Nov. 30, 2000

Problem in Design

by Robert Lax


by Robert Lax

Broadcast date: THURSDAY, 30 November 2000

Poems: “Problem in Design,” and “Therapist,” by Robert Lax, from Fables (Pendo).

what if you like to draw
big flowers

but what if some sage has told
you that there is
nothing more

nothing more

nothing more

than a

what should
you draw:
big flow

i think
you should













a man came to me with the
following problem:

«my mother-in-law, he said, «despises me;
my creditors, once friendly, are now all over
me; my wife threatens to leave me tomorrow
unless i put the children in a better school;
my employers criticize the tone of my work
for what they call a failure of nerve. what do
you suggest i do?»

i turned a somersault for him & he felt

It’s the birthday of playwright David Mamet, born in Chicago, Illinois (1947). He had his first Broadway success in 1977 with American Buffalo.

It’s the birthday of poet Robert Lax, born in Olean, New York (1915). He’s best known for his book The Circus of the Sun, a collection of poems that likens the circus to Creation.

It’s the birthday of photographer Gordon Parks, born in Fort Scott, Kansas (1912). While working as a waiter on the railroad, he developed an interest in photography from the magazines he saw on the train. Between 1939 and 1961, he met with increasing success as both a fashion photographer and a photojournalist, especially for Life Magazine, where he was on the staff for twenty years. In 1962 he wrote a memoir called The Learning Tree.

It’s the birthday of historian and critic Jacques Barzun, born in Creteil, France (1907), one of America’s most distinguished men of letters. His most recent book is From Dawn to Decadence, which came out earlier this year.

It’s the birthday of writer Lucy Maud Montgomery, born in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Canada (1874), author of the popular Anne of Green Gables books. One day she discovered an entry in one of her old notebooks that read: “Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent them.” Anne of Green Gables was published four years later, in 1908.

It’s the birthday of statesman Sir Winston S. Churchill, born at Blenheim Castle, England (1874). His long political career led to him becoming Prime Minister in 1940. He said, “I felt as if I was walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour.” He rallied the English people with his courage and great oratory. He wrote a six-volume history of World War Two.

It’s the birthday of Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, in Florida, Missouri (1835). He left school at 12 to work as a printer, then as a riverboat pilot. During the Civil War, he went to Nevada where he tried gold mining and then edited a newspaper. When he was 29 he went to San Francisco as a reporter, and achieved his first success with The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1865). He took a trip to Europe and the Holy Land, and described his experiences in The Innocents Abroad (1869). When he returned to America, he settled in the East, married Olivia Langdon, and had four children. They built a distinctive house in Hartford, Connecticut, and he won wide popularity with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and later, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).

It’s the birthday of satirist Jonathan Swift, born in Dublin, Ireland (1667), author of Gulliver’s Travels. He wrote, “I have ever hated all nations, professions and communities, and all my love is towards individuals.” While walking to London one day, he ducked under a tree during a cloudburst, and was soon joined by a man and a pregnant woman who told him they were going to London to be married. Swift informed them that he was a clergyman, and offered to perform the ceremony on the spot. They agreed, and afterwards, when the groom asked for a certificate of marriage, Swift obliged with a poem:

Under an oak, in stormy weather,
I joined this rogue and whore together;
And none but he who rules the thunder
Can put this rogue and whore asunder.



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




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