Poem of the Month—May 2021
Ninety-four years ago this month, on 20-21 May of 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic Ocean alone from New York City to Paris in approximately 34 hours. He flew a Ryan monoplane which he called “The Spirit of St. Louis,” in recognition of the St. Louis (Missouri) merchants who financed his trip. Perhaps no other aviation achievement in the 20th Century matched his feat for cultural and historical significance with the possible exception of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon in July of 1969, forty-two years after Lindbergh’s flight.
Soon after his return to the United States, a publishing company sponsored a contest for the best poems to be written about Lindbergh’s flight. The company received over 4,000 submissions, of which one hundred were selected for inclusion in a volume entitled The Spirit of St. Louis, edited by Charles Vale. These poems differ as much in style as in poetic merit. They are listed in alphabetical order according to the first letter of the author’s last name. Some of the submissions were by established poets of the time, including William Rose Benet, Witter Bynner, Robert Tristram Coffin, Nathalia Crane, Babette Deutsche, Thomas Hornsby Ferril, and Harriet Munroe.
Because this is the anniversary month of the flight, I have selected one poem from the book which especially appeals to me, by a poet about whom little is known, other than that he was one of the lucky one hundred. His name is E. R. Coe, and the title of the poem is, not surprisingly, “Lindbergh.” I like it for its poetic form (a sonnet) and content, and especially for the metaphor it employs, which is especially appropriate for this occasion.
E. R. Coe
He is the poet of the air. He writes
In verse immortal that all men may read.
His metre is a motor-measured beat;
His thought aspires through clouds to distant heights.
He spells in piston-power of strength and speed.
His is the courage that defeats defeat.
His masterpiece was written in the skies;
The dawn and darkness printed its free text—
(For which the ink was brewed from doubts and fears.)
His theme is firmer for the friendly ties
That bind his great achievement to the next
Adventure and the coming splendid years.
He is the poet of the air, whose pen,
A plane’s propeller, spins new dreams for men.