Apr. 10, 2007

Love We Must Part

by Philip Larkin

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Poem: "Love We Must Part" by Philip Larkin from Collected Poems: Philip Larkin. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Love We Must Part

Love, we must part now: do not let it be
Calamitous and bitter. In the past
There has been too much moonlight and self-pity:
Let us have done with it: for now at last
Never has sun more boldly paced the sky,
Never were hearts more eager to be free,
To kick down worlds, lash forests; you and I
No longer hold them; we are husks, that see
The grain going forward to a different use.

There is regret. Always, there is regret.
But it is better that our lives unloose,
As two tall ships, wind-mastered, wet with light,
Break from an estuary with their courses set,
And waving part, and waving drop from sight.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Joseph Pulitzer, (books by this author) born in Budapest, Hungary (1847). He moved to the United States as a young man, served in the Civil War, and then moved to Saint Louis, where he got into journalism. He eventually moved to New York City and bought the New York World newspaper. Upon taking that paper over, he said, "There is room in this great and growing city for a journal that is not only cheap but bright, not only bright but large, not only large but truly democratic ... that will expose all fraud and sham; fight all public evils and abuses; that will serve and battle for the people with earnest sincerity." With his profits he endowed the Columbia School of Journalism as well as the annual Pulitzer prizes for journalism, literature, drama, music.

It's the birthday of Lewis (Lew) Wallace, (books by this author) born in Crawfordsville, Indiana (1827). After serving as a general in the Civil War, he wrote a novel, Ben Hur: A Tale of Christ (1880). Some critics have credited the popularity of Ben Hur with breaking through rural America's moral opposition to the novel as a literary form, creating a far larger audience for future writers. For decades, it was outsold by only the Bible.

It was on this day in 1912 that the RMS Titanic departed Southampton, England, on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic. It was supposed to arrive in New York City on April 15th. The sinking of the Titanic was one of the worst maritime disasters in history, and it has been a great inspiration to artists of all kinds. The disaster has been the subject of more than 100 books and at least a dozen movies. More than 500 songs were written about the disaster, most famously "It Was Sad When That Great Ship Went Down," performed by Pop Stoneman, with the lines, "Oh they threw the lifeboats out o'er the dark and stormy sea / The band struck up with 'Nearer My God to Thee' / Children wept and cried as the water rushed through the side / It was sad when that great ship went down."

It's the birthday of the short-story writer and poet Stuart Dybek, (books by this author) born in Chicago, Illinois (1942). He grew up in a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago that had originally been a Polish and Czech neighborhood, but which was slowly filling up with Latino immigrants as well. Dybek's father came from a Polish family, and his mother came from a Mexican family.

Dybek was the first member of his family to go to college, and he went into social work, and then became a teacher. He eventually took a job teaching in the Virgin Islands, as far from Chicago as he'd ever been. But more and more, he found that he wanted to write, so he finally applied to the Iowa Writers' Workshop and got in. And one day, he read about some Hungarian composers who had drawn on gypsy music in their compositions. He checked some of their records out of the library, and as soon as he started listening to the music, he was mysteriously flooded with memories of his childhood in Chicago. He said it was like falling into a trance, and it was in that trance that he wrote most of the stories that became his first story collection, Childhood and Other Neighborhoods (1980). Dybek has since published two more collections of stories: The Coast of Chicago (1980) and I Sailed with Magellan (2003).

It's the birthday of novelist and essayist Anne Lamott, (books by this author) born in San Francisco, California (1954). Her first big success was her memoir Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year (1993), which she wrote about her first year as a single mother. She's since written several other books of nonfiction: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994), Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (1999), Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (2005), and Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith.

It's the birthday of novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux, (books by this author) born in Medford, Massachusetts (1941). After college he decided to join the Peace Corps in 1963, and went to live in East Africa. He was expelled from Malawi after he became friends with a group that planned to assassinate the president of the country. He continued traveling around Africa, teaching English, and started submitting journalism to magazines back in the United States. While living in Africa, he became friends with the writer V.S. Naipaul, who became his mentor and who encouraged him to keep traveling. He did keep traveling and had published several novels when he decided to go on a four-month trip through Asia by train. He wrote every day on the journey and filled four thick notebooks with material that eventually became his first best-seller, The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia (1975).

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