Mar. 24, 2005

Ice Storm

by Jane Kenyon

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Poem: "Ice Storm" by Jane Kenyon, from Otherwise: New and Selected Poems. © Graywolf Press. Reprinted with permission.

Ice Storm

For the hemlocks and broad-leafed evergreens
a beautiful and precarious state of being…
Here in the suburbs of New Haven
nature, unrestrained, lops the weaker limbs
of shrubs and trees with a sense of aesthetics
that is practical and sinister…

I am a guest in this house.
On the bedside table Good Housekeeping, and
A Nietzsche Reader… The others are still asleep.
The most painful longing comes over me.
A longing not of the body…

It could be for beauty—
I mean what Keats was panting after,
for which I love and honor him;
it could be for the promises of God;
or for oblivion, nada; or some condition even more
extreme, which I intuit, but can't quite name.

Literary and Historical Notes:

On this day in Memphis, in 1958, at about 6:30 in the morning, Elvis Presley arrived at the draft board on South Main Street in to be inducted into the army. He arrived wearing dark blue trousers, a gray and white checked sports jacket, a striped shirt, and pink and black socks. He said, "Millions of other guys have been drafted, and I don't want to be different from anyone else."

It was on this day in 1955 Tennessee Williams' play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opened at the Morosco Theater in New York. It starred Barbara Bel Geddes as Margaret, Ben Gazzara as Brick, and Burl Ives as Big Daddy.

It's the birthday of playwright and actor Dario Fo, born in San Giano, Lombardy, Italy (1926). He's the author of irreverent, anarchic, satiric plays—more than 70 of them—including Accidental Death of an Anarchist (1970), We Can't Pay? We Won't Pay! (1974), and One Was Nude and One Wore Tails (1985). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997.

It's the birthday of poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti born in Yonkers, New York (1919). In World War Two he was the commanding officer of a submarine chaser at the D-Day invasion. He moved to San Francisco in 1951, and, along with Peter Martin, founded the City Lights Pocket Book Shop, the first paperback bookstore in the country. The store became a center for the Beat movement, and published Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl," for which Ferlinghetti was sued for indecency. His book A Coney Island of the Mind is the largest-selling book by a living American poet.

It's the birthday of the English playwright Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, born in London (1855). He's best known for his comic look at Victorian theater, Trelawney of the Wells (1898).

It's the birthday of poet and craftsman William Morris, born in Walthamstow, north of London (1834). Along with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other artists, he helped to form the Pre-Raphaelite movement, based on a love of all things gothic. His poems were often written in a medieval style. His turned his interest to crafts, and co-founded a design firm that produced wallpaper and stained glass and furniture—particularly the Morris chair, with its removable cushions and adjustable back.

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