Sep. 10, 2014

Night Fishing

by Peter Sears

The water is a glaze like loneliness at ease
with itself I cast and close my eyes for the whir
out across the water, the line striking the surface
and sinking. I like waiting for it to settle on the bottom,
then jig it up a little. I imagine the lure in utter dark.
I play it lightly. Fish rise. Just shy of the surface,
they play their glints off the moon on the water.
I see too my own loneliness. It's not too big
and it breathes easily. Soon, it may pretend it's rain.
Rain blurs the water. There is nothing wrong.
with rain. I take a deep breath and cast and cast.

"Night Fishing" by Peter Sears, from Small Talk. © Lynx House Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the poet H.D., born Hilda Doolittle (books by this author) in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1886). She wrote:

You are as gold
as the half-ripe grain
that merges to gold again,
as white as the white rain
that beats through
the half-opened flowers
of the great flower tufts
thick on the black limbs
of an Illyrian apple bough.
Can honey distill such fragrance
As your bright hair —
For your face is as fair as rain,
yet as rain that lies clear
on white honey-comb,
lends radiance to the white wax,
so your hair on your brow
casts light for a shadow.

It's the birthday of best-selling novelist Hannah Webster Foster (books by this author), born in Salisbury, Massachusetts (1758). She went to a women's academy, married a minister, had six children, and settled into life as a minister's wife. She was almost 40 years old when she wrote an epistolary novel called The Coquette; or, The History of Eliza Wharton (1797). Foster did not put her name on the novel — it was attributed to "A Lady of Massachusetts."

The Coquette was a huge success. It was one of the best-selling novels of 18th-century America, and its popularity continued well into the 19th century — it was reprinted eight times between the years 1824 and 1828. Hannah Foster died in 1840, and it wasn't until 1866 that her name was printed on the book.

The story of Eliza Wharton was based heavily on the true story of Elizabeth Whitman. Whitman was a beautiful, spirited, and accomplished minister's daughter from a well-known family. She became pregnant out of wedlock and died after giving birth to a stillborn child at a roadside tavern, lonely and abandoned. Elizabeth Whitman was a distant relative of Hannah Foster's husband. The man who supposedly impregnated her was Pierpont Edwards, son of the famous preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards, who started the Great Awakening movement and delivered the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Naturally, all of New England was fascinated by the story, and Foster capitalized on the gossip by turning it into a novel. Elizabeth Whitman became Eliza Wharton, and Pierpont Evans became Major Peter Sanford, the dashing man who steals Eliza away from the boring but safe Reverend Boyer.

The Coquette opens with a letter from Eliza to her friend Miss Lucy Freeman: "An unusual sensation possesses my breast; a sensation, which I once thought could never pervade it on any occasion whatever. It is pleasure; pleasure, my dear Lucy, on leaving my paternal roof! Could you have believed that the darling child of an indulgent and dearly beloved mother would feel a gleam of joy at leaving her? But so it is."

It's the birthday of the original Rin Tin Tin, a German shepherd dog born in Lorraine, France (1918). The dog starred in 23 movies for Warner Brothers, but in many ways his life was more remarkable than any Hollywood plot. An American soldier named Leland Duncan was stationed in the Meuse Valley and had been ordered to search a bombed-out German encampment. Inside one of the ruined buildings, Duncan found a German shepherd cowering with her pups, which were only a few days old. He named the pups Rin Tin Tin and Nanette, after little finger puppets that the American soldiers carried around as good luck charms. Nanette died shortly before Duncan made it home to Los Angeles, but Rinty, as Duncan called him, became a beloved pet.

After the war, Duncan began entering Rin Tin Tin in local dog shows. At one show, an inventor wanted to try out his new slow-motion movie camera, so he filmed the dog scaling a 12-foot wall. It struck Duncan that maybe he had a future movie star on his hands, so he wrote a silent movie script featuring the dog and shopped it around at various studios. He was turned down by all of them. Then one day he was out walking with Rin Tin Tin when he came upon a film crew trying to shoot a scene with a wolf hybrid. The wolf wasn't cooperating, so Duncan suggested that he and his dog could do the scene in one take. He was true to his word, and Rin Tin Tin had his first big break. He later signed a deal with Warner Brothers, and the dog had his first starring role in Where the North Begins (1923).

In addition to 26 feature films, Rin Tin Tin starred in a radio program, The Wonder Dog, in 1930, in which he did his own barking and other sound effects. The original Rinty died in 1932, and his son, Rin Tin Tin Jr., took over the role in his place. The 12th-generation descendant of the original Rin Tin Tin is still making public appearances across the country as a representative of the brand.

Today is the birthday of poet Mary Oliver (books by this author), born in Maple Heights, Ohio (1935). When she was a teenager, she dropped out of college and made a pilgrimage to Edna St. Vincent Millay's estate in upstate New York, and although Millay had been dead for several years, her sister Norma still lived there. The two women hit it off, and Oliver ended up living on the estate for several years. It's there that she met Molly Malone Cook, who had come to pay a visit to Millay. Oliver and Cook fell in love and moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts, together. Cook became Oliver's literary agent, and also sometimes impersonated Oliver for phone interviews because she hated talking to the press. They were together for more than 40 years, and after Cook died in 2005, Oliver published Thirst (2006), a collection of poems about her grief.

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




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