Monday June 5, 2017

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Bennington Bus Stop

She gets off the bus and they kiss.
It’s a hard embrace.
Then he walks on the balls of his feet
like a basketball star,
and contorts himself into the driver’s
seat of a compact car.
She stands outside,
averts her face,
wipes her lips with the back of her hand
as if to erase a smear,
or a breath of dust on a photograph
album stacked in the future.
Then she slips into her place
beside him and everything is sure
as the weekend, as sure
as their nineteen-year-old bodies,
as sure as death
that sweetens their given grace.

Ruth Stone, “Bennington Bus Stop” from What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2004 by Ruth Stone. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.  (buy now)

It's the birthday of Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca (1898) (books by this author), born in Fuente Vaqueros, in the province of Granada. His father was a successful farmer, and his mother was a gifted pianist. García Lorca published his first book, Impressions and Landscapes, in 1918, and then moved to Madrid the following year, enrolling in the Residencia de Estudiantes (Student Residence), a cultural center that provided a stimulating, dynamic, and progressive environment for university students. It was at the Residencia that García Lorca met and befriended a group of artists, including composer Manuel de Falla, filmmaker Luis Buñuel, and painter Salvador Dalí; he also became interested in Surrealism and the avant-garde. During the 1920s, he wrote and staged a couple of plays; the first (The Butterfly's Evil Spell [1920]) was laughed off the stage, and the second (Mariana Pineda [1927]) received mixed reviews. He also collected folk songs and wrote a great deal of poetry; much of it — like Poem of the Deep Song, published in 1931, and Gypsy Ballads, 1928 — inspired by Andalusian or gypsy culture and music.

He also had an intense relationship with Salvador Dalí from 1925 to 1928, which forced him to acknowledge his homosexuality. He became a national celebrity upon the publication of Gypsy Ballads, and was distressed at the loss of privacy this caused; he chafed at the conflict between his public persona and his private self. He grew depressed, and a falling out with Dalí and the end of another love affair with a sculptor only made things worse. In 1929, his family arranged for him to take an extended trip to the United States. It was in New York that he began to break out of his pigeonhole as a "gypsy poet." He wrote A Poet in New York (published posthumously in 1942), a collection that was critical of capitalism and obsessed with urban decay and social injustice.

He turned back to drama when he returned to Spain in 1930. He wrote and premiered the first two plays in his Rural TrilogyBlood Wedding (1933) and Yerma (1934), and completed the first draft of the third, The House of Bernarda Alba (1945).

In 1936, the Spanish Civil War broke out, and the Nationalists didn't look favorably on his work or his liberal views. They dragged him from his home on August 16 and imprisoned him without a trial; two or three days later, they drove him to a hill outside of town and shot him. His body was never found.

And it's the birthday of poet and novelist David Wagoner (books by this author), born in Massillon, Ohio (1926). He grew up in Whiting, Indiana — a gritty town between Gary and Chicago — where the family moved after his father lost his job in a steel mill. In spite of his Midwestern upbringing, Wagoner has become a poet of the Pacific Northwest. His friend and mentor Theodore Roethke offered him a teaching position at the University of Washington in 1954. "When I drove down out of the Cascades and saw the region that was to become my home territory for the next thirty years, my extreme uneasiness turned into awe," Wagoner remembers. "I had never seen or imagined such greenness, such a promise of healing growth. Everything I saw appeared to be living ancestral forms of the dead earth where I'd tried to grow up." His earlier poems had reflected the polluted industrial area where he was raised. His second collection, A Place to Stand (1958), was his first foray into nature writing, which would become his trademark. "I came from a place where nature was ruined," he said, "and here the natural world was still in a pristine state." His aesthetic, emotional, and psychological relocation from the Midwest to the Northwest was complete by the time his fourth collection, The Nesting Ground, was published in 1963. Wagoner served as editor for Poetry Northwest for 30 years; for many years it was the only national magazine devoted entirely to poetry.

Wagoner also writes fiction, with 10 novels under his belt. He was down to his last 10 dollars when his first one, The Man in the Middle (1954), was published. He's best known for The Escape Artist (1965).

Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (books by this authorbegan its serial run in abolitionist newspaper the National Era on this date in 1851. It ran in weekly installments for 10 months. It generated some interest among opponents to slavery, but it didn't reach a larger audience until it was republished as a book in 1852.

Many critics dismissed the novel as sentimental, and several characters gave rise to persistent stereotypes of African-Americans. Even so, it attracted thousands of Northerners to the abolitionist cause. The book sold 300,000 copies in the United States in its first year in print.

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