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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Christmastime in 1937

Joan wrote poetry starting at a young age.  Needless to say, the excitement of the Christmas season appears in her verse throughout her childhood and teenage years.

Wilshire Boulevard in 1937.

Wilshire Boulevard in 1937. Can that be Santa and his reindeer?

A few days after she turned 15 years old, Joan wrote a poem she entitled Christmas 1937 :                                                                                                   

Mary’s son was not cold

When the Wise Men came with gold

Mary’s son was newly born

When the shepherds came with morn.

Mary bore her son alone

While above the wonder shone

Of the star on just that night

Led the shepherds there aright.

All the years since then have passed

Stars that shine will ever last.

Why did that star only then

Shine and never once again?

Only once He came to Earth

Only once proclaim His birth,

But each year at Christmastide

Yet we think of Him who died,

And was born in that small town

While the Wonder Star looked down.

Let all the heavens still proclaim

Honor to His Holy Name.

In 1938, she portrayed the Virgin Mary in the Christmas Pageant at her church.

Joan as the Virgin Mary i 1938.

Joan as the Virgin Mary in 1938.

May your season be peaceful and filled with joy!

Pearl Harbor: A Poem of Reflection

Joan was a poet as well as a diarist.  Two days after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Joan wrote this poem at age 18. She loved Homer and the Iliad, and frequently saw the political events around her in terms of the history of the past, particularly the destruction of Troy.

The USS West Virginia burns and sinks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. (Handout, Reuters).

The USS West Virginia burns and sinks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. (Handout, Reuters). From the Chicago Tribune.

Dec 9 – 1941[1]

Now it is come we are as calm as we have never been

We drink our coffee with still hands

And with grave eyes ask what is trump

Or whose lead now and carefully repair our rouge.

And read the Tribune and Thomas Aquinas

With equal imperturbability.

Once we were shifted by the sound of words

By great black headlines, by the screaming boy.


Now we are calm as we were calm in Troy

We are as silly as we ever were

But now our silliness is bravery

We are so shallow that the dying of a world

Cannot break through our consciousness

Or are so deep that it cannot.


That which we never quite believed has happened

And we touch inanely hands that never reach

And lie down to die with dignity.      


We are as calm as we were calm in Troy.


[1] Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941; the United States officially declares war on Japan December 8 and on Germany and Italy on December 11.

Same old, same old: the struggle for representation

Same old, same old: the struggle for representation

Congratulations to Alison Twells on being shortlisted for the Tony Lothian Prize for her unpublished biography of her great-aunt, Norah, who lived through WWII and wrote about it!

Socks for the Boys!

I spent a couple of days in London at the end of last week. Socks for the Boys! was shortlisted for the Tony Lothian Prize for an unpublished first-time biography and I was invited to the Biographers’ Club Prize Dinner at the Liberal Club in Whitehall Place (very posh, as my great aunts would say, the ‘o’ pronounced as in ‘post’).  I was really delighted to be shortlisted; to see Norah take her place amongst the royals and assorted aristocrats, the Bloomsbury-ites and Romantics of previous shortlists, was very very satisfying.  One of the judges, Lara Feigel, praised the ‘wonderful immediacy’ of Norah’s diary entries and read the ‘Lovely among the boys’ sequence from September 1938.  (You can see the full shortlist – and indeed the winner, Polly Clark, who is doing creative things at the interface of history, memoir and biography – here).

I also used the opportunity of this trip…

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