“Thinking with my hands” in the Archive: Second Generation New York School Gems


Currently a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Literature, Media and Communication at Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Nick Sturm is an Atlanta-based poet and scholar. His poems, collaborations, and essays have appeared in The Brooklyn RailPENBlack Warrior Review, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and elsewhere. His scholarly and archival work on the New York School of poets can be traced at his blog Crystal Set. He was awarded a Strochlitz Travel Grant in 2018 to conduct research in the literary collections, including the Notley, Berrigan, and Berkson Papers, that reside in Archives and Special Collections.


In my first-year writing course at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta where I teach as a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow, my students are reading books by Second Generation New York School poets to critique and creatively reimagine concepts of youth, coming-of-age narratives, and the overlap between do-it-yourself and avant-garde aesthetics. We already read Joe Brainard’s I Remember and Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets, two versions of youth, memory, and selfhood constructed by male poets of the New York School, and were beginning to read Alice Notley’s Mysteries of Small Houses (1998) to extend this intertextual conversation about youth through the perspective of a female poet. While re-reading Mysteries, a book of autobiographical poems that tracks Notley’s “I” through the prismatic complexities of life and writing, I returned to her poem “Waveland (Back in Chicago)” in which Notley, challenged by the responsibilities and strictures of living inside concepts like motherhood and femininity in the mid-’70s, describes her process of collage-making, a practice Notley continues to be devoted to.

Frozen collection of world—this is “art” I don’t

write much poetry;

I’m thinking with my hands—a ploy against fear—

I have a pile of garbage on the floor


The poem then catalogs a series of collages with titles like “WATERMASTER” and “DEFIES YOU THE RHYTHMIC FRAME,” and also describes a collage composed of “a photo of a stripper I’ve named / Barney surrounded by cutout words she / dances to poetry.” Reading these lines, I remembered that I had actually just seen this collage in Notley’s papers at the University of Connecticut. Among a couple dozen collages by Notley, there was Barney herself, headless, cape trailing behind her, walking across a fragment of moon. After discussing this poem in class, I was able to show my students the collage to talk about how seeing an example of Notley’s visual art helped us think about her critiques of femininity, motherhood, and aesthetics. Students were surprised that I had such an example to show them—what had seemed like a passing reference in a poem suddenly become material. They immediately started to describe the effects of juxtaposing the collage’s title “2 Nursery Rhymes” with the presence of a nearly-nude woman. They asked what it might mean for Notley to be a “brilliant mother” in association with the mythological feminine connotations of the moon. And they noted how the epistolary gesture that opens the collage’s text, “hi Carlos Dear Henry,” resonated with Berrigan’s The Sonnets, which is riddled with salutations like “Dear Marge,” “Dear Chris,” and “Dear Ron.” Seeing Notley’s collage projected in front of them, pairing the material evidence of the poem’s description with a conversation about how the visual medium supplemented their reading of the text, students said they felt a different connection to the poem, to Notley’s work, and to our entire discussion that day.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without my recent visit to the archives at the University of Connecticut. Thanks to the generosity of a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant, I spent a week in the papers of poets and artists like Notley, Ted Berrigan, Bill Berkson, and Ed Sanders, among others, reading voluminous correspondence with Joe Brainard, Anne Waldman, Bernadette Mayer, Lewis Warsh, Ron Padgett, and a litany of other Second Generation New York School writers. Well-known for its Charles Olson Research Collection, the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center is also home to a wealth of materials associated with the New York School and is a necessary destination for any scholar of 20th century American poetry. And though a week of nonstop work in the archive allowed me to read and assess a lot of material, the sheer amount of New York School material stored at UConn, much of which has only barely begun to be utilized by scholars, meant that I was inevitably rushing through stacks of papers, quickly unfolding and refolding letters, swiftly scanning folder titles, and scratching my own nearly incomprehensible notes in a frenzied, focused attempt to see and catalog as much as possible before having to return to Atlanta. Like Notley’s description of collage-making in Mysteries, the archive is a place where I’m also “thinking with my hands” as I arrange, photograph, and order material in “a ploy against [the] fear” of overlooking or not knowing the full extent of what’s present in the archive. Every piece of material, like in Notley’s collage, is necessary and meaningful. This is how “a pile of garbage” becomes both art and scholarship. Starting with what you touch, a life and intelligence are animated.

Notley wasn’t the only poet whose visual artwork is held at the University of Connecticut. Take this incredible poster-size collage “Blues Bombard” (1965) by Ron Padgett with the poet’s thick, elegant cursive painted over sliced fragments of sheet music that frame a photo booth portrait of Padgett, face half-obscured, cool, and mysterious. It’s rare to find visual artwork by Padgett that isn’t a collaboration with friends like Brainard or George Schneeman, and this piece is particularly astounding both for its size and the quick, pleasing, and humorous visual narrative that follows from the newspaper clipping-title, down across the rhyming and chiding main text ”more than likely this stinks greatly,” the arrows and question marks that logically and quizzically suggest a set of correspondences, the appearance of the artist mid-gesture, and the small, humorous, non sequitur conclusion “a hole in one. THE END.” It’s a lovely piece, and entirely Padgett in its cartoonish wit and simplicity.

I was also interested to work in Ed Sanders’s papers at UConn, which includes a wealth of material from the Peace Eye Bookstore, the infamous “secret location on the lower east side” where Sanders’s mimeograph magazine Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts was published from 1962-65 until the store was raided by the NYPD on obscenity charges. Incredibly enough, the collection includes both a handwritten note from 1964 instructing Sanders to call an FBI agent and Sanders’s January 1965 mugshot following his arrest. After Sanders defeated the charges against him, Peace Eye temporarily reopened in 1967 with a Fuck You-style gala event auctioning off “literary relics & ejeculata from the culture of the Lower East Side.” The collection includes the handwritten notecards Sanders used to identify the various items for sale in the auction, like an “iron used by rising young poets to iron the buns of W.H. Auden during the years 1952-1966,” “Allen Ginsberg’s Cold Cream Jars,” and a letter—likely in protest—from Marianne Moore to Sanders in response to receiving a copy of Fuck You in the mail. Some of the material actually confiscated by the NYPD in the raid of the bookstore is in the collection as well, with the police evidence identification slips still attached, like a copy of a Joe Brainard drawing described by police as “Blue colored Headless Superman drawing with private parts exposed.”

Among collages and obscenity charges, the New York School material at UConn also runs parallel to and benefits from the archive’s already well-known collections of Frank O’Hara and Charles Olson papers. The resonance of these collections is embodied in two postcards; one from Frank O’Hara to Ted Berrigan and another from Berrigan to Charles Olson. Much can be made of the micro-lineage threads of the New American poetry and New York School that run through these three poets. Not only are Olson and O’Hara canonical energies within Berrigan’s The Sonnets, but Berrigan’s self-described “rookie of the year” arrival in American poetry occurred at the 1965 Berkeley Poetry Conference, over which Olson’s presence loomed large. Additionally, O’Hara’s work had been a guide for Berrigan on how to live as a young poet. What’s great about the 1962 postcard from O’Hara to Berrigan is that it offers a reversal on the standard hierarchical narratives of literary tradition. Here, it’s O’Hara praising Berrigan’s poems as he invites him out for a drink and “to meet K. [Kenneth] Koch,” who would also be a New York School hero to Berrigan. Evidenced by the tape arranged on the edges of the card to harden and preserve it, Berrigan clearly treasured this correspondence from O’Hara, which due to the use of Berrigan’s full name, seems to have been their very first formal exchange. One images Berrigan, then 27 years old and having just moved to New York City the year before, formally expressing his admiration for O’Hara’s poems in his initial note. This postcard shows Berrigan’s first-hand devotion to his aesthetic sources. On the other hand, the August 16, 1966 postcard from Berrigan to Olson reveals an already well-established and easy going correspondence with the author of The Maximus Poems and “Projective Verse,” as Berrigan, referencing the postcard’s text on the other side, writes, “Dear Charles, We’re about to beat upwind. A loon is crying tonight. Maine is full of sky,” and signs off, “Be seeing you, Ted + Sandy.” Likely having stopped in to see Olson in Gloucester, Massachusetts on the drive up to Maine with his first wife, Sandy, Berrigan is playfully following up with the elder poet only about three weeks after the death of O’Hara. Though Olson himself would die in 1970, and it’s unclear if further correspondence between the two poets exists, Berrigan’s “full of sky” note to Olson again shows his sense of intimacy with the poets whose work he respected and learned from. The archive, as it often does, is showing us how lineage, tradition, and aesthetic exchange are never abstract.

I’m looking forward to returning to the archives at the University of Connecticut to spend more time thinking through the material traces of the poets I love and study, and to continue to utilize these important and still-growing collections to illustrate the ongoing importance and value both of the New York School’s second generation gems and the pedagogical, personal, and scholarly correspondence that archives allow us to develop. “I must be making my own universe / out of discards,” Notley writes in “Waveland (Back in Chicago),” and there’s a sense of that same construction of a world in the loose, wayward ephemera of the archive. What’s most fulfilling is how the process of looking and reading in the archive is always one of presence, and often magically, of being in contact with your sources.

-Nick Sturm



The Search and Struggle for Intersectionality Part II: Other Minorites and the Feminist Movement


Anna Zarra Aldrich is majoring in English, political science and journalism at the University of Connecticut.  As a student writing intern, Anna is studying historical feminist publications from the collections of Archives and Special Collections. The following guest post is the final post in the series.

The feminist movement has long struggled with incorporating different groups’ concerns and modes of oppression into the movement. This problem was exacerbated by the multifaceted, turbulent U.S. political atmosphere that characterized the 1960s and 1970s. The differences between black and white women’s views of the movement clashed on several essential dimensions. But the issues of other minority groups were given less attention by the feminist movement, and by society in general, due to the fact that their ethnic/racial factions were much smaller than African Americans’.

Another marginalized group that galvanized in the activist culture of the 1960s and 1970s in America were Native Americans. These men and women sought to have their tribal autonomy recognized. They were also fighting issues such as environmentally harmful mining practices on their resource-rich lands and high rates of substance abuse and poverty within their communities.

Native American women had a unique relationship with the feminist movement because the issues this minority group faced were different from those that white or black women faced, and the ethnic population of which they were a part was a severely marginalized minority. U.S. Census data from 1970 shows that a whopping 98.6 percent of the total population was either white or black/African American (87.5 percent and 11.1 percent respectively). Native Americans constituted less than .004 percent.

Native Americans were fighting for their unique political rights as well as larger environmental concerns during this period.

The March 1977 issue of “Off Our Backs” includes an article summarizing the findings of a report by the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA), a non-profit organization founded in 1922 to promote the well-being of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. The report found that Native American children are placed outside of their families at a rate 10 to 20 times higher than that for non-Native American children.

The AAIA argued that this practice deprives Native American children of the ability to be raised with a proper awareness of and appreciation for their culture. This concern emphasizes the fact that Native American women who were involved in the feminist movement during this time were simultaneously combatting the United States government’s systematic efforts to diminish their independence and culture as well as the wide-spread sexism that was the feminist movement’s main concern.

Native American culture celebrates its strong connection to and appreciation of nature. When Native American tribes were forced off their lands in the nineteenth century, they were put on reservations in states like Oklahoma and South Dakota. The U.S. government later came to realize these areas were rich with natural resources such as oil and uranium.

“In the days of diminishing U.S. energy resources, the push is on to take what’s left of Indian land,” according to an article in “Off Our Backs.”

The U.S. government used environmentally hazardous practices to extract these resources, exposing people living on the land to cancer-causing radioactive materials. It also paid the Native Americans working in these hazardous mines very low wages. These practices led to outcry by Native American men and women.

The Longest Walk was a major event in the Red Power movement.

In 1978, thousands of Native Americans participated in The Longest Walk, a protest organized to bring attention to threats to tribal lands pose by several pieces of proposed legislation.

“In effect, these bills could force Native Americans to complete assimilation into the U.S. mainstream and destroy all sovereignty of the Indian nations,” the article on the march said.

In the same August/September 1978 issue that covered the march, “Off Our Backs” included coverage of a conference in New Mexico that addressed the upsurge in domestic violence against Navajo women. This increase was attributed to a “pressure cooker syndrome” created by white culture: “women-battering and child abuse (were) once practically non-existent…and has now reached crises proportions.”

The attempted forced assimilation of native people into white culture created a class system that did not exist in Navajo tribal society. This led to high poverty and unemployment rates which in turn came to be correlated with high rates of substance abuse and domestic violence.

The writers draw attention to the fact that few of the speakers at the conference were from the Navajo or from any other Native American community. Calling attention to the lack of authentic representation at this conference may be an indication of the evolution of “Off Our Backs” in how it dealt with minority issues. When the paper first began in 1970, it struggled to expand their coverage to minority women’s issues, as evidenced by its problematic coverage of a black feminist group’s conference in 1974.

Similar to black women who were involved with groups like the Black Panthers, politically active Native American women were part of efforts led by men. Women of All Red Nations (WARN) was a Native American women’s group that brought attention to issues that affected their community including the displacement of their children, forced sterilization, tribal rights, resource exploitation and racism in the educational system. The group invited several Native American men to speak at a conference it held in South Dakota in 1978 as it did not “believe in the separation of men and women who were working for the same objective.” This serves as a perfect parallel to black women activists who wanted to be a part of the black and feminist movements.

Burning Cloud’s letter serves as a quintessential example of a woman’s struggle to find a way to be politically active as someone with a complex set of oppressed identities.

In the December 1978 issue of “Off Our Backs,” the editors printed a letter from Burning Cloud, a self-described “Filipina/Indian Dyke.” In the letter, Burning Cloud shared a sentiment common with those expressed by black women — that she was “Indian first and above all other matters.”

Burning Cloud felt she could not be both an Indian and a gay woman in society. She also expressed frustration with the fact that non-black minorities’ concerns are much more widely disregarded because there are comparatively few of them in number.

Burning Cloud’s letter included a call to action for environmental activism which, from her perspective, was something of which native people were much more conscious due to their spiritual cultural connections to the earth.

“If Mother Earth is to die WE ALL DIE. Think about that one. What is the future of your children and sisters and mothers to be?” she wrote. “Are we not killing each other because we allow such things as racism, classism, separatism right here in the Lesbian community. How shall wimmin be totally free when three-quarters of the (Coloured Wimmin) are dying?”

(Feminists took to using alternative spellings of “women” and “woman” in order to avoid using the masculine root of those words.)

Native American women also faced the issue of forced or coerced sterilization. In “Off Our Backs” article from December 1978, WARN said that 25 percent of Native American Women were forcibly sterilized.

During this period, the United States government instituted polices of population control that targeted minority, underclass women. One third of Puerto Rican woman of reproductive age had been sterilized in 1976. This policy was veiled as a necessary method of population control that would help Puerto Rico develop economically. However, many argued that the problem was not overpopulation, rather that the available resources were concentrated in the upper echelons of society.

In her 1976 University of Connecticut Ph.D. thesis “Population Policy, Social Structure and the Health System in Puerto Rico: The Case of Female Sterilization,” Peta Henderson found that in addition to medical reasons, the law in Puerto Rico regarding female sterilization allowed for women to be sterilized or use other contraceptive methods in cases of poverty or already having multiple children. Henderson found that most sterile Puerto Rican women said they voluntarily chose to have the operation. However, she explores how this choice was corrupted by the fact that government actors worked to persuade these women that sterilization was in their best interest.

The U.S. Government put forth the idea that having fewer children was the surest path to wealth for minority women, ignoring institutional issues including racism and sexism that impeded their social mobility.

These kind of population control polices were also implemented elsewhere in Latin America.

The April 1970 issue of “Off Our Backs,” a female member of the Peace Corps who went to Ecuador said, “Providing safe contraceptives must be a part of a comprehensive health program,” Rachel Cawan said. “Most importantly, however, there must be available other emotionally satisfying alternatives to child raising.”

The prevailing feminist interpretation of these population control programs was that they masqueraded as liberating family planning alternatives when, in fact, many of these women were being coerced or forced to stop having children.

The Young Lords Party was founded in 1960. The men who founded the organization had a series of objectives including self-determination for Puerto Rico, liberation for third-world people and, problematically, “Machismo must be revolutionary and not oppressive.”

Early in the party’s history, the men in the movement did not listen to women’s ideas and concerns during meetings. These women were limited to essentially being glorified secretaries for the party according to a November 11, 1970 New York Times article.

The women in the movement soon tired of this dynamic and demanded to be taken seriously – and they succeeded. Several women were able to assume leadership positions in the party and the pillar relating to machismo was changed to one supporting equality for women. However, this victory did not mean women were automatically able to achieve true political and social equality within the party or on a larger scale.

