If we’re sheltered from the virus, is April still National Poetry Month?

March 31, 2020

Yes.

National poetry Month may be even more important when we’re avoiding other social interactions, poetry being a very intimate interaction that spans distances and time.

Plans for National Poetry Month 2020 were made months ago; the only difference will be cancellations of actual physical gatherings.

But, literature and history teachers, is there a topic better adapted for virtual learning than poetry?

Poster of National Poetry Month 2020, from the Academy of American Poets. It was designed by “tenth grader Samantha Aikman from Mount Mansfield Union High School in Richmond, Vermont, winner of the 2020 National Poetry Month Poster Contest for Students. Aikman’s artwork was selected by former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and award-winning cartoonist Alison Bechdel from among ten outstanding finalists and 180 student submissions.”

The Academy of American Poets described it:

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.

Join the celebration this April by listing your virtual readings and events, signing up for and displaying the official National Poetry Month poster, participating in Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30, 2020 recommending the Dear Poet project to a young person, signing up to read a Poem-a-Day, and checking out 30 more ways to celebrate.

We hope National Poetry Month’s events and activities will inspire you to keep celebrating poetry all year long!

April’s a good month for poetry. I like using Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” on April 18th or 19th in 10th and 11th grade history classes — sadly, most Texas students appear unfamiliar with the poem, which can help them on several key questions on the state test. It can be followed up with Emerson’s “Concord Hymn,” which contains a phrase they are required to know — but again, in a poem they are not taught otherwise.

And there are, or would be in a normal year, pending ceremonies of various types that demand poetry. Graduations, farewells, awards ceremonies, and more that cry out for just a few verses of poetry to put frosting on the cake, or gravy on the potatoes depending on which metaphor floats your particular watercraft.

Happy to see so much material out there for National Poetry Month. Where will you start?


Twain’s novel Huck Finn, published in the U.S., February 18, 1885; “Every fool in town”

February 18, 2020

Today is the 135th anniversary of the U.S. publication of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, another installment in the novelization with great embellishment of the childhood of Samuel Clemens in Hannibal, Missouri, before the Civil War. Earlier installments included The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  

Cover and binding of the first edition of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Wikipedia image

Cover and binding of the first edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain was the pen name of Samuel L. Clemens. Wikipedia image

It is THE great American novel. It is the novel in which America faces its coming-of-age, in the metaphysical ramblings of a 13-year-old boy in the dark, on a raft in the Mississippi River, with an escaped slave who is a good friend, and has saved his life. Huck Finn confronts reality: Should he do what the preachers say to do, or should he do the moral thing instead?

America, most of it, grew up with that realization, coming even as it did, a generation after the Emancipation Proclamation.

In a good school, one probably unaffected by the damage done to learning by George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act,” nor more recent purges of quality in the classroom such as “value-added teaching,” “Racing to the Top,” or Common Core State Standards or the folderol conservative backlash against education in general, Tom Sawyer is often a child’s introduction to Twain, and to book-length literature.

In my youth, Tom Sawyer was so popular with teachers, and reading aloud by teachers was considered such a great idea, I think I heard the book three times. I know Mrs. Eva Hedberg, in my third grade class in Burley, Idaho, read parts of it. My recollection is that Mrs. Elizabeth Driggs and Mr. Herbert Gilbert both read it to us, in fourth and fifth grade, in Pleasant Grove, Utah.  (There were other books; I think I heard five of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books between those three teachers.  Reading was golden to them. Mrs. Hedberg even gave me credit for reading encyclopedia, cover to cover, with each letter of the alphabet counted as a book. Our World Book volume for the letter S had disappeared; I’ve never been good at snakes.)

Twain once remarked that he didn’t think a youth could read the Bible and ever draw a clean, fresh breath of air again. Tom Sawyer can similarly haunt the life of a person, though generally to higher moral standards.

I had hoped they’d continue to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. When they didn’t, I borrowed it from the Pleasant Grove Junior High Library and read it through. I read it in the middle of the modern civil rights struggle, between 1963’s horrors and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, just as our Vietnam tragedy was really ramping up.

