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date: 12 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article argues for the importance of the “vest-pocket masterpiece” and the individual poetry clipping in understanding the situation of poetry in twentieth-century American popular culture and in the lives of ordinary readers. It accesses the culture of incidental poetry in two major ways, each of which taps—via the individual clipping and its carriage—in to a different point along the communications circuit of poetry's social lives. First, it traces the international circulation of a single poem—V. M. Rodebaugh's Depression-era “Rejected,” a piece of political satire first printed in 1938—as it made its way not only into Paul Fox's portfolio in Ashland, Ohio, but also into the footlockers and albums of World War II soldiers, onto the desk of Eleanor Roosevelt, and into the hands and rocket bombs of propagandists in Nazi Germany. Then, it examines the political and aesthetic dimensions that individual poetry clippings like “Rejected” acquired as they were collected, read, edited, and saved in poetry scrapbooks. Many noteworthy authors kept scrapbooks themselves; by focusing primarily on anthologies edited by less credentialed individuals, however, it is shown how such albums became engines for critical reading processes in the hands of readers who would have encountered poetry largely in incidental ways.

Keywords: newspaper poetry, American poetry, incidental poetry, V. M. Rodebaugh, Rejected, poetry clipping

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