Tag Archives: poetry

The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women

sixteenwonderfuloldwomen

The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women, Illustrated by As Many Engravings; Exhibiting Their Principal Eccentricities and Amusements (1820) was recently added to the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry. It was published in London by prominent children’s publisher John Harris as part of “Harris’s Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction.” These little books, “printed in a superior manner upon good paper,” sold for 1 shilling and 6 pence, which made them significantly pricier than other chapbooks on the market. There are three other titles from Harris’s Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction available in the Shaw Collection:

The History of the House that Jack Built

housethatjackbuilt

FSU Special Collections & Archives is pleased to add a new chapbook to the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry. The History of the House That Jack Built is a popular nursery rhyme told as a cumulative narrative. Starting with “This is the House that Jack built,” each verse adds on to the previous one, creating a delightfully nonsensical, rhyming story. This edition was printed in 1841 by Gustav S. Peters, a notable printer of broadsides who often catered to the German-speaking population of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and its environs. While many cheaply printed books of the time were colored by hand, if at all, Peters was one of the first printers in America to make color printing commercially viable (even if, as seen above, his colored printing blocks didn’t always register perfectly). This edition printed by Peters is one of several versions of The House That Jack Built that can be found in the Shaw Collection.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

poemsofcabinandfield
Poems of Cabin and Field (1899) by Paul Laurence Dunbar, featuring photographs by the Hampton Institute Camera Club
paul_laurence_dunbar_in_oval
Image credit: Wikimedia

Although Paul Laurence Dunbar was only 33 years old when he died of tuberculosis on February 9, 1906, he left behind a lasting legacy of poems, short stories, and novels. The eldest son of former Kentucky slaves, Dunbar published his first poems in his hometown newspaper at the age of sixteen. His first collection of poetry, Oak and Ivy, was published in 1893. While much of his poetry was written in traditional English verse, Dunbar achieved widespread popularity for writing in African American vernacular dialect. Several volumes of Dunbar’s poetry like Poems of Cabin and Field (1899), Candle-Lightin’ Time (1901), When Malindy Sings (1903), and Li’l’ Gal (1904), shown here, featured full-page, black-and-white photographs taken by the Hampton Institute Camera Club, with whom Dunbar frequently collaborated to illustrate his verse. The hundreds of photographs in these books have significant cultural value as representations of rural African American life at the beginning of the twentieth century.

dunbarcovers
Art Nouveau bindings designed by Margaret Armstrong and Alice Morse on volumes of Dunbar’s verse from the Shaw Collection

Several volumes of Dunbar’s poetry are included in the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry. In his short life, Dunbar spoke with passion, humor, and elegance of the human experience, inspiring later writers such as Maya Angelou, who titled her autobiography after lines from Dunbar’s poem Sympathy

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,   
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

 

 

 

The Waking of a Shaw Memory

One of our long-time volunteers, Cathmar Shaw Prange, was unable to come visit this winter and we’re missing her but she did send us a blog post! Cathmar has helped us curate her father’s collection for many years. 

After the Carnival by Richard Maitland
After the Carnival by Richard Maitland (Image: Cathmar Shaw Prange)

Years ago, on one of my visits to the art world of Santa Fe, Richard Maitland greeted me in his studio as an old friend. His painting, “After the Carnival,” hung on the wall. I gasped! It struck me like a bolt of lightning, reawakening an experience I’d had as an eight-year-old and evoking the last lines of John MacKay Shaw’s “Circus Roundels.”

The poet was my father. Mother was moving us into our new home in New Jersey. So he took us across the Hudson to the circus at New York’s Madison Square Garden to keep us out of her hair.

The painting, like the poem, reflects the longing we feel when a joyous event has ended. I would like this poem even better these days had he written it in shorter lines, but I can accept his admiration for Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter.

"Circus Roundels"
“Circus Roundels” from Zumpin’

“Circus Roundels” appears on page 19 of John MacKay Shaw’s second book of poems, Zumpin’. It was published by The Friends of The Florida State University Library in 1969. “Read us zumpin’, Daddy!” we cried every night as he came in the door after work. And soon we were sitting on his lap listening, reciting and singing again.

The Friends published his first book of poems for children in 1967 titled The Things I Want.

A Lick of Raspberry Ice

One of our long-time volunteers, Cathmar Shaw Prange, was unable to come visit this winter and we’re missing her but she did send us a blog post! Cathmar has helped us curate her father’s collection for many years. 

