Sunday

Oct. 25, 2009

Baptism

by Ted Thomas Jr.

Cold wind.
I help my father
into the shower
with his good hand
he grips my arm for support.

Inside he sits like Buddha
on a plastic stool
and waits for me
to begin.

I drench him
with warm water,
soap his head, his back,
the flabby stomach,
the private parts
private no more.

I had not before seen my father's
nakedness, nor the changing
contour of his being,
his growing helplessness.

His brown skin glistens
and I think of him
as a young man on the night
of my conception:

Panting, capable, shining
with sweat and definition,
the soft hands of my mother
grasping his shoulders.

I pat him dry,
he lets me dress him
in the white
hospital clothes,
oil his hair,
put him to bed
and forgive him.

"Baptism" by Ted Thomas Jr., from Singing With The Dead. © Moon Pie Press, 2007, Reprinted with permission.

It's the birthday of the novelist Anne Tyler, (books by this author) born in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1941), the author of The Accidental Tourist (1985), Back When We Were Grownups (2001), and Digging to America (2006). Early in her career, she decided she did not want to be a public person, so she stopped giving readings and only does occasional interviews in writing. She said, "Any time I talk in public about writing, I end up not able to do any writing. It's as if some capricious Writing Elf goes into a little sulk whenever I expose him." Ann Tyler also said, "I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances. It's lucky I do it on paper. Probably I would be schizophrenic — and six times divorced — if I weren't writing."

It's the birthday of the poet John Berryman, (books by this author) born John Smith in Oklahoma (1914), whose masterpiece was The Dream Songs, published in two volumes: 77 Dream Songs (1964) and His Toy, His Dream, His Rest (1968).

It's the birthday of the artist Pablo Picasso, born in Malaga, Spain (1881), who was living in a bohemian community in Barcelona painting portraits of his friends and acquaintances when one of his paintings was selected for inclusion in the upcoming world's fair in Paris. He was just 18 — went off to Paris for the exhibition, saw paintings by Manet, Cézanne, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec, and came home with a head full of ideas for new paintings, only to learn that one of his best friends had murdered a woman and committed suicide.

Picasso was horrified, but he didn't have time to think about it, because right then he got word that an art dealer in Paris had noticed his work and wanted to put on a show of his paintings. He began to paint frantically, producing three or four paintings a day in the last three weeks before the show, paintings of street scenes, horse racing, bullfighting, flower arrangements, dancing girls, and many portraits of prostitutes.

The show opened in the summer of 1901, showing more than 60 paintings and dozens of drawings. It didn't attract a lot of critical attention, but more than half of the paintings were sold. Picasso's dealer thought the exhibition was a great success, and Picasso was flooded with requests for illustration work. But instead of beginning a career as a commercial artist, he began to produce a series of paintings dominated by somber blue backgrounds. The first of these paintings was a portrait of his friend who had committed suicide.

Picasso's art dealer hated the new work and nobody wanted to buy it. Picasso would spend the next several years in poverty. But it was during his Blue Period that he began to develop his own style and produce his early masterpieces, including The Old Guitarist (1902). By the middle of the 20th century, he was generally considered the greatest living artist in the world. Pablo Picasso, who said, "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

It was on this day in 1854 that a British military disaster occurred in the Crimean War that inspired Alfred Tennyson (books by this author) to write his famous poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

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

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »