Friday, December 13, 2013

Joseph Upper (1891-1954)

Pseudonym of Joseph Upper Harris
Government Worker, Poet, Playwright
Born January 16, 1891, Watertown, New York
Died 1954

Joseph Upper Harris, also known as Joseph Upper, was born in Watertown, New York, on January 16, 1891. He worked as a clerk and a stenographer in Watertown and in Washington, D.C. In the late 1910s, he was in the nation's capitol working for the U.S. Post Office. He seems to have begun his writing career as a playwright. His credits include:

  • The Fatal Necklace: A Burlesque Melodrama in One Act (1912)
  • The Green Bird: A Farce Comedy in Three Acts (1912)
  • Reveille: Melodrama in Four Acts (1914) with Agnew C. Blanchard
  • The Deserted House: A Farce in Three Acts (1918)
  • "At the Movies": A Farcical Novelty in One Scene (1921) with Harold B. Allen

Joseph Upper was also a poet:

  • "The Little Gray Doves" in The Smart Set (Feb. 1920)
  • "Approaching Spring" in Poet Lore (1922)
  • "Dregs" in Weird Tales (Oct. 1928)
  • "Modern Portia" in Beloit Poetry Journal (Winter 1952)
  • "Barnyard Blues" in The Saturday Evening Post (Mar. 1954)

He also contributed to Wings, which was edited by Stanton A. Coblentz, as well as Blue Moon, Pagan, Tambour, and I'm sure many other magazines. Upper was included in an anthology, District of Columbia Poets (1932), edited by Henry Harrison. The two poems below reveal a man who must have endured turmoil and despair, but only for so long. Joseph Upper Harris died in 1954 and was buried at Brookside Cemetery in his native city.

Starlight
by Joseph Upper

The stars
Are numberless;
They are scattered thoughts of noble spirits,
Redeeming from insane futility
The blinding turmoil of an ugly world.

When I have turned my back upon my hopes,
I shall not curse life,
Because the stars
Believe in it.

Storms
by Joseph Upper

In the basin of the fountain, after the storm,
Plum-blossoms float dreamily.
The plum-tree, shorn of its dainty finery, gazes moodily into the water,
Resentment at its loss soothed by the peaceful contemplation
Of all those delicate petals dreaming on the still surface.

In my soul, after the storm,
There is no such peace.

Joseph Upper's Poem in Weird Tales
"Dregs" (Oct. 1928)

Further Reading
You will find tidbits on Joseph Upper scattered across the wide face of the Internet.

Original text copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

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