Dec. 20, 2001

Found Poems

by Robert Phillips

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Poem: "Found Poems," by Robert Phillips from Spinach Days (The Johns Hopkins University Press).

Found Poems

    (from a letter by Emily Dickinson)

When you wrote
you would come in November
it would please me
it was November then-but the time
has moved. You went
with the coming of the birds-they will go
with your coming,
but to see you is so much sweeter than birds,
I could excuse the spring…
Will you come in November, and will November
come, or is this the hope that opens
and shuts like the eyes of the wax doll?

    (from a letter by Gerard Manley Hopkins)

The only just judge,
the only just literary critic,
is Christ,

who prizes, is proud of,
and admires, more than
any man,

more than the receiver himself
can, the gifts of
his own making.

    (from a letter by Katherine Mansfield)

Dear Princess Bibesco,
I am afraid you must stop
writing these little love letters
to my husband while he and I
live together. It is one of the things
which is not done in our world.

You are very young. Won't you ask
your husband to explain to you
the impossibility of such a situation?
Please do not make me write to you
again. I do not like scolding people
and hate having to teach them manners.

    (from a letter by Vincent Van Gogh)

I think that I still have it
in my heart someday
to paint a bookshop
with the front yellow and pink,
in the evening, and the black
passerby like a light
in the midst of darkness.

It's the birthday of writer Hortense Calisher, born in New York City (1911). She worked for a while as a social worker for the New York Department of Public Welfare. She once said her main influences were the Russians, the Bible, and Thackeray. She also credited the speech rhythms of her father, a transplanted Southerner, and her mother, a German émigré. She started publishing stories in The New Yorker in the fifties, and collected them in her first book, In the Absence of Angels (1951). Calisher has characterized the short story as "an apocalypse in a teacup." Her most recent book is a novel titled In the Slammer with Carol Smith (1997).

It's the birthday of political philosopher Sidney Hook, born in New York City (1902).

It's the birthday of writer Max Lerner, born in Minsk, Russia (1902), and came to this country when he was five years old. He began a syndicated column with the New York Post, which he continued to write until two weeks before he died.

It's the birthday of baseball executive Branch Rickey, born in Little California, Ohio (1881). In 1947, as president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, he broke the color barrier in baseball by signing Jackie Robinson, for which he is best remembered today.

It's the birthday of political activist Maud Gonne, born in Dublin, Ireland (1865). She was known as "Ireland's Joan of Arc." She gave up the life of comfort of her British parents when she fell in love with a French journalist who urged her to work for Irish independence. William Butler Yeats fell in love with her, and proposed marriage several times. He also proposed to her daughter. She starred in his play Cathleen ni Houlihan, which he had written for her, as the symbol of Ireland. She organized a tenants strike in Donegal, for which she was nearly arrested, and helped to found the Sinn Fein party. She lectured in France, the U.S. and England to raise funds for the movement, edited a newspaper, and founded the pro-revolution Daughters of Ireland. She was married briefly to John MacBride, who was later executed for his part in the Easter Uprising of 1916. She spent six months in jail for resisting British efforts to conscript Irishmen into the army during World War One, and was imprisoned again several years later by the Irish Free State, without charge. She continued to work for the Republican cause until she died in 1953 at the age of 87. She is buried with other heroes of the movement in Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery. Her son, Sean MacBride, founded Amnesty International, and was awarded the 1974 Nobel Peace prize.

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




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