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The Poetry of Berton Braley

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#1
MadManLear

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I've been playing the wallflower for some time now, sneaking around and reading other threads. So this post will serve as a discussion of my favorite poet, Berton Braley, and also to get me off the wall and in the habit of posting.

Speaking broadly, I would like to discuss two aspects of Braley's work, theme and style. I have found myself extremely impressed and entranced by both.

Recently, I discovered that he attributes most of his stylistic talent to Tom Hood, the author of "Rhymester." Here's a little excerpt from one of Braley's essays:

["Rhymester]brushed aside all the bunk about "poetic license" and pointed out that when the "great ones" had rhymed "river" and "ever," for an example, the great ones had cheated- and that the young versifier wouldn't become a great one by copying genius in its slipshod moments. Tom Hood told me, when I was eighteen, that there was no such thing as "allowable rhyme." That two words either rhymed or they didn't.


Braley's sense of black-and-white is also reflected in his poetry, where the evil are vehemently damned and the good are given praise. He was pro-capitalism, pro-technology, pro-individual, and definitely pro-reson. Here's an example of his better work: "The Thinker"

Back of the beating hammer
By which the steel is wrought,
Back of the workshop's clamor
The seeker may find the Thought,
The Thought that is ever master
Of iron and steam and steel,
That rises above disaster
And tramples it under heel!

The drudge may fret and tinker
Or labor with lusty blows,
But back of him stands the Thinker,
The clear-eyed man who knows;
For into each plow or saber,
Each piece and part and whole,
Must go the Brains of Labor,
Which gives the work a soul!

Back of the motors humming
Back of the belts that sing,
Back of the hammers drumming.
Back of the cranes that swing,
There is the eye which scans them
Watching through stress and strain
There is the Mind which plans them-
Back of the brawn, the Brain!

Might of the roaring boiler,
Force of the engine's thrust,
Strength of the sweating toiler-
Greatly in these we trust.
But back of them stands the Schemer,
The Thinker who drives things through;
Back of the Job-the Dreamer
Who's making the dream come true!


So my questions are, who here has heard of Berton Braley, and what do think of him? I have yet to find out anything negative about his work or his life.

And if you haven't heard of Berton Braley, you can read a wide selection of his work here.

#2
Kitty Hawk

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I've heard of Braley, and I've seen that poem "The Thinker" before. He certainly sounds like an interesting poet. But finding books of his poetry or essays is nearly impossible. I've tried finding them at online used book stores, such as abebooks.com, and found nothing. It's frustrating.

I'll look into that site you listed, however.
"Gentlemen may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace . . . Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" Patrick Henry

#3
DavidV

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I love Berton Braley's poems. Unfortunately, I don't think any of his books are in print today. However http://www.bertonbraley.com is a great resource for his poems, along with Ebay, which features his books and prints now and then.

#4
Kitty Hawk

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I did manage to find some of Braley's books used at abebooks.com when I checked this time. The website you both mentioned also sells some copies of his books. Looking over some of his poems on the site, several of them were excellent, such as the ones titled "Man," "Start Where You Stand," and "Merchant Adventurers."
"Gentlemen may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace . . . Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" Patrick Henry

#5
MadManLear

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His works are indeed hard to find. I just checked Amazon, and they have one used copy available, asking price of $193.75

David, I actually discovered Berton Braley via your blog. For a while you posted poems of his pretty regularly. So thanks for that.

Rumaging through the books at the gallery the other day, I found a copy of Virtues in Verse, and have kept it nearby ever since. Seeing as how the Atlantean Press is no longer in existence, I think it would be more than worth ARI's effort to obtain the rights and republish the book.

More importantly, I believe Berton Braley should definitely be required reading for high school English classes. Both his sense of life and his discipline of form are of a standard almost unheard in most high school texts.

Kitty Hawk: you can find Braley's best poetry in one place on the Quent Cordair website. We have them available for visitors to copy and paste into e-cards: click here.

#6
Kitty Hawk

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I too would love to see Virtues in Verse republished, by someone. Thanks for the Cordair website tip, also. I was surprised they didn't have the famous poem by Badger Clark, The Westerner (the world began when I was born, and the world is mine to win). It sounds a lot like a Berton Braley poem.
"Gentlemen may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace . . . Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" Patrick Henry

#7
intellectualammo

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I too would love to see Virtues in Verse republished, by someone.


