Donald Benson Blanding (November 7, 1894–June 9, 1957) was an American poet, sometimes described as the "poet laureate of Hawaii." He was also a journalist, cartoonist, author and speaker.

Don Blanding
Donald Benson Blanding

November 7, 1894
DiedJune 9, 1957(1957-06-09) (aged 62)
(m. 1940; div. 1947)

Early life edit

Blanding was born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma.[1] His father Hugh Ross Blanding was a judge[2] and first commissioner for Indian Affairs, and his mother, Ida Kimble,[3] helped found the Enid Public Library.[4] Participating in the Cherokee Strip Land Run,[2] his family moved to Enid,[5] and then Lawton where he grew up alongside Lucille "Billie" Cassin (later known as Joan Crawford), later assisting her after she cut her foot on a broken milk bottle.[6] Blanding would later make this incident the focus of a poem he wrote when the two met years later.[7][8] He graduated from Lawton High School in 1912.[9] He trained between 1913 and 1915 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Blanding pursued further art studies in 1920, in Paris and London, traveled in Central America and the Yucatan, and returned to Honolulu in 1921.[citation needed]

Military service edit

He enlisted (for a year, or the duration of World War I plus up to six months) in the Canadian Army's 97th ("American Legion") Battalion.[10] He then trained with them for trench warfare for eight months in 1916, but left under unknown circumstances a few days before the unit shipped out for Europe. Blanding would omit reference to that service and training a year later when joining the U.S. military.[citation needed]

Blanding became fascinated by Hawaii and moved there in 1915,[11] staying until his enlistment in the U.S. Army in December, 1917. Entering as an infantry private, he underwent officer training and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant before being discharged in December, 1918, soon after the Armistice.[citation needed]

Blanding was strongly affected by U.S. entry into World War II, including the knowledge of his island paradise as a military target, the reactions of those he met on his lecture tours, and the fall of Bataan. Bataan surrendered April 9, 1942, while he was on tour, and he wrote "Bataan Falls", 16 emotional lines in response. On April 25, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private at the age of 47.[12] He served eleven months in the 1208th Service Corps Unit, Infantry, and was discharged as a corporal. He wrote Pilot Bails Out about his experiences as a soldier.[13]

Poetry career edit

Finding work as an artist in an advertising agency, he published poetry daily in the Honolulu Star Bulletin for an advertiser between 1921 and 1923. These featured local people and events, and became well-known and popular – whether because of or in spite of always mentioning the Aji-No-Moto brand of MSG. [2]

The popularity of these ad-poems led Blanding to follow the advice of newspaper colleagues by publishing a collection of his poetry in 1923. When his privately published 2000 copies quickly sold out,[2] he followed it with a commercially published edition the same year, and with additional verse and prose books. For his fifth book in 1928, he no longer used a local or West Coast publisher, but the New York publisher Dodd, Mead & Company. The result, Vagabond's House, was reviewed promptly by The New York Times, and was a great commercial success. By 1948 it went through nearly fifty printings in several editions that together sold over 150,000 copies.[citation needed]

Blanding was nicknamed in the press as the "Vagabond Poet"[14][15] and the "Poet Laureate of Aji-No-Moto".[16]

In 1929, Hawaiian House Representative John C. Anderson proposed an honorary poet laureate position for the state of Hawaii,[17] but the bill was tabled after discussion.[18]

In 1937, in the Enid Morning News, he was referred to as the poet laureate of Enid, Oklahoma.[19] It is unclear who conferred upon Blanding the title of poet laureate of the Hawaiian Islands. In 1932 the Honolulu Star Bulletin refers to him as "Hawaii's Poet Laureate."[20] In 1937 a letter to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin suggested that Blanding be officially named Poet Laureate of Hawaii.[21]

However, in 1939, he was referred to in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald as the "unofficial poet laureate,"[22] and articles in the Honolulu Advertiser also named his contemporary Charles Eugene Banks[23] as unofficial poet laureate of Hawaii.[24]

His obituary in the Los Angeles Times refers to him as the "Poet Laureate of Honolulu."[25]

On Tuesday, June 11, 1957, Hawaiian Congressman John A. Burns posthumously honored Blanding during congressional proceedings and referred to Blanding as the Poet Laureate of Hawaii.[26]

"Vagabond's House" edit

He published his long poem "Vagabond's House" several times. (It was in the first, private, printing of Leaves from a Grass-House in 1923; the commercially published edition of the same book, later that year, included it with the title changed to "Aloha House". In 1928 he restored the original "Vagabond's House" title, making it the title poem of another collection.) Its detailed fantasy begins

When I have a house – as I sometime may –
I'll suit my fancy in every way.

then describes a home filled with the mostly exotic mementos its poet collected in years of wandering the world's seaports – or at least might have collected if his travels had not interfered – and closes by admitting

It's just a dream house anyway.

Aloha, Vagabond's House. You know I take you with me in my memory and my heart. Aloha.

