May 31, 2007
In the Park
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Poem: "In the Park" by Maxine Kumin, from Nurture. © Viking Penguin, 1989. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
In the Park
You have forty-nine days between
death and rebirth if you're a Buddhist.
Even the smallest soul could swim
the English Channel in that time
or climb, like a ten-month-old child,
every step of the Washington Monument
to travel across, up, down, over or through
you won't know till you get there which to do.
He laid on me for a few seconds
said Roscoe Black, who lived to tell
about his skirmish with a grizzly bear
in Glacier Park. He laid on me not doing anything. I could feel his heart
beating against my heart.
Never mind lie and lay, the whole world
confuses them. For Roscoe Black you might say
all forty-nine days flew by.
I was raised on the Old Testament.
In it God talks to Moses, Noah,
Samuel, and they answer.
People confer with angels. Certain
animals converse with humans.
It's a simple world, full of crossovers.
Heaven's an airy Somewhere, and God
has a nasty temper when provoked,
but if there is a Hell, little is made of it.
No longtailed Devil, no eternal fire,
and no choosing what to come back as.
When the grizzly bear appears, he lies/lays down
on atheist and zealot. In the pitch-dark
each of us waits for him in Glacier Park.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of the humorist and novelist Lynne Truss (books by this author), born in Petersham, England (1955). She's the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (2003) (buy now), which sold more than 3 million copies.
It's the birthday of Walt Whitman (books by this author), born in West Hills, Long Island (1819). He was a printer and a newspaperman who only started writing poetry as the United Sates began to head toward the Civil War. He believed he might be able to write something to hold his country together. He began to keep a series of notebooks, full of both poetry and prose, and in one of the earliest he wrote,
"I am the poet of the body
And I am the poet of the soul
I go with the slaves of the earth equally with the masters
And I will stand between the masters and the slaves,
Entering into both so that both will understand me alike."
Leaves of Grass came out on July 4th 1855. Whitman paid for its publication himself and arranged for it to be sold in different formats, at different prices, to reach as wide an audience as possible. He anonymously wrote wildly enthusiastic reviews of the book himself. He said: "The public is a thick-skinned beast and you have to keep whacking away at its hide to let it know you're there." But despite all of his efforts, he sold only 10 copies of the first edition, and gave away the rest.
The poems that finally made him a household name were the poems he wrote about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, "Oh Captain My Captain" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd."
It was on this day in 1790 that Congress enacted the United States copyright law. The law gave authors exclusive rights to publish and sell maps, charts, and books for a period of 14 years, with a chance to renew the copyright for another 14 years. There have been many changes to the U.S. copyright law since 1790. In the 19th century, copyrights became available for photographs, paintings, drawings, and models. In 1909, musical rolls for player pianos became covered by the law. In the last 30 years, copyright law has expanded to include cable TV, computer software, tapes, CDs, DVDs, and MP3s.
Copyright terms have also gradually gotten longer. Up until 1998, copyrights lasted for the life of the author plus an additional 50 years before they went into the public domain. But in that year, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended the duration of copyrights by 20 years. The act was supported by a group of large corporations, led by Disney. Most of Disney's famous characters were scheduled to enter the public domain between 2000 and 2004, but now other artists and companies won't be able to use them in their books and movies and songs until at least 2019 which means that Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and all the rest are still protected by copyright.
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