Category Archives: Poerty

e.e. cummings memorial Thought of the Day

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.” — e.e. cummings

English: Grave of poet E. E. Cummings, located...

English: Grave of poet E. E. Cummings, located at Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the anniversary of the death of poet e.e. cummings. He died 51 years ago. To read his full ritaLOVEStoWRITE bioBLOG click HERE.

Cummings had a magical way of playing with words so they transcended form and meaning.

Cummings experimented radically with form, punctuation, spelling and syntax, abandoning traditional techniques and structures to create a new, highly idiosyncratic means of poetic expression. [Poets.org]
Here’s his poem ‘my love’.

my love
thy hair is one kingdom
the king whereof is darkness
thy forehead is a flight of flowers

thy head is a quick forest
filled with sleeping birds
thy breasts are swarms of white bees
upon the bough of thy body
thy body to me is April
in whose armpits is the approach of spring

thy thighs are white horses yoked to a chariot
of kings
they are the striking of a good minstrel
between them is always a pleasant song

my love
thy head is a casket
of the cool jewel of thy mind
the hair of thy head is one warrior
innocent of defeat
thy hair upon thy shoulders is an army
with victory and with trumpets

thy legs are the trees of dreaming
whose fruit is the very eatage of forgetfulness

thy lips are satraps in scarlet
in whose kiss is the combinings of kings
thy wrists
are holy
which are the keepers of the keys of thy blood
thy feet upon thy ankles are flowers in vases
of silver

in thy beauty is the dilemma of flutes

thy eyes are the betrayal
of bells comprehended through incense

E.E. Cummings, full-length portrait, facing le...

E.E. Cummings, full-length portrait, facing left, wearing hat and coat / World-Telegram photo by Walter Albertin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a list of selected poetry and prose by cummings: [List from Poets.org]

Poetry

  • Tulips and Chimneys (1923)
  • & (1925) XLI Poems (1925)
  • ViVa (1931) No Thanks (1935)
  • Tom (1935) 1/20 (1936)
  • Fifty Poems (1941)
  • 1 x 1 (1944)
  • Xaipe: Seventy-One Poems (1950)
  • Ninety-five Poems (1958)
  • 73 Poems (1962)
  • Complete Poems (1991)

Prose

  • The Enormous Room (1922)
  • Eimi (1933)
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Alfred Lord Tennyson 7.6.13 Thought of the Day

“I must lose myself in action, lest I wither in despair.” — Tennyson

Deutsch: Alfred Lord Tennyson 1809-1892 englis...

Deutsch: Alfred Lord Tennyson 1809-1892 englischer Poet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alfred Tennyson was born on this day in Somersby, Lincolnshire in 1809. Today is the 204th anniversary of his birth.

He was the fourth of 12 children born to the Reverend and Mrs. Tennyson. He began writing poetry as a child and by 12 he’d written a 6,000 line epic.  He and his brothers were home schooled by their father in the classics and modern languages. But Reverend Tennyson “suffered from depression and was notoriously absentminded” [TheLiteraryNetwork.com] problems “that were exacerbated by alcoholism.” [Poets.org]  The family struggled under Rev. Tennyson’s influence;

One of Tennyson’s brothers had violent quarrels with his father, a second was later confined to an insane asylum, and another became an opium addict. [Poets.org]
But Alfred and his brother Charles escaped to Trinity College, Cambridge. There they published Poems by Two Brothers. (1827).  The book attracted the attention of one of the school’s most popular literary clubs, the “Apostles.”And  Alfred became close friends with the group’s leader Arthur Hallam.
Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, by George...

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, by George Frederic Watts (died 1904), given to the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1895. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His next two books, Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (1830), and Poems (1833), were dismissed by critics as “‘affected’ and ‘obscure.'” [Ibid]  Another tragedy hit in 1833 when Hallam died suddenly in Vienna. Tennyson did not publish again for 10 years.
The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shal...