In a subsequent issue of “Off Our Backs,” a black/Native American woman wrote a response to Burning Cloud’s letter, which had also said black people should support Native Americans’ issues, saying that: “There is a need for Dialogue, a conversation, between Indian people and Black people…We have been divided in order to be conquered, even though for many, our blood flows together.”

A theme that emerges again and again when studying the second-wave of the feminist movement is that by separating women into sects with seemingly irreconcilable differences, men have managed to prevent them from forming a powerful united front capable of combatting not only sexism, but racism and other social ills that afflict them.


-Anna Zarra Aldrich



The Search and Struggle for Intersectionality Part I: Black Women and the Feminist Movement


Anna Zarra Aldrich is majoring in English, political science and journalism at the University of Connecticut.  As a student writing intern, Anna is studying historical feminist publications from the collections of Archives and Special Collections. The following guest post is one in a series to be published throughout Spring 2018.

The feminist movement has long struggled with incorporating different groups’ concerns and modes of oppression into the movement. This problem was exacerbated by the multifaceted, turbulent U.S. political atmosphere that characterized the 1960s and 1970s.

“Chrysalis,” a quarterly women’s periodical that was self-published in Los Angeles from 1976-1980, struggled to incorporate African American women’s issues into its editors’ ideals for the movement. In an issue of the magazine that came out in spring of 1979, poet Adrienne Rich wrote an article called “Disloyal to Civilization: Feminism, Racism and Gynophobia.”

“Chrysalis’s” article sharing the story of Annie Mae was a clear attempt to give a black woman a voice in the publication.

Rich’s article emphasized some of the inherent similarities between the struggles of black people and women in America. She wrote that all women and all black people in this country live in fear of violence being committed against them solely due to their gender or race without the hope of justice being served.

Her article went on to explain that dividing women against each other has historically been a means by which men have maintained their oppression: “The polarization of black women in American life is clearly reflected in a historical method which, if it does not dismiss all of us altogether or subsume us vaguely under ‘mankind,’ has kept us in separate volumes or separate essays in the same volume.”

Rich urged women that they “can’t keep skimming the surface” of the women’s movement by refusing to engage with black women’s issues.

“Chrysalis’s” winter 1980 issue featured a story called “I am Annie Mae” which was the story of Annie Mae Hunt, a 70-year old black woman from Texas. Annie Mae’s story was told through a transcript of hours of interviews.

Annie Mae’s story shared the hardships of her life, including her dropping out of school after fifth grade, getting married and having her first child when she was only 15. Annie Mae was pregnant a total of 13 times in her life and had six living children at the time of the article’s publication. Annie Mae said she was never educated about birth control and was told having more children was better for her.

“Birth control – that wasn’t in the makings then. I mean the black people didn’t know it. Poor people like me. There may have been some well-to-do people that knew about it,” Hunt said.

While this article was an earnest effort by “Chrysalis” to tell the story and plights of a woman of color, it was only through a white mouthpiece that Annie Mae was able to share her story; the reporter who conducted and organized the interviews was white as was the staff and, presumably, much of the magazine’s readership. Furthermore, aside from Rich’s essay and this article, examples of “Chrysalis” covering women of color’s issues are sparse.

“Off Our Backs,” a bi-weekly newspaper printed in Washington D.C. (1970-2008) did put forth a more valiant effort to communicate the struggles of black women in America through their own voices even if they often fell short of true intersectional understanding.

In the April 15, 1971 issue of “Off Our Backs” an unnamed black woman, identified as someone who held a “high position in the Health, Education and Welfare Department,” was interviewed about her response to the women’s liberation. She pointed out at that at time the women’s movement was predominantly led by and composed of white, middle class women. She said that black women do not want to be a part of what they considered to be a, frankly, racist movement.

In their article on the Kitty Genovese Women’s Project, “Off Our Backs,” asks directly about this criticism of racial bias.

The 1960s and 70s were a period rife with tension in multiple dimensions, only one of which was the women’s lib movement. This period saw the continuing struggle by African Americans for equality and civil rights. The woman interviewed for the April 15 article emphasized that she, and many other black women, identified as black first and a woman second in terms of their identity and sources of oppression.

In 1977, the Kitty Genovese Women’s Project, named for the woman who was murdered while numerous people who were aware of what was happening did nothing, posted a list of 2,1000 male sex offenders in Dallas County. A group of 30 women handed out over 20,000 copies of the list. Many black feminists took issue with the list as black men were disproportionately represented due to a higher conviction rate among blacks for all crimes due to the racial bias of the criminal justice system.

In 1966, the militant civil rights activist group the Black Panthers formed in in Oakland California. Many black women were involved in the black movement and wanted to work with the men in that movement to achieve their collective goals. Many white feminists, however, argued for a complete break with men.

This argument originated during the first wave of feminism in the United States. Some male abolitionists argued that it was the “Negro’s Hour,” during the last ninetieth century, to quote Wendell Phillips. Men such as Phillips, and Frederick Douglass believed the main focus of the period had to be black men’s rights and that women’s suffrage would have to be pushed to the back burner.

This led women’s suffrage leaders like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to found the women’s-only National Woman Suffrage Association. This break from the abolition movement may be viewed as a break from black issues in general, which sowed the seeds for the division that reemerged in the next phase of the movement.

In June 1979, “Off Our Backs” published a special “Ain’t I a Woman” issue, named for a famous speech given by Sojourner Truth at the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. Truth’s speech confronted the stark differences between the treatment of white and black women: “Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?”

The special issue included a statement from the Combahee River Collective, a black feminist group from Roxbury, Massachusetts. The statement said: “As black women, we see black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppression that all women of color face.” They emphasized that, “Black women’s development must be tied to race and class progression for all blacks.”

This special issue was produced by the Ain’t I a Woman Collective, a black feminist organization based in D.C.

The black women and feminists of the period did not believe their plights as black people living in America and as women living in America could be separated. They believed they could not progress as whole humans without both issues, in addition to class, which was often correlated with race, being addressed.

One of the important issues that black women said white feminists did not grasp was welfare. A much larger proportion of black women were in poverty than white women during this period. The U. S. Census (Current Population Survey and Annual Social and Economic Supplements data) from 1975 shows that 27.1 percent of black families were in poverty compared to 9.7 percent of all families. Those statistics become even more staggering when we look at poverty rates for single-female households. 50.1 percent of black families with a single mother were in poverty compared to 32.3 percent of all other single-female households.

Intersectionality hinges on the idea that people have a complex identity that is shaped by a variety of demographic and experiential factors such as race, class and education. Black women were dealing with a variety of issues and sources of oppression during this period that, evidently, many of the white leaders of the feminist movement did not see as falling in line with their goals.

In the winter of 1974, some of the “Off Our Backs” staff attended the first meeting of the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO). The group’s mission was to “fight racism and sexism jointly.” “Off Our Backs'” coverage of the event acknowledged that black women have an ethos to speak about issues that white women are unable to assume: “While ‘Off Our Backs’ has never been vague about its commitment to cover the issues and to carry messages about them to feminists, only a group like NBFO deeply immersed in the survival struggles of low-income black sisters and their own experiences, can be a valid messenger and a forceful mover of these issues.”

The coverage of the event emphasized that racism has kept women systemically divided by making minority women feel they could either be black or a feminist. Unfortunately, the article is critical of the fact that that many speakers ranked racism over sexism in terms of which was a more pressing issue. This clearly displays that many white feminists could not grasp the fact that these women felt they needed to confront the systemic racism in the country in tandem with, and perhaps, some would argue, before, sexism.

The “Off Our Backs” article said that black men did not want black women to join the feminist movement and point out that male-dominated black media outlets like “Jet” or “Ebony” did not attend the meeting when many white feminist presses did. The writers also criticized black feminists for not utilizing these feminist outlets. This provides an interesting area to use to examine the underlying issues here – black women’s issues were not covered well by most white-dominated feminist media outlets, yet the writers of “Off Our Backs” suggest that these women were not reaching out to allow their stories to be told by these papers.

It is necessary to mention that there is a conspicuous lack of exclusively black feminist publications in Archives and Special Collections’ holdings at the Dodd Center. This may be attributable to gaps in the collection or there may have been few publications that served this specific interest group. It seems that black women’s issues were split between the feminist and black movements with some overlap in the media for each.


-Anna Zarra Aldrich


I smell a RAT


Anna Zarra Aldrich is majoring in English, political science and journalism at the University of Connecticut.  Anna is a student writing intern studying historical feminist publications from the collections of Archives and Special Collections. The following guest post is one in a series to be published throughout the Spring 2018 semester.

In February of 1970 a terrorist group took over a prominent underground newspaper in New York.

The Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (W.I.T.C.H.), a direct-action political group, along with several other women’s groups and female “RAT” staffers took over the newspaper for what was supposed to be a single, token issue of the paper. The headline on this issue read, “Women Seize RAT! Sabotage Tales!”

This comic, published in the women’s issue of RAT illustrates the takeover which was enabled by numerous women’s groups including W.I.T.C.H.

The women’s issue featured an essay by Robin Morgan, an American writer and noted feminist activist, titled “Goodbye to All That.” The essay sharply criticizes the advertisements using photos of women that bordered on pornographic and the continual exclusion of a feminist viewpoint from the paper.

“We have met the enemy and he’s our friend. And dangerous,” Morgan wrote.

Morgan’s article rallied against the white, male domination of the radical anti-war/anti-establishment movement. She said, “Goodbye, goodbye. To hell with the simplistic notion that automatic freedom for women – or nonwhite peoples – will come about zap! with the advent of a socialist revolution. Bullshit.”

Grievances against male radicals were common among feminist writers during this period. A pamphlet written by Andrea Dworkin in 1973 titled “Marx and Gandhi Were Liberals” stated that men permitted women to take part in their vision of the revolution so long as they kept their own demands moderated and subsumed within the male-dominated agenda.

“Liberal gestures of good will are made when we are shrill enough or when we are fashionable enough as long as we do not interfere with the ‘real revolution.’ Increasingly we understood that we are the real revolution,” Dworkin wrote.

The January 25-February 9, 1970 issue of “RAT,” the last one published by the male editorial staff, included numerous articles on pornography and masturbation. An article by Uncle Leon Gussow argued that pornography gives young men unrealistic views of sex and creates a separation between him and the act of sex. The women who worked at “RAT” took issue with how this topic was approached by the male staff; they believed this article, and the paper in general for quite some time, promoted pornography. Many women saw pornography as problematic as it often portrayed violence against women and this became a major issue in the women’s liberation movement.

The women also disliked the fact that the tongue-in-cheek titles that appeared on the masthead of each issue were often demeaning and stereotypical to women, referring to them as “princess” or “muffin purchaser.”

The Feedback Page of “Vortex” following the Women’s Lib issue

After the women of “RAT” published their issue they were loath to return control to the men who had been running the paper since its inception in 1968. So they didn’t.

In the next issue, the women still made up the entirety of the editorial staff, but some men came back temporarily as production staffers to ease the transition. In a letter to the readers, the editors said they were trying to “work it out” with the men. All male staff members were eventually asked to leave the paper and control remained in exclusively female hands.

A letter to the readers from former editor Paul Simon explained that after a “stormy” meeting between the men and women of the paper, it was decided that the paper would continue to be published by the women.

The takeover at “RAT” inspired women working at other papers across the country to follow suit. In the April 4, 1970 issue of “Vortex,” an underground paper published out of Lawrence, Kansas, W.I.T.C.H. wrote a letter to the paper saying, “you are a counterfeit left male-dominated cracked-glass-mirror reflection of the American nightmare.” The letter said the group was preparing to organize a boycott of the paper.

This letter was published in the issue of the paper following issue on the women’s liberation similar to the one that initiated the permanent takeover of “RAT.” In September of that same year, “Vortex” moved to a collective model of publication. This altered the existing editorial structure at the paper and gave women a larger say in its production beyond their single issue which, unfortunately is not available at the Dodd Center Archives.

“RAT” continued its coverage of issues like the Vietnam War and the trial of the 21 members of the Black Panther Party who were charged with coordinating attacks on a series of New York City buildings. However, the new editors made sure to make women’s issues and the accomplishments of female activists more prominent.

The cover of the January 12, 1971 issue celebrated the anniversary of the women’s takeover of “RAT”

They featured letters from Mary Moylan, one of the Cantonsville Nine, a group of activists who burned draft files to protest the war. Moylan went underground, hiding from the authorities for a period and her letters about her time underground were published in “RAT” and other publications like the women-run “Off Our Backs.” “RAT” also featured articles about women’s role in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

In March of 1971, the paper changed its name to the Women’s LibeRATion.

One thing the women sought to dissemble with their takeover was the hierarchical structure that had allowed men to squelch their voices for so long. This led them to establish a newsroom that was much more free-flowing and less rigidly structured. In a letter to the readers, the editors describe the RAT work collective’s meetings as “un-chaired and chaotic.”

The paper continued publishing with relative consistency through 1972 and then stopped abruptly for several months. Then, in April of that year, a newsletter came out.

The single printed sheet explained to readers that the fate of “RAT” was in limbo due to internal fractionalization. A group of six black gay women had seized control of the paper after airing their grievances against the white feminist viewpoint that had been almost exclusively featured by the paper.

The black women writing the article said there were too many fundamental misunderstandings between the white and third-world women in the movement to be reconciled into a cohesive vision in which all voices could be heard.


The letter published on the back cover of the single-sheet issue asked readers to respond with feedback and monetary donations to support the continuation of the publication

The newsletter closed with a request for feedback from readers, “Your responses will determine the outcome of the almost defunded ‘RAT;”. The paper also asked for monetary donations to help keep the presses running.

Unfortunately, it appears these women were unable to keep the paper afloat either due to a lack of interest or lack of funds.

The downfall of “RAT” showcases the lack of an understanding of the idea of intersectional feminism during this time. Perhaps it also demonstrates a lack of will on the part of white feminists to create connections with minority women and engage in meaningful dialogue to understand their issues. Minority voices were not generally included in the more-prominent feminist outlets, or if they were given a space, it was still through the good graces of white editorial staffs. This is an unfortunate truth that the feminist movement continues to grapple with today.

-Anna Zarra Aldrich



Anna Zarra Aldrich is majoring in English, political science and journalism at the University of Connecticut.  She is a student writing intern studying historical feminist publications from the collections of Archives and Special Collections. The following guest post is one in a series to be published throughout the Spring 2018 semester.

During the 1960s and 1970s feminist writers established themselves with a distinct and demanding voice. In order to accomplish the feat of integrating a prominent female presence into the literary world, women created and utilized exclusively female publishing mediums. Women took to using alternative methods that allowed them to cultivate this unique literary culture outside the realm of the traditionally male-dominated publishing world.

In 1985, noted librarian and author Celeste West published a book titled “Words in Our Pockets: The Feminist Writers’ Guild handbook on how to gain power, get published & get paid.” The book provided an in-depth look at the publishing world through a feminist lens and provided women with resources and options for alternative paths to publication.

The cover of the book depicts a woman’s portrait composed of the words of a poem by Denise Levertov’s from which the book gets its title. It reads: “But for us the road/ unfurls itself, we count the/words in our pockets.”

The introduction of the book states that, “The present wave of feminism is…creating a women’s cultural renaissance, the first since matrifocal times. At last, we are building, in large numbers, our own literary tradition, finding our own audience, and from these, shaping a world view.”

This book emphasizes the fact that many of the most influential members of the movement have been writers who use the power of the written word to express the urgency and necessity of the changes they demanded.

West’s book begs the question: “Who among us can afford silence?” West wanted to encourage women to make their voices heard through the literary mire that was oversaturated with male perspectives.

The book goes through a basic how to process for practical elements of publication including writing proposals, making sense of the legal jargon in contracts and financing options. The book also deals with the sexism of the industry. The book provides advice on how to deal with people, namely powerful men, who refuse to take women writers seriously and list feminist publishers and a guide on self-publishing as a means to circumvent discouraging male publishers.

“You are a writer, not a wallflower. Why wait for some gentleman publisher to sweep you into his arms and carry you off to the Big House?” West proposes.

In an article published in the summer 1979 issue of “Chrysalis” magazine, West wrote “Book publishing, like all industries, is controlled by rich, white, heterosexual men. To retain this power, their books naturally reinstate status quo attitudes of privilege and discrimination.”

The article cites the figure that 70 percent of books published were produced by 3.3 percent of the over 6000 publishing houses that existed at the time. West calls independent, alternative press outlets “the slice of tomorrow.”

The book’s engagement with the challenges female writers faced showed that even as women encouraged each other to write, the established system often operated to keep them excluded. This created a space for female-run literary publications that provided a platform for women writers who were not welcomed into traditional literary circles.

