Friday

May 16, 2003

Blue Tango

by Frazier Russell

FRIDAY, 16 MAY 2003
Listen
(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem:
"Blue Tango," by Frazier Russell from Lush (Four Way Books).

Blue Tango

Say it's the year of their courtship,
your mother and father,
in the ballroom of the Shoreham Hotel,
summer 1952.

In this plush setting,
the orchestra swells
time and again to a tune
always their favorite.

Any Friday night you could find them
on the dance floor.
He in tux and cummerbund.
She in a black strapless,
hem brushing the waxed wood
as though it were a lilypad.

Surrounded on all sides by Jesuits
and their debutante dates
in crushed velvet,
pearls around their necks
like a load of light.

How you love to imagine
that somehow everyone in that room
although a little tipsy
will get home safely
and fumble in love for their beds.

That the smoke from cigarettes
ringing the room in red
like hot coals is still rising.

Say somewhere birds lift off the lake
and it never gets light.

Literary Notes:

Today is the feast day of St. Brendan, patron saint of sailors and travelers. St. Brendan was born near Tralee in County Kerry, Ireland. He traveled all around Ireland as a young man, and founded many monasteries. He also went to Scotland, Wales, and Brittany, to spread Christianity in those areas. In the middle ages a story called The Voyage of St. Brendan became popular; it told the tale of St. Brendan going on a long journey across the Atlantic in search of paradise. In the 1970s, a man named Tim Severin became obsessed with St. Brendan's story and built a boat similar to what Brendan must have sailed with. It was made of hides tanned with oak bark, sealed together with animal fat and grease. He sailed with a group of volunteers from the western coast of Ireland to Newfoundland, proving that Brendan's journey would have been possible. He published the story of his journey in the book The Brendan Voyage (2000).

It's the birthday of American poet Adrienne Rich, born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1929. She's written over twenty collections, including The Diamond Cutters and Other Poems (1955) and Diving into the Wreck (1973), and is known for her feminism and her politically charged poetry. She said, "Art is our human birthright, our most powerful means of access to our own and another's experience and imaginative life. In continually rediscovering and recovering the humanity of human beings, art is crucial to the democratic vision." And, "For more than 50 years I have been writing, tearing up, revising poems, studying poets from every culture and century available to me. I have been a poet of the oppositional imagination, meaning that I don't think my only argument is with myself. My work is for people who want to imagine and claim wider horizons and carry on about them into the night, rather than rehearse the landlocked details of personal quandaries…."

It was on this day in 1763 that English writer Samuel Johnson met his future biographer James Boswell in a bookstore. Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) is considered one of the greatest biographies in the English language. Boswell wrote the book from notes he made on the spot while talking with Johnson and his friends, and the biography is full of Johnson's witty conversation. It includes lines from Johnson like, "Read over your compositions and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out," and, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

It's the birthday of writer and Chicago radio personality Louis Studs Terkel, born in New York City in 1912. He went to law school in Chicago but decided to go into television, where he hosted a variety show. Later, he became a radio disc jockey for a fine arts station, and began to interview blues and jazz musicians and actors. In 1967 he published a book of interviews with immigrants in Chicago called Division Street: America, and has since published many more books of interviews. In 1985, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book of oral histories about World War II, The Good War. His latest is Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith (2001), published two years ago.


(Instapaper)

-->

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

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »