Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.
“The only thing that you absolutely have to know,
is the location of the library.” – Albert Einstein
“You want weapons? We’re in a library.
Books are the best weapon in the world.
This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have.
Arm yourself!” – Doctor Who
(Screenwriter-Producer Russell T. Davies)
“If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it. But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.” – George Orwell
This coming Thursday is American Libraries Day. Though the USA is still a comparatively young country, on October 6th we can boast of having the oldest and largest library association in the world.
The American Library Association was founded on October 6, 1876. The ALA is a nonprofit organization that “promotes libraries and library education internationally.” As of 2021, the ALA had 49,727 members.
The ALA is a co-sponsor with the Association of American Publishers, American Booksellers Association, and many other organizations dedicated to free expression, of Banned Book Week, started in 1982 by librarian Judith Krug, and held annually in the first full week of September. The ALA is also a leader in the current fight against censorship and banning books in our public libraries and schools.
“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.” – Benjamin Franklin
A library played an important part in the American Revolution. Ironically, this is something often overlooked in today’s American History textbooks.
In 1727, Benjamin Franklin was a founding member of the Junto Club, a group of tradesmen and artisans who held weekly meetings to discuss the political and social issues and scientific advances of the time. This led in 1731 to founding the Library Company of Philadelphia, the first subscription library in the American colonies. Fifty subscribers paid 40 shillings each to start the library, and 10 shillings a year thereafter. Their subscription fees paid for buying books, which were expensive in themselves, and the added cost of shipping them from London, since book publishing in America was still in its infancy. The fees also paid the rent for space in Carpenter’s Hall for the library. Both the First and the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, and the Library Company furnished “the gentlemen who are to meet in Congress in this City with the use of such Books as they may have occasion for during their sitting, taking a Receipt for them.” In 1787, the Library Company again offered delegates to the Constitutional Convention the use of the library’s books, so it was the first “library of congress.” The official Library of Congress was founded on April 23, 1800, during the presidency of John Adams.
“Information is the currency of democracy.” – Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President
“Don’t join the book burners … Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th U.S. President
And now, this week’s poets:
October 2, 1879 – Wallace Stevens born, American Modernist poet and insurance executive; he won the 1955 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Collected Poems. His poetry collections include Harmonium, Transport to Summer, and The Auroras of Autumn.
The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm
by Wallace Stevens
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,
Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom
The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.
And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself
Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.
“The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm” from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, © 1954 by Wallace Stevens / © renewed 1982 by Holly Stevens – Alfred A. Knopf
October 2, 1941 – Diana Hendry born, English poet, children’s author, and short story writer; won the 1991 Whitbread Award for best children’s book for Harvey Angell. Her collections of poetry for adults include Making Blue, Borderers, and Late Love: and Other Whodunnits.
by Diana Hendry
When we went to the grammar school
the teacher said,
‘You A-stream girls
will go out in the world
and be doctors and lawyers.
You C-stream girls
will go out into the world
and be typists and mothers.’
But when we left
(tossing our hats in the air),
beyond the school borders,
the streams overflowed
and the dams broke
with the water hoarded
in our hearts
and all the girls flowed
out into the world
in alphabetical disorder.
“Streams” from No Homework Today, © 2003 by Diana Hendry – Glowworm Books
October 4, 1956 – Lesley Glaister born, British novelist, poet, and playwright; noted for her novels, Honour Thy Father, which won a 1991 Somerset Maughan Award; Now You See Me; and Little Egypt; and her play, Bird Calls. Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
by Lesley Glaister
We nearly missed her.
This little storm of life,
could have blown by
before we weathered her.
But here she is: sturdy,
definite, pointing her finger
for this and this and more
and more and more.
Twenty-eight weeks appears in the Scottish Poetry Library – https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poet/lesley-glaister/
October 5, 1900 – Bing Xin born as Xie Wanying, prolific Chinese poet, novelist, translator, and children’s author; elected as a member of the National Senate in 1940, Bing Xin literally translates as “ice heart,” meaning a morally pure heart; The Photograph is an English language translation of her novel, about an American music teacher at a missionary school who adopts an 8-year-old Chinese girl.
Water flows to the East
And the moon sets to the West-
Will your heart pull them back?
I stayed in the corridor,
And my book rested on my lap.
With the wind stroking my face,
I knew spring had come.
Why need to compose?
