From The Fossil no. 325, July 2005
Merry has been active in amateur journalism for over forty years. She has served one term as NAPA vice president, and held the office of critic in two ajay groups.
She is presently finishing the revision of a book-length manuscript of narrative poems, "A Fine and Private Place."
Recently printed was her book of narrative poems "Cardboard City." The poems are the life stories of life's unfortunates, and how they came down to ruin.
Mary's daughter, Laura White, a NAPA family member, wordprocesses the writings of her 84-year-old mother and does the final editing.
Merry's biography will appear in the 2005 edition of Who's Who of American Women, a Marquis publication.
Dear God, having seen your own Son die,
You must have a special dispensation
For grieving Mothers. You must look
With special empathy and compassion.
You can wipe all tears away
With the warmth of your love.
In the dark night of their souls
Please make your presence felt.
Let them know they do not grieve alone.
As Mary embraced your only Son
And laved him with her tears,
So does each modern mother cling
To memories of her beloved son
Who now resides with you.
Bless her, God. Enfold her
In your great love, and give her peace.
Let her tears like holy water
Have miraculous healing powers.
We die unknown, as we lived.
Our works go down in waste
Because we do not satisfy
The public's current taste.
Yet no one truly fails,
However it may seem,
If he remains steadfast
To the last
To his vision and his dream.
Death, I have too often said,
Is a bright new beginning.
It is not a matter of losing
But of glorious winning.
If you can, remember
Things I said to
Make you laugh.
Remember me with Lasting
Let love be my epitaph.
From The Fossil no. 339, January 2009
To those of us who over the years have been the recipients of Eula "Merry" Harris's prolific outpouring of epic-proportion communications, and witnesses to her seemingly bottomless reservoir of poems, essays, commentaries, and stories, it is difficult to picture her as ever having suffered writer's block. But, in her book Willametta Turnepseed Keffer: Memories of a Beloved Friend, Merry confesses that once she did so suffer and, as a result, was introduced to amateur journalism and later to Willametta to whom she frequently referred as her "Significant Other—my source of unfailing wisdom, my writing instructor, benefactor."
The year was 1944, and Merry in desperation wrote to Writer's Digest, appealing to other writers for help. "Virgil Price, an amateur journalist and Marine, whose home was in nearby Valdosta, Georgia, was among those who responded. He suggested that I join UAPA, which I did." Shortly after, she tells us, Willametta, a member of UAPA, sent her a welcoming letter, "and our 45+ year friendship began."
One would naturally assume that it was Willametta who encouraged Merry to join NAPA, but the secretary's report in the March 1945 issue of the NA gives that honor once again to Virgil Price. Merry's credential, incidentally, is cited as Terse Verse. It was Willametta, however, who Merry recounts, formally introduced this new member in Literary Newszette #193 for February 1945. The article gives us insight into another of Merry's talents (besides writing and photo journalism), that of cartoonist. The self-portrait which appears above the piece portrays Merry, then of Cleveland, Tennessee, walking three of her children on leashes. Later cartoons, as well as literary contributions, would appear in succeeding issues of LN.
We might add that Merry's literary output was not limited to LN, for soon her poetry and prose articles would be featured in such outstanding publications as The Feather Duster (Charles King), Reverie (Robert Telschow), Silver & Gold (Gale Sheldon), The Writer's Voice (John Horn), The Boxwooder (Jacob Warner), and Campane (Harold Segal). Merry tells us that her first submission for a Laureate Award was in 1951 when, at the urging of Recorder Warren Rosenberger, she entered the poem "Silence Is the Better Part" which had appeared in an issue of The Live Wire. Although she did not earn Laureate recognition for that entry, later she was to receive her share of awards which included 1993 Honorable Mention for Miscellaneous Prose: "A Critic Undone" (Campane 164); 1997 Fiction Honorable Mention: "My Brief Tenure as One of the Last of the Big Gamblers" (Merry-Go-Round 12); Editorial Comment Honorable Mention: "On Accepting or Rejecting Criticism" (Merry-Go-Round 12); Miscellaneous Prose Laureate: "The Brook Farm Experiment" (The Boxwooder 311); and 1998 Poetry Honorable Mention: "Excerpts from a Fine and Private Place" (Merry-Go-Round 19).
Her professional writing appears to have started early in her life with articles in The Chattanooga News-Free Press (she was born in Chattanooga), and the Nashville Tennessean for starters. And Merry tells us in a piece for The Fossil that her writings and illustrations have seen wide circulation and her poetry has appeared in a number of anthologies and literary magazines. Her devoted daughter Laura White discloses that, once settled in the Imperial Valley region of California, Merry contributed poetry to and authored a series "Letters to the Editor" for the Imperial Valley Press.
Her ajay publishing ventures during her early period began with one issue of Christian Endeavor which Merry deemed to be so poorly mimeographed that she resorted to a private mailing. We find that she also produced a paper titled Roadrunner and co-authored The Showcase with Willametta. Further, she penned a half dozen books of poetry and was active in the cooperative publications of the Imperial Valley writers group. Her last output is the publication Cardboard City which we understand is still on sale (Xlibris.com). But, the publication most of us remember was her Merry-Go-Round which exhibited not only her own various literary talents but the work of others as well. Merry began this journal in 1988 at the suggestion of Willametta as a means for Merry to fulfill her obligation as the United Amateur Press's official critic. Merry sent typed masters to Willametta who reproduced them at no cost to Merry. Later when Merry adapted this publication for wider circulation including the NAPA membership, she received financial support from her friends.
Merry claimed that she did not like to hold office stating that "it subjects one to criticism and verbal abuse." However, she was willing to serve as Laureate Judge and official critic in the United groups and as Bureau of Critics reviewer for NAPA. She claims that her "one failure to serve effectively, circa 1953, was as vice-president of NAPA." But, failure or not, Merry certainly did succeed in her recruiting efforts for both NAPA and the Fossils in which group she served a four-year term as President.
Recalling her years as Fossils President (1990-94), we will remember Merry not only for her remarkable knack of garnering new members, but for her ability to inspire a significant number of our group to offer their "a-j memoirs" for publication in The Fossil. In addition she kept pages of the journal filled with her own writing besides her Presidential letters. Also Merry initiated a series of Fossils awards for various activities connected with writing. However, the activity she was most proud of was her establishment of an Amateur Journalism Hall of Fame in the form of a plaque bearing the names of the honorees. To that end she devoted tireless energy in an effort to raise funds for its continuity. In return, in 1994 the hobby awarded Merry the Russell L. Paxton Memorial Award for Service to Amateur Journalism for her years of devotion to the various groups to which she belonged.
After a series of illnesses over the span of her lifetime, Merry finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer on November 16, 2008, at the age of 87. She was preceded in death by her husband John Banks Harris and a son. Merry apparently had been subject to a hectic life in rearing four children, struggling to put food on the table, at the same time honing her skills for a successful literary career. And, just think if it had not been for a writer's block, we might never have been the beneficiaries of the outpouring of the unique soul which was found in Eula "Merry" Harris.
Credits: NAPA E-Mail News, Dec. 17, 2008 (Bill Boys, NAPA, Sec'y-treas.); Stan Oliner, NAPA Librarian.