May 26, 2001

There Are Poems

by Linda Pastan

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Poem: "There are Poems," by Linda Pastan, from Carnival Evening (W.W. Norton).

There are Poems

There are poems
that are never written,
that simply move across
the mind
like skywriting
on a still day:
slowly the first word
drifts west,
the last letters dissolve
on the tongue,
and what is left
is the pure blue
of insight, without cloud
or comfort.

It's the birthday of poet Michael Benedikt, born in New York City (1935). He's the author of many collections of poetry, including The Badminton at Great Barrington; or, Gustav Mahler and the Chattanooga Choo-Choo (1980).

It's the birthday of Swedish novelist Sven Delblanc, born in Manitoba, Canada (1931). Failing to find success in Canada, his family returned to Sweden. Delblanc became a teacher, then a full-time author. He's known for his stories in which the narrator frequently breaks in to comment on the art of storytelling. His most popular books in Sweden were his 4 Hedeby novels (1970-76), describing the way rural Sweden changed to become a modern socialist state.

It's the birthday of actor and author Robert Morley, born in Wiltshire, England (1908). He acted in movies, including Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), but he was also successful as a playwright: his three-act play Short Story (1935) had long runs both in London and New York. He declined a knighthood in 1970, saying comic actors should not receive such a high honor.

It's the birthday of actor John Wayne born in Winterset, Iowa (1907), who acted in more than 200 movies in 50 years. While a college student at USC on a football scholarship, he got a job as a prop boy for John Ford. Years later, Ford would make Wayne a star in the classic western Stagecoach (1939).

Dracula, the gothic novel by Bram Stoker, first appeared in London bookshops on this day in 1897. The most famous tale of vampirism ever, its story is told through the diaries of young solicitor Jonathan Harker, his fiancée Mina, and her friend Lucy. Lucy becomes a vampire herself, and, in order for her soul to be saved, must have a stake driven through her heart.

It's the birthday of photographer Dorothea Lange, born in Hoboken, New Jersey (1895). She left New York at 23, deciding she would earn her way around the world by taking pictures. She made it as far as San Francisco, where she married and started a portrait business. But as the Great Depression worsened, the sight of the poor and unemployed in the streets drew her out of her studio. Two of her most famous shots are "White Angel Breadline," which shows a crowd of well dressed men in line for food, and "Migrant Mother" an anxious mother, prematurely aged, in a tattered tent with her three children.

It's the birthday of Maxwell Bodenheim, born in Hermanville, Mississippi (1892). He moved to New York City and became the most famous bohemian in Greenwich Village His early novels earned him some money, but unfortunately he squandered it, so that by the late '30s he was sleeping on the streets, begging for meals.

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