Jul. 11, 2005
Poem: "Cherish" by Raymond Carver, from All of Us. © Knopf. Reprinted with permission.
From the window I see her bend to the roses
holding close to the bloom so as not to
prick her fingers. With the other hand she clips, pauses and
clips, more alone in the world
than I had known. She won't
look up, not now. She's alone
with roses and with something else I can only think, not
say. I know the names of those bushes
given for our late wedding: Love, Honor, Cherish
this last the rose she holds out to me suddenly, having
entered the house between glances. I press
my nose to it, draw the sweetness in, let it clingscent
of promise, of treasure. My hand on her wrist to bring her close,
her eyes green as river-moss. Saying it then, against
what comes: wife, while I can, while my breath, each hurried
can still find her.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of the literary critic and teacher Harold Bloom, born in New York City (1930) to Jewish immigrants. His first language was Yiddish, and he started reading poetry in English before he'd ever heard English spoken. He didn't do well in high school but took the statewide Regents exams, got the highest score in the state, and that won him a scholarship to Cornell.
He went on to study literature at Yale in the 1950s at a time when there was a dress code. The students wore jackets and ties. Harold Bloom wore an old Russian leather coat and a pair of fisherman's trousers. He became famous at Yale for his great love of poetry. He memorized everything that he read. He could recite enormous, long poems.
As a professor at Yale and as a critic, Bloom has moved further and further away from the mainstream of literary criticism in this country. Most other critics look at literature as a product of history, politics, and society. Whereas Harold Bloom is one of the last who believes that great literature is a product of pure genius, and who believes that we should read not to learn about history or politics but to learn about the human soul.
In the last few years, he's begun writing books for general readers, believing that scholars have forgotten how to read for pleasure, and many of his recent books have become best-sellers, including Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human and How to Read and Why and Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds.
Today is the birthday of the man who gave us Charlotte's Web, E.B. (Elwin Brooks) White, born in Mount Vernon, New York (1899). He was a writer for many years for the New Yorker magazine. He later moved with his wife to a farmhouse in Maine. E.B. White wrote, "Just to live in the country is a full-time job. You don't have to do anything. The idle pursuit of making a living is pushed to one side, where it belongs, in favor of living itself, a task of such immediacy, variety, beauty, and excitement that one is powerless to resist its wild embrace."
For all his love of the country, E.B. White is also the author of a classic about New York City, Here is New York, which people still read today.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®