Jul. 21, 2013

The Shout

by Simon Armitage

We went out
into the school yard together, me and the boy
whose name and face

I don't remember. We were testing the range
of the human voice:
he had to shout for all he was worth

I had to raise an arm
from across the divide to signal back
that the sound had carried.

He called from over the park — I lifted an arm.
Out of bounds,
he yelled from the end of the road,

from the foot of the hill,
from beyond the look-out post of Fretwell's Farm —
I lifted an arm.

He left town, went on to be twenty years dead
with a gunshot hole
in the roof of his mouth, in Western Australia.

Boy with the name and face I don't remember,
you can stop shouting now, I can still hear you.

"The Shout" by Simon Armitage, from The Shout. © Harcourt Brace, 2005. Reprinted with the permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Ernest Hemingway (books by this author), born in Oak Park, Illinois (1899). As a young man, he wanted to fight in World War I, but he had bad eyesight so he volunteered as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross in Italy. Only one month after he started, he was passing out chocolates to Italian soldiers on the frontlines and got hit by shrapnel from an exploding shell. He spent several weeks in the hospital, where he started suffering from insomnia. He couldn't sleep without a light on for fear that he might die in the night. He traveled back to his parents' home, still recuperating from his injury.

Hemingway lived with his parents for months, occasionally hunting and fishing with friends. He wrote a few adventure stories about the war and sent them to the Saturday Evening Post, but they were rejected. His parents accused him of "sponging," told him to get a real job, and his mother finally threw him out of the house when he was 21. He got married, moved to Paris, and started hanging out with writers like Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein. He was forced to begin over again when he lost a suitcase that carried every manuscript and every copy of every manuscript he had written so far in Paris. Hemingway tried to write as simply and objectively as possible, using very few adjectives or adverbs. After he published For Whom the Bell Tolls in 1940, he began to struggle with his writing, worrying that he was repeating himself. But in 1953, The Old Man and the Sea was published, and the book won the Pulitzer Prize. A year later, Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.

It's the birthday of cartoonist Garretson Beekman "Garry" Trudeau (books by this author), born in New York City, New York (1948), who is the famous, but media-shy, creator of the Doonesbury comic strip. Doonesbury was one of the first, and is still one of the only, comic strips to lampoon real people and real current events. He earned a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1975.

It's the birthday of Hart Crane (books by this author), born Harold Hart Crane in Garrettsville, Ohio (1899). His mother was a Chicago debutante and his father was a very successful candy businessman who actually invented the Lifesaver, the popular ring-shaped mint.

By the time Crane was a teenager, he knew that he was gay, and he was fascinated by the life and career of Oscar Wilde. When his parents' marriage fell apart, Crane dropped out of school and took a train from Cleveland to New York to begin life as a poet. He loved being in New York, hanging out with poets like E.E. Cummings and Allen Tate. But he had trouble making a living there, couldn't hold down a job. His drinking got worse and in 1932, at the age of 33, he killed himself by jumping overboard a steamship on his way from Mexico to New York. He left behind his masterpiece, The Bridge (1930).

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




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