scottedelman (scottedelman) wrote,

The Day Superman's Editor Helped a Poet

Frederick Seidel, whose first book of poetry, Final Solutions, caused a controversy in 1962, was interviewed for the Fall 2009 issue of The Paris Review.

(As I've explained before, I have a lifetime subscription to that magazine, instigated by my wife as a present way back in 1979. The gift that keeps on giving!)

One of the questions dealt with the poetic influence of and his friendship with Poet Laureate Robert Lowell.

An unexpected name popped up in Seidel's answer:

"He was my mentor and a friend and certainly an influence. I went to interview him for The Paris Review in 1959. It took two days, maybe four or five hours a day—an enormous amount of effort and time. At a certain moment late in the first day, my friend Whitney Ellsworth, who was manning the tape recorder, said, I'm afraid we've got to start over. It turned out he hadn't had the machine on. That's when I got to know Lowell! We hit it off, and he became a good friend."

Unless there's some other Whitney Ellsworth I don't know about, this means that the comic-book editor of Action Comics, Adventure Comics, Batman, Detective Comics and Superman in the '40s and mid-'50s, who later became the producer and story editor on the television series The Adventures of Superman, was also hanging around with the poetry circle of the period. Is this something that was commonly known?

On the other hand, he might not have had an interest in poetry at all. Maybe it's just that Ellsworth had been a classmate of Seidel's, and was also one of those early adopters of the '50s who fooled around with reel-to-reel tape recorders, and so was called into service because of that.

Does anyone out there have further information on Ellsworth's non-comics background? I've been unable to turn anything up online.

In any case, it's an interesting case of six degrees of separation, and a piece of comics history I knew nothing about.
Tags: comics, paris review

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