“Aphra” was an feminist literary magazine published quarterly from 1969 to 1976 out of New York City. The magazine got its namesake from the pioneering English poet, playwright and author Aphra Behn (1640-1689) who was the first woman known to have earned her living by writing.

“Aphra’s” mission statement was “Free women thinking, doing, being.” In the preamble to their first edition, the editors state that the purpose of the magazine is to provide women with an outlet to express themselves: “We submit that one reason for the form of the current upsurge in feminism…is that the mass media provides such biased and commercially oriented material. The literary and entertainment scene are dominated by male stereotypes, male fantasies, male wish fulfillment, a male power structure,” echoing West’s complaints.

The magazine was a clear response to the male domination of the literary field in contemporary American society and historically. Each issue contained a collection of “Aphra-isms” which were quotes from feminist figures such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth and more modern feminists like Kate Millet. The section also featured historical and modern examples of sexism from literature and the news.

“Aphra” published work from a variety of authors, including Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker, who each provided a unique take on feminist issues of the day yet they all had an underlying tone that was unapologetic and focused on confronting the problems they observed in society.

In a short story by one of the magazine’s editors, Elizabeth Fisher, titled “My Wife,” she explores the downside of the sexual revolution which allowed and encouraged women to enjoy the sensual pleasures of sex. The story is told from the perspective of a man who believes he has the honor of sexually awakening his future wife. The man becomes disenchanted with his wife soon after they are married and her body changes as a result of her pregnancies and their sex life naturally dwindles. The kicker of the story is the conclusion when the husband overhears his wife admitting to a friend that she faked every single orgasm he thought she had had with him. This sends the narrator into a devastating existential crisis as his fragile male sexual ego is absolutely destroyed.

“I look at the children. They’re my daughters, but they’re hers too. Will they, too, grow up to betray me and their husbands, a man’s whole raison d’etre?…There’s nothing left. How can I live now, how can I go on?”

This desperate conclusion to the story shows how a female writer revealed the negative side of the sexual revolution. Since women were now allowed to admit they enjoy sex, they were expected to. Despite this revolution in sexual philosophy and the growing availability of a variety of birth control methods, male views of sex remained chauvinistic and self-centered. The narrator displays a kind of toxic masculinity that created a culture in which women felt obligated to fake orgasms and feign pleasure. These women felt they had to play the role of the sexually liberated woman even when reality remained stalled in antiquated sexual attitudes that prioritized male sexuality and pleasure.

An unsigned editorial in the second issue of the magazine addresses the difficulties the second-wave feminist movement faces in terms of measurable accomplishments. The first iteration of the women’s movement in the early 20th century was focused primarily on women’s suffrage. The passage of the 19th amendment in 1920 was a clear victory for the movement and led to its dormancy for the next forty years. The goals of feminists in the 1960s, aside from fighting to achieve the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, were geared toward largescale social change. The author of the editorial astutely observes that, “It is an aim which all too often proves illusory since you can’t legislate orgasm — produce it by fiat, despite all the promises which seem to say, ‘Let there be orgasm!’”

In the spring of 1971, “Aphra” had a special “Whore Issue”. This issue dealt with problems of women being condemned for sexual promiscuity as well as the exploitation of women as sex workers.

An editorial by Fisher argues that the problem with sex is that it has been made into a commodity. Women are defined by their sexual relationship with men as a wife, a mother, a mistress or a whore. Fisher writes that by viewing sex in these terms, female pleasure is devalued and the woman is transformed into a dehumanized sex object.

While “Aphra” was primarily a literary journal, through Fisher’s editorial leadership it engaged questions of the sexist nature of sex. Fisher also wrote repeatedly on the role of men in procreation, which had recently become optional given advancements in invitro fertilization.

A similarly satirical take on issues of sexual freedom can be found in a 1973 issue of another feminist literary magazine, “Velvet Glove.” A story by Susan Watkins follows a woman working in a pharmacy who is required to inquire if a customer is married before she is allowed to sell them contraception. The female protagonist asks her condescending male manager if people could not just easily lie and he tells her she must ask anyway in compliance with the law. The protagonist’s retort is to wonder if she should also be required to ask young women buying menstrual products if they’re 12-years old. This story is another example of satirical writing which was clearly a way feminists saw fit to combat the social ills they observed.

Feminist have long been thought of as humorless and in modern times many even refer to them as “feminazis.” While much of the work published in literary journals like “Aphra” and “Velvet Glove” is of a serious nature, it also provides women with a platform to express a brand of humor that would not have been well-received by a male audience.

Even “Words in our Pockets” participates in this emergence of a female comedic culture as the copyright information on the inside of their front cover warns readers that “a Surveillance MicroblastchipTM embedded in this spine will blow you to bits in the event of unauthorized copying.”

When women were writing to and for other women, they embraced the satirical and humorous side of the movement. Women could rarely do this publicly for fear of being dismissed as frivolous; but women’s publications provided women with an outlet for their special brand of ingroup feminist humor.

Women began working their way into the literary world earnestly and consciously during the 1960s and have not turned back since. In 1960 only 24 percent of the books that landed on the New York Times Bestseller List were written by women. That number fluctuated each year but never rose above 40 percent until 1992. Since then, the gender divide has been roughly equal, though never exceeding 50 percent. It is not a stretch to say that publications like the ones described here have helped establish the feminist literary tradition that has allowed modern female writers to have much more proportional representation in the field.

“Words in our Pockets” ends on a poignant and unmistakably optimistic note. The second to last page contains the words “The End.” When the reader turns the page, she reads: “The statement on the other side of this page is false.” And clearly, that latter statement was correct.

-Anna Zarra Aldrich



The Proper Sculpture: A Week with the Charles Olson Papers


The following guest post is by Stefanie Heine who was was awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant in 2017 to conduct research in Archives and Special Collections. Dr. Heine studied English, Philosophy and Comparative Literature at the University of Zürich. She was a Research and Teaching Assistant at the Department of Comparative Literature in Zurich. After completing her PhD (cf. Visible Words and Chromatic Pulse. Virginia Woolf’s Writing, Impressionist Painting, Maurice Blanchot’s Image. Wien: Turia + Kant, 2014), she started working on a post-doc project on the poetics of breathing and she is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto (Centre for Comparative Literature).


“we are ourselves both the instrument of discovery and the instrument of definition”

“this instant, […] you on this instant, […] you, figuring it out, and acting, so”

– Charles Olson, Human Universe


Without my knowledge, the GPS of the car I rented at Boston Logan airport was set to “discovery route”. I drove for over three hours, red maple, black oak, sweet birch and white ash making me indifferent to the fact that map turned to maze.

I arrived at the University of Connecticut on the day of the solar eclipse. Caught in those first moments of archive fever, I probably would have forgotten about it, if my partner hadn’t texted me: “You should go out now.” When I did, I couldn’t see. Only for a few seconds the blaze yielded to a clear-cut sickle through the glasses a woman lent me in front of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

These two scenes composing the mood of my arrival at the Charles Olson Research Collection kept determining my exploration of the archive, and they turned out to be instances where Olson’s paths crossed mine. On the one hand, they were points where my own research met Olson’ methods. “methodos […] turns out to be meta hodos […] the principle of—PATH”, “the way the path is known”, Olson explicates in a letter to Robert Creeley in June 1952 (152). The way the path is known involves the person on it and for Olson, research is inextricably linked to the experience of the individual who conducts it, in the very moment it is conducted. On the other hand, there are more specific correlations between what I encountered on the way to and through the archive and Olson’s methodological and poetological approaches. The title of a section of the Maximus Poems, “Each Night is No Loss, It is a daily eclipse, / by the Earth, of the Sun” (448) can be read in line with these approaches. The phenomenon of eclipse could be considered as something that happens on a continual basis when we do research and write: instances of blindness and sudden illumination reoccur, again and again. In an unpublished essay I came across in the archive, Olson explicitly comments on the overlaps of “blindness” and “recognition” in the process of literary production, the creation of poetic form: “A form does only disclose itself if a man does go blind.” (Form, no more than means, is caused) With his emphasis on the writer’s or researcher’s sensation of blindness (literary writing and scientific discovery are inextricably linked for him), Olson counteracts what he considers as the most dominate way in which knowledge is achieved, the ‘Western logos’, in which the rational mind at clear daylight engages in classification and abstraction. This method is what for Olson prevents an immediate involvement of the writer or researcher with their objects of discovery and destroys the “kinetics of the thing” focused on (“Projective Verse” 16). In the archive, the proximity to the new material as such prevented any critical distance for me. The massive amount of writing held in the Charles Olson Research Collection offers too much input to process straightaway; most of the time, I was in a haze, reading and copying as much as I could, assembling material to be ‘investigated’ later. But maybe the point where I was closest to ‘knowledge-bringing event[s]’ in Olson’s sense (he borrows that term from Maurice Merleau-Ponty, for example in A man’s life is a continual allegory) was in the archive itself.

One of these events particularly stands out: in one of Olson’s early notebooks from 1945, a passage on syntax caught my attention. Being aware that this must be one of Olson’s the very first written reflections on literary composition and one of the first attempts to formulate principles for his own writing, I was excited. But my enthusiasm was soon overshadowed by a banal fact: Olson’s handwriting, which needs some time to get used to in general, is specifically hard to decipher on these two pages of the tiny notebook covered densely with words in pencil. I was entering a domain where language becomes utterly private and is almost impenetrable because of its singularity. “Syntax is a key”, Olson writes – and it seemed to me at first sight that it would be denied to me to unlock the gate presented by Olson. “I have a hunch I allow too much of … into my syntax.” I was too curious about what he thought he allows too much of in his syntax to turn away from the passage. When I met Melissa Watterworth Batt on the next day, knowing her experience with Olson’s manuscripts, I asked her to help me with the passage. The collaborative effort turned out to be fruitful – in the process of thoroughly scrutinizing the text, one word after the other came to light. We turned the notebook around in our hands to change the angle so that a fresh perspective might change curves into letters and a magnifying glass helped to make visible what our eyes failed to see. We zoomed in and out digital images of the page on laptop and iPhone – lines turning into pixelated patches and then to a “b”, an “l”, an “o”. The last hitherto obscure word became legible when I was back in my hotel room in Vernon, and there it was:

I tend to think that I need to maintain a more natural syntax than the process of my thinking + feeling sometimes accomplishes. I have a hunch I allow too much of the complication of both to intrude into my syntax. Yet how to arrive at an objective language without changing the syntax? Nouns, verbs, and images are the answer (see Yeats or Pound for this). Actually, of course, all this is technical + the thing will come out of me as a poem. Otherwise, no. So I must continue + be led by my nose, willy-nilly. I have no choices. Hammer each step of the way. You have rid yourself of the orphic, a little. Continue to beat with the hammer to get the proper sculpture.

The proper sculpture – the image Olson uses to describe a poem in process ceased to be a metaphor when I had the deciphered passage in front of me. In fact, the whole process of deciphering echoed the activity of a stonecarver. Or, rather, the archeological experience with Mayan glyphs Olson describes in his letters to Robert Creeley in 1951. Tracking the shape of penciled lines was a sensual experience of words as things, graphite on paper, it was a physical engagement with Olson’s written material that may come close to what Olson perceived in Lerma while digging out the stones on which the glyphs are engraved, holding words in his hand as solid objects. The transformation of curves into letters and words I observed while deciphering allowed me to partake in a “kinetics of the thing”. I was involved in an act of paying attention to “what happens BETWEEN things”, which, according to Olson is one of the last “acts of liberation science has to offer” (“The Gate and the Center” 169). Between things: between the words on the page, between my eyes on the page and the digital image, between my eyes and Melissa’s.

Washington Fall 1945 I. Charles Olson Research Collection. No. 55. October 25, 1945 – December 19, 1945

The process of deciphering is not the only way in which I experienced the archival material in its physicality. A preoccupation with Olson’s papers does not only involve investigating the contents of his thought. The writings archived in Storrs do not only occupy the mind, they are things to be experienced with all senses. The material dimension of his texts does not only become perceptible through the resistance caused by Olson’s handwriting – when the words’ meaning is interrupted by their particular shape. It is primarily the things Olson used to write on that strike the eye: besides notebooks, notepads and sheets of different size, colour and texture, and objects he found in front of him like a paper placemat, he scribbled notes between the printed words of flyers and booklets, even his passport.

The principle extrications and new coordinates now called for. Charles Olson Research Collection. Prose No. 40. Holograph/typescript. 8p. ca. September – December 1951

Olson’s passport. Charles Olson Research Collection. Annotated. No. 64. 1957.

You can’t use words as ideas. Charles Olson Research Collection. Holograph. October 1964.

























After this personal account of my “discovery route” through the Olson archive, a few words on the research project that led me to Storrs: In the first chapter of my planned book titled “Poetics of Breathing” I investigate how breath is discussed as a compositional principle in the context of the Black Mountain School and the Beat Generation. The focus is on concrete attempts to establish an embodied poetics of breathing. In this context, I explore how Olson sketches compositional principles based on breath in essays, poetological manifestoes, notes and letters about his own writing practice. The unpublished material I found at the Charles Olson Research Collection gives me further insights in the development of Olson’s poetics of breathing and the Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Grant I was awarded enabled me to make important steps on the path towards my book.


 -Stefanie Heine


Works Cited

Archival Material

Olson, Charles. A man’s life is a continual allegory. Charles Olson Research Collection, University of Connecticut. Prose No. 136. Typescript. 4p. December 26-27, 1963.

Olson, Charles. Olson’s passport. Charles Olson Research Collection, University of Connecticut. Annotated. No. 64. 1957.

Olson, Charles. The principle extrications and new coordinates now called for. Charles Olson Research Collection, University of Connecticut. Prose No. 40. Holograph/typescript. 8p. ca. September – December 1951.

Olson, Charles. Washington Fall 1945 I. Charles Olson Research Collection, University of Connecticut. No. 55. October 25, 1945 – December 19, 1945.

Olson, Charles. You can’t use words as ideas. Charles Olson Research Collection, University of Connecticut. Holograph. October 1964.


Published Material

Olson, Charles and Robert Creeley. Charles Olson & Robert Creeley: The Complete Correspondence. Volume 10. Ed. Richard Blevins. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1996.

Olson, Charles. “Human Universe”. Collected Prose. Ed. Donald Allen and Benjamin Friedlander. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1997, 155-166.

Olson, Charles. “Projective Verse”. Selected Writings. Ed. Robert Creeley. New York: New Directions, 1966.

Olson, Charles. The Gate and the Center. Collected Prose. Ed. Donald Allen and Benjamin Friedlander. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1997. 168-173.

Olson, Charles. The Maximus Poems. Ed. George F. Butterick. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.




A Tale Of Two Art Journals

Anna Zarra Aldrich is majoring in English, political science and journalism at the University of Connecticut.  She is a student writing intern studying historical feminist publications from the collections of Archives and Special Collections. The following guest post is one of a series to be published throughout the Spring 2018 semester.

The second advent of the feminist movement that washed over American society in the 1960s and 1970s like a tidal wave emphasized a pervasive message of empowerment which manifested in a variety of periodicals during this period, including art journals.

Women had largely been excluded from the world of fine art for centuries as geniuses like Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali and Monet were celebrated and revered while their female contemporaries, such as Georgia O’Keefe or Frida Kahlo, were few and far between as their talent went largely unencouraged and unrewarded.

“The Feminist Art Journal” was published quarterly from 1972 to 1977 out of Brooklyn, New York by Feminist Art Journal Inc. One of the early editions of the journal from 1973 addresses the idea that women have created art for the centuries during which they were strictly confined to the home. An article titled: “Quilts: The Great American Art,” discusses how quilts, tapestries and other home décor have acted as mediums of female artistic expression that have historically been disregarded by men as mere frivolous decorations. The article states that, “Women have always made art. But for most women, the arts highest valued by male society have been closed to them for just that reason.”

An editorial from the same issue emphasizes the need of women to “rediscover their own history.” One of the primary aims of “The Feminist Art Journal” was to reclaim women’s place in art history through articles such as the one on quilts and by discussing issues of female representation in classical art. An intriguing article on Marie De Medici from the Summer 1977 issue explores how the powerful Florentine heir-turned-French-monarch commissioned portraits of herself and her life accomplishments like those that were traditionally done for prominent males of the period. Medici also pointedly decorated her palace with statues of great women like Saint Bathilde and George Sand. The article emphasizes how Marie de Medici understood the power of art as a political statement, underscoring another one of the journal’s core messages: art is political.

