Sesame Club continues study series on poets and poetry


The Sesame Club met recently in the Pine Bluff Country Club Oak Room. Donna Davis, president, called the meeting to order and led in the reading of the Collect. She heard officer and committee reports and announcements in a brief business meeting.

The second in the year’s study series, “Poets and Poetry”, was presented by JoAnn McGeorge. Her subject was “Ralph Waldo Emerson”, who was born in Boston on May 25, 1803. He was an American essayist, lecturer and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century.

His father, a Unitarian minister, died in 1811 when Emerson was not quite 8 years old. He was raised by his mother and other women in the family. Emerson’s formal schooling began in 1812 when he was 9. At 14, he went to Harvard College. During his junior year, he began keeping a list of books he had read and started a journal that he called “Wide World.” His organized, persistent, purposeful journal keeping is one of the most striking aspects of his early intellectual life. He wrote constantly, he wrote about everything. When he had nothing to say, he wrote about having nothing to say. He was named Class Poet and, as a senior, presented an original poem on Harvard Class Day.

In poor health, Emerson moved to a warmer climate — St. Augustine, Fla., where he took long walks and began writing poetry.

He married his first wife in 1827 and they moved to Boston where she died two years later. Emerson was greatly affected by her death and visited her grave daily. In 1835, he married again and the couple moved to Concord, Mass. Their house, named “Bush”, is now open to the public. Their children were Waldo, Ellen, Edith, and Edward Waldo. The first Waldo died of scarlet fever in 1842. Emerson wrote of his grief in the poem, “Threnody, and the essay, “Experience.”

A series of lectures on “The Philosophy of History” in Boston in 1837 began his serious career as a lecturer. Eventually, he gave as many as 80 lectures a year, traveling as far as St. Louis, Des Moines, Minneapolis and California.

Emerson was anti-slavery and gave a number of lectures, as early as 1837, during the years before the Civil War. From 1844 on, he took a more active role in opposing it and welcomed John Brown to his home when he visited Concord. When the war broke out, he made it clear he believed in immediate emancipation of the slaves.

Starting in 1867, his health declined. Problems with his memory became embarrassing and he suffered from aphasia. By the end of the decade, he forgot his own name at times, and when asked how he felt, he answered, “Quite well; I have lost my mental faculties, but am perfectly well.” He ceased public appearances in 1879. In 1882, he developed pneumonia and died April 27.

McGeorge read several of his poems — “Rhodora”, Fable”, and “Ruby” — and some of his quotations.

Following her program, members were invited to tables centered with Halloween decorations for refreshments. Hostesses were Pat Reese, LaNelle Roberts and Marie Bell.

The next Sesame Club meeting will be held Nov. 27.