Wait. I remember Mr. Gilbert being stopped by a question on Huck’s father, Pap. This was in Deep Mormonia, in Utah County. Pap drank a bit. Well, that’s not accurate. Pap drank to excess, often. Most of my fellow students had no knowledge of the drinking of alcohol. Their parents didn’t drink, not in front of the children if they did, since imbibing alcohol was a violation of the LDS Church’s Word of Wisdom, a commandment that they treat their bodies as temples, not as amusement parks. That bodily purity rule put alcohol, tobacco and caffeine off-limits. Most of the parents simply didn’t drink. It would have put sugar off-limits, too, had there been enough sugar to abuse as late-20th century America did. Also, there was the issue of the LDS Church having significant holdings in the U & I Sugar Company (Utah and Idaho), which made sugar from beets, and blessed the church with a significant stream of income, from the Coca-Cola bottlers alone. But I digress.

Maybe we did hear some of Huck Finn. I didn’t hear all of it — mumps, or something. And I checked it out on my own later.

In any case, there is that point where Huck Finn grows up and becomes an American who recognizes the possible misfortune awaiting his decision to do something contrary to the advice of the moral poobahs of the moment. But there, on a raft in the middle of the muddy Mississippi, at midnight or near it, Huck decides to do the right thing instead of what the preachers tell him he should do. It’s a nation-turning decision.

   . . .  I went to the raft, and set down in the wigwam to think.  But I couldn’t come to nothing.  I thought till I wore my head sore, but I couldn’t see no way out of the trouble.

After all this long journey, and after all we’d done for them scoundrels, here it was all come to nothing, everything all busted up and ruined, because they could have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make him a slave again all his life, and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars.

Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be a slave at home where his family was, as long as he’d got to be a slave, and so I’d better write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell Miss Watson where he was.  But I soon give up that notion for two things: she’d be mad and disgusted at his rascality and ungratefulness for leaving her, and so she’d sell him straight down the river again; and if she didn’t, everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger, and they’d make Jim feel it all the time, and so he’d feel ornery and disgraced. And then think of me!  It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that town again I’d be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame.  That’s just the way:  a person does a low-down thing, and then he don’t want to take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide it, it ain’t no disgrace.  That was my fix exactly. The more I studied about this the more my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down and ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman’s nigger that hadn’t ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there’s One that’s always on the lookout, and ain’t a-going to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared.  Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up somehow for myself by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn’t so much to blame; but something inside of me kept saying, “There was the Sunday-school, you could a gone to it; and if you’d a done it they’d a learnt you there that people that acts as I’d been acting about that nigger goes to everlasting fire.”

It made me shiver.  And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better.  So I kneeled down.  But the words wouldn’t come.  Why wouldn’t they?  It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him.  Nor from me, neither.  I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come.  It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double.  I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all.  I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger’s owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it.  You can’t pray a lie—I found that out.

So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn’t know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I’ll go and write the letter—and then see if I can pray.  Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone.  So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

Miss Watson, your runaway n***** Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send.

Huck Finn.

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now.  But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking—thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell.  And went on thinking.  And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time:  in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing.  But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind.  I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ’stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.

It was a close place.  I took it up, and held it in my hand.  I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it.  I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up.

Huck’s deciding he’ll stand by his friend, a great human being, and “go to hell” instead of turning his friend in to continue a life in slavery, is the moment America grew up.

Now Americans pretend to have forgotten that growing up and the lesson Huck learned.

Another line jumped out at me from the start. It is a powerful lesson in government and democracy.

In the course of the novel, Huck falls in with a couple of crooks, the Duke and the King.  They make their swindles in land deals on lands to which they don’t have title.

In Chapter XXVI (26), Huck accompanies the two swindlers to an orphanage of sorts. The Duke and the King decide to sell the orphanage, and leave town before their purchasers discover the sales are frauds. Early on in their hustings they collect a bag of gold. Then Huck sits down to dinner with one of the girls at the place, and he meets a few others who all treat him rather kindly, and in the course of an hour or two he begins to have second thoughts, fearing for the fate of the orphans.