Perhaps Second Renaissance, Inc could... (for they republished Maeterlinck's Monna Vanna and Merwin and Webster's Calumet "K")

I just discovered Berton Braley tonight, and already am having two books ILL'ed to me. I was reading Lisa VanDamme's PedagogicallyCorrect.com entries, and came upon a poem of his titled "Success" which you can read here on CapMag.com.

As stated on that site:

Berton Braley (1882 -1966) was an America poet who expressed the benevolent American sense of life through rhyme and verse. His poems romanticize the heroic, great, and industrious in man.


I'm excited to read more of his poetry! I wondered if others have heard of him here, so I did a quick search and found this thread.

Edited by intellectualammo, 21 December 2008 - 04:02 AM.

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#8
Sarrisan

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I'm not one for poetry, but these are amazing. It's as if he read Atlas Shrugged a kid.

I especially like Merchant Adventurers and Just Anti-Social (Though Learning to Write is one hell of a competitor!).

Edited by Sarrisan, 21 December 2008 - 03:49 PM.


#9
Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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The type of poetry written by Berton Braley is almost a lost art. When The Atlantean Press Review run by Patricia LeChevalier was up and running, she re-introduced his poetry in "Virtues in Verse." I'm glad to see there is a continued interest in his type of poetry, and I wrote a series of articles on the aesthetics of poetry in my own attempt to bring back that style of writing poetry.

You can read that essay here:

http://www.appliedph...s_of_poetry.htm

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#10
intellectualammo

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The type of poetry written by Berton Braley is almost a lost art. When The Atlantean Press Review run by Patricia LeChevalier was up and running, she re-introduced his poetry in "Virtues in Verse." I'm glad to see there is a continued interest in his type of poetry, and I wrote a series of articles on the aesthetics of poetry in my own attempt to bring back that style of writing poetry.

You can read that essay here:

http://www.appliedph...s_of_poetry.htm


Thank you for sharing that essay. But, I've only begun to really look at poetry as such and have much to learn about it, and I've decided that I need some guided learning with it at least, so I've been slowly listening to at work a course titled The Sublime Art: An Introduction to the Elements of Poetry by Jason Rheins (from the ARB). What I'm interested in is learning more about free verse too. Is it poetry, or isn't it? Now, I want poets who can sing, and if they choose to "talk" (as I call it)(which is fine) like in free verse, at least make it something my ears can hear, or my eyes can pick up on; I give each and every poem quick listen, if I don't like what I hear, I move on, and quickly. Emily Dickinson has spoiled me rotten with her singing! I enjoy listening to her. But anyways, there is very little published free verse I like, but there is some that is as of yet, as far as I know, not published, that I actually own, and love. When reading I get near manic about ones that I do like, because it can take some time to actually come across some, even when reading "poetry" or "poems" or whatever the fuck you call someone's I read from the Iowa Writers Workshop staff. Free verse I've read, many various volumes by different "poets" (not sure if it is epistemically correct to call them what they call themselves) that I can't even find two lines together that I like of... Anyways, I really have to read more up on poetry as such, and what Rand and other Objectivist intellectuals say about it, too in order to fully come to my own understanding of poetry. I lost my O'ism CD-ROM, I put it in an Emily Dickinson DVD by accident, and was never able to get it back again, but I'll have to acquire some of the works that I didn't already have that's on it that is on poetry.

As an extra note: I emailed the ARB encouraging them to consider possibly republishing Braley.

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#11
K-Mac

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I bought a used copy of Virtues in Verse online earlier this year, but I can't remember the website. I know I didn't pay this much for it! :wub:

#12
Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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Now, I want poets who can sing, and if they choose to "talk" (as I call it)(which is fine) like in free verse, at least make it something my ears can hear, or my eyes can pick up on; I give each and every poem quick listen, if I don't like what I hear, I move on, and quickly. Emily Dickinson has spoiled me rotten with her singing! I enjoy listening to her. But anyways, there is very little published free verse I like, but there is some that is as of yet, as far as I know, not published, that I actually own, and love.


As a genera, I think of "free verse" as I do abstract expressionism in paintings -- it's not art, although some might be pretty in their own way. It is possible for some "free verse" writers to put together words in an interesting manner, but if they have taken out all of the essentials of poetry (rhyme and scan or the rhythm of the lines), which I think they have, then it would not be a poem. The only way one might call them art is in the sense that they really concretize the Kantian view of the universe where nothing makes any sense. For more details, even though she doesn't talk much about poetry, I would recommend reading The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand regarding the nature and the purpose of art.

I've had a lot of discussions about this on various forums over the years, and inevitably someone will come out and say that the rhyme and scan poems (verse) is just one style of poetry, rather like romantic realism is just one style of art. However, I wouldn't consider putting a cross into a urinal to be art, just as I don't consider a set of words with no uniting style to be poetry. A poem just has theme and style, and to remove those from a set of words makes it not a poem at all.

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#13
intellectualammo

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I bought a used copy of Virtues in Verse online earlier this year, but I can't remember the website. I know I didn't pay this much for it! :wub:


You got one hell of a deal then! The sheer price of it, shows demand, I think, more than as a collectors item. I can't find it under $84.99 online. One thing I just noticed, which I didn't before was that Edward Cline is listed: "by Berton Braley, Linda Tania Abrams, Edward Cline - Atlantean Press (1994)" like in here

Is that THE Edward Cline?

My copy will be in soon so I'll find out.

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#14
intellectualammo

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The copy is in my hands now. I looked inside the back and there is a page about Braley poetry readings. I don't know if this is still ongoing or what, but there is a quote on that page and the back cover by Yaron Brook and Betsy Spiecher about the performances of the poetry which is presented by Linda Tania Abrams who I think has the copyright to the book and arranged it. Second Renaissance Books will have my email passed on to them to consider republishing the poetry, if they even can, or would want to. I'm excited about reading more of his poetry, so...see ya! I'll leave this for you guys though:

From his poem The Joy of Life:

I'd rather risk gamely
...And lose for my trying
Then to grind around tamely
...- A cog in a mill.
I'd rather fail greatly
...With courage undying
Than plod on sedately
...With never a thrill!

He has an autobioagraphy titled Pegasus Pulls a Hack: Memoirs of a Modern Minstrel anyone read it?

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." 
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#15
Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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I don't know if this is still ongoing or what, but there is a quote on that page and the back cover by Yaron Brook and Betsy Spiecher about the performances of the poetry which is presented by Linda Tania Abrams


I attended some of those poetry readings, and Linda was very good at it. I have no idea what she or Patricia are doing these days, or what their status is regarding Objectivism. However, that was a wonderful era of at least an attempt to bring back real romanticism. Remarkable, actually, but it never took off to be profitable, sad to say.

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#16
intellectualammo

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However, that was a wonderful era of at least an attempt to bring back real romanticism. Remarkable, actually, but it never took off to be profitable, sad to say.


Well, I really hope ARB does consider republishing them, since the O'world is a lot larger than it was before, right?, and ARB, I think, is like the store/publisher to choose if it were to ever be republished. Poetry I gather really does not have much of a readership compared to literature, but if you look at a particular readership that is out their now, this would surely be welcomed aboard it.

Edited by intellectualammo, 26 December 2008 - 03:05 PM.

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." 
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#17
Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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Well, I really hope ARB does consider republishing them, since the O'world is a lot larger than it was before, right?, and ARB, I think, is like the store/publisher to choose if it were to ever be republished. Poetry I gather really does not have much of a readership compared to literature, but if you look at a particular readership that is out their now, this would surely be welcomed aboard it.


Maybe. I don't know. I think ARB bought out Patricia's translations of Victor Hugo, but I'm not sure of the status of Virtues in Verse, or who has the publishing rights in that format. Like I said, it was a remarkable era run by remarkable people -- including writers and publishers -- but I think they expected a lot more success and didn't realize that it is earlier than you think. Maybe they will do something else remarkable, but it has been quite a few years since those days, and no one has arisen to fulfill that market for short stories and poetry, of what little there is. I speculate with some evidence that some of them were hurt deeply, like Cameron in The Fountainhead, if I'm not being too generous towards them.

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#18
intellectualammo

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[...]but I think they expected a lot more success[...]


I think this is interesting to note, on how this publication came about, which provides at least some implied support of it's potentiality in what you just said, given the requests:

The immediate provocation for publishing this selected reissue was the response of audiences to my live dramatic performances of Braley's poetry - and my unwillingness to spend long hours in front of a copy machine after each performance, to satisfy the many requests for the material.


Never mind that some of the industrial technology he writes about may be obsolete; the human nature and potential that his verses reflect are universal and timeless.


- both quotes from the Editor's Introduction by Linda Tania Abrams

Edited by intellectualammo, 26 December 2008 - 04:10 PM.

