Here is a story of fashioning a silk purse from a sow’s ear, metaphorically speaking.
Long-time readers of Honey & Quinine recall my posts about my 2011 experience with Arthur F. Humphrey and my providing a “tape” of my reading Part 1 of Vachel Lindsay’s poem “In Praise of Johnny Appleseed” what is now part of an exhibit at the Johnny Appleseed Museum in Urbana, Ohio. Thanks to Arthur Humphrey, museum director Joe Besecker and others, I visited the Appleseed Museum on the occasion of its ribbon cutting and re-dedication in March 2011. Later, during the same four-day excursion, Arthur and I visited the grave site of John Chapman (the real “Johnny Appleseed”) in Ft. Wayne, Indiana where he videotaped me reading Vachel’s entire three-part poem. Later in 2011 I wrote a book about the experience entitled Confluence of Legends: the Spirit of Vachel Lindsay Meets the Spirit of Johnny Appleseed and published it myself; sold a few copies at my featured presentation at Vachel’s house last October.
Late that year, I published two special editions with different covers. One edition cover included the words: Special Edition, Souvenir of the Johnny Appleseed Museum, Urbana, Ohio, and the other said: Special Edition, Souvenir of Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site, 603 S. Fifth St., Springfield, Illinois. The goal was to DONATE copies the Appleseed edition to you know where in Urbana and copies of the Lindsay edition to . . . again, you know where. Arthur Humphrey paid for the printing of both editions. Not a penny was factored in for my writing, initiative or effort. I sent several to Joe Besecker in Ohio who welcomed them warmly. I also shared the news with a new board member of the Vachel Lindsay Association who passed the word up the chain (no pun intended) to the rest of the board.
There’s a “spoof” of a popular poem that reads:
“I shot an arrow into the air.
I hand-delivered copies of the Vachel edition to the house — (a house is not a home) and explained to the convivial director, what I hoped would happen: that funds generated from their sale would go to support Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site. I was informed that the State of Illinois, which administers the historic site, sells nothing in what I will call the Education Room which in Vachel’s time served as a bedroom for boarders. All sales of the amazing array of publications, postcards, books, videotapes and more, are coordinated through the Vachel Lindsay Association, a not-for-profit organization I have supported with membership dues for years. I shared with friends on the VLA board the news of my delivery of the “Confluence of Legends” books to a closet in the Education Room in January 2012, and frankly, when I visited the home — a few months later — I expected to find them on the souvenir table for sale, $5 each.
I delivered my Vachel books to his house.
I was disappointed. I thought I was dealing with a different kind of organization. But I’m okay.
During subsequent visits to Vachel’s house, I have had the pleasure of meeting some terrific people who share my love the story of the Lindsay family, their talented only son (There were two sisters, Olive and Joy) and the poetry that rings as beautiful today as it did in the poet’s life; in some cases more so. On more than one occasion, while talking to distinguished visitors, I have been able to ascend the stairs to my cache of Vachel house special editions and GIVE them to those who have impressed and inspired me with their own most laudable appreciation in a “Confluence of Appreciation,” so to speak.
On July 28, 2012, I met Jim Miller and his wife Susie from Manitowoc, Wisconsin and their friend Marilynn Dunlap who accompanied their musical presentation to a packed house of new fans. They shared melodious arrangements of Vachel’s “General William Booth Enters Into Heaven” and “Why I Voted the Socialist Ticket.” The presentation was a delight. Here were people who had not heard of Vachel two weeks ago and invited to read Vachel poems in a feature presentation. They were practiced reverence and appreciation. They were in key. They didn’t mispronounce words they should have known how to pronounce. (You’d be surprised if you knew the names of those who have.) I took pictures and afterwards gave Jim a Vachel Lindsay house special edition of “Confluence of Legends.” I also gave a copy to my friend Hugh Moore who hosts a radio show on WQNA Saturday mornings. I didn’t have to remember to bring these books; they were waiting for me upstairs!
I continue to support the Vachel Lindsay Association as I can, when I can. I serve the poet as I can, and they do the same as they can. Still it’s nice to know that through their decisions, we both serve the memory of the man in a way neither of us would likely have imagined last January. Love is a gift. We are fools who choose not to make the most of it.
Live long . . . . . . . . . and proper.