Jun. 30, 2013

The Fetch

by Ciaran Carson

I woke. You were lying beside me in the double bed,
prone, your long dark hair fanned out over the downy pillow.

I'd been dreaming we stood on a beach an ocean away
watching the waves purl into their troughs and tumble over.

Knit one, purl two, you said. Something in your voice made me think
of women knitting by the guillotine. Your eyes met mine.

The fetch of a wave is the distance it travels, you said,
from where it is born at sea to where it founders to shore.

I must go back to where it all began. You waded in
thigh-deep, waist-deep, breast-deep, head-deep, until you disappeared.

I lay there and thought how glad I was to find you again.
You stirred in the bed and moaned something. I heard a footfall

on the landing, the rasp of a man's cough. He put his head
around the door. He had my face. I woke. You were not there.

"The Fetch" by Ciaran Carson, from For All We Know. © Wake Forest University Press, 2008. Reprinted with the permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of poet and dramatist John Gay (books by this author), born in Barnstaple, England (1685), best known for his play The Beggar's Opera, the most widely performed play of the 18th century.

It's the birthday of the poet who said, "Language is the only homeland." That's Czeslaw Milosz (books by this author), born in Szetejnie, Lithuania (1911). He described his birthplace as a land forgotten by history: "For many centuries, while kingdoms rose and fell along the shores of the Mediterranean and countless generations handed down their refined pleasures and vices, my native land was a virgin forest whose only visitors were the few Viking ships that landed on the coast."

He received a formal Catholic education, and he later learned Hebrew well enough to translate the Bible into Polish. He received a law degree, spent a year studying in Paris, then worked at a radio station, where he was fired because of his leftist views.

He was an outspoken critic of Communist Russia, and he once wrote: "The philosophy of history emanating from Moscow is not just an abstract theory; it is a material force that uses guns, tanks, planes, and all the machines of war and oppression. All the crushing might of an armed state is hurled against any man who refuses to accept the New Faith." He received a tip that the Stalinist government was going to arrest him and put him on trial, and so he fled, settling in France. In 1960, he moved to the United States and became a professor of Slavic languages and literature at Berkeley.

He kept writing poetry in Polish, although almost nobody was reading it. His books had been banned in Poland, and his poems weren't translated into English until years later. In 1980, he got a phone call at three in the morning telling him that he'd won the Nobel Prize in literature.

It was on this day in 1936 that the novel Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (books by this author) was first published. She started writing the book while on bed rest from an injury, but didn't tell anyone about it because she thought it wasn't any good. One of her friends, Lois Cole, found chunks of the manuscript. Cole happened to work in the New York publishing industry, and she told her boss at Macmillan that her witty Southern friend Margaret Mitchell "might be concealing a literary treasure." Cole said, "If she writes as well as she talks, it would be a honey."

It was published in 1936 and was an immediate sensation. In the midst of the Great Depression, the novel revitalized the publishing industry. The next year, Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize. Gone with the Wind begins, "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm."

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




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