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1842 he finally released the two-volume Poems. It contained “The Lady of Shalott”, “The Lotus-eaters” “Morte d’Arthur” and “Ulysses” and “was a tremendous critical and popular success.” [TheLiteraryNetwork.com] Seventeen years after Hallam’s untimely death he immortalized his friend in the epic In Memoriam. With it “Tennyson became one of Britain’s most popular poets” [Ibid]

I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

But who shall so forecast the years
And find in loss a gain to match?
Or reach a hand thro’ time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?

Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d,
Let darkness keep her raven gloss:
Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,
To dance with death, to beat the ground,

Than that the victor Hours should scorn
The long result of love, and boast,
`Behold the man that loved and lost,
But all he was is overworn.’

                        [exerpt from In Memorium A.H.H. , Click Here to read the whole poem]
Soon after he became Britain’s Poet Laureate.
At the age of 41, Tennyson had established himself as the most popular poet of the Victorian era. The money from his poetry (at times exceeding 10,000 pounds per year) allowed him to purchase a house in the country and to write in relative seclusion. … In 1859, Tennyson published the first poems of Idylls of the Kings, which sold more than 10,000 copies in one month. In 1884, he accepted a peerage, becoming Alfred Lord Tennyson. [Ibid]
Tennyson wrote into his 80’s penning plays as well as poems, “among them the poetic dramas Queen Mary (1875) and Harold (1876)”[Poets.org]. He died at 83 in 1892. He is buried in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey
The monument to Alfred Lord Tennyson on the Is...

The monument to Alfred Lord Tennyson on the Isle of Wight (Photo credit: Anguskirk)


Gabriela Mistral 4.7.13 Thought of the Day

“At this moment, by an undeserved stroke of fortune, I am the direct voice of the poets of my race and the indirect voice for the noble Spanish and Portuguese tongues.”–Gabriela Mistral

Gabriela Mistral

Gabriela Mistral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lucila Goday y Alcayaga was born one this day in Vicuña , Chile in 1889.

Daughter of a poet and school teacher, Juan Gerónimo Godoy Villanueva, and a seamstress, Petronila Alcayaga, she was raised in a small Andean village. The family lived in poverty, a situation that worsened when her father left when Lucila was three. She was close to her older sister, Emelina Molina, who was also her teacher.

Despite having only a few years of formal education, she became a teacher’s aide at 15 to help support her family. As a teacher she had a number of positions in rural Chilean towns. By 1912 she was teaching at the high school level. Her star as an educator continued to rise,  in 1921, she became the director of Santiago’s Liceo (high school) #6, the best girls’ school in Chile. She went on to help reform the Mexican education and library system.

English: Gabriela Mistral, Chilean poet, educa...

English: Gabriela Mistral, Chilean poet, educator, diplomat, and feminist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A poet all her life…

“At age sixteen she moved to La Cantera to take a job and fell in love with a young railway worker. The relationship didn’t last and two years later the young man committed suicide. The only item found in his possession was a postcard from Mistral. This affected her deeply and she wrote Sonetas de la Muerte (Sonnets of Death) to express her feelings.” [Distinguished Women.com]

Lucila took the pen name Gabiela Mistral. Her poems reflected her experiences in life. When she “…was appointed director of a secondary school for girls located in rural Punta Arenas. The rough terrain of Punta Arenas became an inspiration for a series of poems entitled Patagonian Landscapes.“[ Ibid]

Her time in Mexican inspired   Readings for Women

“The dominant themes in her poetry were love, death, childhood, maternity, religion and the beauty of nature and of her native land. She also had a burning desire for justice.”[Ibid]

Major works include:

  • Sonetos de la muerte (1914)
  • Desolación  1922
  • Ternura 1924
  • Tala 1938
English: Gabriela Mistral, Nobel laureate in L...

English: Gabriela Mistral, Nobel laureate in Literature 1945 Deutsch: Gabriela Mistral, Nobelpreisträgerin für Literatur 1945 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She was the first Latin American and (so far is) the only Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

At the time of her death in 1957, her poems had been translated into English, French, German, Swedish and Italian.

