on patrol in no-man's land gathering information. On July 30th 1918, during the battle of the Ourcq, he attached himself as adjutant to Major William Donovan, commanding the First Battalion, during an attempt to take the high ground of Muercy Farm. During this action Kilmer was killed by a sniper's bullet. Kilmer is remembered for such poems as "Memorial Day," written in 1917 before his departure overseas, "Rouge Bouquet" and "When the Sixty-Ninth Comes Back." which was set to music by Victor Herbert, and played by the Regimental Band during the 165th's triumphal march up 5th Avenue after the war.


Archibald MACLEISH. Born May 7, 1892. Poet, playwright, Librarian of Congress, & Assistant Secretary of State under Franklin Roosevelt. Born in Glencoe, Illinois. During the war MacLeish first enlisted as a private in the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit & sailed to France in August 1917. His first book of poems, Tower of Ivory , was published in December of that year. Early in 1918 he transfered to the U.S. 146th Field Artillery and on June 30th was ordered to the Front as commander of Battery B of the 146th, partaking in the action at Chateau Thierry. Before that battle's end, however, he was ordered stateside to serve as a gunnery instructor at Camp Meade for the rest of the war. MacLeish lost a brother, Kenneth MacLeish, a Sopwith Camel pilot flying with the R.A.F., who was shot down in October 1918 over Belgium. A number of Archibald's wartime poems were published in a memorial volume of his brother's war letters published by their mother in 1919, entitled simply Kenneth.

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"The Silent Slain"

We too, we too, descending once again
The hills of our own land, we too have heard
Far off -- Ah, que ce cor a longue haleine --
The horn of Roland in the passages of Spain,
the first, the second blast, the failing third,
And with the third turned back and climbed once more
The steep road southward, and heard faint the sound
Of swords, of horses, the disastrous war,
And crossed the dark defile at last, and found
At Roncevaux upon the darkening plain
The dead against the dead and on the silent ground
The silent slain --


John REED (1887 - 1920): Born in Portland, Oregon: poet-adventurer whose short life as a revolutionary writer and activist made him the hero of a generation of radical intellectuals. Graduated from Harvard in 1910 and began writing for a Socialist newspaper, The Masses, in 1913. Both at Harvard, and immediately after, in Greenwich Village, Reed maintained a close friendship with fellow-bohemian poet Alan Seeger, who later became the most famous American poet of World War I. (see The Bohemian Friendship of John Reed & Alan Seeger). In 1914, Reed joined troops fighting under Pancho Villa and covered the revolutionary fighting in Mexico, recording his impressions in Insurgent Mexico (1914). Frequently arrested for organizing and defending strikes, he rapidly became established as a radical leader and help form the Communist Party in the United States. He covered World War I for Metropolitan magazine; out of this experience came The War in Eastern Europe (1916). Reed became a close friend of Lenin and was an eyewitness to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, recording this event in his best known book, Ten Days That Shook the World (1919), the single finest first-hand account of the October Revolution. When the U.S. Communist Party and the Communist Labor Party split in 1919, Reed became the leader of the latter. Indicted for treason, he escaped to the Soviet Union where, along with millions of Russians, he died of typhus that could not be treated because of the blockade imposed on the fledgling Soviet government by the Allies; he was subsequently buried with other Bolshevik heroes beside the Kremlin wall.


Reed, John, Diana's Debut. Lyrics by J.S. Reed, music by Walter S. Langshaw, Cambridge: privately printed, 1910.

~~~~~~~~~~, Sangar. Riverside, Conn.: Frederick C. Bursch, 1913.

~~~~~~~~~~, The Day in Bohemia, or Life Among the Artists. Riverside, Conn.: privately printed, 1913.

~~~~~~~~~~, Everymagazine, An Immorality Play. Words by Jack Reed, music by Bill Daly. New York: privately printed, 1913.

~~~~~~~~~~, Insurgent Mexico, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1914.

~~~~~~~~~~, The War in Eastern Europe. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916.

