Jul. 28, 2001
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Poem: "After Work," by Richard Jones from The Blessing (Copper Canyon Press).
Coming up from the subway
into the cool Manhattan evening,
I feel rough hands on my heart
women in the market yelling
over rows of tomatoes and peppers,
old men sitting on a stoop playing cards,
cabbies cursing each other with fists
while the music of church bells
sails over the street,
and the father, angry and tired
after working all day,
embracing his little girl,
mi vida, mi carazon,
brushing the hair out of her eyes
so she can see.
It's the birthday of the novelist William T. Vollmann, born in Santa Monica, California, in 1959. His six-year old sister drowned when Vollmann was nine because he was not paying attention to her. Later in life, he traveled to Afghanistan to fight with the rebels against the Russians. He wrote about this journey in An Afghanistan Picture Show: Or, How I Saved the World, which was published in1992. In 1994, he and two companions went on assignment in Bosnia, and on the way, their car was hit by snipers. His two friends were killed. Vollmann took photographs and he stayed for two more weeks to finish the story.
It's the birthday of runner Terry Fox, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in 1958, who was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was 18-years old. His right leg had to be amputated six inches above the knee. In 1980, Fox began what he called the Marathon of Hope, and had a goal to run across Canada on an artificial leg, raising awareness and money for cancer research. He started in St. John's in Newfoundland, and after 143 days, had to stop outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, because his cancer had returned. He died nine months after that.
It's the birthday of the dancer Jacques d'Amboise, born in Dedham, Massachusetts, in 1934. He was a principal dancer with George Balanchine at the New York City Ballet, and after he retired, he established the National Institution of Dance to teach schoolchildren the art of ballet.
It's the birthday of the poet and art critic John Ashbery, born in Rochester, New York, in 1927. In 1976, he won the literary "triple crown" when his book, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Prize. His latest books include Other Traditions and Your Name Here.
It's the birthday of the poet and novelist Malcolm Lowry, born in Cheshire, England, in 1909. He is the author of the novel Under the Volcano (and other works).
It's the birthday of children's writer Beatrix Potter, born in South Kensington, England, in 1866. She wrote, in a letter to the child of her last governess, a story starting with the famous lines: "Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter. They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree. 'Now my dears,' said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, 'you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.'" It was the first of many books in the Peter Rabbit series.
It's the birthday of poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins, born in Stratford, Essex, England, in 1844. He was a Jesuit priest, he taught Greek literature at University College in Dublin, and wrote poems that were not widely known until after his death of typhoid fever at the age of 45. Robert Bridges published a number of his poems, which were known for their use of echo, alliteration, repetition, internal rhymes, and intricate sense of wordplay. Hopkins, who wrote: "How to keepis there any any, is there none/such, nowhere known, some bow or brooch/or braid or brace, lace, latch or catch or key/to keep/Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty…/from vanishing away?"
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