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Thread: Literary Notes

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    It's the birthday of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, (books by this author) born in Rockland, Maine (1892). Her middle name came from a hospital - St. Vincent in New York - where one of her uncles was saved from death immediately before her birth.
    Her parents divorced when she was little and she and her two sisters moved constantly with their mother. Throughout their moves, her mother always carried along a trunk full of classic literature, including the works of Shakespeare and John Milton, which she often read aloud to her daughters.
    Edna was in high school when she entered a poetry contest and wrote a poem - "Renascence" - which she recited at a poetry reading, and a woman in the audience was so impressed that she paid Edna's way to go to Vassar College.
    She was a rebellious student at Vassar, then moved to New York City, where she lived in Greenwich Village and had numerous love affairs with both women and men. Edmund Wilson thought she was almost "supernaturally beautiful." He proposed marriage and never got over the rejection.
    In her poem "First Fig" she wrote: My candle burns at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
    But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
    It gives a lovely light!
    And in "Second Fig," "Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand: / Come see my shining palace built upon the sand!"
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    In Mainz, Germany, on this day in 1455 began the mass printing of the Gutenberg Bible, the first manuscript in Europe to be printed by movable type. About 180 copies were produced, the Bible contained more than 1,280 pages, and on each page the text was laid out in two 42-line columns.
    Up until that time, manuscripts were usually copied by scribes, and a handwritten Bible could take one scribe more than a year to prepare. Sometimes woodblock printing was used, but it was also an expensive and time-consuming process.
    The movable type printing press featured individual blocks with a single character that could be rearranged endlessly. Passages of text would be covered in ink and used to make repeated impressions on paper. The printing press that Johann Gutenberg built was based on the design of presses for wine and paper.
    It's estimated that more books were produced in the 50 years after the movable type printing press was built than in the 1,000 years before it. Gutenberg's invention is credited with making the Renaissance possible: it allowed classical Greek and Latin texts to be distributed widely. It also made books affordable to lower classes.

    ~


    It's the birthday of the diarist Samuel Pepys, born in London (1633), the son of a tailor and maid. He had a cousin, the Earl of Sandwich, who got him good government jobs and when he was 26 years old, he made a New Year's resolution to keep an account of the events in his life. On January 1, 1660, he made his first diary entry:
    This morning (we living lately in the garret,) I rose, put on my suit with great skirts. Went to Mr. Gunning's chapel at Exeter House, where he made a very good sermon. ... Dined at home in the garret, where my wife dressed the remains of a turkey, and in the doing of it she burned her hand. ... I staid at home all the afternoon, looking over my accounts; then went with my wife to my father's ...
    Alongside the trivial, day-by-day details that he recorded, he also wrote about the coronation of Charles II in 1660, the Great Plague of 1665, and the Great Fire of 1666.
    There was only one London newspaper at his time, and it was controlled by the government, so much of what we know about this period in history has been taken from Pepys's diary. He loved to go to plays and concerts, and he wrote about the performances that he attended.
    Once, after attending a wedding, he mused in his diary, "Strange, to see what delight we married people have to see these poor fools decoyed into our condition, every man and wife gazing and smiling at them."
    He wrote about going to the bathroom, having sex with his wife, and his extramarital affairs — and for content that was sexual in nature, he often replaced English words with a mixture of shorthand, Latin, Greek, Spanish, French, German, and his own secret code. It took three years for a scholar to transcribe the diaries into plain English.
    Pepys quit writing the diary in 1669 — almost 10 years after starting it — because his eyesight was failing and he feared going blind.
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of novelist George Augustus Moore, (books by this author) born in County Mayo, Ireland (1852), who was, he later said, "the boy that no schoolmaster wanted." He read whatever novels and poetry he wanted rather than the assigned work, and in 1867 he was expelled for (as he described) "idleness and general worthlessness." He returned to Ireland.
    His father wanted him to go into the military, but George wanted to be a painter. His father died, and George took his inheritance and moved to Paris to study art, and spent his time sitting in Parisian cafes reading philosophy. He had to return to Mayo, however, because his tenants had quit paying rent and the affairs of his estate were in financial disaster.
    He decided to become a writer and moved to London. There he published his first novel, A Modern Lover, which was banned by libraries for its sexually explicit passages — which helped sales — and he began a lifelong crusade against censorship.
    His other realist novels include A Mummer's Wife (1885), A Drama in Muslin (1886), and Esther Waters (1894). He wrote a memoir, Confessions of a Young Man (188, and some books of art criticism. In 1901, Moore returned to Ireland, and along with W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, he was a leader of the Irish Literary Revival.
    He wrote, "A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it."
    And, "Art must be parochial in the beginning to be cosmopolitan in the end."


