poetry for the ear in the tradition of blind Homer

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Autobiographical Sketch of Walter Rufus Eagles
Click HERE to listen to Walter read his own poems spanning five decades.
Click HERE for DEDICATION to my Verda, LA English teacher, the late Mabel Fletcher Harrison.
This autobiographical sketch is updated periodically, and no archival records are kept of older versions.  Any email suggestions from readers are welcome, concerning any errors of historical fact, blame, praise, etc. . . . . . . . . . .You are listening to 'Amazing Grace' -- perhaps the one bit of church music that influenced my life through six of the 'The Seven Ages of Man'.  Click on your Windows Refresh Button to hear the music again.

                                                               The Midi sequence heard in the background (John Newton's Amazing Grace) is the recording 'agrace.mid' which has no attribution to the performer/sequence arranger in the file specs.  I want to thank the performer, whoever he or she is, for a heartfelt rendition of my childhood favorite, which remains my favorite to this day.

Portrait of Poet with Santa Penguin, by granddaughter Ariel Eagles, age 5.  Click on the image to see Walter at age four, seated on a pony.
Poet  & Santa Penguin 
[age 68] & [age?] 
Photo by his granddaughter 
Ariel Eagles at age 5,
January 2003.

Freshman class picture in Spring 1957.  Click on image to see a picture of Walter at Verda School in the late Forties
College Yearbook

Walter with his Siamese cat, Mahra -- his working companion in the home office.  See also the bottom of this page.  Click on image to see back view.
Poet with His 'Familiar' ('Mahra')
May 2003

Above: Walter Randolph Eagles and Gladyse Mai Lasyone Eagles in the late 1970s
Below: Their five children, also in the late 1970s

In ascending age order, left to right: James Harry Eagles, Jessie Eileen Eagles Kelly, Thelma Reid Eagles Griffith,  Walter Rufus Eagles, Lou Anne Eagles Smith


