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August 27, 2019

Golfing with Eddie Guest, the People’s Poet, 1919.

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Guest in Detroit, 1935

Enormously popular for the first half of the 20th century, Detroit’s Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959) charmed America with simple and often funny upbeat poems celebrating Midwestern common sense and optimism. No. He’s not my favorite poet. But I’ve a special connection to Guest. He owned a house in a small but storied Michigan summer community where I spent Junes and Julys of the 1960s growing up in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. He died just before my family’s first visit there. His house on Lake Huron was purchased by parents of one of my Detroit classmates. So I often played near and sometimes in that huge dark house made of large dark logs with the largest porch I’d ever seen at the top of Cliff Road. Guest was always closely connected to the place. It seems odd we never met. He was greatly loved and always somehow still alive in that place. At least it seemed that way to me.There was old golf course—one of Michigan’s first coursed—nearby that my brother and I learned on. Guest played the game as wrote several fairly schmaltzy but fun poems about golf. This one appeared in 1919 as part of his highly popular “A Path Toward Home”.

“A Lesson From Golf”

He couldn't use his driver any better on the tee
Than the chap that he was licking, who just happened to be me;
I could hit them with a brassie just as straight and just as far,
But I piled up several sevens while he made a few in par;
And he trimmed me to a finish, and I know the reason why:
He could keep his temper better when he dubbed a shot than I.

His mashie stroke is choppy, without any follow through;
I doubt if he will ever, on a short hole, cop a two,
But his putts are straight and deadly, and he doesn't even frown
When he's tried to hole a long one and just fails to get it down.
On the fourteenth green I faded; there he put me on the shelf,
And it's not to his discredit when I say I licked myself.

He never whined or whimpered when a shot of his went wrong;
Never kicked about his troubles, but just plodded right along.
When he flubbed an easy iron, though I knew that he was vexed,
He merely shrugged his shoulders, and then coolly played the next,
While I flew into a frenzy over every dub I made
And was loud in my complaining at the dismal game I played.

Golf is like the game of living; it will show up what you are;
If you take your troubles badly you will never play to par.
You may be a fine performer when your skies are bright and blue
But disaster is the acid that shall prove the worth of you;
So just meet your disappointments with a cheery sort of grin,
For the man who keeps his temper is the man that's sure to win.

Posted by JD Hull at August 27, 2019 04:41 AM

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