Sep. 20, 2008
The Wordsworth Effect
Is when you return to a place
and it's not nearly as amazing
as you once thought it was,
or when you remember how you felt
about something (or someone) but you know
you'll never feel that way again.
It's when you notice someone has turned
down the volume, and you realize
it was you; when you have the
suspicion that you've met the enemy
and you are it, or when you get
your best ideas from your sister's journal.
Is also-to be fair-the thing that enables
you to walk for miles and miles chanting to
yourself in iambic pentameter
and to travel through Europe with
only a clean shirt, a change of
underwear, a notebook and a pen.
And yes: is when you stretch out
on your couch and summon up ten thousand
daffodils, all dancing in the breeze.
It's the birthday of the poet Donald Hall, (books by this author) born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1928. He started writing poems when he was a kid at his grandparents' farm in New Hampshire. When he was 16, he went to a writing conference and met Robert Frost, and later that year, he published his first poetry. He moved around for many years, studying and teaching at various universities, and at the University of Michigan, he met another poet, Jane Kenyon, and they got married and moved back to his grandparents' farm. He said that moving there was like "coming home to the place of language." Hall and Kenyon wrote about each other and their life together. Jane Kenyon died of leukemia in 1995. Hall wrote Without (1998) about caring for his wife during her illness and living without her after her death. He also wrote children's books, and books about baseball and the sculptor Henry Moore. His most recent books are White Apples and the Taste of Stone (2006) and Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry (2008).
He was the 14th Poet Laureate of the United States. He still lives in New Hampshire and writes poetry in the bedroom where he slept as a boy. He said, "I see no reason to spend your life writing poems unless your goal is to write great poems."
And, "At sixteen the poet reads Whitman and Homer and wants to be immortal. Alas, at twenty-four the same poet wants to be in The New Yorker."
It was on this day in 1519 that Ferdinand Magellan departed on the first successful circumnavigation of the world, although Magellan himself didn't live to see the end of the expedition. He was looking for a westward route to the spice markets of the Indies. He was Portuguese, but the king of Portugal refused to fund his expedition, so he convinced the teenaged king of Spain, Charles I, to sponsor him, and he told Charles that he would make Spain the richest nation on earth. He set off with five ships and 270 men. The Spanish captains didn't trust Magellan because he was Portuguese, a foreigner, and three of them plotted to kill Magellan. He stopped the mutiny by imprisoning the ringleader, Cartagena, aboard a different ship. They reached South America by December and spent the winter in Patagonia, where one of the captains freed Cartagena, and they led another mutiny. Magellan marooned Cartagena in Patagonia, executed the remaining rebels, and set off to look for a passage to the other side of the continent.
In May, one of his ships was wrecked in bad weather, but the other four sailed through a strait that Magellan named All Saints' it was later renamed the Strait of Magellan. It took them 38 days to make it through the strait, and during that time, one of the ships' captains turned his ship around to sail back to Spain, taking with him most of the provisions for the whole fleet. But the remaining three ships got to the other side and emerged into the ocean, and Magellan named the ocean the Pacific because it was so calm. Magellan thought the Pacific was small; he thought they could cross it and reach the Spice Islands in two or three days. But it actually took four months. They arrived in the Philippines in March of 1521. Magellan made friends with a local king, agreed to help him attack the neighboring island, and was killed during the battle with that tribe. There were three ships left, and 115 men.
After Magellan died, Sebastian del Cano took over as captain, and since there weren't enough men left to crew three ships, he had one of the ships burned. They left the Philippines in May and made it to the Moluccas, the Spice Islands, six months later. Del Cano wanted to make sure that at least one ship made it back to Spain, so he sent one back, east across the Pacific, and the other one continued west. The eastward-bound ship was attacked by the Portuguese, who killed most of the crew. The westward-bound ship crossed the Indian Ocean, sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, and arrived in Spain almost three years after it had departed with Magellan. One ship and 18 men were all that remained, but it was the first vessel to circumnavigate the globe.
Most of what we know about the voyage comes from an Italian crewmember named Antonio Pigafetta, who was a supporter of Magellan and kept a detailed diary. He was also one of the 18 men to survive the journey.
It's the birthday of the writer Upton Sinclair, (books by this author) born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1878. When he was 15 years old, he started supporting himself by writing dime novels, and he wrote pulp fiction to get himself through school. He went to Columbia University and wrote one novelette a week the whole time.
He got an assignment from a socialist weekly to investigate working conditions in the meatpacking industry. Horrified by what he saw in Chicago, he wrote The Jungle (1906). It kept getting rejected so he finally published it at his own expense. It was his sixth novel and his first successful one a huge success. After The Jungle was published, President Roosevelt received a hundred letters a day demanding reforms in the industry. Upton Sinclair said, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."
He used the proceeds from the novel to open a socialist colony in New Jersey, but when it burned down in a fire he was poor again. He went on two write almost 100 books.
He said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®