The Rose

by Gabriela Mistral

The treasure at the heart of the rose
is your own heart’s treasure.
Scatter it as the rose does:
your pain becomes hers to measure.

Scatter it in a song,
or in one great love’s desire.
Do not resist the rose
lest you burn in its fire.

Click HERE to go to Poem Hunter.com and read more of Mistral’s works.


Thought of the Day 10.20.12 Viggo Mortensen

“There’s no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there’s no excuse for boredom, ever.”
Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen was born on this day in New York City, New York, USA  in 1958. He is 54 years old.

His family lived in Venezuela, Denmark and Argentina where his father managed farms and ranches.   He learned to speak fluent Danish, Spanish and English growing up. His parents divorced when he was 11 and he moved with his mother back to New York. After graduating St. Lawrence University he moved to Europe and lived in Spain, England and Denmark making his way as a truck driver and flower seller. Eventually he returned to the US ready to try his hand at acting.

Viggo Mortensen in a still from Witness [Image courtesy: Brego.net]

He did some theatre then expanded to film. His footage in 1984’s Swing Shift and  Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo ended up on the cutting room floor, but he had more luck in Peter Weir’s Witness. Mortensen played Moses Hochleitner, the younger brother to Alexander Godunov’s Daniel Hochleitner. He didn’t have a lot of lines in the Harrison Ford flick, but some how he stood out from the sea of blond-haired Amish men in blue shirts.

His next step was to Television where he was cast as Bragg on Search for Tomorrow [BRAGG, what a great soap opera name, right?]

In 1987 he played a crooked cop on Miami Vice. There was more theatre too, this time in LA’s Coast Playhouse’s production of Bent, for which he earned a Dramalogue Critics’ Award.

Movie still from G.I. Jane [Brego.net]

A splay of supporting roles in the 1990s saw him acting in some good movies (The Portrait of a Lady directed by Jane Campion) and some not so good movies (Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III)  Critics started to take notice when he starred opposite Demi Moore as brutal Master Chief John Urgayle in G.I. Jane (some critics said he stole the movie from Moore) and as the other man in A Walk on the Moon with Diane Lane. He played another ‘other’ man in A Perfect Murder, a reboot of Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder with Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow. He was Eddie Boone, a major league baseball player with a trifecta of additions in rehab with Sandra Bullock in 28 Days. And rounded out the decade by playing the devil in The Prophecy.

Movie poster from Lord of the Rings [Image courtesy: Beyond Hollywood.com]

2001 saw the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, the first in Peter Jackson’s epic Tolkien cycle. With his role as the heroic Aragorn “Mortensen was established as a major leading man among Hollywood’s A-list ranks.” [Viggo Mortensen — Biography, Movies. yahoo.com The Two Towers followed in 2002 and The Return of the King premiered in 2003. He brought quiet strength, “commanding good looks”[ibid] and a rye sense of humor to Aragorn. He embraced the role whole heartedly. He did all his own stunts in the movies (and took quiet a few knocks in the process). He wore his sword and costume for days on end so they would have an authentic lived in look. And he became so attached to his equine co-stars, Uraeus and Kenny, that he purchased the horses after the film wrapped and took them home.

After his success in the Lord of the Rings Mortensen managed to keep himself centered…

Exceedingly humble about success and uncharacteristically un-Hollywood, Mortensen managed to stay somewhat reclusive and focused on other interests outside of acting, namely painting and writing poetry, despite becoming one of the most recognizable stars in the world. [Viggo Mortensen — Biography, Movies. yahoo.com ]

He used some of his earnings from playing Aragorn to start Perceval Press publishing house in Santa Monica, California.

Perceval Press is a small, independent publisher specializing in art, critical writing, and poetry. The intention of the press is to publish texts, images, and recordings that otherwise might not be presented. [Percival Press]

Mortensen’s own artistic, musical and written works are available through Perceval Press. He writes poetry, essays, and companion pieces for his paintings and photographic work in English, Spanish and Danish. Musically he has completed 16 albums, working almost exclusively with the guitarist Buckethead.