Meanwhile with investments coming in so fast, the Duke and the King ponder leaving town earlier than planned, with at least the bag of gold, fearing they might be discovered. In the course of their conversation, overheard by Huck hiding in the room, the King works to convince the duke that most of the town’s people remain bamboozled:

Well, the king he talked him blind; so at last he give in, and said all right, but said he believed it was blamed foolishness to stay, and that doctor hanging over them. But the king says:

“Cuss the doctor!  What do we k’yer for him? Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side?  And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”

Savor that one, and let it sink in for a bit. “Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson trafficked in democratic institutions at a metaphysical level, understanding men were no angels, as Madison put it, but with a bit of education a people should be able to rule themselves as well as, or better than, a tiny elite, even if that elite were educated. But they understood at the wholesale political level that a check was necessary on the people; in 1822 Madison defended free public education in a letter:

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both.  Knowledge will forever govern ignorance.  And a people who mean to be their own governours, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

In Huck Finn, just over a half-century later, Twain was writing about applied politics, the theory, not the hypothesis, on a retail level. Without education for the masses, the group who cynically bamboozles for money or power wins once they’ve got every fool in town on their side.

We have a political system that is more subject to corruption due to lack of education than lack of money.

To an honest politician, this is a huge burden. You won the election? You got the vote of every fool in town?  Then it’s up to you to act wisely, despite their foolishness. Robert Redford’s character in “The Candidate” pulls an upset win in a U.S. Senate race — the film closes with the candidate, rather scared, sitting down with the party-provided campaign advisor, and asking in all earnestness: “What do we do now?”

Happy anniversary, Huck Finn. Perhaps we should fly the flag today in honor of the publication of the book. We would fly it a bit nervously, perhaps.

What do we do now?

Illustration by E. W. Kemble,  from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

“Asleep on the raft” — Illustration by E. W. Kemble, from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Twain himself hired E. W. Kemble to illustrate the first edition.

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Typewriter of the moment: Where John Irving birthed Garp

September 19, 2019

IBM Selectric typewriter upon which John Irving wrote The World According to Garp. Photo courtesy of David Armstrong.

Photo from typewriter repairman and aficionado David Armstrong, from a Facebook group dedicated to IBM typewriters.

Armstrong said his client tells the provenance: The typewriter upon which John Irving wrote The World According to Garp. “It was completely worn out but after a complete rebuild my customer couldn’t be happier.”

This year marks 40 years since Garp was published — difficult to believe the time gone by. This may be the last novel I devoured in a day or so.

Irving marks the 40th anniversary at his website, with some somber notes.

This year I’m celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication of my novel, The World According to Garp. I remember thinking the title of my fourth novel would change; The World According to Garp was always just a working title until something better came along. I was still looking for “something better” when I delivered the manuscript to Henry Robbins, my editor. Henry, and everyone else at Dutton who read Garp in manuscript form, declared that the title had to be The World According to Garp. I was stuck with it.


More importantly, it is a bittersweet feeling to have only recently written a teleplay of Garp, a miniseries in five episodes, because I always imagined — more than forty years ago — that the sexual hatred in the novel might become dated soon after it was published. Sadly, sexual hatred is still with us — it hasn’t gone away. The suspicion of sexual differences, the discrimination against sexual minorities — including flat-out bigotry and violence — haven’t become the extinct dinosaurs I thought these things would (and should) become.


In part, The World According to Garp depicts the struggles of the writing process — the false starts, the blocks, the disappointments. Yet Garp never loses conviction in his purpose as a writer, “because he knew what every artist should know: as Garp put it, ‘You only grow by coming to the end of something and by beginning something else.’ Even if these so-called endings and beginnings are illusions.”

There are days I sorely miss my old Selectric.


