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Walter Benton: The Passionate Poet

By: Larry L. Conners

Walter Benton has been my bedside companion for a very long time, going back to college where I discovered him 50 years ago. I have shared him with many " creatures of an hour ", most intimately with my beautiful bride, and have never tired of his passionate and lyrical prose.

Walter Benton was born in Austria, in 1907, to a Russian couple. They fled to America with the coming of the First World War in 1913. After high school, Benton worked several menial jobs until he had enough money to put himself through Ohio University, graduating in 1934. After working as a window washer, steel plant worker, and salesman, he finally landed a position with the City of New York as a social investigator. With the onset of World War Two he enlisted in the Army, being commissioned a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps, later being promoted to Captain.

At the end of the war he returned to his position with the City of New York and began writing prose and was published in the Yale Review, Fantasy, and the New Republic. His first published volume, " This is My Beloved ", a diary from 1943 put to verse, was very controversial due to the graphic intensity of his prose. Some even called it pornography. It has since been hailed as a remarkable journey of love, love lost, and love unrequited. It is recognized as an American classic.

Here are a few of my favorite snippets from " This is My Beloved ", better appreciated in context, but giving you a feel of the intense passion, his use of metaphor and simile, and the stark clarity of his love:

Entry May 4

You rise out of sleep like a growing thing rises out of the garden soil.

Two leaves part to be your mouth, two tender seed leaves...and your eyes are wonderfully starlike,

Your eyes are luminous and soft as the velvet of pansies.

Darling, good morning.

The entry continues with a rather passionate awakening.

Entry May 11

Your hair is not like the silk of corn or spiders but like your hair, your mouth resembling nothing so wonderfully much as your own mouth.

Why should I say you are like a slender water bird on wing ? This is but a slide of you, a fraction. Or that your thighs are lilies...lilies are cold, lilies are neither quick nor scented....they do not stain the night with velvet musk...they cannot fire love and quench it.

I mean.....compliments become you as tinsel becomes a tall snow covered cedar in a mountain cedar wood.

I love the visual beauty of his writing.

Entry June 8

( After a long night of lovemaking )....Now you are all sleep, alone with yourself...and a tall blue fence around you: not a tendon taut, not a secret secret, you are all sleep and alone in a warm and velvet world...

Many an idle dream is looking for a home of sleep like yours to happen in.

Entry June 12

Sleep late, nobody cares what time it is. Sunday morning, coffee in bed....then love with coffee flavored kisses. And your tongue dripping honey like a ripe fig.

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I have been hours awake looking at you lithely at rest in the free natural way rivers bed and clouds shape.

Your bedgown gathers up your full round thighs, rolls over your hips. Your breasts are snub like childrens faces...your navel deep

as a god's eye.

He published only two volumes of prose, " This is My Beloved ", followed in 1948 with " Never a Greater Need ". The first is a diary of new love, a deep and passionate love that slowly becomes a tragic hell he cannot escape. When I first read his August 9 entry about forgetting her in each season, I wept.

He dedicates the first volume to Lillian, so we are reasonably certain she did exist. The last is a dark and sad diary of love lost and love unrequited, and ends with stark wartime images he cannot forget. Walter Benton died in 1976, bitter and alone.

This is such a tragic and poignant story, A love story, during the war, where two souls are united in need... his to last a lifetime, hers to end when he recognizes that she is " marketing your love ", as he writes in the November 19 entry.

The writing is so powerful, his descriptions of Lillian are so full of love. How could she have left..? I feel his tragic love and pain every time I read him.

I have also found a wonderful cd, " The Family of Mann ", featuring Herbie Mann ( Jazz ) and Sir Lawrence Harvey reading excerpts from " This is My Beloved ".

OK, you guys. You want to have a great evening around the fireplace with your wife or girlfriend ( hey, a wife is a girlfriend ), then pick up " This is My Beloved ",put on the cd, pour your favorite adult beverage, put out a box of Kleenex, and revel in a love for the ages.


This is My Beloved

This is My Beloved

The Family of Mann

The Family of Mann

Comments

gepeTooRs on April 17, 2016:

You are actually a good webmaster. The web site loading pace is incredible. It sort of feels that you’re doing any unique trick. In addition, The contents are masterwork. you have done a excellent task in this topic!

Larry Conners (author) from Northern Arizona on March 06, 2016:

Hi Mama...It's been a while...Hope all is well with you and yours...I commented on your Hub "At the Moment" which struck a chord with me...I sincerely hope you are in a good emotional place now as you are a dear friend with the fragile heart of a poet...I'm still waiting for that "platonic peck"...

Shannon from New York on March 06, 2016:

When I think of HubPages...I think of Maven :) still to this day!!

Dave McClure from Worcester, UK on November 29, 2014:

Hi Larry - yes, the bikes can be a menace on the towpath. Starting from King's Cross, you certainly chose the more picturesque direction. Going East, the path goes through a lot of industrial wasteland. Sounds like you had a very good ramble that day, very much my style too!

Larry Conners (author) from Northern Arizona on November 28, 2014:

Hi Dave...Great to hear from you, glad you enjoyed my take on Benton...I have read Lorca and find his phrasing exquisite, especially in his Gypsy prose...Benton has a more immediate effect, a more personal passion expressed from experience rather than creative articulation...

I'm doing fine, but due my wife's illness (dementia) I haven't contributed much to HubPages...

I have wanted to thank you for the wonderful advise you suggested in your excellent piece on the Regents Canal Walk...I copied it and took it with me during a business trip to London earlier this year...I was fortunate to take the walk from Kings Cross to Little Venice on a beautiful April day...Regents Park was dripping with cherry blossoms and the sweet vapors of thousands of roses...I climbed Primrose Hill for the fantastic views of The City, had some cold chicken with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and continued to Little Venice and found a delightful little coffee shop named the Waterside Café...For a country renowned for it's tea drinking I was blown away with the coffee served, brewed one cup at a time...Been trying to duplicate that treat ever since with no success...must be the water :)...Had a nice dinner of lambs stew and pint at Wetherspoons Pub...Bit dicey walking around Camden Lock in the early evening...lots of druggies and street drinkers in the area... And you never warned us about the bike riders that tear down these narrow walks 20-30 mph ...I say ban the bikes, walkers only...

Go well and safe, my friend...Larry

Dave McClure from Worcester, UK on November 26, 2014:

Hi Larry - enjoyed reading this one. I think maybe there are similarities between WB and Garcia Lorca. Hope you are doing OK?

Marion Heebink on February 25, 2014:

Omg I just found the Laurence Harvey download on Amazon! Boyfriend gave me this album 45 years ago while in college because I liked to "read poetry". Hearing it again after all these years, I still have almost every word memorized, just as Laurence spoke it because I listened to it soooo much! Love it, cried the first time I replayed it after so long. Was just googling the story of Lillian and found you ...

Mylindaminka on May 11, 2013:

А вот тушь для коричневого макияжа лучше взять коричневую – так будет смотреться наиболее гармонично. Подбирая оттенки, старайтесь, чтобы они выглядели гармонично. Лучше всего взять специальную палетку коричневых теней, где есть светлый, средний и темный оттенки теней.

Futamarka on March 21, 2013:

Тональный крем придает коже бархатистый, ровный цвет и выполняет еще очень много полезных функций. Но для того чтобы тональный кD