Monday

Mar. 12, 2012

River

by Pat Schneider

A delicate fuzz of fog
like mold, or moss,
all across the river
in this early light.
Another day, I might
have still been sleeping.

What a pity. How the stars
and seas and rivers
in their fragile lace of fog
go on without us
morning after morning,
year after year.
And we disappear.

"River" by Pat Schneider, from Another River: New and Selected Poems. © Amherst Writers & Artists Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

One hundred years ago today, in 1912, the first American Girl Scout troop was formed by Juliette Gordon Low. She had just returned from England, where she had met Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts and, with his sister Agnes, the Girl Guides.

Low returned to her home in Savannah, Georgia, full of plans for a similar organization for American girls. She called her cousin on the phone, saying, "I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight!" She brought together 18 girls to form the first troop, and her niece, Margaret "Daisy Doots" Gordon, was the first registered member. The organization now has more than 3 million members.

Today is the birthday of Beat novelist Jack Kerouac (books by this author), born in Lowell, Massachusetts (1922), to parents who were French-speaking Québécois. He grew up speaking French, and didn't start learning English until grade school.

He was a track and football star in high school, and he got a football scholarship to Columbia in New York, where he met Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady. Jack Kerouac idolized Neal Cassady, and he typed the story of their cross-country adventures together on a single scroll of paper, 120 feet long, which was published in 1957 as On the Road. He depicts Neal Cassady — whom he calls Dean Moriarty — as a charismatic bad boy American hero. Kerouac took a backpacking trip with another friend whom he idolized, the poet Gary Snyder, and he turned Snyder into the character Jaffy Ryder and made him the hero of The Dharma Bums (1958).

From On the Road:
"I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was — I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds."

It's the birthday of playwright Edward Albee (books by this author), born Edward Harvey in Washington, D.C. (1928). He was adopted at two weeks old by Mr. and Mrs. Reed Albee of Larchmont, New York, and that is where he grew up. He was exposed to theater from a young age because it was the family business: not as performers, but as part owners of a national chain, the Keith-Albee Organization. His family expected their son to enter a business career, rather than an artistic one, but young Albee had other ideas. He had a falling out with his parents when he was 20 and moved to Greenwich Village; he never spoke to his father again, and he didn't speak to his mother for 17 years.

After dabbling for some years in fiction and poetry, he completed his first play, The Zoo Story (1958), when he was 30. He's best known for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), which was his first Broadway play and a runaway hit.

Today is the 60th birthday of poet and fiction author Naomi Shihab Nye (books by this author), born in St. Louis, Missouri (1952). Her father was Palestinian, and her mother was American. Nye grew up in St. Louis, Ramallah, Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas. She began writing poetry almost as soon as she learned to write, and she's always been interested in the intersections of different cultures. Her work is often inspired by her Mexican-American neighbors in San Antonio, where she still lives. Since the 9/11 attacks, she has become an outspoken advocate for Arab-Americans. Her latest book is a collection of very short stories: There is No Long Distance Now (2011).

She said, "Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own."

It's the birthday of Carl Hiaasen (books by this author), born in Plantation, Florida (1953). He's had a weekly column for The Miami Herald since 1985. He's written several novels for adults, and a handful for younger readers; his young-adult novel Hoot (2002) won the Newbery Award. His most recent novel, Star Island, was published in 2010, and he has a new young adult novel, Chomp, due out later this month.

Today is the birthday of Dave Eggers (books by this author), born in Boston, Massachusetts (1970). He grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois, and wanted to be a cartoonist. When he was in college at the University of Illinois, both his parents died of cancer within six months, and he was completely on his own at the age of 21. He later said: "On the one hand you are so completely bewildered that something so surreal and incomprehensible could happen. At the same time, suddenly the limitations or hesitations that you might have imposed on yourself fall away. There's a weird, optimistic recklessness that could easily be construed as nihilism but is really the opposite. You see that there is a beginning and an end and that you have only a certain amount of time to act. And you want to get started." He was also made the guardian of his eight-year-old brother, Christopher, so he had to drop out of college to support the family, and wrote about it in his best-selling memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000).

Eggers is the founder of the literary magazine The Believer; the literary journal-cum-website McSweeney's, and the non-profit literacy center 826 Valencia. His most recent books, all published in 2009, include Zeitoun, The Wild Things, a novel inspired by the classic children's book Where the Wild Things Are; and Cold Fusion, a humor book co-authored with his brother Christopher.

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

 









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