Aug. 19, 2004
Poem: "Future Talk" by Marvin Bell, from Rampant © Copper Canyon Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission.
Germs, viruses and parasite
gathered in the classroom
to discuss the beginnings of
intelligent life. They discussed
the stupid dinosaurs, who,
they agreed, were dumber than
dirt and deserved to die out.
They recalled the passenger pigeon,
the whale, the owl, the wolf,
and, while they admired each
for something, none of these
apparently had the right stuff.
Then the talk turned to mankind,
and there was some disagreement
as to the meaning of "human."
There was the usual shaking
of heads, up and down, over
how easy it had been to overcome
the kind of man that mankind
had been, since it was
merely necessary to penetrate him
and then to mutate before
each new weapon: biological,
chemical or radiological. Of course,
these were the ultimate
biological weapons, and now they
smiled at the utter simplicity—
the naturalness—of it all.
Everyone said that mankind,
whatever it was, was certainly
unfit for lengthy survival,
and of course to say so was so
so obvious that the teacher
warned them against pride,
which they did not have or need.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of Ogden Nash, born in Rye, New York (1902). He wrote humorous poems, and he wasn't above mispronouncing, misspelling, and making up words for a rhyme, in books that include The Bad Parents' Garden of Verse (1936), There's Always Another Windmill (1968), and The Old Dog Barks Backwards (1972).
Ogden Nash wrote, "Candy / is dandy / But liquor / is quicker."
He wrote, "I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance, / Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.
And, "Oh, what a tangled web do parents weave/ When they think that their children are naive."
It's the birthday of writer and producer Gene Roddenberry, born in El Paso, Texas (1921). In the early 1960's, he saw there were no quality science fiction series on TV so he created Star Trek. The first episode debuted on September 8, 1966 on NBC. Though it didn't get great ratings and was nearly canceled, the show's supporters—now called "Trekkies"—helped keep the series going until 1969. Roddenberry said, "The funny thing is that everything is science fiction at one time or another."
It's the birthday of fashion designer (Gabrielle) Coco Chanel, born in Saumur, France (1883). Along with the perfume Chanel No. 5, which came out in 1922, she introduced turtleneck sweaters, trench coats, costume jewelry, bell-bottom trousers, bobbed hair, and the "little black dress." Chanel said, "Success is often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable."
It's the birthday of poet Li-Young Lee, born in Jakarta, Indonesia (1957), to Chinese parents. His father was a personal physician to Mao Zedong in China until the family was exiled to Indonesia, where his father was jailed for a year. The family wandered around Asia, through Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, finally arriving in the United States, where Lee has written his books of poetry: Rose (1986), The City in Which I Love You (1990), and Book of My Nights (2001); and a memoir, The Winged Seed (1995). Lee said, "Sad is the man who is asked for a story and can't come up with one."
It was on this day in 1936—or it may have been August 18th, no one is quite sure—Spanish poet and dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca, (38), was executed in the hills northeast of the city of Granada.
With the publication of his most famous collection, Gypsy Ballads (1928), he was the best known of all the Spanish poets and a leading member of the group known as the "Generation of '27." He had written plays, too, like Blood Wedding (1933) and Yerma (1934) which brought him great success outside of Spain.
It's the birthday of former president Bill Clinton, born in Hope, Arkansas (1946). He recently published his autobiography titled My Life (2004). The book is 957 pages long.
To write his book, Clinton converted a hundred-year-old barn on his property into an office. He filled it with Native American pottery and photo albums from the White House and other people's memoirs. He gathered up his grade school band programs and all the letters he and his mother exchanged while he was in college. He had free days he called "book days" and sat out there at a glass table where he made an outline and wrote in a notebook.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®