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Recipient of the 2000 Russell L. Paxton Award

Louise Lincoln


From the April 2005 issue of The Fossil

FOSSIL PORTRAIT: LOUISE LINCOLN

I was born in Columbus, Ohio, February 12, 1912, a Lincoln born on Abe Lincoln's birthday. My parents, Gertrude and Charles Lincoln, had three daughters of whom I was the middle one. I was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church and church is still a central part of my life.

In 1934 I was graduated from Capital University with a B.A. in education certifying me as a teacher, major subject Latin, minors Math, English and history. At the graduation ceremonies I received the Ackerman award, given to the female student with the highest academic standing plus extra-curricular activities. Mine were debate and amateur theatricals. A leading lady I was not; mine were always the supporting actress roles.

All of this was in line with my determination that in those depression years if there was only one teaching position available I would be the one best qualified to receive it. That was when I learned it isn't what you know but who you know that counts. Columbus was not hiring inexperienced teachers. Rural schools were hiring their own people.

So I spent a year doing odd jobs. One was baby-sitting an office while its supervisors traveled. Two others were jury duty. The first was a paternity case that was settled out of court while the jurors went to lunch. The other was a murder trial where I was the 13th juror. None of the 12 became disabled, so I didn't get to vote on the verdict which was murder in the first degree. The D.A. looked at me and I shook my head. It could have been self-defense instead of pre-meditated murder depending on... I learned later even the D.A. was surprised at the verdict.

During that fallow year my father died suddenly. In August I finally received a teaching position, courtesy of a fellow graduate who had recommended me to the school board when she received a last-minute appointment to her local school. After three years at Clark Consolidated, I entered the Columbus school system, brought there by influential friends. Thirty-two years later I retired.

In 1971 I came with my mother and older sister to Tucson, Arizona. A week later our mother died. Until Gert's death in 1999 she and I lived happily together. We respected each other's different interests and shared a common passion for travel. Gert had been a TWA employee so she used her passes and I used my savings to take us to Europe and Hawaii. When the long flights became too much for Gert, we switched over to 13 cruises on the Mississippi Queen, exploring America's inland rivers. My allegiance has now been transferred to the River Barge Explorer line, a smaller paddlewheel boat that is actually towed along smaller rivers. The three persons who were traveling companions in the past have all died, so I go alone. Some call that courage. I call it preferring my own company to looking for someone compatible. Living alone can make you selfish, or overly anxious to please.

That's enough of my personal life. Let's turn now to my life as a writer and member of the National Amateur Press Association.

I began scribbling verses when I was six or seven years old. They were silly stuff which led my mother to say I should write more serious things. I told her I would rather make people laugh than cry, a principle I still adhere to, though I can be serious or philosophical as well. My prose essays blend the two. Those early scribblings gained me entrance into a young writers' club sponsored by the local newspaper. Years later I joined an Ohio poets guild and had some poems printed in their publication. A sonnet sequence became the front page of the Easter issue of The Lutheran Standard, the official magazine of the A.L.C.

After a tour in Italy with the Vergilian Society, I became president of the Columbus Latin teachers' association. By virtue of office, I was expected to be the speaker at the last meeting of the year. I gathered up the assortment of poems I had written in Italy and read to the tour group. To them I added a tale about the reaction of the displaced Olympian Gods when one of their number visited a temple that had become a Christian church, a yarn written on the long flight from Rome to New York. The editor of the Classical Journal was present. He scooped up the whole lot and printed it in the Journal. I think that was my last official publication. Tales about the doings of the Gods were delivered at a number of meetings of classical scholars and one of them was printed in a different organization's journal.

Which brings me to my affiliation with the NAPA when I became my own publisher. I joined the year the annual convention overflowed from Springfield to Columbus. The poetry guild was invited to attend, and I joined the NAPA. Alf Babcock deserves credit for giving me the best advice any member could receive: if you really want to enjoy this hobby, publish your own paper.