Drawing from Oaknoll, Iowa City, IA
Drawing from Oaknoll, Iowa City, IA

One day in 2016, exploring the halls of Oaknoll, my new Iowa City home, I was stopped in my tracks by a child’s drawing of “raspberry ice” hanging beside a resident’s door. Raspberry ice is almost unheard of in my Midwestern world, and indeed this one came from New York State — a granddaughter’s loving remembrance of her grandmother’s fondness for raspberry ice cones. Once on the Jersey shore it was my cousin Connie’s favorite ice cream cone. I could hardly wait for summer when she would come to live with us again.

We spent our days on the beach and in the ocean. We lived just one empty sandlot from Sam’s near the north end of the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ. Sam’s daughter Dottie was one of our playmates and Sam’s shop was our source for ice cream cones. My brother Bruce liked Sam’s chocolate ones and I liked strawberry, but raspberry ice was always Connie’s favorite. My father John MacKay Shaw made a poem for her that immortalizes raspberry ice.* And my daughter Meg further commemorates it in one of her fabric pictures.

Cathmar's daughter commemorates Sam's in a fabric picture
Cathmar’s daughter commemorates Sam’s in a fabric picture

Daddy visited us on weekends at the shore, and so did Connie’s father. As was his habit in the city, Daddy read and sang with us every evening. Too soon we tired of hearing about other children. He promised to write poems about US. He wrote “Girls and Boys” for Bruce and “Teasin’ Daddy” for me, and for Dottie and Sam “Five Little Elephants” on a chain of gold. Later the friends of the Library at Florida State University published two books of his poems. As adults, Connie, Bruce and I often recalled the joy of our summer days, arguing in fun over which of us was the scaredy cat who inspired “The Ice Cream Ocean.”

Late in John Shaw’s life, Susan Russo discovered his poetry. She chose “The Ice Cream Ocean” for the title of her anthology of poems for children. She illustrated it with round dips of ice cream floating on every page. He was delighted to receive copies of her book in progress but he died in 1984 before he could purchase its final edition.

What fun it would have been to discover this drawing at Oaknoll with my father!

*Sources of poems in books by John MacKay Shaw published by The Friends of the Florida State University Library:
Zumpin’, 1969
“Raspberry Ice” — p. 19
“Five Little Elephants” p. 3
The Things I Want, 1967
“Girls and Boys” p. 13 in ;
“The Ice Cream Ocean” p.38
“Teasin’ Daddy” p. 2

RUSSO, Susan: The Ice Cream Ocean; William Morrow.

The Miscellanies of Mr. John Shaw

Happy 119th birthday to John MacKay Shaw, founder of our Childhood in Poetry book collection and bibliophile extraordinaire.  To celebrate Mr. Shaw, and in our ongoing commemoration of 400 Years of Shakespeare, we present a Scope and Content Note for John Shaw’s papers in the style of title pages from the early hand-press era.  Mr. Shaw would surely appreciate our gesture, as the Shaw rare book collection feature works by Shakespeare along with many, many other authors.

shaw scope note

Further Reading on Mr. Shaw and his collection:

A Visit from the “‘Twas the Night” Collection

‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through our section
We were ready to work on a festive collection.
Many boxes of books (and this part makes it fun),
Each with the same poem. You all know which one.

Editions of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" from 1890 to 1900

The boxes were nestled all snug in their cart,
Holding old books and rare books and books filled with art,
Toy books with sleigh bells that jingled a tune,
Plus archival items, including a spoon.

"Night Before Christmas" spoonAudio recordings and a book with jingle bells

And we catalogers, as a matter of course,
Had settled our brains to describe each resource.
Each one was related, but each was unique,
And our records must help people find what they seek.
But no cataloger would let that disturb her,
Remembering concepts that she learned from FRBR.
When faced with this “Night Before Christmas” incursion,
We would deal with each item, no matter which version.

Pop-up image of SantaPop-up image of house

Now, pop-ups! now, postcards! now, stamps for the mail!
On, parody versions! on, versions in Braille!
Whether titles be missing or typeface be small,
Now catalog! catalog! catalog all!

The Braille edition of "'Twas the Night" includes a figurine of a deer instead of an illustration.Parody versions include a feminist and a fitness-themed version, as well as a Cajun and a Texan "Night Before Christmas"

And, as our work on these books we’re completing,
We send you our very best seasonal greeting
For a year of discoveries wherever you look:
Happy holidays, all, and to all a good book.

Visit of St. Nicholas, illustrated by Thos. Nast

A Birthday Letter to John MacKay Shaw: Poet, Book Collector, Scholar, and Lover of Children

Hi Pop! Happy Birthday!! You’ll never guess what I’ve been up to since your 100th birthday. Imitating you, that’s what, or at least trying to. But there’s no way I will ever have your gift of gab, your great love of children, or your extraordinary management skills. You described your books; I’m describing your papers. That much I can do. I made descriptive lists of all those articles, photographs, correspondence, autographed materials and other things you collected that complement the books — over 120 boxes of items. Our archivist Burt and his students, you knew him, I think, they developed a finding aid based on my lists. As FSU’s catalog leads the scholar to the books, the finding aid leads him to these complementary materials.