Al “Jazzbo” Collins, and fairy tales from my youth that you should listen to

June 18, 2019

Al “Jazzbo” Collins at the microphone of WNEW AM radio in New York City, undated. Metromedia photo

I don’t know where they came from, or who in the family bought them. I think they appeared before 1956 and our move from Overland Avenue to Conant Avenue in Burley, Idaho.

There were two discs, 78 rpm as I recall. Fairy tales, told by a guy with a great baritone and cool jazz playing behind him. Four stories, right out of the nursery rhyme/fairy tale books — but with the conscience of a beat raconteur thrown in.

My favorite: “The Three Little Pigs.”

“Cream of Nowhere!”

Al “Jazzbo” Collins told the stories, according to the label. I think I was in my teens before I noticed the name of Steve Allen, polymath genius, as author. And I assumed that the narration was Allen in one of his characters, and maybe the jazz piano, too.

Later I discovered there really was an Al Collins, who went by the nickname Jazzbo. Two discs by a guy using Steven Allen’s writing . . .

I wish I had those discs now.

It’s almost impossible to do justice to the great beat twists in the stories, from memory. The music was good, and that can’t be retold. To tell the great good humor and joy of those records, you gotta have the records to listen to.

Then I stumbled across “The Three Little Pigs” on YouTube. Brilliantly, this video features an old record player playing the thing. It’s almost like we used to play it, set the needle down on the record and watch it spin while we listened.


Damon Runyon, the Wright brothers, Eddie Rickenbacker, illegal flying, and “Silver bells”

December 18, 2018

[This is mostly an encore post, written two years ago, marking an anniversary for December 18]

Spent a day with my aging father-in-law last week. Conversation is difficult, but memories always flow. We watched the movie version of “Guys and Dolls,” with Sinatra and Brando, and Stubby Kaye’s get-up-and-sing version of “Sit Down! You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

He was happy to see the thing again, though in the first few minutes he said he didn’t think he’d ever seen the film. My fondness for the piece, and for Damon Runyon’s stories, goes back (too many) decades to a production of the play by the Utah Valley Opera Society. They hired our high school drama director, David Larson, to direct. On a lark I auditioned, telling them I couldn’t really sing or dance, and ended up with a lot of lines in a couple of supporting roles, and singing and dancing both in the chorus.

When my father-in-law joined in the movie chorus of “Fugue for Tinhorns,” I knew we had a good couple of hours. We laughed, watched, reminisced, and sang along.

Damon Runyon could tell stories, true stories about real people. Sometimes the names were changed to protect the innocent, or the guilty; sometimes the real names were more entertaining than the fictional names Runyon invented.

Some time ago I stumbled across the story of Runyon’s son, Damon Runyon, Jr., using an early airplane to spread the playwright’s ashes. It’s a story Runyon would have appreciated. It’s appropriate for the day after the anniversary of the Wrights’ first flight; December 18 is the anniversary of the event.

On December 17, Orville and Wilbur Wright got their heavier-than-air flying contraption to actually fly with motor driving it along.

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 1...

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip. Photo from Wikipedia

On December 18, Damon Runyon, Jr., got Eddie Rickenbacker to fly over Broadway to scatter the ashes of his father, Damon Runyon.

First Lieutenant E. V. [Eddie] Rickenbacker, 9...

First Lieutenant E. V. [Eddie] Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, American ace, standing up in his Spad plane. Near Rembercourt, France. Photo from Wikipedia. This photo dates near World War I; Rickenbacker remained a hero for a couple of decades. In 1946, he flew a DC-3 over New York City, and illegally scattered the ashes of raconteur Damon Runyon over his beloved Broadwary.

Not exactly the next day. 43 years and one day apart.  The Wrights first flew in 1903; Runyon died in 1946.