~~~~~~~~~~, Tamburlaine. Riverside, Conn.: Frederick C. Bursch, 1917.

~~~~~~~~~~, The Sisson Documents. New York: Liberator Publishing Company, 1918.

~~~~~~~~~~, Ten Days That Shook the World. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919.

~~~~~~~~~~, Daughter of the Revolution, edited by Floyd Dell. New York: Vanguard Press, 1927.

~~~~~~~~~~, Collected Poems, edited by Corliss Lamont, Lawrence Hill & Company, 1985.

Hicks, Granville, John Reed, the Making of a Revolutionary, The Macmillan Company, 1936.

Rosenstone, Robert A., Romantic Revolutionary: A Biography of John Reed, Alfred A. Knopf, 1982.


~~ from America, 1918

. . . Old Greenwich Village, citadel of amateurs,
Battle-ground of all adolescent Utopieas,
Half sham-Bohemia, dear to uptown slummers,
Half sanctuary of the outcast and dissatisfied . . .
Free fellowship of painters, sailors, poets,
Light women, Uranians, tramps, and strike-leaders,
Actresses, models, people with aliases or nameless,
Sculptors who run elevators for a living,
Musicians who have to pound pianos in picture-houses . . .
Workers, dissipating, most of them young, most of them poor,
Playing at art, playing at love, playing at rebellion,
In the enchanted borders of the impossible republic . . .



The section on Alan SEEGER has expanded to such an extent that it now requires its own section. To view it, please click here.

Gertrude STEIN, writer & mentor to the 'Lost Generation' of writers in Paris after World War I. She was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, February 3, 1874. During the war she & Alice B. Toklas, at first, frightened by zeppelin raids, left Paris for the safety & tranquility of Palma de Mallorca. However, in the summer of 1916, they returned to Paris and soon volunteered their services as drivers for the organization "American Fund for French Wounded". Obliged to furnish their own transportation, Stein wrote to her cousins in New York who raised sufficient funds to purchase a Ford & have it shipped to France. AFter it arrived, the ladies had it fitted out like a truck & christened it "Auntie" in honor of Stein's Aunt Pauline "who always behaved admirably in emergencies and behaved fairly well most times if she was properly flattered". They spent the remainder of the war distributing relief supplies to hospitals around Paris, Perpignan, & Nimes. Toklas handled accounts, and Stein, dressed in helmet-shaped hat, belted, big-pocketed coat, sandals, knitted vest & shirtwaist with gathered sleeves, spent countless hours among the wounded soldiers, cheering them with her easy conviviality, maternal warmth & clown-like appearance. She published two war poems in "Life", and another, entitled "The Work" in the A.F.F.W. Bulletin. After the Armistice, Stein & Toklas were assigned to Mulhouse, in liberated Alsace, where they distributed supplies to the shelled cities & burned-out villages throughout the 1918-19 winter.




Edith WHARTON, born January 24, 1862, New York, N.Y., née Edith Newbold Jones. Educated by private tutors and governesses at home and in Europe. Made her debut in society in 1879 and married Edward Wharton, a wealthy Boston banker, in 1885. Her first book, Verse, a collection of poems, was privately printed when she was 16, In succeeding years she contributed a few poems and stories to Harper's, Scribner's, and other magazines in the 1890s. The Greater Inclination (1899) and Crucial Instances (1901), were collections of stories. Her first novels were The Valley of Decision (1902) and The House of Mirth (1905), The Reef (1912), and The Custom of the Country (1913).

