Carlotta Perry

In 1883 Carlotta dealt with the death of her mother. She again stood by the white headstone of her father which she’d had moved along with his body from the original burial plot to one in Oak Hill cemetery which she’d purchased the year before her mother’s death. It is the same plot where her sister Caroline and her husband George would be buried as would two now unknown burials, and Carlotta herself would be placed on that cold day in March. After a visit to her mother’s grave, Carlotta penned the poem, Her Happier Lot. It describes the cemetery as that “strange city on the hill” and speaks of people going about their business in the city below-Watertown.

And in that city down below,
Men note the yield of yellow grain,

And watch the silvery stream, and know
That blight or bloom or rise or wane
Means loss or gain.

In the poem, Carlotta compares the inhabitants of the living city of Watertown to the inhabitants of Oak Hill, the “happier lot.”

But here the happy dweller know
Not any burden, pain or loss;
They do not wander to and fro
To hide a hurt or grief or cross
Beneath the moss.

From Her Happier Lot

Sometime after her mother’s death, Carlotta moved to Chicago where she continued to write stories, poetry, and articles for local papers. She became friends with Helen Ekin Starrett, a well known journalist in Chicago and owner of Starrett School for Girls. Both women were voted lifetime members of the Illinois Women’s Press Association. The history of the organization written in 1987 describes Carlotta as a member whose “gentle companionship was prized by many.”

This kind of description is used frequently about the poet. Milwaukeean Kate Upson Clark, children’s author and editor of the household journal Good Cheer wrote, “her beautiful name matched well her delicate genius. Refinement and a certain dreamy daintiness marked all her work.”

An article about “western literary people” by Henry S. Barnes, describes her as “a curious mixture of frankness and reticence, of shyness and self-praise.” It goes on,” The basis of her character is sincerity…She is not so fond of society as society is of her”

Her career as a poet was highlighted by the publication of a book of her poems in 1888. Dedicated to her mother, the pale blue cloth-bound volume is entitled simply, Carlotta Perry’s Poems. A review of the publication at the time was complimentary. “In these days when the influence of the metaphysical …schools of poetry seems all but paramount, the effect of Miss Perry’s verse is a cluster of field daisies in a mass of hot-house flowers, all the more charming for their surroundings…”

The Nation’s review of her book read, “Carlotta Perry’s Poems show a fatal facility.”

A few years after the publication of her book, The Waukesha Freeman reported in 1894 that “As a poet she is far in advance of other Wisconsin poets….”

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