Saturday

Sep. 25, 2010

Fall

by Edward Hirsch

Fall, falling, fallen. That's the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.
At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees
In a season of odd, dusky congruences—a scarlet tanager
And the odor of burning leaves, a golden retriever
Loping down the center of a wide street and the sun
Setting behind smoke-filled trees in the distance,
A gap opening up in the treetops and a bruised cloud
Blamelessly filling the space with purples. Everything
Changes and moves in the split second between summer's
Sprawling past and winter's hard revision, one moment
Pulling out of the station according to schedule,
Another moment arriving on the next platform. It
Happens almost like clockwork: the leaves drift away
From their branches and gather slowly at our feet,
Sliding over our ankles, and the season begins moving
Around us even as its colorful weather moves us,
Even as it pulls us into its dusty, twilit pockets.
And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.

"Fall" by Edward Hirsch, from The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems, 1975-2010. © Random House, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of writer and activist bell hooks, (books by this author) born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky (1952). Her father was a janitor, and her mother cleaned homes for white people. She went to a segregated school until she was 10.

Her family loved poetry, and whenever there were power outages while she was growing up, the whole family would sit around and recite poems. She loved Wordsworth, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Langston Hughes. She decided to be a writer, and she published in a Sunday school magazine, and kept writing poems and stories. She graduated from high school and got a scholarship to go to Stanford, and when she was 19 she started her first book. It took her six years to write, but finally she published Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism.She said: "Writing is my passion. It is a way to experience the ecstatic. The root understanding of the word ecstasy—'to stand outside'—comes to me in those moments when I am immersed so deeply in the act of thinking and writing that everything else, even flesh, falls away."

It's the birthday of novelist William Faulkner, (books by this author) born William Cuthbert Falkner in New Albany, Mississippi, in 1897. When he was four years old, his family moved to nearby Oxford. His great-grandfather and namesake, William Clark Falkner, was a Confederate Army colonel and the author of novels, including The White Rose of Memphis (1881).

Faulkner said: "The South's the place for a novelist to grow up because the folks there talk so much about the past. Why, when I was a little boy, there'd be sometimes 20 or 30 people in the house, mostly relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins, some maybe coming for overnight and staying on for months, swapping stories about the family and about the past, while I sat in a corner and listened. That's where I got my books."

Faulkner said, "I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it, and by sublimating the actual into apocryphal I would have complete liberty to use whatever talent I might have to its absolute top." And so he wrote about it over and over, and he set 14 of his 19 novels in Yoknapatawpha County and the city of Jefferson, modeled after his own Lafayette County and Oxford. He drew on his own family stories of ancestors like his great-grandfather, and the stories of his neighbors — which they did not always appreciate.

Besides being annoyed at him when they thought he mocked their town, the residents of Oxford didn't pay much attention to Faulkner. They called him "The Count" because they thought he acted too high and mighty, and later they called him "Count No-Count" when they thought he was acting poorly (in other words, drinking too much). He said: "Some folks wouldn't even speak when they passed me on the street. Then MGM came to town to film Intruder in the Dust, and that made some difference because it meant I'd brought money into Oxford. But it wasn't until the Nobel Prize that they really thawed out. They couldn't understand my books, but they could understand thirty thousand dollars." They began to refer to him affectionately as "that writin' man of Oxford." But Faulkner said that he only had four local fans who actually read his books: one professor, one lawyer, one doctor, and his mother.

Among Faulkner's many books are The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), and Go Down, Moses (1942).

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

 









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