Today in Literature, for December 18:

On this day in 1946 Damon Runyon’s ashes were scattered over Broadway by his son, in a plane flown by Eddie Rickenbacker. Runyon was born in Manhattan, Kansas; he arrived at the bigger apple at the age of thirty, to be a sportswriter and to try out at Mindy’s and the Stork Club and any betting window available his crap-shoot worldview: “All of life is six to five against.” Broadway became his special beat, and in story collections like Guys and Dolls he developed the colorful characters — Harry the Horse, the Lemon Drop Kid, Last Card Louie — and the gangster patois that would swept America throughout the thirties and forties.

A lot of history packed in there.  Runyon’s early reportorial career included a lot of that history — he wrote the lead story for United Press on the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt, for one example.  Runyon found a uniquely American vein of literary ore on Broadway in New York City, and in the ne’er-do-wells, swells, tarts and reformers who flocked to the City that Never Sleeps to seek fame, or fortune, or swindle that fortune from someone else.

As a reporter and essayist, he smoked a lot.  Throat cancer robbed him, first of his voice, then his life at 56.

Runyon’s ashes were spread illegally over Broadway, from a DC-3 piloted by Rickenbacker. Runyon would have liked that.

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Factoids of history:

  • Twenty movies got crafted from Runyon stories, including “The Lemon Drop Kid” — in two versions, 1934 and 1951. Appropriate to the Christmas season, the 1951 version introduced the song, “Silver Bells” composed by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. (Great explanation of the movie, and song, here.)
  • Runyon got fame first as a sports writer.  He was inducted into the writer’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967.
  • According to Wikipedia, Jerry Lewis and others owe a great debt to Damon Runyon:  “The first ever telethon was hosted by Milton Berle in 1949 to raise funds for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.”
  • One might salivate over the varied fare offered in the theaters of Broadway in 1946, Runyon’s final year, “Annie, Get Your Gun” through Shakespeare, and everything in between and on either side
  • Runyon and H. L. Mencken both covered the trial of Bruno Hauptmann, the accused (then convicted) kidnapper of Charles Lindbergh’s baby son
  • Yes, of course, “Guys and Dolls.” Frank Loesser created it, but not of whole cloth, but from the stories of Damon Runyon; it is a masterpiece, perhaps in several realms.  In homage to Runyon, Adam Gopnik wrote:

    Just as Chandler fans must be grateful for Bogart, Runyon fans have to be perpetually happy that the pure idea of Runyon, almost independent of his actual writings, produced the best of all New York musicals: Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls,” which made its début in 1950 and is just now reopening on Broadway in a lavish and energetic new production. But then “Guys and Dolls” is so good that it can triumph over amateur players and high-school longueurs and could probably be a hit put on by a company of trained dolphins in checked suits with a chorus of girl penguins.

    Your author here, Dear Reader, was once one of those trained dolphins. It was magnificent.

“Silver Bells,” from “The Lemon Drop Kid,” with William Frawley, Virginia Maxwell and Bob Hope (1951 version):

More:

A view of New York City in 1946:

Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975)

Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975) “The Artist’s Show, Washington Square,” painted in 1946

Times Square, showing part of Broadway, in November 1946, from the magnificent archives of Life Magazine:

Brownout Time Square.November 1946.© Time Inc.Herbert Gehr - See more at: http://kcmeesha.com/2011/11/29/old-photos-times-square-through-the-years/#sthash.ru9W0F9h.dpuf

Brownout Time Square.November 1946.© Time Inc.Herbert Gehr – See more at: http://kcmeesha.com/2011/11/29/old-photos-times-square-through-the-years/#sthash.ru9W0F9h.dpuf

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Typewriter of the moment: Nelly Sachs

December 10, 2018

2010_sachs-typewriter2

Typewriter of Nelly Sachs. It’s a Mercedes, if I have identified it correctly.

She fled Nazi Germany for Sweden in 1940. In Sweden, she adapted to a new culture. Then she wrote about the experiences of flight, and adaptation.

In 1966 the Nobel organization awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature to Nelly Sachs. Sachs was born December 10, 1891. Google’s Doodle honored her on December 10, 2018, with a short video and image of her typewriter. The animation shows Sachs’ typewriter in a suitcase, an homage

Google explained at YouTube:

December 10th, 2018: Google honors Nelly Sachs. She was a Jewish German-Swedish poet and playwright.

