Wilhelmina Stitch

WilhelminaFound a fine copy of Beacons in the Night (Methuen, 1934) by Wilhelmina Stitch. A small book of simple, unsophisticated poetry.   Wilhelmina Stitch achieved some popularity and sales in the first half of the 20th century. As a sentimental poet she was very much the Donovan to Patience Strong’s Dylan. She has no Wikipedia page unlike Ms Strong who has a lengthy and well tended entry. Some facts of her life are known and she turns up on a site Memorable Manitobans who have this to say:

Born at Cambridgeshire, England in 1888, daughter of I. W. Jacobs, she married E. Arakie Cohen while he was visiting England and returned with him to Winnipeg. They had one son, Ralph. After her husband’s death in 1919, she was forced to seek employment to support herself and her son. Her friends encouraged her to submit her writing for publication, which led to a successful career as a writer which continued to the time of her death. Writing under the pen names “Sheila Rand” or “Wilhelmina Stitch”, she had poetry and stories published in the Winnipeg Tribune and the Winnipeg Telegram. In time, she became, in the words an obituary, “one of the best-known women writers in the British Empire”.

While living in Winnipeg, she worked for, and became close friends with, university professor Reginald Buller. He believed that she had telepathic powers and carried out experiments, largely without success, to test them.

She later remarried to Scottish physician Frank K. Collie and moved with him to London, England where she died on 6 March 1936.

Much of her poetry has religious themes and much of it is in prose that rhymes, an odd slightly  kitsch style, like a precursor of rap:


BE OF GOOD CHEER

In the dumps, don’t know why. Cannot smile, want to cry. Mind distressed, awful blue. Felt like this, haven’t you? Not a single soul to care, life is more than I can bear, troubles seem to pick me out, faith’s misplaced by sullen doubt, hope is vanquished by a fear, can’t find comfort, can’t find cheer, heart is sore, awful blue -felt like this, haven’t you?… Lift that scowl, smile instead. Look! The sun is overhead. Didn’t notice it before. Not so blue, Not so sore… Life is sweet, found this true. Felt like this, haven’t you?

collie_rjc2Her sweet prose poem ‘To a teacher retiring’ would probably not work in our time:

A life of teaching ; now you must
retire. And there is heartache mixed
with your desire for well-earned idleness.
For you will miss the warmth of shining
eyes, and voices lilting in a glad surprise,
and some child’s shy caress. The giving
of yourself—life’s joy of joys. And every
year has brought you girls and boys,

More of her poetry can be found all over the web, try Average Poet where her best poem is about God — ‘Where is He?’

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