It’s time for another edition of Pleasantly Disturbed Thursdays, led by the intrepid Duane Scott.
I live in the oldest incorporated suburb of St. Louis, a small city of 27,000. We have our own police and fire departments; we have a mix of housing (from about 1857 to 2010) and incomes; our Kirkwood School District also includes a couple of neighboring municipalities. Our downtown is charming (mostly two-story buildings) and we have the oldest farmers’ market outside the granddaddy of them all in the city, Soulard Market.
We also have had more than our fair share of troubles. Two years ago, a disgruntled resident walked into a meeting of the city council, shooting and killing two policemen, two council members and the director of Public Works. He gravely wounded the mayor before being killed himself in a burst of police gunfire. The year before that, Shawn Hornbeck, a boy missing from his home in rural Missouri, was found during a massive police hunt for another kidnapped boy. Both were in the Kirkwood apartment of Michael Devlin, who is now serving numerous lives terms for kidnapping, abuse, and all kinds of awful crimes.
But in Kirkwood, in spite of it all, we persist.
Each year, usually around the second weekend in September, we have the Greentree Festival. It’s a fairly typical slice of small town in the big city Americana. We have a parade on Saturday morning. Then you head for Kirkwood Park, where you find craft booths, food of all kinds, and free music (our favorite this year was a group from the Missouri Fiddlers Association playing “I’ll Fly Away”).
And there’s a small used book fair. Which I had to check out. After all, all paperbacks are a buck, and when was the last time you paid a dollar for a paperback book?
It wasn’t a huge collection of books, but it was fine. I wandered around until I found the poetry, which was contained in all of about two small boxes.
And what did I find?
The first thing was a palm-sized volume, published in 1961, of an essay entitled “Story Telling New and Old” by the Irish novelist, playwright, essayist and poet Padraic Colum. The essay was first published in a 1927 collection called The Fountain of Youth. What a cool little volume, I thought. When I got home and looked through, I discovered it was autographed by the author.
Second was Early Poems by William Butler Yeats, which was placed right next to Yeats: The Man and the Masks (1948) by Richard Ellman.
Then I picked up a rather ratty looking uncorrected proof of Nikki Giovanni's Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems & Not Quite Poems. It was prominently stamped “Not for Resale.” Tell that to the cashier.
And then I see 100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda, a 1986 edition of a 1959 collection of poems published the University of Texas Press. In both Spanish and English, no less.
And then there were two books of poetry by Richard Beban, What the Heart Weighs and Young Girl Eating a Bird. Both were autographed with the inscription “To Beth - April 19, 2007. Thanks for you’re your h help with the SLWG. I figured the acronym out -- Beban had spoken or done a poetry reading at at a meeting of the St. Louis Writer's Guild.
Seven books, seven buck, and “I’ll Fly Away.” Not bad for a Saturday afternoon.