Oct. 27, 2010

A Blessing

by Ken Hada

After three days of hard fishing
we lean against the truck
untying boots, removing waders.

We change in silence still feeling
the rhythm of cold water lapping
thankful for that last shoal of rainbows
to sooth the disappointment
of missing a trophy brown.

We'll take with us the communion
of rod and line and bead-head nymphs
sore shoulders and wrinkled feet.

A good tiredness claims us
from slipping over rocks, pushing rapids
sunup to sundown sneaking
toward a target, eyes squinting
casting into winter wind.

We case the rods, load our bags
and start to think about dinner.
None of us wants to leave.
None wants to say goodbye.

Winter shadows touch the river cane.
The cold is coming. We look up
into a cobalt sky, and there,
as if an emissary on assignment,
a Bald Eagle floats overhead
close enough to bless us
then swiftly banks sunward
and is gone.

"A Blessing" by Ken Hada from Spare Parts. © Mongrel Empire Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the man who wrote the lines "Do not go gentle into that good night. / Rage, rage against the dying of the light." That's Dylan Thomas, (books by this author) born in Swansea, Wales, in 1914. He's one of the most popular poets of his generation.

At age 20, he published his first collection, 18 Poems. Critics raved. He married an Irishwoman, lived in London, had three kids, and drank a lot. To make ends meet, he went off to America on the lecture circuit. He often showed up drunk to his readings, where he either whispered or shouted his poems. He had a deep, resonant voice and he was immensely popular.

He drank himself to death in New York City in 1953; he was on his fourth reading tour of America. When he was taken to the hospital because of alcohol poisoning, he told the doctor: "I've had eighteen straight whiskeys. I think that's the record." He died within the week.

He once wrote: "Dead men naked they shall be one / With the man in the wind and the west moon; ... / Though they go mad they shall be sane, / Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; / Though lovers be lost love shall not; / And death shall have no dominion."

Dylan Thomas said: "Poetry is the rhythmic, inevitably narrative, movement from an overclothed blindness to a naked vision that depends in its intensity on the strength of the labour put into the creation of the poetry. My poetry is, or should be, useful to me for one reason: it is the record of my individual struggle from darkness towards some measure of light."

And he said, "Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing."

It's the birthday of writer Fran Lebowitz, (books by this author) born in Morristown, New Jersey (1950), who said: "Until I was about 7, I thought books were just there, like trees. When I learned that people actually wrote them, I wanted to, too, because all children aspire to inhuman feats like flying. Most people grow up to realize they can't fly. Writers are people who don't grow up to realize they can't be God."

She was kicked out of her Episcopalian high school for "surliness," skipped college, and went off to New York City to work for magazines and drive taxicabs. At 21, she became a columnist for Andy Warhol's magazine Interview. She later wrote columns for Mademoiselle magazine.

She's the author of the best-selling essay collections Metropolitan Life (1978) and Social Studies (1981). She's a very funny writer, and a very slow writer. She writes on paper, using a Bic pen, in a room filled with encyclopedias and cigarette smoke and a drum set. She's surrounded by a few bulletin boards, which contain scraps of papers with phrases scrawled onto them, and which she consults and re-arranges when working on a piece of writing. She doesn't write drafts. She said, "Instead of writing it wrong six times and then writing it right, I think it wrong six times and then write it right the seventh time."

She's at work on a novel. It was commissioned more than 20 years ago, and publishers are still waiting for it. She makes most of her income by lecturing. She said: "I have a hard time writing. Most writers have a hard time writing. I have a harder time than most because I'm lazier than most. ... I would have made a perfect heiress. I enjoy lounging. And reading. The other problem I have is fear of writing. The act of writing puts you in confrontation with yourself, which is why I think writers assiduously avoid writing."

And she said: "Not writing is more of a psychological problem than a writing problem. All the time I'm not writing I feel like a criminal. ... It's horrible to feel felonious every second of the day. Especially when it goes on for years. It's much more relaxing actually to work."

An interviewer asked why, if it's so hard, she continues to write. She said: "The rewards of any warrior. The word that best describes my feeling of having written is triumphant — triumphant on the level of Alexander the Great. Having overcome your worst fear, the thing you are most vulnerable to, that is the definition of heroic. Also, it's such a worthwhile human activity. The most."

From the archives:

It's the birthday of the poet Sylvia Plath, (books by this author) born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1932, who said, "Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise."

It's the birthday of Zadie Smith, (books by this author) born Sadie Smith in London in 1975. She wrote White Teeth (2000), a major best-seller.

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




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