The poet herself
Three poems by Bing Xin from A Maze of Stars and Spring Water, © 2014 by Bing Xin – Simon & Schuster
On October 6, 2006, Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer (1931-2015) was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature.
av Tomas Tranströmer
Jag spelar Haydn efter en svart dag
och känner en enkel värme i händerna.
Tangenterna vill. Milda hammare slår.
Klangen är grön, livlig och stilla.
Klangen säger att friheten finns
och att någon inte ger kejsaren skatt.
Jag kör ner händerna i mina haydnfickor
och härmar en som ser lugnt på världen.
Jag hissar haydnflaggan — det betyder:
“Vi ger oss inte. Men vill fred.”
Musiken är ett glashus på sluttningen
där stenarna flyger, stenarna rullar.
Och stenarna rullar tvärs igenom
men varje ruta förblir hel.
by Tomas Tranströmer
I play Haydn after a black day
and feel a simple warmth in my hands.
The keys are willing. Soft hammers strike.
The resonance green, lively and calm.
The music says freedom exists
and someone doesn’t pay the emperor tax.
I push down my hands in my Haydnpockets
and imitate a person looking on the world calmly.
I hoist the Haydnflag – it signifies:
“We don’t give in. But want peace.’
The music is a glass-house on the slope
where the stones fly, the stones roll.
And the stones roll right through
but each pane stays whole.
– translated by Robert Bly
“Allegro” from Den halvfärdiga himlen (The Half-Finished Heaven), © 2001 by Tomas Tranströmer, and translation © 2017 by Robert Bly – Gray Wolf Press
October 6, 1951 – Anne-Marie Oomen born, American author, playwright, memoirist, poet, Creative Writing chair at Interlochen Arts Academy, and editor of Dunes Review. Noted for books Pulling Down the Barn and House of Fields, her play Northern Belles, and the poetry collections Seasons of the Sleeping Bear and Uncoded Woman, the story of a woman told in poems..
My Radio Direction Finder is Inoperative
by Anne-Marie Oomen
For a while, running away blooms yellow as cucumber
with that scent that cleans like rain,
but in the end all you’re doing is getting lost
all over, and for all those miles and road meals.
it doesn’t stop the wish like a hard kiss
to know why the screen door slammed,
why the bruise of Mama’s hands never hurt me,
why the mast of Daddy’s limbs always did,
or why I am named Beatrice.
It’s like this: Just when I think memory is tucked
into some shotgun with the safety on,
that delicate odor of cucumber goes tacking
on the wind; then there’s the forced kiss
of remembering, a cracked-ice click just
before all the guns go off at once.
For short, they call me Bead –
A thing so small it should be forgotten.
“My Radio Direction Finder is Inoperative” from Uncoded Woman, © 2006 by Anne-Marie Oomen – Milkweed Editions
October 7, 1576 – John Marston born, English Jacobean poet and playwright; he had an ongoing feud with Ben Jonson, who satirized Marston as Clove in Every Man Out of His Humour.
If love be holy, if that mystery
by John Marston
If love be holy, if that mystery
O co-united hearts be sacrament;
If the unbounded goodness have infused
A sacred ardour of a mutual love
Into our species; if those amorous joys,
Those sweets of life, those comforts even in death,
Spring from a cause above our reason’s reach;
If that clear flame deduce its heat from heaven,
‘Tis, like its cause, eternal; always one,
As in th’ instiller of divinest love,
Unchanged by time, immortal, maugre death.
But, oh! ’tis grown a figment; love, a jest:
A comic poesy: the soul of man is rotten,
Even to the core, no sound affection.
Our love is hollow, vaulted, stands on props
Of circumstance, profit, or ambitious passes.
“If love be holy, if that mystery” is in the public domain.
October 7, 1849 – James Whitcomb Riley born, “the Hoosier Poet,” popular American writer, poet, and an advocate for international copyright protections.
by James Whitcomb Riley
You better not fool with a Bumblebee!—
Ef you don’t think they can sting—you’ll see!
They’re lazy to look at, an’ kind o’ go
Buzzin’ an’ bummin’ aroun’ so slow,
An’ ac’ so slouchy an’ all fagged out,
Danglin’ their legs as they drone about
The hollyhawks ‘at they can’t climb in
‘Ithout ist a-tumble-un out ag’in!
