Jul. 22, 2010

A Deposition

by Anne Porter

The nursemaid Agnes Cassidy
A woman not much bigger
Than a child
The eldest of thirteen

Came straight from Donegal

One of her eyes
Was pulled askew
Mauled by the forceps
Of a country doctor
Who had been drinking
The night that she was born

But her small flat
Unlucky face
Bore marks
Of Celtic beauty

And she was strong

Her faith was silent
And passionate

She'd gladly walk
Ten miles
In any weather
For a taste of God

And when her mother died
In Ireland

And a fierce sense of duty
Was dragging her
Back to the farm in Donegal
To help her father

She wept at leaving
The little fiery boy
Whose nurse she'd been

Whom she had named
The Fighting Irishman

And whom she loved she said
As much as she loved anyone.

"A Deposition" by Anne Porter, from Living Things: Collected Poems. © Zoland Books, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the woman who gave us The Velveteen Rabbit (1922), Margery Williams Bianco, (books by this author) born in London (1881).

It's the birthday of the novelist who said, "I think too much is known about me already. I think biographical information can get in the way of the reading experience." That's Tom Robbins, (books by this author) born in Blowing Rock, North Carolina (1936). Both of his grandfathers were Baptist preachers. He started dictating stories to his mother when he was five years old. He went to college, dropped out, traveled around, and ended up in Seattle in 1962. Eight years after that, he published Another Roadside Attraction (1971), which begins: "The magician's underwear has just been found in a cardboard suitcase floating in a stagnant pond on the outskirts of Miami."

When Tom Robbins writes, he has breakfast and lights up a cigar, and then he works on a sentence until he considers it absolutely perfect. Sometimes that takes a whole day. Once he decides that it's perfect, he moves on, and once he has a page finished, he won't rewrite it. He said, "I like painting myself in corners and seeing if I can get out."

It's the birthday of the novelist S.E. Hinton, (books by this author) born Susan Eloise Hinton in Tulsa, Oklahoma (1948). Growing up, she loved to read, but her biggest dream in life was to be a cowboy. So she wrote a couple of books about cowboys, and then when she was 15 she started working on a book called The Outsiders. She wrote and edited much of her novel during her junior year of high school, the same year that she got a D in her creative writing class. The Outsiders was the story of two rival gangs, based on the gangs at her high school in Tulsa — one of them was a group of kids from working-class families, the other, children of rich families.

The Outsiders was published in 1967, during her first year of college at the University of Tulsa. It became one of the most popular young adult books ever, selling more than 14 million copies, and continues to sell hundreds of thousands each year.

It's the birthday of the painter Edward Hopper, born in Nyack, New York (1882). By the time he was 12 years old, he was already six feet tall, skinny, and gangly. He got made fun of by his classmates, and became painfully shy, spending much of his time alone and drawing. His parents encouraged him to become an illustrator, and he studied at the New York School of Art. He was taught the old-fashioned style of painting meticulously accurate pictures of the real world.

After he finished art school, he took a trip to Paris, where he realized that he had fallen in love with light. He said the light in Paris was unlike any he'd ever seen before.

Hopper later said that Europe had ruined him as a painter, and it took him 10 years to get over it. He spent the next several years working as an illustrator for an advertising agency in New York City, a job that he hated. In his spare time, he drove around and painted uniquely American places: train stations, gas stations, corner saloons.

Hopper had sold only one painting by the time he was 40 years old, but his first major exhibition in 1933 at the Museum of Modern Art made him famous. His pieces in that show had titles like "Houses by the Railroad," "Manhattan Bridge Loop," "Room in Brooklyn," "Roofs of Washington Square," "Cold Storage Plant," "Lonely House," and "Girl on Bridge." Though his work was more realistic and less experimental than most other painters at the time, he painted his scenes in a way that made them seem especially lonely and eerie.

Hopper was a man of deliberate habits. He lived and worked in the same walk-up apartment in New York's Washington Square from 1913 until 1967. He ate almost every meal of his adult life in a diner, and he tried never to ride in a taxi. He never had any children with his wife, and he never included a single child in any of his paintings.

Edward Hopper said, "Maybe I am slightly inhuman. ... All I ever wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house."

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




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