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." 
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I'm also on deviantART


#19
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I just started a book Braley co-authored with Lowell Thomas titled Stand Fast For Freedom. At first, I thought I picked up on a violation in historical chronology and knowledge, which was correct, but then I read as to why:

It is meant to show how human beings like ourselves brought us our human liberties; and how great heroes of liberty, ages apart in time, fought for the same ideals with the same spirit, That is why only part of the narrative will be set down here as continuous history. It is the people who fought them, and not the date of battles, that matter.


If the inspiration of those who strove, and are striving for freedom shall help to strengthen our hearts in these times that try men's souls; if it will aid in stirring us anew with the brave memory of those who led the legions of liberty; this book will have been worth while.


Wonder if VanDamme or Lewis would approve of such a violation of hierarchy/chronology? :) Anyways, looks like it's going to be a good read, though I really can't check the historical part of it too much, since I don't know hardly anything about history. I had what's called "social studies" in public school - unlike the pedagogically correct way, that of History that which is taught at VDA. Ever redoing my education...

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#20
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eBay just had a limited edition book of his for auction - Tales of the Hot Dog Tavern. It was #12 of 100 and was signed by Braley, and addressed to Rudolph Hughes, a director and uncle of Howard Hughes. I bid on it a few times but it went out of my price range, ultimately selling for $86.

The problem with reality is that it only works in practice. In theory, it can never work. ;)


#21
Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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I have no idea what she or Patricia are doing these days, or what their status is regarding Objectivism.


In case Patricia or any of her friends reads this, my statement may come across as untrue, since I did hear from her in early 2005. The letter was private, so I don't care to go into the details. Given her accomplishments in the past, I hope she is doing well. Unfortunately, the brief history of Objectivism has many players who rise up quickly and then burn out. I hope that is not the case here.

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#22
intellectualammo

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I just started a book Braley co-authored with Lowell Thomas titled Stand Fast For Freedom.


I've since finished the book, and do like the way they go back in history to show why the particulars of the Bill of Rights was demanded. I really learned a lot, since I'm not familiar with history too much and also was able to pull much from the text.

But I just finished his autobiography (which there are passages of it included in the back section of Virtues in Verse) and I found what he said here, is something explicit that I didn't know before about him:

[...]philosophically I'm a pragmatist and believe that any system that works is a good system, bad as it may be, and that capitalism does the job of feeding, housing and clothing people - at its worst - better than any other system that has been tried.


A crudely stated pragmatists case for capitalism?

But I only pulled a few lines from this book, and not really interesting at all to me.

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." 
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#23
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But I just finished his autobiography (which there are passages of it included in the back section of Virtues in Verse) and I found what he said here, is something explicit that I didn't know before about him:

A crudely stated pragmatists case for capitalism?

Well up until recently, few have made a case saying that capitalism is the only moral system. However, the moral IS the practical.
And here, over the portals of my fort, I shall cut in the stone the word which is to be my beacon and my banner. The word which will not die, should we all perish in battle. The word which can never die on this earth, for it is the heart of it and the meaning and the glory. The sacred word: EGO.

#24
Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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A crudely stated pragmatists case for capitalism?


I think you'd have to get more context. Certainly Braley liked the people who got things done, which is a non-philosophical way of holding "pragmatism" in one's mind. In other words, doing whatever it takes to get the job done, and Braley only talked about rational jobs in the poetry of his that I read. Objectivism is against the anti-ideology of pragmatism qua system, but I don't know that one can hold it against people from the past who may have misunderstood what pragmatism qua system meant.

On the other hand, there are a lot of very good artists who are not able to formulate and make explicit their ideals coherently or philosophically. I have in mind Mickey Spillane, Victor Hugo, and now maybe Braley, who's art was much better than their explicit philosophy. I would say that Thomas Kinkade is rather like this. He calls himself a "Christian Artist" and he is Christian, but depending on what aspect of Christianity one accepts -- Augustine or Aquinas -- doing spectacular art is contradictory to the Christian Dogma, because it is too earth centered and too man centered. And there are other Christian artists like that who come across quite rational in their art -- i.e. they can really concretize an abstraction and they can make art that sells well -- but their explicit philosophy is anti-capitalism.

I don't have a verdict on Braley, since I don't really know much about his explicitly held ideas aside from how he writes his art.

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#25
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K-Mac

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I just ordered The World's One Thousand Best Poems I-X (Set), 1929, which is edited by Berton Braley. It wasn't very expensive...got the whole set for less than $30 on eBay with free shipping, so I'll let you know how it is once sanjavalen and I read a bit of it. There were more sets and individual volumes available on Amazon for cheap too, if anyone else is interested.


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