Quote of the moment: Kennedy, art is truth, not propaganda

December 17, 2015

President John F. Kennedy at the ground breaking of the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College, Massachusetts, October 26, 1963

President John F. Kennedy at the ground breaking of the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College, Massachusetts, October 26, 1963

“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” 

Remarks at Amherst College upon receiving an Honorary Degree (439),” October 26, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963. Via JFK Library

More:

Audio of the speech at Youtube:

Amherst student newspaper report on the event, image:

The Amherst Student, front page, special convocation edition, October 23, 1963. Headline,

The Amherst Student, front page, special convocation edition, October 23, 1963. Headline, “Kennedy given honorary LLD, envisions a future America.”


Frank Hewlett, journalist/poet: The Battling Bastards of Bataan

July 7, 2015

Photos of Frank and Virginia Hewlett, and Frank's reporting colleague William MacDougall, in post-war life. Images found at The Downhold Project.

Photos of Frank and Virginia Hewlett, and Frank’s reporting colleague William McDougall, in post-war life. Images found at The Downhold Project.

Frank Hewlett told me all about Washington, D.C.  In my youth, in the potato fields of southern Idaho, and on the slopes of the towering Wasatch Front in Utah, Frank Hewlett came on the pages of the Salt Lake Tribune nearly every day, telling what happened in Washington and how that might affect us in the west.

Two doors north of our home on Conant Avenue in Burley was the home of Henry C. Dworshak. Though we rarely saw him at home, Dworshak’s work in Washington as U.S. Senator was detailed by Hewlett. (Irony never far away, when my older brother Wes won a competitive appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy from Dworshak, the first they met was to pose for a picture for the local newspaper.)

Frank Hewlett told me, and a half-million other people, about the ins and outs of getting authorization and funding to build massive dams on the Colorado River, at Flaming Gorge, Utah, and at Glen Canyon.

In 1979 I moved to Washington, D.C., doing press work for a Utah senator.  First full day on the job, who strides into the office but Frank Hewlett.

I got there late in Frank’s career. He was nearing retirement, and he was battling cancer.  His wife, Virginia, still suffered from the effects of imprisonment in the Philippines by Japanese forces in the World War II.  Editors at the Tribune seemed to want to push him out of the job. That didn’t seem to phase him much.  He’d seen much worse.

Hewlett reported for UPI during World War II — UPI’s glory days, the same agency from which Edward R. Murrow hired some of his best reporters in London (including Walter Cronkite).  Frank had been a personal friend of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, close enough that when the U.S. got back to Manila and pushed the Japanese out, MacArthur loaned Frank his personal jeep, so Frank could drive around to the Japanese prison camps to try to find his wife, who’d been captured because she stayed behind to burn the U.S. flag from the embassy, when the Japanese invaded.  Hewlett found Virginia, weighing way under 100 pounds and needing years of loving care to get back to a semblance of the beautiful young bride the war stole from Frank.

As with every other veteran of World War II I ever knew, Frank Hewlett didn’t talk about the war much. Once over lunch, he told me I could go look up his reports, but he wasn’t going to rehash them.

You might wonder why I fondly recall a guy who could be so curt and acerbic, who wouldn’t tell me the stories I wanted to  hear from him about the war. There were other tales he was happy to talk about — from where comes the old political saw, “You can’t go back to Pocatello,” how Republicans and Democrats combined to make National Parks and great Bureau of Reclamation dams, how Dwight Eisenhower was so concerned about snow and cold messing up John Kennedy’s inauguration that he ordered troops with flamethrowers out in the early morning to melt the ice and dry the streets of Washington.  Great history, great stories.

Didn’t hurt when he learned I had lived in Burley, Idaho.  Two refugees from the spud fields, together in D.C.

When I made a goof in a press release, when our legislation ran into problems, Frank wouldn’t barge into the office and head to the coffee pot.  He’d poke his head through door, say, “Can I buy you a coffee?” Then in one of the Senate eateries he’d quietly tell me how he’d fix whatever problem I was having.  Most often he had good advice, but always he had great concern that the youngest press guy in the Senate get through the trouble.

