Aug. 10, 2003

The Day

by Joyce Sutphen

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Poem: "The Day," by Joyce Sutphen.

The Day

I like hearing this was the day someone
was born in one of those years not so long
ago and in a city that I lived
in once. I like knowing that on this day
a war ended or a book was published,
and though the author thought the book had failed,
we all know it as one of the great works
of American literature. I like
listening to his voice, how he always
sounds slightly surprised at what he's telling
us, and I like imagining him say:
On this day in nineteen forty-nine, you
were born, and though it took you many years
to do good work and keep in touch, you did.

Literary Notes:

On this day in 1776, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson met to come up with a design for the Great Seal of the United States. They suggested the motto E Pluribus Unum, which means "Out of Many, One," but Congress rejected it at first and took six years to decide they liked it. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin also designed the Fugio coins. They depicted a circle of thirteen interlocking rings encircling the motto, "We are one." On the other side was a sundial and the word Fugio ("I fly"), and the phrase, in English, "Mind your business." During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress issued a three-dollar bill with the motto Exitus in Dubio Est, which translates to "The Outcome Is in Doubt."

On this day in 1912, Virginia Stephen married Leonard Woolf. She was 30, he was 31, and they married at London's St. Pancras Registry Office. They had met a year earlier at the home of Virginia's sister and brother-in-law, Vanessa and Clive Bell, in the London neighborhood of Bloomsbury. Together, the couple founded the Hogarth Press in their dining room. They published Virginia Woolf's novels, and also the works of writers who were then unknown, including Katherine Mansfield, T.S. Eliot, and E.M. Forster.

On this day in 1833, Chicago was incorporated as a village with a population of fewer than 200 people. The novelist Nelson Algren said, "Loving Chicago is like loving a woman with a broken nose." H. L. Mencken said, "I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail." In 1968 Norman Mailer wrote, "…But Chicago is a great American city. Perhaps it is the last of the great American cities."

It's the birthday of one of Brazil's best-loved writers: Jorge Amado, born near Ilhéus, Brazil (1912). He is one of the most widely translated novelists in the world; they called him the "Pele of the written word." His 32 books sold millions of copies in 40 languages. Brazilian hotels, bars and restaurants, as well as brands of whiskey and margarine, were named for characters from his books. He's the author of Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon (1958), Home Is the Sailor (1961), and Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1966).

It's the birthday of poet Joyce Sutphen, born in St. Cloud, Minnesota (1949). She's the author of Straight Out of View (1995), Coming Back to the Body (2000), and Naming the Stars, which comes out this month.

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




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