Jun. 16, 2013

June 16

by David Lehman

It's Bloomsday in Dublin
and wherever Ulysses works
as an advertising man
with an unfaithful wife
as I sit here listening
to a lecture on Flannery
O'Connor, Frank O'Connor,
and the O'Hara boys, John
and Frank, I think of going
to Dublin with you buying
a toy wedding ring at
Woolworth's and the phrase
"mock funeral" comes
to me I don't know what it
means though I remember being
the groom at a mock wedding
with a girl named Ann in 1956
I was eight and so was she
and all the other children
were in the procession it was
the first hot night in June and
yes she said yes I will Yes

"June 16" by David Lehman, from The Daily Mirror. © Scribner Poetry, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is Father's Day, a holiday in this country that goes back to a Sunday morning in May of 1909, when a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd was sitting in church in Spokane, Washington, listening to a Mother's Day sermon. She thought of her father, who had raised her and her siblings after her mother died in childbirth, and she thought that fathers should get recognition too. So she asked the minister of the church if he would deliver a sermon honoring fathers on her father's birthday, which was coming up in June, and the minister did. And the tradition of Father's Day caught on, though rather slowly. Mother's Day became an official holiday in 1914; Father's Day, not until 1972. Mother's Day is still the busiest day of the year for florists, restaurants, and long-distance phone companies. Father's Day is the day on which the most collect phone calls are made.

It's the birthday of Joyce Carol Oates (books by this author), born in Lockport, New York (1938). She's the author of books such as Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart (1990) and We Were the Mulvaneys (1996).

She grew up in a rural part of New York, which she later used as the basis for the fictional Eden County, where many of her stories and novels are set. She began making up stories as a child, even before she knew how to write, and drew pictures to record them. When she was eight, her grandmother gave her a copy of Alice in Wonderland, which she loved so much, she memorized the whole book word for word. She said Alice's calm and rational demeanor when facing nightmarish situations made a strong impression, and ever since she has tried to write about nightmares and bizarre things in a coherent, calm way.

Oates published her first story, "In the Old World," in Mademoiselle magazine (1959) just before her senior year of college, and she published her first book of short stories, By the North Gate, a few years later, in 1963. She has gone on to become one of the most prolific writers of her generation, writing more than 70 books in 40 years, including novels, short stories, plays, poetry, and essays. She writes almost everything in longhand before typing, and she usually cuts out a few hundred pages from every novel before it is published.

It was Joyce Carol Oates who said: "I think all art comes out of conflict. When I write I am always looking for the dramatic kernel of an event, the junctures of people's lives when they go in one direction, not another."

Today is Bloomsday, and James Joyce fans all over the world are celebrating (books by this author). It commemorates the day on which the events of his novel Ulysses take place. Joyce chose June 16th, 1904, for the setting because it was the day of his first date with Nora Barnacle, his future wife. Even after the novel's success, Joyce himself did not call June 16th "Bloomsday." Nor did he really celebrate the day, though publisher Sylvia Beach organized a celebratory Parisian luncheon on June 16th, 1929 — years before the book was legal in the English-speaking world.

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