— Don Blanding

In 1939, Blanding wrote Drifter's Gold from his Carmel-by-the-Sea, California house, which he called "Vagabond's House." He penned many of his California books while living at Vagabond's House, located at Monte Verde Street and 6th Avenue.[27][28] From 1938 to 1940, he also wrote a weekly column in the Carmel Pine Cone, called "From A Window In Vagabond's House." In February 1940, he wrote in his column that he had sold his Vagabond's House to Bob and Helen Spencer.[29]

Blanding as an artist edit

Underwater Scene by Don Blanding, c. 1927–30, oil on canvas

Blanding's paintings often portray undersea views, flowers and branches. Underwater Scene, from c. 1927–30, demonstrates his use of sharp outlines and lack of shading. His ink drawings are a powerful part of his many literary publications.[30] From 1938 to 1942, Don Blanding designed Hawaiian themed tableware for Vernon Kilns, near Los Angeles, California. The patterns he designed are Aquarium, Coral Reef, Delight, Ecstasy, Glamour, Hawaii, Hawaiian Flowers, Hilo, Honolulu, and Lei Lani.[31][32]

Personal life edit

Blanding married socialite, Dorothy Binney Putnam, on June 13, 1940, and they lived together in Fort Pierce, Florida.[33] They divorced in June 1947, leaving no descendants. Blanding died of a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles on June 9, 1957, at the age of 62.[34]

Legacy edit

On May 1 each year, Hawaiians celebrate "Lei Day", first conceived in 1927 by Blanding. At the time, Blanding was employed by the Honolulu Star Bulletin, and he shared his idea with columnist Grace Tower Warren, who came up with the phrase, "May Day is Lei Day". The Hawaiian song, "May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii" was composed in 1927 by Ruth and Leonard "Red" Hawk.[35][36][37][38]

The Don Blanding Poetry Society in Enid, Oklahoma is named after him.[39] Blanding lived in Enid as a child from age 3 to 7.[9][5][40]

Kingfisher, Oklahoma’s Don Blanding Avenue is named after the poet.[41] In 1957 Kingfisher posthumously renamed Euclid Avenue after Blanding because he was born in a house at Euclid and Eighth.[42][43]

Bibliography edit

  • Leaves from a Grass-House
    • 2000-copy private printing – 1923
    • commercial publication – 1923
  • Paradise Loot – 1925
  • Flowers of the Rainbow – 1926
  • The Virgin of Waikiki – 1926
  • Vagabond's House – 1928
    • Also published under the title Aloha House
  • Hula Moons – 1930
  • Songs of the Seven Senses – 1931
  • Stowaways in Paradise – 1931
  • Let Us Dream – 1933
  • Memory Room – 1935
  • Pictures of Paradise - 1936
  • The Rest of the Road – 1937
  • Drifter's Gold – 1939
  • Floridays – 1941[44] noted as a nice book to read while at home in 2020[45]
  • Pilot Bails Out – 1943, reviewed by the New York Times[46]
  • Today is Here – 1946
  • Mostly California – 1948
  • A Grand Time Living – 1950
  • Joy is an Inside Job – 1953
  • Hawaii Says Aloha – 1955
  • No Strings on Tomorrow – Unpublished