Interestingly, a short-lived lesbian feminist journal published from 1973 to 1975, the “Amazon Quarterly: A Lesbian-Feminist Art Journal” expressed a much different viewpoint from “The Feminist Art Journal”. “Amazon Quarterly” was published from the other side of the country, in Oakland, California by Amazon Press. It should be noted that both of these journals were published independently, sustained by revenue from subscriptions, single issue sales and advertisements. Both journals also had exclusively female editors.

The “Amazon Quarterly” commended women’s lack of participation in the male-dominated art world, in which they were routinely objectified in the works of male artists, rather than seeking to place women’s accomplishments within this patriarchal frame work.

Both “The Feminist Art Journal” and “Amazon Quarterly” promoted and provided a platform for female artists to share their literature, poetry, drawings, photography. However, “Amazon Quarterly” made promoting the art of women, specifically lesbians, its primary artistic goal, rather than engaging in discussions of history.

The division in purpose and ideology of these two journals which served, broadly, the same role, reflected a deeper division in the feminist movement between lesbians and straight women. Some lesbians believed women could not fully participate in the true revolution of the feminist movement so long as they were still sexually involved with their male oppressors, a radical idea that is discussed in articles published in the journal.

In an article, “Distinctions: The Circle Game” from the February 1973 issue of
“Amazon Quarterly” written by one of the editors, Laurel Galana, whose byline is simply a familiar: Laurel, explores these divisions within the movement.

Laurel breaks down the group of women who are feminists into increasingly small subcultures from lesbians to “new lesbians” to dykes. The “new lesbians” Laurel describes had several verboten relations including those with men and straight women, whom they viewed as “men’s women.”

Laurel herself abides by these taboos, she explains, “My energy, my time, my sisterly love was indirectly useful to the male for keeping his woman content. And secondly, I decided not to relate to straight women because they already had made a choice which did not include me – that is all of me.”

The piece goes on to criticize lesbians who distinguish themselves based on class, believing that such internal divisions will only cause the movement to fracture and be less effective. She seems to miss the irony of the fact that she believes lesbians should not associate with straight feminists and form a united front of all feminist women.

Much of the art and especially the literature published in the journal reflected the fact that “Amazon Quarterly” branded itself as a periodical that intended to cater specifically to lesbian women. Many of the pieces published in the journal deal with tales and the feelings associated with homosexual awakenings and attraction. The publication had an entire issue dedicated to the topic of sexuality as their swan song before shutting down in 1977.

While the journal ceased publication in 1977, the editors went on to run Bluestocking Books, a publishing house which published a few novels including “The Violent Sex” by Laurel Holliday. Holliday’s book confronted the evolution of masculine sexuality and behavior that has led to the sexual and social oppression of women.

Despite their differences, both these journals considered art in an expansive sense, including all forms of visual and literary art, and stressed the importance of the inclusion of the female perspective in them.

While these two journals had different audiences and somewhat different goals, they both served to underscore the important idea that art is political, and that women had to understand how they could use any and all forms of art to express their ideas and achieve their objectives.

The art of many female artists of the period, during which feminist art truly began to flourish and find its foothold, was clearly in line with this philosophy. Some notable works include Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party,” which portrays a dinner party of 39 notable historical women, and Hannah Wilke’s avant garde “Starification Object Series,” a series of photographs for which she covered her body with wads of gum folded to resemble female genitalia.

These two journals and the art they supported show how women utilized the arts to promote the feminist agenda as they worked toward achieving social and political equality despite divisions within the movement.

In a 1977 interview published in “Chrysalis” magazine, Chicago commented on the value of art to the feminist movement.

“Art is particularly important for women and can catapult women into a different realm of consciousness by symbolizing and objectifying our experience. That expression, that impulse, has such potential power, and it is that power that society tries to contain by trivializing, by repressing, by suppressing the art impulse,” Chicago said. “As long as women participate in that process, we will never be able to realize our full creative potential. We must bust out of that, just absolutely bust out of that and reclaim art as the basic outpouring of the human spirit and pour out our songs and all our feelings and all our beliefs and all our visions in a way that everyone can hear.”

-Anna Zarra Aldrich



In Search of Walt Dropo


The following is a guest blog post by Rebecca A.R. Edwards, Professor in the Department of History at Rochester Institute of Technology. Dr. Edwards was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant to conduct research in Archives and Special Collections. Her research supports a book project tentatively titled Play Ball: Sport, Community, and Memory in Connecticut,” a microhistory that “utilizes local sports history to explore the formation of community identity, social capital, and public memory.”

Sometimes, historical projects get personal. I am a historian at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. I teach, among other things, the history of baseball and have a long-standing interest in sports history. I could say that my current project is a sports history, and that would be true, but it is also a family history. When I was a girl, growing up in southeastern Connecticut, my paternal grandfather, Danny Rourke, was famous. He played both semi-professional basketball and semi-professional baseball in the state, from 1935-1955. In this way, he was like so many other men in Connecticut in those years, as I have been discovering in the course of my research for a book on this lost sporting world of eastern Connecticut.

We have lost the category of “semi-professional athlete” today. These were men who played organized, competitive sports, largely without long-term professional aspirations. Their basketball was not played to lead to them to the NBA; their baseball was not a road to the MLB. It was an end in itself. Forrest C. ‘Phog’ Allen, the celebrated University of Kansas basketball coach, argued that their play was, in fact, professional. In 1937, he wrote, “The professional—paid or unpaid—plays to win at any cost. Herein lies the significant difference between amateurism and professionalism, whether it be independent or collegiate. When competition becomes a business, it becomes professional. By such interpretation professionalism is not determined by the acceptance of money. The tenor of most independent teams who play outside schedules is professional in spirit, for their stress is on winning and not on the sport for the sport’s sake.”(i) He continued, “The universally accepted definition for a professional player is one who receives compensation for athletic skill or knowledge. If we interpret ‘compensation’ to mean either fame or money or its equivalent, this definition holds.”(ii)

In this way, my work seeks to recover the hidden history of these local professionals. These independent teams that my grandfather played on no longer exist, teams like Pep’s Flashes, the Shymas, and the Danielson Elks. And yet these were teams that attracted hundreds of fans, garnered lots of local press coverage, and brought their players lasting fame. And sometimes, though comparatively rarely, they produced a professional athlete from their ranks.

My research brought me into contact with what one might call the pre-history of one of those athletes. He is pictured in the photograph, from the Norwich Bulletin of 31 March 1941, below.  He really is famous. Find him yet? He is a very young Walt Dropo, then in his senior year of high school. He is in the back row, all the way to the right. Dropo was the youngest member of Pep’s Flashes, pictured here after winning the Norwich Bulletin-Record basketball tournament.

The captain of the team was my grandfather, seated at the far left. The Sunday sports page announced the news of their victory. “Pep’s Flashes Win Bulletin-Record Tournament, 48-37; Jimmy Hoffman and Danny Rourke Are the Stars.” The game was played before a “packed house of about 450 noisy customers…making it the third night that the games were played before a capacity audience.” Pep’s led the entire way, and though the “game was never close enough to get the fans steamed up…it was bruising, tough basketball from start to finish and nobody was disappointed.” The Norwich Record praised the team, saying, “Pep’s really looked the part of champions. Their passing and their shooting was a beautiful thing to watch and were altogether too classy” for their opponents, the Doco Eagles of Norwich. Hoffman was the game’s high scorer, while Rourke played “a marvelous floor game.” They had help from ‘Boots’ Dropo, who contributed nine points.(iii)

‘Boots’ Dropo, as he was then known, would go on from Plainfield High School to attend the University of Connecticut, as probably everyone already knows. Upon Dropo’s death in 2010, Coach Dee Rowe called him “the greatest all-around athlete this school has ever seen.” Dropo played football, basketball, and baseball for the Huskies. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 9th round of the 1946 NFL draft. He was drafted in the first round of the 1947 BAA (Basketball Association of America, a pro-league pre-NBA) draft by the Providence Steamrollers. But he turned it all down to sign with the Red Sox organization in 1947.

In 1950, Walt Dropo was the American League Rookie of the Year, the first Red Sox to be named Rookie of the Year. He finished sixth in the AL MVP race. His .583 slugging percentage that year was second only to Joe DiMaggio (.585). “New England was full of Walt Dropos then,” Bill Reynolds writes, “small town kids who stole the hearts of their communities because of the way they played this New Game.”(iv) But that was still ahead of him. As late as 1946, you could have seen Walt Dropo playing basketball in a 200 seat auditorium in southeastern Connecticut with my grandfather.

By then they were both playing for the Shymas, who would also win the Norwich Bulletin-Record title. Dropo is seen here, in the semi-finals of the tournament.

The press coverage noted that Dropo and Rourke were key members of the team. “The Shyma club five of Taftville steamrolled to a 65 to 49 victory over the Windham Packards of Willimantic at the Norton Gym Saturday night to win the eighth annual Norwich Bulletin-Record basketball tournament before a capacity crowd of better than 600 fans….The Packards held the lead twice in the opening minutes of play, 2 to 0 and 4 to 2, but after that point they didn’t stand a chance as the Villagers swept down the floor time and again using the height of MacDonald and Walt Dropo and the floor work of Bill Kelly and Danny Rourke to great advantage. Besides giving a brilliant offensive exhibition throughout the contest, the Shyma put up a tight defense that the Willimantic combination had plenty of trouble cracking.”v Another account concluded that, in winning the tournament, the Shyma had demonstrated that they were “the outstanding hoop combination in eastern Connecticut during the past year.”(vi)

Dropo left for the Red Sox farm system the following year, in 1947. But he left having already played for two different championship basketball teams in Connecticut. As we remember his sports history today, we largely assume it starts with the Red Sox. His time in college sports is seen as a prelude to his professional career. My work allows me to see that he brought a champion’s play to UConn with him. He had been playing alongside semi-pro athletes since he was in high school. That was the drive he brought with him to Storrs.

The distance between the professional world of sports that Dropo would enter and the semi-professional levels of sport he was leaving behind was not very wide. Professionals were a part of their local communities then and semi-professionals were treated with much the same reverence and respect. October 14, 1950, was Walt Dropo Day in his hometown of Moosup, Connecticut. Dropo came into town with a barnstorming baseball team, the Birdie Tebbett’s All-Stars. George ‘Birdie’ Tebbett’s was a catcher with the Red Sox. Also barnstorming with Tebbett’s team that fall were Phil Rizzuto and Johnny Pesky.

They faced a home team, put together for the occasion, called the Connecticut All-Stars. Walt’s brother, Milt Dropo, himself a star athlete at the University of Connecticut, managed the All-Stars. Playing for them in right field was Danny Rourke. He was at that point playing for the New London Raiders in the Class B Colonial League, an effort to revive minor league baseball in southern New England. The original Colonial League had folded in 1915. This Colonial League was formed for the 1947 season; its last season was 1950. Walt Dropo Day was the last time that Dropo and Rourke took a field together.

Dropo’s career brought him to the MLB. Rourke’s career ended in Class B. Yet, the two men shared an athletic journey together that dated back to 1941. My grandfather is still remembered in some circles in southeastern Connecticut today, where I still sometimes meet old fans who call me “Danny Rourke’s granddaughter.” So I know sporting memories can be long. I had wondered, as I came to the Archives to search for images of Dropo’s college career, how well he was remembered on campus today. I worried a bit as the young archivist, whose name will remain unmentioned to protect the guilty, admitted that he had never heard of him until I started asking for files to be pulled. (He was brave to admit that to me and he was otherwise a perfectly nice professional, just to be clear.)

I was worried for nothing. As I settled into the Nathan Hale Hotel, I stopped at their pub for a beer, after a long day in the archives. I glanced over my head and found that I had taken a seat under Walt Dropo.

‘Boots’ Dropo. Still here, after all these years.


– Rebecca A.R. Edwards



i  Forrest C. Allen, Better Basketball: Technique, Tactics, and Tales (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1937), 7. ‘Phog’ Allen coached at Kansas from 1919-1956. He coached the Jayhawks to victory in the NCAA tourney in 1952, the same year that he coached the Olympic basketball team to a gold medal at the Helsinki games. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959.
ii  Allen, 8.
iii  All coverage from “Third Annual Bulletin Record Tourney.” Undated clipping. Potts family scrapbook.
iv  Reynolds, Our Game, 7.
v  “Shymas Take Bulletin-Record Tourney With 65-49 Win,” Norwich Record (March 31, 1946), 13. From Rourke family scrapbook.
vi  “Bulletin Record Tournament Won By Shyma Club.” Undated press clipping. Rourke family scrapbook.

Harry Allard Is Missing! Collaborations of James Marshall and Harry Allard in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection

The following guest post is by Jerrold Connors, an award-winning application developer, writer and children’s book author and illustrator from California. He was recently awarded the James Marshall Fellowship to pursue a picture book project based on Harry Allard’s Miss Nelson stories. The James Marshall Fellowship encourages the use of unique materials in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection and provides financial support to authors and illustrators for travel to University of Connecticut’s Archives and Special Collections to conduct their research.

James Marshall, considered by Maurice Sendak to be one of the wittiest and most genuine children’s book author-illustrators, created the popular George and Martha stories, the charming Fox readers and the everlasting Miss Nelson picture books. He wrote and illustrated most of his stories himself, collaborated on several others with his friend and co-author Harry Allard, and illustrated the works of a few others. Marshall published upwards of 80 books from 1967 until 1992 when he died, aged 50, from AIDS. Though awarded few professional honors, Marshall is considered by many as one of the picture book greats—his works are held alongside those of Maurice Sendak and Arnold Lobel (with whom Marshall shared close friendships) as classics.

Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call (2014)

Despite growing up an avid reader in the early 1980s, I have no memories of reading any James Marshall books. It was only later, as a teenager reading to my nephew and niece, that I would discover the Miss Nelson books. And it was much later as a young adult reading picture books for my own enjoyment that I would discover George and Martha. I became a confirmed James Marshall fan and sought to find as many of his works as I could. I can think of very few creators whose entire body of work—unmistakable for its sense of fun, economy of language, subtle play between words and illustration and great respect for his young audience—I hold in higher regard.

Relatively little has been written about Marshall’s life and works but I have tracked down what I could and have come to consider myself something of a Marshall expert, so it was with great surprise and interest that I discovered a fourth Miss Nelson book, Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call, written, illustrated and self-published by Harry Allard in 2014, twenty two years after James Marshall’s death.

Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call is a peculiar work. It features all the Miss Nelson standards: a kind teacher, a befuddled principal, an elementary school setting, and a mystery surrounding a secret identity (the hallmark of the Miss Nelson series). But it also has an enormous cast of characters, a generous amount of exposition, a bizarre wordiness (gothic adjectives such as graustarkian, eldritch and stygian abound) and a distinctly creepy tone. And it is missing, notably, any children.

All these facts made me wonder how similar Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call is (if at all) to the original Miss Nelson trilogy. It’s a known fact that James Marshall heavily edited the authors’ texts that passed his drawing table (an unusual practice for an illustrator) but I wanted to know just how far Marshall went in shaping Allard’s manuscripts into the illustrated stories we have come to know. The books credited to Marshall and Allard are nearly identical in voice, pacing and humor to those credited solely to Marshall. So much so that it has even been suggested that Harry Allard might have been an invention, like Marshall’s “cousin” Edward Marshall, to serve as a pseudonym. While this would be wholly appropriate given the Miss Nelson tradition of dual-identity and disguise, it is not true. Harry Allard was a real person.

The two became acquainted at Trinity College in San Antonio, Texas where Allard taught French and Marshall was an undergraduate. An academic, Allard held a Masters degree and PhD in French from Northwestern and Yale. He was an admirer of French illustrators and drew and sketched as a hobby and in this sense found a kindred spirit in the artistically minded Marshall. They collaborated on a few picture books with Allard credited as author and James Marshall as illustrator before developing the character of Miss Nelson. As the story goes, Allard called Marshall at three in the morning and said “Miss Nelson is missing!” This bizarre non sequitur became the seed that would grow into three books about the teacher and her class.

The Northeast Children’s Literature Collection holds a rich and rewarding amount of materials related to the working relationship between James Marshall and Harry Allard. Of those materials related to the Miss Nelson book, the most complete were those for the second Miss Nelson book Marshall and Allard worked on together, Miss Nelson Is Back.

Miss Nelson Is Back: In the collection in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut is a series of dummies for Miss Nelson Is Back. The earliest of these dummies hints at what must have been Harry Allard’s original manuscript for this story. The story opens with Miss Nelson having to leave her class for a tonsillectomy. Filling in for her is a new character, Mr. Otis Delancey, a well-intentioned if inexperienced substitute teacher. The kids of Room 207 are more than ready to take advantage of him. Rounding out the cast is Miss Gomez, the school’s secretary, Detective McSmogg (a private investigator from the first Miss Nelson book, this time acting as a truant officer), and Mother Judkins, “special investigator” for the Board of Education.

