Sep. 19, 2001

Eleven Addresses to the Lord

by John Berryman

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Poem: "Eleven Addresses to the Lord," section 1, by John Berryman from Collected Poems (Farrar Straus Giroux).

Eleven Addresses to the Lord

Master of beauty, craftsman of the snowflake,
inimitable contriver,
endower of Earth so gorgeous & different from the boring Moon,
thank you for such as it is my gift.

I have made up a morning prayer to you
containing with precision everything that most matters.
'According to Thy will' the thing begins.
It took me off & on two days. It does not aim at eloquence.

You have come to my rescue again & again
in my impassable, sometimes despairing years.
You have allowed my brilliant friends to destroy themselves
and I am still here, severely damaged, but functioning.

Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs:
how can I 'love' you?
I only as far as gratitude & awe
confidently & absolutely go.

I have no idea whether we live again.
It doesn't seem likely
from either the scientific or the philosophical point of view
but certainly all things are possible to you,

and I believe as fixedly in the Resurrection-appearances to Peter and
                                         to Paul
    as I believe I sit in this blue chair.
Only that may have been a special case
to establish their initiatory faith.

Whatever your end may be, accept my amazement.
May I stand until death forever at attention
for any your least instruction or enlightenment.
I even feel sure you will assist me again, Master of insight & beauty.

It's the birthday of mystery and true-crime writer Thomas H. Cook, born in Fort Payne, Alabama (1947), who wrote his first book while in graduate school at Columbia University. That was Blood Innocents (1980), a police procedural set in New York City. That was followed by two literary novels, Orchids (1982) and Elena (1986). In the 1990s, he returned to writing mysteries, including Evidence of Blood (1991) and Mortal Memory (1993), both of which dealt with the long-term effects of violent crime. His latest novel, Places in the Dark (2000), is set on the rocky coast of Maine. Thomas Cook, who said that the biggest challenge of writing mysteries is " work out the 'surprise'... which is generally expected in the genre. Each time out it becomes more difficult. Your readers get more savvy about your tricks, and harder to fool."

It's the birthday of novelist William Golding, born in Cornwall, England (1911), whose most famous novel, Lord of the Flies, will be forever associated with the pessimistic view of man's primal nature. Golding studied science and English at Oxford University. Following a short stint as a schoolmaster, he joined the Royal Navy, and in WWII was involved in the sinking of the German battleship DKN Bismarck, and served as a lieutenant commanding a rocket-firing ship. His experiences in the war influenced his dark views of humanity. He once said, "World War Two was a turning point for me. I began to see what people were capable of doing. Anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head." In 1954, after being rejected by 21 publishers, Lord of the Flies was published. It is the story of a group of British schoolboys stranded on a Pacific island during a global atomic war. As time goes by, their behavior worsens until they regress into murderous tribal savagery.

It's the birthday of children's book illustrator Arthur Rackham, born in London, England (1867). His first illustrations for children's books came in 1896, with S.J. Adair Fitzgerald's The Zankiwank and the Bletherwich. Many of his drawings tend toward the grotesque, and some have a slightly erotic, or even sinister, quality. In 1900 he had great success with a volume of Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. His other famous successes were Rip Van Winkle (1905), Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1907).

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