Spring 1995 • Vol. XVII No. 2 Nonfiction |

Laughed off: Canon, Kharakter, and the Dismissal of Vachel Lindsay

The priest departs, the divine literatus comes. — Walt Whitman   It must be tough to be a poet. — Vachel Lindsay's Milkman   Oh gawd!!! — Ezra Pound It is arguable whether, as Virginia Woolf famously wrote, ". . .on or about December 1910 human character changed." It is also arguable exactly what she meant when she wrote it. If the usual interpretation—that Woolf is describing the birth of modernism—were correct, and if the resulting timetable were the literal truth, then the suicide of the American poet Vachel Lindsay on December 5, 1931, precisely twenty-one years after Woolf's transformative month, could be regarded as coinciding with the arrival of modernism's difficult adulthood. Eleanor Ruggles, one of Lindsay's biographers, provides this account of his death: [Lindsay's wife Elizabeth] was awakened by a crash below. Then she heard other noises, then rapid but extraordinarily heavy footsteps thudding along the lower hall, and the

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T. R. Hummer’s tenth book of poems, Ephemeron, was published by LSU Press in November 2011; his second book of essays, Available Surfaces, will appear in University of Michigan Press’s Poets on Poetry Series in 2012. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and teaches at Arizona State University.

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By T. R. Hummer

The priest departs, the divine literatus comes. — Walt Whitman   It must be tough to be a poet. — Vachel Lindsay's Milkman   Oh gawd!!! — Ezra Pound It […]

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