May 3, 2009

In Blackwater Woods

by Mary Oliver

The text of this poem is no longer available.

"In Blackwater Woods" by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive. © Back Bay Books, 1983. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of May Sarton, (books by this author) born in Wondelgem, Belgium (1912). She's the author of 17 collections of poetry, 19 novels, 11 journals, and two children's books. But she liked poetry the most. She said, "If I were in solitary confinement, I'd never write another novel, and probably not keep a journal, but I'd write poetry, because poems, you see, are between God and me."

She started publishing as a teenager and she published prolifically for six decades. After she had a stroke in her mid-70s, she dictated the journals of her 79th, 80th, and 82nd years into a tape recorder, all of which were published. She spent the last part of her life in her seaside house in York, Maine, and died in 1995.

She said, "One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being."

It's the birthday of philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, (books by this author) born in Florence (1469). He was a statesman and ambassador, but the regime he worked for was overthrown, and in 1513 he was accused of conspiring against the government. He was thrown into prison and tortured. When the government finally released him, he went into exile and wrote The Prince (1532). In The Prince,he described how an ideal ruler should accept that he lives in an immoral world and use whatever means he can to secure order. He wrote, "Since it is difficult to join them together, it is safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking."

And, "The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous."

It's the birthday of folk singer Pete Seeger, born in New York City (1919). His mother was a violinist and his father was a musicologist. As a teenager, he rebelled against his parents' love of music and decided he wanted to be a painter. But the first time he heard the sound of a banjo at the Folk Song and Dance Festival in Asheville, North Carolina, he fell in love with folk music. He dropped out of Harvard and rode the rails across America in the middle of the Great Depression, picking up folk songs and learning banjo techniques from farmers, workers, and mountaineers. He wrote:

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

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




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