    ~


    It's the birthday of Wilhelm Grimm, (books by this author) born in Hanau, Germany (1786), who — along with his older brother Jacob — published a collection of more than 200 fairy tales of the early 19th century. The volume gave rise to the scientific study of folklore and gave us "Cinderella," "Hansel and Gretel," "Rumpelstiltskin," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Rapunzel," and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, born in Limoges, France (1841). He began painting when he was 13 years old, first on porcelain, then later painting on fans. He went on to form the style of painting known as Impressionism, along with the painters Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley. Renoir became severely disabled by arthritis starting in 1902, but he continued to paint. By 1913, he was completely crippled, and he instructed his assistants in creating several of his last sculptures. Renoir said, "The pain passes, but the beauty remains."

    ~


    It's the birthday of novelist and composer Anthony Burgess, (books by this author) born in Manchester, England (1917). He's best known for his book A Clockwork Orange (1962), but he also wrote many musical compositions and more than 50 other books, as well.
    Burgess said, "I call myself a professional writer in that I must write in order to eat... But primarily I call myself a serious novelist who is attempting to extend the range of subject matter available to fiction, as also a practitioner who is anxious to exploit words as much as a poet does."

    ~


    It's the birthday of English art critic and nun Sister Wendy Beckett, (books by this author) born in South Africa (1930) and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland. She's been a nun for more than 60 years, an art critic for more than 20. She's famous for books on art and her television shows on the BBC and PBS where she talks about art in museums around the world in plain, understandable language.
    Sister Wendy said, "Many people feel I am not really equipped to understand art, that I am not educated enough to speak to people in elitist languages, but don't you see — that's the point!" Her first book was Contemporary Women Artists (198.
    Sister Wendy surprises her audience with the way she openly talks about sex and nudity in paintings without any embarrassment. She says, "I use the words that come naturally...I'm absolutely astonished and bewildered to find people commenting on my delight in a naked body. Never, ever, has anyone suggested that parts of the body were not quite right, that God made a mistake, that they should be passed over. It's appropriate to comment on everything in the painting. I'm not going to deny God's glory by pandering to narrow-mindedness."
    Sister Wendy negotiated in her contract that no matter where she is filming, she must go to mass every day. When not filming, she lives in solitude and prayer in a trailer on the property of the convent. All the money she makes from her book sales and her shows go to the Carmelite convent and its hospice for children. Sister Wendy says, "When you are talking about art, you are talking about God indirectly; all experience of art is an indirect experience of God."

