Apr. 13, 2007

Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks

by Jane Kenyon

FRIDAY, 13 APRIL, 2007
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Poem: "Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks" by Jane Kenyon, from The Boat of Quiet Hours. © Graywolf Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks

I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years... .

I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper... .

When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me... .

I am food on the prisoner's plate... .

I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills... .

I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden... .

I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge... .

I am the heart contracted by joy... .
the longest hair, white
before the rest... .
I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow... .

I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit... .

I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name... .

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, (books by this author) born on his father's plantation in Albemarle County, Virginia (1743). He was just 33 years old when he was chosen to write the Declaration of Independence.

It's the birthday of Irish poet Seamus Heaney, (books by this author) born in Mossbawn, Northern Ireland (1939). He is the oldest of nine siblings. His father was a cattle dealer, and Heaney grew up in a three-room thatched farmhouse. He said, "[It was] an intimate, physical, creaturely existence in which the night sounds of the horse in the stable beyond one bedroom wall mingled with the sounds of adult conversation from the kitchen beyond the other."

Heaney has gone on to write many more books of poetry and prose, and in 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His poetry collection District and Circle came out in 2006.

It's the birthday of the journalist Christopher Hitchens, (books by this author) born in Portsmouth, England (1949). After college, he got a job writing for the New Statesman, a leftist political magazine in London. He eventually moved to the United States, where he began a column in The Nation magazine called "The Minority Report." He became famous for extraordinarily contrarian opinions about all kinds of things. As an atheist, he has often attacked religious figures, including Mother Teresa. He also launched an investigation into the career of Henry Kissinger, whom he accused of war crimes.

But Hitchens had often objected to what he called Islamic fascism, especially after a bounty was placed on the head of his friend Salman Rushdie. Then, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he became a supporter of the Bush administration's foreign policy and one of the most vocal supporters of the Iraq war. Many of his leftist friends were shocked. He's since been abandoned by most of his former colleagues in the leftist media.

He's an extremely prolific writer. In just the last few years, he's published two collections of essays, a book about George Orwell, a biography of Thomas Jefferson, and a book about the Iraq war called The Long Short War (2003). His book God Is Not Great comes out this May (2007). He is able to write so much in part because he hates to sleep. He said, "I'm not that keen on the idea of being unconscious. There's plenty of time to be unconscious coming up."

It's the birthday of writer Eudora Welty, (books by this author) born in Jackson, Mississippi (1909). She tried working in advertising but said, "It was too much like sticking pins into people to make them buy things they didn't need or really want." So she became a writer. Though she wrote several novels, including The Optimist's Daughter (1972), she's best known for her short stories in collections such as The Wide Net (1943) and The Golden Apples (1949).

A critic once asked Welty to explain the symbolism of a marble cake in one of her stories. She replied, "It's a recipe that's been in my family for some time."

It's the birthday of the playwright and novelist Samuel Beckett, (books by this author) born in a rich suburb of Dublin called Foxrock (1906). He moved to Paris as a young man and became one of James Joyce's assistants and disciples. He wanted badly to write like Joyce, but he had little success.

During World War II, he got involved in the French Resistance, and after that he decided to take a break from a novel he was working on and try playwriting. He wrote a couple plays that he wasn't too satisfied with, and then, as an exercise, he decided to write a play that would be as simple a storyline as possible. It would be a play about two men, Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for a man named Godot, who never arrives.

He finished it in just a few months, faster than he'd ever finished anything. And that was Waiting for Godot (1952), the play in which Beckett wrote, "Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!" He didn't have much hope that it would ever be produced, but his wife thought it was a masterpiece, and she showed it to everyone involved with the theater that she could find. It was finally produced in 1952 and became an international sensation.

Samuel Beckett said, "All I know is what the words know, and dead things, and that makes a handsome little sum, with a beginning and a middle and an end, as in the well-built phrase and the long sonata of the dead."

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




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