Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ted Malone, Pre - Blogger

I learned to love the literary pastiche early, thanks in part to this this well - worn anthology of middle - brow poetry. Perfect for a middle - schooler, this collection was among my favorite books for as long as I can remember.

The American Album of Poetry
compiled by American radio personality
Ted Malone, 1908 - 1989

As the story goes, my mother brought our old maroon copy home from work years before I was ever born, or maybe borrowed it from a friend and never got around to returning it -- something like that, you know, one of those apocryphal anecdotes of how a certain book was fated to enter your life and find a home on your shelf. Anyway, I have to trust that the original owner was a forgiving soul, because my young reader's heart was opened by the presence of that book in our household. It didn't have to contain the best poetry ever written, it just had to be tender and accessible and introduced by a companionable, articulate editor who knew how to polish each little gem and show it in its best light -- not with paragraphs of analysis but in snippets.

As pointed out in the introduction by Joseph Auslander, this was not your typical anthology, this was Ted Malone's album, containing neither studio portraits nor formal photographs, but snapshots of poetry; nothing well - known, yet everything familiar. Writes Auslander, "The treatment of the Album is distinctive. There are twenty - six sections, each with a fresh and engaging title ["But, Definitely!" "First Person, Singular," "Wit or Without, Brevity is the Soul," "Sing Me A Song of Social Significance"]. And throughout the book, connecting poem with poem, is Ted Malone's friendly running comment ["It isn't so bad, a crowd of people running through your mind, but only two or three tramping through your heart," "Hold your breath while you read this one," "Close your eyes and read this one," "Six days shalt thou labor, six days shalt thou dream"]. Even before I got to the poetry I was charmed by these chapter headings and insightful little prologues to every single poem in the book. It turns out Malone was blogging! Paving the way! He was doing way back then what I like to do now on The Fortnightly and The Quotidian.

I've featured a couple of my old favorites from Malone's Album on earlier Fortnightly posts: "Thoughts of a Modern Maiden" in Time to Write a Letter and "Blue Willow" in That Old Blue Willow. About ten years ago, when more and more vintage books started appearing on amazon and ebay, I was lucky enough to track down a couple of copies of The American Album of Poetry, so that my mom and I could each have our own, and she could at last feel free to return our original copy to its original owner. The results of my search were rather thrilling! For my mom, an autographed copy:

and for me, a copy with the following note inscribed inside:

Reminder: Save! Do Not Discard This Book

I quoted last two lines on p. 38
in my second mystery story he
published for me in 1948 and
for which I used pen name of
Julie Masterson instead of
J. F. as he would have
~ J. F. ~

I have yet to determine who "J. F." might be or why her nearest and dearest allowed this book out of their hands (I purchased it from a bookseller, not an individual or family). Will I ever solve the mystery of these mystery stories by "Julie Masterson"? Was it Ted Malone who published them? In the meantime, I turned straight to page 38 and found -- to my surprise! (or maybe not!) -- another of my old favorites, one that I often used when teaching simile and metaphor:


Our words are flame and ashes, fleet as breath,
Plumes for adventure, pageantry of death.

Our words are color -- yellow, blue, and red,
Drumbeat for marching, prayer for bed.

Words are our armor, they are our intent,
The coin we used along the way we went.

Grace Mansfield

Thanks Ted Malone for sharing your snapshots, blossoms, and tea cakes -- and for being a pre - blogger!

For more on Ted Malone & The American Album of Poetry
see my current post: Pastiche
on the The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

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