Skip to main content

Canceling The Poet

March 2023
1min read

In 1952, my junior year at Wellesley, it was common knowledge among English majors that an assignment to interview the visiting poet was a reward for excellence. Only you wouldn’t have known it from the way my poetry professor, Roberta Grahame, presented it to me. “Remain after class,” she instructed, and later left me standing before her desk for a full five minutes while she read a student’s poem.

Although I knew nothing of Miss Grahame’s background, I perceived her to be one of a breed: a New England spinster educator—careful, aloof, impassive. She wore the requisite tweeds and no makeup and had written a slim volume of poetry, entitled Last Bell at Midcentury.

She told me to report to her office at six the following evening and we’d go together. “I assure you, you’ll find it interesting. Extremely interesting,” she remarked cryptically.

When I arrived at the appointed hour, Miss Roberta Grahame sat just as I had left her, but this evening she was crying, her face blotchy, her eyes streaming with tears. When she saw me, she blew her nose vigorously in a Kleenex and announced, “We’re not going. They’ve canceled. They’ve sent him away.”

“But why?” I blurted out.

Miss Grahame shrugged; her answers were choked and fragmented. “I’m not certain of the details. There was a party. Some of our people were there. He was inebriated. He’s still young—only in his thirties. He touched a breast. Who knows?” She paused and then continued but in a voice I’d never heard before, one suffused with emotion. “They’re fools. They don’t know what they’re doing. The man’s a genius!”

I was too taken aback, too abashed by her unexpected passion and distress, to say anything appropriate. “Maybe they’ll let him come back later. Maybe next year,” I said.

But by the next year Dylan Thomas was dead.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "December 1989"

Authored by: John Steele Gordon

In 1820 their daily existence was practically medieval; thirty years later many of them were living the modern life

Authored by: John F. Mariani

A restaurant critic who’s a food historian and the fortunate recipient of an Italian grandmother’s cooking follows the course of America’s favorite ethnic fare in its rise from spaghetti and a red checked tablecloth to carpaccio and fine bone china

Authored by: The Editors

A Biography

Authored by: The Editors

The Pride

Authored by: Stephen Shields

An American soldier would never forget encountering the German with an icy smile. He would later discover that the blood of innocent millions dripped from Eichman's manicured hands

Featured Articles

Rarely has the full story been told about how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.