Feb. 15, 2013

    for JS

I drove through Sacred Heart and Montevideo,
over the Chippewa River, all the way to Madison.
When I stopped, walked into grass—
bluestem, wild rose, a monarch—
I was afraid at first. Birds I couldn't identify
might have been bobolinks,
non-breeding plumage.
I am always afraid of what might show up, suddenly.
What might hide.
At dusk I saw the start of low plateaus, plains
really, even when planted. Almost to the Dakota border
I was struck by the isolation and abiding loneliness
yet somehow thrilled. Alone. Hardly another car on the road
and in town, just a few teenagers
wearing high school sweatshirts, walking and laughing, on the edge
of a world they don't know.
Darkness started as heaviness in the colors
of fields, a tractor, cornstalks, stone.
I turned back just before the Prairie Wildlife Refuge
at Odessa, the place I came to see. Closed.
Empty. The moon rose. Full.
I was driving Highway 7, the "Sioux Trail:"
I could feel the past the way I could in Mexico,
Mayan tombs in the jungle at Palenque,
men tearing papers from our hands.
Three hours still to drive home.

"Odessa" by Patricia Kirkpatrick, from Odessa. © Milkweed Editions, 2012. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the Father of Modern Science, Galileo Galilei (books by this author), born in Pisa, Italy (1564). It was Copernicus who suggested that it was the sun, and not the Earth, that was at the center of the universe. But Galileo became a famous public defender of that theory, called heliocentrism. The pope and Galileo were on friendly terms, and the pope encouraged Galileo to write a book outlining the controversy. But of course the pope instructed Galileo that he must not promote heliocentrism, and asked that his own beliefs be represented. So Galileo wrote Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which purported to be a debate between two philosophers; but one of the two, Simplicio, sounded stupid, and it was this figure that acted as a mouthpiece of the pope. No one knows whether Galileo deliberately attacked the Pope — it's probable that he just couldn't write as convincing of an argument from a philosophy that undermined his own scientific beliefs. In any case, the pope was definitely not a fan of the book, and Galileo was put on trial for heresy. He publicly renounced his views, but he still spent the rest of his life under house arrest, and his books were banned.

It's the birthday of Susan B. Anthony, born in Adams, Massachusetts (1820). She was one of the leaders of the women's suffrage movement.

It's the birthday of cartoonist Art Spiegelman (books by this author), born in Stockholm, Sweden (1948). He grew up in Queens, New York, and his parents were Holocaust survivors who hoped he would choose a respectable profession, maybe become a dentist. But he loved cartooning.

He went to college, but he dropped out to work full time for Topps Candy, and there he designed their "Wacky Packages" and "the Garbage Pail Kids," a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids. He worked for Topps for more than 20 years.

He got married to a French graphic designer named Françoise Mouly, and together they started the magazine RAW, which published comics for adults. And it was in RAW that Spiegelman serialized a comic based on his father's experiences in Poland during the Holocaust, a strip called Maus. Spiegelman depicted the Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, and the Poles as pigs. After it was published in RAW, Spiegelman released Maus: A Survivor's Tale in two volumes, subtitled My Father Bleeds History (1986) and And Here My Troubles Began (1991). Maus was extremely successful, and Spiegelman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

In 2004, he published In the Shadow of No Towers, about the September 11 attacks. And he and his wife edited several books of fairy tale comics for children, called Little Lit, which included work by Neil Gaiman, Paul Auster, and David Sedaris.

It's the birthday of Miranda July (books by this author), born in Barre, Vermont (1974), a performance artist who has worked successfully on quite a variety of artistic projects — she sang with an indie rock group, The Need; she runs a collaborative Web site; and she writes, directs, and acts in award-winning films, including Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) and The Future (2011).

On top of all that, she writes books, including her collection of short stories No One Belongs Here More Than You (2007) and most recently, It Chooses You (2011).

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




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