Jan. 28, 2002

March 6

by David Lehman

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Poem: "March 6," by David Lehman from The Daily Mirror: A Journal in Poetry (Scribner Poetry).

March 6

I love sitting in bars in the Village
where the guy next to me says I love jazz
because Jews wrote the songs and blacks
sing them this time it's Ernie Andrews
and "Our Love Is Here to Stay" outside
it hasn't stopped raining, which makes
me want to dance like Gene Kelly (who
died last month) with Leslie Caron singing
the same song in An American in Paris
when I was an American in Paris
myself walking under the green lime trees
what a small city I could walk all the way
from Deux Magots to La Coupole and from
there to the Cite Universitaire at night
or in the morning with the workmen in blue
uniforms on the street the smell of
an omelette glass of red wine, and love
was easy an afternoon nap after the most
delicious charcuterie picnic the honking
horns orchestrated by Gershwin

It's the birthday of novelist and critic David Lodge, born in London, England (1935), who began writing his first novel while he was in the British Royal Armoured Corps. The Picturegoers, published in 1960, was the first of many of his books to feature the struggles of Catholic characters to reconcile their religion to their modern lives. Most of his books, including The British Museum is Falling Down (1965), Changing Places (1975), and Therapy (1995) are also highly satirical, and are often set in the rarified atmosphere of academia, based on Lodge's own experiences as a university professor. Lodge has also had a successful career as a literary critic, with works including The Modes of Modern Writing (1977), The Art of Fiction (1992), and The Practice of Writing (1996).

It's the birthday of artist and sculptor Claes (Thure) Oldenburg, born in Stockholm, Sweden (1929). Oldenburg is best known for taking objects that are normally made of rigid materials, such as metals or hard plastic, and turning them into flexible, floppy forms. His gigantic soft sculptures include hamburgers, ice cream cones, drainpipes, car engines, toilets, and typewriters. He has also created large-scale sculptures in steel, including a giant clothespin, a huge three-way electric plug, an immense pink rubber stamp, and a forty thousand pound, one-hundred-and-one foot tall baseball bat.

It's the birthday of painter (Paul) Jackson Pollock, born in Cody, Wyoming (1912), who, because of his unique painting style, earned the nickname "Jack the Dripper." By 1943, his work was beginning to be noticed by critics. His style was dubbed "abstract expressionism"; his method was to make his paintings by tacking a large canvas to the floor and then pouring the paint directly from the can or using a stick to drip and splash paint on the canvas. He sometimes added shells, coins, or wires to the canvas. The early 1950s were incredibly prolific years for him, although he drank heavily through most of them. In 1956, at the age of forty-four, he killed himself and a passenger while driving drunk in East Hampton, New York. An exhibition of his work had already been planned for that fall at the Museum of Modern Art. It became, instead, a memorial to him. During Pollack's lifetime, his highest-selling work had gone for fifteen hundred dollars. Shortly after his death, that same painting sold for more than two million dollars.

It's the birthday of musician Arthur Rubinstein, born in Lodz, Poland (1887), who was one of the most popular pianists who ever lived and who sold more than ten million copies of his recordings. He also had one of the longest musical careers in history, lasting more than eighty-five years. Rubinstein started playing piano at the age of three, made his public debut at the age of four, and didn't stop playing until he was almost ninety years old. Arthur Rubinstein, who said: "What good are vitamins? Eat a lobster, eat a pound of caviar - live! If you are in love with a beautiful blond with an empty face and no brains at all, don't be afraid. Marry her! Live!"

It's the birthday of novelist (Sidonie-Gabrielle) Colette, born in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, France (1873). In the 1920s, she produced some of her best work, including Cheri, and The Last of Cheri, both of which deal with an adolescent's affair with an aging courtesan. Her most famous work is her 1944 book, Gigi, which was made into a highly successful film by Vincent Minnelli in 1958. Colette, who said: "Dogs believe they are human. Cats believe they are God," and "You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm."

It's the birthday of writer Sabine Baring-Gould, born in Exeter, England (1834). A vicar who was also a prolific writer, Baring-Gould produced religious homilies, novels, poems, and books on a wide range of subjects. Some of his works include Legendary Lives of Old Testament Characters (1871), Iceland: Its Scenes and Sagas (1862), The Book of Were-Wolves (1865), and A Book of Ghosts (1904). He is most famous, however, for writing the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers." He said about it, "It was written in great haste, and I am afraid some of the rhymes are faulty. Certainly nothing has surprised me more than its popularity."

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




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