A literary discovery of considerable magnitude, these 98 previously unpublished poems by John Dewey, written principally in the 1910–18 period, illuminate an emotive aspect in his intellectual life often not manifest in the prose works.
Rumors of the existence of the poems have circulated among students of Dewey’s life and writings since 1957, when Mrs. Roberta Dewey gained possession of them from the Columbia University Columbiana collection. But except for the few persons who saw copies made by the French scholar Deladelle five years after Dewey’s death, the poems have remained inaccessible until now.
None of the poems has hitherto been published. Mrs. Roberta Dewey and Dewey’s children from his first marriage seem not to have known of Dewey’s experiments in verse during his lifetime. And, as evidence presented here now shows, only two or three acquaintances knew of actual poems written by Dewey, one of them the Polish-American novelist Anzia Yezierska, who had a brief emotional involvement with Dewey in the 1917–18 period. The factual, rather than inferential, evidence of Dewey’s relationship with Anzia Yezierska appears in the poems, which, taken as a whole, provide revealing insights into Dewey’s feelings and illuminate not only aspects of his emotions but of his thought as well.
The fact that Dewey did not publish the poetry himself, together with the circumstances of its discovery and unusual history, has led to the exceptionally careful editorial treatment of the poems given here. Scholars will find all the evidence for the authorship of the manuscripts clearly presented and all the changes and alterations carefully recorded. This edition has received the Modern Language Association of America Center for Editions of American Authors Seal as an “approved text.”