Wilson MacDonald, Caw-Caw Ballads (Broadway, 1930)
If the back cover of this monstrosity is to be believed, one William Arthur Deacon (who was, The Canadian Encyclopedia tells me [http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/william-arthur-deacon], editor of the Toronto Globe and Mail from 1936-61), writing in the New york Times Book Review, said of Wilson MacDonald that “In the present generation of poets, whose name is legion, Wilson MacDonald is the outstanding figure.” And yet somehow, when we think about the poetry of the 1930s, names like H.D., John Betjeman, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Louis MacNiece, Charles Reznikoff, Langston Hughes, and of course Ezra Pound come to mind, but Wilson MacDonald seems to have faded into obscurity. Wonder why? Well, open to a random page of Caw-Caw Ballads and the reason will be all too clear.
“And they said, ‘Friend crows
Our business creed
Is to help the weak
And all in need.
And they spoke grand words
At every dinner
Of their love for man
Whether saint or sinner.”
(the entire text of p. 22, from “The Service Club Crow”)
Doggerel, the lot of it, and none of the book’s forty-eight pages is any better, save those that contain only one stanza. They are notable, at least, for their brevity. Do yourself a favor if you stumble upon a Wilson MacDonald book at you local used book sale’s box day: leave it there. *