Dummy for Miss Nelson Is Back

With all these characters, the strictest substitute teacher in the world, Viola Swamp (the true star of the Miss Nelson books), gets very little screen time; in fact, her appearance is gratuitous. There is none of the guessing and second-guessing of double identities that made the first Miss Nelson book so much fun.

Looking through the collection of dummies and storyboards, I saw that within two drafts Marshall had put Harry Allard’s story through its paces, trimming the number of characters to a splendid few, namely, Principal Blandsworth, Miss Nelson, Viola Swamp and, of course, the kids of Room 207. The greatest fun in the story—the kids impersonating Miss Nelson in a terribly obvious and obviously terrible disguise—had been fully fleshed out and the text had been trimmed to nearly what would appear in the final printed version.

Book dummy for Miss Nelson Is Back

The edits on these dummies are all executed in Marshall’s distinct handwriting. Entire sections have been cut, others invented on the fly, hastily scribbled in between and alongside blocks of discarded text. Editing happens not just of Allard’s work but also of Marshall’s own. Marshall writes several versions of the line “So this is your little game?”, trying “What is this?” and settling on “So thats your little game!” (In method it is very similar to a book done entirely by Marshall alone, The Cut Ups Carry On, which also exists in the archives and is splendidly detailed by Sandra Horning in her blog entry here.

Tracking changes through these drafts, it is very clear that what would appear as the final version of Miss Nelson Is Back was very much a Marshall story. For his part, Allard must have been okay with Marshall’s reworking of his script. Miss Nelson Is Back was their ninth book together, their second Miss Nelson book and they would go on to do another. I noticed also that Marshall sought to preserve some of Allard’s inventions through his drafts. Otis Delancey survived the transition from first draft to a storyboard before he was cut.

Last appearance of Mr. Otis Delancey, Storyboard, Miss Nelson Is Back

Miss Nelson Has a Field Day: The first pages of the dummy for Miss Nelson Has a Field Day* (Marshall and Allard’s third Miss Nelson book) is a combination of pencil illustrations with pasted down clippings from a typewritten manuscript. Whether or not the manuscript came directly, unedited, from Allard is unknown, but some clues indicate that it did. For one, the school in this story is named “Alice J. Gomez Elementary.”  According to Marshall’s partner William Gray, Allard could become fixated on certain details such as odd words or funny names—that he would bring Miss Gomez back to the Miss Nelson universe seems in keeping with this habit. And, as in Miss Nelson Is Back, Allard has attempted to enlarge the faculty, this time with Miss Witherspoon, the cheer squad coach.

Dummy and final print comparison, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Dummy and final print comparison, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Eight pages into this dummy Marshall begins composing the pages by typing directly onto his drawing paper. A few pages beyond that and Marshall begins writing in his distinct hand, using shorthand to get his ideas quickly onto the paper as they occur to him. As with Miss Nelson Is Back, Marshall appears to be inventing on the fly, using this stage of his process to both trim and flesh out the story and ultimately make it his own.

*footnote: Holding the original cover concept for Miss Nelson Has a Field Day up to the light revealed that the working titles to this story were at one point Miss Nelson Tackles Trouble and Miss Nelsons Secret Play.

Cover concept sketch, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Cover concept sketch closeup, flipped, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat: The collection also held a three page typewritten manuscript by Allard for an unpublished story titled Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat. Dated 1989, this story expands Horace B. Smedley Elementary’s world to include a school bus service, an appropriate enough story device, but there is little else in the way of character or plot. The entire story is mainly a vehicle for some gags about members of a circus sideshow.

“Better watch your ‘P’s’ and ‘Q’s’’ , kids,” the midget threatened, brandishing his bull whip.”
Typewritten draft by Harry Allard, Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat

There are no marks by Marshall on this document, and no evidence I could find in the abundant collection of sketchbooks (used often for brainstorming and testing story ideas) that he ran with the idea. Whether this was because Marshall at this point in his career was focusing on retelling fairytales or because he felt the Miss Nelson adventures had been played out is unknown. Although not a trilogy in a strict storytelling sense, the three Miss Nelson books form a tidy whole. Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat doesn’t add anything to the Miss Nelson world.

Miss Nelson Is Missing!: From the previous examples, it is obvious that the majority of  work that shaped the Miss Nelson books into what the public has come to know was executed by Marshall. This isn’t to say that Marshall didn’t value Allard’s contribution. Allard was a brainstorming partner, a writer who could turn out pages of script allowing Marshall to indulge in editing, evidenced many times in the collection as one of Marshall’s great strengths.

Cover concept sketch, Miss Nelson Is Missing!

Late in my research I discovered a single page near the back of one of James Marshall’s sketchbooks. This book, sitting nondescriptly in the middle of Box 20, held a cover concept sketch for Miss Nelson Is Missing! Dated July 27, 1976, the sketch would have been made about one year before the first Miss Nelson book was to be published. At the top of the page Marshall had written “Written by James Marshall and Harry Allard”.

He then drew a double headed arrow to transpose his and Allard’s name to give Allard top billing. Eventually the cover page would remove the “written by” and “illustrated by” lines and feature the two names as collaborators with Allard’s name featured generously at the top of the page.

But despite the vast source of materials related to the Marshall/Allard collaborations, it was a very small thing that most informed my understanding of their relationship. In the seventeen minute James Marshall In His Studio video (one in a series produced by Weston Woods/Scholastic to introduce authors to their audience) Marshall speaks directly to the camera, explaining his process in creating picture books. In talking about where his ideas come from, Marshall describes the infamous 3am phone call from Allard. I’ve alway read the line “Miss Nelson is missing!” as an exuberant, even manic, exclamation on Allard’s part. But as Marshall tells the story (at the nine and half minute mark if you should ever be so lucky to find a copy of this recording) it is far more nuanced. Marshall does an impression of Allard’s voice. It is theatrical, a little affected, mysterious. It’s done with a smile and, clearly, affection for his friend.

Marshall appreciated in Allard all those things I found peculiar. His eccentricities delighted Marshall. What’s more, Allard’s inspirations—whether they ultimately served to chart the inappropriate, or uncover the promising—informed Marshall’s talents. Given the amount of work Marshall put into their collaboration, that he would give his friend top billing is testimony to Marshall’s generosity. But it would be shortsighted to consider it charity. Marshall truly valued his partnership with Allard. Like Miss Nelson and Viola Swamp, in this story one could not have existed without the other. If Harry Allard were missing, so too would be missing these three books.

Still image from video, James Marshall In His Studio

On Charles Olson: poetics and / as pedagogy


Dr. Michael Kindellan is a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Sheffield, UK. He has published research articles on several 19th and 20th century Anglo-American poets, and has recently completed a book on Ezra Pound’s late cantos (to be published in September by Bloomsbury). Made possible by a generous a Strochlitz Travel Grant, in January he travelled to the Archives and Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center to consult the Charles Olson Research Collection, along with other, related collections, such as the Ed Dorn, John Wieners, Michael Rumaker, Fielding Dawson and Ann Charters Papers. This trip marks the beginning of work on his new project, tentatively called “Present Knowledge: Charles Olson and the Poetics of Pedagogy”.

I have been meaning to begin this project since late 2011, when I was first awarded a Strochlitz Travel Grant. Sadly, I was forced to defer that in favour of a temporary lectureship position. One thing led to another, and two intervening post-docs later, I am thrilled to have been afforded the time and opportunity, both by Sheffield and by UConn, to properly get started.

Charles Olson [FIG. 1] was a poet and a pedagogue. He began his teaching career at Clark University in the mid-1930s. In 1938, he took up a Guggenheim Fellowship in support of research on Herman Melville, leading to the publication of Call Me Ishmael. During the 1940s Olson also worked in various positions for the US Government: as Associate Chief of the Foreign Languages Division for the Office of War Information and as Foreign Nationalities Division Director for the Democratic National Committee). In the late 1940s, partly on account of his poetic debut Y & X (in collaboration with the Italian artist Corrado Cagli) and partly after a strong recommendation from Edward Dahlberg, Josef Albers invited Olson to give a series of classes on writing at Black Mountain College,[1] where he eventually took up a permanent position before becoming its rector until its closure in 1957. [FIG. 2] These academic posts were followed by others in the 1960s, initially at SUNY Buffalo and then at the University of Connecticut. Olson’s reputation as poet/theorist was secured by his seminal 1950 essay “Projective Verse”; from that point on, he wrote poems until the day he died.

With that in mind, setting his poetics (the theory and practice of verse composition) in relation to his pedagogy (the theory and practice of teaching) seems an obvious thing to do. However, my project attempts something slightly more ambitious, namely to read Olson’s poetics and pedagogy as both complementary and also as coincident undertakings. Some of Olson’s comments in the minutes of BMC faculty meetings, where the subject of conversation is how best to go about teaching, often sound exactly like his ideas concerning good writing practice and procedure; similarly, his verse is frequently didactic in tone and instructional in form. Just how Olson’s prosody can be seen to issue the reader with “instructions” is the subject of an essay I published in Contemporary Olson (Manchester UP, 2015), a work that serves as a starting point the larger project at hand. Throughout, I mean to argue that Olson’s ideas and methods of writing are identical to his ideas and methods of teaching, and to explore the consequences of that.

As Eleanor Berry and Alan Golding have recently suggested, Olson sought to extend “his formal concerns into the epistemological realm in arguing that projective verse involves a ‘stance towards reality’ that he labels ‘objectism’”. Olson understood “objectism”, Berry and Golding rightly note, as the “getting rid of the lyrical interference of the individual as ego”, which they describe as “an ethically anti-humanist move to take poetry beyond mere self-expression into more culturally capacious realms of statement”.[2] As a poet as well as a teacher, Olson might well have wanted to strip away all traces of the “individual as ego”, but it is not necessarily how he went about the actual business of either teaching or writing poems. Indeed, a good deal of archival material demonstrates that, in actual and historical fact, Olson’s methods are highly egoistic, often radically so (where by “egotistic” I do not mean “excessively conceited”, but rather interested in the “self” as a foundation for both practice and comportment).

Consider, as a case in point, the exam questions he set for students taking his 1964 “Literature and Myth” course at SUNY Buffalo. Question 4 in particular, which begins “My own belief is that…”, demonstrates the extent to which Olson exerted strong control over the parameters of whatever horizons of understanding his students operated within. [FIG. 3] By all accounts, Olson was, as his long-time correspondent J. H. Prynne recently put it, “an influential and powerful teacher”; but he and his “Black Mountain team”, Prynne goes on to contend, “practised ascendency over the students and dominated their development, and offered themselves as exemplary models to be followed, not as choices to be made”.[1]  This assessment is consistent with reports given by Olson’s actual students who never quite fell under his spell, such as Francine du Plessix (later Gray); likewise, Olson’s often bad tempered and downright condescending notes to Cid Corman in Letters for Origin portray an authoritative teacher who suffered dissent badly.[2] Charles Boer also reported, speaking to Olson in the second person, “your classrooms were for your ideas. If a student thought otherwise, he was soon set straight on the matter”.[3]

The question for me is, how to square this authoritarian streak with Olson’s anarchic, deeply anti-technocratic approaches to teaching and writing.[6] In regards to both he admonished students and burgeoning writers to practice “istorin’”, an activity he attributed to Herodotus’s historiography and defined as “finding out for yourself”. The implications of this are far too numerous to encapsulate here, but foremost amongst them is Olson’s total refusal of conventional curricula: Olson was profoundly skeptical about lesson plans and learning outcomes, all of which promised to curtail in advance any line of inquiry that organically emerged from the pedagogical process itself.[7] Several former students of Olson’s recount how he would habitually stay after class to study the chalk board, as though trying to make sense of what had happened, what was said. In “FIELD COMPOSITION”, or “projective verse” practice, the poet “puts himself in the open—he can go by no track other than the one the poem under hand declares, for itself”.

The examinations Olson wrote for Clark University students reveal a key aspect of his pedagogical drive, namely the prioritisation of writing well over reading well. He was constantly interweaving questions of personal style, form and the like, into questions ostensibly about other texts. The idea here is that, for Olson, the most important texts were always one’s own. A headnote to a 22 January 1935 mid-year English II examination begins: “keep in mind that this is a course in writing. Clarity, accuracy, even beauty of expression is expected. No paper carelessly written will be considered satisfactory, in spite of content”.[8] [FIG. 4]

What exactly to make of all this I have yet to rightly determine, and giving a good answer will be the aim of my work over the next couple of years. But the plan is to conceptualise and then critique Olson’s pedagogy as poetics, and visa versa. What is clear, however, from the two weeks I was able to spend exploring and working in this extensive archive—a task made all the more challenging by Olson’s increasingly illegible handwriting and his tendency to write with dull pencils on acidic paper or the backs of dirty envelopes—have proven invaluable in terms of grounding a rather abstract idea in the hard facts of archival materials. For instance, the Charles Olson Research Collection holds large numbers of documents categorised as “prose”, which, upon inspection, are clearly notes for lectures or seminars given (mostly) at Black Mountain College. Though not a systematic thinker, not by a long shot, Olson, in many of these documents especially, is forever attempting to enumerate and order his thoughts on myth, on writing and on history. In others, such one that “begins” (if it can be said to begin anywhere) “You can’t use words as ideas”, Olson’s writing is (dis)organised spatially, composed quite literally “by field”, that is to say, in different intersected planes of the page space. [FIG. 5]

The archive also contains a great bulk of correspondence, written both by Olson, especially in his capacity as Rector of Black Mountain College, and by hundreds of correspondents, many of whom either taught with Olson (such as Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley) or were taught by him (such as Dorn, Dawson and Wieners). These letters have an obvious historical importance, given the established reputations of Olson’s peers. Of equal if rather different interest are letters Olson wrote to and received from lesser known interlocutors: officers at funding bodies, benefactors, university administrators, invitees to BMC’s summer “institutes” programme and parents of students. I expect many of these to feature significantly in my completed work. Naturally the manuscripts and other pre-publication material of the poetry—those pertaining to The Maximus Poems particularly—will feature throughout my work as well. The first drafts of Olson’s poems, written mostly in longhand and sometimes to spectacular effect [FIG. 6], demand readers reassess the value and importance of the typewriter to this work. But it’s the less glamorous reaches of the archive that have thrown up the most interesting preliminary findings.



– Michael Kindellan
Sheffield, March 2017




  1. Fielding Dawson Drawing of Charles Olson (ink on paper), Fielding Dawson Papers. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Black Mountain Ephemera, Fielding Dawson Papers. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series III, Box 268. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series III, Box 259. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series I, Box 26. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series I, Box 5, Folder 273. “I have been an ability—a machine”. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.



[1] Josef Albers, 24 September 1948 Letter to Charles Olson, Series II Box 124, Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

[2] Eleanor Berry and Alan Golding, “Projective Verse”, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th ed., ed. Roland Greene et al, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 1109.

[3] J. H. Prynne, “The Art of Poetry No. 101”, The Paris Review 218 (Fall 2016): 183.

[4] Charles Olson, Letters for Origin: 1950-1956, ed. Albert Glover (London: Cape Goliard, 1969).

[5] Charles Boer, Charles Olson in Connecticut (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975), 54.

[6] As Martin Duberman reports, John Cage esteemed Olson’s Black Mountain College a truly anarchic community, in contradistinction to Josef Albers’s, where the “anarchic feeling… was only on the surface”. Martin Duberman, Black Mountain College: An Exploration in Community (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1972), 367.

[7] Cf. Olson’s statements on the matter in “Minutes of a Meeting of the Black Mountain College Faculty, 1951”, Olson: The Journal of the Charles Olson Archives 2 (Fall 1974): 16-24.

[8] Charles Olson, “Clark University English II Mid-Year Examination, Series III Box 258, Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.


Prologue: Into the Beautiful, Free Country; Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale

By Richard Telford

Author’s Note: Though the product of many hours of research, writing, and revision, this chapter is nevertheless a draft; it will be subject to revision as the larger book in which it will appear takes shape. In this chapter, the very first of the book, I have departed from the time period I wrote about in the previous three chapters published on the Archives and Special Collections site, during which the Teales lost their only son, David, in wartime service. Those chapters can be accessed here. I welcome critical response, either in the comment section below or through direct e-mail. I am grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for providing me the opportunity to share this work, and to the Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees for awarding me a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 school year so that this work could be undertaken.  Contextual information about the project and manuscript can be found here.


Prologue: Into the Beautiful, Free Country


Not only have you made us both very happy indeed; but you have also enabled us to get away from the heat and fatigue of the city into the beautiful, free country earlier than we could otherwise have done; and you know, I delight in nothing more than in being close to Nature’s heart.[1]


                                                                               Helen Keller, from a letter to Alexander Graham Bell, June 2, 1899


Down the slopes of the wooded hills there came a long sighing breath that set the leaves a wavering, down the long dancing corriders of the woodland.

