Jan. 20, 2002


by Edward Hirsch

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Poem: "Solstice," by Edward Hirsch from Earthly Measure (Alfred A. Knopf).


Remember how the city looked from the harbor
in early evening: its brutal gaze
averted, its poised and certain countenance
wavering with lights?
Remember how we sat in swaybacked chairs
and marvelled at the brush fires
of dusk clear in the distance, the flames
scrawled across the skyline
like a signature while currents shifted
inside us? Ecstasy of fire-
works rising in midsummer, of fulvous sails
flashing in the heat
And orange life buoys bobbing on the water;
ecstasy of flares and secrets
and two bodies held aloft by desire...
judge us as you will,
but remember that we, too, lived once
in the fullness of a moment
before the darkness took its turn with us
and the night clamped shut.

It was on this day in 1961, Inauguration Day in Washington, poet Robert Frost was invited, at the age of 86, to recite a poem for the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. He was going to recite a poem he had written for the occasion, but his eyes were weak and he had typed the poem on a typewriter with a faint ribbon and the day was bright with a lot of glare from snow which had fallen the previous day. He was unable to read the poem he had written, so he recited his poem "The Gift Outright" by heart.

It's the birthday of poet Edward Hirsch, born in Chicago (1950). He's the author of many collections of poetry, including For the Sleepwalkers (1981, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award), Wild Gratitude (1986, winner of the 1987 National Book Critics Circle Award), The Night Parade (1989), Earthly Measures (1994) and On Love (1999). He values traditional forms in poetry, saying that "the dichotomy between so-called formal poetry and free verse is a large mistake in American poetry." He teaches at the University of Houston, where he's a member of the creative writing program.

It's the birthday of filmmaker Federico Fellini, born in Rimini, Italy, on the Adriatic coast (1920), the son of a prosperous grocer. He developed a love for movies in his town's two hundred-seat theater where, he said, "I discovered there existed another way of life, a country of wide-open spaces, of fantastic cities that were a cross between Babylon and Mars." He was talking about the America he saw on film. He married the actress Giulietta Masina, who later starred in many Fellini films, including "La Strada," "The Nights of Cabiria," and "Juliet of the Spirits." He said that "All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography."

It's the birthday of American composer Walter Piston, born Rockland, Maine (1894), the grandson of an Italian sailor who changed his name from Pistone when he married an American girl.

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




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