Feb. 10, 2008
All That Is Glorious Around Us
is not, for me, these grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled
overlooks, towering clouds, but doing errands on a day
of driving rain, staying dry inside the silver skin of the car,
160,000 miles, still running just fine. Or later,
sitting in a café warmed by the steam
from white chicken chili, two cups of dark coffee,
watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn's bright parade. And I think
of how my mother struggles to breathe, how few good days
she has now, how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over a rock. It is the nature
of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around
us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain's
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.
It's the birthday of playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht, (books by this author) born in Augsburg, Germany (1898). He studied medicine and philosophy at Munich and Berlin Universities, and served briefly in an army hospital during World War I. He gave up studying medicine after he got involved in the theater scene in Munich. In 1922, he won a drama prize for his first two expressionist plays, Drums in the Night and Baal, and followed those with Man is Man (1926). He was very interested in the idea of combining drama and music, and he collaborated with composer Kurt Weill on the production that established his reputation. It was The Threepenny Opera (1928), an adaptation of John Gay's Beggar's Opera in a sham Victorian London setting. Brecht was a Marxist, and he regarded his plays as social experiments, requiring detachment from his audience, not emotional involvement. His theory of "epic theatre" asks the audience to acknowledge the stage as a stage, the actors as actors, and not some make-believe world of real people.
With Hitler's rise to power in 1933, Brecht sought asylum in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, journeyed across Russia and Persia, and in 1941, settled in Hollywood. In Germany, his books were burned and his citizenship was withdrawn. It was during this period that he wrote most of his major essays, his poetry, and his great plays, including Mother Courage (1941), The Good Woman of Setzuan (1943), and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1948).
It's the birthday of Fleur Adcock, (books by this author) born in Papakura, New Zealand (1934), who is the author of the poetry collections The Eye of the Hurricane (1964), High Tide in the Garden (1971), Time Zones (1991), and Looking Back (1997). Her family moved to England during World War II while her father worked on a Ph.D. in psychology, and Fleur and her sister went from school to school collecting, as she said, "a succession of English accents" until her father found a position at Victory University and settled the family back in Wellington, New Zealand. Fleur Adcock disliked the move. She said, "I couldn't play tennis; I could barely swim. I found a nation of well-fed, sports-crazy extroverts; and the Welfare State. It struck me as cosy, carefree, insular, and deprived." But she remained tied to the country, writing verses about the New Zealand landscape and editing The Oxford Book of Contemporary New Zealand Poetry (1982). In 2006, she was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®