Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year from P&PC

Here at the P&PC Office, there's a New Year's Eve party in the works. The streamers are up. The kazoos are out. Pointy hats are stacked and at the ready. The bubby's chillin' on ice. Sally the stenographer has got her dancing shoes on and is flirting with Carl the copy guy. And some of the interns have been passing around this goodie from 1939: a promotional calendar issued by the Household Finance Corporation and featuring a year's-worth of poetry by the guy once known as the "people's poet"—longtime bard of the Detroit Free Press, perhaps the most prolific poet of twentieth century America, and a P&PC hero, Edgar A. Guest. "Here," writes Guest on the front of an accompanying folding flier (pictured below), "is my 1939 calendar which you asked me to send you. Both Household Finance and I appreciate your request very much. I hope that you will find the calendar useful and that the poems will give you many pleasant moments in the days ahead. Best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year."

The calendar begins with "It Couldn't Be Done," one of Guest's most popular and lasting verses and a poem that Poetry Out Loud recommends to students as a potentially successful recitation piece today. (It's also a poem, btw, that makes an appearance in Chapter Two of Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America, where we speculate on the vagueness of that "it" in the title especially as it functions in an age of "no ideas but in things.") Here is the rest of the year's sequence:

February: "When Father Shook the Stove"
March: "Home"
April: "The Package of Seeds"
May: "Compensation"
June: "The Stick-Together Families"
July: "Out Fishin'"
August: "Ma and the Auto"
September: "It's September"
October: "Autumn"
November: "Courtesy on Departure"
December: "On Going Home for Christmas"

We here at P&PC find "Compen- sation" (which is about looking for a way to pay "my debt to God for life divine") a particularly fitting bridge between Guest and his sponsor, the Household Finance Corporation. After all, the "Doctor of Family Finances"—which was founded in 1878 and by 1939 had branches in 152 cities in the U.S. and Canada—uses the calendar to address the subject of paying back debts as well. "When you are troubled by money problems a visit to your local Household Finance man may prove very helpful," the verbiage at the end of the calendar reads. "He has had years of experience finding ways out of family money worries."

While a reader might not get to that reminder—after all, you've got to flip all the way through the year to find it buried behind December—he or she is not likely to overlook the "How I got a Loan of $200" testimonial (pictured here) printed inside of Guest's introductory wishes for a "prosperous" new year. Our favorite part of this ad? It's gotta be how the homonym for "a loan" ("alone") in the heading previews the thrust of the subheading below it—"without co-signers or endorsers" (i.e., alone)—not to mention how that message is reinforced by the single hero of the poem "It Couldn't Be Done" on the calender who, despite "thousands to prophesy failure," finds success by working alone.

While readers today are likely to find it a little nauseating, the partnership of Guest and Household Finance makes a lot of conceptual sense beyond this discursive synchronicity as well, as they're both more or less in the same line of work: Guest helps us with our metaphysical debts, and Household Finance with our monetary ones. And what better time to bring them together than at the beginning of the new year when, as the month-by-month flipping design of the calendar suggests, we make resolutions to turn over all sorts of new leaves—to pay down the balance on our credit cards, to more responsibly repay the kindnesses we've been shown, and to attend to the bottom lines of our lives in general?

But that's enough cogitation for now—there's a party to prepare, and the interns have started doing the limbo in the other room. It's time, it seems, to welcome in 2013. On behalf of the entire P&PC Office, then, we hope that you find happiness, fulfillment, and the beginning of many new dreams in the coming year.