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Friday, March 28, 2014

Poetry Friday--Circus

Poster courtesy Library of Congress.

On this day in 1881, the circuses of P. T. Barnum and James A. Bailey, merged to become the "Greatest Show on Earth," so, on this 133rd anniversary, let's take a look at a book of circus poetry.

Cradle of the American Circus: Poems from Somers, New York, by Jo Pitkin [811.6 PIT], is an interesting mix of poetry and circus history. I especially like that it is illustrated with old photographs, lithographs, and other circus artifacts. (Note: if you're interested in circus posters, the Library of Congress is a great resource, use "Circus posters--American" as your search term.)

I'm sharing "Wintering" today because it seems as though we'll never be through the winter weather we're still having, despite it's being officially spring. I can only imagine how the performers, roustabouts, and animals of the many circuses that existed during the late 1880s must have felt as they had to endure winter layovers.

Huddled in hothouse
barns in fields turned
arctic under the whip
of the wailing wind
or fed sallow strands
of weeds and stalks
in stocked cellars,
stalled menageries
idly snarl and squawk.
In the religious silence
of lightly falling snow,
stirs a restless promise:
sun, mud, the show.

The Poetry Friday Round-Up is being hosted at A Year of Reading. Next week is the beginning of National Poetry Month--how great is that?


  1. Seems like the Greatest Show on Earth was also, at times, the coldest. Makes me shiver just to read it.

    1. arctic under the whip
      of the wailing wind
      Those lines make me shiver!

  2. I like how tightly packed this poem is, just like the menageries waiting out winter. My mom said that it is snowing at her house this morning!

    1. We've had rain for two days, but I understand that sleet is on its way. Noooooo.