Once I mentioned how “fighting the bastards” reminded me of war, and he corrected me: Organizational conflict is nothing like war, and the bastards, well, often they are the good guys.  He said he’d written a poem about that.  He was sure he had a copy, and he’d get it to me.  He couldn’t remember all the lines, he said — but he gave me a recitation of what he said he could remember: “The Battling Bastards of Bataan . . . No one gives a damn.”  He explained that soldiers at Bataan despaired that no one knew their faite

Virginia grew ill. Cancer eventually took her. Kathryn and I visited Frank at his Virginia home, intending to take him out to dinner. His own cancer and other ills bothered him, he didn’t want to go out — we ended up eating hot dogs he had in the refrigerator.  Frank reminded me he’d get me a copy of his poem.

Didn’t happen. At his funeral at that little Catholic Church in Alexandria, the eulogist told about Frank’s love for Virginia and how it survived the war, and said he’d been a correspondent in a lot of tight places.

Today, I found a website with poems about World War II, and in a quick scroll found Frank’s name.

Battling Bastards of Bataan

We’re the battling bastards of Bataan;
No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam.
No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces,
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces
And nobody gives a damn
Nobody gives a damn.

by Frank Hewlett  1942

Now I have a copy of Frank’s poem.

Bataan Memorial at Capas Concentration Camp, Philippines, photo by Rachael Tolliver

From Army.mil, the U.S. Army’s home page: Photo Credit: Rachael Tolliver/ The names and units of those U.S. military personal who died at, or in route to the Capas Concentration Camp during the Bataan Death March, are etched on marble and titled “Battling Bastards of Bataan.” The memorial is located at the Capas National Shrine, in Capas, Tarlac, Philippines. “Battling Bastards of Bataan” was a limerick poem penned by Frank Hewlett, Manila bureau chief for UP and the last reporter to leave Corregidor before it fell to the Japanese. “We’re the battling bastards of Bataan/No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam/No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces/No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces/And nobody gives a damn.”

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Happy birthday, Langston Hughes, 113 today and a Google doodle

February 1, 2015

American poet Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri.

American poet Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. poets.org image

Langston Hughes’s birthday kicks off Black Heritage Month, a month many academic and history organizations dedicate to emphasizing the history of Africans in the U.S. in an attempt to offset the historical slighting of those stories.

Google’s doodle is dedicated to Hughes today — and a lot of people offered birthday wishes, a very interesting mix of people.

Which is your favorite verse from Mr. Hughes?

 

And on Twitter, a lot of thought.

Langston Hughes himself seems to be on Twitter:

More:


Get your National Poetry Month posters now!

January 22, 2015

April of each year is National Poetry Month.

A great poster comes from the Academy of American Poets.  Most often I think about the poster on April 1, so it’s rare I get one for the classroom in time (I keep them, and recycle them from year to year.)

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast designed the poster for National Poetry Month 2015, and it’s wonderful.

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast's design for the poster for National Poetry Month 2015

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s design for the poster for National Poetry Month 2015

Teachers, and other lovers of poetry, can request a free poster (while supplies last), here.

Sponsors of National Poetry Month 2015:

Sponsors of National Poetry Month 2015

Sponsors of National Poetry Month 2015


Cowboy poetry festival in Elko, Nevada – January 26-31, 2015

January 21, 2015

Poster for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, January 26-31, 2015

Poster for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, January 26-31, 2015

Probably won’t be a red carpet, but frankly, I’d rather the bottom-feeder TV entertainment news programs would interview cowboys coming in from the dusty trail to recite their saddle-born poetry than interview women in ugly gowns at some Hollywood awards show.

I’d watch to hear the cowboys recite in verse.  Cowboy poetry is probably one of the best-attended entertainment events in heaven, I figure.

Some year I’m going to make it to this festival.  Alas, not this year.

You?

Press release from Western Folklife Center:

 

31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Begins January 26

(ELKO, NV)— The 31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is January 26-31, in Elko, Nevada. The Elko Gathering is the nation’s oldest and largest annual celebration of the cultural traditions of the ranching and rural West. Every year, thousands travel to this high desert town in the heart of winter, to listen, learn and share. Through poetry, music and stories, ranch people express the beauty, humor, creativity and challenges of a life deeply connected to the earth and its bounty.

At the 31st Gathering, more than 55 poets, musicians and musical groups from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Mexico will perform on seven stages at four different venues. The line-up includes poets Baxter Black, Jerry Brooks, John Dofflemyer, Linda M. Hasselstrom, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Wally McRae, Waddie Mitchell and Paul Zarzyski. Musicians and bands include Gretchen Peters, Tom Russell, Ian Tyson, The Western Flyers, Wylie & The Wild West, Eli Barsi, Cowboy Celtic, Don Edwards, Corb Lund & The Hurtin’ Albertans, Gary McMahan and many more! The Gathering also features hands-on workshops in traditional western arts, exhibitions, western dances, films, discussions, open-mic sessions and more. Tickets to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering can be purchased at http://www.westernfolklife.org, or by calling 888-880-5885.