The first few issues of the Kitchen Stove were printed by a local professional. Then Alf volunteered for the job and did it until he died. Melody and David Warner were subsequent printers. Now it's Guy Miller. In case anyone wonders, yes, I pay them for what I can't do, but the fee is modest, enough to cover the cost of materials used. Vic Moitoret gave me the stove cut that was added after the first few issues and established the format. After 81 issues, I am toying with ideas for #82.

I have been asked more than once how A. Walrus got into the act. My response has been several apocryphal stories. The truth is, I bought him at a corner drugstore when his not-so-bright look appealed to me. I named him A. Walrus, the "A" standing for "Another" so he wouldn't be confused with Lewis Carroll's Walrus. He became my co-editor, being in charge of the Department of Utter Nonsense. As my alter ago he attends conventions, bringing along his own tuxedo and changes of clothing.

My official services to the NAPA include several terms as Executive Judge, Secretary-Treasurer, and Recorder. I have no idea how many times I have recorded the minutes. As Secretary-Treasurer it was my job for four years. When recording was switched to the Recorder, it came with permission to ask someone else to do the job. I was asked and I did. I was drafted when the Recorder was a no-show. All this repetition enabled me to train officers to leave their official reports with me so I could turn them over to the next editor, and made me so familiar with Robert's Rules of Order I could help the presiding officer if necessary.

I very much regret seeing membership in amateur groups decline. For that there may be a number of explanations. The "me" generation wants to be entertained rather than exert any effort to entertain itself. Aspiring writers want to be paid for their output, not submit it to a bundle at their own expense. Perhaps we would be more successful in recruiting members if we looked for older people who have given up expecting to sell their work, but who would still like to have an outlet and an audience for it. Personally, I know I never had the compelling urge to make writing a career. A.J. gives me all the encouragement I need to keep me writing what I think when some spark—often a newspaper article—ignites my imagination.

As for letting members use the Internet to print their journals, it could boost membership by appealing to a computer user generation. It could also be contrary to our constitution which specifies printed papers by members. Since the constitution was adopted before computers were invented, maybe it needs to be rewritten via the amendment route. Electronic journals would also play havoc with the Laureate Awards as they now stand, and they would deprive non-computer users of papers. Maybe we need another a.j. group open to computer users who could write their own constitution. Maybe the existing a.j. groups will have to settle for smaller numbers, tailor their budgets to meet their expenses, and depart from the peaks of the past to the flat-lands of today. At least I didn't say cemetery instead of flat-lands.

While most issues of the Kitchen Stove have been prose, I write more poetry. Poetry is not particularly welcome in amateur journals, being used as a "filler" rather than a chosen entry. Perhaps that's just as well since most of what is called poetry by the writers, I would call trash. This is a subject on which I have said much in the NAPA publications, notably Harold Segal's Campane.

To summarize for those without access to that journal: There is light verse which is fun and easy to write. Real poetry has rhyme, meter and, most of all, the ability to arouse emotion in the reader. Lyric verse belongs there, and hardest to write, the sonnet. Haiku are no more than counted lines. Strings of lines set down to look like poetry but reading like prose are not poetry. Still, I admit some of them do have that essential ingredient of stirring an emotional response and those I am willing to accept as poetry. Al Fick is such a writer.

The Fossil editor asked me to set down some of my own compositions as proof I do write poetry. One of my light verses is:

Lift up your heads, you downcast souls,
To nobler heights aspire.
See how a match can start from scratch
And set the world on fire!

For a sonnet:

I never knew the world could be so still
Until you died, and left me kneeling there
Within the room our life had loved to share.
The distant mourning of a whip-poor-will
Seemed close beside me, pouring out its fill
Of tears I could not shed. And ev'rywhere
The silent shadows crept—across your hair,
Your face, your hands—your hands so strangely still.

And sometimes yet I pause at eventide
To hear the laughter that was part of you,
Or wake at night to touch you by my side;
Forgetting you have gone, and these things, too.
It is not death that makes the spirit break,
But loneliness and silence in its wake.

