ANTIQUE TEXTBOOKS – STORIES IN VERSE, LYRIC VERSE

  • Lyric Verse by Edwin Rakow

  • Stories in Verse by Max T. Hohn

I wish I could remember where I found these.  I know it was a used book sale.  These two editions from the late 1960s are starting to fall apart.  And the cover art is some of the worst I’ve ever seen! lol.  Very bland, non-committal, faux-psychedelia. Ugh! 

These editions are from 1962 and were used at one of our local high schools – in 1968.  Imagine – using the same textbook from 1962 to 1972 – in light of all that was happening in the world?!  Ten years is eight years too long to be using the same books. 

LYRIC VERSE has some really useful bits apart from the content.  It has a foreword to the “teachers who will use this book” and a another to the “students who will use this book”.   Then the section titles are rare examples of humanity and humor. 

  • “Sources of Pleasure in Lyric Verse”
    —   “Lyric Laughter” – includes limericks, parodies, satire, macabre, nonsense
    —   “Emotional Outlet and Growth” – Wow! Really?  You would never find something like this in a Norton anthology. 
    —    “Music in Words”
    —    “Sharpened Sense Antennae”  (possibly one of the coolest titles I’ve run across in a poetry book) – highlights symbolic language
    —    “The Vision of The Ideal
  • “More Lyric Verse to Read for Enjoyment” –NEVER would you see language like that in Norton

And guess who appears A LOT! in this book! Go on…guess…RICHARD ARMOUR!!! The Don Rickles of poetry!  I love that guy.  The selections that appear in the book are his own – not parodies of the work of others.  You never see Armour any more.  Retired, I guess.  Much less in any kind of anthology.  Being the 1960s, this book is unselfconsciously eurocentric.  It’s all American and British authors.

There’s a kind of sociological archeology to being a book hunter-gatherer.  If you read my “Books in Exile” category, you’ll notice that I mention any odd bits that I find in used books.  This set was no exception. This I found in LV

math paper in lyric bk0001 along with this:  found photo with this drawn on the backside: drawing0001

Then in SiV, I found this:

letr to claudia0001 I’m guessing this book belonged to the person who received the letter. Hee!  Typewriters…aahhh, good times, good times.

Using standard searches (www.amazon.com, various search engines), nothing much comes up on the author Rakow.  Apparently, he didn’t do much after LV.  Or at least, he didn’t get published.  I have it categorized as “Books in Exile” because I only ever take it out in April.  Unlike most supplementary school books, this one is an easy read.  It’s not got cumbersome footnotes that make you feel guilty because you bypass them.  Instead of that, it has easily interpreted section titles and excellent examples of each poetic device.  So it might not be a bad bit of bookage to carry around in your purse for when you’re in line at drive-throughs.  The cover looks completely humble, and the fact that it’s so old and worn, you don’t have to worry that some local yokel will give you the stink-eye for acting literate in public. 

It hit me recently how and why schools are killing reading: they are too cheap to collect proper literature for instruction in reading skills.  Have you ever seen or read an Acknowledgements page in an anthology?  All of that text is a collection of acquired permissions to use real literature.  That’s expensive.  And that’s all the reason they need not to do it.  But that’s another rant for another day.

STORIES IN VERSE:  This one is designed (using the term loosely) in the same mold as LYRIC VERSE.  Copyright-free anti-art on the cover.  Three intro bits, except that SiV has “To the boys and girls who will use this book” instead of “students”.  Interesting…in a not-really-at-all-interesting-yet-different kind of way.  I have to say, though, that I really like the section titles.

   “Finding Enjoyment in Narrative” (Thank you!)
   “Finding Enjoyment in The Music of Poetry” (Hellooo!)
   “Finding Enjoyment in Poetic Imagery”  (Yeah! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!)
   “How to Read Blank Verse, Ballads for Enjoyment”  (Yes! and Yes!)

It’s oddly comforting how Euro-centric this book is – even more so than LV. And yet…and yet – it contains an excerpt from the Sanskrit poem PANCHATANTRA and a Yiddish story by Isaac Leib Peretz.  It’s like buttah!  Even a Chinese story, “The Emperor” by Tu Fu.  I don’t know if Hohn did this on purpose, but a lot of the poems have to do with American history. 

    • “Pocahontas” by Thackeray
    • “The First Thanksgiving Day” by Margaret Junkin Preston
    • “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Longfellow
    • “Independence Bell”  (Anonymous)
    • A ballad of Nathan Hale
    • “Molly Pitcher” by Kate Brownlee Sherwood
    • “The Pioneer” by William B. Ruggles
    • “Kit Carson’s Ride” by Joaquin Miller

Another unique quality of SiV is that in includes an unusual number of female writers.  Very open-minded considering the times. If you’ve ever watched “Mad Men”, you know what I mean.

So these editions are very much of their time as far as material.  Yet, they address what I think we really want out of poetry instead of soulless textbook drek.  Maybe that’s the difference – they’re NOT  textbooks.  They are simply very good anthologies.  They are what used to be called “readers”.  I think we need to go back to this. Simple books.  “Snapple” books.  Full of the best stuff on earth.  With no preservatives. 

WE ARE THE PRESERVATIVES. 
WE carry the knowledge with us. 
WE discuss among us. 
WE decide inside 
US!

 

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