Your collection has grown from the original 5000+ books you gave to Florida State University when you and the books moved to Tallahassee in 1960.   You added many more while you were here, and the library has continued to add books ever since you left us in 1984. You produced eleven volumes of a bibliography of your collection and a keyword index to the poems. We now have an estimated 22,000 books.

Remember how it started. You wrote by hand inscriptions in two books you gave Mom and me on our first Christmas together: Poems for Peter by Lysbeth Boyd Borie and The Little Mother Goose, collected and illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith:

To Mother and Cathmar

 For Christmas nineteen twenty eight
Rhymes for my sweethearts, small and great
Some old, the others up-to-date.

 Pledge to learn well, and I for mine,
For Christmas nineteen twenty-nine,
Will pledge a present much more fine.

 Father

After Christmas 1928, my brother Bruce joined us. Every evening, even before you arrived home after work, he and I were clamoring for your attention.

"Snow!"  A fabric picture designed and appliqued by your granddaughter Meg Prange in 2008. illustrating  your poem "Headlights Shine."
“Snow!” A fabric picture designed and appliqued by your granddaughter Meg Prange in 2008, illustrating your poem “Headlights Shine.”

You would pull us up onto your lap and our nightly poetry reading, reciting and singing, would begin. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses for a start, but those poems were about other children. We wanted poems about us. You promised to write them, but only if we told you what to write about. We could do that!

Connie, me and Bruce at Gramma’s house on Samson Street in Philadelphia, 1933
Connie, me and Bruce at Gramma’s house on Sanson Street in Philadelphia, 1933.

You gave each of us, and our cousin Connie too, a black leather binder to hold the copies you typed of the poems you wrote for the three of us between 1930 and 1937. In 1933, you began gathering the poems of each year to be printed in booklets that you sent to your friends as Christmas greetings. I recall how surprised and pleased you were years later when one of the The Friends of Florida State University Libraries told you the poems should be published. When you said you didn’t want anything to do with that process, she took it upon herself to select some of your poems and saw to it that they were published in 1967 as The Things I Want: Poems for Two Children. It was so popular that it went into a second printing, and then Zumpin’ followed with more poems a few years later. We still fill requests for those books every now and then.

By 1938 Bruce and I had lost interest in poetry. How very disappointed you must have been, but you never let on, and we had become too busy with our friends to notice. I did notice though that you were spending lots of time sitting in our big wing chair in the evenings, reading small pamphlets. Little did I know then that they were book dealers’ catalogs, or that the pencil you always held loosely cross-wise between your lips was being used to make checkmarks on the pages. The number of books in our den began to increase, then the number of shelves increased. More books kept appearing to fill the bookcases in our living room. Then I went away to college.

John MacKay Shaw in his study.
John MacKay Shaw in his study.

Within the next ten years, you and Mom moved into New York City. Then retirement from AT&T loomed for you. You had been frustrated in your search of libraries and universities around the country where you and your books would be happy.   You and Mom were visiting us one summer when my friend Jackie stopped by — remember? She suggested her alma mater FSU might be a good repository for your books. Then she followed up that suggestion by writing a letter to the head of the library recommending you and your collection. That did it.

And here you are. And I am here too. Every winter I am having the best of times living with Jackie in our Florida home and working in your collection with the special people here who administer it.

That pledge you made in 1928? You kept it your whole life and FSU Libraries continues to fulfill it. Thank you, Pop, with love and best wishes on your 118th birthday, from Cathmar.

Cathmar Prange is the daughter of John MacKay Shaw, the donor and curator for the childhood in poetry collection that bears his name in Special Collections & Archives. Every winter, Cathmar volunteers to continue organizing and curating her father’s collection and has been doing so for 18 years.

Following a Mystery with One of Our Volunteers

Cathmar Prange is the daughter of John MacKay Shaw, the donor and curator for the childhood in poetry collection that bears his name in Special Collections & Archives. Every winter, Cathmar volunteers to continue organizing and curating her father’s collection and has been doing so for 18 years. She is still discovering things to this day. Here is one of her recent mysteries:

First Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
First Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

The John MacKay Shaw Collection at Florida State University has the manuscript for a book by Stephen Graham. It is two or three inches thick. Recently a colleague asked me the source of this manuscript, but we remain confused about its subject and whence it came. About the author, we knew little. Looking for something else a few days later, I opened the Third Supplement of Dr. Shaw’s bibliography Childhood in Poetry near the middle. Surprise! The page revealed the illustration of a letter penned by poet Vachel Lindsay to Mrs. Stephen Graham. The book that the illustration was copied from, Lindsay’s Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty, is described on the facing page of the Shaw bibliography. FSU’s library catalog revealed its call number and Special Collections staff retrieved the book from the closed stacks. The letter begins on the flyleaf and continues onto the half title page of the book. It is dated February 13, 1920 and reflects Lindsay’s memories of tramping with Graham and sharing their search for the meaning of life beside their campfires. There is no mention of anything related to the manuscript.