Back on the silver screen was Hidalgo in 2007.  It is the true story of American Frank T. Hopkins who participation in a 3,000-mile race across the Najd desert called the “Ocean of Fire”.

He gave “his most compelling and carefully drawn performance to date” [ibid] as an everyday man who’s violent past catches up to him in A History of Violence a film directed by David Cronenberg. He worked with Cronenberg again in 2007 for Eastern Promises, where he played a Russian gangster. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the film.

In 2008 he was Ed Harris’ sidekick in the Western Appaloosa. He also starred in Good which takes place in the 1930s. Mortensen is a professor struggling to decide if he should join the Nazi party.

Movie still from The Road. [Image courtesy: Wired.com]

The grim Cormac McCarthy novel was the basis for Mortensen’s next movie, The Road. It is a post-apocalyptic story of a father and son trying to survive in a bleak wasteland.

Once again teaming up with Cronenberg, Mortensen plays Dr. Sigmund Freud in his the 2011 film,  A Dangerous Method.

Coming up Mortensen has several film ready for release including: On The Road and Everybody Has a Plan; and in 2013 The Faces of January and The Last Voyage of Demeter.

Publicity shot. [Image courtesy: TheReelist]

Found this on Facebook and had to share.

 


Thought of the Day 10.14.12 e.e.cummings

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
–e.e. cummings

E. E. Cummings, 1958 by Edward Estlin Cummings...

E. E. Cummings, 1958 by Edward Estlin Cummings, Oil on canvas (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

Edward Estlin Cummings was born on this day in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA in 1894. Today is the 118th anniversary of his birth.

As a child Cummings  enjoyed art and writing, as well as the outdoors. His mother encouraged him to write. And Cummings worked at his craft by writing daily. He went to Harvard where he became interested in non conventional poetry.

First edition dustjacket of The Enormous Room

First edition dustjacket of The Enormous Room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During World War I he was an ambulance driver in France and fell in love with Paris. But he sent letters home that “holding views critical of French war effort” [e.e. cummings Biography] He was arrested and thrown in prison for three months. His book The Enormous Room is based on his experiences in the French prison.  He was later drafted into the US Army.

1st edition cover

1st edition cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His first collection of poems, Tulips and Chimneys came out in 1923. Although his poems received critical praise — he won the Dial Award for poetry in 1925 — Cummings found it hard to find a publisher. His poetry was considered too avant guard.

His my father moved through dooms of love is a tribute to his recently deceased father…

my father moved through dooms of love

by E. E. Cummings

              34

my father moved through dooms of love 
through sames of am through haves of give, 
singing each morning out of each night 
my father moved through depths of height

this motionless forgetful where 
turned at his glance to shining here; 
that if(so timid air is firm) 
under his eyes would stir and squirm

newly as from unburied which 
floats the first who,his april touch 
drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates 
woke dreamers to their ghostly roots

and should some why completely weep 
my father's fingers brought her sleep:
vainly no smallest voice might cry 
for he could feel the mountains grow.

Lifting the valleys of the sea 
my father moved through griefs of joy; 
praising a forehead called the moon 
singing desire into begin

joy was his song and joy so pure 
a heart of star by him could steer 
and pure so now and now so yes 
the wrists of twilight would rejoice

keen as midsummer's keen beyond
conceiving mind of sun will stand,
so strictly(over utmost him
so hugely) stood my father's dream

his flesh was flesh his blood was blood:
no hungry man but wished him food;
no cripple wouldn't creep one mile
uphill to only see him smile.

