Wednesday

May 30, 2012

Excerpts from "How to be Perfect"

by Ron Padgett

Get some sleep.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.
Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don't stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don't
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm's length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass
ball collection.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.

Plan your day so you never have to rush.

Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if
you have paid them, even if they do favors you don't want.

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Don't expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want
to.

Don't be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.

Don't think that progress exists. It doesn't.

Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don't do
anything to make it impossible.

Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not
possible, go to another one.

If you feel tired, rest.

Don't be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel
even older. Which is depressing.

Do one thing at a time.

If you burn your finger, put ice on it immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for 20
minutes. you will be surprised by the curative powers of ice and
gravity.

Do not inhale smoke.

Take a deep breath.

Do not smart off to a policeman.

Be good.

Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.

Do not go crazy a lot. It's a waste of time.

Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to
drink, say, "Water, please."

Take out the trash.

Love life.

Use exact change.

When there's shooting in the street, don't go near the window.

Excerpts from "How to be Perfect" by Ron Padgett, from How to be Perfect. © Coffee House Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1849 that Henry David Thoreau (books by this author) self-published A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, his first book. It was an account of the two-week boating trip Thoreau had taken with his brother, John, 10 years before, from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and back.

Thoreau had always been the introverted and studious one, while John was gregarious and fun-loving. They were close; John helped pay his brother's tuition to Harvard, and helped Thoreau open his own school when he got fired from his teaching job over his objection to corporal punishment. A few years after their boat trip, John died unexpectedly from tetanus in his brother's arms. Thoreau decided to seclude himself and began building a cabin by the banks of Walden Pond. He lived there for two years, completing the drafts of both his A Week, often seen as a memorial to his brother, John, and a series of lectures that would eventually become the classic Walden. Since A Week was initially rejected, Thoreau was only able to publish it by paying for its printing from its sales. Four years later, after paying off the printing debt, Thoreau wrote in his journal that his publisher had delivered the remaining unsold copies to his home. He wrote, "I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself."

Thoreau said: "To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.

And, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

It's the birthday of Harlem poet Countee Cullen (books by this author) , mostly likely born in New York City or Lexington, Kentucky, in 1903. Not much is known about Cullen's childhood, including his birthplace, because he was adopted by a Harlem minister's family as a teenager — taking their name, Cullen — and he usually remained silent on the topic of his early life. After he joined the Cullen family, he attended a mostly white high school and then New York University and Harvard, where he began winning prizes for poems like "Ballad of the Brown Girl," which also became the title of his third collection, published in 1927. Heavily influenced by Keats, much of his style was traditional — but his subject often touched on race.

Cullen was popular in the late '20s, and married the daughter of W.E.B. Du Bois. Their grand wedding was a huge social event in 1928, but the marriage only lasted a short while. He drew attention for his collections of poetry like Color (1925) and The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929).

Cullen said, "There is no secret to success except hard work and getting something indefinable which we call 'the breaks.' In order for a writer to succeed, I suggest three things—read and write—and wait."

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

 









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