Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Poet Laureate of Maynard, MA
One hundred years ago, William C. Kenyon was locally known for poems published in The Maynard News. Kenyon worked at the woolen mill. Little is known about him. Apparently, he married Eva Wilson in 1895, lived in Maynard, then moved away in 1919. The newspaper published more than 50 of his poems over the period 1913 to 1919. The Maynard Historical Society has on file a binder containing most of Kenyon's poems, transcribed from archived copies of the newspaper. Internet searches yield no information.
His topics were local: the woolen mill, a town election, the bandstand controversy...and also general: the war, death, motherhood. Quite a number of the poems had to do with efforts to ban the sale of alcohol. This was a topic Kenyon appeared ambivalent about, as in several poems he portrayed the harmful influence of alcohol, while in another he lamented Maynard voting itself dry. Here are excerpts from some of his poems (which will benefit from being read out loud). The first example is the beginning lines from "Maynard's Woolen Mill."
Upon the river Assabet,
which flows by Summer Hill,
in the old town of
stands Maynard's woolen mill.
A high imposing structure,
the largest of its kind;
it answers well the purposes,
for which it was designed.
It is not a thing of beauty,
though planned with greatest skill;
it was ugly when completed,
and it is ugly still.
This one goes on for eight more verses of similar length. It was in print in 1918, about when the large new buildings closest to the mill pond were being completed. The next is from "A Protest." Kenyon was castigating speculators who were driving up the price of food during the war.
And some of our men of finance,
if I had the proper dope,
Should be made to do a high dance,
with their necks inside a rope.
For the men who rob our children,
of their meat and of their bread,
Should be hung from some high building,
and left there till they're dead.
This one also had eight more verses in a similar vein. Kenyon's style was not concise. Most of his work fell into the range of 300-600 words. He tended to rhyme alternating lines - except when he didn't.
Next example: April 1915, and the town of
Maynard had just voted itself dry. The
neighboring towns were consistently dry, but Maynard flip-flopped from year to
year. Prohibition was town by town, county by county or state by state before
it became Federal law in 1919. From the start of "The Wail of the
Yes, Maynard went dry, and we
For no one seems to know.
Now, just how quick can we make
from here to Marlboro?
For spring is here and we want beer,
we don't care what you say.
So we ask you, what shall we do,
after the first of May?
One poem came to Maynard long after the Kenyons had moved away. In February 1938 he wrote "My Wife" in memory of his wife's recent death. They had lived on the hill south of the mill, and he writes of the evenings the two of them had stepped out of their house to walk to the top of the hill to see the sunset. He concludes with the thought that as he closes his eyes to sleep, his wife, his mother and those of his many brothers and sisters who had pre-decreased him are watching over him.