Thursday

Dec. 27, 2007

Jeopardy

by Ron Padgett

THURSDAY, 27 DECEMBER, 2007
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Jeopardy" by Ron Padgett, from How to Be Perfect © Coffee House Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Jeopardy

Sometimes when I phoned
my mother back in Tulsa, she would
say, "Hold on a minute, Ron, let me
turn this thing down," the thing
her TV, and she would look
around for the remote and then fumble
with its little buttons as an irritation
mounted in me and an impatience
and I felt like blurting out "You watch TV
too much and it's too loud and why
don't you go outside" because I was
unable to face my dread of her aging
and my heart made cold toward her
by loving her though not wanting to give up
my life and live near her so she
could see me every day and not
just hear me, which is why she
turned the TV down and said,
"Okay, that's better," then sometimes
launched into a detailed account
of whatever awful show she was watching.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of astronomer Johannes Kepler, born to a poor mercenary in Wurttemberg, Germany (1571), who tracked the orbital path of Mars and published his three famous laws of planetary motion — which validated Copernicus's theory of a sun-centered solar system — and later helped Isaac Newton discover the law of gravity. Kepler was nearly blind from a smallpox epidemic when he was three, and he developed the first eyeglass designs for nearsightedness and farsightedness. He was also the first to explain that the tides are caused by the moon, the first to propose that the sun rotates on an axis, and the first to use planetary cycles to calculate the year of the birth of Jesus Christ.


It was on this day in 1831 that Charles Darwin (books by this author) set sail from England on the HMS Beagle. Darwin's biology professor had recommended that he go on the upcoming voyage touring the Galapagos Islands and South America, but his father was against the dangerous trip. Darwin went anyway, and he explored the rainforests and was amazed by the plants and animals that he found. He returned to England, and he thought about what he had seen and developed his theory of evolution. In his book On the Origin of Species (1859), he wrote, "Probably all organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed. There is grandeur in this view of life that... from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."


It's the birthday of the father of bacteriology, Louis Pasteur, born in Dole, France (1822), whose discoveries in germs and disease are why we now wash our hands before dinner.


It's the birthday of child psychologist and author Lee Salk, (books by this author) born in New York City (1926), who is the brother of Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine. Lee Salk was visiting the Central Park Zoo one day when he noticed that the gorilla mothers carried their babies close their hearts, and he published research about the calming effect that sound of a mother's heartbeat can have on a newborn infant. He found that mothers, both left- and right-handed, instinctively cradle their children to the left side of their chests, bringing them closer to their hearts. Salk wrote How to Raise a Human Being (1969) and What Every Child Would Like His Parents to Know (1973).


It's the birthday of author Louis Bromfield, (books by this author) born in Mansfield, Ohio (1896). When he was a senior in high school, he went to live on his grandfather's farm, and he studied agriculture in college. He eventually switched to journalism, but he kept writing about farming all his life. He served in World War I, and then wrote his first novel, The Green Bay Tree (1924), about a small farming town that's slowly becoming an industrial center. The next year, Bromfield and his family took a vacation to France, wound up staying there for 13 years, and made friends with fellow ex-patriots Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein. And he wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Early Autumn (1927) and The Farm (1933).


It's the birthday of novelist Wilfrid Sheed, (books by this author) born in London, England (1930). Wilfrid Sheed wrote My Life As a Fan (1993), about his love of baseball, and In Love with Daylight: A Memoir of Recovery (1995). He once said, "The American male doesn't mature until he has exhausted all other possibilities."


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

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »