Apr. 23, 2010

Wild Geese

by Charles Goodrich

            I'm picking beans when the geese fly over, Blue Lake pole
beans I figure to blanch and freeze. Maybe pick some dilly beans.
And there will be more beans to give to the neighbors, forcibly if
            The geese come over so low I can hear their wings creak, can
see their tail feathers making fine adjustments. They slip-stream along
so gracefully, riding on each other's wind, surfing the sky. Maybe
after the harvest I'll head south. Somebody told me Puerto Vallarta is
nice. I'd be happy with a cheap room. Rice and beans at every meal.
Swim a little, lay on the beach.
            Who are you kidding, Charles? You don't like to leave home
in the winter. Spring, fall, or summer either. True. But I do love to
watch those wild geese fly over, feel these impertinent desires glide
through me. Then get back to work.

"Wild Geese" by Charles Goodrich, from Going to Seed: Dispatches from the Garden. © Silverfish Review Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of William Shakespeare, (books by this author) born in 1564. He wrote more than 30 plays, including A Midsummer Night's Dream (c. 1594), Romeo and Juliet (c. 1595), Twelfth Night (c. 1600), Hamlet (c. 1601), Othello (c. 1604), King Lear (c. 1605), Macbeth (c. 1605), and The Tempest (c. 1611). Only a few scattered facts are known about his life. He was born and raised in the picturesque market town of Stratford-on Avon, surrounded by woodlands. His father was a glover and a leather merchant; he and his wife had eight children, including William, but two of them died at birth and another at age seven. William probably left grammar school when he was 13 years old, but continued to study on his own. When he was 18, he married Anne Hathaway, who was already several months pregnant. Within two years, he was the father of three children. He went to London around 1588 to pursue his career in drama, and by 1592 he was a well-known actor.

Shakespeare joined the acting troupe the Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1594, and he wrote many plays for the group while continuing to act. The group performed often for Queen Elizabeth, and in 1598 Shakespeare helped to buy the Globe Theatre just south of London, which became the group's new home. They built the Globe from the timber of their old theater, wood that they transported across town on a summer's night.

Shakespeare was very popular late in life, becoming one of the first playwrights to sell editions of his plays to the public. He went into semi-retirement in 1611, after finishing The Tempest, and returned to Stratford to be with his family. He died on his birthday five years later.
From As You Like It:
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour, we rot and rot:
And thereby hangs a tale.

It's the birthday of novelist Vladimir Nabokov, (books by this author) born in St Petersburg, Russia (1899). He said he grew up "a perfectly normal trilingual child in a family with a large library." He learned to read and write English before he did his native Russian.

When the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia, Nabokov's family was forced to flee. They escaped to Germany but had to leave behind their fortune. Nabokov's father was assassinated at a political rally in Berlin the same year that Nabokov went off to Cambridge to study French and Russian literature. After graduating, he returned to Germany, where most of his family remained, and he earned a living by giving language and tennis lessons, teaching boxing, and creating crossword puzzles and chess problems.

At night, he wrote. He was an insomniac, and he often sat and wrote in the bathroom so that the light wouldn't bother the slumbering members of his family. He wrote his first nine novels in Russian, much of them in this manner, as well as dozens of short stories and plays.

He was invited to give a lecture on Slavic languages at Stanford University in 1939, and he decided to stay, formally immigrating and becoming a U.S. citizen. And he started writing books in English, including the one for which he is most famous, Lolita (1955).

Lolita was rejected by four publishers on the grounds of lewdness before G.P. Putnam put it out. Some leading national newspapers refused to review it, and the New York Times review said the book was "highbrow pornography." Many public libraries banned the book.

But despite mixed reviews and moral denunciations (or perhaps because of these), the book sold remarkably well. It soon came to be regarded as a classic work of literature. The royalties from the book — as well as the $150,000 Hollywood film rights — allowed Nabokov to quit teaching and devote his time fully to writing. He moved back to Europe and into a hotel in Switzerland on the shore of Lake Geneva, where he spent the last 20 years of his life with Vera, who faithfully typed out his manuscripts and played Scrabble and chess with him.

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




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