Oct. 7, 2005


by Sheri Hostetler

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Poem: "Instructions" by Sheri Hostetler, from the anthology A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry © Reprinted with permission of the author.


Give up the world; give up self; finally, give up God.
Find god in rhododendrons and rocks,
passers-by, your cat.
Pare your beliefs, your absolutes.
Make it simple; make it clean.
No carry-on luggage allowed.
Examine all you have
with a loving and critical eye, then
throw away some more.
Repeat. Repeat.
Keep this and only this:
   what your heart beats loudly for
   what feels heavy and full in your gut.
There will only be one or two
things you will keep,
and they will fit lightly
in your pocket.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Desmond Tutu, born in Klerksdorp, South Africa (1931). He was elected the first black archbishop of Cape Town and the head of the Anglican Church in South Africa.

It was Desmond Tutu who said, "When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land."

It's the birthday of the novelist Thomas M. Keneally, born in Sydney Australia (1935). He's the author of Schindler's Ark. It came out in 1982, and it became the movie Schindler's List.

It was on this day in 1955 in San Francisco at the Six Gallery, the poet Allen Ginsberg read his poem "Howl" for the first time. The poem begins, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness." His friend Jack Kerouac sat on the edge of the stage and when Ginsberg was done, the audience exploded in applause.

When Lawrence Ferlinghetti published the poem "Howl" out of his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, he was arrested and tried for obscenity, but he was found not guilty.

It's the birthday of the poet and playwright Amiri Baraka, born LeRoi Jones in Newark (1934), whose collection of poems Funk Lore came out in 1996. Amiri Baraka said, "A man is either free or he is not. There cannot be any apprenticeship for freedom."

It's the birthday of the poet and essayist Diane Ackerman, born Diane Fink in Waukegan, Illinois (1948). She wrote her first book of poems, The Planets, entirely about astronomy. It came out in 1976. She became a journalist as well. She wrote essays about animals. She's best known for her book A Natural History of the Senses, a collection of essays about her own experiences of sight and sound, smell, touch and taste.

Diane Ackerman said, "I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well."

It's the birthday of the poet and novelist Sherman Alexie, born near Spokane, Washington (1966) on an Indian reservation. His first big success was his collection of short stories The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. It was one of the first works of fiction to portray Indians as Americans who watch all the same TV programs as everybody else and eat the same breakfast cereal.

Sherman Alexie said, "All too often Indian writers write about the kind of Indian they wish they were. So I try to write about the kind of Indian I am. I'm just as much a product of The Brady Bunch as I am of my grandmother."

It's the birthday of the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, born in Paris (1955). He made his debut at Carnegie Hall at the age of nine.

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




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