Second Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
Second Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

I was familiar with Graham’s name. In 1998, one of FSU’s English professors came into Special Collections and handed me some materials related to Stephen Graham. If the manuscript was part of this offering, it had been handed to somebody else and I never saw it until several years later. Most of these materials I received related to Graham’s leadership of a group who met in the out of doors and shared their poetry not only by reading it, but by performing it as well. These pages too shed no light on the mysterious manuscript.

Further searches of Stephen Graham in FSU’s catalog and in the John MacKay Shaw Collection Finding Aid yielded information but still did not answer my questions. I turned to the Internet. On Wikipedia, an article by Michael Hughes carries a lode of information; Graham’s whole life with titles of many books he had written about his travels all over the world. Hughes wrote this article for the love of it because he felt that Graham has not been given the attention he deserves. He mentions the long “tramps” that Graham and Lindsay shared and their mutual interest in the spiritual aspect of life. After ten years enjoying each other’s company, changes separated them, but they continued their friendship by mail until Lindsay’s death in 1930. Hughes says nothing on Wikipedia about Graham’s interest in poetry however.

Last Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
Last Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

Dr. Hughes remarks that late in his life Stephen Graham visited a friend in Tallahassee. Was this friend the professor who gave me the Graham materials?

Hughes has written a biography of Graham, Beyond Holy Russia: The Life and Times of Stephen Graham. I have scanned this book on line fairly thoroughly several times and have yet to find any mention of our manuscript or an expose of The Poetry Society. I remain in contact with Dr. Hughes in hopes of some avenue opening up to the manuscript.  The latest from Dr. Hughes is that the Harry Ransom Institute in Texas has a copy of it. Stay tuned!

Perhaps the manuscript was written too late in Graham’s life for him to pursue publication, so he had given it to our professor in hopes that he could arrange it. I have written to Dr. Hughes; perhaps between us we can solve the mystery of the Graham manuscript.

Sudden discovery occurs often in my work in Special Collections – far often enough to keep the interest level up and set me off on new adventures each year. The library life is an exciting one – new mystery leaping out while research lays another mystery back to rest.

Remembering the Great War through Verse

It was supposed to be the war to end all wars; a war on a global scale unseen up to that point in human memory. History would change how we would remember World War I but at the time, those who lived it had never experienced anything like it.

Our World War I poetry collection sheds an interesting light into the experience of those who lived through World War I, both on the battlefield and on the home front.

A first edition of Yanks: A Book of A.E.F. Verse collects poetry originally published in the official newspaper of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Compiled and published in 1918, it gives compelling glances into the lives of men stationed at the forefront of the trenches. One corporal lamented the myth of Sunny France in his poem:

Excerpt from Corp. Jack Warren Carrol's poem. See entire poem here.
Excerpt from Corp. Jack Warren Carrol’s poem. See entire poem here.

More so that the glimpses you get into the trenches, it is the glimpses into the life of those who are left at home that are most fascinating to this author. In our poetry collection are chapbooks from women who lament sending their men off to war and try to hold down the fort at home while also mourning those who would never return.

Hit by The War : Reckless Rhymes by Marie-Rose Gabe is one such chapbook and FSU holds the only copy stateside. These poems lament the woman’s life on the home front. A two poem set in this collection, “Tommy Grumbles” and “A ‘Ministering Angel’ Replies” show the desire of those left behind to honor the soldiers who are returning and the soldiers returning not wanting a fuss.

Companion poems in Marie-Rose Gabe's Hit by the War: Reckless Rhymes. See the entire text here.
Companion poems in Marie-Rose Gabe’s Hit by The War : Reckless Rhymes. See the entire text here.

World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. However, a cease-fire had taken affect seven months earlier on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year. So when the United States wanted to set aside a day to honor its heroes of the Great War, November 11th was chosen.

An Act of Congress in 1938 officially made November 11 a national holiday, Armistice Day, to honor veterans of World War I. The act was amended in 1954 to rename the day Veterans Day to honor those who’d since fought in World War II and in Korea. Renaming the holiday allows it to be the day it is now, a day in which we honor all American veterans of war.