2 by Phyllis McGinley

The Love Letters of Phyllis McGinley
Copyright 1954
Checked out 19 times in 36 years
Last checked out 8 years ago

Times Three
Copyright 1961
Checked out 4 times in 44 years
Last checked out 40 years ago

Coming across these books has proved an education for me. I had no idea who Phyllis McGinley was and after browsing the books and then the internet, was surprised to find she had received the Pulitzer prize in 1961 for Times Three (above), which has only been checked out 4 times in 44 years here at the Albertville Public Library. It’s not a great surprise that it has gotten so little attention since McGinley, primarily a writer of light verse about life in suburban Connecticut, has been forgotten. I was surprised that a writer of light verse had won the Pulitzer. Albeit, it’s rather erudite light verse, but it’s light verse nonetheless. The greater mystery is perhaps why her more slender volume, Love Letters, has received regular circulation. I assume it has to do with the word “love” and the word “letters” juxtaposed together, making it sound like a juicy or sentimental read. Some of it is, but much of it isn’t. For instance, “Love Letter to an Institution” is just that–a poem in appreciation of a museum. Perhaps the heftier book (Times Three is 294 pages) is just too intimidating for the average reader. In any case, I recommend keeping both on the shelves. One is getting read and the other received a Pulitzer prize. But also because, as I have mentioned before, there are so few books of light verse by women. This library can now claim three (one by “Piney” Gaston and two by McGinley). I know it has plenty of Ogden Nash, so these help balance the gender scales a little.

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About jppoetryreader

Poetry reviewer and poetry consultant for libraries
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