Nov. 15, 2008

The Fields

by W. S. Merwin

Saturday on Seventh Street
full-waisted gray-haired women in Sunday sweaters
moving through the tan shades of their booths
bend over cakes they baked at home
they gaze down onto the sleep of stuffed cabbages
they stir with huge spoons sauerkraut and potato dumplings
cooked as those dishes were cooked on deep
misty plains among the sounds of horses
beside fields of black earth on the other side of the globe
that only the oldest think they remember
looking down from their windows into the world
where everybody is now

none of the young has yet wept at the smell
of cabbages
those leaves all face
none of the young after long journeys
weeks in vessels
and staring at strange coasts through fog in first light
has been recognized by the steam of sauerkraut
that is older than anyone living
so on the street they play the music
of what they do not remember
they sing of places they have not known
they dance in new costumes under the windows
in the smell of cabbages from fields
nobody has seen

"The Fields" by W.S. Merwin from Migration: New & Selected Poems. © Copper Canyon Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of writer and radio commentator Daniel Pinkwater, (books by this author) born in Memphis, Tennessee (1941). He grew up in Los Angeles. One day he went into an art supply store there and was so fascinated that he decided to become an artist.

He went to college, then moved to New York City and tried to make it as an artist. He had a few solo exhibits and taught workshops around New York City and New Jersey.

He also went to Africa, where he became part of a tribal artists' cooperative. When he returned, he met a children's book editor who was looking for someone to illustrate a book based on African folktales. She asked him if he would like to do the illustrations, and then after visiting his studio, she suggested that he ought to write and illustrate his own children's book. He did, and the result was The Terrible Roar (1970), which he wrote under the name Manus Pinkwater. He said, "I knew at once that I had found my calling."

His other books include The Big Orange Splot (1977), The Hoboken Chicken Emergency (1977), The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death (1982), The Lunchroom of Doom (2001), Fat Camp Commandos Go West (2003), and his latest, The Yggyssey (2008).

He once wrote the following description of himself: "Very fat. Medium height. Mostly bald. Likes television. Has owned several French automobiles, for which parts were seldom available. Likes sausage. Lives on a farm. Has a wife. Votes for fictional characters in elections. Finally quit smoking. Likes to write for kids because they are a more respectable audience than adults. Hates his own books. Expects to do better in the future."

It's the birthday of American poet Ted Berrigan, (books by this author) born in Providence, Rhode Island (1934). He served in the Korean War, went to college at the University of Tulsa, and then went to live on the Lower East Side of New York City. He made money by writing papers for students at Columbia.

Berrigan started work on his innovative collection of 14-line poems called The Sonnets the next year. He wrote the first six sonnets in one night, and then he wrote two or three per day for about three months. Some of the sonnets were made from lines of poems he or his friends had already written, some were translations of poems, some were completely new. The Sonnets was published in 1964, and it was a big success.

He went on to teach and write poetry for 30 years, until his death in 1983, at the age of 48.

In "Last Poem," he wrote:

[…] The end
Came quickly & completely without pain, one quiet night as I
Was sitting, writing, next to you in bed, words chosen randomly
From a tired brain, it like them, suitable, & fitting.
Let none regret my end who called me friend.

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




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