Category Archives: Birthday

Today’s Birthday: Robert Pinsky

Robert PinskyRobert Pinsky was born on October 20, 1940 in Long Branch, New Jersey. Elected Poet Laureate of the United States in 1997, his tenure was marked by ambitious efforts to prove the power of poetry—not just as an intellectual pursuit in the ivory tower, but as a meaningful and integral part of American life. “I think poetry is a vital part of our intelligence, our ability to learn, our ability to remember, the relationship between our bodies and minds,” he told the Christian Science Monitor. “Poetry’s highest purpose is to provide a unique sensation of coordination between the intelligence, emotions and the body. It’s one of the most fundamental pleasures a person can experience.” 
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December Blues
by Robert Pinsky

At the bad time, nothing betrays outwardly the harsh findings,
The studies and hospital records. Carols play.
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Sitting upright in the transit system, the widowlike women
Wait, hands folded in their laps, as monumental as bread.
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In the shopping center lots, lights mounted on cold standards
Tower and stir, condensing the blue vapour
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Of the stars; between the rows of cars people in coats walk
Bundling packages in their arms or holding the hands of children.
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Across the highway, where a town thickens by the tracks
With stores open late and crèches in front of the churches,
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Even in the bars a businesslike set of the face keeps off
The nostalgic pitfall of the carols, tugging. In bed,
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How low and still the people lie, some awake, holding the carols
Consciously at bay. Oh Little Town, enveloped in unease. 

 

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Today’s Birthday: Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 1879. He attended Harvard University as an undergraduate from 1897 to 1900. He planned to travel to Paris as a writer, but after a working briefly as a reporter for the New York Herald Times, he decided to study law. He graduated with a degree from New York Law School in 1903 and was admitted to the U.S. Bar in 1904. He practiced law in New York City until 1916.
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Though he had serious determination to become a successful lawyer, Stevens had several friends among the New York writers and painters in Greenwich Village, including the poets William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, and E. E. Cummings.
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In 1914, under the pseudonym “Peter Parasol,” he sent a group of poems under the title “Phases” to Harriet Monroe for a war poem competition for Poetry magazine. Stevens did not win the prize, but his work was published by Monroe in November of that year.
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Anecdote of the Jar

BY WALLACE STEVENS

I placed a jar in Tennessee,   

And round it was, upon a hill.   

It made the slovenly wilderness   

Surround that hill.
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The wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.   

The jar was round upon the ground   

And tall and of a port in air.
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It took dominion everywhere.   

The jar was gray and bare.

It did not give of bird or bush,   

Like nothing else in Tennessee.
________________________
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This poem first appeared in:

Today's Birthday Wallace Stevens

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Today’s Birthday: Rita Dove

Rita DoveRita Dove was born On August 28, 1952 in Akron, Ohio. Her books of poetry include Collected Poems 1974–2004 (W. W. Norton, 2016), Sonata Mulattica (W. W. Norton, 2009); American Smooth (W. W. Norton, 2004); On the Bus with Rosa Parks (W. W. Norton, 1999), which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Mother Love (W. W. Norton, 1995); Selected Poems (Pantheon, 1993); Grace Notes (W. W. Norton, 1989); Thomas and Beulah (Carnegia-Mellon University Press, 1986), which won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for poetry; Museum (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1983); and The Yellow House on the Corner (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1980).
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Canary
by Rita Dove

Billie Holiday’s burned voice

had as many shadows as lights,

a mournful candelabra against a sleek piano,

the gardenia her signature under that ruined face.
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(Now you’re cooking, drummer to bass,

magic spoon, magic needle.

Take all day if you have to

with your mirror and your bracelet of song.)

Fact is, the invention of women under siege

has been to sharpen love in the service of myth.

If you can’t be free, be a mystery.

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90 LINES FOR JOHN ASHBERY’S 90TH BIRTHDAY

90 LINES FOR JOHN ASHBERY_SJIM JARMUSCH, JAVIER MARÍAS, EILEEN MYLES, AND 87 OTHERS ON FAVORITE LINES BY A GREAT POET

By Literary Hub

We’ll make do,

another day, shopping and such, bringing the meat home at night

all roseate and gleaming, ready for the frying pan.

our names will be read off a rollcall we won’t hear—

how could we? We’re not even born yet—the stars will perform their dance

privately, for us, and the pictures in the great black book

that opens at night will enchant us with their yellow harmonies.

We’ll manage to get back, someday, to the tie siding where the idea

of all this began, frustrated and a little hungry, but eager

to hear each others’ tales of what went on in the interim

of our long lives, what the tea leaves said

and whether it turned out that way. I’ll brush your bangs

a little, you’ll lean against my hip for comfort.

                       –John Ashbery, “The Underwriters,” Your Name Here (2000)
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To celebrate the beloved American poet John Ashbery turning 90 today [July 28, 2017], we invited 90 of his dearest friends, collaborators, and admirers to pick a favorite line from his vast published corpus (the second volume of his Collected Poems, 1991-2000, will be published this October with Library of America) and write about it in 90 words or fewer. Ashbery’s poetic career now spans over six decades and includes more than 20 books of original poetry, the most recent being Commotion of the Birds (Ecco, 2016). His work has profoundly shaped, influenced, irritated, vexed, puzzled and/or pleased its world of readers ever since little JA began writing. His very first poem was penned in 1935, when he was eight years old: “The tall haystacks are great sugar mounds / These are the fairies’ camping grounds.”

