Aug. 9, 2009

A Summer Night

by Kate Barnes

A summer night. The moon's face,
almost full now, comes and goes
through clouds. I can't see
any stars, but a late firefly
still flicks his green lamp on and off
by the fence.
                    In this light
that is more illusion
than light, I think of things
I can't make out: milkweed opening
its millions of flowerets, their heavy heads
smelling like dark honey in the night's
darkness; day lilies
crowding the ditch, their blossoms
closed tight; birds asleep with their small legs
locked on twigs; deer stealing
into the uncut hay; and the young bay mare
kneeling down in the pasture, composing herself
to rest, as rounded and strong
as a meant prayer.

"A Summer Night" by Kate Barnes, from Kneeling Orion. © David R Godine, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist Jonathan Kellerman, (books by this author) born in New York City (1949). Like the hero of his mysteries, Alex Delaware, Kellerman is a child psychologist. While studying in college and graduate school, he wrote fiction obsessively, and he finished at least eight unpublished novels while working toward his career in psychology. For 13 years, he called himself "a failed writer with a really good day job." Recent novels include Obsession (2007), Compulsion (2008), and Bones (2008).

It's the birthday of English poet Philip Larkin, (books by this author) born in Coventry, England (1922). During his life he was called "England's other Poet Laureate," and when the position became vacant in 1984, many poets and critics wanted Larkin to be appointed. But Larkin was shy and avoided the limelight. His books of poetry include The Less Deceived (1955), The Whitsun Weddings (1964), and High Windows (1974). Philip Larkin said, "I can't understand these chaps who go round American universities explaining how they write poems: It's like going round explaining how you sleep with your wife."

He said, "Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth."

And he said, "I think writing about unhappiness is probably the source of my popularity, if I have any. After all, most people are unhappy, don't you think?"

It's the birthday of English Renaissance writer Izaak Walton, (books by this author) born in Stafford, England, in 1593. It was the year that English theaters shut down because of the plague, and Shakespeare's career as actor and owner of an actor's group derailed. Shakespeare wrote two narrative erotic-themed poems that year, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece,and subsequently began to write the tragedies for which he is best known, starting with Romeo and Juliet in 1595.

Izaak Walton's wrote mostly biographies, including one on John Donne, but his best-known work is a guide to the joys of fishing, entitled The Compleat Angler and first published in 1653. It's now been through more than 300 new printings; it's one of the most re-printed books in British history. It's a how-to manual intertwined with personal narrative, meditations on nature, lively anecdotes, folklore, geographical descriptions, songs, ballads, and famous quotations.

From The Compleat Angler:
"Indeed, my good scholar, we may say of angling, as Dr. Boteler said of strawberries, 'Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did'; and so, if I might be judge, God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than angling."

It's the birthday of poet John Dryden, (books by this author) born in Northamptonshire, England, in 1631. Dryden was also a translator, playwright, and prominent literary critic, and he was so well known and influential that the era in which he lived was referred to by later scholars as "The Age of Dryden."

One of the big things he did was establish the heroic couplet as the standard meter of English poetry. Nearly all of his writing he composed in heroic couplets. There were the dramatic masterpieces, in which he wrote lines like:

"Plots, true or false, are necessary things,
      To raise up commonwealths, and ruin kings."

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




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