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Plane Poems

April is National Poetry Month. Started in 1996 by the Academy of American poets, National Poetry Month is a month long celebration that increases awareness and appreciation of poetry.

Anyone who thinks that poetry and aviation are like oil and water would be incorrect. The National Air and Space Museum Library  has more than a few poetry books containing beautiful poems about aviation, airplanes, flight and more.

One of my favorites is Winged Ships; Poems of the Air  (PS3503 O523W5 1927X) by Eleanor Dixon Booth written in 1927. Ms. Booth dedicated this slim volume of poetry to the Boston Airport, East Boston, Massachusetts. Another book of poems penned by a woman is Silver Wings Against the Sky  (PS3557 T474S45X)by Pearle Moore Stevens written in 1942.  

Two books that aren't devoted entirely to aviation poetry, but still contain a few poems on flight are The Pact of Honor and Other Poems Grave and Gay (PS2135 J4P3 1929X) by Robert Underwood Johnson and Preparedness: Poems of the Hour by James Clarence Harvey (PS1840. H34P92).

On the Wing: American Poems of Air and Space Flight (PS595. A26 O5 2005) edited by Karen Y. Olsen is an anthology of poetry about airplanes, ballooning, pilots,airports and more. This book contains the gorgeous and haunting poem High Flight by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, RCAF, September 3, 1941 (1922-1941). Officer Magee was an American born in Shanghai to missionary parents. He won a scholarship to Yale University, but felt he must aid the cause of freedom, so he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force in September 1940. He flew Spitfires for England. He was inspired during a test flight to pen the now famous poem. Officer Magee was killed during a dogfight on December 11, 1941 at the age of 19.   Here is a link to this very special poem.

Another poetry anthology in the library is the title Because I Fly: A Collection of Aviation Poetry (PS595. A26 B43 2002X)edited by Helmut H. Reda.

R Frederick Winsor's The Space Child's Mother Goose   (PS3545. I7565S6 1963), with illustrations by Marian Parry, is a delight. With its whimsical drawings and clever nursery rhyme type of poetry, the 1950's Space Age and basic science are brought to life.  Here is an example of Mr. Winsor's talent:

"Little Miss Muffett,

Sits on her tuffett

In a nonchalant sort of a way.

With her force field behind her

The spider, the bounder,

Is not in the picture today.

Finally, Air Pie, The Royal Air Force Annual  (qTL554. S4X ) edited by William Kean Seymour was published in 1919. This book is filled with poetry, articles and stories reflecting the events of the time, namely World War 1. Contained in the book is an article entitled A Woman's Flight by Frances Evelyn, Countess of Warwick, and a poem by G.K. Chesterton, The Ballad of St. Barbara. St. Barbara is the patroness of artillery and of those who are in fear of sudden death — these words are at the header of the poem.

These are just a few of the poetry titles located in the National Air and Space Museum Library.

Leah Smith

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