Poem of the Month–January 2022

Poem of the Month, January 2022

The poem of the month for January 2022 is “The Aviator,” by A. M. Sullivan, one of the best poets you never heard of. Sullivan’s poems never appeared in popular poetry anthologies, largely because his poems address the daily activities of modern life. Sullivan was associated with the firm of Dun & Bradstreet from 1932 through 1971, serving as editor of Dun’s Review. He was very active in poetry activities in the New York City area. He helped to host a radio program, The New Poetry Hour, on station WOR, from 1932 to 1941. He served several terms as president of the Poetry Society of America. He published over fifteen books of poetry.

The Aviator

A. M. Sullivan 

(In Memory of Frank Hawks) 

I met him first, leaning against the pillar in the McAlpin

            Lobby, still dizzy with a continent etched on his

            brain. 

Two oceans remembered, and the steel thread stitching

            the mountains and rivers; smoke of the morning at

            Tucson; smudge of the evening at Newark.

Deaf with the speech of his motor, the roar of a voice

            too swift for an echo from earth, but not too fast

            for the shadow that burned with the friction of flight. 

I knew them all—hedge jumper, pond hopper, barn-

            stormer, clowns of the skyramp, snobs of science

            with frost on the edge of their tongues. 

But one, only one, who could smile his way through the

            stormy tangles of air, and the foggy chatter of men

            and women who talk through a stencil. 

Knight of the vertical empires, wasp of the endless azure,

            lost at high noon in the frivolous air,

Frank Hawks, whose name is a heavenly pun, we salute

            you, child of wind, in the rich contagion of laughter.

Notes:

Frank Hawks was a well-known American aviator in the 1920s and 1930s. He was almost as well-known as Charles Lindbergh. Flying a variety of aircraft, he set a number of speed records. In 1929 he flew from Burbank California to New York in 18 hours and 21 minutes. He flew another west coast to east coast flight in 1930 in a time of 12 hours and 25 minutes. He was killed demonstrating the Gwinn Aerocar in September of 1938 when the aircraft snagged a telephone line on takeoff and crashed. He was 41 years old. He always appeared in photographs as smiling a friendly smile.

The McAlpin Lobby: In the 1920s and 1930s the McAlpin Hotel in New York City, located on Herald Square, at the corner of Broadway and 34th Street in Manhattan, was one of the most modern and popular of hotels.

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