Scorning the Pomp of must and shall
my father moved through dooms of feel;
his anger was as right as rain
his pity was as green as grain

septembering arms of year extend 
yes humbly wealth to foe and friend 
than he to foolish and to wise  
offered immeasurable is

proudly and(by octobering flame 
beckoned)as earth will downward climb, 
so naked for immortal work 
his shoulders marched against the darkhis sorrow was as true as bread:
no liar looked him in the head; 
if every friend became his foe 
he'd laugh and build a world with snow.My father moved through theys of we, 
singing each new leaf out of each tree 
(and every child was sure that spring 
danced when she heard my father sing)then let men kill which cannot share, 
let blood and flesh be mud and mire, 
scheming imagine,passion willed, 
freedom a drug that's bought and soldgiving to steal and cruel kind, 
a heart to fear,to doubt a mind, 
to differ a disease of same,
conform the pinnacle of amthough dull were all we taste as bright, 
bitter all utterly things sweet,
maggoty minus and dumb death 
all we inherit,all bequeathand nothing quite so least as truth
--i say though hate were why men breathe--
because my Father lived his soul 
love is the whole and more than all

Cummings died in 1962 from a stroke.

E.E. Cummings, full-length portrait, facing le...

E.E. Cummings, full-length portrait, facing left, wearing hat and coat / World-Telegram photo by Walter Albertin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Thought of the Day 9.30.12 Jalal ad-Din Rumi

“The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”

Jalal ad-Din Rumi 

Rumi's attributed photo

Rumi’s attributed photo (Photo credit: Eliza_Tasbihi)

Jalal ad-DinRumi was born on this day in Persia (in what is now Balkh Province, Afghanistan) in 1207. Today is the 805th anniversary of his birth.

When he was 12 the Mongols invaded his homeland and Jalal ad-Din Rumi’s family escaped to Turkey. His father Baha’Walad became

an important position as a religious teacher, and his son succeeded him in that role. Rumi married and had a son, who later wrote Rumi’s biography. [The Messenger, A Guide to Life’s Adventure]

He met the dervish Shams al-Din of Tabriz in 1244 and became his devoted friend.

Rumi started the mystical practice of the sema, an act of worship that takes the form of an ecstatic, whirling dance accompanied by music. The sema is performed to this day in Konya, Turkey, by the Mevlevi order created by Rumi’s disciples.[The Messenger, A Guide to Life’s Adventure]

Wirujący derwisze

Wirujący derwisze (Photo credit: mammal)

Rumi’s disciples were jealous of his friendship with Shams, and in December 1248 the dervish was either driven away of killed by one of them (maybe Rumi’s son). Rumi traveled far and wide looking for his friend, but eventually he accepted that Shams would not be found.

Eventually, Rumi made peace with his loss, returning to his home believing Shams to be a part of him: “His essence speaks through me.” [Poetry.org]

He honored his friend with “more than 40,000 lyric verses… odes, eulogies, quatrains and other styles of Eastern-Islamic poetry called Divan-e-Shams-e Tabrizi.” [Poetry.org]

Shams of Tabriz as portrayed in a 1500 paintin...

Shams of Tabriz as portrayed in a 1500 painting in a page of a copy of Rumi’s poem dedicated to Shams. BNF Paris. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He used music, poetry and dance as a path for reaching God.

His six-volume the Masnavi remains an important text to Sufis around the world.

He died on December 17, 1273.  His shrine in Konya, Turkey is a  pilgrimage destination.

Rumi's tomb and minaret

Rumi’s tomb and minaret (Photo credit: Queen Esoterica)

“Rumi is both a poet and a mystic, but he is a teacher first, trying to communicate what he knows to his audience. Like all good teachers, he trusts that ultimately, when the means to go any further fail him and his voice falls silent, his students will have learnt to understand on their own.” [Alan Williams, Spiritual Verses, Introduction]

———————————————-

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. [Jalal ad-Din Rumi , The Messenger, A Guide to Life’s Adventure]


Thought of the Day 9.25.12 Shel Silverstein

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

–Shel Silverstein

[Image courtesy: Poetry Foundation]

Sheldon Allan Silverstein was born on this day in Chicago, Illinois in 1930. Today is the  82nd anniversary of his birth.