    ~

    It was on this day in 1956 that Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes met in London, (books by Sylvia Plath) (books by Ted Hughes) beginning one of the most famous literary relationships in modern history. Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts (1932), and had studied at Smith College, but she was in England studying at Cambridge on a Fulbright Scholarship.
    Sylvia Plath met Hughes at a party in a bar, and the next morning she wrote about the encounter in her journal. She spent most of the evening talking to someone else, whom she described as "some ugly, gat-toothed squat grinning guy named Meeson trying to be devastatingly clever." She said the party was "very bohemian, with boys in turtleneck sweaters and girls being blue-eye-lidded or elegant in black." Plath had been drinking a little, and she wrote, "The jazz was beginning to get under my skin, and I started dancing with Luke and knew I was very bad, having crossed the river and banged into the trees..."
    Plath said, "Then the worst thing happened, that big, dark, hunky boy, the only one there huge enough for me, who had been hunching around over women, and whose name I had asked the minute I had come into the room, but no one told me, came over and was looking hard in my eyes and it was Ted Hughes."
    Plath quoted one of his poems to him, and he guided her to a side room of the bar. She wrote of that moment, "And then he kissed me bang smash on the mouth and ripped my hairband off, my lovely red hairband scarf which had weathered the sun and much love, and whose like I shall never again find, and my favorite silver earrings: hah, I shall keep, he barked. And when he kissed my neck I bit him long and hard on the cheek, and when we came out of the room, blood was running down his face."
    Plath composed a poem over the next few days after meeting Hughes. Called "Pursuit," it was a poem about a woman being hunted by a panther and was a response to a Hughes poem called "The Jaguar." Plath spent the night with Hughes and his friend in their London flat right before going on a spring vacation in Europe. When she returned, they spent even more time together, and after seeing so much of each other for a couple of months, they started thinking about marriage.
    They got married on June 16th, four months after that first meeting, but it was a secret wedding because they didn't want to jeopardize Plath's fellowship or academic career. The ceremony was in the Church of Saint George the Martyr in London. Plath wore a pink suit, and Hughes gave her a pink rose to hold as she walked down the aisle.
    Plath and Hughes spent the rest of that summer in Paris, Madrid, and the small town of Benidorm in Spain. They passed their days swimming, studying, and writing. Plath wrote the poems "Dream with Clam Diggers," Fiesta Melons," and "The Goring" as well as many others while on this honeymoon. Plath told a friend many years later that Hughes had gotten very angry with her during that trip and tried to choke her while they sat on a hill. She said she had resigned herself to die while it was happening, and she worried she had made the wrong decision in getting married so soon after meeting him.
    Plath and Hughes decided to separate in 1962, right after they had moved back to England and had a second child. Plath discovered that Hughes was having an affair. She said in an interview that year, "I much prefer doctors, midwives, lawyers, anything but writers. I think writers and artists are the most narcissistic people... I'm fascinated by this mastery of the practical. As a poet, one lives a bit on air. I always like someone who can teach me something practical."
    Plath committed suicide in 1963 by sticking her head in an oven. Hughes's mistress would also kill herself years later using the same method. Hughes was left in control of Plath's estate, and he edited her poems and controlled what of hers was published and what was not. He once was met on a trip to Australia by protestors holding signs that accused him of murdering Plath. Plath fans trying to chip away the word "Hughes" from her name on the tombstone have repeatedly vandalized her grave in Yorkshire, England.
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of Victor Hugo, the French poet, novelist, and dramatist, (books by this author) born in Besançon, France (1802). He is best known for his epic novels, like Les Misérables (1862) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), but he published dozens of works in his lifetime.
    Hugo's father was an army general, and the father taught his young son to admire Napoleon as a national hero. Hugo also traveled widely as a boy, living in Spain and Italy before his parents separated, when Hugo moved to Paris with his mother. It was in Paris that the young Hugo began to make a name for himself, as a writer of promise. He published his first play at age 14, and he earned praise from the prestigious Académie française a year later. Hugo published his early novels, Han d'Islande and Bug-Jargal, in his early 20s. He had been translating the poetry of Virgil since adolescence, and in 1822 he published his first translations. Hugo earned a large financial reward from Louis XVII for these translations, and he married the daughter of the minister of defense.
    Hugo earned widespread fame for his play Hernani (1830) and for the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), which tells the now-famous story of a gypsy girl named Esmeralda and Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer who loves her. Much later, Hugo wrote the epic Les Misérables, about the life of Jean Valjean, who is imprisoned for 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread.
    Hugo became increasingly involved in French politics later in life, particularly after the death of his daughter and her husband, which caused him much sadness and kept him from publishing a book for 10 years. In particular, Hugo was an advocate for social justice. In 1848, after a revolution helped form the Second Republic, Hugo was elected to the Constitutional Assembly and the Legislative Assembly. Just a few years later, Hugo fled France after a coup d'état by Napoleon III put his life in danger. Hugo first went to Brussels, then he moved on to Jersey and Guernsey in the English Channel. He would be away from France for 20 years. It was during this time that Hugo wrote Les Misérables.
    Hugo returned to France when the Third Republic came into power, but he left again during the time of the Paris Commune, which ruled Paris for a brief time in 1871. He again took up residence in Brussels, but he was expelled for sheltering defeated revolutionaries. Hugo moved on to Luxembourg, and when the Paris Commune finally collapsed, he returned to Paris and was elected a senator.
    Like so many French writers before and since, Hugo's death was a national event. He was given a national funeral attended by two million people.