     Winnfield, Louisiana was historically a singularly independent town, the capital of Winn Parish ('county' for other US states).  After the "South" declared their secession from the Union, Winn Parish re-named itself "The Free State of Winn" and promptly seceded from Louisiana and the Confederate States.  I was born in this town during the Great Depression on August 26, 1934, to Walter Randolph Eagles and Gladys Mai Lasyone Eagles, and was the second of five children.  By the way, Winnfield is also the ancestral home of the Long dynasty of Louisiana politicians (Huey, Earl, Russell etc.)
     My father worked for the Carey Salt Mine in Winnfield from the time of my earliest memories, where he stoked the boiler that created the heat to dry the crushed rock salt as it came up out of the belly of the earth on a conveyor belt that ran day and night.  Largely a self-educated man, "Pete" carried a harmonica in his shirt pocket all of his life, and knew tunes and words to several hundred songs.  He had a special love for poetry, and could recite folk poems and song lyrics from memory.   Earlier in his life he had been a log-cutter, a carpenter (like his father before him), a farmer and a railroad track workman.  My mother had been a bookkeeper and practical nurse, and also had a passion for singing and piano playing.  She could read music, but knew many songs by memory like her husband.  
        My older sister Lou Anne Eagles Smith, an accomplished pianist as a young girl, had also become a journalist even in high school, and she has been my inspiration in the areas of music and writing ever since my pre-teen years.  I have two younger sisters, Thelma Reid Eagles Griffith and Jessie Eileen Eagles Kelly, and a younger brother, James Harry Eagles, all of them gifted in music.  All five of us are alumni of the school of music of the "Fifth Sunday All Day Gospel Singing and Dinner on the Ground" that was characteristic of the Deep South in my boyhood (read Unheard Melodies.)
        Our family lived in the town of Winnfield until I was eleven years old, when we moved to Verda, Louisiana in the next Parish south, Grant.  We took up residence in the 19th Century McMills house at the northern end of the Shell Point Road, where the continuation was a horse trail (or footpath) into the pine forests.  Listen elsewhere to my reminiscence of this rural village, which had a  post office, a general store and a one-building school.  Verda also had a sister village a mile and a half away, New Verda, which also had a post office but no school.    Neither village had a mayor, neither having been a town in modern times.  The years I lived in Verda were my formative adolescent years, and my affection for the place and its people at Mid-20th Century continues to this day, not with sentimental nostalgia but with exact and detailed audio and visual memories of shaped-note singing conventions, swimming holes, watermelon patches, deep pine forests, caring neighbors, a horse-driven sugar cane syrup mill operated by my uncle on my mother's (French) side of the family, and much, much more.  
         Our family moved again in my senior year to Colfax, an old cotton culture town on the Red River, with many plantations and reminders of the bitter Civil War and the infamous Colfax Riot that took place there on Easter Sunday 1873, during which white vigilantes murdered over a hundred blacks, many of them in the act of surrender, or flight from the burning Parish Court House, which the thugs had set on fire.  It was during this year of on-the-spot study that I began to change the racial views I had inherited from my own white culture as a small child. 
         After graduation from Colfax High School in 1952, I studied for several months at Louisiana State University, but cut my studies short to enlist in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War.  I served in Korea in the mountains and at Headquarters Platoon, 1st Marine Division (Detached), Yong Dong Po.  An experience on the Air Force base there gave rise, half a century later, to a poem of mine, Reunion.  "Rest and Recuperation" ["R&R"] in Japan upon two occasions during the Korean service introduced me to Japanese language and culture for the first time.  At the end of that tour of my tour of duty in Korea, I was transferred to Pearl Harbor's Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and finally to Barstow, California, to the US Marine Corps Supply Depot there, where I was honorably discharged as Sergeant Walter Rufus Eagles, USMC in September 1956, having been released just short of completing my four year enlistment in order to enroll in college at Northwestern Louisiana State College (now University) at Natchitoches, Louisiana.  While in Barstow, I studied violin with the Methodist minister's wife.
        At Northwestern, I completed my undergraduate studies for the Bachelor of Arts in Government with minors in philosophy, music and Spanish at the college.  I played flute and second violin in the college orchestra, and sang in the choir as well.  (Many years later I sang in the last Latin choir at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Sun Valley, California.)  During my years at Natchitoches, I was awarded the Lesche Literary Award for 1956-57, and won first prize in poetry at the 1957 statewide Louisiana Collegiate Writers Conference.  While in undergraduate studies I wrote literary, drama and music reviews for the Current Sauce, our weekly college paper, and was also published in Inner Space, the campus literary magazine.  In January 1960, I was graduated cum laude and was elected to Phi Kappa Phi honorary scholastic fraternity. 
        After graduation, I taught English at Wicomico County Senior High School in Salisbury, Maryland1 and then returned to Natchitoches to complete the undergraduate requirements in mathematics, followed by graduate studies in math there.  While there, I was personal English tutor to several international students from countries that included Japan, Greece, El Salvador, and Colombia, while acting individually and as student secretary and friend to the Dean of International Students, G. Waldo Dunnington, PhD, a distinguished international scholar in mathematics and German, who was a translator at the Nuremberg Trials. 
        The artist and actress Mary Lou ('Marilu') Holmes Vorhoff and I were married upon relocating from Natchitoches, her home town as well as our college town, to Sun Valley, California, where we still live.  I worked ten years as an apprentice, then journeyman, in the trade of goldsmith with master craftsman Harold Fithian until his brutal and as yet unsolved murder.   Harold was a great influence on my life, introducing me to Will Geer (from whom I learned to love Walt Whitman's poetry as recited by Will) and to many California artists in the areas of music, art, literature and drama. 
        During these years, I also studied mathematics at California State University at Northridge.  Additionally, I worked out proofs at home on the foundations of mathematics, with the three volumes of Russell and Whitehead's classic,
Principia Mathematica
Truth be told, I never got past Volume One, the largest of the three.
        Marilu and I have three children: Wendy (who works with Warner Bros. Studios in Hollywood/Burbank area), Randol (an artist who paints in animation with the Klasky-Csupo Studios in the Hollywood / Los Angeles area) and David (who, like his father, is a poet, and along with whom I studied Gregorian Chant three consecutive summers at California State University Los Angeles.)   We also have three granddaughters:  Rachelle, daughter of Wendy, and Ariel & Aurora, daughters of our son Randol. 
        I began writing as a young child, but did not write formal poems until my last year as a Marine at Barstow, California.  Major poetic influences at the beginning were T.S. Eliot (especially the Four Quartets), Wm. Blake (especially the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience), Shakespeare (especially the sonnets), Beat Generation poetry and the Japanese haiku and [classical] waka forms concurrently with independent study of Japanese language and calligraphy.
        I had studied Haiku in Korea using the three, later four volumes of Haiku,  by R. H. Blyth, the distinguished English scholar, translator and former POW in Japan during WWII, where he acted as special tutor to the Emperor Hirohito).  Later on in Honolulu, at the University of Hawaii, my ultimate contact in this field was Robert Aitken, (who had also been a POW in Japan alongside R.H. Blyth) a scholar in Zen and Poetry, and now a Zen Roshi (retired) to the big island of Hawaii. Aitken Roshi generously allowed me to consult with him while I was studying from his original master's thesis on Zen and poetry, the University's copy having been stolen from the main campus library.
        Since 1973, I have earned, and still earn, my livelihood as a scrivener of another sort: tax preparer ('writing' tax returns for others) and accountant ('writing' general journals and ledgers for small businesses).  Prior to that I designed sculpture and jewelry mostly in molten wax thread technique with an electric pen, another form of 'writing.'  (Click here to see an example in bronze.)  
        I have continued to the present crafting my own poetry and reciting the poetry of the past five centuries, concentrating since 1996 on web publishing, both text and audio, at my American website (designed and maintained by me): www.eaglesweb.com.  The overall recording project continues, and is expected by conclude by May 1, 2006 in thirty CD volumes comprising 2,002 lyrical poems in Modern English.  I plan to continue to increase the inventory of the Eaglesweb.com Audio Anthology of  Lyrical Poetry in Modern English to that same number of recordings online for the benefit of students, teachers, poets and other lovers of recorded lyrical poetry in Modern English -- the once and future such anthology created, edited and maintained by an individual poet/webmaster -- for their free listening enjoyment and learning.

[Last updated March 16, 2009.]

1 For several years I taught business English and court-reporting English (roots, prefixes, suffixes and etymology) at Criss College of Business (where I was Dean of Instruction) at Glendale University College of Law in Glendale, California. [return to paragraph


DEDICATION:  This literary site is dedicated to the memory of Mabel Fletcher Harrison, my English teacher fifty+ years ago at the Verda School.   An actress as well, she taught Shakespeare to us rural Louisiana farm children with enthusiasm and devotion.   Her history of Grant Parish, co-authored in 1969 with Lavinia McNeely, is a good resource on the area and its people.                                


Click on image to see enlargement.

 Mahra at work (rear guard lookout, claws at the ready  

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