AUGUST 27, 1953
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—In the literary world, the poets have almost the hardest time to get recognition. For a long time, I have been hearing about some poems written by Scharmel Iris but always the same thing, he could not get a publisher. This week, a letter came from a friend of his in the Middle West telling me that Henry Regnery was going to publish the poems in September.
The poet is no longer young for he was a friend of Jane Addams. He has had tuberculosis but he still persisted, even though through 39 years his manuscripts kept coming back to him. Many of the rejections were kind and one well-known firm said, "I remember the work of this poet. It inspired our interest and our admiration, too, but the verdict was not unanimous, it is very sad."
Yeats, the Nobel Prize winner, contributed a preface to his volume and he said, "Of poets writing today, there is none greater." And this was said in a period when critics were growing increasingly critical. I think a country without poets and a period when no poets are recognized shows a lack of the finer feelings of a nation and I hope that when this book comes out in September many people will read it and find that they do enjoy poetry, though they thought they might be bored.
I have been sent by a friend a clipping in which a gentleman who evidently is either a refugee from Yugoslavia or from some area nearby—his name is Cyril A. Zebot and his address Duquesne University—asked me two questions which I would like to answer.
His first question is, "Did Mrs. Roosevelt ever visit any part of Yugoslavia prior to Tito's usurpation?" The answer, of course, is no. The second question is, "Does Mrs. Roosevelt possess active or passive knowledge of any of the languages spoken by the people of various republics of Yugoslavia?" I found that being in Yugoslavia was a challenge since to talk to people you had to call on everything you had ever learned to find a way to be understood or to understand them.
I found, however, that almost everywhere I could make myself understood either in French, in German, in English, or Italian, and if all of these failed I had a friend with me who spoke Russian and almost always he could be understood and understand the answers that were made.
Mr. Zebot wants to know who were my guides including my interpreters if the answer to his second question is in the negative. When you visit a country under the auspices of the government of that country you are usually accompanied, when you need anyone to go with you, by some representative of the government, either local or state. But much of the time my party was unattended. We stopped wherever we felt like stopping and we spoke to whomever we felt like speaking with. Of course, the driver of our car knew what we did but he frequently did not hear what we said, and he never tried to go with us when we left the car.
We did not try to ask anything beyond questions to help us understand how things worked until we came to President Tito or responsible people in the government whom we knew could not be harmed by anything they said. Then we asked all kinds of questions, no matter how difficult they might be to answer.
I think, in his article, the gentleman complains there can be no such thing as a cooperative in Serbia. I noticed Slovenia was far ahead of any of the other countries in industrial development and also in cooperatives but the men who ran the little wine cooperative in Serbia certainly ran a cooperative. Mr. Zebot seems to have forgotten that the effort to collectivize all farms in Yugoslavia failed, that there are only a few collective farms now functioning in Macedonia but everywhere else they were obliged to substitute cooperatives and even to let the farmers operate on their own. Sometimes people defeat what may have been the intentions of a government.