Saturday

Feb. 9, 2008

Vasectomy

by Philip Appleman

After the steaming bodies swept
through the hungry streets of swollen cities;
after the vast pink spawning of family
poisoned the rivers and ravaged the prairies;
after the gamble of latex and
diaphragms and pills;
I invoked the white robes, gleaming blades
ready for blood, and, feeling the scourge
of Increase and Multiply, made
affirmation: Yes, deliver us from
complicity.
And after the precision of scalpels,
I woke to a landscape of sunshine where
the catbird mates for life and
maps trace out no alibis-stepped
into a morning of naked truth,
where acts mean what they really are:
the purity of loving
for the sake of love.

"Vasectomy" by Philip Appleman, from New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996. © University of Arkansas Press, 1996. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Alice Walker, (books by this author) born in Eatonton, Georgia (1944). She was the youngest of eight children, the daughter of poor sharecroppers. Walker graduated first in her high school class and won a scholarship to Spelman College (1961). She transferred to Sarah Lawrence after two years, and a short story she wrote there was sent to Langston Hughes, who became an early champion of her writing. In 1968, she published her first collection of poetry, Once, and her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, in 1970, about a family of poor sharecroppers in the 1920s. Throughout the Sixties and Seventies, Alice Walker had a modest following, but it wasn't until her third novel, The Color Purple (1982), won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award that her work reached a much larger audience. She once wrote, "Writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence."

It's the birthday of Irish playwright and novelist Brendan Behan, (books by this author) born in Dublin (1923). He grew up in one of the poorest sections of Dublin. His father took part in the Irish rebellion in the early 1920s, and when Brendan was born, his father was being held in a British prison. When Brendan was nine years old, he joined a youth organization that had ties to the IRA. He later called the group "the Republican Boy Scouts." He rose through the ranks of the IRA, and by the time he was 16 he was being sent on missions to bomb British targets.

He spent most of the 1940s in prison. First he was thrown in jail for carrying a suitcase full of homemade explosives through the streets of Liverpool. After he got out, he was arrested for the attempted murder of two policemen. It was during his second stay in prison that he began to write. He wrote his first play, The Quare Fellow (1956), about the execution of a convict in a Dublin prison. When he got out of prison, it became a big hit in London and then New York. He followed that up with the novel Borstal Boy (1958) and The Hostage (1958), in which he wrote:

"Never throw stones at your mother,
You'll be sorry for it when she's dead,
Never throw stones at your mother,
Throw bricks at your father instead."

It's the birthday of poet Amy Lowell, (books by this author) born in Brookline, Massachusetts (1874), the daughter of a prominent Boston family. Her first poem, "Fixed Idea," wasn't published until she was 36, and she threw herself into studying the latest trends in poetry - imagism and unrhymed meter. She once said, "God made me a businesswoman and I made myself a poet." Her posthumous collection of poetry, What's O'Clock (1925), won the Pulitzer Prize.

It's the birthday of humorist and playwright George Ade, (books by this author) born in Kentland, Indiana (1866). One of his plays, The College Widow (1904), was turned into a motion picture, but he is best known for his Fables in Slang (1899).

It's the birthday of J.M. (John Maxwell) Coetzee (books by this author) born in Cape Town, South Africa (1940). He's the author of many novels, including Dusklands (1974), Life and Times of Michael K (1983), and Disgrace (1999). He's known for his intense self-discipline and dedication to writing. Someone who worked with him for more than a decade claimed that he only saw Coetzee laugh once. He's lived most of his adult life in England, America, and Australia, but much of his writing deals with South African apartheid. His breakthrough novel was Waiting for Barbarians, published in 1980. In 2003, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.

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

 









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