Archives for posts with tag: history

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THE IDES OF MARCH: SOOTHSAYER = POET
Essay by Ada Limón

Speaking of art & politics…

CAESAR
: What man is that?

BRUTUS: 
A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

CAESAR: 
Set him before me; let me see his face.

CASSIUS: 
Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.

CAESAR: 
What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.

SOOTHSAYER: 
Beware the ides of March.

CAESAR: 
He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.
***
It’s hard not to think of Caesar on the ides of March. All those knives, all those men of politics. However, I often find that it is not Caesar or Brutus that I think of the most, rather, it is the Soothsayer. The poor nameless fellow who wanders in to warn his dictator of the coming fall only to be shoved out of the way as men with important business to attend to go about their day.

Mainly, I think, Hey, I’d like a soothsayer! Or an oracle. Or a Ouija board, a magic eight ball, even a good horoscope. Unlike Caesar (there’s really little comparison between us), I’d listen. Someone says, “Beware,” and I do, I pay attention.
 Maybe the soothsayers of today are the poets: Poor, often nameless, often shoved aside, often shouting something that no one is listening to.

But if the ides of March has taught us anything (aside from never befriending a man named Brutus), it is that we must listen to the soothsayers. Perhaps it could save our lives.
That sounds dramatic, of course, and it is. I like a bit of the dramatic. I mean, I’m talking about Caesar.

But in all honesty, I do believe that we are often delivered a poem exactly when we need it—when we are unaware that we are asking. We’ve all been on those marble steps, thinking, Man I’m done with this whole Rome thing. Let’s throw in the toga. And just then someone hands us a note, a poem. Say it’s, “Listen” by W.S. Merwin and we read: 
“with the cities growing over us like earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving 
dark though it is.”
And we’re reminded to do so.

Thank you. Thank you Rome. Thank you Romans. And for one more day we walk up the steps and we’re reminded to be, well, alive and for the meantime, happy about it.
 If it weren’t for those many poet/soothsayers, I’d most likely have taken the wrong path numerous times. Maybe you’ll get a poem today, passed under the door like a note. Read it, and in honor of the ides of March, pay attention.

SOURCE: poetryfoundation.org

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ada Limón is the author of three books of poetry, Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, and Sharks in the Rivers. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from New York University. Limón has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and is one of the judges for the 2013 National Book Award in Poetry. She works as a freelance writer and splits her time between Lexington, Kentucky, and Sonoma, California (with a great deal of New York in between). Her new book of poems, Bright Dead Things is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2015. Visit her at adalimon.com.

AUTHOR PHOTO by Jude Domski

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THE IDES OF MARCH
by C.P. Cavafy

My soul, guard against pomp and glory.
And if you can’t curb your ambitions,
at least pursue them hesitantly, cautiously.
And the higher you go,
the more searching and careful you need to be.
And when you reach your summit, Caesar at last —
when you assume the role of someone as great as that —
be really careful as you go out into the street,
a conspicuous man of power with your retinue;
and should a certain Artemidoros
come up to you out of the crowd, bringing a letter,
and say hurriedly: “Read this right away.
It’s about you, and it’s vitally important,”
be sure to stop; be sure to put off
all talk or business; be sure to keep clear
of those who salute and bow to you
(they can be seen later); let even
the Senate itself wait — and find out at once
what vital news Artemidoros has written down for you.

SOURCE: Poetry magazine (August 1972)

IMAGE: Laurel leaf crown

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Constantine P. Cavafy (1863- 1933) was a poet of Greek extraction born in Alexandria, Egypt. When he was nine, his family moved to Liverpool, England. For most his his life, Cavafy worked as a journalist and civil servant. The author of 154 published poems, his most important poetry was written after his fortieth birthday. He is widely considered the most distinguished Greek poet of the twentieth century.

