Day 1 – 24 pages in the bank: America Was Promises


I actually read this around 3 times but I’m only counting pages once- ha! Such is the reading of a poem.

This long poem “America Was Promises” by Archibald MacLeish was published in 1939, which of course is the year when WWII started. I enjoy thinking about how this poem is written in the past tense–

Here is a page that I especially enjoyed — the question appears often in the poem, America was promises for whom? A question that I find myself asking more and more all these years later in 2018.

What is also interesting about this poem is that while the title is America Was Promises, within the poem he doesn’t say such– he writes America was always promises. The inclusion of always within but not the title seems significant to me.

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The poem starts off with lots of language about fruits and beauty, which also resonate with my idea of America. But quickly the poem shifts towards a darker, more violent view of the country– such as the above page 17. The last page is a condensery (Niedecker fans!) of the former twenty-odd pages:

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It’s a bit eerie how this resonates with some of the current sentiments in America– the word ‘brutally’ fits all too well in my current vision of this country. Ah, how history can appear to repeat itself before our eyes. And sadly, Archibald, I do believe this.


3 comments on “Day 1 – 24 pages in the bank: America Was Promises”

  1. Yes, the word “brutally” made me wince. It is certainly getting harder and harder to reflect on the current state of our country.

    On another note, on page 17, I feel like he’s a man after my own heart: food first, then the loved ones. (Of course not taking in to account that likely it was the demoted girl who provided the dinner, but I’ll take my food-centric approach).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, yay, poetry! Thank you for letting us share these two pages. Did the imperative, “Believe,” and the present tense in “America is promises” both appear for the first time on that final page? That condensery is powerful.

    This poem definitely resonates today more than ever, I’m sorry to say.


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