It told a tale of the piles of drifting snow, of fluttering grouse, and wind swept ice, of strife and har[d]ships; yet [the] trees sang on with a glad hear[t], for it told more to them than hardships and struggle, it told of gorgeous costume[s] of colored woods and fleecy sky; and so the leaves sang on, with the joy of childhood.[ii]


                                                                              Edwin Way Teale, from “The Moon of Falling Leaves,” typed manuscript, ca. 1909-1910


Edwin Way Teale at Lone Oak, the Indiana farm of his maternal grandparents Edwin F. and Jemima Way, circa 1910.

In 1943, amidst unprecedented slaughter that would add the word “genocide” to the common lexicon, author Edwin Way Teale introduced to the world a boy who sat perched atop the roof of his grandparents’ Indiana farmhouse, watching at once the divergent aerial paths of a bald eagle soaring on high and a gray sandhill crane hugging the earth in low, loping flight. The boy imagined what he might see through the eyes of each bird. He wondered how each might see the dune landscape, the “shining, mysterious land of gold beyond the treetops at the horizon’s edge.”[iii] Less than two miles from the roof he straddled lay a “fragment of untamed wilderness” where the boy had heard that “wolves still howled among the snow-clad dunes on winter nights.”[iv] Such wilderness stirred the boy’s imagination, and so, too, did the north woods at the edge of his grandparents’ 90-acre farm, “a mysterious realm of little trails and piles of yellow sand dug from burrows.”[v] In 1943, the world needed this boy, and the boy, now grown and suffering the trials of war, still needed that childhood world of wilderness, of unfettered exploration, of natural order, of simple beauty.

The boy, born on June 2, 1899, had entered the world as two of his future heroes, John Muir and John Burroughs, occupied adjacent state rooms on the steamer SS George W Elder en route to Alaska during the Harriman Alaska Expedition. The expedition, funded by American railroad magnate Edward Harriman, assembled the nation’s most accomplished scientists, natural historians, and artists to conduct a comprehensive two-month survey of the Alaskan coast all the way to Siberia.[vi]  Of that day, when the expedition rounded the coast of British Columbia, Burroughs later wrote, “I had often seen as much color and brilliancy in the sky, but never before such depth and richness of blue and purple upon the mountains and upon the water.”[vii] On that same day, a hemisphere away, the Malolos Congress, the National Assembly of the Philippines, declared war against the United States, a war it would take the American military three years to win, at a cost of more than 4200 troops.[viii] The boy, too, would later suffer the losses of successive world wars. One of these would haunt him for the remainder of his life, would inhabit his dreams decade after decade, a perpetual “nightmare at dawn.”[ix] But that loss, on the day of his birth, was a generation removed. Finally, on the day the boy entered the world, Helen Keller wrote to her lifelong benefactor Alexander Graham Bell, to whom she would later dedicate her 1903 autobiography The Story of My Life.[x] To Bell, she confided, “I delight in nothing more than in being close to Nature’s heart,” and few statements could more aptly reflect the future trajectory of the boy clad in blue overalls, for whom the natural world would be at once a playground and a sanctuary, a nourisher and a balm. While the boy would undergo countless evolutions during the 81 years to follow, the hold of the natural world upon him would remain a constant, a holdfast in a relentless sea of waxing change.

The house at Lone Oak, the Indiana farm of Edwin F. and Jemima Way, the maternal grandparents of Edwin Way Teale, early twentieth century.

Edwin Way Teale, on the fourth page of his 1943 book Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist, revealed the identity of the overall-clad boy, who through so many trips up the shingled roof of his grandparents’ farm had left a visible trail to the ridge like “the thin trail of a garden slug.” “It was thus,” he wrote, “as the boy in the blue overalls, that I spent many hours during the long summer days of my earliest boyhood.”[xi] These summers and numerous Christmas and Easter holidays spent at Lone Oak, the 90-acre farm of his maternal grandparents Edwin and Jemima Way, formed “the most memorable months” of his childhood.[xii] Decades later, in the darkest hours of adult life, “in nights of strain and days of trouble,” Edwin would return often in memory to “the sounds of the dune country night”: the alternate refrains of katydids and crickets, the shadow-calls of nighthawks and owls, the susurrations of poultry and nesting storks.[xiii] Through the lens of time, Lone Oak became for Edwin what Tintern Abbey had been to English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, a sustaining sanctuary of memory. Amidst copious notes for his never-published autobiography, Edwin, reflecting on memories of Lone Oak, copied out the following lines from Wordsworth:

But oft in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet…[xiv]


Amidst “the tensions, the pressures, the constraints, [and] the strain”[xv] of a “desperately unhappy”[xvi] childhood, Lone Oak was, and in recollection always would be, a sanctuary. “I never was free from the bridle and the bit,” Edwin wrote later, “except at Lone Oak—Dear, lifesaving Lone Oak!”[xvii]

Edwin Way Teale with his maternal grandparents Edwin F. and Jemima Way at Lone Oak, their Indiana farm, circa 1916-1918.

For Edwin, the school year spent in the industrial city of Joliet, Illinois and holidays spent at his grandparents’ dune country farm near Furnessville, Indiana divided life “into a kind of mental Arctic night and day.”[xviii] The metaphor was well chosen. The Arctic night represented a spirit-choking home life; school days teeming with bullies and marked by the chronic shadow of personal failure; an oppressive, soot-stained, limestone landscape. Sprawling along the United States Steel company’s outer rail belt around Chicago, Joliet attracted “Wire mills, coke plants, stove companies, horseshoe factories, brick companies, foundries, boiler and tank companies, machine manufacturers, can companies, bridge builders, plating factories, [and] steel car shops.”[xix]  “Everything in our vicinity,” Edwin recalled later, “was begrimed and gray…, the air always scented with coal smoke.”[xx] Soot from the locomotive stacks of the Michigan Central Railroad to the north and the Eligin, Joliet, and Eastern line to the east often forced a second washing of his mother’s sheets drying on the line.[xxi] The Teales’ Washington Street home was little better. “When winter came,” Edwin wrote, “…storm windows and doors virtually sealed us in. From December to March we seemed to breathe the same dead air scented with coal gas and cooking.”[xxii] And then there was the specter of Edwin’s mother, Clara Louise Teale, whose “rigid training,” “unending inspection,” and “continual consideration of every act” he committed constrained him more than any physical landscape, interior or exterior, could have done. Her pedagogical tyranny, he reflected later, “made me turn to nature. Here was freedom, here was liberty. Here my tether was lengthened or left behind.”[xxiii]

The contrast between Joliet and Lone Oak could not have been more stark. In Joliet, inmates from the Illinois State Penitentiary carved limestone from the earth with forced labor.[xxiv] Smokestacks lined the horizon in all directions, spewing from industrial furnaces a dark cloud that blanketed the city. Images of the time, intended to extol the advanced industry of the city, instead illustrate the dual toll of corporate greed on human health and the human spirit.[xxv] At Lone Oak, clean, crisp air revealed “hills of gold shining in the sun” and “the blue hills of the Valparaiso moraine against the lighter blue of the summer sky.”[xxvi] In this land of boyhood freedom, “prevailing winds…carried quartz grains to the southeastern tip” of Lake Michigan, forming “the dunes themselves as well as the great blowouts and the small ribbed patterns on the beach sand….”[xxvii] While Joliet offered only “a haunted place beneath the smoke,”[xxviii] Lone Oak offered a place of deliverance beneath the “great clamor of the geese and waterfowl circling in the [late-day] light.”[xxix] For a boy liberated from the confines of city life, Lone Oak was as worthy a site for exploration as the Alaskan coastline was for Burroughs and Muir. At his grandparents’ farm, Edwin fixed his eyes with equal acuity on the sweep of the vast dune landscape and that of the long, emerald leg of the night-calling cicada. No titan of industry funded his expeditions. His stateroom was an attic, his steamer a rambling farmhouse, his benefactors wise and loving grandparents. The influence of Gram and Gramp Way upon him would ultimately exceed that of his own parents, and no single factor would shape more profoundly the trajectory of his life than the glorious days he spent in the beautiful, free country of Lone Oak, the childhood landscape he recalled, nearly three-quarters of a century later, as “that home of my heart.”[xxx]


Richard Telford has taught literature and composition at The Woodstock Academy since 1997. In 2011, he helped found the Edwin Way Teale Artists in Residence at Trail Wood program, which he now directs. He was a long-time contributing writer for The Ecotone Exchange. He was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant by the University of Connecticut to support his work on a book about naturalist, writer, and photographer Edwin Way Teale. The Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees likewise granted him a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 academic year to support this work.



Burroughs, John, John Muir, et al. Alaska: The Harriman Expedition 1899. Facsimile: Two volumes bound as one. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1986.

“Illinois Steel Works, Joliet.” Photograph. http://trollmongo.deviantart.com/art/Joliet-IL-1900-291620595

Illustration of Joliet Iron and Steel Works, 1877-8, from advertisement in Poor’s Manual of the    Railroads in the United States. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joliet_Iron_%26_Steel_1870s.jpg

“Joliet, IL.” The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/676.html

Keller, Helen, letter to Alexander Graham Bell, 2 June, 1899. Library of Congress, Alexander Graham Bell family papers, 1834-1974. MSS51268: Folder: Helen Keller, 1888-1918, undated.

Keller, Helen. The Story of My Life. Doubleday, Page, and Co., 1903.

“Phillipine-American War, The, 1899-1902.” Office of the Historian, Department of State, United States of America. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/war

Renehan, Jr., Edward J. John Burroughs: An American Naturalist. Hensonville, NY: Black Dome Press Corp., 1998.

Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living: Volume II, unpublished journal, February 1944 to May 1946. Box 113, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special  Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943, 1957.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Lone Oak Cat Stories.” Ca. 1909-1912. Box 84, folder 2587, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Memories of a Bent Twig” chapter notes, drafts, 1974 July 31. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2169, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Memories of a Bent Twig,” draft, 3-7 Aug., 1974. Most Complete Manuscript, undated. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2187, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “My Earliest Home,” draft, 28-31 July, 1974. Most Complete Manuscript, undated. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2187,

Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “My Earliest Home” chapter notes, drafts, 1974 July 31. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2168, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Notes, Clippings, undated. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2163, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Trail Wood” chapter notes, undated. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2186, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Woodland Days” chapter notes, research, drafts of manuscript, correspondence, 1974 August 19. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2170, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.



[1] Keller, Helen, letter to Alexander Graham Bell, 2 June, 1899.

[ii] Teale, Edwin Way. “Lone Oak Cat Stories.” Ca. 1909-1912. Box 84, folder 2587.

[iii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943, 1957. 2.

[iv] Ibid. 2.

[v] Ibid. 5.

[vi] Renehan, Jr., Edward J. John Burroughs: An American Naturalist. Hensonville, NY: Black Dome Press Corp., 207

[vii] Burroughs, John, John Muir, et al. Alaska: The Harriman Expedition 1899. Facsimile: Two volumes bound as one. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1986.

[viii] “The Phillipine-American War, 1899-1902.” Office of the Historian, Department of State, United States of America. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/war

[ix] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 8 August 1945.

[x] Keller, Helen. The Story of My Life. Doubleday, Page, and Co., 1903.

[xi] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943, 1957. 4.

[xii] Ibid. 6.

[xiii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “My Earliest Home.” Box 63, folder 2168.

[xiv] Wordsworth, William. From “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abby, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1793.” Copied into undated notes. “The Long Way Home.” Box 63, folder 2163.

[xv] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “My Earliest Home.” Box 63, folder 2168.

[xvi] Teale, Edwin Way. “Memories of a Bent Twig,” draft, 3-7 Aug., 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187. 6

[xvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Memories of a Bent Twig.” Box 63, folder 2169.

[xviii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943, 1957. 5.

[xix] “Joliet, IL.” The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/676.html

[xx] Teale, Edwin Way. The Long Way Home. “My Earliest Home.” Most complete manuscript. 30 July, 1974. Box 63, Folder 2187. 2

[xxi] Ibid. 2

[xxii] Ibid. 6

[xxiii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Memories of a Bent Twig.” Box 63, folder 2169.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] a. “Illinois Steel Works, Joliet.” Photograph. http://trollmongo.deviantart.com/art/Joliet-IL-1900-291620595.  Illustration of Joliet Iron and Steel Works, 1877-8, from advertisement in Poor’s Manual of the Railroads in the United States. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joliet_Iron_%26_Steel_1870s.jpg

[xxvi] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943,1957. 4-5.

[xxvii] Ibid. 3.

[xxviii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Memories of a Bent Twig.” Box 63, folder 2169.

[xxix] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Woodland Days.” Box 63, folder 2170.

[xxx] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Trail Wood.” Box 63, folder 2186.



Losing the Remembrance of Former Things: Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale

By Richard Telford

Author’s Note: Though the product of many hours of research, writing, and revision, this chapter is nevertheless a draft; it will be subject to revision as the larger book in which it will appear takes shape. The chapter published below, “Losing the Remembrance of Former Things,” follows two preceding chapters, published in January and February on this site: “The Lonely Suffering of the Fallible Heart,” which can be viewed here, and “Throwing Bricks at the Temple,” which can be viewed here. For greatest clarity, these chapters should be read in order. This present chapter is being published on the 72nd anniversary of the combat death of David Allen Teale near the end of World War II. David figures prominently in this and the preceding chapters. The timing of this publication is an apt reminder of the oft-forgotten sacrifices of previous wars. I welcome critical response, either in the comment section below or through direct e-mail. I am grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for providing me the opportunity to share this work, and to the Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees for awarding me a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 school year so that this work could be undertaken.  Contextual information about the project and manuscript can be found here.
Chapter 11: Losing the Remembrance of Former Things

Is there a thing of which is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already,
In the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
Nor will there be any remembrance
Of later things yet to happen
Among those who come after.[i]

Ecclesiastes 1: 9-13


Of course, there are at present, and no doubt will continue to be for many generations yet, a number of fire-eating war-mongers and dashing blades who will always bounce about the delights of battle and the salubrious qualities of slaughter. But these, when genuine, are atavisms, and must gradually become as extinct as dodoes, as the world advances in sense and experience…[T]he New Army…has seen and felt a very great deal too much of the reality of war to be under any illusion as to its loveliness or enjoyability. Unredeemed horror is the whole thing, a horror that breaks up the soul of man into a gibbering wreckage.[ii]

Reginald Farrer, The Void of War: Letters from Three Fronts, 1918


To be killed in war is an event beyond our yes and no. It is a great sorrow but not a tragedy. The collapse of character alone is tragedy; not the events that test it from without. A single day of life with courage and character towers above the years of a centenarian if lived as a plaything of fate.[iii]

Edwin Way Teale, January 3, 1945


On the back side of the Norman Rockwell April Fool cover of The Saturday Evening Post that Edwin sent to David on Easter Sunday of 1945 is a full-page advertisement for the Parker “51” Aeromatic fountain pen. A strong, sure hand, its palm towards the viewer, holds the pen delicately between extended thumb and middle finger. The index finger steadies it from behind, the nib pointed upward. The hand is positioned just as the ad’s viewer might position his or her own, not just to inspect “this ‘most wanted’ pen in the world” but to appreciate the faux sapphire appointments on its engraved golden cap, to examine the understated black barrel with concealed nib, to feel the heft in hand. In the text below, The Parker Pen Company of Janesville, Wisconsin reminds the viewer that its production of “rocket fuzes and other war materièl” has stopped pen production. However, with the war’s end near, the ad continues, “More Parker ‘51s’ are on the way.” The ad’s large script headline, bisected by the pen and hand, assures the reader, “Sooner than you think…a Parker ‘51’ may be yours.”[iv]

In two letters sent in the fall of 1944, one from England to his mother on November 1[v] and the other from France to his father on November 16,[vi] David Teale asked his parents to buy him a Parker “51” fountain pen. “If [the] cost is too great for your purse,” he wrote Edwin, “take the required amount from my nest egg.”[vii] On June 18, 1945, however, the Teales realized it was a purchase they would never make, at least not on David’s behalf. On that day, when Edwin Stroh’s father had called to report that the War Department had declared his son killed in action, the Teales lost all hope that David would return to them. Nearly two months later, on August 8, Edwin would write, “It was that afternoon in June that the bottom collapsed and let us drop into darkness. It could have happened. We saw finally it must have happened to David.”[viii]  That day of cascading hopes brought “a violent thunderstorm in late afternoon,” and Edwin continued “working in a daze on another chapter.”[ix] The writing was torturous, but it was necessary torture, an act of survival, just as it had been in the preceding months. It was more so now. “Will I ever be able to finish it or go on?” he questioned. “Every line seems the last I can possibly write.”[x] Nonetheless, he persevered, and in the coming days he would work to exhaustion to keep The Lost Woods on schedule, not in spite of David’s fate but in answer to it. “It is worth-while work, work I would want to do up to my final hour,” Edwin continued on June 18. “I hope I can meet this worst blow life can give with my head up without cringing or giving in. I think I can; but it is the weeks and months and years beyond I dread. How wonderful our whole family is and has always been, so close together.”[xi]

A partial view of a Nazi flag recovered by David Teale in Stadtkyll, Germany in early March of 1945. Seventeen members of a Tiger Patrol of the 346th regiment, 87th Division of the U.S. Army signed the flag. Five of the men whose signatures are visible here died on March 16, 1945, while crossing the Moselle River in Germany on a night reconnaissance patrol: Antonio J. Alvear, Bill Cummins, Eugene B. Pings, Edwin A. Stroh, and David A. Teale. Harold F. Gould Jr., whose signature also appears in this part of the flag, survived the mission. He wrote to Edwin Teale upon his return to the United States, sharing what he knew of the events of that night.

