Apr. 28, 2003

Keep It Low

by Betty Szold Krainis

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Poem: "Keep It Low," by Betty Szold Krainis from A Baseball Bat and a Book of Poems (Ti-Jean Press).

Keep It Low

Betty Krainis is my name.
Table tennis is my game.

And if this game you want to win
What you need most is -- discipline,
That plus top and bottom spin.

The fact is --
It takes practice.

Yet though I practice all the time,
My bottom spin's not worth a dime.

What saves me is I'm ever ready.
Hence the nickname Steady Betty.

No matter what your age or sex is
The game requires swift reflexes.

The surest way to waste your foe
Is CONCENTRATE -- and keep it low.

Watch the ball. Don't get tense,
Forgo your slam, use strong defense.

Change your pace, wear lucky clothes,
Move about, stay on your toes.

Forget the score -- but don't forget
To get the ball across the net.

And if your forehand's not so fine,
Serve to the middle or down the line.

The way to banish nerve attacks?
Inhale deeply, then relax.

Some folks choose to die in Venice.
My living will is table tennis.

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist Harper Lee, born Nelle Harper in Monroeville, Alabama (1926). She is famous for her novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), in which she used her hometown as the model for the fictional town of Maycomb. The novel tells the story of a girl named Scout, whose father is a lawyer defending a black man in court. At one point he says to his daughter, "As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it -- whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash." The novel won the Pulitzer Prize. She wrote, "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." She grew up wanting to be a lawyer, like her father, and spent her free time hanging around the courthouse and playing golf. One of her childhood friends was Truman Capote. In 1959 Capote asked her to come with him to Holcombe, Kansas, to help him research the murder of the Clutter family for his novel In Cold Blood (1966). He asked her partially because she was so good at getting people to talk, and partially because she was taller and tougher than he was. It was a good thing, because the townspeople loved her, and they thought he was pretty odd.

It's the birthday of one of the founders of photojournalism, Erich Salomon, born in Berlin, Germany (1886). Photography was his hobby, and he bought one of the first cameras with a high-speed lens, which could take pictures in dim light. He hid the camera in an attaché case and photographed famous people at parties without their knowing it. As a result, his pictures seemed unusually relaxed and unposed, in comparison to those of other photographers of his time. The pictures were wildly popular and published in magazines around Europe. A writer for the London Graphic, referring to Salomon, coined the phrase "candid camera."

It's the birthday of novelist Lois Duncan born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1934). She's the author of suspense novels for young adults such as I Know What You Did Last Summer (1973) and Killing Mr. Griffin (1978).

It was on this day in 1789 that a group of sailors mutinied on the British ship called the Bounty. The event inspired the novel Mutiny on the Bounty (1932) by Charles Nordhoff and James Hall, which is one of the most popular historical novels of all time.


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