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Happy 100th birthday to our Hoosier poet.
March 16, 1913-January 4, 1986

mapes portrait img_srcI’ve written and rewritten what I want to say about my grandfather on his 100th birthday and finally dismissed it all. I think I’ll save my reflections for another day, and instead, I’ll let him speak for himself.

I have a small black binder of yellowed, dog-eared copies of “The Cornucopia,” the quarterly poetry magazine of The Poets’ Corner, Inc., based in Indianapolis. The issues in the binder date from 1958 to 1963.

Art reinforced each small magazine with tiny white stickers for hole-punched pages, and he used the same stickers to mark the pages where his poems were published. On page 8 of the Summer 1961 issue, he writes that he desires to join in one of the state conferences of poets. His letter, dated June 23, 1961, contains something quite precious: A poet’s description of his art and his artistic method. Some excerpts:

I am not a great poet, nor do I try to emulate the fame or the success of those who are. I have studied everything I can lay my hands on about Nature, but my downfall is that I cannot use the big fancy words that some poets do because I have only a high school education. I devote much study to the subjects I write about in order to insure the proper authenticity. Ideas and titles come easy to me, many times I start typing and the words seem to frame themselves in my mind almost as fast as I can type. I thank God for the talent He has given me, and for the many Nature’s wonders that He points out to me to write about. The value, and estimation, of my work I leave to the judgment of others.

It is very beautiful here where I live, it is a winding road with lots of woods, hills and green meadows, a poet’s paradise. We often see deer, and it is wonderful to arise early in the morning to hear the chattering of squirrels and the songs of birds. There is a nice lake at the rear of the farm with a nice woods along the shore. I go there often to be alone, and to be nearer Nature.
I am looking forward to meeting you and the other poets, and to learn more about you, and to get up to date on that which I have missed. Perhaps if we keep faith with God, and each other, some day our work will blossom forth with beauty; and the fruit of our efforts will be as clean, and wholesome, and as lovely to the eyes of others as shiny red apples fresh from the tree.

I may seem an odd ball to some, but I wish to be understood. Some have said in the past that my poems are too earthy, I am enclosing several poems to prove to you how I picture Nature as I find it.