This one is just because I like it:

There comes a stillness at the heart of Christmas-time:
      God's quiet peace.
The storms of daily living swirl about, but here
      All conflicts cease.
Then one clear "Alleluia" sounds across the sky
      On Christmas Eve.
Then one bright star, new minted, shines to dim the rest,
      And we believe
Within this hushed, this waiting hour, God gives His son
      To human birth.
His power, grace and love, incarnate now, come down
      To bless the earth
   With quietness and peace.

Before I go back to reading detective stories (Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, H. C. Bailey) or solving crossword and other puzzles, A. Walrus wants to close this interview with his own two cents worth:

"The time has come," A. Walrus said,
"To note the varied things
To which, as time goes strolling by,
The name of fossil clings.
Old people who have passed their prime
Are Fossils to young souls.
Imprints of ferns and long gone trees
Are Fossils left on coals.
The forms of sea-life from the first
Now see the light of day
As Fossil forms imbedded in
The solid mud and clay.
But of them all there yet remains
The Fossil I profess
To be superior to the lot,
And it's the Fossil press."

As long ago as last fall, I asked Louise Lincoln if she would consider doing an interview by mail for The Fossil and suggested to her topics for discussion. Louise's busy holiday schedule intervened, and then just days before a planned cruise in January, she fell and broke her hip. I learned of these developments only after I asked Louise if she would consider submitting a poetic tribute to Vic Moitoret. She informed me that she was writing from the rehabilitation facility where she was working to regain strength so that she could go home. The last thing I expected was that Louise would complete her Fossil interview while still confined to the rehabilitation facility. But then on March 28, just a few days before the cut-off for the April issue, I received Louise's nine-page manuscript, beautifully written in her legible hand. "It was written while I sat in bed with the pad on my knee, and lacking a dictionary to check the spelling," wrote Louise. I am sure I don't have to assure our readers that Louise's spelling was just fine. If there are any errors in the text, they are mine and not Louise's.

Louise's account bespeaks the faith, energy, intellect and sense of humor which have yielded for her a long and rich life—as a teacher, a scholar, a writer, and an amateur journalist. The note accompanying her manuscript contains these words which indicate the high value she places on the amateur journalism hobby: "One thing I did fail to include: The Fossil awarded me the Russell Paxton plaque for contributions to A.J. I prize it even as I think others deserved it more."

We all thank Louise for her many years of generous contributions to the amateur journalism hobby. Get-well wishes can reach Louise at 1429 South Park Lane, Tucson, AZ 85710.


From the January 2007 issue of The Fossil

LOUISE LINCOLN: "WHAT IS SO RARE—"?

Guy Miller

 
Mending Done


It's time at last to take the day
That's slowly, slowly ending,
And shake it out, and fold it up,
And lay it with the mending.

For here and there I've made a tear
By giving others sorrow,
And I must patch as best I can,
With bits of my tomorrow.

This poem and a second one which appears in Literary Newsette No. 161 for April 28, 1944, might or might not have been Louise Lincoln's introduction to NAPA. We doubt that they were, considering that her qualifying credential was listed as "Co-Ed. C.O.A. News." To explain—The Central Ohio Amateur Journalists was a hotbed of ajay activity in the '40's and early '50's. Louise tells us in her short autobiography (The Fossil, April 2005, reprinted in the NA March 2006) that she joined NAPA at the time of the Columbus Convention in 1943, one of 14 members recruited by that Columbus live-wire activist Grace Phillips who that same year signed up a total of 14 members, each of them credited as "Co-Ed. C.O.A. News."

In any case, were the reader unaware of the background which Louise had brought with her as a member of the Ohio Verse Writers Guild, a member of COA and, before that an active participant in literary activities of other organizations, the poems cited in Literary Newsette would not necessarily have alerted us to what was about to come our way. In fact, the Bureau of Critics reviews of her first several issues of Kitchen Stove (first "heating," June 1944) give but little indication: From Sesta Matheison (KS 1), "Congratulations to Louise Lincoln....`Us Introverts' left us a bit dizzy but, nevertheless, much common sense is revealed in the essay;" Amanda "Freezette" Thrift (KS 2) "Chef Louise Lincoln has a lot on the ball as well as on the stove."

