Preserved Prose of Setonian Scribes – Early Twentieth Century Examples

Throughout the formative years of Seton Hall, the classroom experience found among the student body who experienced a highly traditional liberal arts curriculum with required classes connected to English Language instruction as an integral part of their curriculum.  Individuals were expected to learn from a number of literary classics which helped to provide a solid foundation on proper grammar and traditional writing styles along with sharpening their own writing and rhetorical skills in the process.  This was especially evident during the turn of the twentieth century.

Early 20th century list of required courses for study of English Language content (c. 1903)

Fortunately, examples of self-expression and creativity among many several undergraduate scribes survive within our annals.  The 1900-30s was a time when student publications were beginning to emerge, most notably The Setonian which served as not only a news outlet for the undergraduate crowd, but also served as the earliest “literary journal” on campus with dissemination of the first poetic work which was ironically entitled: “The Beginning of Life” featured in the October 16, 1925 edition of this periodical . . .


To-day is my journey ended,

I have worked out the mandates of


Unarmed unaccompanied, undefended,

I knock at the Eternal Gate,

Bereft is life and its longing

It’s trial, its pain, and its sorrow,

Beyond is the Infinite Morning

Of a day without a to-morrow.

Return to dust and decay,

Body ! grown weary and old.

You are no longer my soul can you hold.

I desert you gladly forever

For a life that is better than this,

I go where partings ne’er sever

You in Olivion’s Abyss.

Lo  !  the gate swings wide at my knock-


Across endless reaches I see

Lost friends, with langhter, come back flock-

To give a warm welcome to me,

Farewell the maze has been threaded!

This is the ending of strife,

Say not that death should be dreaded,

‘Tis but the Beginning of Life.


The first “Poet’s Corner” column from February 17, 1927 – The Setonian

It was not long before a regular column was included in each monthly edition of The Setonian which featured a number of short pieces which ran the gamut in style from lyrical to elegy to light prose to rhyme, and other forms in-between.  An example of the latter is evident within the following textual illustration from February of 1927 which touches on the popular subject of remembrance which is often what an author strives for when it comes to their respective audience . . .


Do you ever sit and ponder

On days that are no more,

And again in fields o’er yonder,

You wander as of yore.

Do you try to catch the glances

Of friends you’ve lost awhile,

And with joy that near entrances

You recognize the smile

Of one you loved and cherished,

But who now has gone away,

Do you try to slowly linger,

Lest your memory start to stray?

If you have, you’ve tasted sweetly

Of the bounteous gift of God,

Who has left us blessed memories,

While the weary earth we trod,

Some glad day beyond life’s misery,

‘Twill be ours the joy to hold

The ones we seek in memory,

And to our hearts enfold

But now as on life’s pilgrimmage

We wend our weary way,

Thank God that those we’ve lost awhile

In our memories still may stay.

This period in history was also known for an overall artistic renaissance and this was evident with the creative works that were regularly featured not only the earliest campus publications (aside from The Setonian alone) included SPIRIT which was a bi-monthly journal of the Catholic Poetry Society of America.  This periodical would ultimately had administrative and creative ties to Seton Hall for a number of years and this is recognized as we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the inaugural issue this year.  (More about the history of SPIRIT can be found via the following link –

Caption for the Poetry Column found in The Setonian during the early 1930s

Hundreds of different poems have survived over the years as student produced publication journals were established specifically to feature poetry, short stories, and related art works of various kinds that represent the respective eras in which they were created.  This included such examples as Whither (1942), Wings (Paterson Campus – 1960s), Puddle Wonderful (1969), and post-1970 titles such as: Mutterins of the Muse, Phoenix, and Arcadia, among others.  Over time the legacy of these examples of diverse verse does survive, and through the reader each line has another chance to resonate and shine.

For more information on the poetic and literary history of Seton Hall University and any related topics please feel free to contact us by e-mail: or by phone at: (973) 275-2378.

Object of the Week: “The Newark Anniversary Poems”

The Newark Anniversary Poems
Edited by Henry Wellington Wack
Published by Laurence J. Gomme
MSS  0001


In 1916, the City of Newark celebrated its 250th anniversary with a flurry of activities.  Sculptor Gutzon Borglum – known for his monumental projects at Mount Rushmore and Stone Mountain, Georgia – was commissioned to create a bronze sculpture, “The Bridge Memorial,” which was placed outside the Newark Public Library and dedicated on May 10, 1916.[1]  A poster contest was organized, and winning designs were issued as postage

Image of a woman in draping clothes. Green background and black text
1916 Postage Stamp Design from the Semiquincentennial celebration of Newark’s founding

stamps to mark the event.[2]  Another commemoration that took place was a poetry competition which offered $1,000 in prizes for poems selected for inclusion in The Newark Anniversary Poems, a volume celebrating the Brick City’s “historical, industrial, social, aesthetic or civic life.”  The contest solicited many literary formats including odes, epics, sonnets, blank verse, ballads, lyrics, vers libre, songs, satires, limericks and jingles.  The competition opened in January 1916 and closed in December of that same year. More than 900 entries were received and winnowed to roughly 550 submissions for review by the committee of seven judges.  Poets from forty-two states (of the 48 in existence at the time) and six countries submitted work to the competition, demonstrating the wide interest in the city and event.[3]  First prize was won by Clement Wood, of New York City[4] for his poem “The Smithy of God,”[5] a paean to Newark’s bustling streetscapes and industrious citizens.  The poem, “To a City Sending Him Advertisements,” by expatriate modernist poet Ezra Pound, was also featured in the volume.[6]

