The most famous poet in American history sold 1 million copies of his book, back in the days when 1 million was a lot. He had his own weekly radio show and even, for a while, his own television show. His poetry was syndicated and appeared in hundreds of newspapers. For many years he published a new poem every day—and he did not miss deadlines. And yet, as fame goes, few people today know the name of Edgar Guest (1881-1959).
OK, that’s “top dog” in a specific, commercial-mass following sense, but a sense and a career worth thinking about. And worth noting for Detroiters since he moved here from Birmingham, England, as a lad of 10 and went to work, as a teen, for the Detroit Free Press, where he began his career in print.
His Wikipedia entry supplies these interesting details:
Guest penned some 11,000 poems which were syndicated in some 300 newspapers and collected in more than 20 books, including A Heap o' Livin' (1916) and Just Folks (1917). Guest was made poet laureate of Michigan, the only poet to have been awarded the title.
Pinsky’s consideration of the Guest story isn’t just about how a poet fell from popular consciousness; it’s also about how our idea of what poetry is and should be has shifted from the “reactionary, nostalgic, populist mode of Edgar Guest” to another language entirely. Less kindly, there's this Dorothy Parker dig from Guest's Wikipedia entry:
"I'd rather flunk my Wasserman test / Than read the poetry of Edgar Guest."
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.