Sep. 15, 2002

The Clearing

by Gregory Djanikian

(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "The Clearing," by Gregory Djanikian from The Man in the Middle (Carnegie-Mellon University Press).

The Clearing

          "Poetry is an act of generosity," Don Skiles

And something will happen:
you will stand at the edge of a field

hearing the wind-skirted
leaves of the trees, and you

will try to remember
the woman you almost married,

though her life will spiral
like a hawk away from you,

and you will want her,
as deeply as you'll want

the hawk to settle on your fist,
or the wind to empty

your eyes of grief for all
you've renounced to become

what you now are, but
nothing this day will claim you,

neither hawk, nor wind, nor lover,
and you'll sense how your past

has seduced you through the years
to this field, this reckoning,

to, finally, this poem
which you will write by learning

what matters is not the words
but the unlabored

breath through which
they're spoken and given up,

like hawks, or lovers
or this life you keep on revising.

It's the birthday of Robert Charles Benchley, born in Worcester, Massachusetts (1889). He was a drama critic, humorist, and film actor. He said, "It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous."

It's the birthday of the baseball player and author Gaylord Perry, born in Williamston, North Carolina (1938). He co-wrote Me and the Spitter: An Autobiographical Confession. He also was the only pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in both the National and American leagues.

It's the birthday of the country fiddler, vocalist, and songwriter, Roy Acuff, born in Maynardsville, Tennessee (1903).

It's the birthday of the mystery novelist Agatha Christie, born in Torquay, Devon, England (1890). She had originally planned on being an opera singer, but when she began to study singing seriously, she found that her acute shyness got in the way. So she began writing mystery on a dare from her sister, while she was volunteering as a nurse and pharmacist in World War I. After receiving popularity with her first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, she began producing book after book. She called herself an "incredible sausage machine," who "specializes in murders of quiet, domestic interest." She wrote a total of 60 detective novels, whose plots she often thought up in the bathtub. Her famous detective character, Hercule Poirot, says in the novel A Mysterious Affair at Styles, "Every murderer is probably somebody's old friend." In another story he claims, "crime is terribly revealing. Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed through your actions."

It's the birthday of novelist and social critic James Fenimore Cooper, born in Burlington, New Jersey in 1789. He grew up in a mansion on the shore of Otsego Lake, on the edge of the frontier wilderness. He entered Yale at age 13 and was the best Latin scholar in his class. But, he was expelled in his third year for exploding gunpowder in the lock of his tutor's door. His father got him a job as an apprentice seaman and he ended up on a transatlantic voyage that would provide him with many tales of the sea. Later, he was reading to his wife from a dull English novel, and claimed he could do a better job. She challenged him to, and he produced his first novel, Precaution. He created the nature-loving character of Natty Bumppo, and began his five popular Leatherstocking Tales, including The Last of the Mohicans.

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