Sep. 17, 2002

Landscape With The Fall of Icarus

by William Carlos Williams

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Poem: "Landscape With The Fall of Icarus," by William Carlos Williams from Collected Poems: 1939-1962, Volume II (New Directions Publishing Corp.).

Landscape With The Fall of Icarus

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

It's the birthday of country western singer and guitarist Hank Williams, born in Mount Olive West, Alabama (1923).

It's the birthday of Robert Brown Parker, born in Springfield, Massachusetts (1932). He was the author of the "Spenser" detective stories. His first novel, The Godwulf Manuscripts introduced the famous Spenser character, who is a Boston policeman turned private eye investigator after being fired for insubordination. Spenser is also a gourmet chef, and many of Parker's books include descriptions of his dishes. They include: "duck breast sliced on the diagonal and served rare, onion marmalade, brown rice, broccoli tossed with a spoonful of sesame tahini," "buffalo tenderloin marinated in red wine and garlic served with fiddle head ferns, corn pudding, and red potatoes cooked with bay leaf," and "German sausages with green apples sliced dipped in flour and fried in the sausage fat. Served with coarse rye bread and wild strawberry jam."

It's the birthday of Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion, born in La Junta, Colorado (1935). In high school he was an accomplished wrestler. He was voted "most likely to succeed." During his young life he was very interested in anything to do with surrealism. He learned magic, ventriloquism, hypnosis, and eventually got into mind-altering drugs. In college, at Stanford, he participated in experiments run by the psychology department. The experiments involved taking certain drugs such as psilocybin and LSD. After the experiments, he worked at the psych ward of the Veterans Administrative Hospital, where his drug experiences caused him to hallucinate about an Indian sweeping the floors. This character ended up being central in his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, about a sane man who enters a mental hospital in order to escape a prison sentence.

It's the birthday of poet William Carlos Williams, born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883. HE fell in love with poetry when he was a boy, decided he would become a doctor so he could earn a living. He was a writer. Went to medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, met Ezra Pound there. Did his postgraduate work in Leipzig, Germany and then became a pediatrician in his hometown of Rutherford. He was in practice for over forty years; he delivered about two thousand babies. He brought a typewriter to his office and wrote in between appointments. His patients, mostly blue-collar workers and their wives. About his patients he said, "I lived among these people. I knew them, and saw the essential qualities, the humor, the basic tragedy of their lives, and the importance of it. Nobody was writing about them, anywhere, as they ought to be written about."

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