Jul. 6, 2012

As if the sky and high plateaus...

by Gary Young

As if the sky and the high plateaus were not enough, here is a canyon
colored like a child's box of crayons. There are strata of purple,
scarlet, yellow, and beige. Small buttes that look like wedding cakes
rise up out of the gorge, each layer distinct and otherworldly. There
is a shade of green in the small hills surrounding these outcrops
I have not seen anywhere else: there are traces of sage, olive, turquoise,
the sea, but also sulfur, graphite, and blood. A huge portion of the
mountain has fallen away from the side of a cliff creating a natural
amphitheater. Echoes are amplified and return resonant and strong.
I sit and listen to the split-tailed swifts that nest in the cliff. They
whistle, and the echo makes them seem larger, and stronger, and
nearer than they really are.

"As if the sky and high plateaus..." by Gary Young, from Even So: New and Selected Poems. © White Pine Press, 2012. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote a passionate letter to an unknown woman on this date in 1812. Beethoven had gone to the Czech resort town of Teplitz, which his physician had recommended for his health. And over the course of two days, he wrote a letter, in three installments, to a mysterious woman who has come to be known as "the Immortal Beloved." He begins the letter: "July 6, in the morning. My angel, my all, my very self [...] My heart is full of so many things to say to you [...] there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all — Cheer up — remain my true, my only treasure, my all as I am yours. The gods must send us the rest, what for us must and shall be —Your faithful LUDWIG."

For 200 years, scholars have been arguing over the identity of the Immortal Beloved. One candidate is Bettina von Arnim, a writer, singer, composer, and a friend of the poet Goethe. There is Josephine von Brunswick: Beethoven was very much in love with her at one point, and wrote her several passionate letters. And there is Antonie Brentano, who was unhappily married and met Beethoven in Vienna — she became ill there, and Beethoven played piano for her while she was sick. He wrote the letters shortly before she moved away, and he never saw her again.

It was on this date in 1957 that Paul McCartney and John Lennon met for the first time, at the Woolton Village Fete in Liverpool, England. John Lennon was almost 17, and Paul McCartney had just turned 15. Lennon had formed a band called the Quarrymen, although he had trouble remembering lyrics and didn't know proper guitar chords, because he'd learned how to play on a banjo. Paul met the band when they played a gig at St. Peter's Church. He told them that he could tune and play a guitar, and since no one in the band could tune their own guitars, they were impressed. Paul then knocked the socks off Lennon when he performed "Twenty Flight Rock," by Eddie Cochran, and didn't forget a single word of the lyrics. Lennon asked McCartney to join the band a week later.

The first official convention of the Republican Party was held in Jackson, Michigan, on this date in 1854. Nearly 10,000 people turned out for a meeting in protest of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which had provided for the expansion of slavery into the new western territories. It was a hot day, and none of the halls could accommodate such a large crowd, so the meeting was held outside, in an oak grove on the outskirts of town. The party's name was formally adopted at this meeting, and was a reference to Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party. New York magazine magnate Horace Greeley wrote in an editorial: "We think some simple name like 'Republican' would more fitly designate those who had united to restore the Union to its true mission of champion [...] of Liberty rather than propagandist of slavery."

The newly minted Republicans also settled on a slate of candidates for the upcoming Congressional elections. The party did well in its first election, winning almost 50 races, and by the following year, the party had a majority in the House.

On this date in 1892, striking steelworkers clashed with Pinkerton security agents in Homestead, Pennsylvania, resulting in 12 deaths. The Homestead Strike had begun on June 30.

The steel mill's general manager was Henry Clay Frick had locked workers out of the plant after he cut wages and told the union he would no longer negotiate with them. The union responded by erecting 24-hour picket lines and set up a lookout for any suspected replacement workers.

Frick's plan was to reopen the plant on July 6 with replacements from as far away as Boston. He brought in 300 agents from the Pinkerton National Detective Agency the night before, armed them with Winchester rifles, and towed them up the Monongahela River to enter the plant from the water's edge. But the union was ready for them and the barges were met by union boats, and by workers on the shore. Shots were fired, and the plant's whistle sounded, bringing townspeople to the mill by the thousands.

Fighting went on until 5 o'clock p.m., when the Pinkertons surrendered. They were led out through a gauntlet of townspeople, who threw sand and rocks, jeered, spit at, and beat them. The strike itself didn't end until the following November; and during the intervening months, the state militia was called in, and the strike's leaders were charged with murder and treason, although later acquitted. In the end, the striking workers ran out of money and had to return to the plant.

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




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