Jan. 6, 2003

Sign on a Cabin in the Caribou Hills

by Arlitia Jones

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Poem: "Sign on a Cabin in the Caribou Hills," by Arlitia Jones from The Bandsaw Riots (Bear Star Press).

Sign on a Cabin in the Caribou Hills

This cabin belongs to Eileen Black.
My husband Marvel and I built it
by hand in 1957. Friends
are welcome to use it: Perly and his
gang, Johnny Pete, Mike Klink, Bob Eber-
hard and Bob Jackovik, Diego Ron and
Steve Redmon. George & Maria, Margie
and Marty and the kids if they're along.
Donny Shelikov can come in and
Karl and Tony if he ever comes back.
Ed Greeley, keep out.
                  If you're lost and need a place
to get in, you can spend the night. I left
Sanka and dry goods. Help yourself.
Please clean up. Don't attract bears.
Leave it the way you found it-woodpile
stocked and kindling dry. Remember, close
the door tight and leave it unlocked.

It's the birthday of author and philosopher Alan Watts, born in Chislehurst, England (1915). He was a writer-philosopher who earned a reputation as the foremost interpreter of Eastern philosophy for the West. His most well-known books include The Meaning of Happiness (1940), The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for the Age of Anxiety (1950), and The Way of Zen (1957).

It's the birthday of novelist, critic, and photographer Wright Morris, born in Central City, Nebraska (1910), who is the author of eighteen novels, several collections of short stories, books of criticism, and several memoirs. His novel, Plains Song, won the 1981 American Book Award for Fiction.

It's the birthday of novelist Kathryn Hulme, born in San Francisco, California (1900). After World War Two, Hulme spent six years as deputy director of Wildflecken, a United Nations refugee camp. There she met Marie-Louise Habets, a Belgian nurse who had asked to be released from her vows as a nun in order to fight with the resistance underground against the Nazis. Her experiences were the basis for Hulme's best seller, The Nun's Story (1956), which was made into a highly successful film starring Audrey Hepburn (1959).

It's the birthday of novelist and editor E(dward) L(awrence) Doctorow, born in New York City, New York (1931). He wrote Ragtime (1975), Loon Lake (1980), and Billy Bathgate (1989). He was brought up in the Bronx in what he described as a "lower-middle-class environment of generally enlightened, socialist sensibility." His father had a radio, record, and musical instrument store in Manhattan, which folded during the Depression. He later sold television sets and stereo equipment. After high school, Doctorow went to Kenyon College in Ohio to study poetry, although he has said that he is still not sure how a boy from the Bronx found his way to central Ohio. But it seemed to be a good choice, because there were lots of poets on campus. After college, Doctorow earned his living as an "expert reader" for film and television production companies in New York. He read a book a day, seven days a week, and wrote a twelve-hundred word synopsis/critique of each one, evaluating its potential for the visual media. An informal evaluation of a novel for the editor-in-chief of the New American Library led to a job there in 1959. Doctorow served as a senior editor for the New American Library until 1964, and editor-in-chief of Dial Press from 1964-1969. Doctorow is famous for placing historical figures in unusual, sometimes bizarre situations and settings. His 1975 novel Ragtime won the first National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. "Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing...Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

It's the birthday of journalist, poet, novelist, and biographer Carl Sandburg, born in Galesburg, Illinois (1878). Although he wanted to be a writer from the age of six, Sandburg quit school following his graduation from the eighth grade in 1891 and spent a decade working at a variety of jobs. He delivered milk, harvested ice, laid bricks, threshed wheat in Kansas, and shined shoes in Galesburg's Union Hotel before traveling as a hobo in 1897. Sandburg moved to Chicago and worked for several years as a reporter, covering mostly labor issues. In 1914, he published several poems in Poetry magazine. Two years later, his book Chicago Poems was published and brought him national and international acclaim. He wrote two more volumes, Cornhuskers (1918) and Smoke and Steel (1920). He collected folk songs and in 1927 he brought together nearly 300 songs and ballads in a collection called The American Songbag. In 1922, he published Rootabaga Stories, a book of fanciful children's tales. That prompted Sandburg's publisher to suggest a biography of Abraham Lincoln for children. Sandburg researched and wrote for three years, producing not a children's book, but a two-volume biography for adults. His Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, published in 1926, was his first financial success. He moved to a new home and devoted the next several years to completing four additional volumes, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, for which he won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize.

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