When war broke out in August, 1914, Wharton was in Paris. During the fall and winter of 1914, she organized war charities and raised money for the refugees flooding Paris. She also created the American Hostels for Refugees. During 1915 she supervised two large refugee & relief organizations, wrote a series of articles for Scribners about wartime Paris and the Front (which she visited five times during the year to distribute French Red Cross supplies). She organized a third major charity to house refugees sent to her from the Belgian government. Her charities provided housing, employment, education, and medical services for refugees numbering in the thousands. She also conceived and began work on a special gift book anthology, The Book of the Homeless, featuring original contributions from major European and American authors, the proceeds of which were used to support refugee relief. The book was published in January, 1916. Much of her effort in 1916 was directed in a fight against tuberculosis, which was threatening to sweep through France in an epidemic, and which had already become rampant among the French soldiers in the trenches. She established a number of convalescent homes and demonstration sanitariums and served as a vice president on the Tuberculeux de la Guerre. With the arrival of the Americans in 1917, all her work was in danger of being swallowed up and lost in the administrative morass of the American Red Cross, and her time and energy was increasingly expended in countering the Red Cross's bureaucratic "octopus". In 1918 she received honors from the French and Belgium governments, and met with General Pershing and President Wilson's representative, Colonel House. She also began to withdraw from her many administrative positions, as her health had suffered greatly during the years of the war. She endured chronic exhaustion, heart problems, hay fever, allergies and, every fall and winter, bouts of pneumonia, bronchitis and influenza. By the end of the war her health was permanently impaired.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wharton, Edith (ed), The Book of the Homless (Le Livre des Sans-Foyer). New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916.

~~~~~~~~~~ Xingu and Other Stories. New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916.

~~~~~~~~~~ Summer. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1917.

~~~~~~~~~~ The Marne. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1918.

~~~~~~~~~~ French Ways and Their Meaning. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1919.

~~~~~~~~~ The Age of Innocence. 1920.

