May 23, 2001

In Several Colors

by Jane Kenyon

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Poem: "In Several Colors," by Jane Kenyon, from Otherwise (Graywolf Press).

In Several Colors

Every morning, cup of coffee
in hand, I look out at the mountain.
Ordinarily it's blue, but today
it's the color of an eggplant.

And the sky turns
from gray to pale apricot
as the sun rolls up
Main Street in Andover

I study the cat's face
and find a trace of white
around each eye, as if
he made himself up today
for a part in the opera.

It's the birthday of poet Jane Kenyon, born in Ann Arbor, Michigan (1947). Her father was a jazz pianist who toured with American jazz bands, and once played with Bix Beiderbecke (1930). At the University of Michigan she majored in English, met poet onald Hall, married him, and moved with him to his family place in New Hampshire. They lived there for just under 20 years until Kenyon died of leukemia, a month before her 48th birthday.

It's the birthday of singer Rosemary Clooney, born in Maysville, Kentucky (1928). She and her younger sister Betty were staying with their grandfather when they heard that Cincinnati radio station WLW was holding auditions for new talent. They auditioned and they won a job singing every night, for two years, for $20 a week. They sang on the road for a few years, and then Rosemary appeared on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts TV show and won first prize.

It's the birthday of jazz bandleader and clarinetist Artie Shaw, born in New York City (1910). He was a studio musician. Then he formed his own band and had a big hit in 1938 with Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine." He was married to eight different women, including Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. He published an autobiographical novel, The Trouble with Cinderella: An Outline of Identity (1952).

On this day in 1903, the first automobile to drive across the United States left San Francisco — the result of a $50 bet made by Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson. He was in the car with his mechanic, Sewall K. Crocker, in a 1903 20-horsepower Winton. They had three major breakdowns before they managed to get over the Rocky Mountains and across the plains to Omaha — it had taken them 51 days to get there from San Francisco. Beyond Omaha the roads were much better: They made it to New York in 12 more days, completing the crossing in 63 days, 19 of them spent waiting for parts. Through much of their journey, the Winton was the first car that many of the people along the way had ever seen.

It's the birthday of novelist, poet, and playwright Pär Lagerkvist, born in Växjö, Sweden (1891), the son of a very conservative, very religious railroad worker. Lagerkvist went off to the University of Uppsala, then he left for a long stay in Paris, where he decided to become a poet. His first book of poetry, Anguish (1916), was the first expressionist work in Swedish literature. He's best known for his short novel Barabbas, which came out in 1951 – the same year he won the Nobel Prize for literature.

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