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December 15, 2003

Sid Says: Some Poetry Is Made To Be Heard--Not Heeded

Dale Carnegie on John Siddall, from The Quick and Easy Way To Effective Speaking

Some years ago I wrote a series of articles for the American Magazine and I had the opportunity of talking with John Siddall, who was then in charge of the Interesting People Department.

'People are selfish," he said. "They are interested chiefly in themselves. They are not very much concerned about whether the government should own the railroads; but they do want to know how to get ahead, how to draw more salary, how to keep healthy. If I were editor of this magazine," he went on, "I would tell them how to take care of their teeth, how to take baths, how to keep cool in summer, how to get a position, how to handle employees, how to buy homes, how to remember, how to avoid grammatical error, and so on. People are always interested in human interest stories, so I would have some rich man tell how he made a million in real estate. I would get prominent bankers and presidents of various corporations to tell the stories of how they battled their ways up from the ranks to power and wealth."

Shortly after that, Siddall was made editor. The magazine then had a small circulation. Siddall did just what he said he would do. The response? It was over-whelming. The circulation figures climbed up to two hundred thousand, three, four, half a million. Here was something the public wanted. Soon a million people a month were buying it, then a million and a half, finally two million. It did not stop there, but continued to grow for many years. Siddall appealed to the self-interests of his readers.

The Siddall articles went the way of the hard drive for a time. Of the three computers in the guest bedroom, only one is both compatible and fast enough to connect to the scanner. As much as I like John, I'm not going to key in his stuff by hand.

I didn't discover much about him during the downtime, either. None of his putative relatives have written back, the U of Montana is taking forever to mail me his Tarbell letters, and there's not much written about him to begin with.

So, a number of the future Siddall Posts will be in effect "nude," without much in the way of comment or contextual amplification on my part.

Oddly enough, that's probably how John M. would have preferred it. Certainly that's how they originally appeared.


Some Poetry Is Made To Be Heard--Not Heeded

AFTER a lively day at the office I wedged into the subway the other evening, opened up a New York evening paper, and found on the editorial page the following inspiring and cheerful line:

Ambition has but one reward for all—
A little power, a little transient fame,
A grave to rest in, and a fading name.

I began to wonder why I had gone downtown in the morning if this was all I was going to get out of it. Then I tried to imagine what good it would have done me to stay at home and sit in a rocking chair all day. If my wife went out and rought me my evening paper, wouldn't I be just as unhappy when I came upon the poet's words? If poets are going to "kid" me when I work and relatives when I loaf, what can I do? I can't sit off at one side on a star and ruminate on these matters. I have to mix around on earth, where life is real and creditors are earnest. Where shall I go and how shall I manage? What do you recom-mend, Mr. Poet? I don't enjoy being a poor miserable worm any more than you enjoy seeing me one.

As a matter of fact, the "little power" and the "transient fame" which the poet complains of are first-class things to strive for. They are the best rewards in the market. To refuse to struggle for them is cowardly and unsportsmanlike. The human being who won't play and take his part in the game of life is the most useless of creatures. Here we are on this earth NOW—not 100,000 years ago or 100,000 years hence, but NOW. And here are others like us. Here is work to do and here are pleasures to enjoy. It is up to us to take hold and accept those forms of satisfaction which are available. Perhaps we shall all meet again in another existence where the rewards of ambition are better or, at least, different. If so, go after them when you get there, would be my advice.

The poet who got up this dose of philosophy probably has not the slight- est idea of swallowing it himself. He had a fine time writing the lines, and probably he hopes that they will live! No doubt if you stole his poem and tried to palm it off as your own he would chastise you. You would not find him ready to have his name fade yet. He would fight for his rights, and fight to keep his work from being annihilated— which is what we are put in the world for.

Don't order your life on the plans and specifications laid down by a poet. Remember that what a poet writes must rhyme. Often a perfectly well-intentioned and optimistic poet wanders off into the gloom factory looking for odd sizes in metrical feet. A poet would rather scan well than be President.


The above appears to be one of the most blog-like to my eye. John read something in the paper he didn't care for, then went home and wrote about it.

Next: You Can Go Further If You Take Others With You

Posted by Bigwig at December 15, 2003 03:41 PM | TrackBack
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I used to have trouble remembering people's names till I took one of those Dale Carmichael courses...

Posted by: Misanthropyst at December 15, 2003 05:49 PM

Another famous reference. You really dug up some good material. You did my work. Thanks.

Posted by: Hamp at August 10, 2004 06:49 PM
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