Sep. 17, 2005

Arts Councils

by Gary Snyder

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Poem: "Arts Councils" by Gary Snyder, from Axe Handles. © Shoemaker & Hoard, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission.

Arts Councils for Jacques Barzaghi

Because there is no art
There are artists

Because there are no artists
We need money

Because there is no money
We give

Because there is no we
There is art

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1787 at the State House in Philadelphia, the U.S. Constitution was completed and signed by a majority of delegates. It was written after fewer than 100 working days, and it began with the Preamble, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

It's the birthday of poet William Carlos Williams, born in Rutherford, New Jersey (1883). He got his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1906. He did graduate work in pediatrics at the University of Leipzig. He settled down in Rutherford in 1910 and opened a medical practice. And while carrying on a busy practice in Rutherford, he became one of the great prolific writers. He's the author of novels, essays and plays, collections of stories, an autobiography, and many, many poems, including his famous epic poem Paterson, which came out in 1946.

It's the birthday of the short story writer Frank O'Connor, born in Cork, Ireland (1903). His birth name was Michael O'Donovan. Frank O'Connor said, "I was intended by God to be a painter, but I was very poor and pencil and paper were the cheapest. Music was out for that reason as well. Literature is the poor man's art."

He fought in the Irish Civil War and was imprisoned. He got a job at a library and started writing stories. He made his name with a short story called "Guests of a Nation," about a group of Irish soldiers who become friends with the British soldiers they are holding hostage, only to learn that those British hostages will be murdered. It came out in 1932.

He wrote many books of fiction, many of them banned in Ireland, so he moved to the United States where he published many of his short stories in the New Yorker magazine. His Collected Stories came out in 1981.

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