Apr. 25, 2005
Poem: "Atavistic" by Irene McKinney from Vivid Companion. © Vandalia Press. Reprinted with permission.
I wanted to walk without clothing
in the woods beside the creek,
and to come to the barn at night.
and sleep beside the horses, curled
in the smell and scratch of hay
with the bitch and pups.
The life of the house was flat,
filled with monotonous talking,
passing to and fro among the rooms,
and for what. My mother hated
animals, the way they ate the
food and dirtied the floor.
They were her enemies; she fought
their right to be there and
would have wiped them off the earth
if she could have. If a cat or a dog
came too close to the back door she
threw scalding water on it, and
was righteous in her anger, shouting
that they were not human and
didn't feel real pain.
If we must choose sides, I said
as a child, I take
the side of the animals.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of the Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell, born in England in 1599.
It's the birthday of the poet and novelist Walter de la Mare born in Kent, England (1873).
It's the birthday of the French novelist Claude Mauriac, born in Paris in 1914.
It's the birthday of the man who gave us Uncle Wiggily, Howard Garis, Binghamton, New York (1873).
It's the birthday of the novelist Padgett Powell, Gainesville, Florida (1952). He was 20 years old, in college, when he admitted to his English professor that he, Padget Powel, had never read anything by Faulkner. She was horrified. She gave him a copy of Absalom, Absalom! which inspired him to start writing fiction, or at least to try writing bad Faulkner parody.
He worked for a few years as a roofer in Texas. Then his girlfriend left him. He decided to go back to graduate school as a way of meeting some new girlfriend, and enrolled in the creative writing program at the University of Houston. His professor was the writer Donald Barthelme, who became his mentor and his friend and who helped Powell publish his first novel Edisto (1984), the story of a boy growing up in South Carolina whose mother, a college professor, is trying to turn him into a writer.
He's gone on to write several more books, A Woman Named Drown, Edisto Revisited, and Mrs. Hollingsworth's Men, as well as many short stories.
Padget Powell said, "Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper. It's perfectly good white paper that you mess up with and you spoil it and you fail. I learned to write predicating everything on failure."
And today is the birthday of Jay Anthony Lukas, New York City (1933). For many years, he was a roving national correspondent for the New York Times, the author of a number of famous nonfiction books: Don't ShootWe Are Your Children (1971), about the generation gap. In 1985, he published Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families, about the mob violence that erupted in Boston after the federal government school desegregation order.
Anthony Lukas suffered from depression for many years. On the morning of June the 5th, 1997, after meeting with his editor to talk about the last revisions to his last book, Big Trouble, Anthony Lukas came home to his apartment on the upper west side of New York and committed suicide.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®