The Origin of Bokardo

A quick history of the naming of this website.

Lots of people ask me this, so here it is:

The origin of Bokardo is a poem written by Edwin Arlington Robinson, who shared the same hometown as me: Gardiner, Maine. I grew up two houses down from the Robinson House. Robinson won 3 Pulitzer Prizes in poetry in the early part of the 20th Century, was famous during the teens and twenties, and was one of the first poets to write about everyday people. His sketches of Miniver Cheevy, Eben Flood, and Richard Cory are very well-known.

As with most literature, the story behind the work makes it much more interesting. In this case, the poem is a supposed account of Edwin’s brother Herman visiting him in New York to make amends years after their falling out. Herman had also fallen away from his wife Emma and their children and was drinking himself to death on the coast of Maine. He visits his brother to make amends. He has no other family outside of Edwin and Emma. (their older brother Dean, a doctor, had died of a morphine overdose and their beloved mother died years before from diphtheria)

The story is made more intriguing because it is likely that Edwin was in love with Herman’s wife, Emma. He met her when he was 18, and he introduced her to Herman. Soon Emma and Herman were married…Edwin did not attend the wedding. It is thought that the increased tension of this triangle eventually forced Edwin to leave Gardiner for good. Years later, after Herman drank himself to death, Edwin returned to Gardiner and asked Emma to marry him, but she steadfastly refused. Three times. This theory is expounded in the book Where the Light Falls, by Chard Powers Smith, who spent time with Edwin at the MacDowell Colony in Petersborough, New Hampshire where Edwin spent his summers.

Edwin’s poem Eros Turannos (Love, the Tyrant), one his most beautiful, can be seen as an interpretation of Emma’s estrangement from Herman. (Robert Pinsky reading)

Published: June 9th, 2006