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About the Man
Solomon S. Drogin was born on December 11, 1907. At age 18, Sol took the civil service exam to qualify himself for working in the federal Post Office. Upon graduation from high school, he enrolled full-time at NYU for a year, then transferred to Long Island University, which at the time was in Brooklyn. Throughout his time in college, he worked FULL-TIME in the Post Office, usually the night shift from 4 p.m. to midnight, but sometimes the graveyard shift. He was introduced to my grandmother, Selma, while in college, and impetuously proposed on the first date. At the time, my grandmother was studying accounting at City College in Upper Manhattan, and working part-time in Manhattan. Sol wrote to Selma every day for two years, seeing her when they could both fit it in, until she finally agreed to marry him.
It took Sol 5 years to finish his BA from LIU, where he concentrated in Latin, and graduated with honors in 1933. My father, Edwin, was born in October of 1932, and the school newspaper claimed that Sol was the first undergraduate at LIU to become a father.
After graduation, there were no jobs for Latin teachers, so Sol stayed at the Post Office, working at the new Airmail Table until his death on December 28, 1953 at the age of 46. There was a diverse group of out-of-work professionals working with him, and Sol became active in labor affairs, travelling to Washington and helping to draft labor laws for federal workers like himself.
An amusing portrait of Sol, "Thanks for the Memoir", was written by his son, Edwin, shortly before Sol's death. It portrays a "calm and patient scholar" who "uses his spare time to learn things", when not solving a New York Times crossword puzzle, a passion and talent inherited by his progeny.
About the Poetry
The poetry in this collection was written during Sol's high school and college days. They were gathered by Sol himself in a bound, grey notebook. Given the title of the collection, it is possible that they were written directly into the book, which would have been quite a feat, but I think it unlikely. Given the change in ink, the small number of errors and corrections and their sort, and the internal evidence of the poems themselves, it would appear that Sol gathered up his originals and sat down in at least two sessions to write out, by hand, this book. Unfortunately, this also caused a slight carelessness in legibility, and in punctuation, to infect the work, which has caused me great difficulty in "translating". Sol presented the book to his wife as a gift, with the full understanding that some of the poems were about and for other women. Given the times, and how busy Sol was, these women (actually high school girls) were probably fantasy girlfriends that he never got too serious with.
Sol played the violin well, and in high school, from the evidence of these poems, smoked cigarettes (referred to as "cigs" and "fags"); he later smoked a pipe for relaxation. He rode the subway, as is related in a poem about rushing off to a New Year's Eve party, which contains a line about the "supe" crying, "All subs". According to Selma, this would have been the supervisor at the Post Office telling the part-time substitutes working the holiday season that they could start their shift, thus relieving the full-timers (like Sol), who could rush off to their parties.
The very first poem in the collection ends with the letters "MK", who I have assumed is the author. My grandmother suggests Milton Kaye, a friend of my father who played classical piano on the radio, but was not known as a poet. I have no alternative explanation.
The Jewish nature of many of the poems is apparent. Several poems are of acrostic form, where the first letter of each line forms a name; in these cases, a girl. Alphabet acrostics occur in Hebrew poetry back to at least the fourth century, and acrostics using the author's name date back at least to the tenth century. Sol was studying Latin, and knew much of Roman history and literature. The Muse, often capitalized, is invoked often, and there are references to other mythological entities, such as Cupid, Venus, Ceres, Jupiter, Mars, Sappho and Prometheus. Although there are references to "the gods", God, singular and capitalized, is also addressed directly, and the Eve of creation is referred to, most notably in No. 48, "Evolution".
Many of the poems are philosophical, and the philosophy is simple and mature: life, love, labor (toil).