Mar. 12, 2001

A Bestiary (excerpts: "Herring," "Lion," and "Wolf")

by Kenneth Rexroth

MONDAY, 12 March 2001
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Poem: "Herring," "Lion," and "Wolf," selected verses from "A Bestiary," by Kenneth Rexroth, from his Selected Poems (New Directions).


The herring is prolific.
There are plenty of herrings.
Some herrings are eaten raw.
Many are dried and pickled.
But most are used for manure.
See if you can apply this to your history lessons.


The lion is called the king
Of beasts. Nowadays there are
Almost as many lions
In cages as out of them.
If offered a crown, refuse.


Never believe all you hear.
Wolves are not as bad as lambs.
I've been a wolf all my life,
And have two lovely daughters
To show for it, while I could
Tell you sickening tales of
Lambs who got their just deserts.

On this day in 1994 that the Church of England ordained its first women priests—32 of them, in a ceremony at Bristol Cathedral. The Church had declared almost twenty years before that there was no theological basis for excluding women, but many in the Church were opposed to it: over three hundred Anglican clergymen converted to Roman Catholicism after the ordination.

It's the birthday today of Jack Kerouac, born in Lowell, Massachusetts (1922). He was one of the main figures of the "Beat Generation" of poets and writers based in New York and San Francisco in the 1950s. He went to Columbia University for a few years in the early 40s, dropped out, served in the Merchant Marine, then traveled around the U.S. and Mexico—experience that he later used in his novels, such as On the Road (1957). It was Jack Kerouac, who, in 1948, coined the phrase "Beat Generation." He later wrote,

"We were a generation of crazy, illuminated hipsters, suddenly rising and roaming America: serious, curious, bumming and hitchhiking everywhere. It never meant 'juvenile delinquents.' 'Beat,' doesn't mean tired or bushed, so much as it means beato the Italian for beatific, to be in a state of beatitude, like Saint Francis: trying to love all life, trying to be utterly sincere with everyone, practicing endurance, kindness, cultivating joy of heart—the subterranean heroes who were taking drugs, digging bop, having flashes of insight, experiencing the derangement of the senses, talking strange, being poor and glad."

On this day in 1912, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of America in Savannah, Georgia. She organized the first troop with 18 girls, and at their first meeting they tied knots, played tennis, and learned the Girl Scout laws.

It was on this day in 1901 that the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie gave New York City 5.2 million dollars to construct 65 branch libraries. He had just sold the Carnegie steel company for 250 million dollars, and decided to retire and devote himself to giving it all away. He later gave money to create more than 1700 libraries all over the United States and in Britain.

It's the birthday of ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinksy, born in Kiev (1890). He was the principle dancer in the Ballets Russes, and danced the leading roles in the premiers of Les Sylphides, Scheherazade and The Rite of Spring.

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




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