Collected Poems by H. L. Mencken

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H. L. Mencken was perhaps the leading literary and cultural critic of the 1920s, and his books, magazine articles, and newspaper writing have given him a wide and enduring celebrity. Just about the last literary form that most readers would have expected Mencken to have attempted is poetry; and yet, in his early literary career, he wrote dozens of poems for a variety of publications. His very first book, Ventures into Verse (1903), was a slim collection of poetry. But that volume constitutes less than a third of Mencken's total output of poetry. Leading Mencken scholar S. T. Joshi has now, for the first time, collected the entirety of Mencken's verse, ranging from patriotic poems in the manner of Kipling, to satirical poems poking fun at politicians, actresses, and the institution of marriage, to surprisingly touching poems on romance, the seasons, and other subjects. Mencken exhibited an enviable skill in the handling of complex verse forms, and he also found the multifarious events of his day-from the Boer War to the Boxer Rebellion to the anti-liquor crusades of Carry Nation-fodder for his poetical pen. Mencken's many devotess can now sample the full range of his work as poet and poetical satirist. H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) is best known for his critical essays, collected in Prejudices (1919-27) and many other volumes, as well as his journalism for the Baltimore Evening Sun and other papers. His total output of writing comes to more than 12 million words. S. T. Joshi is a leading authority on Mencken and the editor of H. L. Mencken on American Literature (2002), Mencken's America (2004), and other volumes. He has recently published a new bibliography of Mencken (2009).

About H. L. Mencken

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H.L. Mencken was born in Baltimore, Maryland, a city he considered home despite his many years in New York. As a child he attended Professor Friedrich Knapp's Institute, a private school for children of German descent. He completed his secondary education at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, from which he graduated at the age of 16. Mencken wanted to be a writer but was obligated to work in his father's cigar factory. When his father died suddenly in 1899, Mencken immediately sought a job at the Baltimore Herald. Through he began with no experience in journalism, he quickly learned every job at the newspaper and at age 25 became its editor. Mencken went on to build himself a reputation as one of America's most brilliant writers and literary critics. His basic approach was to question everything and to accept no limits on personal freedom. He attacked organized religion, American cultural and literary standards, and every aspect of American life that he found shallow, ignorant, or false - which was almost everything. From the 1920's until his death, Mencken's sharp wit and penetrating social commentary made him one of the most highly regarded - and fiercely hated - of American social critics. He was later memorialized in the dramatic portrait of the cynical journalist in the play and film Inherit the Wind. Shortly after World War I, Mencken began a project that was to fascinate him for the rest of his life: a study of American language and how it had evolved from British English. In 1919 he published The American Language: A Preliminary Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States. To this and his publisher's surprise, the book sold out quickly; its wit and nonscholarly approach attracted many readers who would not normally buy a book on such a subject. In 1936, a revised and enlarged edition was published, and in 1945 and 1948, supplements were added. The work shows not only how American English differs from British English but how the 300 year American experience shaped American dialect. Thus the book, still considered a classic in its field, is both a linguistic and social history of the United States.
Published August 30, 2009 by Hippocampus Press. 146 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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