“To the Unknown Friend”

For those of you who may not know it already, I took the phrase “the unknown friend” from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote in one of his journals in the Spring of 1848:

“Happy is he who looks only into his work to know if it will succeed, never into the times or the public opinion; and who writes from the love of imparting certain thoughts & not from the necessity of sale—who writes always to the unknown friend.”

This sentence is just one of the many for which I’m lovingly indebted to Mr. Emerson.

In a speech to the Academy of American Poets in 1958, Robert Frost said that he had often thought that he would like to name in a poem the men he thought of as our four greatest Americans:  George Washington, as our pre-eminent statesman and general; Thomas Jefferson as our political thinker; Abraham Lincoln as our martyr and savior; and Emerson as our poet.

About Lawrence Russ

Was the Alfred P. Sloan Scholar for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. Obtained a Master of the Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where I was selected as a Writing Fellow in Poetry by the Program faculty. Have published poems, essays and reviews in many magazines, anthologies, reference works, and other publications, including The Nation, The Iowa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Parabola, OMNI, and the exhibition catalogue for Art at the Edge of the Law at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. Received a law degree from the University of Michigan, and have changed the law and created educational programs in the fields of arts law, historic preservation law, and public construction and contracting law in the State of Connecticut. My photographs have appeared in international, national, regional and state juried exhibitions, and have been selected for awards by jurors including Judy Kim of the Brooklyn Museum and Eva Sutton, Chair of the Photography Department of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Posted on June 17, 2011, in Writing and Literature and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Larry,

    Congratulations on your blog.

    I was unaware of the Emerson’s “Unknown Friend”, but am all too aware of my own struggle against the practical pull of commerce in choosing to make impractical images that please me, while awaiting the arrival of an unknown friend.

    Jerry Reed

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