Poet Marion Canby

Since we are gonna make changes on our websites, I have to move this content regarding the poet Marion Canby. It will be part of a new reader, yet meanwhile we place it on Civilized Objects …

See the nest in the meadow …

In search of the writer Marion Canby

A poem by Marion Canby

… a meadow … with nesting life
spared by a mower’s blade set high
the flowering weeds and grasses strewn
over the field to be raked and dried
by rays from a fire set high in the heaven.

From: High Mowing by Marion Canby, 1932

I came across this poem in an opening quote, namely in “Leadership” by James MacGregor Burns ( http://www.academy.umd.edu/home/index.htm). This stanza is amazingly beautiful. Googling I found that Willa Cather http://cather.unl.edu/must have been in contact with Marion Canby….”


FROM: A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather, see: http://cather.unl.edu/letters.html?name=High+Mowing (last accessed 11 May 2009). I cite:

Letter ID: 1106
Addressee: Canby, Marion
Date: 1932-04-21
Repository: Yale University, Beinecke Library, New Haven, Conn.
To Marion Canby, Apr. 21, [1932?]; Beinecke

Has just found her book of verses [High Mowing, 1932] among a great many books that have come by mail. Likes them very much. Will be in town at the Grosvenor for about two weeks. Hopes they can talk. P.S.: Especially likes “Timid One” [a poem that expresses a wish for escape from being one’s self ]. Willa Cather [Stout #1106]
Marion Canby; the entry about the author at the Cather archive:
Canby, Marion (Mrs. Henry Seidel)
American poet whose verses, collected in High Mowing (1932) and On My Way (1937), appeared in such magazines as Scribner’s, the Saturday Review of Literature, and the New Yorker.


Other letters by Willa Cather that mention this person at the Willa Cather Archive: http://cather.unl.edu/letters.html?sort=date&rev=false&person=Canby%2C+Marion

Some of Marion Canby’s published works:

Different works by Marion Canby are listed and accessible via this site: http://www.unz.org/Author/CanbyMarion


An email I received by Anna Canby Monk

With regard to your post dated April 13th 2008, I wanted to ask whether you had found any further information about Marion Canby. I’m interested because I am Marion Canby’s great-granddaughter and I never realised she published poetry. I checked the James MacGregor Burns link, however didn’t find the quotation.
Any further hints as to how I could get my hands on a copy of the work or any of her poetry would be really helpful.
Thanks in advance,


My reply to Ms Anna Canby Monk

Dear Anna:

I found the poem in Leadership by James M. Burns. It doesn’t not name the poets name in there, but the title of the book. Because the poem touched me so deeply I googled the book title, and then found out that a poetry book with this name had been published by Marion Canby, namely your grandmother. This link takes you to the Willa Carther archive where book and author are mentioned, e.g.: http://bit.ly/mSOhA I also enclose you a scan of the book page from Burns’ book as an attached jpg file. I love this verse by your grandma. You can be proud … I wished her works were more known!!! I would be very thankful, if you would find out more, if you could keep me updated, in case you find any publications… Thanks …Wishing you a wonderful day…
Gita Yegane Arani-May


Ms Canby Monk’s reply to me

Dear Gita,

[…] Thanks so much also for the link to the Willa Cather archive; it’s one of life’s wonderful synchronicities that I recently studied Willa Cather and became a big fan. Now that I think of it, I suppose it makes sense that Marion knew Cather, through my great-grandfather Henry Seidel Canby who was editor of the Literary Review of the New York Evening Post and later the Saturday Review of Literature. My mom once mentioned that the two of them were in touch with a number of Jewish literary figures, and helped them emigrate from Europe and resettle in New York during the 1930s – one of them I believe was the Austrian writer Hermann Broch. He lived in New Haven – the Canby family home – and was buried in Killingworth which is where I think Marion lived at one point.

I also know that my grandfather – one of Marion’s sons – wrote a draft literary work about his mother in the last twenty years of his life. I’ve read parts of it, but must revisit it again. In our family home there are also stacks of diaries by the teenage Marion – many of which as I remember, are accounts of her and her family’s car trip through Europe at the end of the 19th century. One of the more funny anecdotes I remember from skimming though these accounts, is that often when they experienced breakdowns the car would be towed to a local blacksmith, some of whom had never seen let alone fixed a car before. I’m sure the diaries are full of teenage embellishments, but I find the images conjured wonderful.

I will absolutely let you know if and when I find out anymore. I found an online book store which sells ‘High Mowing’, so I’ve ordered it and look forward to reading it.

Someday maybe I will get around to writing about some of these thing before they are lost from living memory.

Best wishes,


Then I received this kind email by the poet Donata Lewandowski Guerra

Dear Gita,

I was amazed to find the lines of Marion Canby and your correspondence with her relative, especially since, by chance I had been doing extensive research on her and her family all week in Wilmington, Delaware. In addition I worked all week on a sonnet about a pivotal tragedy in her life which I have placed online


Thank you for your site. I do hope you might put me in contact with her great grandaughter since I have much more information.

Donata Lewandowski Guerra

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