Shel grew up in the Logan Square area of Chicago. He was notoriously private and seldom gave interviews so there is not much know about his early life. In one of the rare interviews he gave he said:

“When I was a kid—12 to 14, around there—I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls, but I couldn’t play ball. I couldn’t dance. Luckily, the girls didn’t want me. Not much I could do about that. So I started to draw and to write. I was also lucky that I didn’t have anybody to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style…” [Publishers Weekly, February 24, 1975.]

At 12 he became interested in cartooning and would practice his drawing by tracing comics, including Al Capp, from the “funny papers.” He attended the University of Illinois (for “One useless semester”), and the Art Institute of Chicago (for a summer session) before landing at Roosevelt University. It was a Roosevelt that he was first published, his cartoons appeared in the Roosevelt Torch.

In 1953 he was drafted into the US Army. He served from 1953-1955 and worked as a cartoonist for Stars and Stripes Newspaper. He said in a later Stars and Stripes interview that the Army  helped his art work because he didn’t have to worry about selling the cartoons anywhere. He was guaranteed 3 square meals a day. The Army also gave him the structure of a daily deadline. [To read the entire Stars and Stripes interview go to Off On a Tangent: Shel Silverstein Stars & Stripes Interview] His book Take Ten is a compilation of the cartoons he drew for Stars and Stripes.

Take Ten cover art. (Image courtesy: Amazon.com]

When he got out of the Army he found it difficult to sell his work on a regular basis. He freelanced for Sports Illustrated and Playboy and in 1956 he became a staff cartoonist for Playboy. He contributed poems and published several collections of his cartoons through the magazine.

Then in 1963 things took a turn.

“…at the suggestion of fellow illustrator Tomi Ungerer, he was introduced to Ursula Nordstrom who convinced him to begin writing for children. One of Silverstein’s most popular books, The Giving Tree, was published in 1964.” [Shel Silverstein, Introduction by Meghan Ung. Humanities on the Internet]

Cover art for The Giving Tree [Image courtesy: Amazon.com]

No on had wanted to publish the book. They thought it was too sad for a children’s book. They thought it was too short. They couldn’t pigeonhole it as either for adults or children. But they all agreed it was wonderful. Then Harper and Row gave it a chance and it became a classic in children’s literature.

Here’s the 1973 animated movie of The Giving Tree narrated by Silverstein:

1974’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, a collection of poetry for children, won the New York Times Outstanding Book Award. The collection has been republished several times with Silverstein added poems at the 25th and 30th anniversary.  Here’s one of my favorite poems from the book, Hug o’ War:

Hug o’ War

I will not play at tug o’ war.

I’d rather play at hug o’war.

Where everyone hugs

instead of tugs,

Where everyone giggles

and rolls on the rug,

Where everyone kisses,

And everyone grins,

And everyone cuddles,

And everyone wins.

Next up was The Missing Piece is a beautifully written story about a circle who is looking for its soul mate. The nontraditional ending is both truthful and bittersweet.

A Light In the Attic brought more wonderful poems and illustrations. [Backward Bill always cracked us up at our house…]

…Backward Bill’s got a backward pup.

They eat their supper when the sun comes up…

Silverstein’s illustration of Backward Bill. [Image courtesy: Amazon.com]

Silverstein wrote a sequel to The Missing Piece called The Missing Piece Meets the Big O (see below) which won the 1982 International Reading Association’s Children’s Choice Award.

The Shel Silverstein collection  — “borrowed” from the shelves of an obliging independent brick and mortar bookstore, Greetings and Readings, Hunt Valley, Maryland.

Silverstein also had a musical side. He played guitar and wrote songs, including the Johnny Cash hit A Boy Named Sue, the Irish Rovers “Unicorn Song” and the Dr. Hook song “The Cover of the Rolling Stone.” He performed on several albums (both his own and others.)

He was also a playwright. He had a hit with The Lady or the Tiger Show a play where contestants in a game show have to choose between two doors. Behind one door is a beautiful woman, behind the other door is a man-eating tiger. He co-wrote Oh, Hell! with David Mamet for Lincoln Center. The two worked together again on the film Things Change.

