Wednesday

Sep. 26, 2001

The Boarder

by Lewis Simpson

WEDNESDAY, 26 SEPTEMBER 2001
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Poem: “The Boarder,” by Louis Simpson from Strong Measures (Harper & Row).

The Boarder

The time is after dinner. Cigarettes
    Glow on the lawn;
Glasses begin to tinkle; TV sets
    Have been turned on.

The moon is brimming like a glass of beer
    Above the town,
And love keeps her appointments—"Harry's here!"
    "I'll be right down."

But the pale stranger in the furnished room
    Lies on his back
Looking at paper roses, how they bloom,
    And ceilings crack.

West Side Story, the Bernstein/Sondheim musical, opened at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City on this day in 1957—Maria and Tony and the Jets and the Sharks, in place of Juliet and Romeo and the Montagues and Capulets.

It’s the birthday of novelist Jane Smiley born in Los Angeles (1949). She grew up in St. Louis, went to Vassar, traveled in Europe, and went to graduate school at the University of Iowa. She wrote a 500-page historical novel set in 14th-century Greenland, The Greenlanders, which took five years to research and write. When she set out to write A Thousand Acres she had a few ideas she thought were inter-related, such as the big, industrial mid-western American farms; female subservience; relationships within a dysfunctional family; and King Lear. The work of bringing these things together, she said, was “like lifting a heavy stone, carrying it forward two steps and dropping it. It was exhausting.”  But the book was a bestseller and won The National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She once said, “I don't write to investigate my own life or sensibility. I write more to investigate the world,” and “Your sons weren't made to like you. That's what grandchildren are for.”

It’s the birthday of poet Ned O’Gorman, born in New York City (1929).

It’s the birthday of T(homas) S(tearns) Eliot born in St. Louis, Missouri (1888). He studied philosophy under George Santayana at Harvard, and was turned down by the U.S. Navy, so he went to Europe, studied in Paris and at Oxford and decided to settle in England. His poem The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock was written while he was still in college. His long poem The Wasteland was published in 1922, and Four Quartets in 1943. He also wrote a number of plays, the most successful of which was Murder in the Cathedral about the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. He said, “The years between 50 and 70 are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn them down,” and  “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”

It’s the birthday of poet Jane Taylor born in London (1783), who, when she was 21, came out with a book of poems, Original Poems for Infant Minds (1804), and two years later, Rhymes for the Nursery which contained the poem, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.”

It’s the birthday of Johnny Appleseed, John Chapman, born in Leominster, Massachusetts (1774), the son of a Revolutionary War hero. In his late teens or early 20s, he began wandering the Midwest frontier planting apple orchards, giving away apple seeds, and teaching people about the healing properties of plants. He was a mystic who was obeying a vision, and he walked barefoot, even in winter. He was a friend to the Indians, cut down no trees, did not kill animals, and did not carry a weapon. He wore raggedy old clothes, a tunic made of a coffee sack, and on his head, a tin mush pan as a hat. He died at 71 of pneumonia in northern Indiana. 

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

 









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