Growing up in the 60s and early 70s, I think I must have absorbed some of my love for poetry from the hippie (so-called) “counterculture” days of Peace and Love.
Catching my love for poetry may have been the only thing from that era that stuck. I think it’s apt to say I was a counter-countercultural individual. With occasional fits and starts, I loved my parents (remember the mantra, trust no one over 30?), I didn’t drop out of school nor take drugs nor sleep around nor participate in sit-ins and marches.
Nor was I a Rod McKuen fan. His Listen To The Warm was released the summer I graduated from high school. Though my memory has clouded over the years, what remains for me is a strong impression that McKuen’s poetry was inane, tedious and lazy. As a young (and like most of my peers, hopelessly romantic) woman, I should have been smitten by his bold love poems, but I wasn’t. (Comments on the Amazon page for Listen To The Warm are amazingly fawning … “unforgettable,” “my inspiration,” “powerful,” etc. Arggh! Time does cloud the memory, doesn’t it?)
During those same years I was actively rejecting what I considered the insipid poetry of McKuen, I had come into possession of an obscure book called One Thousand Beautiful Things compiled by Marjorie Barrows and published in 1947. There were so many great poems and stories included in this volume that I loved it immediately! I have held onto the volume and considered it something of a treasure trove of inspiration and instruction.
Through the years, the book lost some of its shape and bulged out from its normal two-inch thickness, mainly because I began stuffing other poems and stories inside. If I ran across a poem in the newspaper, I’d either clip it out or copy (in longhand − this was in the days before handy copy machine availability) what I liked and stick every scrap of paper into the book. In a sense, this little book has become an unorganized time capsule of my life.
Unfortunately, my scrapbooking practice has a few disadvantages! For instance, to the right, there’s a flyer from maybe 1969 or 1970, advertising what I seem to remember was a coffee house called The Other Door in San Bernardino, CA. I saved the flyer for a reason, but can no longer remember what that reason was (other than I liked it)!
There are numerous paper scraps with poems jotted in my flowery handwriting (typical for that time). Sometimes, I just needed to get the poem written down in a hurry. Because I didn’t always include an author’s name with the text of the poem, my puzzle today is remembering whether I composed a poem or simply copied it from something else. As a result, I have a bunch of “Author Unknown” scraps stuffed into the book.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t compose this poem at left, though it obviously had some currency for me in those days when I was a student. I did my share of laying on the bed to study only to awaken hours later with eyes dry as a bone (having fallen asleep with my contacts still in!) and all my good intentions for studying poorly carried through.
I’m clueless about why I (or perhaps someone else) felt the liberty to edit this ditty. As with other aforementioned scraps, this one reflects no specific authorship, so chalk up one more to “Author Unknown”. If someone wishes to claim it, please relieve me of the responsibility.
There are other curious items also in the book. The yellowed newspaper article at right honors a South Side Chicago man, named Leonard B. Washington, Jr., who was killed in action “near the Cambodian border” in November 1967.
The right column includes a poem this man “penned to a college girl” (the article says). I am not certain whether I saved the article because it included a poem or what my exact reason at the time was. I was living outside Chicago at that time (attending college), but I think that’s just coincidence. Still, it’s a curious time capsule entry.
I think I must have stopped adding scraps of paper to the book when my children came along. Then, when I began acquiring computers here and there, I always maintained a “Quotables” file in which I would collect poems, articles, pithy comments and other items I considered important.
Last year, my Word file suddenly became “corrupted” (at least that’s what the error message told me) and it appeared all of my Quotables had been flung into oblivion, cyberspace litter along the information superhighway. Needless to say, I was nigh inconsolable!
To my relief, I managed to recover a file (which I’ve recreated in several other digital locations just to ensure redundancy), but I must say I’m riddled with doubts because I fear the recovered file is incomplete. It can’t be helped of course and I’m resigned to that incompleteness.
But stuffing important papers into a book (after all these years) is regaining some of its former appeal.