Oct. 8, 2008

Adding It Up

by Philip Booth

My mind's eye opens before
the light gets up. I
lie awake in the small dark,
figuring payments, or how
to scrape paint; I count
rich women I didn't marry.
I measure bicycle miles
I pedaled last Thursday
to take off weight; I give some
passing thought to the point
that if I hadn't turned poet
I might well be some other
sort of accountant. Before
the sun reports its own weather
my mind is openly at it:
I chart my annual rainfall.
or how I'll plant seed if
I live to be fifty. I look up
words like "bilateral symmetry"
in my mind's dictionary; I consider
the bivalve mollusc, re-pick
last summer's mussels on Condon Point,
preview the next red tide, and
hold my breath: I listen hard
to how my heart valves are doing.
I try not to get going
too early: bladder permitting,
I mean to stay in bed until six;
I think in spirals, building
horizon pyramids, yielding to
no man's flag but my own.
I think of Saul Steinberg:
I play touch football on one leg,
I seesaw on the old cliff, trying
to balance things out: job,
wife, children, myself.
My mind's eye opens before
my body is ready for its
first duty: cleaning up after
an old-maid Basset in heat.
That, too, I inventory:
the Puritan strain will out,
even at six a.m.; sun or no sun,
I'm Puritan to the bone, down to
the marrow and then some:
if I'm not sorry I worry,
if I can't worry I count.

"Adding It Up" by Philip Booth from Lifelines: Selected Poems 1950-1999. © Viking Penguin, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the American poet Philip Booth, (books by this author) born in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1925.

It's the birthday of the science fiction writer Frank Herbert, (books by this author) born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1920. He was a photographer during WWII. He went to the University of Washington, but he didn't graduate because he only wanted to study what interested him, so he refused to take the required courses for a major. He worked at newspapers and magazines, and he published his first book, The Dragon in the Sea (1955), an ecological science fiction novel.

Then he got asked to write a feature article about an ecological project: a government-sponsored project to halt the spread of sand dunes on the Oregon coast. Herbert was so fascinated by this topic that he ended up with way too much material and never wrote the article. But he kept researching for six years, and then he wrote a novel that got rejected by 23 publishers. But finally it was accepted by Chilton, a minor publishing house in Philadelphia known mainly for its auto-repair manuals, and Dune was published in 1965. It's a science fiction novel about a desert planet, but also about ecology, politics, and religion. Dune has sold more than 12 million copies.

It's the birthday of R. L. Stine, (books by this author) born Robert Lawrence Stine in 1943 in Bexley, Ohio. He worked at a trade publication for the soft drink industry, and then at Scholastic, a children's literature publisher, where he edited their humor magazine. His first teen horror novel was called Blind Date (1986), and both R.L. Stine and Scholastic were shocked when it became a huge best-seller. So he wrote a whole series, called Fear Street, which debuted in 1989. It was the first modern series that appealed equally to boys and girls. It was so successful that he decided to write a series for younger kids, with less violence, less realism, and more monsters. That became the Goosebumps series.

R. L. Stine said, "I've met a few horror writers and movie directors, and they seem to be shy, quiet, normal people. I think the one thing they have in common is a good sense of humor — because there's a very close tie between humor and horror."

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




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