Wunst I watched one climb clean ‘way
In a jimson-blossom, I did, one day,—
An’ I ist grabbed it — an’ nen let go—
An’ “Ooh-ooh! Honey! I told ye so!“
Says The Raggedy Man; an’ he ist run
An’ pullt out the stinger, an’ don’t laugh none,
An’ says: “They has be’n folks, I guess,
‘At thought I wuz predjudust, more er less,—
Yit I still muntain ‘at a Bumblebee
Wears out his welcome too quick fer me!”
“The Bumblebee” from The Complete Poetical Works of James Whitcomb Riley – Indiana University Press, 1993 edition
October 7, 1934 – Amiri Baraka born as Everett LeRoi Jones, black American playwright, poet, social critic, and a major figure in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and ‘70s ; best known for his play Dutchman, his poetry collection The Dead Lecturer, and the historical survey Blues People: Negro Music in White America.
by Amiri Baraka
He came back and shot. He shot him. When he came
back, he shot, and he fell, stumbling, past the
shadow wood, down, shot, dying, dead, to full halt.
At the bottom, bleeding, shot dead. He died then, there
after the fall, the speeding bullet, tore his face
and blood sprayed fine over the killer and the grey light.
Pictures of the dead man, are everywhere. And his spirit
sucks up the light. But he died in darkness darker than
his soul and everything tumbled blindly with him dying
down the stairs.
We have no word
on the killer, except he came back, from somewhere
to do what he did. And shot only once into his victim’s
stare, and left him quickly when the blood ran out. We know
the killer was skillful, quick, and silent, and that the victim
probably knew him. Other than that, aside from the caked sourness
of the dead man’s expression, and the cool surprise in the fixture
of his hands and fingers, we know nothing.
“Incident” from Black Magic, © 1969 by Amri Baraka – Bobbs-Merrill Company
October 7, 1948 – Diane Ackerman born, American naturalist, poet, and essayist; her bestseller, A Natural History of the Senses, was made into a 1995 PBS series which she hosted. A molecule that is the secretory product from a crocodile was named dianeackerone in her honor. Also noted for The Moon by Whale Light: And Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodilians, and Whales; Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden; and Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day.
We Are Listening
by Diane Ackerman
As our metal eyes wake
to absolute night,
where whispers fly
from the beginning of time,
we cup our ears to the heavens.
We are listening
on the volcanic lips of Flagstaff
and in the fields beyond Boston,
in a great array that blooms
like coral from the desert floor,
on highwire webs patrolled
by computer spiders in Puerto Rico.
We are listening for a sound
beyond us, beyond sound,
searching for a lighthouse
in the breakwaters of our uncertainty,
an electronic murmur,
a bright, fragile I am.
Small as tree frogs
staking out one end
of an endless swamp.
we are listening
through the longest night
we imagine, which dawns
between the life and times of stars.
“We Are Listening” from Jaguar of Sweet Laughter – © 1991 by Diane Ackerman –Vintage Books/Random House
October 7, 1966 – Sherman Alexie born, Spokan and Coeur d’Alene American Indian novelist, short story writer, poet and filmmaker; noted for his short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, his novel, Reservation Blues, which won a 1996 American Book Award, and poetry/short story collection, War Dances, 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction winner.
Sonnet, Without Salmon
by Sherman Alexie
- The river is empty. 2. Empty of salmon, I mean. 3. But if you were talking to my grandmother, she would say the water doesn’t matter if the salmon are gone. 4. She never said that. I just did. But I’m giving her those words as a gesture of love. 5. She’s been gone for thirty-one years. 6. The water doesn’t matter if my grandmother is gone. 7. She swam wearing all of her clothes, even her shoes. 8. I don’t know if that was a tribal thing to do, or if she was just eccentric. 9. Has anybody ever said that dam building is an act of war against Indians? 10. And, yet, we need the electricity, too. 11. My mother said the reservation needs a new electrical grid because of all the brown- and blackouts. 12. “Why so many power outages?” I ask her. 13. “All the computers,” she says. 14. Today, in Seattle, I watched a cute couple at the next table whispering to their cell phones instead of to each other. But, chivalrous, he walked to the self-service coffee bar to get her a cup. Lovely, I thought. She was busy on her phone while he was ten feet away. When he sat back down, she said, “Oh, I was texting you to get me sugar and cream.”
“Sonnet, Without Salmon” appeared in the July-August 2011 edition of Orion Magazine – © 2011 by Sherman Alexie