Jun. 24, 2010


by Erica Jong

Italians know
how to call a fig
a fig: fica.
Mandolin-shaped fruit,
feminine as seeds,
amber or green
and bearing large leaves
to clothe our nakedness.

I believe it was
not an apple but a fig
Lucifer gave Eve,
knowing she would find
a fellow feeling
in this female fruit

and knowing also
that Adam would
lose himself
in the fig's fertile heart
whatever the price—

God's wrath, expulsion
angry angels
pointing with swords
to a world of woe.

One bite into
a ripe fig
is worth worlds
and worlds and worlds
beyond the green
of Eden.

"Figs" by Erica Jong, from Love Comes First. © Penguin Group, 2009. Reprinted with permission (buy now)

Today is Midsummer Day, and the feast day of John the Baptist.

It's the 71st birthday of poet Stephen Dunn, (books by this author) born in Forest Hills, New York (1939). He is the first male in his family to live to his 60s. He wrote: "Because in my family the heart goes first / and hardly anybody makes it out of his fifties, / I think I'll stay up late with a few bandits / of my choice and resist good advice."

He published more than 10 books of poetry before his collection Different Hours won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. His forthcoming book of poetry, Here and Now, is due out in 2011.

Dunn said: "I think one of my early motivations for writing was that other people's versions of experience didn't gel with my own. It was a gesture toward sanity to try to get the world right for myself. I've since learned that if you get it right for yourself, it often has resonance for others."

It's the birthday of journalist and novelist Pete Hamill, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn, New York (1935). He was an alcoholic for many years, but at a New Year's Eve party in 1972, he looked into a glass of vodka and decided it would be his last. He's published several novels, including Flesh and Blood (1977), Forever (2003), and most recently, North River(2007). He's a journalist at heart, though, and has written columns for New York newspapers throughout his career.

He said, "The best newspapermen I know are those most thrilled by the daily pump of city room excitements; they long fondly for a 'good murder'; they pray that assassinations, wars, catastrophes, break on their editions."

It's the birthday of poet and essayist John Ciardi, (books by this author) born in Boston, Massachusetts (1916). His translation of Dante's Divine Comedy, published in 1954, is widely considered one of the best in English.

It's the birthday of the writer and satirist Ambrose Bierce, (books by this author) born near Horse Cave Creek, Ohio (1842), In his Devil's Dictionary (1906), he wrote: "WEATHER, n. The climate of the hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned."

In 1897, Henry James leased Lamb House, a villa in Sussex. He bought it a few years later and lived there until his death in 1916. One of his frequent visitors was his close friend the novelist Edith Wharton. In A Backward Glance (1934), Edith Wharton (books by this author) wrote about a day trip with Henry James to Bodiam Castle, near Lamb House: "Tranquil white clouds hung above it in a windless sky, and the silence and solitude were complete as we sat looking across at the crumbling towers, and at their reflection in a moat starred with water-lilies, and danced over by great blue dragonflies. For a long time no one spoke; then James turned to me and said solemnly: 'Summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.'"

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




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