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There are only two ways to get to Chicago. You either are born here or you arrive. Those born here have a natural claim, the automatic ownership that emerging into the world upon a certain spot has granted people, at least in their own view, since time began…Being a Chicagoan is not a matter of how long you reside here, but how it affects you. It is a process, an attitude, a state of mind.”

NEIL STEINBERG, You Were Never in Chicago

“I grew up in Chicago. And reading You Were Never in Chicago reminds me why I still think of Chicago as home even though I haven’t lived in the city for more than twenty years. Steinberg brilliantly explores the historical and contemporary city and how each of us makes (or loses) our way in it. Whether you’re a native or you just arrived at O’Hare, read this book: it will make you feel at home in Chicago. Even better, it will you make Chicago yours.” DAN SAVAGE

 ”[A] rollicking newspaperman’s memoir . . . and a strong case for Second City exceptionalism.” NEW YORK TIMES

Find the You were Never in Chicago by Neil Steinberg at Amazon.com.

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PHOTO OF A MAN ON SUNSET DRIVE: 1914, 2008 (Excerpt)
Groundbreaking Ceremony, City of South Miami, Sunset Drive Improvements
by Richard Blanco

And so it began: the earth torn, split open
by a dirt road cutting through palmettos
and wild tamarind trees defending the land
against the sun. Beside the road, a shack
leaning into the wind, on the wooden porch,
crates of avocados and limes, white chickens
pecking at the floor boards, and a man
under the shadow of his straw hat, staring
into the camera in 1914. He doesn’t know
within a lifetime the unclaimed land behind
him will be cleared of scrub and sawgrass,
the soil will be turned, made to give back
what the farmers wish, their lonely houses
will stand acres apart from one another,
jailed behind the boughs of their orchards…

Photo: ”Miami Sunset,” Bill Wisser Photography, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Blanco arrived in Miami shortly after his birth in 1968, the son of Cuban exiles. His acclaimed first book, City of a Hundred Fires, explores the yearnings and negotiation of cultural identity as a Cuban-American, and received the prestigious Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press (1998). His second book, Directions to The Beach of the Dead (University of Arizona Press, 2005) won the 2006 PEN/American Beyond Margins Award for its continued exploration of the universal themes of home and place. In January 2013, he was invited to read a poem at President Obama’s second inauguration. Blanco’s poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly, Best American Poetry 2000, Best American Prose Poems, and National Public Radio. Blanco earned both a bachelors of science degree in Civil Engineering and a Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing (1997). He currently lives in Bethel, Maine, where he writes and works as a consultant engineer. (Source: Poetryfoundation.org)

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Photo: F. Scott Fitzgerald with wife Zelda and daughter Scottie, 1923, in the sports coupé the author purchased a few years earlier after selling his first novel, THIS SIDE OF PARADISE.

“When I was a boy, I dreamed that I sat always at the wheel of a magnificent Stutz, a Stutz as low as a snake and as red as an Indiana barn.”

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

According to an insightful 1993 article entitled “The Automobile as a Central Symbol in F. Scott Fitzgerald” by Luis Girón Echevarría:

“The cars in Fitzgerald’s life provide a rough gauge by which to measure the discrepancy between the dream and reality of his life, as well as his waning fortunes, and his journey from careless, irresponsible youth to cautious, worried middle-age…

His first car, purchased in 1920 after the publication of his best-selling first novel, This Side of Paradise, was a three-year-oíd sports coupé; during the next two decades he would own a used Rolls-Royce, an oíd Buick, [a] Stutz, a nine-year-old Packard, an oíd 1934 Ford coupé, and, finally, a second-hand 1937 Ford convertible

It was Fitzgerald’s destiny to begin life dreaming of a magnificent red Stutz Bearcat and to end up driving a second-hand Ford. But during the interval he wrote of America’s dreams and of America’s enduring love affair with the automobile.”

Read more of this fascinating article here.

