Saturday

Mar. 30, 2013

Spring

by Jim Harrison

Something new in the air today, perhaps the struggle of the bud
to become a leaf. Nearly two weeks late it invaded the air but
then what is two weeks to life herself? On a cool night there is
a break from the struggle of becoming. I suppose that's why we
sleep. In a childhood story they spoke of the land of enchant-
ment." We crawl to it, we short-lived mammals, not realizing that
we are already there. To the gods the moon is the entire moon
but to us it changes second by second because we are always fish
in the belly of the whale of earth. We are encased and can't stray
from the house of our bodies. I could say that we are released,
but I don't know, in our private night when our souls explode
into a billion fragments then calmly regather in a black pool in
the forest, far from the cage of flesh, the unremitting "I." This was
a dream and in dreams we are forever alone walking the ghost
road beyond our lives. Of late I see waking as another chance at
spring.

"Spring" by Jim Harrison, from Songs of Unreason. © Copper Canyon Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is the birthday of the French poet Paul Verlaine (books by this author), born in Metz, in the northeast of France, in 1844. He began writing as young as 14, when he sent his poem "La Mort" to Victor Hugo. He published his first volume of poetry when he was 22.

Verlaine wrote:

You must let your poems ride their luck
On the back of the sharp morning air
Touched with the fragrance of mint and thyme ...
And everything else is Literature.

It's the birthday of Vincent van Gogh, born in Zundert, Holland (1853), a painter and also great letter-writer. He wrote about art, of course, but also friendship, religion, prostitutes, interior decorating, and his love affairs. His letters are often lively, engaging, and passionate; they also frequently reflect his struggles with bipolar disorder. He wrote: "I have a terrible need of — shall I say the word — religion. Then I go out and paint the stars." And he wrote: "What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart."

He wrote thousands of letters to his brother Theo over the course of his life. Theo's widow, Joanna, published the first complete edition of van Gogh's letters to her husband in 1913.

It's the birthday of novelist Jon Hassler (books by this author), born in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1933). He worked as a teacher for 20 years before he became serious about writing, and his first novel, Staggerford (1977), was published when he was 42. He said he learned his craft at the Red Owl Grocery Store in Plainview, Minnesota where he started working when he was 11. "[I]t was there that I acquired the latent qualities necessary to the novelist, namely ... the fun of picking the individual out of a crowd and the joy of finding the precise words to describe him." In 1994, he was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy, a degenerative condition similar to Parkinson's disease. He died of the disease in 2008 and was still writing just days before his death.

It's the birthday of the Irish playwright Sean O'Casey (books by this author), born John Casey in Dublin (1880). Though he was born into a middle-class family, he was the first Irish playwright to feature the lives of the working class. He wrote three classic plays about lower-class Dublin families during times of revolution and violence in Ireland: The Shadow of a Gunman (1923), Juno and the Paycock (1924), and The Plough and the Stars (1926).

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

 









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