The 31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will also celebrate a little-known corner of Mexico—Baja California Sur—and its rich ranchero culture. The Gathering will welcome Baja’s vaqueros, who will share with their American cowboy counterparts the traditional acoustic music, ranch cuisine, local art and craftwork, traditional lore and humor of their Californio roots. For nearly 300 years, ranching families have carved out an existence in the rugged, arid environment of the sierra of the lower California (Baja) peninsula. These ranching families are the direct descendents of Spanish missionary soldiers, and continue to maintain their horseback traditions, using riding equipment patterned after the horse gear of their Spanish ancestors. They are a living link between Spain and the American buckaroo.

The 31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is produced by the Western Folklife Center and supported by NV Energy, Newmont Mining Corporation, Barrick Gold of North America, Nevada Humanities, Nevada Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, Elko Convention and Visitors Authority, the City of Elko and many more foundations, businesses and individuals.

The Western Folklife Center is dedicated to exploring, presenting and preserving the diverse and dynamic cultural heritage of the American West.

31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Poets and Musicians

  • Eli Barsi, Moosomin, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Mike Beck, Monterey, CA
  • Baxter Black, Benson, AZ
  • Dave Bourne, Agoura Hills, CA
  • Jerry Brooks, Sevier, UT
  • Cowboy Celtic, Turner Valley, Alberta, Canada
  • John Dofflemyer, Lemon Cove, CA
  • Elizabeth Ebert, Lemmon, SD
  • Don Edwards, Hico, TX
  • Thatch Elmer, Bear River, WY
  • Dick Gibford, New Cuyuma, CA
  • DW Groethe, Bainville, MT
  • Kenny Hall, Tropic, UT
  • Linda M. Hasselstrom, Hermosa, SD
  • Chuck Hawthorne, Manor, TX
  • Andy Hedges, Lubbock, TX
  • Carol Heuchan, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia
  • Brenn Hill, Hooper, UT
  • Yvonne Hollenbeck, Clearfield, SD
  • Ross Knox, Midpines, CA
  • Corb Lund & The Hurtin’ Albertans, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • Deanna Dickinson McCall, Timberon, NM
  • Gary McMahan, Bellvue, CO
  • Wally McRae, Forsyth, MT
  • Doc Mehl, Westminster, CO
  • Augie Meyers, San Antonio, TX
  • Chuck Milner, Reydon, OK
  • Waddie Mitchell, Twin Bridges, NV
  • Andy Nelson, Pinedale, WY
  • Joel Nelson, Alpine, TX
  • Rodney Nelson, Almont, ND
  • Wayne Nelson, American Falls, ID
  • Kay Kelley Nowell, Alpine, TX
  • Glenn Ohrlin, Mountain View, AR
  • Sharon Salisbury O’Toole, Savery, WY
  • Ed Peekeekoot, Crofton, British Columbia, Canada
  • Gretchen Peters & Barry Walsh, Nashville, TN
  • Shadd Piehl, Mandan, ND
  • Vess Quinlan, San Acacio, CO
  • Henry Real Bird, Garryowen, MT
  • Brigid Reedy, Boulder, MT
  • Pat Richardson, Merced, CA
  • Randy Rieman, Dillon, MT
  • Kent Rollins, Hollis, OK
  • Tom Russell, Canutillo, TX
  • Sandy Seaton Sallee, Emigrant, MT
  • Georgie Sicking, Kaycee, WY
  • Sourdough Slim & Robert Armstrong, Paradise, CA
  • Gail Steiger, Prescott, AZ
  • Caitlyn Taussig, Kremmling, CO
  • Charis Thorsell, Burbank, OH
  • Ian Tyson, Longview, Alberta, Canada
  • The Western Flyers, Burleson, TX
  • Wylie & The Wild West, Conrad, MT
  • Paul Zarzyski, Great Falls, MT
Western Folklife Center • 501 Railroad Street • Elko, Nevada • 89801 • 775.738.7508
dminter@westernfolklife.org
www.westernfolklife.org

San Antonio is probably the biggest city represented on that list of performers; most of the others in Texas and Utah (the ones I know best) are small towns, tiny towns.  No tuxedoes or Dior gowns there, I’ll bet.

