Friday, July 29, 2005

Happy 100th Birthday, Stanley Kunitz!

And he's probably writing a poem about it. In his garden.

Here's a lovely picture of my favorite Poet Laureate at the podium.

I guess the fact that it's his 100th birthday is why The Writer's Almanac posted that lovely Kunitz poem today:

Touch Me

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

This and That

Discovery docks at the space station but it's not all razmatazz. It's a new era of self-honesty in space. Further shuttle flights have been grounded until they figure out the foam debris problem, even admitting publicly that it could be a lethal problem. We watch this shuttle flight with a heightened suspense and wonder -- part of the wonder being the question, is this level of exploration worth the risk?

My father, the former rocket engineer, believes it's not worth it. His projects were all unmanned missions, and he feels that we can learn enough by sending instruments, not human beings, up there. Gone are the days of the cowboy physicists like my father and his friends, one of whom was space wundkerkind Bob Truax, who was a protege of Goddards, and who later created a rocket-powered motorcycle for Evel Knievel to (almost) jump the Snake River Gorge. Gone are the braggadocio days of the 1960s, when putting a man on the moon meant supremacy on earth. We know better now. We are sobered rocket kids.

I have a friend who's a lawyer at NASA. He reports the mood of optimism for future projects with a quite different glow in his eyes than the fiery look those of those early rocket engineers. He is tempered, as we all are, by a new age and millennium, when possibility blends with practicality, and disasters in space seem an unthinkable price for our curiosity about the stars.

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I was recently in Washington, D.C. and visited The Library of Congress's gorgeous new building. I say "new" because it was built in 1898, and is relatively recent for a capitol building. It's also the most beautiful. They had an exhibit on Walt Whitman up in which I read a curious fact. Whitman lived in Washington during the Civil War, felt he could help the beleaguered President Lincoln by stationing himself where he would see Lincoln ride by in his carriage every day. Whitman made it a point to salute the President, cheer him on, as it were. He felt it helped Lincoln. A selection of Whitman's poems about Lincoln shows the poet's sense of identification with Lincoln.

Today, July 28, is the anniversary of the Fourteenth Amendment that made slaves citizens. America has come a long way in 137 years.

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Reading alert -- for SF Bay Area friends: I'm going to join John Amen, editor/publisher of The Pedestal magazine again for a reading at Valencia Street Books on Saturday, October 22. I'll post a note with details as the date approaches, but if you're in the area and would like to come and say hello, mark your calendars. I'd love to see you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Vacationed Mind

The Vacationed Mind returns to the blogosphere with new thoughts on blogging. Less is more kind of thoughts. I spent an entire week away from: telephone, cell phone, computer, calendar, job, house and creative projects. I had a blank notebook and a couple of pens. I wrote notes on my travels that were terse and outlined. Ideas for poems came and I relied on my memory to store them for later.

We deluge ourselves with the unimportant and lose sight of the real news of the universe. I saw an exhibit on Walt Whitman at the Library of Congress and saw his handwritten notebooks. There were remarkably few cross-outs on those small pages. First thought, best thought, I'm thinking -- and also that a well-cooked thought emerges in tastier language.

More soon. Your thoughts?