References edit

  1. ^ "Did you know? Oklahoma, gold coins & local newspaper helped launch Lei Day in Hawaii". Hawaii News Now. May 1, 2013. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d Tildesley, Alice (April 10, 1938). "How to be happy, drop things that worry you". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  3. ^ "Don Blanding to lecture at Enid Sunday January 22". The Pond Creek Herald. January 19, 1939. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  4. ^ "Don Blanding, poet and traveler engaged for lecture next Sunday". The Enid Morning News. February 15, 1942. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  5. ^ a b Buchanan, James Shannon (1949). Chronicles of Oklahoma Vol 23. Oklahoma Historical Society. p. 169. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  6. ^ Crawford, Joan (January 12, 2017). A Portrait of Joan: The Autobiography of Joan Crawford. Pickle Partners Publishing. p. 35. ISBN 9781258063047. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  7. ^ Crawford, Bill (May 11, 1977). "Joan Crawford's dream of stardom began here". The Lawton Constitution. Retrieved October 29, 2023.
  8. ^ Spoto, Donald. Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford. William Morrow, 2010. p8-9.
  9. ^ a b Hays Marable, Mary; Boylan, Elaine (1939). A Handbook of Oklahoma Writers. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 48.
  10. ^ Piekarski, Vicki. The Max Brand Companion. Greenwood, 1996, pp. 56-57.
  11. ^ Markle, Tom (March 5, 2013). "Aunty Aloha". Honolulu Star - Advertiser; Honolulu, Hawaii [Honolulu, Hawaii]. – via ProQuest.
  12. ^ "Don Blanding now army buck private". Hawaii Tribune Herald. November 6, 1942. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  13. ^ "Pilot Bails Out Blanding's Latest". Enid Morning News. September 26, 1943. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  14. ^ "Life in Hawaii told at TCU". Fort Worth Star Telegram. November 24, 1931. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  15. ^ "Lecturer wins praise". York Dispatch. February 14, 1931. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  16. ^ "Old King Tut dead for 3500 years dictates new styles". Honolulu Star Bulletin. March 31, 1923. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  17. ^ "Want laureate to perpetuate verse of state". Honolulu Star Bulletin. February 28, 1929. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  18. ^ "Can do without poet laureate". The Honolulu Advertiser. March 13, 1929. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  19. ^ "Carnegie Library Notes". The Enid Morning News. May 23, 1937. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  20. ^ "Blanding not to be here Lei Day". Honolulu Star Bulletin. April 8, 1932. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  21. ^ Wiig, Emma (May 8, 1937). "Proposes Don Blanding for Poet Laureate". Honolulu Star Bulletin. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  22. ^ "Don Blanding off on new lecture tour of coast". Hawaii Tribune Herald. September 17, 1939. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  23. ^ "Distinction in the field of letters for Charles Eugene Banks". The Honolulu Advertiser. May 29, 1929. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  24. ^ "Twenty years ago - 1932". The Honolulu Advertiser. May 7, 1952. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  25. ^ "Don Blanding, author and illustrator dies". The Los Angeles Times. June 10, 1957. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  26. ^ United States Congressional Record, Proceedings of the 85th Congress First Session, Vol 103, Part 7. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1957. p. 8879. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
  27. ^ "Homes of Famous Carmelites" (PDF). Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. 1992. Retrieved April 11, 2023.
  28. ^ "Drifter's Gold. Don Blanding". Carmel Pine Cone. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. November 17, 1939. p. 7. Retrieved April 11, 2023.
  29. ^ "From A Window In Vagabond's House". Carmel Pine Cone. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. February 23, 1940. p. 5. Retrieved April 11, 2023.
  30. ^ Papanikolas, Theresa and DeSoto Brown, Art Deco Hawai'i, Honolulu, Honolulu Museum of Art, 2014, p. 43,
  31. ^ Vernonware Pattern Identification Gallery
  32. ^ Vernon Kilns Dinnerware
  33. ^ Werne, Jo (August 8, 1997). "Unlocking The Past Diaries Reveal Dorothy Binney Putnam's Secret Loves And Passions | The Spokesman-Review". Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  34. ^ "DON BLANDING, 62, AUTHOR OF VERSE; 'Poet Laureate of Honolulu' Who Wrote 17 Books Dies --Did Own Illustrations Had Saturday Column". The New York Times. June 10, 1957. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  35. ^ "A History of Lei Day" (PDF). Lei Day Celebration. City and County of Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation. 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 29, 2008. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  36. ^ Olins, Gwen. Olins, Evan. Lei in a Bottle: Collecting Hawaiian Perfume Bottles. Hula Moon Press, 2008. p. 27
  37. ^ Obafẹmi, Jacob. Olupọna, Kehinde. Beyond Primitivism: Indigenous Religious Traditions and Modernity. Taylor & Francis, 2007. p329-331
  38. ^ Hitt, Christine (May 2, 2016). "How May Day became Lei Day in Hawaii". Hawaii Magazine. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  39. ^ Miller, Jessica (May 18, 2014). "Passion for Poetry: Works Inspire Readers at Don Blanding Poetry Society". The Enid News & Eagle. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  40. ^ Mabel, McLure (March 5, 1937). ""Busting with Pride"". The Carmel Pine Cone. 23 (10): 21. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  41. ^ Crawford, Bill (May 30, 1974). "Did you know that". The Lawton Constitution. Retrieved October 29, 2023.
  42. ^ "Prominent citizens honored". Kingfisher Free Press. April 13, 1964. Retrieved October 29, 2023.
  43. ^ "Two avenues to be renamed". The Kingfisher Free Press. October 7, 1957. Retrieved October 29, 2023.
  44. ^ Blackstone, Lillian. "Floridays" by Don Blanding Glamorizes State's Charm. St. Petersburg Times. Nov 15, 1941. p. 35
  45. ^ Blandford, Laurie K. (March 25, 2020). "Brush up on Treasure Coast, Florida history with these classic books while stuck at home". Treasure Coast. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  46. ^ Borland, Hal (August 29, 1943). "A Troubadour Turns to War; PILOT BAILS OUT. By Don Blanding. Illustrated by the author. 85 pp. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. $1.50". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 3, 2022.

Sources edit

  • Papanikolas, Theresa and DeSoto Brown, Art Deco Hawai'i, Honolulu, Honolulu Museum of Art, 2014, ISBN 978-0-937426-89-0, pp. 43, 58–59
  • Severson, Don R., Finding Paradise, Island Art in Private Collections, University of Hawaii Press, 2002, pp. 142–43, 278–81.

External links edit