Wouldn’t it be great if the entire event were streamed, and broadcast, and available on DVD?

Not this year. Western Folklife Center explained on Facebook:

Unfortunately, we will not have a live broadcast of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering this year. Funding we were hoping to receive did not come through. However, we will be documenting the Gathering in other ways this year, by filming in the G Three Bar Theater and throughout the event. Stay tuned to our website, Facebook page and YouTube channel to see videos of this year’s Gathering as well as all the great videos of past events. We will also be posting lots of great photographs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

You know, if Entertainment Tonight doesn’t have a full crew there in Elko, the world will be much the poorer for it.

More:

One of my all-time favorite poems, “Reincarnation,” performed by its author, Wallace McRae.

National Heritage Fellow Wallace McRae performs his classic poem “Reincarnation” with friend and fellow Montana poet Paul Zarzyski at the 25th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. (15,083)


Christmas 2014: Do we know who invented Santa Claus? Who really wrote the “Night Before Christmas?”

December 23, 2014

An encore post and Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub tradition from 2007, with a few modifications.

“Today in History from the Associated Press notes, for December 23:

In 1823, the poem “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously in the Troy (N.Y.) Sentinel; the verse, more popularly known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” was later attributed to Clement C. Moore.

Regardless who wrote the poem first published 191 years ago today, how has it influenced America’s view of St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus?  And how much of the Santa Claus story really was invented in America?

Thomas Nast invented Santa Claus? Clement C. Moore didn’t write the famous poem that starts out, “‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house . . . ?”

The murky waters of history from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub soak even our most cherished ideas and traditions.

Isn’t that part of the fun of history?

Santa Claus delivers to Union soldiers, "Santa Claus in Camp" - Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, Jan 3, 1863

In Janaury 1863, Thomas Nast portraye Santa Claus delivered gifts to Union troops in Washington, D.C., wearing a blue, star-spangled coat, just a few days earlier.

Yes, Virginia (and California, too)! Thomas Nast created the image of Santa Claus most of us in the U.S. know today. Perhaps even more significant than his campaign against the graft of Boss Tweed, Nast’s popularization of a fat, jolly elf who delivers good things to people for Christmas makes one of the great stories in commercial illustration. Nast’s cartoons, mostly for the popular news publication Harper’s Weekly, created many of the conventions of modern political cartooning and modeled the way in which an illustrator could campaign for good, with his campaign against the graft of Tammany Hall and Tweed. But Nast’s popular vision of Santa Claus can be said to be the foundation for the modern mercantile flurry around Christmas.

Nast is probably ensconced in a cartoonists’ hall of fame. Perhaps he should be in a business or sales hall of fame, too.  [See also Bill Casselman’s page, “The Man Who Designed Santa Claus.]

Nast’s drawings probably drew some inspiration from the poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” traditionally attributed to Clement C. Moore, a New York City lawyer, published in 1822. The poem is among the earliest to describe the elf dressed in fur, and magically coming down a chimney to leave toys for children; the poem invented the reindeer-pulled sleigh.

Modern analysis suggests the poem was not the work of Moore, and many critics and historians now attribute it to Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828) following sleuthing by Vassar College Prof. Don Foster in 2000. Fortunately for us, we do not need to be partisans in such a query to enjoy the poem (a complete copy of which is below the fold).

The Library of Congress still gives Moore the credit. When disputes arise over who wrote about the night before Christmas, is it any wonder more controversial topics produce bigger and louder disputes among historians?

Moore was not known for being a poet. The popular story is that he wrote it on the spur of the moment:

Moore is thought to have composed the tale, now popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas,” on December 24, 1822, while traveling home from Greenwich Village, where he had bought a turkey for his family’s Christmas dinner.

Inspired by the plump, bearded Dutchman who took him by sleigh on his errand through the snow-covered streets of New York City, Moore penned A Visit from St. Nicholas for the amusement of his six children, with whom he shared the poem that evening. His vision of St. Nicholas draws upon Dutch-American and Norwegian traditions of a magical, gift-giving figure who appears at Christmas time, as well as the German legend of a visitor who enters homes through chimneys.

Again from the Library of Congress, we get information that suggests that Moore was a minor celebrity from a well-known family with historical ties that would make a good “connections” exercise in a high school history class, perhaps (”the link from Aaron Burr’s treason to Santa Claus?”): (read more, below the fold)

Clement Moore was born in 1779 into a prominent New York family. His father, Benjamin Moore, president of Columbia University, in his role as Episcopal Bishop of New York participated in the inauguration of George Washington as the nation’s first president. The elder Moore also administered last rites to Alexander Hamilton after he was mortally wounded in a tragic duel with Aaron Burr.

