Monday, November 14, 2016

A Regular Sort of Guy — Eugene O'Neill Enters American Poets Corner

photo © Mark Butkus 2011.
American Poets Corner enshrines Eugene O'Neill in 2016.

Eugene O'Neill is being celebrated tonight with his induction into the American Poets Corner at Saint John the Divine in New York City. The author of 32 full length plays and 21 one act plays is probably best known for his four Pulitzer winning plays: Beyond the Horizon (1920); Anna Christie (1922); Desire Under the Elms (1924); Strange Interlude (1928) and; Long Day's Journey Into Night (1957).

America's only Nobel winning playwright — Eugene O'Neill — never thought much of his poetry. More than sixty years after his death we still do not have the definitive collection of his poetry. Though attempts have been made.

The American Poets Corner in recent years has taken to honoring a poet one year and a writer outside of poetry the following year. While Eugene O'Neill is being honored as a playwright it is appropriate to look at his poetry — or at least one poem — on this day to honor a regular sort of guy. At least that's how Eugene O'Neill saw himself, as a regular sort of guy who felt anonymous in a crowd at a football game.

A Regular Sort of a Guy

He fights where the fighting is thickest
And keeps his high honor clean;
From finish to start, he is sturdy of heart,
Shunning the petty and mean;
With his friends in their travail and sorrow,
He is ever there to stand by,
And hark to their plea, for they all know that he
Is a regular sort of a guy.

He cheers up the sinner repentant
And sets him again on his feet;
He is there with a slap, and a pat on the back,
For the lowliest bum on the street;
He smiles when the going is hardest,
With a spirit no money can buy;
And take it from me, we all love him 'cause he
Is a regular sort of a guy.

I don't care for the praise of the nations,
Or a niche in the great hall of fame,
Or that posterity should remember me
When my dust and the dust are the same;
But my soul will be glad if my friends say
As they turn from my bier with a sigh
"Though he left no great name, yet he played out the game
Like a regular sort of a guy."

— Eugene O'Neill

The first attempt to publish the poetry of Eugene O'Neillen toto — was in the 1931 A Bibliography of the Works of Eugene O'Neill. This edition, limited to 500 copies, reprinted two dozen poems, that for the most part originally appeared in the New London, Connecticut Telegraph where O'Neill worked in 1912.

A further examination of his poetry was to be found in The Yale University Library Gazette in 1963 in the 16 page piece entitled, The Published and Unpublished Poems of Eugene O'Neill.

The most and recent and most complete look at his poetry was with the 1980 publication of, Eugene O'Neill Poems 1912-1944 compiled by editor Donald Gallup.

photo © Mark Butkus 2011.
All that remains of the historic Provincetown Playhouse founded by Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Djuna Barnes in 1916 is its facade.

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