Nov. 16, 1998

To Have Without Holding

by Marge Piercy

MONDAY 11/16

Poem: "To Have Without Holding," by Marge Piercy, from THE MOON IS ALWAYS FEMALE (Knopf, 1980).

It's the birthday of "the father of the blues," W.C. HANDY, born in 1873, in the town of Florence, in northwestern Alabama. Handy was the one who nudged the style of music known as ragtime, into the blues, by adding a particular note of the scale into a song — the flatted 7th, the so-called "blue" note. "Beale Street Blues," "St. Louis Blues," and "Memphis Blues" were three of his biggest hits.

It's the birthday of playwright and journalist GEORGE S. KAUFMAN, born in 1889 Pittsburgh. Kaufman won two Pulitzer Prizes, the first in 1931 for the musical satire Of Thee I Sing; the second, five years later for You Can't Take It with You.

It's the birthday of the British writer MICHAEL ARLEN, born in Bulgaria as Dikran Kouyoumdjian, 1895, who wrote short stories and screenplays, but is best remembered for one book, The Green Hat, which came out in 1924, and was subtitled A Romance for a Few People — a story set in Mayfair, a district in London that Arlen loved; one of the bestsellers of the 1920s.

It's German composer PAUL HINDEMITH's birthday, born near Frankfurt in 1895. He was kicked out of Germany in the early 1930s for composing what the Nazis called "spiritually non-Aryan" music, and he came to the U.S, teaching at Yale for many years. Many composers at that time were writing in a new, atonal style, but Hindemith held to the old major and minor keys; he got a lot of criticism for that, and once wrote to a friend, "I am gradually beginning to feel like a cornerstone on which every passerby can pass the water of his artistic opinion."

It's the birthday in 1930, of Nigerian writer CHINUA ACHEBE, author of Things Fall Apart (1958), Arrow of God (1964), and Anthills of the Savannah (1988), novels he calls "re-creations of the history of Africa."

Today is ISRA AL MI'RAJ, the day in the Islamic calendar when Muslims commemorate the journey of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem, and his ascension into the Seven Heavens and return the same night. Muslims believe that Muhammad prayed with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus in Jerusalem that night.

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




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