Jun. 3, 2008

Sonnet 64: When I have seen by Time's fell hand defac'd

by William Shakespeare

When I have seen by time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age,
When sometime lofty towers I see down razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage,
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store,
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay,
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That time will come and take my love away.
    This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
    But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

"Sonnet #64" by Shakespeare. Public domain.

It's the birthday of Allen Ginsberg, (books by this author) born in Newark, New Jersey (1926). His father was a schoolteacher and occasional poet. His mother was a Russian immigrant and devoted Marxist. She was in and out of psychiatric institutions all through out his childhood and had to undergo electric shock treatments and a lobotomy. Ginsberg went to Columbia University on a small scholarship and there he began consorting with Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, William Burroughs. After college, he got a job in marketing research, wore a business suit everyday, and had on office on the 52nd floor of the Empire State Building. He says he started writing there, and that there he learned about careful manipulation of words.

He moved to San Francisco and became friends with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who published Ginsburg's first major work, Howl.

By his 30s, he was prematurely bald with a ring of hair on the fringe of his head and thick long black beard streaked with gray. He wore black rimmed classes and his Buddha belly was one of his most distinguishing features.

Ginsburg's reading of Howl was reputed to have "turned the 1950s into the 1960s overnight." It began:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night.

The death of his mother affected Ginsburg deeply and for a long time. He wrote his poem "Kaddish" for her, which began:

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk
     on the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.
downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I've been up all night,
     talking, talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles
     blues shout blind on the phonograph
the rhythm the rhythm — and your memory in my head three years after —

He once said, "There's no bar to us proclaiming our delight and that's the strength of poetry."

It's the birthday of Josephine Baker, a dancer and singer who became one of the most popular music-hall entertainers in France. Time magazine wrote: "Mlle. Baker wore feathers on her rump, bananas dangling from her belt, nothing else. Parisians were raving overnight." Baker said: "I wasn't really naked. ... I simply didn't have any clothes on."

It's the birthday of Larry McMurtry, (books by this author) born in Wichita Falls, Texas (1936). His early novels were set in the Southwest, on the frontier and in small towns. They included Horseman, Pass By (1961), and The Last Picture Show (1966), which were both made into movies. Then 1981, he wrote an essay in The Texas Observer in which he said that "the cowboy myth" had become "an inhibiting, rather than a creative, factor in our literary life," and that "there was really no more that needed to be said about it." The future of Texas literature was urban, he said: "Now what we need is a Balzac, a Dickens." But a few years later he published one of his best books, Lonesome Dove (1985), a historical novel about a cattle drive, and it won a Pulitzer Prize.

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




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