May 21, 2002

Night Rain

by Ann Stanford

TUESDAY, 21 MAY 2002
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Poem: "Night Rain," by Ann Stanford from Holding Our Own (Copper Canyon Press).

Night Rain

I wake with the rain.
It has surprised me.
First, delight,
Then I think of outdoors:
The shovels and rakes I left in the garden
Rusting now in the mist,
The splintering of handles.
I think of car windows open
Canvas cots, trash cans
The hay uncovered

Well, they are out.
And the animals -
The cat, he is gone
The dog is the neighbor's
The horses have a tin roof
If they will stay under it.
And the wild things are there -
Birds, wet in the trees,
Deer in the brush, rabbits in hiding.
The leaves will all be washed
The wild lilacs, the walnuts.

I am sleepy and warm
I dream of the great horned owl
Snatching birds like plums out of trees.

It's the birthday of novelist Janet Dailey, born in Storm Lake, Iowa (1944). At the age of thirty, Dailey and her husband sold their construction company and set off to see America in a trailer. In her free time, Dailey read romance novels, and soon remarked to her husband that she thought she could write one herself. With her husband's encouragement, that's just what she did. Six months later, her first book became a Harlequin romance. To her great surprise, No Quarter Asked (1976) sold more than one million copies. Her husband also came up with the idea of setting a book in each one of the fifty states, an accomplishment that put his wife in the Guinness Book of World Records.

It's the birthday of poet, novelist, editor, and teacher Robert Creeley, born in Arlington, Massachusetts (1926), whose poetry has been compared to improvisational jazz and abstract painting. In 1954, Charles Olson, then rector of the arts school, Black Mountain College, asked Creeley to edit the Black Mountain Review. Creeley later joined the faculty at the North Carolina school, and became one of the originators of the "Black Mountain" school of poetry.

It's the birthday of novelist Harold Robbins, born in New York City, New York (1916). Robbins once boasted that he never rewrote anything and never figured out his plots in advance. He said, "I start with people, and then I find out what the plot is about." He eventually sold seven hundred fifty million copies of his more than twenty books, including The Carpetbaggers (1961), The Betsy (1971), Dreams Die First (1977), and Tycoon (1997).

It's the birthday of composer, pianist, organist, and bandleader Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller, born in New York City, New York (1904), who learned to play the organ in his father's church. In 1921, Waller cut his first piano rolls and made a living playing at rent parties, movie houses, and vaudeville theaters. Waller wrote the score for the Broadway musical Hot Chocolates (1929), which contained Waller's most famous song, "Ain't Misbehavin'", performed in the show by Louis Armstrong.

"Ain't Misbehavin'" by Fats Waller

No one to walk with, all by myself.
No one to talk with, but I'm happy on the shelf.
Ain't misbehavin', I'm savin' my love for you.

I know for certain the one I love.
I'm through with flirtin', it's you I'm thinking of.
Ain't misbehavin', I'm savin' my love for you.

Like Jack Horner in the corner, don't go nowhere. What do I care?
Your kisses are worth waitin' for, believe me.
I don't stay out late, don't care to go.
I'm home about eight, just me and my radio.
Ain't misbehavin', I'm savin' my love for you.

It's the birthday of artist Henri Rousseau, born in Laval, France (1844), who painted stylized, fantastical images that he always believed were realistic and convincing. As a tax collector in a Paris office, Rousseau began painting as a hobby. One of his most famous paintings, The Dream, was done in 1910, shortly before his death. In the painting, a young nude woman reclines on a plush-red sofa in the middle of a jungle complete with huge flowers, two lions, and an elephant.

It's the birthday of poet, essayist, and critic Alexander Pope, born in London, England (1688). He was seriously ill throughout his life; a spinal disease left him with a hunchback and a full-grown height of four feet six inches. Despite his handicaps, and the fact that he was mainly self-educated, Pope published his first major work at the age of twenty-three. It was An Essay on Criticism (1711), a long poem on the art of writing that contains such now well-known epigrams as "A little learning is a dangerous thing"; "To err is human, to forgive, divine"; and "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." One of Pope's greatest achievements was his translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey into English.

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




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