    ~


    Nobody is certain what day Christopher Marlowe was born, (books by this author) but he was christened on this day, in Canterbury, England (1564). Marlowe is often considered the greatest dramatist before Shakespeare, even though the two were born in the same year. Probably this is because of Marlowe's early death at age 29.
    Marlowe attended Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, on a scholarship usually given to students studying for the ministry. He held the scholarship for the full six years he was allowed, but he began to write plays rather than take holy orders. Marlowe encountered difficulty as he completed his master's degree in 1587. The university nearly denied him the degree, because they suspected that Marlowe intended to go to Reims, the center of Catholic dissidence and movements against Queen Elizabeth. He was finally granted the degree, because the Privy Council intervened on the queen's behalf, and they said Marlowe had proven his loyalty by acting as some kind of government agent.
    Marlowe wrote his play Tamburlaine before leaving Cambridge, and in 1587 it was produced on the stage in London. A sequel soon followed. Marlowe also wrote Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, Edward II, and The Massacre at Paris, all well known today. Except for the Tamburlaine plays, Marlowe's other works were published and produced only after he died.
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, (books by this author) born in Portland, Maine (1807). He was a student at Bowdoin College at the same time as Nathaniel Hawthorne, and went on to teach at Harvard where he became friends with James Russell Lowell. Longfellow wrote many long, narrative poems that are still well known to this day, including "Evangeline" (1847) and "The Courtship of Miles Standish" (185. He also translated Dante's Divine Comedy.

    ~


    It's the birthday of Lawrence Durrell, (books by this author) born in India of English parents (1912). Durrell traveled widely during his life, living in Cairo, Belgrade, and on many small islands in the Mediterranean Sea. He worked as a diplomat and information officer for the British government, and also he lectured at universities.
    Durrell is best known for The Alexandria Quartet (1957), four linked novels set in Alexandria, Egypt, around the time of World War II.

    ~


    It's the birthday of Irwin Shaw, (books by this author) born in the Bronx, New York City (1913). Shaw was the child of Russian Jewish immigrants, and they changed their family name from Shamforoff when they moved to Brooklyn when Shaw was a boy. Shaw attended Brooklyn College but was expelled after his first year, for failing calculus. And so, Shaw worked in New York City, in a cosmetics factory, a furniture house, and a department store. Then he returned to Brooklyn College, where he became the quarterback of the football team.
    Shaw played football professionally for a short time, but he needed to support his family, and so he began to write radio scripts for programs like "++++++++++++++++++++ Tracy" and "The Gumps." Of this, Shaw said, "Even when I was writing the junk, I knew it was junk; but I did it the best way I could ... and I make no excuses for eating. Or feeding a family. Or fighting for the freedom to write all these short stories, all these plays, all these novels."
    Shaw wrote his play Bury the Dead (1936) for a contest for new playwrights held by the New Theatre League. Shaw missed the deadline, but he impressed them anyway, and they gave his play two off-Broadway performances. During this time, Shaw also began publishing his short stories in The Paris Review and The New Yorker.
    Shaw enlisted in the military during World War II, and he worked with a camera crew. His crew traveled to Normandy two weeks after D-Day, and Shaw helped photograph battles for the liberation of French cities and towns, and this gave him the idea for his novel The Young Lions (194. After the war, Shaw was blacklisted for a time, because he was mistakenly accused of being a Communist. Shaw claimed the blacklist "only glancingly bruised" his career. Still, he moved to Paris in 1951, and would remain abroad for 25 years, writing many stories, novels, and plays.
    Irwin Shaw said, "If you organize chaos, you organize as much as you can to show that it's chaos. It's the way I do it. To pretend it's not chaotic is a lie."

