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Joan’s poetry

1927

Joan age 4 with her mother, Neva Wehlen (maiden name:  Levish).

Joan’s earliest poetry appears in a little journal she entitled Flutterings.  It dates from 1932-3, when she was 9 and 10.

 [November 1932]

                        Cheer Up!                                                

            This country,  it’s got to cheer up, and why not today?

            So cheer up, cheer up, for the U.S.A.

            This depression, it’s got to break up,

            So why not wake up and find this depression gone away!

            ‘Cause it can’t stay!

            So!  Come on, cheer up!

            Don’t be a snob,

            Go find a job:

                        Today!

            Make a good election,

            To break up this depression.

            If you’re a loafer

            Get out of here

            ‘Cause this country’s not for you!

            Cheer up!  Cheer up!

            ‘Cause it’s got to clear up,

            So why not

                        Today!

            The storm’s got to clear up,

            So come on, cheer up!

            Don’t give up hope!

            Don’t sit and mope!

            Go!  Get to work!

            And please don’t shirk

            To help the

            country, cheer up,

                    Today!

            Help the U.S.A.

            To wake up today,

            And find each man,

            Doing all he can

            To help this country cheer up today!

            And please don’t stay

            at home all day,

            But go out and work!

            For the U. S. A.!

                          Today!

            Work with a will!

            Don’t make work a pill!

            But make it some fun,

            So, come on!

            And work for the U. S. A.!

                                    Today!

Her interest in war is clear even at the age of 9.  In the wake of WWI, many children would have honored Armistice Day.

            November 11, 1932

                 Armistice Day

            As notes steal from the bugle,

            As taps are softly played,

            We look about and think about

            The soldiers who are laid.

            Far from their mother country,

            In foreign lands they lie,

            And yet for waving stars and stripes,

            Each one was glad to die.

And from February 1933 when Joan was 10, one of my favorites:

Who Are They?

I have some fiery white steeds,

As white as snow could be,

They’re always doing wonderful deeds,

And always helping me.

                                      (teeth)

Joan is enchanted by faeries and chants the poetry of A.E. Housman in the park. Her reactions to world events can be profound reflections on the impending death of her generation, but her naïveté is evident in being habitually late for school and wondering about the latest high school hi-jinks of her high school and college crowd. As early as 1937, Joan believes that the year 1940 will be a decisive year in history.  A pacifist, she learns to bandage for the Red Cross and works in a factory inspecting cans for the war. Joan’s passion for classical literature and culture enables her to come to see the bombings of London and Berlin as examples of another Troy, Troy being the city tragically besieged by the ancient Greeks in Homer’s epic, The Iliad.

Below you’ll find a few selections of Joan’s love lyrics and her own war poetry. I hope to publish a volume of her poetry one day.

1938

Nov. 26, 1938, Age 15

                    I am an unlit candle,

                    You are a flame.

                    You lighting me, we will both burn steadily

                    Alone you will flicker out

                    And I will never have shone

                    It is together we glow.

                                                                                               

                      Dec. 3, 1938, Age 15

To H.

                 You opened the gate for me

                 With a little mock bow

                 And I entered with a fleeting curtsy

                 And suddenly all the gates in the world were opened for me

                 With a little mock bow.

                 We stood there then

                 And the day was grey and rainy, remembering

                 And the gate was rusted and a streetcar rumbled

                 And there was nothing to say.

                 There was a book in your hand

                 And I wanted to stay

                 But the rain splashed down and we turned to go

                      With a little mock bow.

Entries after August 5, 1939 up until December 6, 1940 are from Joan’s creative writing journal. The diary volume between those dates is missing.

1939

A photo taken while she was a nature study counselor in Michigan. It was taken the day the war began, before she realized it. Below she later wrote, “September 1, 1939!!!”

September 4, 1939[1] 

NY WORLD’S FAIR

                                                         1939

         We shall remember this peace –

         This caught moment of half-night beauty

         Music – and a night bird blinded by the spotlight

         That same light which has just flashed

         Following it as it moves.  On a white cloud

         Music – the last rose of summer chimes so sweet

         I am afraid I shall have to forget it

         Or die, not hearing it again.

         The pylon gleams and the sphere is pale blue in the night

         White shall be this memory forever I think

         The last rose of summer is too beautiful, I fear.

         Even the wind is white.

         Some day they shall dig up this circle

         Row upon stone row of seats  —

         And the molded screen and the broken figure

         Atop this tower will be half-gone — or all

         And the lights ungleaming

         But they shall know we passed.

         They will wonder perhaps who sat here

         What motley crowd idled — it is we here

         In our colorful rest that they shall wonder if

         The red flag flying and the stalwart figure atop

                                 May still remain in tatters.

         But I — this girl in the blue dress and Juliet cap —

         I will be utterly disappeared.

         Uncurled from the stone seat and unlistening then –

         To any music – even this last rose chiming

         Even then, though even then, when they ponder these ruins

         And this place is ivy-grown and mossy,

         Even then, though,

         I think we shall remember this peace.


[1] “8:25 P.M. Written while listening to music in the outdoor amphitheatre of the Russian exhibit.”

Joan dozing at home. She writes, “Ho-hum!–The book is Virgil.” She actually loved classical literature, both Greek and Roman.

Two years later she writes this poem:

April 23 – 1941, Age 18[1]

              Athens town is somewhere

              Far away in Greece

              Troy town across the sea

              Hath found all peace.

              Fighting now in Athens

              Fighting was round Troy

              Troy both lost all sorrow

              Athens now all joy.

              In Athens though and not in Troy

              Still I think I’d rather near

              Life is worth all sorrow

              Life is worth all tears

              Troy town is lying

              Eight cities under

              Long past all dying

              Long past all plunder.


[1] The day Greece surrendered to Italy and the day before the Greek government surrendered to Germany.

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