Feb. 17, 2012

Getting Through

by Maxine Kumin

I want to apologize
for all the snow falling in
this poem so early in the season.
Falling on the calendar of bad news.
Already we have had snow lucid,
snow surprising, snow bees
and lambswool snow. Already
snows of exaltation have covered
some scars. Larks and the likes
of paisleys went up. But lately the sky
is letting down large-print flakes
of old age. Loving this poor place,
wanting to stay on, we have endured
an elegiac snow of whitest jade,
subdued biographical snows
and public storms, official and profuse.

Even if the world is ending
you can tell it's February
by the architecture of the pastures.
Snow falls on the pregnant mares,
is followed by a thaw, and then
refreezes so that everywhere
their hill upheaves into a glass mountain.
The horses skid, stiff-legged, correct
position, break through the crust
and stand around disconsolate
lipping wisps of hay.
Animals are said to be soulless.
Unable to anticipate.

No mail today.
No newspapers. The phone's dead.
Bombs and grenades, the newly disappeared,
a kidnapped ear, go unrecorded
but the foals flutter inside them
warm wet bags that carry them
eleven months in the dark.
It seems they lie transversely, thick
as logs. The outcome is well known.
If there's an April
in the last frail snow of April
they will knock hard to be born.

"Getting Through" by Maxine Kumin, from Selected Poems 1960-1990. © W.W. Norton, 1997. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of crime novelist Ruth Rendell (books by this author), born in London, England (1930). Her parents had a terrible marriage and her mother was ill with multiple sclerosis that went undiagnosed for years, and so young Ruth began writing about her life as if it were a story happening to someone else.

While working as a reporter for a small, suburban London newspaper, she decided to write a detective novel for fun. It was entitled From Doon with Death (1964), and it began an extremely popular series of detective stories starring Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford.

Wexford, as Rendell puts it, is not a glamour figure. He's overweight, sloppy, slow-moving, and tempted at times to stray. But in the end, he's a faithful husband and a thoughtful, sensitive, articulate man, and readers love him. Inspector Wexford is still appearing in new mysteries; Rendell's latest is The Vault (2011).

Rendell describes herself as a workaholic, follows the same routine every day, writing for about four hours every morning and then eating the exact same lunch: bread, cheese, salad and fruit. But she has said that, despite producing an average of two books per year for almost 50 years, she doesn't feel like she's churning anything out. "If I did," Rendell explains, "I would stop. I am quite happy to go on doing what I am doing now for the rest of my life. I don't see why I should stop."

It's the birthday of science fiction writer, Andre Norton (books by this author), born Alice Mary Norton in Cleveland, Ohio (1912), who changed her name to "Andre" because she thought she'd have better luck selling her books as a man instead of a woman. Until 1951, Norton had written adventure stories, spy novels, and historical fiction, but after being asked to edit a series of sci-fi anthologies, she wrote her first book in that genre, Star Man's Son 2250 A.D. (1951) and primarily stayed with science fiction after that.

Norton wrote more than 130 novels in her 70 years as a writer, as well as nearly 100 short stories.

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




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