One of my favorite books is titled “Our American Heritage” and it was edited by Charles L. Wallis, and published by Harper & Row in 1970. My recollection is that I purchased it at the Newberry Library‘s annual book sale at least 10 years ago, and perhaps even closer to 20 years by now. It’s filled with American poetry and thought, and I decided that the Fourth of July was an ideal day to pick it up and see what spoke to me about the country I’ve lived in all my life.
I found a poem on page 92 by a poet named Allen E. Woodall. I wanted to link to it online, because of course everything is available on the internet these days. The book lists Woodall as being born in 1903 and died in 1957, so it’s very likely that his work is still under copyright, and a source for it, or at least a date of publication of his work, would be found in the book’s Acknowledgements section. As a long-time publishing guy myself, I know that’s the first place to find out more about an otherwise mysterious piece.
The editor of the book thanked the estate of Allen E. Woodall, the last author alphabetically to appear in the work, but offers nothing more than that.Without a date of publication, I couldn’t even tell if the work was still under copyright or not. But surely I could find that out through the magic of Google.
But a search for “Allen E. Woodall” turned up noting. Neither did adding “poet” or “1957” or the title of the poem I enjoyed so much. Nothing on PoetryFoundation.org, either. In a world where all human achievement seems to be migrated onto the internet in some form or fashion, I can’t find any record of Allen E. Woodall. It’s a shame, too, because his poem “Map of My Country” is a very positive, uplifting read about the U.S. of A.
With apologies to any copyright holders who may exist to his work, I’m going to type it out here and share with the world. I’m humbled and inspired to present–for possibly the first time in the online world–“Map of My Country” by Allen E. Woodall:
MAP OF MY COUNTRY
by Allen E. Woodall
Every now and then, when the world grows dull,
And the edge of sunshine or the song of a bird
Frays away to the shadow of a dream,
I take a map, a map, perhaps, of my state,
One of my states-New York of the glorious hills,
Or Pennsylvania of the shaggy woods,
Or great high-shouldered, blue-eyed Minnesota,
Or swart New Jersey, the commuters’ pocket,
Or cramped and memory-riddled Massachusetts,
Or the enigmatic steppes of the Dakotas,
Or California of the laughing sunshine-
They are all my states, and I have loved them all,
Worked, sweated, hated, and taken joy in them.
I know their streets, their roads, and the ways between
The great green stretches south of the Great Lakes,
The hills and dunes, and plains, and sunny crossroads,
Remember the turns, the heartfelt run of the land,
The weeds beside the road, the meadow larks,
The waiting houses, the whispering cry of rain,
Lakes in the sunlight, and darkness over the land.
And I see roads I have not yet come to travel-
But I know they, too, are good, and I shall be there
Some day, all in good time, for this is my home,
This is America, my own country.
I love the optimism here, and the idea that there will always be something new to discover and enjoy in America. We know all about it because it’s our home, and if we haven’t yet seen parts of it for ourselves, maybe we will someday.
Happy 4th of July to everyone reading this. May we appreciate our home, today and always.