Heres a virtual movie of the brilliant but obscure American poet,philosopher and scientist Bradford Shank reading from his collection of blank verse “Fragments” written between 1948 and 1952.

The photograph used in this virtual movie is possibly the only one known and comes from the inside cover of first edition of “Fragments” published in the early 1950’s.

The poems are read by his son Alan Shanks who also wrote the biographical notes to this video who I am grateful for and for his relative Cruiser Shank who first introduced me to the work of this outstanding poet and suggested the idea of making this virtual movie. The Shank family are a very fine family of acoustic musicians and can be seen performing at these youtube channels.

You can read a small selection of his verse at this website.

Bio info
He was born in Indiana in 1908 to John Walter Shank and Cora Bender (Shank). He was a straight-A student in high school, and was attending the University of Chicago, but had to drop out due to the Depression. After that, he was basically self-educated. He worked at various jobs in Chicago and married my mother, Louise Phelps, in 1932. Later, he worked at the lab in Chicago where they were working on atomic physics. My brother Erik was born in Chicago in 1943. My father worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos as an engineer, and I (Alan) was born there in 1946. My dad quit the project and we moved to Los Angeles in March. He wrote a series of articles for the L A Daily News on atomic energy and the need for international control of its development. He produced a movie, “Where Will You Hide” about the atomic bomb and why we cannot have another war. He wrote the “Fragments” between 1948 and 1952, when they were published. He also wrote an article entitled “Model of Man” in which he presents a theory on the interaction between awareness and the physical world; some of the Fragments hint at this. He worked at various jobs, including technical writing and managing the physiology department at UCLA (his last job), until his death at age 62 in 1970. He had a couple of strokes, recovering from the first.

Here are some of his own comments about “Fragments”:

1. This is not intended as poetry and should not go to poetry reviewers nor be classified as poetry in libraries or bookstores.

2. It is nearer scientific-religious philosophy.

3. It has overtones of general semantics and has been used by teachers of general semantics in classroom instruction.

4. It has sold to students, housewives, dentists, doctors, teachers, liberal religious groups, chiropractors, dieticians, business executives, business management people and others.

5. There have been comparisons with Frank Townshend’s “Heaven” and “Earth” and with “The Prophet”. In some ways these are valid likenesses except that both are better poetry, less scientific and somewhat differently related to religion.

6. It is not dated and should not go out of date in the future.

7. It is apparently used by many people as a bedside book in which they browse frequently.

8. It is a book people buy after they borrow and seem anxious to bring to the attention of others or give others – most orders are two or more.

He bought up the last 1500 copies from Prentice Hall and used to sell them via mail order for $3. When he was working at UCLA, they sold it at the student store. My brother still has some 50+ copies of it.

Kind Regards

Jim Clark
All rights are reserved on this video recording copyright Jim Clark 2009

Duration : 0:4:24

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