    ~


    It's the birthday of John Steinbeck , (books by this author) born in Salinas, California (1902). He is the author of the epic novel The Grapes Of Wrath (1939) and also Of Mice and Men (1937).
    Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford in 1919, but he did so only to please his parents. He dropped in and out of the university for six years, only taking classes he thought were interesting, and he never finished a degree. Then he worked construction and tried to make it as a reporter in New York City, but he disliked that job and returned to California. Then, Steinbeck became a caretaker for an estate near Lake Tahoe. The job lasted for three years, and it was during this time that he wrote many drafts of what would become his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).
    Steinbeck's most productive period as a writer was the 1930s. He wrote several books, including the two for which he is most famous today, Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. His wife edited his prose, typed his manuscripts, and suggested titles, which may explain why Steinbeck was so productive and successful. When The Grapes of Wrath was first published, the first printing of nearly 20,000 copies sold out quickly, and by May the book was selling 10,000 copies per week. Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for the novel the following year.
    As he grew older, Steinbeck became increasingly jaded by what he saw as American greed and waste. So he traveled across the country in a camper truck and then wrote the book Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), where he celebrated what he found so admirable about his country: its individuals.
    John Steinbeck said, "A book is like a man — clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun."
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    Writer William F. Buckley dies at 82

    Conservative commentator gained acclaim for intellectual political writings.


    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23370714/?GT1=10856
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of the poet Virginia Hamilton Adair, born in New York City (1913). Her father was an insurance salesman and an amateur poet. She grew up loving poetry, and she published many poems in magazines as a young woman. But after she got married, she stopped trying to publish. She said, "Publishing takes a sort of canniness that I didn't really think went with poetry. I was afraid of writing to please somebody else instead of myself."
    So she went on writing poems, without publishing them, for almost 50 years. It wasn't until after her children were grown, her husband had died, and she had lost her eyesight that she published a book of her work. They went through thousands of the poems she had written to find 87 for her book Ants on the Melon, which came out in 1996. She was 83 years old. She went on to publish two more books: Beliefs and Blasphemies (199 and Living on Fire (2000).
    When asked where she got her inspiration, she said, "A cup of coffee. Always black, always strong, and always just one. It takes the cork out of the bottle."

    ~


    It's the birthday of playwright and novelist Ben Hecht, (books by this author) born in New York City (1893). He was a child prodigy on the violin and gave his first concert performance when he was 10 years old. He also trained as an acrobat and performed with a small circus until he was 16, when he ran away to Chicago and became a journalist. Of his first few years in Chicago he said, "I ran everywhere in the city like a fly buzzing in the works of a clock, tasted more than any fly belly could hold, learned not to sleep ... and buried myself in a tick-tock of whirling hours that still echo in me."
    Hecht got involved in the Chicago literary renaissance, along with writers like Sherwood Anderson and Theodore Dreiser. He published his first novel in 1921 — Erik Dorn, about a jaded journalist who can only speak in newspaper headlines. He also began writing and collaborating on plays. He didn't have any success until he and a newspaper reporter named Charles MacArthur decided to write a play about the newspaper industry called The Front Page (192. It was a big success on Broadway, and it was later made into the movie His Girl Friday (1940).
    Ben Hecht said, "Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock."

