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Berton Braley: America's Lost Poet

Updated on March 12, 2015
Braley's U.S. Passport application
Braley's U.S. Passport application | Source

"If people once more began to believe in themselves thinking that they can actually succeed in life through their actions, many people would be out of work and power because the myth of needing to rely on them is broken. This is why Berton Braley, his poetry and his life, have been pushed aside and forgotten."

History of Berton Braley

Berton Braley is America's Poet. Schools refuse to teach his poetry. He will not appear on the lists of famous American poets joining Whitman, Frost, Eliot, Emerson, and many other names. He is America's lost poet.

Who was Berton Braley?

His writing career started after he read the book The Rhymester, a book by Tom Hood on instruction for verse. He published his first book of poetry in 1904.

He published a total of 21 books most consisting of poems or stories. His work appeared in magazines and newspapers of the time.

Why is he forgotten? He was a contemporary of Frost, one of America’s most prolific poets, and as a contemporary of Frost he can easily get lost in the shadows of this giant.

The way he composes his poetry is another reason for him becoming loss.

Unlike his contemporary Frost and other poets, he did not use nature as a major point of imagery in his works. His works lack ambiguity. His poems are straight forward and easily understandable by the reader because of this lack of ambiguity.

It is impossible to use his work as a teaching tool for children. The way schools teach poetry is to enable children to create what they think the poem is saying.

The main reason his work is not taught in schools is the many themes he explores in his poetry.

Themes about capitalism, individualism, success, business, work, love, and the virtues needed to achieve these ideals are central to his poetry.

He is writing about American virtues and values. Schools no longer hold these as ideals for people to strive for and this is why he does not get taught.

That's Success by Berton Braley!

It's doing your job the best you can
And being just to your fellow man;
It's figuring how and learning why
And dreaming a little and doing much.
It's keeping always in closest touch
With what is finest in word and deed;
It's being thorough, yet making speed;
It's going onward despite defeat
And fighting stanchly, but keeping sweet;
It's being clean and it's playing fair;
It's laughing lightly at Dame Despair;
It's struggling on with the will to win
But taking loss with a cheerful grin;
It's serving, striving through strain and stress;
It's doing your noblest -- that's Success!

Simplistic and Straightforward Poetry

Just Anti-Social” explores the theme of why businesses continue to make money, even when others try to stop them from making money. It a positive message about production and wealth defending the capitalists.

This theme is not accepted in the present day with Occupy movements and Anti Capitalist resentment. These people eerily sound similar to the people Braley talks about in this poem who by the end of the poem want to force the capitalists in jail.

Another poem with a similar theme is “Business is Business (1). ” This poem praises businesses as the force that transforms society making it better.

Another topic his works explore is success.

The poem “Essential” delves into the theme of ambition and its importance in achieving success, “That's Success” explores a similar theme. In his poem, "The Will To Win," he talks about what a person must sacrifice in order to succeed.

Still two other poems, “With Doubt and Dismay” and "Opportunity", explores the theme and concept of someone who thinks they can not achieve success because there is no opportunity left in the world. There is always opportunity the poem shows.

Compare this to current times, how others are to blame for people not finding success in life. The travesty is the teaching of Braley’s work may lead to people understanding how to succeed in life.

Those in power who wish to continue to tell American people that they can not succeed due to some force keeping them from success would not appreciate this.

It is more beneficial to them to keep people ignorant from that fact that there is nothing keeping or holding an individual from success, except the person they see in the mirror.

If people began to believe in themselves and through their own actions achieve success, many other people would be out of power and work. This breaks the myth of needing to rely on others. The reason Berton Braley and his works are lost.

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    • profile image

      Diwakar B. Ganjare 4 years ago

      It is really a matter of regret that we don't find his name in the most illustrious poets' list like Frost, Emerson, E.A.Poe... but his words have a great power. His inspirational poem like "Start where you stand" has such a strong message that make pupils think in classrooms. Truly he is one of the great poets of America not meant to be forgotten. Thank you.

    • Keith Engel profile image

      Keith Engel 6 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      I found out about Berton Braley from The Cordair Art Gallery who uses the poems for E-Cards. I was immediately drawn to his work because in many ways I saw a reflection of what I was writing in my own poems in his.

    • profile image

      Poetic Fool 6 years ago

      Keith, thanks for the heads up on the American poet. I too had not heard of him but then again I just got interested in poetry quite recently. Still, having read some of the poems you provided links to, I am surprised he has not gotten more attention. Thanks for the interesting hub!