Sep. 3, 2006
Poem: "The Clause" by C.K. Williams from The Singing. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Reprinted with permission.
This entity I call my mind, this hive of restlessness,
this wedge of want my mind calls self,
this self which doubts so much and which keeps reaching,
keeps referring, keeps aspiring, longing, towards some state
from which ambiguity would be banished, uncertainty expunged;
this implement my mind and self imagine they might make together,
which would have everything accessible to it,
all our doings and undoings all at once before it,
so it would have at last the right to bless, or blame,
for without everything before you, all at once, how bless, how blame?
this capacity imagination, self and mind conceive might be the "soul,"
which would be able to regard such matters as creation and
origin and extinction, of species, peoples, even families, even mine,
of equal consequence, and might finally solve the quandary
of this thing of being, and this other thing of not;
these layers, these divisions, these meanings or the lack thereof,
these fissures and abysses beside which I stumble, over which I reel:
is the place, the space, they constitute,
which I never satisfactorily experience but from which the fear
I might be torn away appalls me, me, or what might most be me?
Even mine, I say, as if I might ever believe such a thing;
bless and blame, I say, as though I could ever not.
This ramshackle, this unwieldy, this jerry-built assemblage,
this unfelt always felt disarray: is this the sum of me,
is this where I'm meant to end, exactly where I started out?
Literary and Historical Notes:
The U.S. War of Independence officially ended on this day in 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The war, which began at Lexington and Concord in the spring of 1775, had more or less been over for two years, since Cornwallis surrendered his army at Yorktown, but the American navy continued harassing the British, and by the time the treaty was signed the American fleet had captured dozens of British ships. The treaty required Britain to recognize the independence of the United States and to cede all lands east of the Mississippi to the U.S.
It's the birthday of writer Sarah Orne Jewett, (books by this author) born in 1849 in South Berwick, Maine, and renowned for her stories about the ships, fishermen, and coastal villages of 19th-century Maine. In her teens she started writing stories about the traditions of Maine village life. Of her twenty books, the best known is the short novel The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), which takes place in the fictitious town of Dunnet.
It's the birthday of the American architect Louis Henry Sullivan (1856), born in Boston. He worked in Chicago in the 1880s and '90s when the city was teeming with immigrants, grain trading, and railroads. Sullivan designed over one hundred buildings for the city, including its early steel-frame skyscrapers. He is remembered for his influential words, "Form follows function."
It's the birthday of American playwright, short-story writer, and essayist Sally Benson, born Sara Mahala Redway Smith in St. Louis (1900). She is best known for her collection of stories, Junior Miss (1941).
It's the birthday of novelist Alison Lurie, born in Chicago, Illinois (1926). Lurie's novels include Imaginary Friends (1967), Real People (1970), Foreign Affairs (1984), and The War Between the Tates (1974).
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®