Aug. 6, 1998

In My Craft or Sullen Art

by Dylan Thomas


Today's Reading: "In My Craft or Sullen Art" by Dylan Thomas from COLLECTED POEMS, published by New Directions (1946).

At 8:15 in the morning on this day in 1945, an American B-29 dropped the first atomic bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy," on Hiroshima. It went off about 1,800 feet above ground and instantly killed around 105, 000 people; another 100,000 died later from radiation burns and poisoning.

It's the birthday in 1892, Hawarden (HAY-word-un), Iowa, of writer RUTH SUCKOW. In the 1920s and '30s she wrote about rural and small town Iowa life in stories like "Uprooted," and novels like The Folks. Most of her stories were written while she was running a bee-keeping operation in the little eastern Iowa town of Earlville.

It's the birthday in Ayr, Scotland, 1883, of ALEXANDER FLEMING, who discovered penicillin in 1928. He began his career in WWI, treating infectious diseases. Because of the new, mechanized weapons in that war, soldiers came to him with deeper and far more jagged wounds than doctors had ever seen before. Fleming said, "Surrounded by all those infected wounds, by men who were suffering and dying without our being able to do anything to help them, I was consumed by a desire to discover, after all this struggling, something which would kill these microbes." Years later he left a culture dish out on the windowsill of his lab, and a friend noticed that the mold was behaving strangely. Fleming studied the molds, cultured them and named them penicillin, and it became the first antibiotic to be used successfully in the treatment of bacterial infections in humans.

It's the birthday in Lincolnshire, England, 1809, of poet ALFRED LORD TENNYSON. He started writing early, publishing his first collection with his brothers when he was 18 years old. After college, he became famous for poems like Mariana, The Lotos-Eaters, and The Lady of Shallot. In 1833, his best friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, died; over the next 16 years Tennyson worked at a long, book-length poem dedicated to Hallam, "In Memoriam A. H. H." that made Tennyson a house-hold name in England and led to Queen Victoria naming him the nation's poet laureate. I falter where I firmly trod,/And falling with my weight of cares/Upon the great world's altar-stairs/That slope thro' darkness up to God,/I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,/And gather dust and chaff, and call/To what I feel is Lord of all,/And faintly trust the larger hope.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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