Saturday

Mar. 7, 2009

Happiness

by Robert Hass

Because yesterday morning from the steamy window
we saw a pair of red foxes across the creek
eating the last windfall apples in the rain—
they looked up at us with their green eyes
long enough to symbolize the wakefulness of living things
and then went back to eating—

and because this morning
when she went into the gazebo with her black pen and yellow pad
to coax an inquisitive soul
from what she thinks of as the reluctance of matter,
I drove into town to drink tea in the cafe
and write notes in a journal—mist rose from the bay
like the luminous and indefinite aspect of intention,
and a small flock of tundra swans
for the second winter in a row was feeding on new grass
in the soaked fields; they symbolize mystery, I suppose,
they are also called whistling swans, are very white,
and their eyes are black—

and because the tea steamed in front of me,
and the notebook, turned to a new page,
was blank except for a faint blue idea of order,
I wrote: happiness! it is December, very cold,
we woke early this morning,
and lay in bed kissing,
our eyes squinched up like bats.

"Happiness" by Robert Hass, from Sun Under Wood. © The Ecco Press, 1996. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

On this day in 1923, Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was published in the The New Republic magazine. It's a poem about winter, but Frost wrote the first draft on a warm morning in the middle of June. He had stayed up all night, sitting at his kitchen table and working on a long, difficult poem called "New Hampshire." He finally finished it, and then looked up and saw that it was morning. He went outside to watch the sun rise, and while he was outside, he suddenly got an idea for a new poem. So he rushed back in and wrote "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" in just a few minutes. He said he wrote most of the poem almost without lifting his pen off the page.

It's the birthday of William York Tindall, (books by this author) born in Williamstown, Vermont (1903). He had heard about the notorious book Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce, and he decided to buy a copy while he was traveling in Paris, since it was banned in the United States. He became obsessed with Joyce and read all of his books. He started teaching a course in modern literature at Columbia University, and he was one of the first professors in the United States to assign Ulysses to his students. He wrote four books about Joyce, including A Reader's Guide to James Joyce (1959) and A Reader's Guide to Finnegans Wake (1969).

It's the birthday of Scottish novelist and playwright William Boyd, (books by this author) born in Accra, Ghana (1952). His father was a doctor who specialized in tropical medicine. His first book, A Good Man in Africa (1981), is a comical account of a bumbling young British diplomat. In 1998, he published Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928–1960, a fictional biography of an abstract expressionist painter.

William Boyd said about his work habits: "I try to put in a good eight hours a day. Often I write in libraries. I don't have to be inspired. I don't need total silence. I don't worry about writer's block, which I think is a self-fulfilling prophecy. ... I do enjoy writing. I know some writers enjoy the invention but find the writing an endless night of the soul. I don't. I think, if you can earn your living writing fiction, it's very agreeable."

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

 









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