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  • Writer's pictureCat T. Gardiner

April is National Poetry Month

Typewriter in the National League of American Pen Women library

Hi-di-ho, friends! Well, I'll be honest right up front: I have never been one for poetry. But sometimes stanzas and verses just grab a person and won't let go. I'm a pretty straightforward New York girl and if I'm going to read poetry, I'd like for it to read in the same way. Honestly, I find no literary enjoyment in scratching my head while trying to figure out what the heck the poem means, or what the poet intended it to mean. Lord knows, I'm in my head enough! Like my coffee, and not my liquor, give it to me straight so that I can understand it without pulling out a thesaurus or a psychology book. I like rhyming even though a poet friend (who writes rhyming that I enjoy) was told "It's out of style!"

There once was a man from Nantucket ...

No not that kind of limerick rhyming. LOL

My upcoming novel has a poem in it. *Gasp* And it's rhyming, but I admit, just to be sure I understood it correctly, I had to look up the intended meaning of "The Wild Swans at Coole" by William Butler Yeats. And only when I listened to the cadence in its reading aloud did it become truly special and significant. Significant enough to become a theme in the novel: swans. You'll understand why it is so important when you read A Moment Forever. *wink wink*.

Today, I want to talk about Louisiana's first Poet Laureate (held from 1942-1970.) Emma Wilson Emery. Texas native, born in 1885 in a covered wagon, she was the great-great-granddaughter of a Cherokee Chief - and I proudly share that she was a fellow Pen Woman! Deceased in 1970, she left us with her simple, yet profound, patriotic poems that live on in a private library, which dates back to 1897: the member submission collection of the National League of American Pen Women in its Washington, DC headquarters. There, books have been cataloged and shelved for future Pen Women to enjoy when, exampled by this, they become eventually out of print - and forgotten. Songs of Victory - Verses Old and New, is a small, hardcover, pocket book, compiled for the boys overseas in 1944! Well, you know I had to read it - and what a find, indeed.

First, let me introduce you to the Victory Book Campaigns (VBC) of 1942 and 1943, and what sparked a national movement to get books into the hands of the boys until the end of the war. Today, we take the ready accessibility of books for granted. They’re right there at our fingertips online, in shops, and at the library, but for our Armed Forces during WWII there needed to be a effort, not just in the publication of "pocket books" but also in the gathering of lightly used books from patriotic citizens.

In coordination with the War Department and sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Red Cross (ARC,) and the United Service Organizations (U.S.O,) the VBC was officially formed in December 1941. Libraries saw the need for more books when the military flooded into small town training camps. The ARC wanted to send books to military hospitals, then later on the clubmobile and to POW camps, bringing them a little slice of home. The USO was opening recreational clubs for the boys on the outskirts of training fields, then later in Europe, providing all the comforts they missed. Book deposits were set up at ​​strategic locations for the public to drop off unwanted books. The two campaigns publicized and promoted by publishers, businesses, newspapers and stars of stage and screen, collected almost 11 million books, half trashed as unsuitable for use (most likely the paper was recycled for military production purposes.)

That brings us to our esteemed poet, Ms. Emery, author of three other books. From time to time, I will share her poems from Songs of Victory as they are relevant to the season. Her work moves me to reflection on the Home Front and War experience. Simple words that touch my heart. I want to remember and remind my reading friends of Emma Wilson Emery. She left her mark, touched lives during the war, yet she has been forgotten with the passage of time.

This from the book: "The poems collected in this volume were written in an effort to touch a responsive chord in the hearts of those "over there" who are thinking of homes far away and of others here who wait and pray. In her work one will find the simple truths of life and death and the assurance that faith and love exists in this war-torn world."


by Emma Wilson Emery

While I lie snug and warm: up there

His wings are beating on the air

While I have music, friends and light

He soars into the pitch-black night.

With faith supreme in a man-made power

He conquers each imperiled hour.

Through ice-clad winds that shriek and groan

He sweeps toward his goal alone.

I must not let him know I care:

He thinks I'm brave - God hear my prayer.

Light up the endless Milky Way

And make his path as bright as day.


(For a seaman on the U.S.S. Sperry)

by Emma Wilson Emery

I have no words for which to say

How much I miss you day by day.

But I have love that reaches through

The darkest night in search of you.

I used to think that heaven lay

A million miles or more away.

But now I know that heaven lies

In your smile and in your eyes.

Yesterday, I began writing this post, and it being "Carry a poem in your pocket day," I did one better: I carried these above two in my heart. A voice from long ago, Ms. Emery is still affecting lives. She has opened my eyes to poetry and that's a wonderful thing! I look forward to sharing more of her thoughts with you. Until then ... Keep 'Em Flying!

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