Poet, 97, presented work to Robert Frost New England town was a major theme

April 14, 1993|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

Edward Crook, Kile Crook to his readers, never wanted to be famous. He never wanted to be a secret, either.

"I wanted to hide myself, and yet I didn't want to hide. I only wanted to achieve self-expression," the 97-year old poet said yesterday from his home at the Annapolis Convalescent Center.

But Mr. Crook couldn't escape the eye of poet Robert Hillyer. In 1936, Mr. Hillyer sponsored Mr. Crook at the Bread Loaf Conference Writer's Convention, introducing the works of Kile Crook to a distinguished poets panel that included Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay and others.

That conference finally brought Mr. Crook recognition for his works, which had been published throughout the 1920s.

Mr. Crook has published his light verse in magazines and newspapers, including the Saturday Evening Post, the New York Times and American Scholar. He's also filled several pages of Faeber's Anthology of Verse and Braithwaite's Anthology.

His daughter Cynthia Lieck, who lives in Annapolis, remembers: "When I was really little, mother would make me be very quiet when father was writing in his office. His thoughts were very personal and his writings were emotional, as opposed to factual."

Mr. Crook was injured in World War I and received the Silver Star. Returning to the United States, he began to write poetry on the war and his home in New England.

"He had no quarrels with present day morals. His was no story that had to be told," was the first verse he ever wrote.

Mr. Crook and his daughter both say their favorite poems are those about their New England home. "Patriot," published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1942, gives a visual image of his home in Durham, Conn.

In 1919, Mr. Crook began his most famous work, "Memorial to Larry."

Ten years later, the work, chronicling the death of a friend, was published in Poetry -- A Magazine of Verse.

The verse, recognized as one of the best poems of 1929, was printed and reprinted in seven magazines and newspapers. In 1936, he was made a Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Mr. Crook's favorite poet -- "other than myself," he added with a laugh -- is Robert Frost, "a great poet, but a bad man. But that was Frost."

Mr. Crook said he never planned a poem, just wrote when he felt like writing. "I didn't stop, I didn't start -- I just wrote when I wrote," he said.

He did finally lay his pen down in the early 1960s, he said, because "the itch on my back no longer needed to be scratched."

One of Mr. Cook's last poems, "August," written in 1959, tells of an aging man and expressed sadness at the passing of time.

He wrote:

Too soon the cardinal flower's crimson spills

Green maples in the swamp precipitate

Too-early scarlet, while the cricket shrills,

The summer you awaited will not wait,

My life is August.

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