Monday, February 01, 2010

So Much Literary History in So Few Words...

From Bess' Diary Feb. 1, 1941

February 1, 1941
Sat. 48
Read “Always the Land” by Paul Engle* pretty good writing. Saw Iowa 46 Millikin** 27. Walked over + the Strothers (?) brought me home. BJ and 2 guests kept me awake until 2.

Paul Engle

*Paul Engle, Cedar Rapids, IA native is best known as a poet, but “Always the Land” is fiction. He was a Rhodes Scholar and winner of the “Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1932. He is also very well known as the second director of the world renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Foxcroft neighbor, Wilbur Schramm, was the first director of the workshop, and at the time of this diary entry Schramm was about to take a leave of absence in order to work in the U.S. Office of War Information. Engle was Schramm’s early star student, and Engle’s “Worn Earth,” which won the Yale prize mentioned above was Engle’s masters' thesis. The University of Iowa was the first American college to accept creative works as thesis and dissertation requirements. Engle became acting director during Schramm’s absence and subsequently permanent director until 1966. Under Engle such writers as Flanner O’Conner, Robert Bly, and Donald Justice were students. The many famous writers who served as visiting faculty under Engle included Nelson Algren, Philip Roth, and Kurt Vonnegut.

I kept the autographed copy of “Always the Land,” along with many other books and papers, at the urging of Bess’ neice who inherited the contents of Foxcroft. It is displayed prominently on the “Iowa shelf” in the living room bookcase.

**Millikin College (now University) is located in Decatur, Illinois. Their nickname is the "Big Blue".

I have no idea who the "Strothers" are (or if I've spelled their name right) I'm not sure who "BJ" is either, there are a few other references to her, including one about her going to a "freshman party." At this time Helen was teaching in Milwaukee, so perhaps Bess took in a boarder?

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