Thursday, February 28, 2008

Today I'll be at Washington & Lee

Thursday, February 28
Jean Anaporte-Easton, Julie R. Enszer, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Sally Rosen Kindred,
Cheryl Pallant, Susan Williamson, and Susan Settlemyre Williams will participate
in a reading and panel discussion in honor of Letters to the World.
4:00-5:30, Elrod Commons 345
Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia
Free and open to the public
Contact organizer Lesley Wheelerfor more info

The Discovery of DNA

It was noted today in The Writer’s Almanac.

It was on this day in 1953 that James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of the DNA molecule, which became the key to understanding how all organisms pass genetic information on to their offspring. James Watson was only 23 years old at the time. Crick was older, but he hadn't even finished his Ph.D. They were working in a lab in Cambridge, England, where they didn't even have the right equipment to examine DNA. That equipment was located at King's College in London. Watson tried to get a job there by setting his sister up with one of the King's College scientists, but it didn't work out.
They were devastated when the world-renowned scientist Linus Pauling published a paper proposing a structure for DNA. But they immediately realized that his structure was wrong, and they vowed to beat him in the race to the answer. They learned that a woman named Rosalind Franklin was taking X-Ray pictures of DNA, and they decided that the only way to discover the structure was to look at those pictures.
Watson got to know Rosalind Franklin's lab partner, Maurice Wilkins, and one night he persuaded Wilkins to show him one of the X-ray pictures that Franklin had taken of a DNA molecule. On the train ride back to Cambridge, Watson sketched the picture on a newspaper. When he got back to his lab, he and Crick spent several days building theoretical models of the molecule. They hit on the correct structure on this day in 1953. Once they realized what they had accomplished, they went to the local bar to celebrate. Toasting their discovery, Watson shouted, "We have discovered the secret of life!" They would go on to win the Nobel Prize for their discovery. Rosalind Franklin would also have gotten credit, but she had died of cancer by the time the prize was awarded.
I found their dismissal of Rosalind Franklin and the shenanigans with Maurice Wilkins a little understated, even, dare I say, dismissive. I’d love to read Brenda Maddox’s biography of Rosalind Franklin, but just don’t have a moment right now.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What Punctuation Mark Am I?

You Are An Exclamation Point

You are a bundle of... well, something.

You're often a bundle of joy, passion, or drama.

You're loud, brash, and outgoing. If you think it, you say it.

Definitely not the quiet type, you really don't keep a lot to yourself.

You're lively and inspiring. People love to be around your energy.

(But they do secretly worry that you'll spill their secrets without even realizing it.)

You excel in: Public speaking

You get along best with: the Dash

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My poem in billet-doux: an anthology

I just learned this from the Dancing Girl Press blog.

an anthology
$22.00 (s&h included)
dancing girl press, 2008
get it here.

This special dancing girl press limited edition collection of missives is sure to entice and delight. 15 poets. 15 love letters. Each piece written and designed by the poet themselves and collected in a lovely box. A volume sure to thrill the poetry and art lover (as well as the occasional voyeur.)

Each box includes letters, postcards, and prints by Jane Pupek, Erin Bertram, Bronwen Tate, Michaela Gabriel, Cecelia Pinto, Shawn Fawson, Diane Kendig, Christine Hamm, Jeannette Sayers, Suzanne Frischkorn, Annie Finch, Emma Bolden, Julie Enszer, Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis, and Kelli Russell Agodon.

My poem is entitled Dear Donald.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Edna St. Vincent Millay!

From The Writer’s Almanac

It's the birthday of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, (books by this author) born in Rockland, Maine (1892). Her middle name came from a hospital - St. Vincent in New York - where one of her uncles was saved from death immediately before her birth.
Her parents divorced when she was little and she and her two sisters moved constantly with their mother. Throughout their moves, her mother always carried along a trunk full of classic literature, including the works of Shakespeare and John Milton, which she often read aloud to her daughters.
Edna was in high school when she entered a poetry contest and wrote a poem - "Renascence" - which she recited at a poetry reading, and a woman in the audience was so impressed that she paid Edna's way to go to Vassar College.
She was a rebellious student at Vassar, then moved to New York City, where she lived in Greenwich Village and had numerous love affairs with both women and men. Edmund Wilson thought she was almost "supernaturally beautiful." He proposed marriage and never got over the rejection.
In her poem "First Fig" she wrote: My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
And in "Second Fig," "Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand: / Come see my shining palace built upon the sand!"
"Lament" by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Reprinted with permission of Elizabeth Barnett / Millay Society. 


Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I'll make you little jackets;
I'll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There'll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Reading while sick

For the past four weeks, I’ve felt like a cheap hooker - every bug that has come through town has taken up residence in my body. Finally, last Monday, exhausted, hacking up mucus, throat sore, and menstruating, I just stayed in bed. All day. And most of Tuesday, too. I’m happy to report, I started doing better by Wednesday, but it wasn’t until today that I really felt better and like I wanted to tackle tasks. (Depending on how well you know me, this may not have any meaning. In a nut shell, though, my day is driven by a task list on a note card. I like to get everything done on the task list, or at least something done on each task. Last week was pretty much a bust, but now I’m back.)

What I did do last week, however, was read. I’m embroiled in Barbara Guest’s biography of H.D., which is divine, and I’m loving Rebecca Patterson’s biography of Emily Dickinson in which in 1950, she outs the lesbian love affairs of Emily. It’s fantastic to read it and see how lesbianism is written and understood by Patterson. This book was reviewed by my sourpuss mentor, Elizabeth Bishop, (who is haunting my dreams and my writing in the most fierce and vicious way, the positive thing being she makes me want to regularly have a drink with her) in The New Republic and EB was, shall we say, unkind.

I’m also reading through a stack of poetry books (Julene Tripp Weaver, Lola Ridge, Judith Johnson, among others) and today resumed my reviewing work. I’ve taken a break for the past six weeks and am happy to return, especially since I’m writing an article on the importance of women writing reviews of books by women. I’m a believer in practicing what one preaches.

Finally, it was thrilling to be at Creating Change last weekend (even through the haze of illness). I did a great panel with the incomparable Merry Gangemi and Joe Bailey and saw good, dear friends and reconnected with Curtis Lipscomb of Kick, which was a real treat for me.

So sick hasn’t been all bad, but I’m quite glad to be feeling better.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Questions of Travel

This past weekend I was in New York. The travel to New York, which I do regularly, is quite dignified. Amtrak is wonderful. It is easy to get from my house to the train station. In total, I can leave my house and be on the train in under thirty minutes. The ride from near my home to New York is a scant three hours. Enough time to really sit down and do some work, but not get stiff or tired. It is lovely travel.

Next weekend I go to Detroit. The trip to Detroit is not as calming as the train to New York. I’ll fly out of Baltimore Washington International Airpot, which is only forty minutes from the house, but air travel brings with it particular indignities these days. Much waiting, many screenings, cramped quarters. There will be some time for reading, but not ample time for reading, really just time to sit and wait.

I’m reading Brett Millier’s biography of Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop hated to fly. She preferred traveling by steamer ship. That sounds to me like fabulous, dignified travel. She would spend eighteen days on the ship from New York to Sao Paolo. Imagine how much you can read in that time!

So while I was traveling this weekend and next weekend, I’ll be thinking about Bishop and her travels, wishing for the serenity of her travels, but happy that it doesn’t take me nearly three weeks to go from one place to another.

Here is one of the most affirmative poems that I’ve read by Bishop. It was never finished or published by Bishop, but is included in Millier’s book.

I believe:
that the steamship will support me on the water,
& that the aeorplane will conduct me over the mountain,
that perhaps I shall not die of cancer,
or in the poorhouse,
that eventually I shall see things in a “better light,”
that I shall continue to read and continue to write,
that I shall continue to laugh until I cry with a certain few friends,
that love will unexpectedly appear over & over again,
that people will continue to do kind deeds that astound me.

This I think has many of the answers to questions of travel.

From The Writer's Almanac: Gertrude Stein's Birthday

It's the birthday of writer Gertrude Stein, (books by this author) born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (1874). When she was 30 years old she moved to Paris, and lived there for almost the rest of her life. She once said, "America is my country and Paris is my hometown." She covered the walls of her house in Paris with paintings by C├ęzanne, Picasso, Renoir, Gauguin, and others. Her house became known as "The Salon," and writers and artists came from all over to get advice and encouragement from her. Ernest Hemingway once said, "Gertrude was always right."
She would hold dinner parties and then stay up afterward to work on her own novels and essays. But she wasn't very well known as a writer until she published her autobiography, which she called The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, in 1933. It was serialized in The Atlantic Monthly and became a huge best seller in the United States. Stein became a household name, and the next year she returned to America for the first time in over 30 years, to go on a lecture tour.
Stein said, "Everybody who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. That is why writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live really."
Happy, Happy Birthday Gertrude!