A graduate of Columbia, Clement Moore was a scholar of Hebrew and a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan. [See comment from Pam Bumsted below for more on Moore.] He is said to have been embarrassed by the light-hearted verse, which was made public without his knowledge in December 1823. Moore did not publish it under his name until 1844.

Tonight, American children will be tucked in under their blankets and quilts and read this beloved poem as a last “sugarplum” before slipping into dreamland. Before they drift off, treat them to a message from Santa, recorded by the Thomas Edison Company in 1922.

Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph
By Arthur A. Penn, Performed by Harry E. Humphrey.
Edison, 1922.
Coupling date: 6/20/1922. Cutout date: 10/31/1929.
Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

Listen to this recording (RealAudio Format)

Listen to this recording (wav Format, 8,471 Kb)

But Henry Livingston was no less noble or historic. He hailed from the Livingstons of the Hudson Valley (one of whose farms is now occupied by Camp Rising Sun of the Louis August Jonas Foundation, a place where I spent four amazing summers teaching swimming and lifesaving). Livingston’s biography at the University of Toronto site offers another path for a connections exercise (”What connects the Declaration of Independence, the American invasion of Canada, the famous poem about a visit from St. Nick, and George W. Bush?”):

Henry Livingston Jr. was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on Oct. 13, 1748. The Livingston family was one of the important colonial and revolutionary families of New York. The Poughkeepsie branch, descended from Gilbert, the youngest son of Robert Livingston, 1st Lord of Livingston Manor, was not as well off as the more well-known branches, descended from sons Robert and Philip. Two other descendants of Gilbert Livingston, President George Walker Herbert Bush and his son, President-Elect George W. Bush, though, have done their share to bring attention to this line. Henry’s brother, Rev. John Henry Livingston, entered Yale at the age of 12, and was able to unite the Dutch and American branches of the Dutch Reformed Church. At the time of his death, Rev. Livingston was president of Rutgers University. Henry’s father and brother Gilbert were involved in New York politics, and Henry’s granduncle was New York’s first Lt. Governor. But the law was the natural home for many of Henry’s family. His brother-in-law, Judge Jonas Platt, was an unsuccessful candidate for governor, as was his daughter Elizabeth’s husband, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson. Henry’s grandson, Sidney Breese, was Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Known for his encyclopedic knowledge and his love of literature, Henry Livingston was a farmer, surveyor and Justice of the Peace, a judicial position dealing with financially limited criminal and civil cases. One of the first New Yorkers to enlist in the Revolutionary Army in 1775, Major Henry Livingston accompanied his cousin’s husband, General Montgomery, in his campaign up the Hudson River to invade Canada, leaving behind his new wife, Sarah Welles, and their week-old baby, on his Poughkeepsie property, Locust Grove. Baby Catherine was the subject of the first poem currently known by Major Livingston. Following this campaign, Livingston was involved in the War as a Commissioner of Sequestration, appropriating lands owned by British loyalists and selling them for the revolutionary cause. It was in the period following Sarah’s early death in 1783, that Major Livingston published most of his poems and prose, anonymously or under the pseudonym of R. Ten years after the death of Sarah, Henry married Jane Patterson, the daughter of a Dutchess County politician and sister of his next-door neighbor. Between both wives, Henry fathered twelve children. He published his good-natured, often occasional verse from 1787 in many journals, including Political Barometer, Poughkeepsie Journal, and New-York Magazine. His most famous poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” was until 2000 thought to have been the work of Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), who published it with his collected poems in 1844. Livingston died Feb. 29, 1828.

More on Henry Livingston and his authorship of the Christmas poem here.

Thomas Nast's full realization of Santa Claus, 1881.  Harper's Weekly, from the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Collection.

Thomas Nast’s full realization of Santa Claus, “Merry Old Santa Claus,” January 1, 1881. Harper’s Weekly, from the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

Our views of Santa Claus owe a great deal also to the Coca-Cola advertising campaign. Coca-Cola first noted Santa’s use of the drink in a 1922 campaign to suggest Coke was a year-round drink (100 years after the publication of Livingston’s poem). The company’s on-line archives gives details:

In 1930, artist Fred Mizen painted a department store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke. The ad featured the world’s largest soda fountain, which was located in the department store of Famous Barr Co. in St. Louis, Mo. Mizen’s painting was used in print ads that Christmas season, appearing in The Saturday Evening Post in December 1930.

