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Short poem

Selected Poetry of Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)

from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

Somebody said that it couldn't be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it!
        (It Couldn't Be Done, 1-8)
  1. The Bachelor's Soliloquy
  2. Father
  3. Hard Luck
  4. Home
  5. It Couldn't Be Done
  6. The Lay for the Troubled Golfer
  7. The Little Orphan
  8. On Quitting
  9. Only a Dad
  10. See It Through
  11. Thanksgiving
  12. A Toast to the Men
  13. Yesterday

Notes on Life and Works

Born in Birmingham, England, on August 20, 1881, Edgar A. Guest settled with his family in Detroit in 1891. Starting in 1895 as a copy boy at the Detroit Free Press, Guest worked his way up as police reporter, exchange editor, and verse columnist. His first, weekly column, "Chaff," began in 1904 and eventually became the daily "Breakfast Table Chat," which was ultimately syndicated to 300 newspapers throughout the United States. His fourth volume of poetry, A Heap o' Livin', reputedly sold more than one million copies. He broadcast weekly from Chicago on NBC radio from 1931 to 1942. (For example, in the 1937-38 season his program, "Edgar Guest in Welcome Valley," was sponsored by Household Finance on Tuesdays from 8:30 to 9:00 p.m. and ran on 18 stations.) In 1951 NBC broadcast his "A Guest in Your Home" on television.

On June 28, 1906, Guest and Nellie Crossman married. They had two children. Guest was a Mason, a member of the Episcopal church, and a lifelong golfer. Late in life Guest was given several honorary degrees, notably by the University of Michigan in 1955.

Guest authored over 20 volumes of poetry. At his death on August 5, 1959, he was affectionately called "the poet of the people" because he wrote of everyday family lives with deep sentimentality. He was thought to have penned over 11,000 poems in his lifetime, many of them in fourteeners, which have been neglected by major poets for centuries. The Detroit Public Library holds information about his writings, and the Central Michigan University's Clarke Historical Library and University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library house his papers and manuscripts. Academic anthologies usually omit his works, possibly because in them he unashamedly wears his heart on his sleave and leaves little room for multiple interpretations. Possibly his best-known poem is "It Couldn't be Done." His Collected Verse appeared in 1934 and went into at least 11 editions.

A biography was published by Royce Homes in 1955.For a brief life, see The National Cyclopædia of American Biography, 44 (New York: James T. White, 1962): 246-47.

Here follows a list of Guest's volumes (known to me), in chronological order:

Biographical information

Given name: Edgar Albert
Family name: Guest
Birth date: 1881
Death date: 1959