Edna Hyde "Vondy" McDonald whets our appetite somewhat with her analysis of KS #8, noting "Louise's tongue-in-cheek account of the convention [Newark NJ] and some good nonsense verse-with-a-moral."

But it is Helm Spink in reviewing KS #9 (Nov. 46) who pinpoints what we needed to know: "Kitchen Stove is one of those small papers that make some of us ashamed of how little we say in our big ones." Himself, master of the art of finely sculptured prose, Helm was probably commenting on Louise's essays, but he just as readily could have been referring to her poetry. For, as James Guinane avers in his survey "Louise Lincoln: A Marker of Minds," (The Boxwooder #201, April 1986), "Louise has always practised tight control of her writing, squeezing much into little," and continues, "Most demanding intellectually of the various forms of writing is the essay....In the best hands the poem is an essay—condensed and distilled in its essence." Jim's observations fit the philosophy of 1972 Poet Laureate judge Mary T. Zimmerman who, in bestowing Honorable Mention on Louise's "Ave Valque" observes, "The poets do what all of us do who write poetry. They are not sparse—that is the only word that expresses the tautness or firmness that must go into a line. And to hold an idea in rein so that it moves smoothly from the beginning to the end—that is most difficult":

Come quickly while the desert still is there.
Thread through its growth, watch tiny creatures run,
Look up where birds have caught a drift of air
And float across the sky. Too soon it's done,
Knocked down, mashed flat, built up, till ev'rywhere
Harsh noises rise, square shadows mark the sun.

Come quickly now! The steps of man grow loud,
Men bearing in their arms Earth's concrete shroud.

("Ave Valque"—KS #41)

1968 Bureau of Critics Chairman Rowena Moitoret, midpoint in discussing the essentials of making a poem, suddenly concedes, "I need only refer you to the 34th Heating of the Kitchen Stove where Louise Lincoln says it all better than I can, and even more, gives examples of admirable short poems she has written....I had known for a long time...that Louise is capable of writing exceedingly witty prose and clever light verse, but I hadn't known she could produce real poetry, too":

   The city is hot tonight.
   Its restlessness mounts and spills
   Into sound. A jazz band shrills.
   At every traffic light
   Impatient horns repeat
   "You fool, it's green at last!"
   Dogs bark. The noisy blast
   Of fans rebukes the heat.
And underneath, yet somehow breaking through above,
A tiny tree frog pipes his tinkling tune of love.
   (1968-69 Laureate Award: "San Juan Nocturne"—KS #34)

Rowena in this same review, hastily adds (in case there would be any misunderstanding): "Incidentally, clever light verse is actually the most difficult of all verse to write...." Ah, enter A. (for "Another") Walrus:

"Oh, Wad Some Power The Giftie Gie—"
Or Would We Rather It Didn't?
* * *
I never really want to see
Myself as ithers view me.
They poke and probe and peek and peer
Until they see right through me.
Then ev'ry quirk and ev'ry fault
Stands forth to blame and damn,
And tell me there is dire need
To change the way I am.

I'd rather far the powers wad gie
To ithers power to see
The gorgeous, charming perfect self
I see when I look at me.
        (Spindrift #13 in NAPA West #489, 1994)

This fragment is but a sample of Walrus's extensive outpourings of sage witticisms that have adorned the pages of Kitchen Stove and have flooded other publications far and wide, such as Ed X. Fielding's Spindrift, Harold Segal's Campane, and Jake Warner's The Boxwooder (see esp. #404, March 2003 and #459, Dec. 2006).

Walrus, we discover, is also master of the essay. A case in point can be found in the March 1961 issue of the NA. Official Editor Stan Oliner must have requested several members to write something relating to the art of writing. Such outstanding ajays as Viola Autry Payne, George Freitag, and Edna Hyde McDonald responded, along with Louise who, assigned the subject of editing, turned to her alter ego for his input. Under the title "Ei Qui Edit," Walrus proceeds to examine in detail all the possible connotations from the Latin term edere which can lead to the generalized definition "to be windy, to blow out any words and as many words as you wish." To this remark, Walrus adds the observation, "Note, too, no mention is made of mental activities preceding or accompanying the flatulence." And from this does Walrus enlarge on the possible meanings and uses of the subject. But, in conclusion, he does grant that, "Editing means to blow off steam, to express one's soul, to give birth to ideas, to become the creator and executor of thought."

