Friday, April 10, 2015

Today is Mama’s birthday

She would have been 105. Unfortunately, she died at the age of 47 back in 1957.

I thought I would pop over to The Writer’s Almanac website and read about things of interest to writers that occurred on April 10th in history. Turns out that the first law in the world regulating copyright was issued in Great Britain in 1710, The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, William Hazlett was born in 1778, Anne Lamott was born in 1954, and Paul Theroux was born in 1941.

Here are some things writers have said about writing:

“Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig.” —Stephen Greenblatt

“I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham

“The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer

“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.” —William Carlos Williams

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann

I discovered a new poet -- new to me, anyway -- at that website. Mary K. Stillwell and I have two things in common, it seems. She is a Texan (at least I think she is a Texan, her poetry having been published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press) and she has lived in Nebraska. I lived in Nebraska in the 1960s when I was stationed at the underground command post at Strategic Air Command Headquarters. She, on the other hand, went to Nebraska to be a university professor, subsequently wrote the first-ever autobiography biography of former U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser (The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser) , and recently published a volume of her own poetry.

Although hers is not the sort of poetry that Yorkshire Pudding typically likes, I am going to include a link to two of her poems that have appeared at Writer’s Almanac anyway. The poems are “Moving to Malibu” and “In the Morning in Morocco” (both are from her collection Maps and Destinations) .

Click here to read the two poems.

When I read those poems, one phrase just jumped out at me. It was in the Malibu poem: “I will be as content and as happy as Balboa.”

Really? How does she know how happy Balboa was? More to the point, was Balboa happy? I did know, in that endearing way I know lots of trivia, that Balboa was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean after he crossed the isthmus of Panama in 1513, the same year Ponce de Leon discovered Florida.

I don’t know why I remember such things. I just do. On the other hand, there are probably a lot of things I ought to remember that I just don’t.

Hurrying along, let us now examine this article about the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa carefully to see if we can ascertain just how content and happy he was.

Did you read it?

My conclusion, after reading that article very carefully, is: not very.

But let us assume that Ms. Stillwell knows whereof she speaks and that Señor Balboa was deliriously happy.

Do you know what would make me even happier than that?

If I could tell Mama “Happy Birthday!” one more time.


  1. And here I was thinking you might write about the Kardashians' pilgrimage to Armenia today ~
    I did not know the story of Balboa and a long one it was. He would have had a thing or two to share if he had had a blog of his own.
    What a lovely photo of you and your Mum, RWP ~ and a lovely thought.

  2. If Ms Stillwell could write an autobiography of another poet perhaps she did know just how happy Balboa was. Or perhaps was using generous helpings of poetic licence.
    Love that photo of you and your mama, and you have wished her happy birthday. I firmly believe (hope) that those wishes have more power than we realise.

  3. Carol in Cairns, I do not keep up with the Kardashians or where in the world any of them happen to be at the moment or any of their friends or present and former spouses or in-gender-transition stepparents, except when I do.

    Elephant's Child (Sue) on the same continent as Carol, you have caught me in what I hope was a rare error! I don't know what I was thinking! I have corrected the post but I left the original boo-boo in place to show what a confident blogger I am. Lesser bloggers would have slunk away in shame and humiliation.

  4. A lesser blogger you are not. And who of us doesn't make an error (or six).

  5. Aw, what a sweet ending to the post, and a lovely picture of you both too. Who'd have thought that cute little boy would end up as a master of trivia entertaining the world from his armchair/office chair/hammock/giant bean-bag/unicycle?! (Just covering the bases there). You look like her too which is nice.

    A new poet for me too there, and I like the 'Moving to Malibu' one very much.

    "When you come,
    you will carry a loaf of bread,
    a bunch of flowers" - this chapo should be in the circus with that kind of balancing act.


    Hahahahaha. And I did read about Mr Balboa as it tuns out, seems he was a very shoddy pig farmer.

    The writing quotes are so good, I'm stealing them for my own, all my own bwahahaha *does so and scarpers*.

  6. Elephant's Child (Sue), I think that's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said of me -- that I am not a lesser blogger. I think. It's somewhat like an island not being one of the Lesser Antilles. Still, it's the thought that counts.

    All Consuming (Michelle), I need to put on my Little Red Riding Hood persona here and say, "But grandmother, what a multi-paragraphed comment you have left!" Except that you are certainly no grandmother and I hope with all everything that's in me that I am no Little Red Riding Hood.

    Those two poems of Ms. Stillwell's remind me of William Carols Williams.

    See, I can produce multi-paragraphed comments too from my armchair/office chair/hammock/giant bean-bag/unicycle!

  7. I like the two poems which proves that you do not possess an entirely accurate view of Yorkshire Pudding's tastes in poetry! My lawyer, Miss Cassandra Whiplash, will be in touch shortly. Make sure that Ellie is out when she calls round. Some rubbing alcohol or camomile lotion may be required afterwards.

    Happy birthday Bob's Mum!

  8. Yorkshire Pudding, against my better judgment I decided to publish your comment. Your first sentence surprised me more than your second sentence, which was expected. In the future, perhaps you can control your baser instincts a bit better. They are not appreciated hereabouts.