Monday, November 16, 2009

Searching for a lost poet

In the course of writing this biography I have found several trails leading to dead ends. But there is no dead end more intriguing to me than the connection between John Kennedy Toole and a poet who went by the name of Mallord.

His full name is Richard Mallord Silverman. He published a book of poems in New Orleans in 1969 titled Love Alone Finds Cold (Silver Bicycle Press). He gave Toole a copy and inscribed it January 20th, 1969--the day Toole fought with his mother and left New Orleans, never to return.

For years I have sought Mallord. In addition to the book of poems, I found two letters that he wrote to philosopher Bertrand Russell. From those letters it appears Mallord lived in Crestwood, NY in 1967 with a Laurie Gamola—or at least he was receiving mail through her. But here is where the trail ends: a book of poems, a New York address from the mid-sixties, his near obsession with the Romanitic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley as indicated in his letters, and a hitherto mysterious connection to American novelist John Kennedy Toole.

Perhaps Toole and Mallord were mere acquaintances, fellow students at Tulane, or perhaps they just shared a drink at a bar. Regardless, Mallord might offer insight into a time period in Toole’s life when he was shutting off from the world, succumbing to his consuming paranoia.

So I open up this question to you, dear readers, in hopes to find a way around this dead end. Does anyone have any information about the elusive poet named Mallord?


  1. I'm finding that he also wrote and presumably self-published another book: Moving against quiet; a book of tales. It's not unusual that a distressed artistic Romantic flower-child would be so passionately open-access that he would want to create such publications. But he seems to have also been good at advertising and widely distributing them, as according to WorldCat, both books of poems have been selected for retention in a number of libraries to this day. good luck, and more later, sp, n.o.

  2. I came across the following on Tulane's website in reference to this:
    Folder 14: Misc. Items: 1 piece
    Book of poetry by Mall∩rd
    Book: Love Alone Finds Cold by Mall∩rd published by Silver Bicycle Press, 1969, with inscription dated Jan. 30, 1969: “Mr. Toole, Enjoy my misplaced anti-cedents. In Universal/oneness with you and Shelley, & being, Mall∩rd.”

  3. Thanks Rebekah! I am familiar with that inscription. Interestingly, Mallord wrote the philosopher Bertrand Russel a similar line about Shelley. When Russel's assistant replied for him, Mallord became inidgnant that his letter was relegated to a mere assistant. I suppose it got in the way of his feelings of oneness.

    But such a line strikes me as odd for Toole. I have a difficult time imagining that Toole and Mallord were very close, at least not philosophically. Of course, Mallord felt obliged to send him one of his books.

  4. Dear Cory:

    The fact that the copy is inscribed to "Mr. Toole" certainly augurs against even a passing friendship between the two. If the Tulane Web site's cited reference is correct, the book was actually inscribed on the 30th, not the 20th-- suggesting that it was merely mailed to Toole's New Orleans residence, not presented in person.

    Might it not be that Toole had never met Mallord, and that the latter somehow knew that the former was, or had been, an English instructor, and that the latter merely sent the copy of his book to the former to promote it? If he used basically the same inscription to send a copy to a famous intellectual whom he presumably had never met, it strikes me as doubtful that the inscription to Toole would imply any necessary relationship between him and Mallord.

    I ran Mallord's full name through the Social Security Death Index, and it came up with no results. Unless he left the country and died abroad, it seems likely that he is still alive. Running the name through and, there is no listing for that full name; but, unsurprisingly, there are quite a few Richard M. Silvermans. There are only a few, however, who would seem old enough to be a good candidate for Mallord. One is 71, which would have made him thirtyish in January 1969. The other two are 82 and 86, which would have made them in their forties already-- which strikes me as older than the photographed Mallord appears!?!

    I believe that the 71 year old is a real estate agent and landlord, with an N.Y.U. degree in Management and Marketing: That seems like an unlikely match-- but, then again, look what happened to Jerry Rubin, after his Yippie days!?! If nothing else, it might be worth your contacting that Richard M. Silverman to see if he has any knowledge of Richard Mallord Silverman. F.W.I.W. Good luck! I look forward to the book....

    Sincerely yours,

    /s/ Dan Hand

    Daniel Kevin Hand, B.A., M.S., M.B.A., J.D.

    6/27/10 @ 5:00 a.m. E.D.T. :: 4:00 a.m. C.D.T.

  5. As I recall,,,,,,
    Always bittering that one.....Richard was often a tactless and wanton philosophical meander-er who often felt some kind of temporary fulfillment in leaving ill impressions of himself upon those he felt superior to.....To those he was fond of, I am sure he left a very different impression.
    Last seen by yours truly on Key West... 1977 it was....Companion-ed with him briefly,back in 75...Always did compare himself to Hemingway ,Ghandi ,and Jesus....
    Truly a man of mixed loyalties.....
    Always bittering he was ,Always bittering.....
    I always prayed God Almighty would have say on him to ease his lack of confidence and self esteem.
    I have come to learn through many a trial and tribulation in my 54 years that opinionated people are lacking in the most precious of virtues.Clear sight.
    One who sees all as it is needs not to opinion.(Opinion being a subjective application here.)
    I really don't have an opinion anymore...Nor do I value choices....because of the illusory nature of choice,I prefer to think that the future is beyond speculative thinking,and if one "sees" it ,,,there are no choices....only the inevitable.
    I seem to remember the recluse life was Richard's preference.....the pirates,fishermen,poets,smugglers,gypsy travelers,sailors,and pilgrims.....
    Which he did adopt as a name .AKA the Pilgrim..

    Ode to the Pilgrim...
    Whereto he is bound,no man really knows......
    Only the winds of change and time,
    say where now, his journey goes.....
    Ode to the Pilgrim...
    He liked Bob Dylan a lot....Maybe Bob knows...
    Always in Christ,
    Reverend M.Krawicz,
    CEO,Founder,Editor @ WWW.CCCINTL.NET