Tuesday

Jun. 5, 2007

Miss Shelley, Miss Hattersley, Miss Guilford . . .

by Rosie King

TUESDAY, 5 JUNE, 2007
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Poem: "Miss Shelley, Miss Hattersley, Miss Guilford . . ." by Rosie King, from Sweetwater, Saltwater. © Hummingbird Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Miss Shelley, Miss Hattersley, Miss Guilford . . .

When I can't remember the name of my third grade teacher,
the only one through ninth grade
that won't spring to mind, I sit
wondering at the mystery of her.
Like a fan blowing cool air in summer, her face
bends down to me, strands of her hair—
it must have been long—or the rayony
swish of her skirt lightly brushing my arm
as my pen writes the letters very precisely, rounding them
in the new cursive, her voice a glissando
tinseled with laughter, her eyes crinkling—
the one who left to get married!—
up there behind her glasses,
the glow of her.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the British playwright David Hare (books by this author), born in Sussex, England (1947). He is the author of many plays, including Plenty, Racing Demon, and others. His writing career began when he had to write a play in four days because a playwright had failed to deliver a script to the Portable Theater, which Hare had co-founded.

David Hare was a prolific writer, author of two dozen plays, twelve feature films, three books and a one-man play called Via Dolorosa, in which he starred in New York. In the play, he said, "[In England,] people lead shallow lives because they don't believe in anything anymore. [In Israel,] in a single day I experience events and emotions that would keep a Swede going for a year."


It's the birthday of Richard Scarry (books by this author), born in Boston (1919). He's the author of more than 300 books for children, who said that what made him happiest as an author was getting letters from people telling him that their copies of his books were all worn out and held together with Scotch tape.


It's the birthday of one of the great men of letters of the twentieth century, Alfred Kazin (books by this author), born in Brooklyn (1915). He grew up in the Brownsville section, the poor Jewish immigrant sector of Brooklyn. He said, "We were the children of the immigrants who had camped at the city's back door... a place that measured all success by our skill in getting away from it."

He loved books, and spent most of his time sitting on the fire escape of the tenement reading whatever he could get his hands on.

He was a senior in college in 1934 when he read a book review in the New York Times that made him so angry, he got off the subway, went to the Times office, and complained to the editor in person, who was impressed, and got Kazin a job writing freelance book reviews.

He studied literature at Columbia, and started writing a historical survey of American literature from 1880 up to the 1930s. The result was his book On Native Grounds, which covered American literature from Dreiser and Stephen Crane to Edith Wharton and William Faulkner. It became one of the most celebrated works of literary criticism of the decade.

Kazin is also remembered for his great memoir, A Walker in the City, a kind of sensory tour of his childhood in Brownsville. It begins, "Every time I go back to Brownsville it is as if I had never been away. From the moment I step off the train at Rockaway Avenue and smell the leak out of the men's room, then the pickles from the stand just below the subway steps, an instant rage comes over me, mixed with dread and some unexpected tenderness... As I walk those familiarly choked streets at dusk and see the old women sitting in front of the tenements, past and present become each other's faces; I am back where I began."


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

 









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