Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lothrop, Montana ...

Only those with a particular interest in American political history are probably familiar with the name Whitaker Chambers these days, but 60 years ago he was a fairly big deal ... a darling of the far right and one of the instigators of the anti-Communist hysteria that characterized the McCarthy era. His best-known writings were very political, of the sort that politically inspired Ronald Reagan.

In his younger days, though, Chambers was definitely a Bohemian ... and an aspiring poet, to boot. His first published work wasn't a political polemic, but rather a subtext-laden stanza of free verse titled "Lothrop, Montana." (Lothrop was a tiny settlement in eastern Mineral County, across the Clark Fork River from Alberton.)

The poem was first printed in the June 30, 1926 issue of The Nation. Here it is:
The cottonwoods, the boy-trees,
Imberbe -- the clean, green, central bodies
Standing apart, freely, freely, but trammeled;
With the branches inter-resting -- for support,
Never for caressing, except the wind blow.
And yet, leaning so fearfully into one another,
The leaves so pensile, so tremulously hung, as they lean toward one another;
Unable to strain further into one another
And be apart;
Held back where in the earth their secret roots
Wrap one about another, interstruggle and knot; the vital filaments
Writhing in struggle; heavy, fibrous, underearthen life,
From which the sap mounts filling those trembling leaves
Of the boy-trees, the cottonwoods.

1 comment:

  1. OK, that's only part of the story.... why did Whitaker Chambers choose Lothrop, Montana?? A visit?? He was an East Coaster... with a readily followable bio...