1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

  • 1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

Archie Lee, the D’Arcy Advertising Agency executive working with The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the next campaign to show a wholesome Santa as both realistic and symbolic. In 1931, The Coca-Cola Company commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus — showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa, as Mizen’s work had portrayed him.
1942 original oil painting - 'They Remembered Me'

  • 1942 original oil painting – ‘They Remembered Me’

For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s description of St. Nick led to an image of Santa that was warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human. For the next 33 years, Sundblom painted portraits of Santa that helped to create the modern image of Santa — an interpretation that today lives on in the minds of people of all ages, all over the world.

Santa Claus is a controversial figure. Debates still rage among parents about the wisdom of allowing the elf into the family’s home, and under what conditions. Theologians worry that the celebration of Christmas is diluted by the imagery. Other faiths worry that the secular, cultural impact of Santa Claus damages their own faiths (few other faiths have such a popular figure, and even atheists generally give gifts and participate in Christmas rituals such as putting up a decorated tree).

For over 100 years, Santa Claus has been a popular part of commercial, cultural and religious life in America. Has any other icon endured so long, or so well?

________________________
Below:
From the University of Toronto Library’s Representative Poetry Online

Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828)

Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas

1 ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,

2 Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

3 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

4 In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

5 The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

6 While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,

7 And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

8 Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap –

9 When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

10 I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

11 Away to the window I flew like a flash,

12 Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

13 The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,

14 Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;

15 When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

16 But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,

17 With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

18 I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

19 More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

20 And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:

21 “Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,

22 “On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;

23 “To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

24 “Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

25 As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,

26 When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

27 So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

28 With the sleigh full of Toys — and St. Nicholas too:

29 And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

30 The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

31 As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

32 Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:

33 He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,

34 And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;

35 A bundle of toys was flung on his back,

36 And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:

37 His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,

38 His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

39 His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow.

40 And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

41 The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

42 And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

43 He had a broad face, and a little round belly

44 That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:

45 He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

46 And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;

47 A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

48 Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

49 He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

50 And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,

51 And laying his finger aside of his nose

52 And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

53 He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

54 And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:

55 But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight –

56 Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Online text copyright © 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto. Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries. Be sure to visit this site for more information on this poem, on Maj. Livingston, and on poetry in general.

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Dialogue in the early years of the Dark Ages

April 28, 2014

Poetry on current issues from Devona Wyant.  Wait; is it historic?

(Soldiers involved in the Desert Rock training exercise watching the mushroom cloud from the Dog detonation, Operation Buster-Jangle;  Coporal Alexander McCaughey, U.S. Army Photographic Signal Corps)

(Soldiers involved in the Desert Rock training exercise watching the mushroom cloud from the Dog detonation, Operation Buster-Jangle; Coporal Alexander McCaughey, U.S. Army Photographic Signal Corps) (Illustration added here)

Dialogue in the early years of the Dark Ages

“Old woman, are you awake? Tell my friend here
about the past like you told me. He don’t believe me.”

“What would you like to hear?
About the old forests that stretched for miles?
The wetlands that filtered and gave shelter?
The hundreds of species now lost?
Would you believe we once played outside
without sun block, without protective clothing?
Maybe you want to hear about what it was like
when you could worship as you believed or
not worship at all, without fear, without hiding,
without losing status, without losing your job.
I remember a time when you didn’t need papers
to travel, when you didn’t have your mail read.
I remember when your neighbors didn’t turn
you in if you said you hated a government policy.
I remember when you could gather to protest,
when you could speak out, write letters to the papers.
I remember when there were three classes, not
just the haves and have nots.
I remember when the very poor could
get help if they were very sick or if they were hungry.
I remember when we were considered a beacon of hope,
when we protected those who were oppressed.
I remember when every one could vote and each
vote was counted and mattered.
I even remember when people didn’t live in fear.”

“Are you putting me on Man? She lies! If all those
things were true, why are the old ones the only ones who know?
why isn’t it in the history books?”

“Young man, wait. I’ll be moving on soon or I may just
disappear as so many have. If you never see me again,
remember this at least.
Those who rule, not only make history, they invent it.”

Devona Wyant

Hey, it’s still National Poetry Month.  How are you celebrating? What poems are you reading?

An old woman who tells stories.  Photo by the Library of Congress.

An old woman who tells stories. Photo by the Library of Congress. (Main Reading Room)


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