Silverstein died of a heart attack on May 10th, 1999 in Key West.

Shel playing his guitar. [Image courtesy: 105.7 Hawk]

Here’s the YouTube video for The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, I’d never read this book, or seen this video, but I just loved the message and had to share it…


Thought of the Day 9.3.12 Ludovico Ariosto

“When the devil grows old he turns hermit”

Ludovico Ariosto 

c. 1510

c. 1510 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ludovico Ariosto was born on this day in Reggio Emilia, Italy, in 1474. Today is the 538th anniversary of his birth.

Ariosto was the eldest of 10 children born to an affluent family. His father, Count Niccolo Ariosto, was the commander of the citadel, and Ludovico was supposed to follow in the his footsteps. He studied law, languages and literature.  He had a great love of poetry and wanted to become a writer, but he was obliged to support his family. When his father died, in 1500, he took over the family estate. In 1503 he began to work for Cardinal Ippolito D’Este who acted as Ariosto’s patron for a few years. Later he worked for the Cardinal’s brother, Alfonso I, Duke of Ferrara. In 1522 he was sent to wilderness of Garfagnana, Ferrara as governor. He did not take to the remote location of the bandits.

Statue of Ludovico Ariosto in Reggio Emilia

Ariosto snuck time to write some comedies, prose and poetry when his duties permitted. His play Cassaria was staged in 1508 and I Suppositi followed in 1509. (It was translated into English and was the inspiration for parts of  Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.) He wrote 5 comedies and 7 satires.

His greatest work, indeed ” the most celebrated narrative poem of the Italian high Renaissance” [Books and Writers] was Orlando Furioso. It was first published in 1516 at a length of  40 cantos.  The epic poem was revised and added to several times with the final version, at 46 cantos, appearing in 1532.  An additional 5 cantos , the Cinque canti were published by his son Virgino after the poet’s death.

 The plot revolves around the conflict of the Christian versus the Moor, the war between Charles, the Holy Roman Emperor, and Agramante, King of North Africa, and Marsilio, King of Spain. With the defeat and death of Agramante, the conflict ends, and Marsilio returns to Spain. [Books and Writers]

Two editions of Orlando Furioso.

The piece was so popular that, rumor has it, when the last revision came out Queen Elizabeth banned the English translator of the work from Court until he completed his task so he wouldn’t be distracted. Artist, composers and other writers have used characters from Orlando Furioso as their muse. Portrait of a Gentleman by Titian is one such work. His A Man with a Quilted Sleeve is believed to be Ludovico.


Thought of the Day 8.22.12 Dorothy Parker

“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone”

–Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Rothschild was born on this day in West End, New Jersey in 1893. Today is the 119th anniversary of her birth.

She said she was “a late unexpected arrival in a loveless family.” Dottie’s mother, Annie, died when the little girl was only five. Her father, Jacob, remarried two years later. But Dottie hated his new wife, Eleanor. Instead of calling Eleanor ‘Mother’ or ‘Stepmother’ Dorothy would refer to her as ‘the housekeeper.’  Annie was Protestant and Jacob was Jewish, but Eleanor was a strict Roman Catholic, and little Dottie thought she was a religious fantastic. Dottie was sent to elementary school at the Convent of the Blessed Sacrament, something else she loathed. She got into trouble when she refered to the Immaculate Conception as “spontaneous combustion.” Of her education there she later remarked…

…as for helping me in the outside world, the Convent taught me only that if you spit on a pencil eraser, it will erase ink.

She went to Miss Dana’s School for Young Ladies, a private boarding and finishing school in Morristown, New Jersey.  Shortly after graduating finishing school she learned that her brother, Henry, died aboard the Titanic. A year later her father passed away.

