Poet T.S. Eliot was born in Saint Louis 125 years ago today. He professed that “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” His genius for making that immediate connection with readers earned him great success.
Here is a recording of Eliot (aka “Old Possum”) reciting an excerpt from that work:
While Eliot was fond of cats, four years ago it came to light––through the unpublished poem below––that he had a certain good-natured contempt for cows.
Of all the beasts that God allows
In England’s green and pleasant land,
I most of all dislike the Cows:
Their ways I do not understand.
It puzzles me why they should stare
At me, who am so innocent;
Their stupid gaze is hard to bear —
It’s positively truculent.
I’m very inconspicuous
And scarlet ties I never wear;
I’m not a London Transport Bus,
And yet at me they always stare.
You may reply, to fear a Cow
Is Cowardice the rustic scorns;
But still your reason must allow
That I am weak, and she has horns.
But most I am afraid when walking
With country dames in brogues and tweeds,
Who will persist in hearty talking
And stopping to discuss the breeds.
To country people Cows are mild,
And flee from any stick they throw;
But I’m a timid town bred child,
And all the cattle seem to know.
But when in fields alone I stroll,
Oh then in vain their horns are tossed,
In vain their bloodshot eyes they roll —
Of me they shall not make their boast.
Beyond the hedge or five-barred gate,
My sober wishes never stray;
In vain their prongs may lie in wait,
For I can always run away!
Or I can take sanctuary
In friendly oak or apple tree.
©The Estate of T. S. Eliot
Editor’s note: Remember to check out the “Announcements” section above for updated CFP and other news of note.
I have been out of town a lot recently, so please excuse any irregular timing of posts. But now I am back, gainfully employed, and ready for you to submit a post to publish here on “Humor in America.” On what subject, you ask? Well, if you would read the “Write for Us” section, you would find this:
Humor in America” is a blog dedicated to the discussion of humor and humor studies in America. Contributors are welcome to submit on any aspect of American Humor, broadly considered, although submissions are not guaranteed to be published.
We are interested in short articles (300-3000 words) focused on (but not limited to) the following areas:
*pedagogy of humor, including syllabi
*theory of humor
*recovery of sources/authors
*interviews with comedians, humor scholars, or other figures
*focused musings, thoughts, or polemics
*responses to humor in popular culture, academic research, or any other venue that seems fertile
*movies/book reviews (apart from recent scholarly works)
But the main answer is, we are looking for good writing on humor. If you have something you are thinking about, email me (Tracy) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
***Join us on Twitter: @HumorInAmerica. We post all our new posts along with important articles and thoughts on humor and humor studies.
In other news in the world of Humor Studies:
***The American Humor Studies Association has a new website. Soon, the name of the website will be “americanhumor.org,” but that switch has not taken place yet. The site includes history, membership information, links to past conference panels, and other information. If you have any comments, suggestions, additions, or concerns, please email the webmaster: Tracy Wuster (email@example.com).
***The AHSA web platform also includes a new site for “Studies in American Humor”: studiesinamericanhumor.org. The website includes Table of Contents for Series 3 of the journal, from 1994-Present. If you have TOC’s from Series 1 or 2 that you could send us as a text file or pdf, we would greatly appreciate it. The AHSA also has a Facebook page.
***Speaking of Mark Twain, the Mark Twain Project is hiring.
***The Center for Mark Twain Studies has sent out information on next summer’s conference. I know that many who attended the previous conference would testify that it was the best conference ever. See our post on Hal Holbrook for video/audio of Mr. Holbrook telling stories on the site of Mark Twain’s study. Here is the announcement:
We are just a year away from Elmira 2013: The Seventh International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies. The Call for Papers has been posted on the web. Google Elmira 2013 Call for Papers for information about submitting a Developed Abstract of 700 words — due Monday, February 4th, 2013. Final papers must be suitable for a 20-minute presentation. Please send your attached abstract, via electronic submission, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Provide your name, mailing address, and email address. Developed abstracts will be reviewed anonymously for acceptance by selected panel chairs.
We look forward to greeting you in Elmira on August 1 through 4, 2013.
***For more CFPs, please see our announcement section, or the conference announcement page of the AHSA webpage. And since I am in charge of both, you can send me announcements and take care of both places.
For reasons that are uninteresting and irrelevant, I recently had my photograph taken. I was kind of joking when I asked the photographer “Should I be causal or regular?” and only later realized that the question was much less funny than it was accurate: “casual” is not my default setting, but is something that I have learned to relentlessly effect in order to appear fit for human interaction. Which is to say that I worry a lot, and about everything. I am literally worrying now, because as the newest contributing editor to Humor in America – Visual Humor, check it – I would love to be writing a really stellar and memorable and job-keeping first post.
In lieu of a lengthy biography, then, let’s just say that the joke with which I most resonate is Woody Allen’s quip about his boyhood stint on a all-neurotic softball team: “I used to steal second base, and then feel guilty and go back.” (As a legendarily dreadful athlete in my youth, I should note that I’m lucky not to have had this particular problem, but you get the idea.)
I have decided, therefore, that instead of attempting to be causal here and not worry about it, I will try to funnel my constant companion into something useful for once: a kind of critical/confessional analysis of a rare moment when worriers of the world are afforded a little relief. I am referring to unlikely humor of phony “Lost Dog” and “Missing Person” fliers, which – while occasionally pretty funny – operate by exploiting our capacity for random and disinterested compassion.
Because when these signs are for real, it is hard for me to feel anything but hopelessness and defeat; I know that I will never heroically spot this cat/bird/daughter, and probably neither will whoever put up the sign. But when these fliers are a joke – which, as we’ll see, they sometimes are – I am torn between feeling relieved and riled, thankful and furious. Because at a distance, the phony lost/missing flier is no different from the real thing: a picture, a description, a local number to call with what I assume is a devastated child or graduate student on the other end. (I should note that at present I have two kittens, to whom I am still devoted despite their best efforts to forfeit the deposit on my apartment.) So to see, then, that this stapled and wind-warped flier is just a joke is to know that whatever helpless creature I thought was in peril is not, but that whoever took the time and effort to put up this flier has elicited a smile only at the expense of my initial sympathy.