    ~


    It's the birthday of the great essayist Michel de Montaigne, (books by this author) born in Périgueux, France (1533). His father was a wealthy landowner and a devout Catholic, with innovative ideas about child rearing. He sent the infant Michel off to live with peasant parents, so that he would learn to love the lower classes. Then, when Michel was a toddler, his father required everyone in the household to speak Latin rather than French, so that Latin would be his first language.
    Michel went off to college and became a lawyer. His father died when Michel was 38 years old, and so he retired to the family estate and took over managing the property. More than anything, he loved to write letters, but after a few years in retirement, his best friend died and he suddenly had no one to write to. So he started writing letters to an imaginary reader, and those letters became an entirely new literary genre: the essay.
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of Greek poet, essayist, and diplomat George Seferis who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963. Seferis is considered to be the most distinguished Greek poet of the pre-war generation of the 1930s. In his work Seferis combined the language of everyday speech with traditional poetic forms and rhythms. Seferis spent much of his life outside Greece in diplomatic service. Recurrent theme in his poetry is exile and nostalgia for the Mediterranean and his birthplace, Smyrna.
    "Your music is this life
    you wasted.
    You could regain it if you wish,
    if you fasten to this indifferent thing
    which casts you back
    there where you set out."
    (from Summer Solstice, 1966)
    George Seferis (Georgios Seferiades) was born in Izmir (formerly Smyrna), Turkey. His father was a lawyer and his mother the daughter of a prosperous landowner. Smyrna, an ancient city on the Aegean Sea, is one of the cities claiming to be the birthplace of Homer. It became a major source of inspiration for Seferis during his career as a poet. Seferis started to compose poems at the age of 14. The family moved in 1914 to Athens, where he graduated from the First Classical Gymnasium in 1917.
    From 1918 Seferis was a reluctant student of law at the Sorbonne in Paris, completing his doctoral requirements in 1924. During these years he continued to write verse and familiarized himself with contemporary French poetry. When Smyrna was retaken by the Turks in the early 1920s, Seferis felt he was in exile and decided to enter the diplomatic service. He traveled to London to perfect his English.
    Upon graduating he obtained a post in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He served in London as vice-consul, and as consul in Albania in the 1930s. In London he discovered the poetry of T.S. Eliot, whose style greatly influenced him. His first volume of poetry, STROFI (The Turning Point), appeared in 1931 in a private edition. In it Seferis rejected his previous dominating rhetorical tone and used sophisticated rhymes and imagery. In The Turning Point Seferis showed his deep acquaintance with symbolism, as in his second collection, I STERNA (1932).
    In the following collections Seferis left lyricism behind and assimilated what he had learned from Cavafy, Eliot, and Ezra Pound. In MYTHISTORIMA (1935) he achieved a style that influenced greatly the development of Greek verse, but he also bridged a gap between traditional and modern expression. Seferis used the vernacular, the language spoken by literate Greeks, and combined his own experiences with history. Most of the characters were taken from Homer's Odyssey. Mythistorima's twenty-four sections are narrated by travelers who are at once present-day exiles and ancient, Homeric figures. "We were searching to rediscover the first seed / so that the ancient drama could begin again." (from Mythistorima, 1935)
    In 1941 Seferis married Maria Zannou, whom he had met on vacation in 1936. During WW II Seferis accompanied Greek government officials into exile, living in Crete, Egypt, South Africa, and Italy. After the war he held diplomatic posts in Lebanon (1953-57), Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, and served as the Greek ambassador in London from 1957 to 1962. "Wherever I travel, Greece wounds me," he once said. Seferis's first publication in English, The King of Assine and Other Poems, appeared in 1948. During the Cyprus crisis in the 1950s, he contributed to the negotiations that resulted in the London Agreement (1959), making Cyprus independent of British rule.
    Seferis's years as a diplomat in several countries made him a modern Odysseus. The theme of wandering was further developed in the persona of Stratis Thalassinos in three collections, Logbooks, written in Albania, South Africa and in Italy (1940-65). The last collection, Logbook 3, was dedicated to the people of Cyprus. Seferis retired from governmental service in 1962 and settled in Athens. In 1969 he declared his opposition to the Papadopoulos dictatorship after the military coup of 1967, becoming popular with the younger generation in Greece. Seferis also expressed his fears about the triumph of commercial culture and once told of his dream in which the Parthenon was auctioned off to become an advertisement, "every column a gigantic tube of toothpaste." Seferis died on September 20, 1971. Thousands of young people escorted his coffin, to honor him as a spokesman for freedom. His widow cut off her hair and flung it into his grave. "I am fully conscious that we do not live in a time when the poet can believe that fame awaits him, but in a time of oblivion. This doesn't make me less dedicated to my beliefs, I am more so."

