Paul Shevill

"The Other Poet from Dayton Named Paul." by Larry Sizer

Paul Shivell, 1874-1968

Paul Shivell was born in 1874 in Indianapolis, but lived most of his early life in Dayton, OH and nearby Springfield. He moved to Chicago at age 18, where he was a guide and art critic at the Chicago World's Fair. He then went to San Antonio, TX, with his ailing mother as a cure for tuberculosis, from which they suffered; took a turn as an amateur cowboy; and then journeyed by sea to his father's new home in New York City. Out of this voyage came his first substantial surge of poetic inspiration, and he continued to write from this point until the end of his life. In the fall of 1894, he enrolled at Phillips Andover Academy, where he worked to pay his expenses. He was called home before the end of his first year by the death of his mother, but not before he had won, the Means Prize for original poetic declamation, the first and probably the only ever given to a first-year student. In 1897, Shivell married Gertrude Wolf, of his home state of Ohio, to whom he remained wedded until her death in 1961. After short stints as a preacher and a farmer through out New England and Ohio, he settled down to writing as his sole occupation, with some initial success, including a much-acclaimed season of poetic reading in Boston in 1917, and the publication of one of his works by Houghton Mifflin at the insistence of Bliss Perry of Harvard in 1915. Unfortunately, Shivell never duplicated his early successes, possibly because of the ever-more religious nature of his work, as he grew older, limiting his appeal to a much smaller audience. Despairing of interest from established publishing houses, he began to publish his own work under the name of the Stillwater press. In addition, aided by a patron, Mrs. Georgine Holmes Thomas, and later by his devoted daughter, Virginia, he was able to continue writing to the end of his life. He died at age 94 in his son, Arthur's home in Los Angeles.

Charlotte Reeve Conover has included two of Paul's poems in her anthology of Dayton.
Here is the second stanza of one called On the Miami.


Then voices of two souls in love with life
Went floating down the river in the moon;
And softer with the singing came the tune
Of the faint cithern and the sacred fife.
We leaned with clasped hands o'er that deep hour
Until the music of that contented love
 Wound into river stillness - when above
We heard the first breath of the coming shower
Rustling the foliage. Slowly then toward home
We strolled beneath the wide elms in the green gloom
And Gertrude all in white looked like a flower.