Of course, when it comes to prose renditions, Louise does not take a back seat to her alter-ego; for, from among her almost countless number of essays appearing in Kitchen Stove and elsewhere, she has garnered many a laurel for her presentations—at least eight, in fact—too many for detailed comment on each. We give here a selection of our favorites with the Laureate Judges' comments where available:

1979—Laureate Award for "Since I Insist on My Druthers" (KS #53 with a reprint in NA). You won't be surprised to learn in this essay that challenged with the choice of either to "run with the hare or the hounds," Louise asks, "Why?" and then answers, "I do not choose to run."

1991—Honorable Mention for "The Fable of the Writer, the Editor and the Printer" (KS #71). A playful essay springing from an NAPA Convention seminar led by Tom Whitbread on what the NAPA wants from its bureau of critics, and on what writers owe one another, ending with a moral (after all, it is a fable): "Jealous professionals have all mastered one trick: the ability to look down on those who are above them." From Judge James Drake, Outdoors Editor Chesapeake Publishing Corp.: "A pleasant apologue imbedded more perhaps with truth than fabrication."

1994—Laureate Award for "If You Are Thinking of Dropping In, Drop the Thought" (KS #77). The title says it all. From Judge Thomas Hennick, Metropolitan Editor Waterbury Republican CT: "Good writing grabs the attention of the reader and doesn't let go....It hits upon a subject which many of us can relate to, either as the hosts or would-be guests. Exhibits a good sense of humor, which keeps it from becoming too preachy or too much of a lengthy whine."

1997—Laureate Award for "The Future of Amateur Journalism? Or!" (1997 Scottsdale Convention banquet speech reprinted in The Boxwooder #341, Dec. 1997). From Judge Chuck Hawley Arizona Republic: "In her observations she makes an excellent point when she encourages you all to recruit new blood to your ranks. Indeed, without once naming the dread "Internet" and by only alluding to the destructive intrusions of electronic phenomena, she goes to the heart of the matter: the printed page is being threatened on every corner....What Ms. Lincoln suggests...is that without a concerted effort, your numbers will continue to dwindle until the people who actually print the material they write (for themselves or others) will become but a quaint memory or curious footnote over which computer generations may mull. Her work is the bellwether."

Finally:

1993—Honorable Mention for "Which Is Celebrating???" (KS #75). What Louise is celebrating here is her 50 years in NAPA. After giving the late Alfred Babcock due praise for urging her to publish her own paper, she claims, "I have never been a prolific writer, but I suspect I would never have written at all if I had not become a NAPAn." Then she concludes "I know I never feel more like chopping wood for another Kitchen Stove than after I have spent time with witty, intelligent, creative persons, listening to their conversations and joining in it. I know I never feel more at ease, more free to be myself, than when I am at a NAPA Convention."

And now, after 63 years affiliation and 87 issues of Kitchen Stove, we spy a picture of Louise, A. Walrus at her side, tending to a chore which she has often performed for NAPA, that of Recording Secretary of the 2006 New Orleans Convention. And we will expect to see her seated at the same task at Massillon in 2007.

In the meantime, although there is no question where Louise's allegiance lies, yet Fossil (note the cap "F") Louise Lincoln saves a corner in her affections for one other group:

"The time has come," A. Walrus said,
"To note the varied things
To which, as time goes strolling by,
The name of fossil clings.
Old people who have passed their prime
Are Fossils to young souls.
Imprints of ferns and long gone trees
Are Fossils left on coals.
The forms of sea-life from the first
Now see the light of day
As Fossil forms imbedded in
The solid mud and clay.
But of them all there yet remains
The Fossil I profess
To be superior to the lot,
And it's the Fossil press."—A. Walrus