A Question of American Canon

A Question of American Canon

by Louie Crew

On a winter night in South Carolina,

my friend Beecher,

by then 80,


that Venerable Frost

had told him at Breadloaf

many summers before,

“John, don’t write any more

Nigger poems.

That subject is dead,

will resolve itself,

will pull you

into a mere footnote.

“Rather be Eternal.”

“And that’s what the bastard wanted most,”

Beecher sighed.

“Frost proved that most Americans’ hearts,

like most of their textbooks, won’t open

if you get specific.

Every time he neared a meaning,

`a burning barn,

a yellow wood,

or frozen lake,’

he cleared his throat and smiled;

enigmatically, of course.”

That February John rescued a camellia

caught in the gate.

One would need to be versed in perpetuity

not to believe

his ancestors Harriet and Henry Ward B.


buried far away,

near their Frosty neighbor.

Louie Crew, an Alabama native, 75, is an emeritus professor at Rutgers and lives in East Orange, NJ, with Ernest Clay, his husband of 38 years. As of today, editors have published 2,181 of Crew’s manuscripts. Crew has edited special issues of College English and Margins. He has written four poetry volumes: Sunspots (Lotus Press, Detroit, 1976) Midnight Lessons (Samisdat, 1987), Lutibelle’s Pew (Dragon Disks, 1990), and Queers! for Christ’s Sake! (Dragon Disks, 2003).

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