I know I’ve grown old, because on my bookshelves I’ve replaced many of poets’ thin volumes with their Collected and Complete poems.
Helen Bevington’s When Found, Make A Verse Of (Simon and Schuster, 1961)
I found reference to this book on the site Neglected Books. Intrigued by the description, I bought a used copy (second printing) online. Helen Bevington was an associate professor of English at Duke University, teaching alongside her husband, Merle Bevington, whom she affectionately refers to as “B.” The book is a series of brief encounters with books, with authors, about the people she’d met and places visited.
After many of the vignettes she offers a poem, hence the title, …Make A Verse Of. Her poetry is accomplished but clearly out of synch with post WW II late-modernism of her times. Her gift is light verse, wry verse, and touching sentiment never lapsing into banal sentimentality. He poetry appeared in many leading periodicals like The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly.
She is scholarly but with an easy erudition and the ability to disclose what may have been overlooked. Helen Bevington is a genial guide through the literary byways of Robert Herrick, Dr. Johnson, Thoreau, Madame de Sévigné, and many other literary figures.
A couple of samples:
The Poet as Singer
Yet in a golden age, Pindar and Sappho sang. The Elizabethans were lyric poets in the true sense: “to be sung to the lyre.” Campion’s lyre was a real one; it was a lute. I have no idea whether he wrote the poems first and afterward set them to music, or whether he added the words to existing songs. It may have made no difference to him which came first. His words and notes, he said, were coupled “lovingly together.”
Unlike our modern poets, Campion remembered that, if a song is to be heard, he must trust the rest of us to become singers, too:
All the songs are mine, if you express them well,
Otherwise they are your own, Farewell.
The Wisdom of William Morris
When I look at my own house, I think wistfully of the good sense that William Morris would teach me. He once said (in a lecture on “The Beauty of Life”),
I choose to believe that the advice rules out most gadgets. It meets Thoreau halfway in the matter of simplicity. It echoes the Greeks, whose possessions had both utility and grace. It mixes, as Horace said, the utile with the dulce.
Where, then, is the time and skill for the acquiring of beautiful saucepans, or of stirrings spoons to stir the soul?
—Gregory Corso, “Some of My Beginning … And What I Feel Right Now,” Exiled Angel: A Study of the Work of Gregory Corso, ed. Gregory Stephenson (London: Hearing Eye, 1989), 87.
—David Hockney, interview with Mark Feeney, "David Hockney keeps seeking new avenues of exploration," Boston Globe (26 February 2006)
—Kay Ryan, “Inedible Melon,” Synthesizing Gravity: Selected Prose (Grove Press, 2020), 142.