Today is Here by Don Blanding (1946) in a raffle at an archives conference. I'd never heard of Blanding before, but this was a lovely little book of poems and drawings and I figured my reading it was meant to be.
Little did I know, Don Blanding (1894-1957) was quite a man. In fact, according to a fan's web site, he was "Author of such classics as Vagabond's House, Hula Moons and Drifter's Gold ~ Hawaiian Poet Laureate and Founder of Lei Day ~ Artist ~ Restless Vagabond ~ Designer of Vernon Kilns Dinnerware, Greeting Cards and Hawaiian Clothing ~ Songwriter ~ Theatrical Actor, Director and Producer of Musicals ~ Soldier ~ Lecturer ~ Radio, Film and Television Personality ~ Newspaper Columnist." That's a pretty amazing life! Blanding was born in Oklahoma and studied art in Chicago for a couple years before serving in WWI. After the war he studied art in Europe and then settled in Hawaii where he wrote poems for advertisers in a newspaper. His poems became very popular on the island and after locally publishing a few volumes of poems and art, he got a New York publisher and became famous, married a socialite, lived all over the world, got divorced, and never lost his passion for Hawaii (he is, indeed, known as the poet laureate of the island and founder of the holiday Lei Day).
The poetry in the book alternates between goofy and overly serious, and often has the plodding earnestness of something you might find in Reader's Digest. That being said, this was popular stuff in the mid-1940s and while it might not be super literary, there is a definite appeal to Blanding's writing style. Today is Here shows how deeply WWII affected Blanding and many of the poems are reactions to the atmosphere of war. The drawings, on the other hand, are more consistently enjoyable than the poetry to a modern eye. Beautiful, crisp, black ink drawings -- some are of people but many (and the best) are nature scenes, some of which move into pleasing repeating patterns. The drawings really make the book something you want to own and return to.
Hollywood Boulevard... Hollywood Boulevard
Quite unbelievable, gay-wild-and-woolyvard.
Overgrown Main Street, slightly inane street,
Frivolous, drivelous, frothy and vain street.
Not quite as bawdy and gaudy as Broadway
But far better known than that publicized Fraud-Way.
Simple, in some ways, as any small village street
And yet it's as hardboiled as New York's big thrillage street.
Diamonds and dungarees, barefoot and wedges,
Satin brocade that is frayed at the edges,
A funny fantasia, frantic and furious,
Blending of genuine, phony and spurious.
Hollywood's Super-Colossal production
Of pathos and beauty, of sin and seduction.