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The Poet's Work: The John Holmes Collection

"Cow Be Killed" typeset draft 2

Holmes, John A.
Additional Information:
This draft probably accompanied a letter to Frances Randall dated September 11, 1953, in which Holmes writes: I've been fooling around with my cow, and enclose a new and longer version. I hope I haven't spoiled it, and I especially hope I haven't revealed ignorance of cows, or their food, or behavior. It is curious to me that in this piece, on a subject about which I know little, I shoulduse epithet so much, call the cow so many names. I've inserted two new stanzas, and changed a good deal of wording in the others. I've thrown away all past versions of which there have been several. The case-history of this poem (something the poet never really knows much about but likes to talk about, the fool) is that Myron Files wrote recently something about this sadness and guilt at having to kill a cow, that there oufht to be a ritual, asking forgiveness. So I tried. But deeper than that and half-forgotten was an artument Doris and I had had, in which she said no one had a right to kill any life, and berated me for soing away with a tiny green turtle we had here a while ago, a nuisance and a cause of dissension. No one else semed to have missed it. Actually I have little feeling of liking for animals or pets, nor does Doris. ... So this poem about the cow is not really about a cow, but about a human thing, the taking of life, and human guilt at killing animals. Thus all the playfulness with words about the cow, which is really all sentimentality in a way. I enjoyed the words coming. As I say, I have very likely made ignorant mistakes - maybe clover and buttercup are not in flower at the same time. I should have looked it up. But Robert Frost would know. I just don't know, or whether the butcher really values the cow much as meat. Pardon my poor punning. The revel well worth while is an echo from Vachel Lindsay's "Congo," the line, "Oh, rare was the revel and well worth while." ...
Exhibit Tags:
Typescript DraftsCow Be Killed