Donald H. Werner, yearbook photo, 1955 

In this remarkable collation of poems by fellow classmates of Yale’s Class of 1955, Donald H. Werner has assembled and edited work showing that 1955 was a very good year for sending poets out into the world, at least in New Haven. The variety and excellence of the poems (and in one case drawings) in 55 POEMS are noteworthy. As Werner says in his excellent introduction, “These poems deliver a tasty smorgasbord sweetened by emotion, salted by thought, and spiced by imagination. In their acute observations and in their various reflections of the pure joy of living, they gainsay the prediction of a lockstep progression of our years.” Penelope Laurans, Master of Jonathan Edwards College at Yale, adds this: “Here in the Class of 1955 there is robust evidence of verbal facility and of a joy in language that would make proud any Yale teacher.
Cover 55 Poems (Yale)
  Cover concept by Donald H. Werner
The poets here, as Don Werner points out, went out to life in multiple professions. But almost universally they demonstrate literary sensibility and a remarkable awareness of those qualities that make a poem—well, a poem.” Early readers of the book have been enthusiastic. J.D. McClatchy, Editor of The Yale Review and President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has said, “Poems traditionally store our memories. Here’s a book that gives them back—years brighter still because far away. Bravi, bards of ’55!” We are all much in debt to the editor of this fine book, himself an accomplished writer and for many years Headmaster of the Westminster School in Simsbury, Connecticut, thereafter serving as President of the Headmasters Association.


Click here to read samples from 55 Poems.


ISBN 978-0-9823970-6-0
Copyright © 2010 by Donald H. Werner
Length: 100 pages, 6" x 9" paperback



Earth Day Story

I remember the dusty floorboards of wood in the streetcar
of the Minneapolis Street Railway Company
and the varnished yellow banquettes of tight-knit rattan
worn smooth by decades of passengers
the worn gleaming brass grips at the corners of the seats
and the motorman’s little bell
windows trembling in their casings as we crossed the avenue
Liberty dimes falling softly into the steel-rimmed hour glass
the gnarled hand of the motorman near.
My grandmother arranged herself against the seat
her back as straight as a soldier’s beside me
her navy hat with velvet band
and net veil down making her head seem distant,
her dreaming smile and the patient Roman nose,
a repose so deep; from my place
I watched her when we rode like princes
rattling past traffic stopped on the granite cobbles
riding downtown together, my hand in hers;
all that so much
that I love yet but feel no sadness for, that
time crossed out like the trolley tracks taken up
or entombed under the pliant blacktop of the modernized.

– Stephen M. Sandy

The Teacher

Forty-five minutes after the twin towers
of the World Trade Center collapsed,
his class on modern architecture convened
at Yale: undergraduates, graduate
students, adult auditors. Some doubted
he would appear. The great professor, at least
five times retired until now they just let him
go on as he would into his late eighties, stood
beside the podium and said that some
would question the decorum of holding a class
in the face of such a tragedy but he said:

“We are here to study man’s creation,
the human reach for greatness, unbounded
optimism, ingenuity with the products
of our skill and labor. We will not allow
the destroyer to prevail.” He discussed
the brilliance of the conception and construction.
In so short a time he had gathered
a retrospective of drawings and lantern slides.
He was as incisive and original as ever. When
about fifteen minutes of class remained,
he concluded. A pause, he bowed, he wept.

– Parker A. Towle

Ringside with My Father

On fight night we sat ringside
when that angelus rang in
the cornermen’s last rites,
and MC’s in tuxedoes greeted
ladies and their gentlemen jims
in fine fedoras, three-piece suits
and good cigars,
chewed to their ragged ends,
snuffed out in urinals.

Leather flush on flesh and bone
sounds absolute,
sends sweat and spittle flying,
Brown Bomber down,
laid out like death in lavender,
rising at eight, hands high,
bobbing, weaving to the final round,
the final bell.

I sit alone now,
with the Everlast
of you.

– Kenneth S. Robson

Sea Glass

for Mimi

At sea, cheap brassy-colored bottles get
tossed overboard: the fisherman’s brown beer,
the matron’s lemon yellow sun tan oil,
the sea-sick youngster’s bright green ginger ale,
the blue-haired widow’s deep blue laxative.
They spiral down, return to sand, and break.
The jagged pieces roam the ocean floor,
are scrubbed and scoured, tumbled, tossed—in sun-
less rhythm at the moon’s command—until
ground back to origins or offered up
on shore. Now purified by salt and buffed
by time, they glow among the shells and tide-
line scrap in subdued shapes and subtleties
of opal, topaz, jade and aquamarine.

– Donald H. Werner

Return to the top of the page