Literary Birthdays – Week of May 3 – 9

May 3

Yehuda Amichai

Yehuda Amichai (b. 1924) – German-Israeli poet

Read the Wikipedia article about Yehuda Amichai here

On Yom Kippur in 1967

On Yom Kippur in 1967, the Year of Forgetting, I put on
my dark holiday clothes and walked to the Old City
of Jerusalem.
For a long time I stood in front of an Arab’s hole-in-the-wall
shop,
not far from the Damascus Gate, a shop with
buttons and zippers and spools of thread
in every color and snaps and buckles.
A rare light and many colors, like an open Ark.
I told him in my heart that my father too
had a shop like this, with thread and buttons.
I explained to him in my heart about all the decades
and the causes and the events, why I am now here
and my father’s shop was burned there and he is buried
here.
When I finished, it was time for the Closing of the Gates prayer.
He too lowered the shutters and locked the gate
and I returned, with all the worshippers,
home.

Listen to Yehuda Amichai read On Yom Kippur in 1967

May 4

Khwaja Abdullah Ansari (b. 1006) – Persian Sufi poet

I Came

From the un-manifest I came,
And pitched my tent, in the Forest of Material existence.
I passed through mineral and vegetable kingdoms,
Then my mental equipment carried me into the animal kingdom;
Having reached there I crossed beyond it;
Then in the crystal clear shell of human heart
I nursed the drop of self in a Pearl,
And in association with good men
Wandered round the Prayer House,
And having experienced that, crossed beyond it;
Then I took the road that leads to Him,
And became a slave at His gate;
Then the duality disappeared
And I became absorbed in Him.


May 5

Soren Kierkegaard (b. 1813) – Danish philosopher

Excerpt from Either/Or Section 1: Diapsalmata (Repetitions)

What is a poet? An unhappy man who conceals profound anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so fashioned  that when sighs and groans pass over them they sound like beautiful music. His fate resembles that of the unhappy men who were slowly roasted by a gentle fire in the tyrant Phalaris’ bull—their shrieks could not reach his ear to terrify him, to him they sounded like sweet music.

And people flock about the poet and say to him: do sing again; Which means, would that new sufferings tormented your soul, and: would that your lips stayed fashioned as before, for your cries would only terrify us, but your music is delightful.

And the critics join them, saying: well done, thus must it be according to the laws of aesthetics. Why, to be sure, a critic resembles a poet as one pea another, the only difference being that he has no anguish in his heart and no music on his lips.

Behold, therefore would I rather be a swineherd on Amager, and be understood by the swine than a poet, and misunderstood by men.

————————————————–

Karl Marx (b. 1818) – German philosopher

Excerpt from The Communist Manifesto

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country.  To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood.  All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed.  They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe.

In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes.  In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations.  And as in material, so also in intellectual production.  The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property.  National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.

——————–
Tammy Wynette (b. 1942) – U.S. country music singer, songwriter

Stand By Your Man

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times
And he’ll have good times
Doin things that you don’t understand

But if you love him
You’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him
Oh, be proud of him
Cause after all he’s just a man

Stand by your man
Give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
when nights are cold and lonely

Stand by your man
And tell the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can
Stand by your man

Stand by your man
And show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can
Stand by your man

Watch Tammy Wynette sing “Have I Told You Lately” and “Stand by your Man” on YouTube:
See three grandes dames of country music (Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton) perform together:

May 6

Sigmund Freud (b. 1856) – Austrian psychiatrist – The Interpretation of Dreams

Excerpt from Chapter 4 of The PsychoPathology of Everyday Life (1901)

I believe we accept too indifferently the fact of infantile amnesia — that is, the failure of memory for the first years of our lives — and fail to find in it a strange riddle. We forget of what great intellectual accomplishments and of what complicated emotions a child of four years is capable. We really ought to wonder why the memory of later years has, as a rule, retained so little of these psychic processes, especially as we have every reason to assume that these same forgotten childhood activities have not glided off without leaving a trace in the development of the person, but that they have left a definite influence for all future time. Yet in spite of this unparalleled effectiveness were forgotten! This would suggest that there are particularly formed conditions of memory (in the sense of conscious reproduction) have thus far eluded our knowledge. It is possible that the forgetting of childhood gives us the key to the understanding of amnesias which, according to our newer studies, lie at the basis of the formation of all neurotic symptoms.


May 7

Rabindranath-Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore (b. 1861) – Indian poet, novelist, 1913 Nobel Prize winner

Excerpt from Sadhana – The Realisation of Life (1913)

The west seems to take a pride in thinking that it is subduing
nature; as if we are living in a hostile world where we have to
wrest everything we want from an unwilling and alien arrangement
of things.  This sentiment is the product of the city-wall habit
and training of mind.  For in the city life man naturally directs
the concentrated light of his mental vision upon his own life and
works, and this creates an artificial dissociation between
himself and the Universal Nature within whose bosom he lies.

But in India the point of view was different; it included the
world with the man as one great truth.  India put all her
emphasis on the harmony that exists between the individual and
the universal.  She felt we could have no communication whatever
with our surroundings if they were absolutely foreign to us.

Man’s complaint against nature is that he has to acquire most of
his necessaries by his own efforts.  Yes, but his efforts are not
in vain; he is reaping success every day, and that shows there is
a rational connection between him and nature, for we never can
make anything our own except that which is truly related to us.

——————–

Robert Browning (b. 1812) – English poet
Robert_Browning_by_Herbert_Rose_Barraud_c1888

WHY I AM A LIBERAL

“Why?” Because all I haply can and do,
All that I am now, all I hope to be,–
Whence comes it save from fortune setting free
Body and soul the purpose to pursue,
God traced for both? If fetters, not a few,
Of prejudice, convention, fall from me,
These shall I bid men–each in his degree
Also God-guided–bear, and gayly too?
But little do or can the best of us:
That little is achieved thro’ Liberty.
Who then dares hold, emancipated thus,
His fellow shall continue bound? not I,
Who live, love, labour freely, nor discuss
A brother’s right to freedom. That is “Why.”

Listen to Robert Browning’s voice, recorded in 1889 on an Edison phonograph:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYot5-WuAjE

(Browning is attempting to recite the following:)

“HOW THEY BROUGHT THE GOOD NEWS FROM GHENT TO AIX”

I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
“Good speed!” cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
“Speed!” echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace
Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit. …


May 8

Gary Snyder (b. 1930) – U.S. poet –

A Dent in a Bucket

Hammering a dent out of a bucket
a woodpecker
answers from the woods


May 9

Billy Joel (b. 1949) – U.S. singer, songwriter

Ghostface Killah (Dennis Coles) (b. 1970) – U.S. rapper

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