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April 16, 1935 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1935-04-16

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Edwin Arlington Robinson

I' i .. . ...

-* 1



I -
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died last week. He was a poet, quite
probably an enduring poet, and there were no first
page headlines to signify his passing. Yet in the
realm of American letters-and therefore in Amer-
ican life - the loss was important, because Ar-
lington's contribution was important.
He was the shyest and most timid of men. He
never read in public a line of his verse. He never
made an after dinner speech. He never spoke
before a woman's afternoon tea club. He never
delivered a lecture. And he was very seldom inter-
One of those interviews he gave to us some
five years ago for a prep school newspaper. We
got to him only after the basest sort of a trick, but,
once explaining to him what was wanted, and why,
a two-hour interview was arranged.
He lived alone in a small garret apartment on
the top floor of a house on 42nd Street, New .York
City. We climbed up the stairs slowly and rather
awkwardly, until, getting to the top, we found him
waiting in the doorway, shoulders bent a little
He was genial, in a shy way. We felt rather at
home. He was even shyer than we. He invited
us into the room, sat us down, asked us to ask him
questions. We had paper and pencils out.
"Was there any man whom you took as a model
when you started to write poetry?"
"No" - it was not the abrupt, defiant 'no' it
seems in print. "I began to write about 1890.
There was no great poet writing at that time. I
wrote sonnets mostly and sent them to publishers,
but they did not accept them. Then, in 1896 my
first book was published. I published it myself.
It was called 'Torrent And The Night Before,' a
rather silly name, after the first and last poems.,
Things came very slowly at first. I made no inno-
vations in form, but many in idioms. Some people
didn't like that. Some still don't." And he smiled
once again.
Now, Mr. Robinson did not say all that for one
question. It took about five questions, one leading
into another, and he answered each concisely, say-
ing no more than the question called for. It, too,
came very slowly.
Yet Mr. Robinson was willing enough to talk.
And he wanted to answer everything fully, hon-
estly, as well as he could. Sometimes he didn't
understand our questions and he asked us to repeat
them. He spoke slowly, quietly. He thought a
long time before he gave his answers. He wanted
to say what he thought.
"What is your definition of poetry?"
"I don't know what poetry is. There is no spe-
cific definition. It is composed of melody and
thought. Poetry should contain thought, but it
doesn't always succeed. Still, some of the very
greatest poets have little thought - Keats is one.
He presents a picture. Too much of what is called
thought may kill poetry." He was going to qualify
the words melody and thought; as, imaginative
thought and spiritual melody, but he caught him-
self. "Just say melody and thought. It's always
a good thing to leave out the adjective if you
He arose and looked for his cigarettes. Books
and papers were scattered over his desk. One
was "Murder in Manhattan." After a time he
found his package of cigarettes. Sweet Caporals.
"Poetry," he said, "if it is any good, must be good
if read the second time. I don't believe there are
six - well, twelve - men in the world who are writ-
ing real poetry. It's the same in all the arts."
"I'm somewhat prejudiced against free verse.

Throwing away form is a rather easy way to write.
Most people use free verse badly. It is easier to
write free verse, but I prefer poetry with meter.
The important thing is that poetry of any kind
should reflect the age in which it is written."
He was careful about the word "reflect." He
didn't mean that poetry should necessarily be about
the age in which it was written. But he did insist
that it should "reflect" it.
"I'm inclined to call Emerson the greatest Amer-
ican poet. His high spots certainly appear in his
poetry. 'Days' is probably his most perfect effort.
You have to read him a great many times to get
We asked him about his own poetry. Which of
his own works did he consider best? He smiled.
"I like to think what I'm doing is the best."
The conversation turned to England. "Kipling,"
Robinson said, "is more of an original genius than
Masefield. For sheer poetry A. E. Housman is
Again we came back to Mr. Robinson. What sort
of a poet did he consider himself?
He did not answer very readily. He wasn't cer-
tain as to what he was. But he was certain about
one thing: "I surely don't call myself a pessimist,"
he said, and his voice rose higher than it had or
would during the interview.
He was equally vague as to what he thought of
Poe. Although, "I don't care much for Annabelle
"What do you read?"
"Milton, Shakespeare, Thackeray, Dickinson. I
can't read novels much. I'm at an age when novels
look too long - that is, respectable novels. But I
like to read mystery stories."
It was comfortable in this small room with this
soft spoken, gracious man who was saying interest-
ng things delightfully. He looked comfortable and
nade us comfortable. He wore a smoking jacket.
He had eyeglasses on. He had a small mustache
and the hair was retreating from his forehead.
"I don't think people should begin to write too
early. About twenty-five is time enough. It's
about the best time ... Some of this modern poetry
is eccentric. I'm rather afraid modern poetry will
be old-fashioned before long . . . It's difficult to
tell what's going on today. There's a great deal of
activity and a lot of good poetry being written.
Yet someone may come along next week who will
do better.
"My advice to all young people is to read Shake-
speare. You may not get anything now, but ten
years from now you will. Read him yourself. Read
King John and the two Henry IV's. It is the
best thing any young fellow can do."
We were preparing to go. As a last word, he
said, "I frequently think I could rewrite some of my
poetry. That's one of the sad things about the
In that interview, as in his poetry, he talked
with a firm, slow dignity. His was a quiet voice,
pitched low, but it had behind it the strength of
a great tradition. In a day in which the concepts
of art, as of life, were shattered and confused, and
when a little that was mixed brought down a higher
price in the market then much that was good,
Edwin Arlington Robinson hewed to the ancient
line and spoke with the firm might of centuries:
Take on yourself
But your sincerity, and you take on
Good promise for all climbing; fly for truth j
And Hell shall have no storm to crush your
No laughter to vex down your loyalty.
-William G. Ferris.


