Harry Hibbard Kemp was an American poet and prose writer of the twentieth century. He was known as (and promoted himself as) "the "Vagabond Poet, the Villon of America, the Hobo Poet, or the Tramp Poet," and was a well-known popular literary figure of his era, the "hero of adolescent Americans."
Life and Work
Kemp was born in Youngstown, Ohio, the only son of a candymaker. He was raised by his grandmother, in a house by the local train yards. At the age of seventeen he left home to become a common seaman; after returning to the United States he traveled across the country by riding the rails as a hobo. He later attended the University of Kansas,... more »
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Harry Kemp Poems
The Spring blew trumpets of color; Her Green sang in my brain -- I heard a blind man groping "Tap -- tap" with his cane;
A Sailor's Life
Oh, a sailor hasn't much to brag - An oilskin suit and a dunnage bag. But, howsoever humble he be, By the Living God, he has the sea!
The Doldrums (A Still-Life Picture)
The sails hang dead, or they lift and flap like a cornfield scarecrow's coat, And the seabirds swim abreast of us like ducks that play, a-float,
A Seaman's Confession Of Faith
As long as I go forth on ships that sail The mighty seas, my faith, O Lord, won't fail; And while the stars march onward mightily
When you've failed with ordered people, when you've sunk neck-deep again In the sluggish wash and jetsam of the slackened tides of men, Don't get old and mean and bitter, - there's a primal remedy - Just take a ship to sea, my lad, just take a ship to sea.
Tell them, O Sky-born, when I die With high romance to wife, That I went out as I had lived, Drunk with the joy of life.
A Wheat-Field Fantasy
As I sat on a Kansas hilltop, While, far away from my, Rippled the lights and shadows Dancing across acres of wheat,
Going Down In Ships
Going down to sea in ships Is a glorious thing, Where up and over the rolling waves The seabirds wing;
Shanghaied! . . . I swore I'd stay ashore And sail the wide, wide seas no more! . . . Shanghaied! Shanghaied!
A Poet's Room (Greenwich Village 1912)
I have a table, cot and chair And nothing more. The walls are bare Yet I confess that in my room Lie Syrian rugs rich from the loom,
There's not much in the fo'c'sle of a ship But old sea boots and chests that stand in rows While up above a smoky lantern glows,
These are the songs that we sing with crowding feet, Heaving up the anchor chain, Or walking down the deck in the wind and sleet
At Sea I Learned The Weather
At sea I learned the weather, At sea I learned to know That waves raged not forever,
Said The Captain To Me
'Nothing but damn fools sail the sea,' Said the Captain to me. 'I have a young son,' says the Captain to me,
Comments about Harry Kemp
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
The Spring blew trumpets of color;
Her Green sang in my brain --
I heard a blind man groping
"Tap -- tap" with his cane;
I pitied him in his blindness;
But can I boast, "I see"?
Perhaps there walks a spirit
Close by, who pities me, --
A spirit who hears me tapping
The five-sensed cane of mind
Amid such unguessed glories --
That I am worse than blind.