J.D. Salinger Poem Unveiled
hard hard heels
Salinger loved poetry. Many of his stories are rooted in verse and numerous of his characters were designed as poets.” A Boy in France ” recalls the verse of Dickinson and of Blake, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish and “The Inverted Forest” invoke the work of T.S. Eliot. “Teddy” relays the words of Basho, while Salinger's later Glass stories invoke the rhyme of Issa and a myriad of Eastern poets. Seymour Glass was a poet. Raymond Ford was a poet. Teddy McArdle wrote poetry in his diary just as Allie Caulfield consoled his boredom by scribbling poems onto his southpaw mitt while in the field.
J.D. Salinger was himself a poet. While overseas during the war, he submitted at least 15 poems to The New Yorker – with such frequency that the magazine's poetry editors began to complain.Yet, despite these submissions (each of which were rejected) and Salinger's obvious reverence for the art-form, not a single Salinger poem has ever been found. Until now.
In 1939, while studying poetry under Charles Hanson Towne, Salinger wrote a fifteen-line verse entitled Early Fall in Central Park . The poem is clearly an early attempt, its quality questionable, but it is important because it is the only Salinger poem known to exist. I uncovered the poem way back in 2005 while researching my book. Personally, I think the young Salinger is poking fun at Towne, affronting his teacher's reputation for producing conventional and therefore popular verse. Regardless of whether my interpretation is right or wrong (a decision I leave to readers), I think most will recognize that the poem betrays a disgust with fashionable society that evokes the later attitude of Holden Caulfield and is therefore fascinating. Dead Caulfields offers it here exclusively for the first time:
Early Fall in Central Park
Slobber and swarm, you condemned brown leaves.
Around my feet, even my soul, just as you please.
Peek-a-boo! You scraggy, impotent, shrouded sun.
It’s only me; so don’t shine or primp; just run
Good afternoon, good afternoon, nude little ladies!
Such attractive mink. It’s all yours? Ah, what’s new in Hades?
J.D. Salinger - 1939