Aug. 21, 2013

Virgil's Bees

by Carol Ann Duffy

Bless air's gift of sweetness, honey
from the bees, inspired by clover,
marigold, eucalyptus, thyme,
the hundred perfumes of the wind.
Bless the beekeeper

                                         who chooses for her hives
a site near water, violet beds, no yew,
no echo. Let the light lilt, leak, green
or gold, pigment for queens,
and joy be inexplicable but there
in harmony of willowherb and stream,
of summer heat and breeze,
                                                       each bee's body
at its brilliant flower, lover-stunned,
strumming on fragrance, smitten.

                                                                    For this,
let gardens grow, where beelines end,
sighing in roses, saffron blooms, buddleia;
where bees pray on their knees, sing, praise
in pear trees, plum trees; bees
are the batteries of orchards, gardens, guard them.

"Virgil's Bees" by Carol Ann Duffy, from The Bees. © Faber and Faber, 2011. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the boy who inspired his father to write the children's classic Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), Christopher Robin Milne, born in London (1920). His father, A.A. Milne (books by this author), was an extremely prolific author who wrote plays, novels, mysteries, poetry, and essays. It wasn't until after Christopher Robin was born that A.A. Milne began to write for children.

His father based the Winnie-the-Pooh books on Christopher's actual toys and games and the places where he played in East Sussex, England. His toys were later copied and manufactured in the millions by the Walt Disney Co. After he grew up and bought a bookstore, parents would take their children to the counter of his bookshop to say hello to the real Christopher Robin.

He did not appreciate the attention, and in 1974, he published a memoir called The Enchanted Places about the difficulty of growing up as a kind of mythical child. He said: "My toys were and are to me no more than yours were and are to you. Fame has nothing to do with love."

It's the birthday of poet X.J. Kennedy (books by this author), born Joseph Charles Kennedy in Dover, New Jersey (1929). He added an X to his name the first time he sent out a poem for publication, because he had served in the Navy on the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, and he was tired of the association. The New Yorker published that poem, so he felt that the X had brought him luck and he kept it.

He originally wanted to be a cartoonist, but he had trouble drawing the same character twice. So he switched to poetry. At a time when most poets had given up rhyme and meter for free verse, he continued to write in traditional forms, and he specialized in humorous poems. He published several collections of poetry, but his biggest success came from his books for children.

His children's poetry books include One Winter Night in August (1975), The Phantom Ice Cream Man (1979), and Drat These Brats! (1993).

Kennedy likes to write in traditional rhyming poetry, and he said, "The tremendous fun of writing in rhyme is reeling in whatever it is you've caught and being surprised by it."

It's the birthday of novelist Robert Stone (books by this author), born in Brooklyn, New York (1937). In 1967, he published his first novel, A Hall of Mirrors,about a broadcaster for a right-wing radio station in New Orleans. It was a minor success. The Vietnam War was on everyone's mind at the time, so he decided to go find out what was going on there. He got a job as a foreign correspondent to Saigon, but instead of focusing on the combat, he uncovered a vast illegal drug trade, which became the subject of his first major success, Dog Soldiers (1974). He has since traveled the world to write novels about all kinds of places, from Central America to Jerusalem, in novels including Children of Light (1986) and Outerbridge Reach (1992).

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




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