Apr. 19, 2013

I Will Make You Brooches

by Robert Louis Stevenson

I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.
I will make a palace fit for you and me
Of green days in forests and blue days at sea.

I will make my kitchen, and you shall keep your room,
Where white flows the river and bright blows the broom,
And you shall wash your linen and keep your body white
In rainfall at morning and dewfall at night.

And this shall be for music when no one else is near,
The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear!
That only I remember, that only you admire,
Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire.

"I Will Make You Brooches" by Robert Louis Stevenson, from Selected Poems. © Penguin Classics, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Jon Agee (books by this author), born in Nyack, New York (1960), along the Hudson River, who has drawn cartoons for The New Yorker and written and illustrated many children's books. He was still in high school when he published his first cartoon, and the publisher of his drawing — which was of a pack of rats running alongside a road — was The New York Times Op-Ed page.

Right after college he took some of his drawings to a publisher and tried to persuade her to print them. The publisher insisted that he write a story to go along with the illustrations, and Agee agreed. He wrote exactly two sentences, about a child who dreams his grandpa becomes Santa, and the picture story became his first published book, If Snow Falls (1982). It received great reviews.

Many of his books revolve around wordplay. There are the books of palindromes (words or phrases that say the same thing when read backward or forward), including Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog! and Other Palindromes (1991) and So Many Dynamos! and Other Palindromes (1994) and Sit on a Potato Pan, Otis!: More Palindromes (1999).

He's composed a book of 60 oxymorons; it's entitled Who Ordered the Jumbo Shrimp?(1998). The children's book includes illustrations of "sharp curves" and a "stiff drink" and the "Great Depression." In a book of spoonerisms, he asks the question, "What did the cowboy say to the rocket scientist?" The answer is the book's title: Smart Feller Fart Smeller; and Other Spoonerisms (2006). Despite all of this, he cites his greatest moment in wordplay as the time he was a clue in The New York Times crossword puzzle.

His book The Retired Kid, published in 2008, is about an eight-year-old named Brian who decides he's had enough school and extracurricular activities and heads to Florida to laze out his days in that Happy Sunset Retirement Community. He said that the book was inspired one day after he saw "a bunch of kids getting off a school bus and they were all weighed down with backpacks, suitcases, trumpet cases, lunchboxes, art projects, etc., and I thought — wow — it's hard work being a kid!"

It's the birthday of poet Etheridge Knight (books by this author), born in Corinth, Mississippi (1931). He dropped out of school and ran away from home. In 1960, he was arrested for robbery and went to the Indiana State Prison. It was there that he started writing poetry. His first book, Poems from Prison, was published in 1968, a year before he was released, and he went on to publish many more books. He said, "I died in 1960 from a prison sentence and poetry brought me back to life."

In 1927, on this day, actress Mae West (books by this author) was jailed for her performance in Sex, the Broadway play she wrote, directed, and starred in. She served 10 days in prison, and jail time seemed to have done her good — it didn't make her change her act, but it did bring her national notoriety — and helped make her one of Hollywood's most memorable, and quotable, stars. She said, "There are no good girls gone wrong, just bad girls found out." And, "I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it."

On this spring day in 1944, three months before the family was found and arrested, Anne Frank (books by this author) wrote in her diary: "Is there anything more beautiful in the world than to sit before an open window and enjoy nature, to listen to the birds singing, feel the sun on your cheeks and have a darling boy in your arms?"

On this day in 1897, the Boston Marathon was run for the first time. It is the world's oldest annual marathon. Women were not allowed to run until 1972, but in 1967 Kathrine Switzer defied the rules and registered. She was assigned a number and started the race, but when an official named Jock Semple spotted her, he chased her and tried to rip off her number. A fellow runner pushed Semple out of the way and Switzer crossed the finish line in four hours and 20 minutes.

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




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