Musings upon learning that today would have been the 90th birthday of James Arlington Wright, had he lived beyond 1980.

Wright

Happy 90th Birthday to James Wright.

An award winning poet who was writing during the peak of the Beat generation, but remained outside of that movement.  He is influenced by Spanish Surrealist poetry, and he was a translator of German and South American poetry.

If you come across his poetry it is fun just to read the titles alone.  He has written poems called:  “In response to a rumor that the oldest whorehouse in Wheeling, West Virginia, has been condemned”  and “Depressed by a book of bad poetry, I walk toward an unused pasture and invite the insects to join me”.  The first of these is quite a damning condemnation of the town of Bridgeport, Ohio and I doubt the people of that town have much time for Wright.  He grew up in Ohio and appears to have had an unhappy childhood, so he does not love Ohio.

As well as interesting titles he delivers some great last lines.  This has an OK title and a brilliant finale.

It is called

Lying in a hammock at William Duffy’s farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
the cowbells follow one another
into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
in a field of sunlight between two pines,
the droppings of last year’s horses
blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

 

Happy Birthday Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver
Famously private, multi-award winning and one of Americas most successful poets.
Olivers poetry is deeply rooted in nature and reflects her upbringing in rural Ohio.  Her work is replete with the search for divinity in the small things and the search for the core of the self.  Seeker and philosopher, happy birthday.  I love (as a Dubliner) that her partners name is Molly Malone Cook.  I wonder does she wheel a wheelbarrow filled with cockles and mussels?
Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does It End? : by Mary Oliver
 
 
Don’t call this world adorable, or useful, that’s not it.
It’s frisky, and a theater for more than fair winds.
The eyelash of lightning is neither good nor evil.
The struck tree burns like a pillar of gold.
 
But the blue rain sinks, straight to the white
feet of the trees
whose mouths open.
Doesn’t the wind, turning in circles, invent the dance?
Haven’t the flowers moved, slowly, across Asia, then Europe,
until at last, now, they shine
in your own yard?
 
Don’t call this world an explanation, or even an education.
 
When the Sufi poet whirled, was he looking
outward, to the mountains so solidly there
in a white-capped ring, or was he looking
 
to the center of everything: the seed, the egg, the idea
that was also there,
beautiful as a thumb
curved and touching the finger, tenderly,
little love-ring,
 
as he whirled,
oh jug of breath,
in the garden of dust?

 

Indian Country

For a short time it appeared possible that the Native American People would have their own country.  The proposed land encompassed the area lying between the Ohio river and the Great Lakes and takes in the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

We can only imagine what a different world it might be had this plan come to fruition.  Today, in between the USA and Canada you would have a huge tract of country with a status similar to Lesotho and Swaziland.  In economic terms it had the potential to become a powerhouse.  The proposed nation straddled the Mississippi and could have acted as a market exchange between the nations of Canada in the North, the USA in the East, French Louisiana in the South and the Spanish territories in the West.

The idea emerged after the American Revolutionary War.  The British came up with the idea of supporting their Indian allies and creating the new state as a barrier between the USA and Canada.

The USA treated the Native Americans as defeated powers.  The Native Americans did not accept this position and rose up against the American annexation of their lands.  On November 4th, 1791 a group of tribes led by Blue Jacket (Shawnee), Buckongahelas (Delawares), Little Turtle (Miamis) and with a large contingent of Potawatomis inflicted a catastrophic defeat on the US army led by Arthur St.Clair.  Popularly known as the Battle of the Wabash the indian victory made the idea of an Indian Nation all the more tangible for the British.

Then Napoleon began to conquer his way across Europe.  The British Government found itself isolated.  Rather than further antagonise the fledgling American State they abandoned the notion of an Indian Barrier State.

It is interesting to think, in an alternate reality, what North America could be like today.

Hell on the Wabash; by Carl Sandburg

When country fiddlers held a convention in
Danville, the big money went to a barn dance
artist who played Turkey in the Straw, with
variations.
They asked him the name of the piece calling
it a humdinger and he answered, “I call it
‘Hell on the Wabash.'”
The two next best were The Speckled Hen, and
Sweet Potatoes Grow in Sandy Land, with
variations.