Two days later, on June 20, another of the packages they had sent David was returned, and their response to it, which Edwin recorded in the Guild diary, illustrates his and Nellie’s complete loss of hope: “A package comes back—This one marked ‘missing’ by Lt. Hawkins. But that means nothing. Our despair is complete.”[xii] Now, they simply waited for the inevitable. On that same day, the Teales received a letter from Walter F. Gould, the grandfather of Harold F. Gould Jr., explaining that his grandson was coming home on furlough from Europe before shipping out for the Pacific, and it might be possible for the Teales to see him or at least speak by telephone. Walter Gould could fully understand the Teales’ suffering. He informed Edwin both by telephone and letter that he had “had one son (31 years old, single) killed in that heavy drive in Belgium” the day after Christmas of 1944, roughly a week after David had witnessed and survived the pummeling of his regiment by German 88s.  “I don’t think we will ever get over it,” the elder Gould told Edwin.[xiii]  Just as the Teales were doing now, Walter Gould had reached out to a fellow soldier in his deceased son’s unit to understand more fully the circumstances of his death. In reply, he had gotten “a very nice answer telling one a good deal more about his death than the Army had told me.”[xiv] Though David’s fate now seemed certain, Edwin and Nellie, too, wanted to understand the events that had led to David’s death, events on which the younger Gould could, and later would, shed light.

A week after receiving Walter Gould’s letter, there was still no word from his grandson. The implications of Edwin Stroh’s confirmed death weighed heavily upon the Teales. Edwin noted, “Nellie and I plan to spend 2 weeks at Concord for our vacation in September.”[xv] There is no inclusion of the possibility that David might join them if he returned, for they now knew that he would not. One year earlier, on July 18, 1944, Edwin had written to David during a vacation with Nellie at Crocker Lake in Maine while David was at Fort Jackson: “We will have a good time for you at the camp. I hope another year, you can be along…if you aren’t walking down the coast!”[xvi] He referenced this walk down the coast a second time in a letter sent eleven days later: “When you take your long walk all by yourself, after the war, you ought to read John Muir’s ‘A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf.’ It is very good and would be right up your alley.”[xvii] But for David, there would not be “another year,” and Muir’s book would go unread. One year later, as the Teales planned their September Concord trip, they knew that David would not join them, and the timing of their departure from Baldwin was deliberate. On September 8, 1945, David would have turned twenty. Where better to find solace and shelter from their grief on that day than in Thoreau’s country. The following night, Edwin began reading Van Wyck Brooks’ The Flowering of New England, which had won the Pulitzer the year Edwin published Grassroot Jungles —“at least the chapter on Thoreau at Walden,”[xviii] Edwin qualified.

On June 28, Edwin once again found his footing, if tenuously, in his work on The Lost Woods. “On this evening,” he wrote, “I print ‘The Lost Woods’ on the top of the final manuscript box and stamp…my home address at top and bottom. This regular rite—engaged in since ‘Grassroot Jungles’ days—makes me feel a little nearer the completion of my long labors.”[xix] Such small, symbolic acts mattered. Each was an act of control, even as his life with David and their life as a family, “always…so close together,”[xx] had been rended by a complex, fickle chain of events over which he could have no influence. “In spite of everything,” he would later write, “there is nothing in the world I would rather be doing than working on my book. That, with all its complexities and pains, is the thing I want most to do.”[xxi]

In the days that followed, Edwin worked steadily in The Lost Woods, besieged by reminders of David’s absence. “So much to do!” he declared.[xxii] On Sunday, June 24, he taught the last Victors Sunday School class of the year, having a “fine talk” with two brothers, Warren and Edgar Fong. “So ends the Victors year,” he wrote that evening, “the last year when Davy was linked to it. Twelve years I’ve had the class. Can I keep on if David is gone?”[xxiii] On the following day, Mrs. Selby, a neighbor, brought Lieutenant Henry Loud to see the Teales, ostensibly to give them some insight on what might have happened to David, but, Edwin noted, he had “little to tell us of help on David. Depressed.”[xxiv] Two days later, on June 27, Forrest Dayton paid a visit to the Teales. Forrest, in Edwin’s estimation “David’s closest friend,” had likewise been deployed to Europe. Now, Forrest had returned, and David had not. It was a hard visit. “Headache lays me low in afternoon,” Edwin noted. In a postscript in the Guild diary, he added, “Twenty-eighth Chapter Done! Only Two to Go!”[xxv] One of these chapters was “The Calm of the Stars,” which could now serve only to memorialize David.

By July 1, the revised deadline for completion of the full draft of The Lost Woods, Edwin had only “The Calm of the Stars” left to complete. He spent the morning working on it but got “only two pages done,”[xxvi] using the rest of the day to review the completed chapters and rearrange their final order. It was not the day he had hoped for. The following morning, he began working at 7:30 a.m. and continued “until 8:52 p.m., with only time out for meals and a ½ hour sunbath.” With this last dash, as he often put it, he “completed the final difficult chapter on ‘The Calm of the Stars.’” He added: “Book completed, ready for revision, one day beyond my schedule—Thankful.”[xxvii] His celebration was understandably muted. Absent in his Guild diary entry are the flourishes with which he typically marked the completion of a book, even in its rough draft form. There are no headlines written in oversized characters; no ornate stacks of underlining elevate particular words; no geometric shapes adorn the margins; his daily progress note at the bottom of the page is formatted no differently than those of the preceding weeks. Instead, he noted in the sentences that followed: “Saddened by paragraphs in this chapter on Davy at Weller Pond. How impossible to believe he may never go on that trip again—never.”[xxviii]

The following day, Edwin took the 10:19 train into the city to visit Popular Science Monthly for a “reunion with the old crowd. Lunch with Richards, Samuels and de Santas. How thankful I have escaped the cells of 353 Fourth Ave!”[xxix] The juxtaposition of this reunion with the completion of the full draft of The Lost Woods is telling. While the “reunion” was certainly planned in advance, so too was the completion of the book draft, and Edwin had missed his target by only one day. Through this visit, he placed the celebration of one of the many fruits of the recent “glorious years in the sunshine”[xxx] alongside memories of the excruciating drudgery of Popular Science Monthly—now a painful phantom. The latter he had compared to “slavery” at a “Concentration Camp” two months earlier.[xxxi] This comparison, which now seems self-absorbed and indifferent to the horrific suffering endured in the camps of the Third Reich, must be considered in the context of the time, during which the ordinary American citizen was ill-informed on the events of Hitler’s war on the Jews, Roma, and other minority groups in Europe. Long-time New York Times journalist Max Frankel noted in 2001, on the 150th anniversary of the paper, that the events of what would only afterward be named the Holocaust “were mostly buried inside [the paper’s] gray and stolid pages, never featured, analyzed or rendered truly comprehensible.” There was, he concluded, no greater journalistic failure “than the staggering, staining failure of The New York Times to depict Hitler’s methodical extermination of the Jews of Europe as a horror beyond all other horrors in World War II,” and the Times’ coverage influenced that of many other journalistic organizations in New York and beyond.[xxxii] On this early day in July, Edwin’s view of the war was trained inward, as it had been two months earlier. The loss of David overshadowed all else, and this reunion with former Popular Science Monthly colleagues offered a spot of sunshine amidst darkening clouds. He could revisit the former site of his emotional and intellectual imprisonment, for an instant, and likewise leave it in an instant, returning to the long-desired life of freedom that he had earned through his toil and his willingness to gamble on a better future. For Edwin, such a juxtaposition of life before and life afterward filled him with gratitude and joy. While these feelings were greatly tempered by the loss of David, they likewise helped him to endure it.

Edwin’s trip to Popular Science Monthly reflects as well another interesting juxtaposition. In 1941, October 15 had for the Teales, with Edwin’s departure from Popular Science Monthly, become their personal Independence Day, a holiday they would celebrate yearly for the remainder of their life together. On July 3, 1945, Edwin’s visit with his former colleagues, one day after the completion of The Lost Woods, was followed a day later by the American holiday of Independence Day, July 4. The Fourth of July had special significance only two months after VE-Day. For most Americans, it was a day to celebrate a long-sought victory, but for the Teales the day was bittersweet at best. Not surprisingly, they spent the entire day in the shelter of the Insect Garden: “Today was as perfect a Fourth as the cloud that hangs over our spirits would permit. All day long in the open at the garden, sitting at a wooden table I found under the wagon shed and catching up on entering my Nature Notes, taking pictures, juggling around the order of the chapters and so forth.” It was, Edwin added, “A ‘Thoreau Day’—unhurried and out-of-doors.”[xxxiii] Nellie, who was and always would be Edwin’s working partner in his writing life, read and offered comment on ten of the new chapters in The Lost Woods. Such an unhurried day was a rarity. “Tomorrow,” Edwin wrote, “I begin the grind—revision and copying—that must get the book in before the end of this month!”[xxxiv] Were David returning, this Fourth of July might have been near-perfect. Edwin knew, however, that he would not, and this fact was driven home the following day when several more of their letters to David were returned. These too were marked “Deceased” but lacked the previous change to “Missing.” On each letter, to the hand-written word “Deceased” was added a jarring one-word postal stamp: “Verified.”[xxxv]

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

Burying himself still deeper in his labors on the book, Edwin set for himself a schedule that would bring The Lost Woods to its final form by July 26. It required the revision and retyping of thirty chapters in twenty-one days. With the mass of assisstive computer technology available to us in the twenty-first century, along with the unprecedented access to information provided by the Internet, we are largely ignorant of the sheer physical labors that an author undertook in 1945 to bring a book to publication.  We can do a great deal more, now, with less labor, but one wonders if the ease of publication has largely contributed to us doing considerably less with the more we have been given. For Edwin to remain on schedule, he would have to type an average of two revised chapters per day. On July 5, despite the emotional drain of the return of their letters to David, Edwin finished two chapters.[xxxvi] On the following day, he completed “The Striking Serpent” and “On the Trail of Thoreau,” bringing the total to four and keeping him on schedule.  It was a good start, and Edwin, realizing that speed and efficiency were critical if he was to maintain this pace, devised “with paper clips and an empty velour Black box […] a ms. holder that holds the sheet I am copying upright and aids me greatly.”[xxxvii]

The following day, July 7, Edwin managed to type three additional chapters. “Laboremus!” he declared at the opening of his Guild diary entry for that day, a Latin word meaning “Let us do our work!” Later in the century, the phrase “Laboremus! Let’s get to work!” was widely attributed to twentieth-century historian Arnold J. Toynbee as a favored motto.[xxxviii] For Edwin, however, at the end of the first week of July in 1945, it was less a life philosophy and more a pragmatic necessity. His completion of three chapters on the previous day allowed him, on July 8, to embark on a 7 a.m. “fishing trip on the bay with the Verity’s,” Baldwin neighbors. It was, Edwin noted, a much-needed “good time and good rest.” Returning home by 2:00 in the afternoon, Edwin slept for several hours, rising at 4:30, “half asleep,” and began typing “The Mystery of the Vanishing Flies,” finishing it by 8:00 that evening.[xxxix] This kept up the needed rate of two retyped chapters completed per day, a pace he managed to maintain on July 9 and 10 as well.

“No word of David—expected July 2 letter from Government,” Edwin noted on July 9.[xl]  In the April 3 confirmation letter that followed the telegram notifying the Teales of David’s MIA status, Major General James Alexander Ulio of the War Department had written, “If no information is received in the meantime, I will communicate with you again three months from the date of this letter.”[xli] Those three months had elapsed, with one week added. Though certain of its contents, Edwin likely feared that the arrival of this letter—certain to mirror the official communications received by the Strohs and the Alvears—might cripple his ability to keep to the demanding schedule of the days ahead. It would be a staggering, final blow. Edwin’s feverish work during this time to bring The Lost Woods to completion was in part a race against the arrival of that blow, especially now that the book was nearly done. Just as he had worked diligently throughout the day before V-E Day—“…in case there is bad news I will have that much done and that will help”—he did so again on July 9.

On July 10, CBS Radio called to invite Edwin to be a guest “on the ‘Invitation to Learning’ program…on Maeterlinck’s ‘Life of the Bee.’” The Nobel Prize-winning Maeterlinck had written to Edwin after the latter’s 1940 publication of The Golden Throng: A Book About Bees, declaring, “This will be the Bible of the Bees!” The praise, Edwin noted, “lifted my feet off the ground for a moment….”[xlii] With authentic regret, Edwin declined the CBS Radio invitation, knowing he would “need every minute for my own book!”[xliii] Having completed two more chapters, he retired to bed at 6:00 that evening with a sore throat and fever—the strain of his working pace taking its toll—and spent some time “going over chapters in bed.”[xliv] Twelve chapters were retyped in their final form, with eighteen remaining. As of July 12, there was still “no word from government on Davy,” and Edwin spent the day working on “Men of Nature,” completing it by 2:30 that afternoon.[xlv]  Combined with his work of the previous day, he was up to fourteen completed chapters. The next day, he completed two more: “Crocodile Dragover” and “A School for Foxes.” “Hurray!” he declared on July 13.[xlvi] By the following day, with a thorough revision of “In the Heart of a Cloud,” he was “on schedule or a little ahead of it,” feeling “pretty good.”[xlvii] In the afternoon he went to the Insect Garden, where he photographed a “yellow swallowtail” butterfly. These were the productive days in which Edwin had reveled for many years, and he did so now, despite his grief.

Edwin awoke on July 15, a Sunday, to what would be daylong rain. He stayed in bed until after 9 a.m. following “a sleepless night with dreams of David.”[xlviii] On the previous day, he had begun the final retyping of “The Lost Woods,” the book’s opening chapter. In it, he recalled simpler days spent with Gram and Gramp Way at Lone Oak. He retold the story of a trip by horse-drawn bobsled with Gramp Way “to a distant woods” to gather stored stove wood. Growing weary of loading the sled, Edwin, then six, had “wandered about, small as an atom, among the great trees—oak and beech, hickory and ash and sycamore.”  He had been “at once enchanted and fearful,” and the experience made “a profound impression” on the six-year-old boy, filling him with “an endless curiosity about this lonely tract and all of its inhabitants.”[xlix]  Edwin had searched in vain for these woods with his childhood friend Dewey Gunder on March 16, 1945 during his Midwestern lecture tour[l]—forty years after his only visit to them, and the same day David was declared missing. It is hardly surprising that Edwin’s dreams the previous night were occupied by David, to whom, like the lost woods of childhood, Edwin could not return except in memory—the inadequate, longing-filled shell of former joys.

Edwin spent time that day revising only the “first page and a half of ‘The Lost Woods’” before shifting his attention—perhaps because of his deep emotional connections to the chapter—to “Boundaries of the Night,” on which he spent time “revising and inserting more natural history.”[li] Edward H. Dodd Jr. had suggested in March that the book as a whole, while representing Edwin’s finest work to date, was in need of “more natural-history facts.”[lii] By early afternoon, the eighteenth retyped chapter was done, and he read for several hours in Volume II of Thoreau’s journals, a shelter from the emotional rigors of a difficult day.[liii] That evening, Nellie read to him from J.S. Fletcher’s detective novel The Box Hill Murder, which, Edwin noted, “relaxes my mind—just what I needed.”[liv]

By July 19, Edwin had revised and retyped twenty-one chapters in fourteen days, 223 pages in total. He was up at 5:20 a.m. after a “wakeful night.” He reviewed some of Nellie’s corrections and set about preparing the first two-thirds of the final manuscript for submission to Dodd, Mead for the production of galley proofs. He ordered and numbered the pages and by noon had “the whole thing wrapped up in its Keeboard ‘The Lost Woods’ box to deliver.”[lv]  He took the 12:45 train into the city and arrived in a downpour, taking “muggy, stifling subways by round-about way” to Dodd, Mead’s 28th Street office, probably to keep the manuscript—not himself—out of the rain as much as possible. During a “good meeting” with Edward H. Dodd, Jr., the latter suggested a possible reissue of a revised version of Edwin’s 1942 Byways to Adventure. He also asked Edwin to “supply photos and [an] introduction” for a forthcoming reissue from Dodd, Mead of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden[lvi]—a project which, for Edwin, was especially meaningful in light of recent events. Dodd certainly knew this, and the offering of this project—or at least its timing—may have been intended in part as a modest balm for Edwin’s great suffering, an occupier for a troubled mind and heart. Back in Baldwin by 4:30 that afternoon, Edwin and Nellie went to the theater to celebrate the accomplishments and the future prospects of the day, both of which gave further shelter from, or perhaps tolerable passage through, the present darkness.