    ~


    It's the birthday of English poet, hymnist, John Byrom. Also the inventor of a system of shorthand and student of religious mysticism. John Byrom's light-hearted and good-natured character is apparent in his journals. His shorthand was never widely used and it was too slow professional stenographers. 'Hymn for Christmas Day', with its uplifting words, is Byrom's best-known work. The phrase " Tweedledum and Tweedledee", about a silly battle between two men, may have been coined by Byrom. As the Tweedle boys, these names later appeared in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Class (1871).
    Some say, that Signor Bononcini,
    Compared to Handel's a mere ninny;
    Others aver, to him, that Handel
    Is scarcely fit to hold a candle.
    Strange! that such high dispute should be
    'Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
    ('On the Feuds between Handel and Bononcini')
    John Byrom was born near Manchester. He was educated at Chester, and later he went to Merchant Taylors' School. Byrom studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, under the reign of Richard Bentley (1662-1742) - he ruled the college with such despotic power that his mastership was a succession of quarrels and scandals. However, Byrom defended Bentley, whose daughter he may have addressed 'A Pastoral,' published in the Spectator in 1714. In Cambridge he became a fellow. He also studied medicine at the University of Montpellier in France, without taking a degree or practicing. Byrom possibly spent some time in France but chiefly he lived in Manchester.
    While in Cambridge Byrom, invented his own system of shorthand, and he became its teacher. His system was used by John (1703-1791) and Charles Wesley (1707-178, founders of Methodism, who recorded their self-examinations in coded diaries. However, Timothy Bright had been called the father of modern shorthand. Queen Elizabeth granted him a patent for a "shorte and new kynde of writing by character to the furtherance of good learning." Later Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) used shorthand in his famous diary, so that no one could read it while he was alive. William Mason first published his system in 1672; it formed the basis of the Guerney system, used at least 200 years. From 1724 Byrom was a fellow of Royal Society. His varied acquaintances included the physician David Hartley, the Wesleys, devout Christians, J. Butler, writer of Fifteen Sermons, and William Law (1686-1761), of whom Byrom left accounts in his PRIVATE JOURNALS AND LITERARY REMAINS, published in 1854-57. It is an important source of information on Law, a very religious writer, whose guide to the practice of Christian faith, A Serious Call, influenced deeply Samuel Johnson.
    Byrom's MISCELLANEOUS POEMS (1773) include some modifications of Law's poem, and the well-known 'Hymn for Christmas Day'(Christians awake, salute the happy morn, / Whereon the saviour of the world was born) of which Byrom is best remembered for. Originally the poem was written for Byrom's daughter Dolly as a Christmas gift in 1749. A copy of the poem was given to John Wainwright, an organist, who wrote music for it.
    Most of Byrom's religious poems are now forgotten. In the epigram on King and Pretender, Byrom showed his Jacobite sympathies. The ambiguously loyal toast begins 'God bless the King! I mean the Faith's Defender...' In 'On Clergymen Preaching Politics' he wrote: "Were I a king (God bless me) I should hate / My chaplains meddling with affairs of state; / Nor would my subjects, I should think, be fond, / Whenever theirs the Bible went beyond." Byrom also wrote religious verse and a pastoral (1714), he had many varied linguistic, literary, religious, and scientific interests, and was attracted to the mysticism of writers like Jacob Boehme and Malebranche. In 1742 Byrom copyrighted his 'tychygraphy' system, but his UNIVERSAL ENGLISH SHORTHAND SYSTEM did not appear during his life time. He died in London on September 26, 1763.


    (I had problems posting most things on Tweleve today for some reason. Hopefully this is ok as is.)
    Last edited by j15bell; 02-29-2008 at 06:32 PM. Reason: it's just one of those days!
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of the poet Robert Hass, (books by this author) born in San Francisco, California (1941). He's the author of several collections of poetry, including Human Wishes (1989) and Sun Under Wood (1996), and he served as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 1995 to 1997.
    He said, "Take the time to write. You can do your life's work in half an hour a day."

    ~


    It's the birthday of the novelist Ralph Ellison, (books by this author) born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (1914). He only published one novel in his lifetime but it was one of the great novels of the 20th century: Invisible Man (1952). He had to abandon a previous novel about World War II to finish it, and it took him seven years to write. He spent the rest of his life working on his next book, but he never finished it. The almost 2,000-page manuscript was edited down and published after his death as Juneteenth (1999).

    ~


    It's the birthday of the poet Howard Nemerov, (books by this author) who was born in New York City (1920). His father was the president of one of the fanciest clothing stores in New York City, and young Howard was expected to go into his father's business. Instead, he said, "[I became] Howie, boy-intellectual." From the moment he was introduced to literature, he decided that he never wanted to do anything else but read, write, and talk about it.
    He promptly became a literature professor to support his writing, and he was a teacher for the rest of his life. He's known for his funny, playful poems, and he believed that poems and jokes were similar art forms. He wrote, "Jokes concentrate on the most sensitive areas of human concern: sex, death, religion, and the most powerful institutions of society; and poems do the same."
    When asked what his poems were about, Nemerov said, "[I write about] bugs, birds, trees, running water — still, reflecting water — even people sometimes." His Collected Poems came out in 1977.

