Feb. 4, 2003

The Lover Writes a One-Word Poem

by Gavin Ewart

The Black Box

by Gavin Ewart

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Poem: "The Black Box," by Gavin Ewart from Collected Poems: 1980-1990 (New Directions) and "The Lover Writes a One-Word Poem," from The Funny Side (Faber and Faber).

The Black Box

As well as these poor poems
I am writing some wonderful ones
They are all being filed separately,
nobody sees them.

When I die they will be buried
in a big black tin box
In fifty years' time
they must be dug up,

for so my will provides.
This is to confound the critics
and teach everybody
a valuable lesson.


The Lover Writes a One-Word Poem


It's the birthday of Stewart O'Nan, born in Pittsburgh (1961). He worked for several years as an aeronautical engineer for Grumman, testing space shuttle parts, and wrote short stories and novels in his off-hours. He's a very productive writer. He's written about Vietnam veterans (The Name of the Dead), about a prisoner on death row who wants to sell her story to Stephen King (The Speed Queen), and about a plague of diphtheria in 19th century Wisconsin (A Prayer for the Dying). He said, "I have a short attention span. I'm interested in all these different people. It's like when you see someone on the street, [and] you want to follow them home."

It's the birthday of Robert Coover, born in Charles City, Iowa (1932). He is best known for his novel The Universal Baseball Association Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.,(1968) a book about a man who plays elaborate fantasy baseball games with made-up players and dice and tables of statistics.

It's the birthday of Betty Friedan, born in Peoria, Illinois (1921). She's best known for her 1963 study The Feminine Mystique, the call-to-arms of the women's liberation movement.

It's the birthday of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, born in Breslau, Prussia (1906). His family was not religious, and when Bonhoeffer decided to become a clergyman, his brothers and sisters were astonished. When Hitler rose to power and Germany headed into war, he took advantage of an offer to teach in the United States. After a month, he announced that he was compelled to return to Germany. "I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America," he said. "I shall have no right to take part in the restoration of Christian life in Germany after the war unless I share the trials of this time with my people." He had been a pacifist, but he joined a conspiracy of military officers who had vowed to assassinate Hitler. He was quickly arrested, and he spent the rest of the war in prison. Days before the Allied invasion, he was court-martialed and hanged at midnight.

It's the birthday of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, born in Detroit, Michigan (1902). He flew solo over the Atlantic on May 21, 1927. He felt foolish when he landed in France and discovered how much fuel he had left over.

It's the birthday of Gavin Ewart, born in London (1916). He was a comet on the British poetry scene in the thirties. He published a collection called Poems and Songs in 1939. After that he fell silent; he served in the Royal Artillery for the duration of the Second World War, came home, worked as an advertising copywriter for twenty years, and published nothing. Then, in 1964, he came out with a collection called Londoners, and continued to publish light verse until his death in 1995. He wrote off-color limericks, clerihews, and other short poems along the lines of "Variation on a Theme of William Blake": "Some girls long to influence men's hearts/ but others concentrate on other equally private parts." He wrote a poem that consisted of one word entitled "The Lover Writes a One-Word Poem." The word? You.

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