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Today’s Birthday: Wendy Cope

Wendy_CopeWendy Cope was raised in Kent, England, where her parents often recited poetry out loud to her. She has published several volumes of poetry including Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis and Serious Concerns. Cope possesses a remarkable talent for parody and for using humor to address grave topics.

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Today’s Birthday: Amy Clampitt

Amy_ClampittAmy Clampitt was born on June 15, 1920, and brought up in New Providence, Iowa. She wrote poetry in high school, but then ceased and focused her energies on writing fiction instead. She graduated from Grinnell College, and from that time on lived mainly in New York City. To support herself, she worked as a secretary at the Oxford University Press, a reference librarian at the Audubon Society, and a freelance editor. Not until the mid-1960s, when she was in her forties, did she return to writing poetry. Her first poem was published by The New Yorker in 1978. In 1983, at the age of sixty-three, she published her first full-length collection, The Kingfisher (Alfred A. Knopf).
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THE WATERFALL
By Amy Clampitt

Orb-weaver shivering

among the filaments: how many

fibers generated from within

transect the air?

How many hirsute, sightless

gropings anchor

these redwood trees, suffuse

the flowery traceries

of the oxalis? The veining

in this hand, these

eyeballs, the circuitous

and scintillating

leap within the brain—

the synapse,

the waterfall, the black-

thread mane of fern

beside it—all, all

suspend, here:

everywhere, existences

hang by a hair
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Read “The Hickory Grove” by Amy Clampitt

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Today’s Birthday, Jan Zwicky

JJan Zwickyan Zwicky, poet, philosopher, essayist, musician, teacher (born 10 May 1955 in Calgary, AB). Winner of the Governor General’s Award and short-listed for the Griffin Poetry Prize, Jan Zwicky is among Canada’s most innovative writers and thinkers. Influenced by such foundational Western philosophers as Plato, Herakleitos, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, Zwicky has established a reputation as a thoughtful writer and editor. Along with fellow writers Robert Bringhurst, Dennis Lee, Tim Lilburn and Don McKay, she contributes to an ongoing conversation about poetry and philosophy, especially as they relate to ecological thinking.

Read the complete bio from the Canadian Encyclopedia

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Today’s Birthday, Robert Browning

Today's-birthday-Robert-BrowningRobert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, England. His mother was an accomplished pianist and a devout evangelical Christian. His father, who worked as a bank clerk, was also an artist, scholar, antiquarian, and collector of books and pictures. His rare book collection of more than 6,000 volumes included works in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Much of Browning’s education came from his well-read father. It is believed that he was already proficient at reading and writing by the age of five. A bright and anxious student, Browning learned Latin, Greek, and French by the time he was fourteen. From fourteen to sixteen he was educated at home, attended to by various tutors in music, drawing, dancing, and horsemanship. At the age of twelve he wrote a volume of Byronic verse entitled Incondita, which his parents attempted, unsuccessfully, to have published. In 1825, a cousin gave Browning a collection of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry; Browning was so taken with the book that he asked for the rest of Shelley’s works for his thirteenth birthday, and declared himself a vegetarian and an atheist in emulation of the poet. Despite this early passion, he apparently wrote no poems between the ages of thirteen and twenty. In 1828, Browning enrolled at the University of London, but he soon left, anxious to read and learn at his own pace. The random nature of his education later surfaced in his writing, leading to criticism of his poems’ obscurities.

Read the complete bio from poets.org

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Today’s Birthday, Algernon Charles Swinburne

Swinburne(From victorianweb.org): Algernon Charles Swinburne was born April 5, 1837 in Grosvenor Place, London, but spent most of his boyhood on the Isle of Wight, where both his parents and grandparents had homes. With Shelley and Byron, he is one of the very few poets since the days of Raleigh and Sidney to come from the aristocracy: his father was an admiral and his maternal grandfather the third earl of Ashburnham. He was very close to his other grandfather, who was born and brought up in France and continued to think and dress like a French nobleman of the ancien régime (the days before the Revolution). He and the poet’s mother trained young Algernon in French and Italian.
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In religion, the Swinburnes were true to their class, meaning that they were High Church Anglicans (see Church of England), and the poet had a Bible reader’s detailed knowledge of the scriptures and of standard interpretative methods, including typology, prophecy, and apocalyptics. His treatment of Christianity seems a characteristically idiosyncratic one — that is, although he delighted in opposing organized religion and savagely attacked the Roman Catholic Church for its political role in a divided Italy, he makes detailed use of biblical allusion, though often for blasphemous ends. Although Algernon turned to nihilism while at Oxford, he never became indifferent to religion, as “Hymn to Proserpine” (text of poem) and “Hertha” make clear.

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Today’s Birthday: Robert Frost

Robert_Frost_1910(From poets.org): Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874, in San Francisco, where his father, William Prescott Frost Jr., and his mother, Isabelle Moodie, had moved from Pennsylvania shortly after marrying. After the death of his father from tuberculosis when Frost was eleven years old, he moved with his mother and sister, Jeanie, who was two years younger, to Lawrence, Massachusetts. He became interested in reading and writing poetry during his high school years in Lawrence, enrolled at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1892, and later at Harvard University in Boston, though he never earned a formal college degree.
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An early reminder that we’ll be reading and discussing the poetry of Robert Frost on May 25. Please bring your own choice of a poem by Frost, and if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.

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