December 14, 2012

Birth of Clodfelter: early expectations of a name

Born in Alamo, Indiana in the Wabash Valley on December 14, 1852, N. J. Clodfelter (as he signed his books) published poetry, novels, and humor. Though born on a farm, he was radically averse to the work of a farmer and instead studied history, biography, and literature. He began writing his own poetry as a teenager but did not publish his first collection until 1886. That book, Early Vanities, was dedicated to his mother. Its success, and that of several other books, earned him the nickname "The Wabash Poet," and he moved to Crawfordsville, Indiana as a fairly wealthy man.

Failed investments and business ventures, however, left Clodfelter impoverished and uncharacteristically angry. He left Crawfordsville, and wrote a long vindictive poem against it. His fame turned to notoriety, and his prior work which had once been popular was lambasted. Critics called him a "diseased mind" before his death in 1901.

Among the first poems included in his first book is an acrostic made using the poet's name, titled "Introductory Acrostic Sonnet":

N aught in this volume have I penn'd for praise.
O r condemnation, and I shall disclaim
A ll early expectations of a name;
H owever, pleasant hours in early days

C ame to me as I wrote these simple lays.
L ost in the labyrinthine bowers, or shame
O f poesy, it matters not — there came
D espondency to greet me, and the plays,
F or sporting childhood, had no charm for me;
E nough to know, then, why I wrote to kill
L ong time that drags me on against my will,
T o the dark brink of vast eternity,
E ncompass'd by oblivion's silence, still
R etiring in the vale of Lethe's hill.

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