Following the celebration of the previous evening, Edwin went directly back to work on July 20, faced with the revision and retyping of nine chapters in seven days. With the arrival of confirmed news of David’s death seeming imminent, his grief-laden efforts were all the more daunting but likewise critical. After a short early-morning trip to the Insect Garden, he began to organize his materials for the remaining chapters.  His fatigue of the recent weeks, however, made sustained work difficult, and he had to lie down and rest for an hour. “If I can get one chapter copied somehow today,” he noted, “will keep on my schedule.” He managed only to type out half of the “Snowflake chapter…in sweltering heat” and quit for the day.[lvii] That night, he garnered his optimism as best he could. “Rested now,” he wrote, “and ready to go!”[lviii] On the following day, however, his fatigue set fully in. With great exasperation, he wrote, “Copy page 1 of ‘Wildlife at Walden’ over 10 times—making typing mistakes over and over. Ready to go through the roof!”[lix] Here again we are reminded of the absence of a delete key in 1945. “My head like a rock,” he lamented, “with heat and fatigue—residue.”[lx] Residue. The residue of longing; the residue of trampled hopes; the residue of time’s indifferent forward march. Still, by evening he had finished the chapter and even took time to mull over plans for “a new book on the injurious insects.”[lxi] Of necessity, he kept his gaze forward.

While toiling away on the first full draft of the The Lost Woods, Edwin had put off writing “The Calm of the Stars”—what the reader might reasonably call the David chapter—until the end. On July 22, however, after a quick trip to the wagon shed at the Insect Garden “to photograph baby swallows,” he set to work on revising it ahead of the other six chapters that remained to finalize. He wrote only one sentence on this effort in the Guild diary: “Fall to on ‘The Calm of the Stars’ and finish it before lunch.”[lxii] With the looming likelihood of receiving confirmation of David’s death—both from the War Department and an expected letter from PFC Harold F. Gould Jr.— Edwin likely strove to complete the chapter as quickly as he could. On the previous day he had expressed his “hope to go faster after today,” and he did so. After completing “The Calm of the Stars,” he went on to revise and retype another chapter. “Five chapters to do in four days,” he noted, “then all will be done!”[lxiii]

The next day, following the pattern of recent weeks—an alternating rhythm of productivity and debilitation—Edwin fell prey to the latter:

Up feeling dead-headed. The successive days of rain; the high-pressure work; the strain of David; the suspense of waiting for a call from Harold Gould—the returning member of Davy’s patrol—and the call from Dodd on how he liked the first 21 chapters—all combined to stall my engine completely.[lxiv]


In total, Edwin completed “less than 2 pages on ‘World of the Wild Bee,’”[lxv] disheartening output in light of the revision timeline for the final chapters. Edwin was likely forthright about his struggles with Edward H. Dodd, Jr. during a telephone call later that day. He noted afterward, “I get a reprieve; don’t have to hand the final chapters in until next Monday.”  Feeling relieved, he and Nellie went out to see a movie and were in “bed and asleep by 9” with the “hope to do better tomorrow!”[lxvi] That hope would not, however, come to fruition.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

On July 24, 1945, the storm cloud that had loomed since April 2 finally and fully broke open. There would be no word from David, not now, not ever. There would be only word of David, and it would come first from Harold F. Gould, Jr., of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in a letter written on small stationary whose only letterhead was the figure of a running G.I. clad in drab fatigues and clasping an M1 Garand rifle, bayonet mounted, a field bag trailing from his ammunition belt. The soldier grins at the letter’s reader—a mask muting the “unredeemed horrors” of war—and that grin must have made the Teales shudder.

The first page of a letter sent by Private First Class Harold F. Gould, Jr. to Edwin Way Teale on July 23, 1945. Gould explained the events leading up to the March 16, 1945 death of David Teale on Germany’s Moselle River during the closing days of World War II.

Gould began by apologizing for not calling, as camp prohibitions had forbidden doing so. “Anyway,” he wrote, “I thought it would be better if I wrote you a letter. I figured that I could explain it to you better.”[lxvii] He wrote of how he and David “used to chum around together quite often,” and how the Tiger Patrol “did mostly night work.” In that capacity, Gould added, David “was very courageous,” and “all the boys liked Dave very much.”[lxviii] These formalities aside—and one imagines the Teales having the impulse to skip over them while, at the same time, dreading to do so—he came “down to the point” and detailed the events that led to David’s death on the Moselle River:

We had received our orders from commander that we were to cross the Mosel[le] River and get some important information that we needed for the attack. We had twelve men in the patrol and four rubber boats. Three men were assigned to each rubber boat. We had been broken up into two six man patrols. We all started in our rubber boats across the river, just as the boats were nearing the enemy side we were opened up on by machine guns. The boys shot back at them until they ran out of ammunition. Then they withdrew so that they could get more ammunition. They came back again and started in their boats across. They met heavy opposition and the boats were sprayed with bullets. Some of the compartments in the rubber boats were shot to pieces so I guess the boys got a little excited when they saw this so they started jumping over. That was their gravest mistake…Especially for Dave because before he went on this patrol he told us he couldn’t swim. He still volunteered to go on the patrol and I’ve always admired him for that.

The last time they ever saw Dave he was in the water calling for help but none of the boys could reach him because he went under this time and never came up. It’s very strange that the army couldn’t find his body.[lxix]

To this account, Harold Gould added a second reference to David’s inability to swim:

If David could swim he would have had a good chance of coming out alive. I still remember what he said before we went on patrol. He said “I don’t know how to swim but I’ll volunteer to go on patrol.[”]


This must have confused the Teales greatly. David was, by Edwin’s account, a strong swimmer, a fact supported by a Boy Scouts of America patrol record book among David’s personal belongings. In it, David, as Patrol Leader, had tracked the rank advancements of all of the boys in the Flying Eagle patrol, including himself. On the merit badge roster, beside David’s name, the requisite boxes are checked off for the swimming and lifesaving merit badges.

Harold Gould closed:

I liked your son very much Mr. Teale and I was very proud of him. I know you will always be too.[lxx]


Such a statement, though well-intentioned and certainly appreciated, was nonetheless an arrow to the heart. In mid-April, when hope still lived, Edwin had written of David, “He is one of which we are proud in so many ways. And, viewed from the most distant star—remote from our emotions and longings—that is all that counts.”[lxxi] But David’s return, alive, had also counted; so too had the bright future before him—the long walk down the Pacific coast, the possibility of future matriculation at Earlham, the return to Weller Pond, and so much more. All of these would never be. No pride could mitigate the staggering loss of David’s future. “This is it!” Edwin wrote after reading Harold Gould’s letter, “How terrible we feel.”[lxxii] The news was not official, but it was sufficient, and it would be confirmed days later by a letter from PFC Lester Snider, the last Tiger Patrol member to see David alive. There is no record of Edwin having completed any work on The Lost Woods on July 24; even that labor of his heart could offer no refuge. As if an insult to their grief, the afternoon brought the return by special delivery of the package in which Edwin had sent David the Grenfell parka in March, eight days before the latter’s death. It was one more manifestation of a future that would not be. Boxed in thick lines of black ink, Edwin wrote the following in the Guild diary:

On this day hear definitely, but unofficially, that David was killed on the Moselle River near Coblenz, Germany, on the night of March 15-16, 1945—


To this he added a bracketed postscript:

How long and how devoutly I hoped this entry would not have to be made![lxxiii]


No tears stain this page. Harold Gould’s letter offered not a revelation but a confirmation of what, in their hearts, Edwin and Nellie already knew. Edwin Stroh’s death had confirmed David’s, and both had been foretold by the death of Antonio Alvear. Harold Gould’s account, though vitally important to the Teales, could serve only as a coda. They certainly cried on July 24, 1945, but they did so in the privacy of their own collapsing world. Edwin left no trace of those tears to revisit later, neither through the narrative of his words nor through their partial dissolution by tears on the page. It is an apt analogy for the turning inward that would follow, both from the greater world and, despite their mutual devotion, often from each other.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

The day after receiving Harold Gould’s letter, Edwin reached him by telephone. Gould shared that “only 4 out of 12—only 1 out of 6 with David’s 2 boats—returned alive after crossing the Moselle.”[lxxiv] One of those four, PFC Lester Snider, of Hennessey, Oklahoma, had been in charge of David’s boat and was “the last one to see David alive.”[lxxv] Snider had returned home, and Edwin wrote to him that afternoon. “Our son, David Teale, was reported missing in action on March 16th,” Edwin began, “and we have had no word from the government since….I have learned that you went across at the same time David did and that you were the last person to see him alive. If you can give us any information about what happened, we will be most deeply grateful.”[lxxvi] Snider received Edwin’s inquiry on July 30 and replied the following day, offering his account:

Six of the boys including your son David volunteered for reconnaissance patrol. We crossed to the east of the Mosel[le] River in two boats. Your son David + another boy were with me in the one boat. We made a successful reconnaissance of enemy positions + possible landing places.

While making the return trip across the river we encountered heavy enemy machine gun + sniper fire. Our boat was hit + sank. And one of the boys was hit but don’t know exactly which one. The last I saw of either of the boys was when they went over the side of the boat into the water.[lxxvii]


Just as Gould had done, Lester Snider praised David’s selflessness: “I didn’t know your son very long Mr. Teale. But he was well liked by all the boys. And he was a son to be proud of. He didn’t have to go on this mission, but realizing the danger, volunteered to do so.”[lxxviii] David had volunteered; for this he had died. Although Edwin, half a year earlier, had written of war death that “the collapse of character alone was tragedy,”[lxxix] this abstract philosophy abruptly withered with David’s death. David’s character had not collapsed on the night of March 15, 1945; his courage and his character had towered above those of others. For this David had died, and his death was a tragedy. His life, no matter how its worth had been elevated by his actions, was no less “a plaything of fate,”[lxxx] and this embittered Edwin terribly. “All hope gone,” he wrote. “Life goes on no matter how heavy the heart! Life outlives the joy of life; the spring is wound up and, normally, has to run down. And it can’t be rewound.”[lxxxi] David’s spring had not run down. It never would. It had been cracked by the violent folly of war, and with that fracture had gone all the youthful tension of future possibility.



Richard Telford has taught literature and composition at The Woodstock Academy since 1997. In 2011, he helped found the Edwin Way Teale Artists in Residence at Trail Wood program, which he now directs. He was a long-time contributing writer for The Ecotone Exchange. He was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant by the University of Connecticut to support his work on a book about naturalist, writer, and photographer Edwin Way Teale. The Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees likewise granted him a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 academic year to support this work.



Farrer, Reginald. The Void of War: Letters from Three Fronts. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1918.

Frankel, Max. “150th Anniversary: 1851-2001; Turning Away From the Holocaust.” The New York Times 14 November 2001. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/14/news/150th-anniversary-1851-2001-turning-away-from-the-holocaust.html

Gould, Harold F. Jr., Letter to Edwin Way Teale, 23 July, 1945, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin  Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Gould, Walter F., Letter to Edwin Way Teale, 16 June, 1945, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd  Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

“Ecleasiastes.” The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version: New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1952.

Ikeda, Daisaku. The Third Stage of Life: Aging in Contemporary Society: Santa Monica, CA: World Tribune Press, 2016.

Parker Pen Company. Advertisement. The Saturday Evening Post. 1 April 1945.

Snider, Lester L., Letter to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 31 July 1945, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Snider, Lester L., Letter to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 21 August 1945, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, David Allen, Letters to Edwin Way, Nellie Donovan, April to December, 1944, Box 146, Folder 2949, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, David Allen, Letters to Edwin Way and Nellie Donovan Teale, 1945, Box 146, Folder 2950, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living: Volume II, unpublished journal, February 1944 to May 1946. Box 113, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way and Nellie Donovan, Letters to David Allen Teale, 1944, Box145, Folder 2941, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas    J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way and Nellie Donovan, Letters to David Allen Teale, 1945, Box145, Folder 2942, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas    J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary, 1945. Box 99, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way, Letter to Herbert F. Schwarz 25 May 1942, collection of the author.

Teale, Edwin Way. The Lost Woods. New York: Dodd, Mead , and Company, 1945.

“Tiger Patrol First to Enter Koblenz.” Unsigned news clipping, 1945, no bibliographical information noted.

Ulio, James Alexander, Letter to Nellie Donovan Teale, 3 April, 1944, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Witsell, Major General Edward F., to Nellie Teale, letter, 25 February 1946, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J.   Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.



[i] Ecclesiastes 1, 9-13. The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version: New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1952.

[ii] Farrer, Reginald. The Void of War: Letters from Three Fronts. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 37-8.

[iii] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 3 January 1945.

[iv] Parker Pen Company. Advertisement. The Saturday Evening Post. 1 April 1945.

[v] Teale, David Allen, to Nellie Donovan Teale, letter, 1 November 1944.

[vi] Teale, David Allen, to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 16 November 1944.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 8 August 1945.

[ix] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 18 June 1945.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 20 June 1945.

[xiii] Gould, Walter F., to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 16 June 1945.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 22 June 1945.

[xvi] Teale, Edwin Way, to David Allen Teale, letter, 18 July 1944.

[xvii] Teale, Edwin Way, to David Allen Teale, letter, 29 July 1944.

[xviii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 23 June 1945.

[xix] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 28 June 1945.

[xx] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 18 June 1945.

[xxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 28 June 1945.

[xxii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 24 June 1945.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 25 June 1945.

[xxv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 27 June 1945.

[xxvi] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 1 July 1945.

[xxvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 2 July 1945.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 3 July 1945.

[xxx] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 25 August 1945.

[xxxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 4 May 1945.

[xxxii] Frankel, Max. “150th Anniversary: 1851-2001; Turning Away From the Holocaust.” The New York Times 14. November 2001.

[xxxiii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 4 July 1945.

[xxxiv] Ibid.

[xxxv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 5 July 1945.

[xxxvi] Ibid.

[xxxvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 6 July 1945.

[xxxviii] Ikeda, Daisaku. The Third Stage of Life: Aging in Contemporary Society: Santa Monica, CA: World Tribune Press, 2016.

[xxxix] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 8 July 1945.

[xl] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 9 July 1945.

[xli] Ulio, James Alexander, to Nellie Donovan Teale, letter, 3 April 1945.

[xlii] Teale, Edwin Way, to Herbert F. Schwarz, 25 May 1942.

[xliii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 10 July 1945.

[xliv] Ibid.

[xlv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 12 July 1945.

[xlvi] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 13 July 1945.

[xlvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 14 July 1945.

[xlviii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 15 July 1945.

[xlix] Teale Edwin Way. The Lost Woods. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1945. 1-3

[l] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 16 March 1945.

[li] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 15 July 1945.

[lii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 6 March 1945.

[liii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 15 July 1945.

[liv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 12 July 1945.

[lv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 19 July 1945.

[lvi] Ibid.

[lvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 20 July 1945.

[lviii] Ibid.

[lix] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 21 July 1945.

[lx] Ibid.

[lxi] Ibid.

[lxii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 22 July 1945.

[lxiii] Ibid.

[lxiv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 23 July 1945.

[lxv] Ibid.

[lxvi] Ibid.

[lxvii] Gould, Jr., Harold F., to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 23 July 1945.

[lxviii] Ibid.

[lxix] Ibid.

[lxx] Ibid.

[lxxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 18 April 1945.

[lxxii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 24 July 1945.

[lxxiii] Ibid.

[lxxiv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 25 July 1945.

[lxxv] Ibid.

[lxxvi] Teale, Edwin Way, to Lester L. Snider, letter, 25 July 1945.

[lxxvii] Snider, Lester L., to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 31 July 1945.

[lxxviii] Ibid.

[lxxix] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 3 January 1945.

[lxxx] Ibid.

[lxxxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 4 August 1945.