Sep. 16, 2009

Particle Physics

by Julie Kane

They say two photons fired through a slit
stay paired together to the end of time;
if one is polarized to change its spin,
the other does a U-turn on a dime,
although they fly apart at speeds of light
and never cross each other's paths again,
like us, a couple in the seventies,
divorced for almost thirty years since then.
Tonight a Red Sox batter homered twice
to beat the Yankees in their playoff match,
and, sure as I was born in Boston, when
that second ball deflected off the bat,
I knew your thoughts were flying back to me,
though your location was a mystery.

"Particle Physics" by Julie Kane from Jazzy Funeral. © Story Line Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission. Information about the WCU Poetry Center.
(buy now)
(buy now)

It's the birthday of the poet Alfred Noyes, (books by this author) born in Wolverhampton, England, in 1880. His most famous poem was "The Highwayman," written in 1906, which most schoolchildren of the 1930s and 1940s were required to memorize.
It begins:
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding —
           Riding — riding —
            The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

It's the birthday of the woman who said, in her famous low, husky voice: "You do know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow." That's Lauren Bacall, born Betty Joan Perske in New York City (1924). Her parents were Jewish immigrants, but they divorced when she was little and she took on her mother's name, becoming Betty Bacall. Betty took acting lessons and worked as a theater usher and a part-time model. She was on a magazine cover, and the wife of the producer Howard Hawks saw her. She told her husband to give the girl a screen test for his new film To Have and Have Not. Betty was extremely nervous during the test, so to keep her face from shaking, she pressed her chin down and looked up at the camera. She got the part, changed her name to Lauren Bacall, and her coquettish look upward became known as "the look," which, along with her distinctive voice, made the 19-year-old Bacall into a star.

To Have and Have Not was loosely based on the novel by Ernest Hemmingway, and one of the screenwriters was William Faulkner. Humphrey Bogart, who was 44, starred in the film, and he and Lauren Bacall fell in love on the set and were married the next year. She went on to star in The Big Sleep (1946), Key Largo(1949), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), and The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996).

It's the birthday of a king whose actual life is less famous than the play written about him: Henry V, born in Monmouth, Wales, in 1387, the man who inspired one of William Shakespeare's most popular history plays, Henry V, and made appearances as Prince Hal in Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2.

When Henry was born, Richard II was the King of England. Richard II was mostly on good terms with his cousin, Henry's father, but he ended up banishing his cousin because of his feud with another nobleman. However, he took the 12-year-old Henry under his wing, and Henry traveled with Richard to Ireland. But a year later, Henry's father returned from exile with an army, took over the throne, called his son back from Ireland, and made the boy the Prince of Wales. Henry's dad was now King Henry IV, and he gave his coronation address in English — he was the first king to do so since the Norman conquest in 1066. And young Henry would become the first king of England to grow up speaking and writing fluently in English.

Henry IV, Part 2 focuses on Hal's transformation from a wayward son into a leader, and at the end of the play, he cuts ties with Falstaff and his other lowlife friends, who he thinks are beneath him now that he is a leader and a changed man.

And it is this Henry V, capable and ruthless, who goes on to unite England and France, which is the plot of Henry V. The deciding battle of the conflict was the Battle of Agincourt, when Henry's army of less than 10,000 took on about 30,000 French soldiers. Henry was 27 years old. The English army was exhausted and demoralized. At least in Shakespeare's version of events, Henry delivers one of the best inspirational speeches ever, which has come to be known as the St. Crispin's Day Speech, because it took place on October 25, St. Crispin's Day. It ends:
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

And the English did win the battle. They only lost 450 men, and the French lost 6,000. It was a huge patriotic victory for the English, but it took its toll on Henry, who contracted dysentery and died seven years later.

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show