Signed first edition of this eccentric series of poetic odes to the 1939 New York World's Fair "World of Tomorrow," including its iconic robot "Elektro."
ROBOTS ON THEIR BATTLEFIELDS
"Watch these mammoths, big and small, / Veterans of many fights, / Battling for progressive rights – / How they move and turn and crawl, / How they work to operate / And prosperity create, / Writing chapters of today, / Glories for the future day. / See them toiling at the Fair; / Watch them working everywhere."
Unusual, likely self-financed, book of poetry, dedicated to the 1939 World's Fair held in Flushing, Queens. Themed the "Dawn of a New Day," the event epitomized the kind of modern technological optimism now best embodied by retrofuturism, and Makowski was clearly moved by what he saw and experienced. Verses are dedicated to the attendees, the buildings, and in the book's longest poem, "Robots On Their Battlefield," a reference to one of the fair's most enduring symbols, the seven-foot-high Westinghouse robot "Elektro," and his robot dog Sparko.
Elektro, the Westinghouse "Motor Man," was one of the most popular attractions at the fair. He could respond to voice commands, count, speak (via a series of 78rpm records), spoke a cigarette, and move under his own power.
We've found little about the author except what we've been able to trace in draft and other public documents. Walter Ernst Makwoski was born in Germany in 1879, and emigrated to Maine sometime before 1902, when he was naturalized. He worked variously as a salesman, terra cotta molder, and possibly a handyman or superintendent (he lists his employer's address on his 1940 draft card as "109 West 102nd Street," an apartment building). He published one other book of poetry, THE HOVERING AVENUE, in 1937. Curiously, the Poet's Press did hold an event at the fair, a reading by Gertrude Gunderson of South Dakota for her book OUT OF THE SOLITUDE, also published by the press, on May 15th, 1939 — "Poet's Day."
An uncommon collection responding to growing American technological innovation and dominance.
New York: Poet's Press, (1940). ROBOTS ON THEIR BATTLEFIELDS: And Other New York World's Fair Poems 9" x 6". Original orange cloth with titles stamped in blue. No jacket, possibly as issued. Promotional flyer for Makowski's previous book loosely laid in.Signed by Makowski to the front free endpaper. 32 pages. Some soiling to cloth. Internally clean and sound.
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