Dorothy moved to New York where she wrote during the day and played piano at a dancing school at night until her career took off. In 1914 she sold her poem “Any Porch” to Vanity Fair for $12.  She worked for Vogue (a sister Conde Nast publication) writing fashion captions including such quips as “Brevity is the soul of lingerie.” Later she moved over to Vanity Fair where her managing editor, Frank Crowinshield said she had

 “the quickest tongue imaginable, and I need not to say the keenest sense of mockery.” [Poetry Hunter.com]

In 1917 she married a wall street stockbroker, Edwin Pond Parker II.  Edwin went off to serve in World War I. He was wounded in the War and came back an alcoholic and morphine addict. The marriage didn’t last long, but she kept his name for the rest of her life.

Dorothy took over as Theatre Critic for P.G. Woodhouse. She was the only female drama critic in New York at the time.  Her acerbic wit was evident in such reviews as “if you don’t knit, bring a book.” Parker was

“a firecracker who was aggressively proud of being tough, quirky, fiesty…and she managed to carry it off with style and humor.” [ Marion Meade, What Fresh Hell Is This]

the readers loved her, but the theater owners and producers were less than pleased. She crossed the line once too often and when she panned a big production she got fired from the drama desk.

The Algonquin Round Table in caricature by Al ...

The Algonquin Round Table in caricature by Al Hirschfeld. Seated at the table, clockwise from left: Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, Franklin P. Adams, Edna Ferber, George S. Kaufman, Robert Sherwood. In back from left to right: frequent Algonquin guests Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt, Vanity Fair editor Frank Crowninshield and Frank Case. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 1920’s Dorothy was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of  — mostly male — writers and friends known for their quick-witted quips. During this period she wrote her poem “News Item” which contains the iconic Parker line “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”  She worked for various publications most notably The New Yorker. At the New Yorker she wrote book reviews (just as funny and acerbic as her drama reviews) from 1927-1933 under the pseudonym the “Constant Reader.” She continued to write poetry and short stories,a nd in 1929 her story “The Big Blonde” won the prestigious O. Henry award.

Also in 1929 she began to write screenplays. She was hired by MGM and moved to Hollywood.  In 1933 Parker met husband #2, Alan Campbell, another screenwriter and the two became both professional and romantic partners. They signed on with Paramount Pictures in 1935 and Parker got an Academy Award nomination as part of the screenwriting team that penned “A Star Is Born.”

George Platt Lynes took this portrait in 1943. [ courtesy Dorothy Parker’s World Online. ]

Parker used her pen to fight for social justice. She championed feminism, racial equity, and the fight against Fascism. She supported the International Brigade (along with Earnest Hemingway) in their fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. In 1936 she helped found the Anti Nazi League. She also joined the Communist Party, an act that got her black listed in the 1950’s.Starting in 1957 she wrote book reviews for Esquire magazine, and in 1959 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Parker had a dark side. She was an alcoholic and she attempted suicide on several occasions. In her poem Resume she wrote about suicide:

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

On June 7, 1967 Parker died of a heart attack in New York City.

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The Portable Dorothy Parker is available on Amazon.com.

Here are some more Dorothy Parker quotes: 

“She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.”

The only ‘-ism’ Hollywood believes in is plagiarism.

Time wounds all heels.

I’d like to have money. And I’d like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that’s too adorable, I’d rather have money.

Sorrow is tranquility remembered in emotion.

(In 1955) “Hollywood money isn’t money. It’s congealed snow, melts in your hand, and there you are.”

The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.

One more drink and I’ll be under the the table, two more drinks and I’ll be under the host.

Scratch an actor – and you’ll find an actress.

Upon being told that former US President Calvin Coolidge (known as “Silent Cal” for being very tight-lipped) had died, she quipped, “How can they tell?”

He and I had an office so tiny that an inch smaller and it would have been adultery.

Excuse me, I have to use the toilet. Actually, I have to use the telephone, but I’m too embarrassed to say so.

People ought to be one of two things, young or dead.

On truth: Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.”

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

“You can drag a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

“Look at him, a rhinestone in the rough.”

“They sicken of the calm, who know the storm”

“This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”


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