    ~


    Richard Wilbur was born on this day in New York City (1921) (books by this author). His father was an artist who painted pictures for advertisements, and Wilbur often posed as the young boy in the advertisements, swallowing the advertised vitamins or running home from the grocery with the advertised cereal. His father supported his interest in poetry, and he sold his first poem to a children's magazine when he was eight years old.
    He entered the military during World War II, and he was supposed to go into cryptography. But his superior officer thought he had dangerously radical ideas, and he reassigned him to the frontline infantry, where Wilbur witnessed his fellow soldiers being machine-gunned around him or driven over by jeeps. He said, "[Once] my foxhole-mate and I ... dove into a rubbly ditch to avoid an eighty-eight shell ... he wept to discover that the candy bar in his hand — a Butterfinger — was now full of broken glass."
    During lulls in the fighting, Wilbur sat in his foxhole reading Edgar Allan Poe and writing poems about the war. But instead of writing about the battles he wrote more about the quiet moments, such as all the evenings he spent peeling potatoes in cold, dark Army kitchens. Those poems became his first book, The Beautiful Changes (1947), and it was a big success. Ten years later, he won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for his collection Things of this World.
    He was one of the America's leading poets at a time when most of America's leading poets were suffering from mental illness and alcoholism. While those other poets wrote about their madness in increasingly more experimental styles, Wilbur kept writing precise, rhythmical verse with meter and rhyme, living the mild-mannered life of a successful writer and literature professor. Of the major poets of his generation, he is one of the last still living and writing. His Collected Poems came out in 2004.
    Richard Wilbur said, "I think that all poets are sending religious messages, because poetry is, in such great part, the comparison of one thing to another ... and to insist, as all poets do, that all things are related to each other, comparable to each other, is to go toward making an assertion of the unity of all things."

    ~

    Robert Lowell was born in Boston (1917) (books by this author). He came from one of the most distinguished and famous families in that city. He went to Harvard University — as had all his male ancestors — but he dropped out after two years. His friend Ford Madox Ford introduced him to the poet Allen Tate. Lowell pitched a tent in Tate's front yard and began writing poems at a furious pace. He said he learned from Allen Tate that "[poetry must] be tinkered with and recast until one's eyes pop out of one's head."
    He wrote his early poems in the style of Milton, with elaborate meter and rhyme schemes, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for his first major collection, Lord Weary's Castle (1946), which included poems about whale hunters and Napoleon.
    But after World War II, Lowell began to write more and more about himself and the people he knew, his relatives and friends, and the most ordinary details of his daily life. He said, "Almost the whole problem of writing poetry is to bring it back to what you really feel, and that takes an awful lot of maneuvering. You may feel the doorknob more strongly than some big personal event, and the doorknob will open into something you can use as your own."
    His collection Life Studies (1959) was one of the most baldly autobiographical collections of poetry ever published at that time, and he wrote it in a conversational free-verse style. He was criticized at first for writing what was called "confessional poetry," but it quickly became the standard style of American poetry.
    Lowell had an erratic life. He suffered from manic depression and had three difficult marriages. One of his few stable relationships was with his friend the poet Elizabeth Bishop. After they met for the first time, Bishop said, "It was the first time I had ever actually talked with someone about how one writes poetry ... like exchanging recipes for making a cake."
    They didn't see each other often after that, because they both traveled so much, but they kept in touch through letters. Lowell loved Bishop's poetry, and he made sure that she got all the grants and fellowships and professorships that she needed to keep writing. Ten years after they'd met, he admitted that he had once almost asked her to marry him.
    He wrote to her, "I've never thought there was any choice for me about writing poetry. No doubt if I used my head better, ordered my life better, worked harder etc., the poetry would be improved, and there must be many lost poems, innumerable accidents and ill-done actions. But asking you is the might have been for me, the one towering change, the other life that might have been had."
    He died in a taxi in 1977. His Collected Poems came out in 2003.
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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