May 13, 2009

My Name

by Mark Strand

My Name

Once when the lawn was a golden green
and the marbled moonlit trees rose like fresh memorials
in the scented air, and the whole countryside pulsed
with the chirr and murmur of insects, I lay in the grass,
feeling the great distances open above me, and wondered
what I would become and where I would find myself,
and though I barely existed, I felt for an instant
that the vast star-clustered sky was mine, and I heard
my name as if for the first time, heard it the way
one hears the wind or the rain, but faint and far off
as though it belonged not to me but to the silence
from which it had come and to which it would go.

Late Spring

Because of the late, cold wet spring the fruit of greenness is sud-
denly upon us so that in Montana you can throw yourself down just
about anywhere on a green grassy bed, snooze on the riverbank and
wake to a yellow-rumped warbler flittering close to your head then
sipping a little standing water from a moose track. Of course pitch-
ing yourself downward you first look for hidden rocks. Nothing in
nature is exactly suited to us. Meanwhile everywhere cows are nap-
ping from overeating, and their frolicsome calves don't remember
anything except this bounty. And tonight the calves will stare at the
full moon glistening off the mountain snow, both snow and moon
white as their mother's milk. This year the moisture has made the
peonies outside my studio so heavy with their beauty that they
droop to the ground and I think of my early love, Emily Brontë. The
cruelty of our different ages kept us apart. I tie and prop up the peo-
nies to prolong their lives, just as I would have nursed Emily so she
could see another spring.

"My Name" by Mark Strand from Man and Camel. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
"Late Spring" by Jim Harrison from In Search of Small Gods. © Copper Canyon Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist and travel writer Bruce Chatwin, (books by this author) born Sheffield, England (1940). He worked as a porter for Sotheby's auction house, and he developed a refined eye for art, especially the Impressionists, and ended up as director of Sotheby's.

He began to suffer eye problems. His doctor told him to take time off work, and the doctor mentioned that he had recently started a clinic in East Africa, so Chatwin visited the Sudan, where he lived with nomadic tribes.

He came back to England, studied archaeology, and then worked as a writer for the London Sunday Times Magazine. He interviewed prominent people, and one of them was a 93-year-old architect who had painted a map of Patagonia on her wall. He said, "I've always wanted to go there." She replied, "So have I. Go there for me."

So he headed to South America, and traveled around Patagonia, taking notes in his trademark black notebooks. And from that experience he wrote a book, In Patagonia (1977). It quickly became a classic in the field of travel writing, although some residents of Patagonia disputed Chatwin's version of certain events.

So he went on to classify many of his travel books as novels, including his best-selling book The Songlines (1987). It's about a protagonist named Bruce who writes in black notebooks and travels around the Australian outback studying nomadic peoples and the songs they sing. Some of his other books include On The Black Hill (1982), What Am I Doing Here? (1989), and Anatomy of Restlessness (1996).

Chatwin contracted HIV around 1980. But he hid the virus with various stories: that he had gotten sick from a bat bite, or that he had a rare Chinese disease. He and his wife moved to south of France, and he died as a result of AIDS at the age of 48.

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




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