Daniel Hoffman on Elizabeth McFarland

As the poetry editor of the Ladies Home Journal from 1948-1962, Elizabeth McFarland, "published some 900 poems by authors like Maxine Kumin, Randall Jarrell, W. H. Auden, John Updike, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Marianne Moore," as an article in the New York Times  noted in  2005.

Daniel Hoffman's essay, available as a pdf below, recounts this period in McFarland's life as both an editor and a  poet herself.  Hoffman's essay was originally published as the introduction to Over the Summer Water, a collection of poems by Farland, from which the two poems below appear.

Read the essay.

 

* * *

Two Voices

by Elizabeth McFarland

  He
         
  When we were young
  Old talk pleased best:
  Immortality, or Fate,
  The Will or the State--
  And the high-thinking rest.

  Now all that's past
  And I ponder late
  One theme: how young
  Are the wild apples hung
  High on Time's breast!

  She
           
  Sir, those long walks
  When we two strayed
  Deep in the briars
  Of Philosophy's glade,
  To rest at last
  On sweetmoss stone--

  Those talks were abstract
  For you alone:
  My words were curved,
  And all my wit
  Sprang from your heart
  And aimed at it.


*
    

Over the Summer Water

by Elizabeth McFarland


Summer distances  do not alarm
When water fills them;
The eye drinks, feels no harm,
Rinses, and spills them,
While the heart, little red canoe,
Over the resonant river races,
Calling Darling!  Clementine!  Lou!
O Boy in the boater and braces!

Summer people, like daguerreotypes, don't face;
They are watermarked, and that is that--
Professor and Mrs. Pew on the Esplanade,
Old Mrs. Ferris's hat. . .
The Fat Boy. . . the Twins. . . the Sophomore. . .the Beaux. . .   
The Belles in their bright boasting dresses-        
Memory wears retrospective clothes,
Slim waists, and (preferably) long tresses.

Summer quivers over the water on a banjo ping,
Is magnified, and roars to shore;
A myriad lost voices in community sing
O my Darling!  O Clementine!  No more. . .
For water is ghost-freighted with memory;
It widens in rings beyond telling
Where time's old excursioners go down to sea,
Their scarves and their bannerets swelling.


* * *

Poems reprinted from Over the Summer Water by Elizabeth McFarland (Orchises Press, 2008). Copyright  2008 by Daniel G. Hoffman, Trustee, Estate of Elizabeth McFarland Hoffman. Reprinted with permission.

 

 

 
 

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