Apr. 5, 2003

Ode to Torpor

by Robert Sward

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Poem: "Ode to Torpor," by Robert Sward from Heavenly Sex (Black Moss Press).

Ode to Torpor

Glory be to God for the tiresome and tedious,
Glory be to God for tedium,
for no news about anything,

for newspaper strikes and power outages,
lethargy and downtime.

Postpone and delay. And again,
              postpone and delay.
No place to go. No way to get there.
No reason not to stay.

Glory be to God for inaction,
for not getting things done,
for not getting anything done,

No huffing', no puffin',
just some of that slow and easy,
the woman lackadaisically on top,
the man lackadaisically on top.

Yummy, yummy, take your time,
yummy, yummy, I'll take mine.

Slow and easy,
slow and easy.
Glory be to God, O glory.

O glory be to God.


Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of Booker T. Washington, born a slave in Franklin County, Virginia (1856). After he was freed by the Civil War, his family went north to work in the salt-mines of West Virginia. He soon learned to read numbers, and he begged his mother for a book, and she somehow got him a copy of Webster's "blue-back" spelling-book from which he taught himself the alphabet. He educated himself, and also went to school, and in June of 1881, Washington was asked to become the principal of a new training school for blacks at Tuskegee, Alabama. The Tuskegee Institute began in a single building with 30 students but through his efforts grew into a modern university. Washington believed that the best interest of black people was to become educated in vocational and industrial skills. In his famous speech given to a racially mixed audience at the Atlanta Exposition in 1895, Washington said: "In all things that are purely social we can be separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress." Among his dozen books is his autobiography, Up from Slavery (1901), which was translated into many languages. He said, "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem," and "You can't hold a man down without staying down with him," and "I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him."

It's the birthday of the American crime and suspense writer Robert Bloch, born in Chicago (1917). He is known for his frightening characterizations of psychopaths. His best known character is Norman Bates from Psycho, which later was adapted into the famous film by Alfred Hitchcock.

It's the birthday of the children's writer and novelist Richard Peck, born in Decatur, IL (1934). He said, "Ironically, it was my students who taught me to be a writer, though I had been hired to teach them. They taught me that a novel must entertain first before it can be anything else. I learned that there is no such thing as a 'grade reading level'; a young person's 'reading level' and attention span will rise and fall according to his degree of interest. I learned that if you do not have a happy ending for the young, you had better do some fast talking." His first novel, Don't Look and It Won't Hurt, was about a teenage pregnancy. He received the Newberry Medal in 2001 for A Year Down Yonder, and the American Library Association's Young Adult Author Achievement Award in 1990.

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




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