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“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.” BARBARA TUCHMAN

Illustration: “Monument of Books” by Anca Benera, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

On the last Sunday of each month, LAVA (Los Angeles Visionaries Association) hosts a Salon in downtown Los Angeles that features formal presentations on cultural and literary topics. On Sunday, June 30th, the Salon will explore Jazz Age Los Angeles with two presentations.

PRESENTATION #1: Martin Turnbull on The Garden of Allah
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Martin Turnbull, author of The Garden Of Allah novels will discuss life at the Garden of Allah hotel, including its infamous bungalow courtyard — and the bootleg liquor, fizzy flappers, all-night parties that defined the Jazz Age in Los Angeles. When F. Scott Fitzgerald arrived in  L.A. during the mid-1930s with his $1000/week contract at MGM, he settled in at the Garden of Allah. It was also the home-away-from-home for Algonquin Round Table refugees Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, Alexander Woollcott, and Donald Ogden Stewart. Martin will punctuate his talk with readings from his first novel in the Garden of Allah series, The Garden On Sunset.

PRESENTATION #2: Marc Chevalier on the Crescent Heights Shopping Center & the Ballyhoo Spirit of the Jazz Age

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Marc Chevailer, historian of the Oviatt Building in Los Angeles, will focus on the Crescent Heights Shopping Center, across the street from the Garden of Allah. Built in 1925, this towered, marble-trimmed and mansard-roofed Norman chateau housed Schwab’s Pharmacy and the Crescent Heights Market. It was where Hollywood’s movielanders shopped, schmoozed, strove, and scrounged for generations. While nothing remains of “the chateau that housed Schwab’s,” Marc will describe its halcyon era.

WHERE: Les Noces du Figaro, 618 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA, 90014. (213) 915-8687

WHEN: Sunday, June 30, 2013, noon-2 p.m.

PRICE: Free!

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Photo: F. Scott Fitzgerald with wife Zelda and daughter Scottie, 1923, in the sports coupé the author purchased a few years earlier after selling his first novel, THIS SIDE OF PARADISE.

“When I was a boy, I dreamed that I sat always at the wheel of a magnificent Stutz, a Stutz as low as a snake and as red as an Indiana barn.”

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

According to an insightful 1993 article entitled “The Automobile as a Central Symbol in F. Scott Fitzgerald” by Luis Girón Echevarría:

“The cars in Fitzgerald’s life provide a rough gauge by which to measure the discrepancy between the dream and reality of his life, as well as his waning fortunes, and his journey from careless, irresponsible youth to cautious, worried middle-age…

His first car, purchased in 1920 after the publication of his best-selling first novel, This Side of Paradise, was a three-year-oíd sports coupé; during the next two decades he would own a used Rolls-Royce, an oíd Buick, [a] Stutz, a nine-year-old Packard, an oíd 1934 Ford coupé, and, finally, a second-hand 1937 Ford convertible

It was Fitzgerald’s destiny to begin life dreaming of a magnificent red Stutz Bearcat and to end up driving a second-hand Ford. But during the interval he wrote of America’s dreams and of America’s enduring love affair with the automobile.”

Read more of this fascinating article here.

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Photo: President Jimmy Carter and nine-and-a-half-year-old daughter Amy participate in a speed reading course at the White House, February 1977.

In his latest book,  THROUGHOUT THE YEAR WITH JIMMY CARTER: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President (Zondervan, 2012), the former president states: “My favorite poet is Dylan Thomas.” So, with this in mind, we will feature an excerpt from one of our favorite Dylan Thomas poems.

FERN HILL (Excerpt)
by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light.

 
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
     In the sun that is young once only,
          Time let me play and be
     Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
          And the sabbath rang slowly
     In the pebbles of the holy streams.

Read “Fern Hill” in its entirety at Poets.org.

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“A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish and facility for successfully pursuing the unsolved ones.”

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

PHOTO: President Abraham Lincoln and his 11-year-old son Tad, 1864