Jan. 26, 2012

The Beautiful Sandwich

by Brad Ricca

She could always make
the most beautiful sandwich.
Laced swiss cheese: sliced
crossways, folded once.
Ham in rolls like sleeping bags.
Turkey piled like shirts.
Tarragon. Oregano. Pepper.
Herb dill mayonnaise the color of
skin. On top: the thin, wandering line of
like a contour on a map
in a thin, flat drawer.
Or a single, lost vein.
The poppyseeds hold on,
for now.

Placed on a plate like isolated
or a large, solemn head.
The spilled chips in yellow piles
are like the strange coins
of tall, awkward islanders.
The thin dill pickle: their boat
slides into
the green-sour sea.

"The Beautiful Sandwich" by Brad Ricca, from American Mastodon. © Black Lawrence Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of British playwright Christopher Hampton (books by this author), born in Faial in the Azores archipelago (1946). His father was an engineer for a British communications company and got sent all over the world. His parents were interested in sports and social events. Hampton said, "I was the odd one out in the family, this small boy with thick glasses who read all the time." He went to Oxford, studied modern languages — and wrote a play, When Did You Last See My Mother? Which was performed at Oxford and made its way to the West End, and at the age of 20, Hampton was the youngest playwright ever to have a play produced on the West End.

He continued to write plays, including the comedy The Philanthropist when he was 23. Hampton said: "I had a conversation with my agent after The Philanthropist. She said, 'You've got a choice: You can write the same play over and over for the next 30 years, and you'll probably get even better at it, or you can decide to do something completely different every time.' So I said, 'As a matter of fact, I have started writing a play about the extermination of the Brazilian Indians in the 1960s.' And she said, 'Well, that'll do it, dear.'"

He wrote the movie Dangerous Liaisons and also about 20 films that never got produced. He co-wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Sunset Boulevard, adapted Chekhov's The Seagull for the stage, wrote the screenplay for the film Atonement (2007), adapted from Ian McEwan's novel; and translated several plays by French playwright Yasmina Reza, including 'Art ' (1994)and God of Carnage (2006).

He said, "Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs."

It's the birthday of the songwriter Lucinda Williams, born in Lake Charles, Louisiana (1953). Who says, "Above all, the listener should be able to understand the poem or the song, not be forced to unravel a complicated, self-indulgent puzzle. Offer your art up to the whole world, not just an elite few."

It's the birthday of science fiction writer Philip José Farmer (books by this author), born in North Terre Haute, Indiana (1918). He grew up in Peoria, and was working at a steel mill there when he wrote his story, "The Lovers," about an oppressive dystopian 31st-century North America in which there is no nudity and human sexuality is highly controlled. Up until then, sex was taboo in science fiction. Most science fiction editors assumed that their audience of adolescent boys would not respond well to it. But the story was published, Farmer got an award for it, and he quit his job in the steel mill to become a full-time writer.

He said, "Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got."

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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