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Joe College...
S TUDENTS returning to the campus
cloister after a week in the great,
cold world will be inclined to agree that inter-
preting the University and college life to the lay
public would be a big job even without benefit of
the scarehead tendency of a certain portion of the
metropolitan press.
Some of the -legends that grew up around stu-
dent life have been so touching that they have been
willingly perpetuated by the students themselves
-all of which hasn't helped matters any.
It's pretty much of a toss-up as to whether it's
more discouraging to talk about college to some-
one who has seen the movies or with those who
freely admit their total ignorance. All that was
said during the past week probably left the home
folks just that much more amazed at the paradox-
ical and many-sided nature of campus life.
Between the general lack of information about
college and the supply of misinformation that is
made available through both well-meaning and
vicious sources, it's small wonder that most people
- including a lot of college students --have no
idea what this higher education business is all
The campus is not supposed to be set apart
from the world, and it must be less so than it once
was, but it is still a place pretty much unto itself.
A few months in Ann Arbor are enough to leave
one with the idea that this is a country of college
people rather than one where a mere one or two
per cent are graduates. And as long as we remain
in Ann Arbor it's hard to get very excited over
what's said about college boys and girls. Most of
it is so ridiculous - to those who know anything
about it.
So it looks like Joe College has come to be a dan-
gerous red agitator, and must act that role for the
next period of his hectic public appearance.
Wiey Post
Tries Again..
W ILEY POST was forced dowi Sun-
day on his third unsuccessful at-
tempt to break the existing airplane speed record
across the continent. However, he did not adopt
the customary "three times and out" attitude, but
announced plans for a fourth attempt.
It is men like Wiley Post that make progress in
any field of endeavor. The great advances in
science and industry have been made by intelligent,
hard workers.
Aviation is a field that has a long way to go


Letters published in this column should not be
construed as expressing theseditorial opinion of The
Daily. Anonymous contributions will be disregarded.
The names of communicants will, however, be regarded
as confidential upon request. Contributors are asked to
be brief, the editor reserving the right to condense
all letters of over 300 words.
Fellowmen Of Other Centuries
To the Editor:
Those misled students of Michigan State College
who trustingly threw several of us into the Red
Cedar River the other day . . . probably do not
agree with what was to have been said there
against war until they see their decaying comrades
on some battlefield of the next war . .
Who will have lied to these students about war?
Their Mr. Hannah, who incited them to riot
against imaginary "reds." Their Mr. Hearst, whose
blatant cheapness made of war a seeming duty for
every loyal youth. All teachers,faculty-members
and ministers, who . . . concealed from them the
nature of . . . the last World War.
I believe in our students because I have seen
march up the pages of history their fellowmen of
other centuries. I have seen the average-men of
the ages crucify Christ and then accept him. I
have seen them torture a Savonola and then honor
him; outlaw a Luther, then follow him. I have
witnessed the terror used to quell Galileo. I have
seen Joan of Arc burned by one Pope and canon-
ized by another. I have seen Spinoza cast out from
him own people, then honored by the world. I have
seen Karl Marx reviled by weak-minded economists
and proved broadly correct by a people who inhabit
one-sixth of the earth's surface. I have seen, in my
own day, Einstein honored by having to leave a na-
tion ruled by degenerates and beasts . . . I am not,
therefore, discouraged.
Today if students go to church they honor Christ.
If they enter a Protestant church they protest with
Luther. If they teach the elements of astronomy
they parrot Galileo. If they praise the intellectual
life, their best precept is the life of Spinoza. If
they find cause for their depression, they look to
Karl Marx to pervert him. If they gape at Ein-
stein, they would teach him were they able to un-
derstand him.
Such men as the rulers of Michigan State College
are not true leaders of youth. They are worse than
parasites. They are exploiters of the dead genius of

Father - A place where the kids go and spend
more in four years than the old man makes in six.
Mother - the place from which the laundry
case is mailed.
Sister - The place from which brother brings
all those good looking fellows.
Brother - The place where sister learns to be
Sweetheart - The place where the one and only
proves untrue.
The general public - The place where gin, rah
rah, and raccoon coats abound.
In reality - The place where you go to classes
five days a week and use the week-ends to study
for next week's classes.
* * * * .~
Hell on earth! Students at Illinois State Normal
have been having a bad time of it lately. More
than 100 of them have been placed on probation
for drinking or being seen in places where drinks
are sold or associating with people who drink. All
this is said to be the result of a "proclamation"
issued a short while ago by the president of the
Included among the 100 are many prominent
campus leaders to whom the probationary stigma
has been attached merely because they took a drink
or watched someone else take one. Most of the
students have testified that they would drop out
of school if they could obtain a refund of their
-registration fees. Smoking on the campus is also
banned - because the school carries no fire insur'-
ance on the buildings. Consequently anyone caught
smoking on the campus is liable to expulsion.
The editor of the school paper has resigned and
left college because the authorities forbade any
criticism or even mention of the "proclamation"
in the columns of the student publication.


Dished by a Dilemma?

. .



E.D.M., '36, must feel futile. Hence this
I feel futile
Like a book without a reader.

:. bares intoA)your bathroom fby mist~akeE1donlt

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