~~~~~~~~~~ A Son at the Front. New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923.

~~~~~~~~~~ The Mother's Recompense. New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925.

Price, Alan, The End of the Age of Innocence: Edith Wharton and the First World War. New York, St Martin's Press, 1996.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BELGIUM

La Belquique ne regrette rien

Not with her ruined silver spires,
Not with her cities shamed and rent,
Perish the imperishable fires
That shape the homestead from the tent.

Wherever men are staunch and free,
There shall she keep her fearless state,
And homeless, to great nations be
The home of all that makes them great.
Amos N. WILDER. 1895-1993. Brother of Thornton Wilder. Served in American Field Service in the Argonne and west of Verdun in 1917, and on the Serbian Front and Salonika later that year. Served with A Battery, 17th Field Artillery, Second Division, AEF from January until the Armistice, participating in the following engagements: Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Mihiel, Blanc Mont, and the Argonne. Winner of the 1923 Yale Series of Younger Poets contest for his war poems. Later wrote extensively of the relation of religion to modern poetry, religion and the arts.

Battle-Retrospect and Other Poems , (Yale University Press, 1923).

Arachne: Poems , (Yale University Press, 1928).

Armageddon Revisited: A World War I Journal , (Yale University Press, 1994).

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from “Armageddon: Foret de Villers-Cotterets, July 18, 1918"

[author’s note: “The crux and turning-point of the World War is usually assigned to the dawn of July 18, 1918. At that time, after a feverish mobilization in the great woods near Soissons of Highlander, Moroccan, and other units, including the first and second American divisions, General Mangin, under Marshall Foch’s orders, attacked eastward, threatening the German Marne salient. The desperate rush to the front in the great beech forests during that rainy night and the attack at 4:35 remain one of the outstanding epic actions of the war. The overtones of the event and its portentous significance obscurely felt by those who took part in it.”

Was it a dream that all one summer night
We toiled obscurely through a mighty wood
Teeming with desperate armies; toiled to smite
At dawn upon the unsuspecting height
Above, the Powers of Darkness where they stood?
Was it a dream? Our hosts poured like a flood

In ceaseless cataract of shadowy forms
Along the dark torrential avenues,
Within, the host unseen, unseeing, swarms;
Without, the blind foe’s nervous shell-fire storms,
And groping plane its flares, suspicious, strews
Above the cross-roads where the columns fuse.

Dwarfed in the enormous beeches and submerged
In double night we labored up the aisles
As in an underworld; our convoys surged
Like streams in flood, and now our torrents merged
With other torrents from the blind defiles
As hurrying units joined our crowded files.

The hoarse confusion of that precipitate march,
The night-long roar that hung about that train,
Lost itself in the branches that o’erarch
Those passages, and to the heaven’s far porch
No whisper rose, but all that agonized strain
Of myriads clamored to the skies in vain.

Beneath a load of palpable dark we bowed.
Smothered in hours with time itself we strove.
The wilderness stood o’er us like a cloud
Opaque to bar bright futures disallowed,
Denying dawn, as though the vindictive grove
Eternal night around our legions wove.

Was it a dream, that rush through night to day?
Far in the depths of night we labored on,
Out of the core of midnight made our way
To meet the grandiose daybreak far away,
While unknown thousands brushed us and were gone,
Whence, whither, in that night’s oblivion.

Oaths, shouts and cries rose o’er the incessant din
Of wheel and hoof, and many a frantic blow.
The dazed beasts battle through that tumult in
The darkness at the driver’s lash to win
A goal unknown: nor do the thousands know
The event in course, but likewise blindly go.



Edmund WILSON Born May 8, 1895, in Red Bank, New Jersey. Journalist, critic, poet, novelist. In 1912 he entered Princeton University where he became friends with F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Peale Bishop; and wrote for Nassau Literary Magazine. In 1916 he graduated from Princeton, attended a military preparedness camp in Plattsburgh for the summer, and became a reporter for the New York Evening Sun. He enlisted in the US Army and by late 1917 was in France serving in an army hospital unit; attending the wounded in the Vosges. In 1918, through his father's influence, he was transferred to the Intelligence Corps, AEF General Headquarters, in Chaumont. After demobilization in 1919, he worked at freelance writing in New York.


John Allan WYETH . Born New York City, 1894. Educated at Princeton (M.A. 1917), where he was known to Edmund Wilson, who remembered him as "the only aesthete in the Class of 1915." During the war, Wyeth served on the Western Front as Division Translator, Headquarters, 33rd Division, A.E.F, and later with the Army of Occupation in Germany.

After Wyeth's discharge in October, 1919, he spent the winter recuperating at his brother's home in Palm Beach. While there, Wyeth applied for and received a fellowship from Princeton to study for a year in Liege, Belgium. (Dana Gioia, "The Unknown Soldier: The Poetry of John Allan Wyeth", The Hudson Review, Summer 2008, p 256). On July 24, 1920, Wyeth sailed for Europe on the SS St Paul. According to his passport, he intended to visit Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, England, France and Switzerland, for the purpose of "study". By 1923 he had completed his oral exams in French and German. For a time he considered pursuing a graduate degree but instead, by 1926, Wyeth had taken up residence in Rapallo, Italy where, according to his family, he struck up a friendship with Ezra Pound. (Gioia, p 257). It was during his time in Rapallo that, according to a letter to his graduate advisor explaining why he had decided to abandon his studies, Wyeth devoted himself to literature and most probably wrote the sonnet sequence published in 1928 as This Man's Army.


For much more on Wyeth and his place in the literature of the First World War, visit the blog
The War Poetry of John Allan Wyeth
.


THE ROAD TO BAYONVILLERS
The sidecar skimmed low down like a flying sled
over the straight road with its double screen
of wire--the blue profile of Amiens sank
below the plain--near by, a hidden blast
of gunfire by the roadside--just ahead,
a white cloud bursting out of a slope of green.
Then low swift open land and the wasted flank
of a leprous hillside--over the ridge and past
the blackened stumps of Bois Vert, bleak and dead.
Our sidecar jolted and rocked, twisting between
craters, lunging at every rack and wrench.
Through Bayonvillers--her dusty wreckage stank
of rotten flesh, a dead street overcast
with a half-sweet, fetid, cloying fog of stench.







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