Mencken in 1928.In 1925, in a review of the nation's regional literary activity, H. L. Mencken cheered the new "Oklahoma manner" in literature: "Oklahoma, though it came in before Arizona and New Mexico, is actually the youngest State in the Union. Until 1889 it was a sort of No Man's Land. Yet I can testify as an editor that it produces ten times as many likely manuscripts a year as Maine, which was admitted in 1820, or Delaware, which was one of the original thirteen colonies, and it has already thrown off such men as John McClure, the poet, and Burton Rascoe, the critic. The reason I don't know, but the fact is brilliantly plain that many young Oklahomans are taking to the pen, and that not a few of them have talent. There is almost, indeed, an Oklahoma literature, or, at all events, an Oklahoma manner." ("Geographical Adventure That Reveals More 'Saharas of the Bozart.'" Baltimore Evening Sun, May 9, 1925: 9.)

Comparing Oklahoma's literature to that of contemporary New England "writers who apparently pull down the blinds before they begin to write," Mencken lauded it for "the sharp sense of reality, the gusto in life as it is being lived by actual people, the feeling for homely beauty and everyday drama." His critique immediately became a source of great pride among Oklahoma's writers. Ever since he was editor of Smart Set, he had given much encouragement to several of them, whom he published in his magazines. Muna Lee was a leading figure among them. Her early development as a poet was much influenced by both her personal and literary experience in Oklahoma.

For more on the Oklahoma manner, see the following two studies: Lawrence R. Rodgers, "H. L. Mencken and the 'Oklahoma Style' of Literature," Chronicles of Oklahoma 78 (Winter 200001): 46883; and B. A. Botkin, "The 'Oklahoma Manner' in Poetry," University of Oklahoma Magazine 15 (November 1925): 2731.

[Back to Biography]