Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Formalist in the Family

Cousin Bobby, on my fathers’ side. I don’t believe I’ve ever met him. Much younger than my mother he was apparently quite attracted to her.

How do I know this? Well, it has always been a family story of course, but in preparation for the aforementioned formal poetry class I was reading the second essay in the book on Syllabics and found a reference to Bobby; Robert Beum.

I read the bit out loud to my sister and brother in law as we were all getting ready for dinner one night last month. My sister went off into her study and brought out the copies of his poetry books she had, most of which I have copies of too, but there was one small red volume published in 1949 called The Ninth Hour by Bobby using a pseudonym, Robert Lawrence.

It has a handwritten dedication to both my mother and father in the front of the book, but the last section of nine pieces is actually dedicated in print to Benny. That would be my mom.

And it is, (how do say?), a bit racy for the times. Funny, and interesting and explicit!

We were laughing and looking at my sister in a new light…she was born the year before the book came out…

It was all sort of weirdly wonderful and funny and embarrassing all at once.

Bobby wrote a book with Karl Shapiro on prosody that was a staple for teaching formal verse called A Prosody Handbook that was just reissued a few years ago in a paper.

I need to order myself a copy and relax. Obviously formal verse is in my blood.


Blogger Kay said...

That's fascinating ... family secrets are a little weird, scary and yes, slightly tinged with embarrassment and sometimes we just want the intrigue to remain just that ... as long as we can laugh and delight in them, then it's all good I think.

5:38 PM  

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