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THE PAPER SNAKE
ROLLER SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Vol. 2 Nos. 11, 14-15
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THE MURMURINGS OF A MISANTHROPE: Being the Aeration Plant of the Pet Peeves of a Certain Ybsorc Thenek [pseud]

[CROSBY, Rev. Kenneth Owen]

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[Annandale-on-Hudson, NY]: [ca. 1926-29]. Folio volume on 24 leaves of hand-made Japan paper tied with a raffia ribbon, typed on rectos only, approx. 12 x 9 inches. Two poems on leaves of green office stock (one with the letterhead of the Bursar's Office of St. Stephen's College) tipped in. Decorated throughout with a stamped linocut vignettes in blue ink. A little worn and soiled, with a bit of smoke staining to the upper corner of the first leaf; in very good condition. (Item ID: 13056)

An unpublished typescript of original poetry intended no doubt for private circulation. An enjoyably mordant collection of darkly satirical Jazz Age free verse. Includes 13 poems in all from Episcopal priest and educator Kenneth Owen Crosby (b. 1886), a Cleveland native and University of Chicago graduate who in 1926 had come to St. Stephen's College (renamed Bard in 1934) as a chaplain and instructor in religion. He left sometime after 1933 after three years as an assistant professor in Oral English and a stint in the Bursar's office. Piecing together his career from clues in the verses here, from University of Chicago alumni directories and Stowe's Clerical Directory of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States (1920), it appears he came to Bard after some time at a school for orphaned boys in Chicago. None of which is as interesting, however, as Crosby's poems - which suggest perhaps a darker view of society than his clerical collar might indicate. His "Addressing a Parochial Branch of the Woman's Auxiliary" picks apart a small-town group of women with a touch of the Babbitt; "Bishop Anderson's Anniversary Luncheon. February 24 1925 (Also election day)" takes on "Stumbling, bewildered clergy" and "Maudlin eulogies and / Gasping reminiscences / Of the last quarter-century / Emitted with senile dramatics;" while in "A Street Car on a Sunday Night" he casts a dark eye on "Painted, giggling flappers; / Over-dressed, vapidly witty he-flappers. . . ." Crosby specifically addresses life at St. Stephen's with such pieces as "The Library Fire June 1929;" "A Public Recital. One Sixteen Twenty Eight" ("Stampede for dormitories and comfortable chairs. / Victrolas, radios, banjoes, saxophones . . . / Anything to remove the taste of / The Public Recital'); and "Commencement SSC 1929" ("Students sliding stealthily / To escape and encompass / Forbidden fermentations / And so make the rest of the night / Hideous and unbearable. . . ."). All this -- as well as his verses on interior decorators, friends' tiresome travel accounts, the sexualized throng on a dance floor and "a morning wasted in the city hall with the Board of Censors on Rex Beach's picture, 'The Roughneck'" -- suggest a wide (if perhaps jaded) engagement with popular culture. Intriguing.


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