Jan. 30, 2013

In My Craft or Sullen Art

by Dylan Thomas

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

"In My Craft or Sullen Art" by Dylan Thomas, from Poems. © New Directions, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1847 that Yerba Buena, California, was renamed San Francisco. "Yerba Buena" means "good herb" in Spanish, and the settlement had belonged to Mexico since 1821 (before that, it was Spain's).

American settlers began moving to Yerba Buena in the late 1830s, a decade ahead of the Gold Rush. Then the Mexican-American War began, and during the war — in July 1846 — a U.S. naval captain arrived there and claimed it for the United States.

At the end of the war, Mexico officially ceded the land, and the name was changed to San Francisco. The oldest surviving structure in San Francisco is the adobe Mission San Francisco de Asís, or St. Francis of Assisi; it was built by the Spanish in 1776, the year of the American Revolution. It's now called Mission Dolores, sharing a name with a nearby creek.

And San Francisco is now the second most densely populated city in the nation, with 815,000 people spread out over just about 47 square miles of peninsula. Since being renamed "San Francisco" 166 years ago today, the city has picked up a handful of nicknames, including "The City by the Bay," "The Paris of the West," "Baghdad by the Bay" and "Frisco" — though this last one is largely disdained and/or taboo among locals.

San Francisco houses America's only moving National Historic Landmark: the set of cable cars that operate in the city. It's the only manually operated cable car system in the world still running. The cable cars go 9.5 miles per hour, and the driver is called a "grip man." The first successful cable car line opened in 1873, about 26 years after the city's name was changed from "Yerba Buena" to "San Francisco."

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Richard Gary Brautigan (books by this author), born in Tacoma, Washington (1935). He moved to San Francisco, where he read his poetry at psychedelic rock concerts, helped produce underground newspapers, and became involved with the Beat Movement. He had long blond hair and granny glasses.

In the summer of 1961, he went camping with his wife and young daughter in Idaho's Stanley Basin. He spent his days hiking, and it was there, sitting next to trout streams with his portable typewriter, that he wrote his most famous work, Trout Fishing in America (1967).

It's the birthday of the novelist and short-story writer Shirley Hazzard (books by this author), born in Sydney, Australia (1931). She's best known for her novel The Transit of Venus (1980), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

It is the birthday of historian Barbara Tuchman (books by this author), born in New York City (1912). She wrote The Guns of August (1962), a study of the events that led to the outbreak of World War I.

She said, "War is the unfolding of miscalculations."

It was on this day in 1972 that British army parachutists shot 27 unarmed civil rights demonstrators in Derry, Northern Ireland — an event known as "Bloody Sunday." The protestors had been marching to oppose the new British policy of imprisoning people without a hearing.

The Northern Irish conflict stemmed from a peace treaty signed in 1923 after Ireland's successful war for independence from Britain. The treaty partitioned Ireland, designating the largely Catholic south as an independent nation, while leaving six counties of Northern Ireland, which had a Protestant majority, as part of the United Kingdom.

On this day, parachute troopers were given the okay to fire on the protestors. The first person killed was shot in the back. Thirteen people died — half of them were teenagers. All of the protesters were unarmed.

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




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