Guiterman

Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)

A naturalized citizen (born in Vienna to American citizens) Guiterman was early on destined to write. He graduated CCCNY with a major in English Literature. His achievements were: elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the Ward Medal in composition, and class poet. He worked most of his life as an editor for the great publications of that era: Literary Digest, Religious News, Scientific News, and Woman‘s Home Companion. Poetry began as a hobby about contemporary issues usully in short four to eight quatrains like Strictly Germ-Proof:

“The Antiseptic baby and the Prophylactic Pup
Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gamboled up
They looked upon the creature with a loathing undisguised,
It wasn’t disinfected and it wasn’t sterilized.”

Other notable achievements were: co-founder of the Poetry Society of America; collaborated as librettist in the operetta adaptation of Hale’s Man Without a Country; awarded an horary Litt.D.

As most of his prose writing was as editor it is difficult to do Clark analysis of characteristics. If there is one clear characteristic it has more to do with making a living rather than desire what he termed “marked ability and market ability” in other words advice given to young poets. Comments such as “if the country seems going against the sad sonnet - don’t write sad sonnets - as an example the success of Strictly Germ-Proof had to do with the emerging pharmaceutical movement on germ protection. To Guiterman the ultimate example of a “market savvy” writer was William Shakespeare who began his career as a writer of sonnets. One day he looked around and saw that there was a clamor for plays and switched immediately.

“The poet must be influenced by demand. There is inspiration in the demand. Besides the material reward, the poet who is influenced by the demand has the encouraging, inspiring knowledge that he is writing something that people want to read.”

Here are Guiterman’s sixteen commandments for success (apologies for writing in the negative.)

Don’t think of yourself as a poet, and don’t dress the part.
Don’t classify yourself as a member of any special group.
Don’t call your quarters a garret or a studio.
Don’t frequent exclusively, the company of other writers.
Don’t think of any class of work that you feel moved to do as either beneath you or above you.
Don’t complain of lack of appreciation. (In the long run no really good published work can escape appreciation.)
Don’t think you are entitled to any special rights, privileges, and immunities as a literary person, or have any more reason to consider your possible lack of fame a grievance against the world than has n shipping-clerk or traveling-salesman.
Don’t speak of poetic license or believe that there is any such thing.
Don’t tolerate in your own work any flaws in rhythm, rhyme, melody, or grammar.
Don’t use ‘e’er’ for ‘ever,’ o’er’ for over, ‘whenas” for ‘what time’ for ‘when,’ or any of the ‘poetical’ commonplaces of the past.

Don’t say ‘did go’ for ‘went,’ even if you need an extra syllable.
Don’t omit articles or prepositions for the sake ofr the rhythm.
Don’t have your book published at your own expense by any house that makes a practice of publishing at the author’s expense.
Don’t write poems about unborn babies.
Don’t write hymns to the great god Pan, He is dead; let him rest in peace!
Don’t write what everybody else is writing.

We close with this work of seven five-line stanzas, his single non-humorous work Death and General Putnam. Which was an immediate success so much so that the famous drama critic, Round Table member, Alexander Woollcott made it a regular reading on his radio show The Town Crier.

His iron arm had spent its force,
No longer might he rein a horse;
Lone, beside the dying blaze
dreaming dreams of younger days
Sat old Israel Putnam.

Twice he heard, then three times more
A knock upon the oaken door,
A knock he could not fail to know,
That old man in the ember-glow.
“Come,” said General Putnam.

The door swung wide; in cloak and hood.
Lean and tall the pilgrim stood
And spoke in tones none else might hear,
“Once more I come to bring you Fear!”
“Fear?” said General Putnam.

“You know not Fear? And yet this face
Your eyes have seen in many a place
Since first in stony Pomfret, when
You dragged the man wolf from her den.”
“Yes,” said General Putnam.

“Am I not that which strong men dread
On stricken field or fevered bed
On gloomy trail and stormy sea,
And dare you name my name to me?”
“Death,” said General Putnam.

“We have been comrades, you and I,
In chase and war beneath this sky;

And now, whatever Fate may send,
Old comrade, can you call me friend?”
“Friend,” said General Putnam.

Then up he rose, and forth they went
Away from battleground, fortress, tent,
Mountain, wilderness, field and farm,
Death and the General arm-in-arm,
Death and General Putnam.