A voice for New Eng­land and Santa Fe

Poet Win­field Town­ley Scott

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ORE THAN 200 PEO­PLE AT­TENDED POET WIN­FIELD TOWN­LEY SCOTT’S FU­NERAL ON APRIL 30, 1968. It was stand­ing room only at Santa Fe’s First Presby terian Church. Among the mourn­ers were literati, but also peo­ple who val­ued him as a men­tor, a kindly neigh­bor, and a re­spected mem­ber of the town’s so­cial cir­cuit. Robert Kurth, an English and hu­man­i­ties teacher at Santa Fe Prepara­tory School, read sev­eral of Scott’s po­ems, in­clud­ing “I Held a Hum­ming­bird in My Hand,” one of the poet’s later works: I held a hum­ming­bird in my hand Wing-wounded — worse — but liv­ing still. Small­est, in­tens­est, least touch­able of birds, That had swooped and climbed all sum­mer To stand midair con­fronting hol­ly­hocks Pierc­ing and back­ing with a speed of grace Honoring the gar­den. Quiet with com­ing death, So gen­tled, so trust­ful with it, so stilled, Which he could not know even here in my hand. His colors burned: gold-green irides­cence On the back, un­der-feath­ers In­dian brown, The or­ange throat-band dimmed to dried blood Then pulsed and flamed again. Noth­ing to do. As I held him it seemed the nee­dle beak Horned him — minia­ture, jew­eled uni­corn, Winged — true Pe­ga­sus — honoring my hand.

The poet’s grand­daugh­ter Wendy Scott will read the poem again at Col­lected Works Book­store on Sun­day, April 24.

Scott was born April 30, 1910. For the first 10 years of his life, he lived in New­port, Rhode Is­land, with his par­ents, Dou­glas Win­field Scott and Bessie Town­ley Scott, and his sis­ter, Jean­nette. Their home was in a sober mid­dle- class neigh­bor­hood not far from the os­ten­ta­tious sum­mer man­sions of Amer­ica’s rich­est in­dus­tri­al­ists.

His par­ents were not lit­er­ary, but Scott knew from an early age that he wanted to be a writer. As a teenager in Haver­hill, Mas­sachusetts, he was ed­i­tor of his high­school pa­per and was al­ready aware that he wanted to be a poet. His ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther scrimped to put money aside — a lit­tle each week — that al­lowed Scott to at­tend Brown Univer­sity. He stud­ied English lit­er­a­ture and grad­u­ated with hon­ors. He landed a job at the Prov­i­dence Jour­nal and set out to be­come a poet.

His sub­jects were of­ten New Eng­lan­ders and their land: beaches, woods, green farms, and small towns. “Sum­mer Af­ter­noon” is one of his many love po­ems to New Eng­land:

King­doms in fern guessed, caves be­neath moss Se­cret but cer­tain; un­der­ground den as­sured Though lost till to­mor­row — all hid in the for­est Im­mensely ceilinged and mys­te­ri­ously floored.

The deep path into the beech­wood thronged With the shy in­ti­mate sounds of friendly things, The un­seen furred upon the stealthy feet In dry bracken, the sud­den kick of wings,

The shift of a snake gone into leaves, and in The held hush, far­ther, the quick plop Of a wak­ened frog, and treed above still­ness high And re­it­er­ant the bird’s cry that could not stop.

Pat­tern of ner­vous si­lence flicked the grass Splotched with the leafed light where the sky showed Tall, dim — the boy watched it weave Sleep on the move­less tur­tle, on the tranced weary toad.

At the Prov­i­dence Jour­nal, he edited the lit­er­ary pages, a job he would hold for 20 years. He also wrote book re­views for other publi­ca­tions and worked as a ra­dio an­nouncer. He was a pro­lific poet, and his work be­gan to be no­ticed.

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