Aug. 11, 2003


by Wendy Cope

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Poem: "Flowers," by Wendy Cope from Serious Concerns (Faber and Faber).


Some men never think of it.
You did. You'd come along
And say you'd nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts-
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of short story writer Andre Dubus, born in Lake Charles, Louisiana (1936). He wrote stories about bartenders, mechanics and waitresses in collections such as The Cage Keeper and Other Stories (1989) and Dancing after Hours (1996). He grew up Catholic in a Cajun community. Throughout his childhood, he constantly had to prove his manhood to his father. He joined the United States Marines when he was 19, and didn't leave the service until his father died about ten years later. He immediately began to write and publish fiction. Andre Dubus said, "We don't have to live great lives, we just have to understand and survive the ones we've got."

It's the birthday of poet Louise Bogan, born in Livermore Falls, Maine (1897). She wrote many books of poetry, including The Blue Estuaries: Poems 1923-1968 (1968). Her father was a paper mills clerk, and her mother was so frustrated in her marriage that she had numerous affairs. The family moved all the time, and Bogan grew up in a series of rooming houses. Her parents wanted her to go to college at Radcliffe, but instead she married a soldier when she was 19 and never went to school again. After her marriage broke up, she moved to Greenwich Village in New York City, and began publishing poems in magazines. She got involved in a circle of bohemians, and occasionally drove a get-away car for a man who stole fur coats for a living. When she became friends with the literary critic Edmund Wilson, he was so impressed by her ideas about poetry that he locked her in a room and forced her to write her first critical essay. She became the poetry critic for The New Yorker magazine and worked there for the rest of her life. Louise Bogan said, "Surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy."

It's the birthday of the Scottish poet who wrote under the name Hugh MacDiarmid. He was born Christopher Murray Grieve, in Langholm, Scotland (1892). He started out writing poetry in English, but he felt there was something wrong with it. Then, one day, he tried writing poetry in the Scottish dialect that he had spoken when he was a child. Writing in dialect freed him from the restraint he felt when writing in English. At the time, the literary establishment looked down on people writing in Scottish dialect, so Grieve published his poetry under the name Hugh MacDiarmid. His masterpiece was A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926), a book-length poem about Scotland from the point of view of a man who has drunk way too much whiskey. MacDiarmid wrote in Scottish for several years, but eventually gave it up and wrote in English for the rest of his life.

It's the birthday of British short story writer and novelist Angus Wilson, born in Bexhill, Sussex, England (1913). His first two short story collections, The Wrong Set (1949), and Such Darling Dodos (1950), were so successful that he was able quit his job at the museum and write for a living, though for the rest of his life he tried only to write fiction during the weekend. Angus Wilson said, "The opportunities for heroism are limited in this kind of world: the most people can do is sometimes not to be as weak as they've been at other times."

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