History | February 22, 2020 6:08 am

In Search of Amelia Earhart’s Vanished Poetry

Besides her groundbreaking flights, Earhart had a literary side

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was also a talented writer.
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

If she had never developed a penchant for flying, might we still remember Amelia Earhart for another talent of hers? It’s more likely than you might think — turns out the groundbreaking pilot also had a penchant for poetry. At Literary Hub, Traci Brimhall looked back over Earhart’s literary ventures, and discovered evidence of an ambitious and talented body of work.

Brimhall is a talented poet in her own right; she’s also the Director of Creative Writing at Kansas State University. (Her bio also notes that she and Earhart share a birthday.) She also notes that Earhart’s husband, George Palmer Putnam, preserved some fragments of Earhart’s poetry after her disappearance; others have been found in the archive of Earhart and Putnam’s letters at Purdue University.

The poetry of Earhart’s that remains has prompted plenty of analysis, with details examined from all sides. As Brimhall phrases it:

Searching the archives for Amelia Earhart’s lost poems is a study in fragments—every tucked-away line on the back of a receipt hidden in a notebook an invitation to speculate on her thoughts. Even when her widower published pieces of her verse in his memoir, he had an independent source verify the authenticity of one of them, unsure if the private voice on the page was indeed hers.

Brimhall’s essay provides some fascinating insights into Earhart’s work, marriage and general philosophy of life. Even more than that, it offers a strange kind of solace: the notion that even through incomplete pieces of something, a sense of the whole can emerge. It’s a haunting look at a mysterious and inspiring life.

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