Nelly Sachs was born on 10 December 1891 in Berlin. In 1940 Nelly fled with her aged mother to Sweden. Nelly Sachs and her mother escaped on the last flight.

Her best-known play is: … “Eli – Ein Mysterienspiel vom Leiden Israels” (1950) 1957 she got the Nobel Prize in Literature. Sachs’ poetry is intensely lyrical and reflects some influence by German Romanticism. Happy birthday Nelly Sachs.

* * * * *

Music: “Trio for Piano Violin and Viola” by Kevin MacLeod

Google shows 3 sketches of the doodle.

More about this doodle: “Nelly Sachs 127th birthday” https://www.google.com/doodles/nelly-…

She was also honored by a stamp by German Bundespost in 1991: https://www.briefmarken-bilder.de/brd… #nellysachs #googledoodle

Nelly Sachs Biography (Wikipedia): Born Leonie Sachs in Berlin-Schöneberg, Germany, in 1891 to the wealthy natural rubber and gutta-percha manufacturer Georg William Sachs (1858–1930) and his wife Margarete, née Karger (1871–1950),[1] she was educated at home because of frail health. She showed early signs of talent as a dancer, but her protective parents did not encourage her to pursue a profession. She grew up as a very sheltered, introverted young woman and never married. She pursued an extensive correspondence with, and was friends with, Selma Lagerlöf and Hilde Domin. As the Nazis took power, she became increasingly terrified, at one point losing the ability to speak, as she would remember in verse: “When the great terror came/I fell dumb.” Sachs fled with her aged mother to Sweden in 1940. It was her friendship with Lagerlöf that saved their lives: shortly before her own death Lagerlöf intervened with the Swedish royal family to secure their release from Germany. Sachs and her mother escaped on the last flight from Nazi Germany to Sweden, a week before Sachs was scheduled to report to a concentration camp. They settled in Sweden and Sachs became a Swedish citizen in 1952.

Living in a tiny two-room apartment in Stockholm, Sachs cared alone for her mother for many years, and supported their existence by translations between Swedish and German. After her mother’s death, Sachs suffered several nervous breakdowns characterized by hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions of persecution by Nazis, and she spent a number of years in a mental institution. She continued to write even while hospitalized. She eventually recovered sufficiently to live on her own, though her mental health would always be fragile. Her worst breakdown was ostensibly precipitated by hearing German speech during a trip to Switzerland to accept a literary prize. However, she maintained a forgiving attitude toward a younger generation of Germans, and corresponded with many German-speaking writers of the postwar period, including Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Ingeborg Bachmann. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelly_S…

Apartment of Nelly Sachs, with her typewriter, in Stockholm, Sweden. Gewerk.com image.

Apartment of Nelly Sachs, with her typewriter, in Stockholm, Sweden. Gewerk.com image.

More:

Nelly Sachs, undated photo (probably after 1966). Image from Heavy.com

Nelly Sachs, undated photo (probably after 1966). Image from Heavy.com

 


Fly the flag at the polls, then read poems for an American election day

November 6, 2018

Do you get the newsletter from the Academy of American Poets?

"The Avenue in the Rain," oil on can...

“The Avenue in the Rain,” oil on canvas, by the American painter Childe Hassam. 42 in. x 22.25 in. Courtesy of The White House Collection, The White House, Washington, D. C. Image courtesy of The Athenaeum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A 2012 newsletter included this list:

Poems of American Experience

People in some states complain that the liquor stores and bars won’t open on election day.  So, try the next best thing, or the better thing, and read some poetry.

What works of poetry, or literature, or visual arts, strike you as appropriate for the U.S. election day?  Which works would be most useful in school classrooms, to teach our young people about voting, how to vote, and why it’s important?

U.S. Flag Code urges the flag be flown at every polling place on any election day. Be sure to compliment your poll judges if the flag is up. You may fly your flag at home, too.

More:

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Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

 


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