Dec. 30, 2001

326 I cannot dance upon my Toes

by Emily Dickinson

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Poem: "I cannot dance upon my Toes," by Emily Dickinson from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (Little Brown and Company).

I cannot dance upon my Toes

I cannot dance upon my Toes -
No Man instructed me -
But oftentimes, among my mind,
A Glee possesseth me,

That had I Ballet knowledge—
Would put itself abroad
In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe—
Or lay a Prima, mad,

And though I had no Gown of Gauze—
No Ringlet, to my Hair,
Nor hopped to Audiences—like Birds,
One Claw upon the Air,

Nor tossed my shape in Eider Balls,
Nor rolled on the wheels of snow
Till I was out of sight, in sound,
The House encore me so—

Nor any know I know the Art
I mention—easy—Here -
Nor any Placard boast me—
It's full as Opera—

It's the birthday of musician and songwriter Bo Diddley, born Ellas Bates in McComb, Mississippi (1928). His big break came in 1955, when he recorded two songs for Chess Records in Chicago, in its time the most prominent blues label in the country. He recorded a song called "Uncle John," which the record producers suggested needed a different slant. So, using a nickname he had been given in school, the song was re-recorded as "Bo Diddley." It went straight to the top of the rhythm and blues chart, and established Diddley as important new talent. His style influenced the sound of rock and roll as we know it. Elvis Presley reportedly learned to gyrate his hips by watching Diddley on stage. He once said, "I opened the door for a lot of people, and they just ran through and left me holding the knob."

It's the birthday of novelist, poet, and composer Paul Bowles, born in New York City (1910), He met and began studying music with Aaron Copeland. In 1931 Bowles and Copeland went to Tangiers, where he would later live most of his life. Throughout the 1930s and '40s, Bowles had a highly successful career as a composer for ballet, theater, and films. In 1937 he met the writer Jane Auer, and a year later they were married. It was helping Jane Bowles with her novel-writing that got Paul interested in fiction. He wrote his most famous novel in 1949, after having a dream about a story that would take place in the Sahara desert, called The Sheltering Sky.

It's the birthday of novelist, short story writer, and critic Leslie Poles Hartley, born in Whittlesey, England (1895). Hartley's best-known work is The Go-Between (1953), about a 12-year-old boy who inadvertently causes a tragedy when he is asked to act as a messenger between two adults having an illicit affair.

It's the birthday of humorist and educator Stephen Leacock, born in Hampshire, England (1869), the third of 11 children. The family emigrated to Canada when Leacock was six years old. In 1903 he was appointed to the staff of McGill University, and five years later became head of the department of economics and political science, a position he held for nearly 30 years. Although he was to author more than 20 works on history and political economy, Leacock was best known as a humorist. His books of humor include Literary Lapses (1910), Nonsense Novels (1911), and Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914). He also wrote Humour: Its Theory and Technique (1935), and The Boy I Left Behind Me (1946), an uncompleted autobiography. In 1947, three years after his death, the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour was established, and has been awarded every year since to the best humorous book by a Canadian author.

It's the birthday of short-story writer, poet, and novelist Rudyard Kipling, born in Bombay, India (1865). At the age of six, Kipling was sent away to England to live in a foster home and attend boarding school. At age 16, Kipling returned to India and worked for seven years as a journalist. In addition to reporting news stories, he also contributed prose sketches and light verse. He married an American woman, and they sailed off to live in Vermont. There he wrote a number of his most famous works, including Captains Courageous (1897), Kim (1901), and The Jungle Books (1894 and 1895). Rudyard Kipling, who wrote: "I keep six honest serving men/(They taught me all I knew);/Their names are What and Why and When/And How and Where and Who."

It's the birthday of businessman Asa Griggs Candler, born in Villa Rica, Georgia (1851). Candler dropped out of high school in 1870 to become a pharmacist's apprentice. By 1888 he had built up the largest wholesale drug company in Atlanta. Being a savvy businessman, Candler knew an opportunity when he saw one. So in 1886, he purchased a formula from another Atlanta pharmacist named Dr. John Pembleton. Pembleton had developed a fizzy concoction of soda water and patent medicines that he called Coca-Cola.

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