Jun. 4, 2009
From behind the screen door I watch the cat
in the bunchgrass stalking at dusk.
With the pure attention of religion,
he waits for the skitter of a field mouse,
a shiver in an owl's dream.
The cat delivers his limp prey
to the chipped gray paint of the porch.
I step outside, not knowing
if I will punish the cat
or accept the mouse.
At the edge of the porch I kneel and see
the map of red capillaries
in the delicate mouse ear.
I lift it by the tail to toss,
but in the blink of a smug cat's eye
I feel a tug—an escape
back into life.
In the African journals, Livingston tells
of the charging lion that knocked him down.
When he was held in the lion's mouth,
the human body's trance-like response
was to go limp in an ecstatic giving up
that saved. To assume death
to stay alive.
A Confederate soldier at Antietam
played dead when his battalion was overrun.
for a moment he thought he was safe,
but to make sure, the Union infantryman
drove a bayonet into each body on the ground.
When I pick up the mouse
and it jerks from terror-induced sleep,
I feel all that fear
in a small heartbeat.
My panicked fingers let go
and the mouse slips into the brush where it may be
safe for awhile. Though the cat
is all tension now and ready
to pounce again. I shut him in the house,
stand on the porch and watch the first stars
burn holes in the sky.
Dark enlarging around me,
the pupil in a cat's eye.
It was on this day in 1917 that the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded.
Here are some things you might not have known about Pulitzer Prizes:
- They're announced each year in April and then awarded at Columbia University in May, during a luncheon at the campus library.
- Each Pulitzer Prize winner receives a $10,000 award and a certificate, except in the Public Service category, where the winner is given a gold medal. Only a newspaper, not an individual, can receive the Public Service prize for journalism.
- There are 21 Pulitzer categories. Two-thirds of the prizes (14) revolve around journalism. There are six for letters and drama (fiction, drama, history, biography, poetry, and general nonfiction), and there is one prize given for music.
- The Pulitzer Prize for fiction used to be called the Pulitzer Prize for the novel. The name was changed in 1948.
- Poet Robert Frost won the Pulitzer Prize four times. Playwright Eugene O'Neill also won four Pulitzer Prizes.
- The Pulitzer Prize is a very American award. Only U.S. citizens are eligible for the non-journalism Prizes. The exception to this is in the history category: a non-American can win the Pulitzer Prize if he or she wrote a book about the history of the United States. Foreign journalists can win Pulitzers if they write for a newspaper published in the United States.
- The New York Times holds the all-time record for number of Pulitzer Prizes received. The paper has collectively won 101 Pulitzers.
- Newspapers generally nominate themselves for Pulitzer Prizes. The fee for each entry is $50, and the material that the newspaper wants the prize board to consider must be accompanied by an entry form. An entry has to fit into one of the 21 categories; it can't be submitted on the grounds that it is just generally good. To be eligible, a paper must be published in the U.S. at least weekly.
- In 2009, for the first time, online-only news organizations were eligible for the Pulitzer. Before, it was restricted to print publications.
- Decisions about prize winners are made by the Pulitzer board in secret. Afterward, the board does not publicly discuss or defend its decisions.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®