Round Table Releases Unpublished Poetry of Truman Capote

Greenwich High School Archive Yields a Trove of Previously Unpublished Work by American Literary Master

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Upon looking around at your peers, I’m sure you can identify those who are liable to go far in life: which students will be Broadway stars, poet laureates or Silicon Valley moguls.

So it was with literary icon Truman Capote’s peers at Greenwich High School, where the Round Table recently discovered some of the writings of his high school years preserved at the school’s library.

Round Table reporter Rose Gallagher stumbled upon the fact that Capote attended GHS from 1939-1942 while researching the novelist for a journalism class project. A few phone calls led to Karen Gilder, a library assistant at GHS, who invited the Round Table to come to the school and look at their archive of writings both by and about Truman Capote as a young man.

GHS’s collection includes a series of short stories and poems written by Capote for the school’s literary magazine, the Green Witch (get it?) and various literary competitions. Some of these, including poems Bird Winging Southward, Night, Plea from the Morning, and Up into the Morning, have never been formally published. You can read several of these newly-unearthed poems, along with a previously unpublished short story, at the end of this article.

GHS’s records also contained a few first-hand accounts of Capote as a young man. According to a column by student Joan Kelly found in the archive, Capote’s English teacher, Catherine Wood, was quoted as saying she “always recognized Capote’s genius and thought [she] should make allowances for it.”

The short stories Capote wrote for the Green Witch, including Uncle Cabas, a tale about an old black man who is tricked by two white farmers standing outside his door into thinking that they are the spirit of the lord passing judgment on him, and Parting of the Way, which documents an argument over money between two campers, reflect Capote’s childhood experience living in New Orleans and hint at the melodrama and intense empathy for his characters’ struggles that characterize his later works.

Capote’s poems illustrate such themes as longing and moral conflict. His youth is evident even though his diction is elevated. The poems, both in their simple, nature-based imagery and their mundane origin in a nearby high school, serve as a reminder that meaningful art does not come from an obscure, faraway place. It is within the grasp of any student.

 

THE UNPUBLISHED POEMS OF TRUMAN CAPOTE:

Bird Winging Southward 

Feathers cut a graceful curve

Across the twilight sky,

While I,

A thing as distant as the night,

Mark the winging pattern

Of her pilgrim flight

 

The Green Witch

December 1940

 

Night                                                                              

Plus, soft, velvet-black,                                                 

    Smooth as delicate scented perfume                        

Stars-sparkling diamonds in a satin sack,                     

     I watch, enraptured, from my room.                                                                                                                                                              

                                                                                      

Night enchanting epilogue to sunset,                          

     You bring mystery, glamour, love                           

Night – gone when you and the gold have met.          

    Soaring off, with the morning dove.                                                                                                              

 

The Green Witch

April 1940

 

Plea From the Darkness

The sweet fragrance of spring’s perfume

Drifts to me out of the darkness,

And the soft sound of naked feet on grass

Tells me the glories of living.     

But here in the dark, vainly I search

For the pleasures of rustic Autumn,

For the sight of red and green and lavender,

And the brilliant sparkle of claret-colored

      wines.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Here in darkness -in this, my world,

That only the brazen rhythm

And the mystenes of scene may penetrate-

I float aimlessly, like a curl of angel’s hair.

My heart beats wishingly, hopefully.

For the sight of a red leaf’s mad swirl to earth

And for the beauties of flesh:

For Spring has come- and I am Blind!

 

Lunch Period

A Short Story by Truman Capote

 

The gay crowd swarmed around in the halls. Ellie and Jean leaned back against the wall and bit into spicy red apples.

“Whew but my feet feel like one great blister.  That dance last night fixed me up. A thing like that takes a dreadful toll on a woman my age,” Ellie complained.

“Don’t mention that dance to me. That thing – those boys – that orchestra – positively the world’s worst.”

“Yes, and did you see that Luke Craps guy and that poor girl he was with? Gee but I felt sorry for her having to dance with that – that – thing. But I felt even worse when he asked me to dance with him – ugh.”

“But dearie,” Ellie said, “it must have been awful. Why that guy’s positively polluted.”

“Polluted ain’t the word for it – it’s a wonder that the student committee hasn’t had him arrested for frightening the poor freshmen with that face of his,” exclaimed Jean.

“And have you seen the clothes he wears- the rainbow looks like a piker compared to him.”

“Why if he was the only man left in the world, I wouldn’t give him a tumble. Can you imagine going to a dance with him? Just imagine!”

“No” answered Ellie, “I frankly can’t.”

“Ohhhhhhhh! Oh my goodness! Here he comes now. Heavens! Quick – where’s my lipstick? Where’s my rouge? Quick- I’ve got to put some new lipstick on,” Jean exclaimed excitedly.

Ellie grabbed Jean’s hand firmly. “Oh no you don’t Jean Peters; you keep your two-timing hands off Luke Craps. I’ve worked hard to get him to give me a tumble, and besides as you know, HE belongs to me.”

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