AFTERWORD TO THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF EARLY IN THE MOURNING
In 1956, my family moved to Bucktown, a small village five miles south of Pottstown, Pennsylvania. I began classes at a new high school that fall and drifted through tenth grade rather friendless, except for a neighbor boy named Richard Allen Wilson. “Hot Rod Richard” was written for him at his request, and he liked it. Richard and I later wrote some humor together.
I wrote some lyrics as a take-off on South Pacific in 1957, a play I selected to parody because Oscar Hammerstein II was a childhood idol of mine, and I called my opus “South Cemetery” [Found in the collection, "in Other Words"]. These four songs proved popular at my high school, as did a “Bert and Harry Peals Beer Ad” I also wrote at that time. As a result of these ‘bits’, someone mentioned I wrote things to Mrs. Mancer, my twelfth grade English teacher.
Mrs. Mancer not only opened the door for me to write and perform some assembly programs, but even set up a reading of my short stories and poems. The first twenty-six poems in this collection were given at that reading.
These twenty-six poems were written between 1955 (“Rich Man$ Sixteen Ton$”) and early 1959. They include parodies, such as “I Beg-g-g of You-u-u” to my first original poem, “Goodbye Tango”, to paeans with much ado about teenage crisis: “A Regret”, “School is a Pain in the Neck”, “Paul Anka”, etcetera.
As an upshot of this reading, I was asked to write the class poem. What I wrote was never used. This was the first time I wrote something on demand, and the demand proved impossible. I was asked to write a short, funny poem that mentioned each one of my one hundred and six classmates in such a way that highlighted their best known characteristics. If it had been completed, not only would it have been bad, it would have been of epic length. If I had it to do over, I would have just done a nice rhyme and let it go at that. (I added one more verse to this poem after graduation, which is why there is a reference to the electrical short in a speaker that sent sparks shooting across the stage as we trooped up to get our diplomas.)