May 4, 2002
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Poem: "Irony," by Thomas Lux from Split Horizon (Houghton Mifflin Company).
A handgrenade - thunk - lands in a bunker.
Two brave men dive
to smother it with their helmets and bellies,
their heads collide,
both are knocked out
and seconds later die
in the unmuffled blast: hard irony, a device
we turn to
when each door, hatch, gate, path
we turn to
the blank. And it can make us laugh,
which is good,
human. And it says one thing
when it means another,
which we love: it's safe there, one foot
on each side
of a crevasse, one can be both numb
and acute, brave
and fearful, at ease
in a mink-lined noose: we love
and the comfort, the justice, it provides,
It's the birthday of novelist David Guterson, born in Seattle (1956). He's the author of Snow Falling on Cedars, a best seller in 1995. His most recent novel is East of the Mountains (1999).
It's the birthday of novelist Graham
Swift, born in London (1949). He's best known for his novel Waterland,
which won the Booker Prize in 1984. Graham Swift, who said: "I have enormous
faith in the imagination. If your imagination cannot transport you mentally
from where you are to somewhere quite different, then don't be a novelist. Be
It's the birthday of novelist and surgeon
Robin Cook, born in
New York City (1940). He's the author of many medical thrillers and best sellers,
starting with Coma in 1977.
It's the birthday of writer Amos
Oz, born Amos Klausner, in Jerusalem (1939). He's best known for his
novel My Michael (1968).
It's the birthday of poet Thomas
Kinsella, born in Dublin (1928). His father, whom he called "a
man of high and punishing ideals," worked in the Guinness brewery in Dublin.
Thomas went to a parochial school and said, "To my schooling with the Christian
brothers I owe my early preparation for the squalid brutalities of the world."
He lives part of the time in Ireland, part of the time in the United States.
It's the birthday of ballet impresario
Lincoln Kirstein, born in Rochester, New York (1907). He was the
man who, in 1933, brought the choreographer George Balanchine to America, and
together they founded the American Ballet company and later the New York City
Ballet. Kirstein was the general director of the New York City Ballet for more
than 40 years and wrote a memoir about it.
On this day in 1886, a
bomb exploded at a labor rally in Chicago's Haymarket Square, killing
eight policemen. There had been strikes in Chicago - one on May Day - calling
for an eight-hour work day. On May 3 there was another one, and police fired
into the crowds, killing two demonstrators. The rally in Haymarket the next
day was peaceful and sparsely attended in a heavy rain, but police rushed the
demonstrators, and the bomb went off. Eight radicals were arrested by the police
and convicted, not for the bombing, but for their radical ideas. Four were executed,
one died in prison, and the other three were pardoned 16 years later by the
Governor of Illinois. The actual bomber was never found.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®