Seton Hall University’s Department of Archives and Special Collections holds this copy of The Newark Anniversary Poems autographed by editor Henry Wellington Wack to Leonard Dreyfuss.  Leonard Dreyfuss was a well-known business owner, resident and public servant in the city of Newark.  He was awarded “Citizen of the Year in 1942.”  This book is part of the Leonard Dreyfuss papers, a rich repository of varied materials that document Dreyfuss’ life including his time as advertising executive and service in the Civil Defense.[7]  The Newark Anniversary Poems is but one of many connections New Jersey’s largest city has with poetry.

Signature in black ink on white paper on the inside cover page of an open book
Interior page with inscription from editor Henry Wellington Wack to Leonard Dreyfuss. The Newark Anniversary Poems

Many famous poets hail from the City of Newark including native Amiri Baraka, the once Poet-Laureate of New Jersey whose activism on behalf of Black Liberation and support for Fidel Castro, among other things, put him at the center of numerous controversies.  Baraka is the father of current Newark Mayor, Ras Baraka.[8]   Although beat poet Allen Ginsberg is more closely associated with the city of Paterson, he was born in Newark.  Ginsberg is best known for his epic poem “Howl” which railed against conformity and ultimately left him defending his writing in a court of law against charges of obscenity.  Ginsberg prevailed, the judge citing freedom of speech in the poet’s favor.[9]  Writer Judith Viorst, also a native Newarker, earned recognition for her journalism, poetry and children’s literature.[10]  Poet Mwatabu S. Okantah, currently an Associate Professor and Poet in Residence in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University, hails from Newark.[11] Early 20th century poet Stephen Crane was born in the city in 1871.[12]

Since 2010, Newark has been home to the Dodge Poetry Festival.  The Dodge Foundation’s website notes the city’s long engagement with the arts – and poetry in particular – in substantiation of its choice to host the event in the city.[13]  Outside of the festival, numerous venues present open-mics and poetry readings throughout the city including at libraries, galleries, universities and artist-run spaces in the city’s many wards.  Seton Hall University has its own strong appreciation of and bond with poetry.  Professor John Harrington, a faculty member in the English department from 1956-1995, founded Poetry in the Round in 1982.  The acclaimed series of readings continues into the present day and has brought many notable writers to campus, including Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, Jamaica Kinkead and Joyce Carol Oates. [14]  Presently, the series is being presented virtually.  You can view the calendar for a listing of upcoming Poetry in the Round events.

Image of a woman (poet Catherine Pierce) speaking at a podium
Image: Poet Catherine Pierce at a Poetry in the Round reading on March 30, 2017. Courtesy of Joey Khan/Photographer and Digital Editor for the Setonian.

The images and materials shown here are but a small part of the vast patrimony available to students, faculty and researchers.  For access to this or other objects in our collections, complete a research request form to set up an appointment or contact us at 973-761-9476. 


[1], accessed 4/6/2021.

[2], accessed 4/6/2021.

[3] Wack, Henry Wellington.  Preface.  The Newark Anniversary Poems.   New York: Laurence J. Gomme, 1917. g. 21-22.

[4], accessed 4/6/2021.

[5] Wack, Henry Wellington.  The Newark Anniversary Poems.   New York: Laurence J. Gomme, 1917. Pg. 63.

[6], accessed 4/6/2021.

[7], accessed 4/6/2021.

[8], accessed 4/6/2021.

[9], accessed 4/6/2021.

[10], accessed 4/6/2021.

[11], accessed 4/6/2021.

[12], accessed 4/6/2021.

[13], accessed 4/6/2021.

[14], accessed 4/6/2021.

Maria Gillan Speaks at Seton Hall

photo of Maria Mazziotti Gillan
Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Maria Gillan is a poet who writes about her experience as an Italian-American woman, navigating between the Italian language and culture of her youth and the English language of her adult self.  She writes with great attention to detail, in poems such as “Public School No. 18, Paterson, New Jersey,” where she speaks about the alienation she felt in an English language school as a native speaker of Italian.  But she also speaks to universal themes, such as her sadness about the growing distance between herself and her son as her son grows up and starts a family of his own in “What I Can’t Face About Someone I Love.”  Her work has been translated into Italian, and she now leads workshops in creative writing based in Italy, in addition to branching out into art as well as poetry, with works such as Redhead with Flying Fish and Cat.  In addition, she maintains an active blog and website documenting her work.

Maria Gillan's painting of a redhead with flying fish
Redhead with flying fish and cat

Gillan will be speaking at Seton Hall, in the Theater in the Round on the evening of September 24 at 6pm.  Her translator, Professor Carla Francellini, from University of Siena, will speak as well.  This event honors the 2019 scholarship winners in Italian Studies.

While she is here, Professor Francellini will also be working in the Monsignor William Noe Field Archives, researching in Gillan’s collection here, where not only her physical papers but also Gillan’s blog and website are archived.  Explore the finding aid for the collection, and also stop by and see the window featuring Gillan’s work on the bottom floor of Walsh Library, outside Walsh Gallery.