Aug. 14, 2003


by Edwin Morgan

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Poem: "Strawberries," by Edwin Morgan from Collected Poems (Carcanet Press).


There were never strawberries
like the ones we had
that sultry afternoon
sitting on the step
of the open French window
facing each other
your knees held in mine
the blue plates in our laps
the strawberries glistening
in the hot sunlight
we dipped them in sugar
looking at each other
not hurrying the feast
for one to come
the empty plates
laid on the stone together
with the two forks crossed
and I bent towards you
sweet in that air
in my arms
abandoned like a child
from your eager mouth
the taste of strawberries
in my memory
lean back again
let me love you

let the sun beat
on our forgetfulness
one hour of all
the heat intense
and summer lightning
on the Kilpatrick hills

let the storm wash the plates

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of short story writer Alice Adams, born in Fredericksburg, Virginia (1926). She had a difficult relationship with her mother, who was a failed writer. Adams grew up thinking that if she became a writer then maybe her mother would like her. She took a creative writing class in college. Her teacher said she was a very nice girl and she should get married and forget about all this writing. She did get married, and had a child, but the marriage broke up, and she spent several years as a single mother, working as a secretary. Her psychiatrist told her to give up writing and get remarried, but instead she published her first novel, Careless Love (1966), and a few years later she published her first short story in The New Yorker. She wrote many novels but she's best known for her short stories, in collections like After You've Gone (1989) and The Last Lovely City (1999).

It's the birthday of humorist Steve Martin, born in Waco, Texas (1945). He's known as a comedian and actor, but he has also written several plays, including WASP (1995) and Meteor Shower (1997). And in the year 2000 his novel Shopgirl was published. He said, "I believe entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art, you're an idiot."

It's the birthday of the man who wrote the famous baseball poem "Casey at the Bat," Ernest Thayer, born in Lawrence, Massachusetts (1863). He published "Casey at the Bat" in the San Francisco Examiner on June 3, 1888. After he quit writing poems for the Examiner, he never wrote anything else of value. He spent the later part of his life working on a book of philosophy that he never published.

It's the birthday of humorist and newspaper columnist Russell Baker, born in Loudoun County, Virginia (1925). He is the author of many books of essays, including Poor Russell's Almanac (1972), So This Is Depravity (1980), and the memoir Growing Up (1982). After high school, he won a scholarship from Johns Hopkins University. He graduated and got a job for the Baltimore Sun, covering the police beat, and eventually worked his way up to being a White House correspondent. He thought that covering the President of the United States would be exciting, but it turned out to be incredibly boring. He said, "[Most of the job was] sitting in the lobby and listening to the older reporters breathe." Eventually, Baker got a job writing a humor column called "The Observer" for the New York Times. It was one of the first humor columns the New York Times had ever published, and Baker was one of the first writers for the Times to write in casual American English. His last column appeared in the Times on Christmas day in 1998. Russell Baker said, "I've had an unhappy life, thank God."

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