You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense
You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense
Today is the birthday of someone who never celebrated Thanksgiving. Poet and artist WILLIAM BLAKE was born in London in 1757).
He started seeing visions when he was a young boy — God in the window, angels in trees.
He apprenticed to an engraver, and spent his life as a little-known printmaker and poet.
Blake set up an exhibition of his art in his brother’s shop and called it “Poetical and Historical Inventions.” He left the show up for a year, but not many people attended, and not a single piece of art was sold.
Though famous today, he died in poverty in 1827, at the age of 69. In the 30 years after publishing his Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience, fewer than 20 copies had sold.
An 1863 book, Life of William Blake was published quoted many of Blake’s poems, and included his illustrations and was hugely popular, and for the first time, Blake was considered a major English poet.
Sharon Olds clicked the clock over to 71 on November 19 and was awarded this year’s Pulitzer Prize for her poetry.
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar"
Sylvia Plath was born October 27, 1932 in Boston.
She studied with poet Robert Lowell in the late 1950’s. Her first collection of poems, Colossus, was published in 1960 in England, and two years later in the United States. She was married to poet Ted Huges and had two children, Frieda and Nicholas in 1960 and 1962, respectively.
When Ted Hughes left her in 1962 for another woman, she went into a deep depression and wrote most of the poems that would comprise her most famous book, Ariel.
In 1963, Plath published a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas.
On February 11, 1963, she wrote a note to her downstairs neighbor instructing him to call the doctor, then she committed suicide using her gas oven.
Although only Colossus was published while she was alive, Plath was a prolific poet, and in addition to Ariel, Hughes published three other volumes of her work posthumously, including The Collected Poems, which was the recipient of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize. She was the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize after death.
— Sylvia Plath
When Dylan Thomas went on his fourth reading tour of the United States in 1953, he was deep into his alcoholism. He was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning just as the tour began and told his doctor, “I’ve had 18 straight whiskeys. I think that’s the record.”
He died a few days later. One of his last poems is “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” - a poem in the villanelle form about the death of his father.
Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27, 1914, in South Wales at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea.
Words from W.S. Merwin on his birthday.
A former poet laureate of the United States, W. S. Merwin was born in New York City on 9/30/27 and he was raised in Union City, New Jersey.
He won the 1971 Pulitzer Prize for his collection The Carrier of Ladders and the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for The Shadow of Sirius. He also won the 2005 National Book Award for Migration: New & Selected Poems.
He started writing poems when he was four or five years old, he said — at first, they were mostly hymns to give to his father, a Presbyterian minister. He studied literature and Romance languages at Princeton, gained the admiring attention of W.H. Auden, and published his first book of poems, A Mask for Janus, the year he turned 25.
It’s a strange courage
you give me ancient star:
Shine alone in the sunrise
toward which you lend no part!
September 17, 1883: the birthday of modernist poet William Carlos Williams who spent his life as a doctor as well as a poet. Williams was born in New Jersey, 130 years ago today.
excerpt, by Seamus Heaney
What happens next
Is undiminished for having happened once,
Twice, ten, a thousand times before.
Who cares if all the music that transpires
Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
Through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.
It’s the birthday of Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa born in Kashiwabara, Japan June 15, 1763.
It’s the birthday of poet and playwright W. B. Yeats, born 1865 in Dublin, Ireland.
Two things about him I had not known:
His aunt gave him a copy of Esoteric Buddhism about Eastern mystical philosophy, and Yeats especially loved its idea that the world of matter was an illusion.
At 20, he and a group of friends formed the Dublin Hermetic Society, in order to conduct experiments into the nature of ghosts and psychic powers. He continued throughout his life to consult with mediums and to experiment with automatic writing and séances.
"Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.”
The Poet Basho (1744-94) chatting at a moonviewing festival,
from the series ’100 Phases of…
It’s the birthday of Jersey poet Allen Ginsberg , born in Newark, New Jersey in 1926 and raised in Paterson.
His family were Russian-Jewish immigrants; his father was a high school teacher and a poet, but his mother struggled with mental illness her entire life.
At Columbia University, he fell in with a group of poets and artists that included Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and William S. Burroughs. They read poetry to each other and took drugs and had all-night conversations, and sometime in the late ’40s, they started calling themselves “Beats.”
When Ginsberg was 26 years old, he was sitting in his apartment in Harlem when he suddenly had a vision of William Blake. He called it “a sudden awakening into a totally deeper real universe than I’d been existing in.”
But before Ginsberg was convinced he wanted to be a poet after he graduated from Columbia, he worked as an apprentice book reviewer for Newsweek magazine and for an advertising agency in NYC.
In 1955, he moved to San Francisco, where he became part of the poetry scene that included Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In October of that year, he read his poem “Howl” at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. It was a huge success, and it launched a writing career that lasted more than years.
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night …"
Keillor, who announced a “retirement” from doing A Prairie Home Companion, will spend the summer busy doing APHC shows, including a run of outdoor shows, a 30-day bus tour and a two-week cruise.
Billy’s newest collection, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems will be released in October.
Billy has been a favorite and frequently featured poet on the Almanac site for many years.