Sunday

Jun. 22, 2003

In Praise of My Bed

by Meredith Holmes

SUNDAY, 22 JUNE 2003
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Poem: "In Praise Of My Bed," by Meredith Holmes from Shubad's Crown (Pond Road Press).

In Praise Of My Bed

At last I can be with you!
The grinding hours
since I left your side!
The labor of being fully human,
working my opposable thumb,
talking, and walking upright.
Now I have unclasped
unzipped, stepped out of.
Husked, soft, a be-er only,
I do nothing, but point
my bare feet into your
clean smoothness
feel your quiet strength
the whole length of my body.
I close my eyes, hear myself
moan, so grateful to be held this way.

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of the theater producer Joseph Papp, born in Brooklyn, New York (1921). His parents were Polish immigrants. They rarely talked at home, and when they did, they never talked about the past. Papp learned to communicate with them without speaking. Sometimes, to get his mother's attention, he would just stop breathing. He got interested in drama when he started going to a movie house where there was always a stage show before the movie started, with singers, jugglers, and magicians. Papp was in the Navy during World War II. Within a month of his arrival at the naval base, he was organizing the men into skits to amuse himself. While on the ship, his captain let him use an elevator as a stage, and he put on musical comedies for the other sailors. Later, the Navy assigned him to a special entertainment unit, traveling from ship to ship performing for the troops. When he got home, the GI Bill allowed him to study acting and directing at the Actors Laboratory Theatre in Hollywood. He went on to found the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1954 at the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church at 729 East 6th Street in New York City. The early productions were staged on almost no budget, and in many cases the actors worked without pay. Because Papp believed that art should be available to everyone, the admission was free. Eventually, the Shakespeare Festival moved to Central Park, and became known as Shakespeare in the Park.

It's the birthday of novelist Erich Maria Remarque (A-rikh mar-EE-a reh-MARK), born in Osnabruck (AWE-snuh-brook), Germany (1898). He's the author of the well-known novel of the First World War, All Quiet on the Western Front (1929). He was drafted into the German military during World War I, but because his mother was sick, he was allowed to visit her often and didn't see much fighting. In one of the only battles he did take part in, he suffered shrapnel wounds, and spent the rest of the war in the hospital. After the war, he took a teacher's course offered to veterans by the government, but quit after a year. He worked as a test-car driver, a gravestone salesman, an organist in an insane asylum, and eventually got a job writing for an athletics magazine. He wrote All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) in his spare time, and it was a huge success. The book describes trench warfare during World War I, told by a young man in the German army. He says: "I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow." It sold more than a million copies in Germany in its first year. Nazis were beginning their rise to power at the time, and they hated the book because it portrayed World War I as misguided and pointless. It was one of the books they publicly burned in 1933. When the film version of the book premiered in Berlin, Nazi gangs attacked the theater. Remarque lost his German citizenship in 1938 and eventually moved to the United States.

It's the birthday of filmmaker Billy Wilder, born Samuel Wilder in town of Sucha, which is now part of Poland (1906). He went to school in Vienna and worked for a while as a reporter for a tabloid. In 1926, he went to Berlin to write movie scenarios. To make extra money, he also worked as a male escort, dancing with older women at the Eden Hotel. After Nazis took power in Germany in the 1930's, Wilder moved to the United States because he was a Jew. He learned English by going out on dates with any American woman who was willing, and started writing screenplays for Fox Film Corporation. Wilder liked to work with a partner writing screenplays. He said that writing alone was "suicidally boring." He would walk around the room shouting and gesturing and his partner was supposed to take notes. After working on a script with Wilder, Raymond Chandler said, "[it was] an agonizing experience and has probably shortened my life." He became a director because he got sick of watching his best dialogue get cut from the movies he worked on. He made all kinds of movies: musicals, comedies, dramas, but most of his movies are about hypocrisy. His first major success as a director was Double Indemnity (1944), and he also directed Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Some Like It Hot (1959).

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

 









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