Sep. 17, 2010

They call me and I go.
It is a frozen road
past midnight, a dust
of snow caught
in the rigid wheeltracks.
The door opens.
I smile, enter and
shake off the cold.
Here is a great woman
on her side in the bed.
She is sick,
perhaps vomiting,
perhaps laboring
to give birth to
a tenth child. Joy! Joy!
Night is a room
darkened for lovers,
through the jalousies the sun
has sent one gold needle!
I pick the hair from her eyes
and watch her misery
with compassion.

"Complaint" by William Carlos Williams, from Selected Poems. © New Directions Publishing, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of poet Carl Dennis, (books by this author) born on this day in St. Louis, Missouri (1939).

It's the birthday of Ken Kesey, (books by this author) born in La Junta, Colorado (1935), author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962), the story of a struggle between a mental hospital nurse, Nurse Ratched, and a con man named Randle Patrick McMurphy, who feigns insanity to get out of a jail sentence.

Ken Kesey said, "I'd rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph."

It's the birthday of short-story writer Frank O'Connor, (books by this author) born in Cork, Ireland (1903). He liked to write in the mornings and then spend the afternoon bicycling around, stopping to talk with anyone he saw, getting ideas for his writing. His books of stories include Guests of the Nation (1931), The Stories of Frank O'Connor (1952), and The Cornet Player Who Betrayed Ireland (1981).

It was on this day in 1630 that the city of Boston was founded, just 10 years after the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth. In 1632, Boston became the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and four years later, Harvard College was founded there.

In Specimen Days (1882), Walt Whitman (books by this author) wrote: "Old Boston with its zigzag streets and multitudinous angles, (crush up a sheet of letter-paper in your hand, throw it down, stamp it flat, and that is a map of old Boston) — new Boston with its miles upon miles of large and costly houses — Beacon street, Commonwealth avenue, and a hundred others. [...] The New England metropolis of to-day may be described as sunny, (there is something else that makes warmth, mastering even winds and meteorologies, though those are not to be sneez'd at,) joyous, receptive, full of ardor, sparkle, a certain element of yearning, magnificently tolerant, yet not to be fool'd; fond of good eating and drinking [...]."

It's the birthday of poet William Carlos Williams, (books by this author) born in Rutherford, New Jersey (1883). His father was a businessman, born in England, and his mother was Puerto Rican. His mother spoke and read to him in Spanish. He had a cosmopolitan experience for a while — went off to school in Switzerland and France and learned French. But then he came back, went to medical school, and settled in Rutherford, where he was born, and lived there more or less for the rest of his life with his wife, Flossie.

He practiced medicine full time and wrote his poems during breaks, on scraps of paper, without time to revise. He was often asked how he had the time and energy to pursue two professions, but he loved them both, and he couldn't imagine writing without medicine. In his Autobiography of William Carlos Williams (1951), he said: "I have never felt that medicine interfered with me but rather that it was my very food and drink, the very thing which made it possible for me to write. Was I not interested in man? There the thing was, right in front of me. I could touch it, smell it. It was myself, naked, just as it was, without a lie telling itself to me in its own terms."

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




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