Airdrie and Fugitive Pieces
- Biddle, Clement

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Commentary

Biddle’s first book of photographically illustrated poems, Airdrie and Fugitive Pieces (1872) takes for its title poem a likely response to the poem ‘Airdrie’ by Christine Alexander, which Biddle would later, it is thought, play a role in publishing in a photographically illustrated edition, Airdrie, Scotland (1875). Airdrie and Fugitive Pieces is one of the earliest photographically illustrated poetry books emanating from the US, and is very firmly rooted, as even its title suggests, in the British tradition of such books as seen in the volumes published by A.W. Bennett and, later, R.A. Suttaby.

The long poem ‘Airdrie’ mimics Longfellow’s trochaic tetrameter in the epic poem ‘The Song of Hiawatha’ and, thanks to its photographic illustrations, also recalls Carroll’s parody ‘Hiawatha’s Photographing’. The name ‘Airdrie’ appears to refer to ‘a mansion very comely’ that focuses the poem, yet the European, particularly Scottish, flavour to Biddle’s collection suggests to the reader that the connection to the North Lanarkshire town is not a mere coincidence, an interpretation strengthened when we remember Biddle’s involvement in the overtly Scottish Airdrie of Alexander. It is undetermined whether the photographs in Biddle’s volume were taken in Scotland.

Book Details

Author: Biddle, Clement
Title: Airdrie and Fugitive Pieces
Publication Year: 1872
Poets Featured: Biddle, Clement
Subjects: American poetry
Photographic process: Albumen prints

This book can be found in the University of St Andrews Library catalogue HERE

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