• Occasionally, poet Edwin Markham was a lucky man. For example, he once was digging for soaproot and found something apparently lost by a prospector long ago: a bag filled with pieces of gold. Another bit of luck was seeing an exhibition of a painting titled The Man with the Hoe by Jean Francois Millet. The painting inspired him to create a poem with the same title, he published the poem in the San Francisco Examiner, and suddenly Mr. Markham was a famous and respected poet.
• When she was a young woman, Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote the poem “Renascence,” which contained mature imagery of death and rebirth. Poets Witter Bynner and Arthur Davison Ficke read the poem, but until they met Ms. Millay in person, they refused to believe that “some sweet young thing of 20” had written the poem, writing her instead to say that its author must have been “a brawny male of 45.”
• In Robert Frost’s famous poem “Mending Wall,” a character says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Poet and playwright T.S. Eliot once asked Mr. Frost what that sentence — a New England proverb — meant. Mr. Frost said that he was not surprised that Mr. Eliot asked that particular question: “Eliot’s characters never know boundaries, not even of each other’s beds.”
• During the reign of King Charles I, poet George Withers was condemned to death, but rival poet Sir John Denham appealed to the king to relent because if Mr. Withers should die, Sir John would then be the worst poet in England. The appeal was successful — Charles I relented.
• Alexander the Great was once asked whether he would prefer to be Homer, the author of the Iliad, or Achilles, the hero of the Iliad. He replied, “What do you think? Would you rather win first prize at the Olympic Games or be the man who announces the winners?”
• When Norman Mailer ran for Mayor of New York, his running mate was Jimmy Breslin. Their rallying cry was “Vote the rascals in!” Both writers were known for living rather than merely existing, and when they spoke to police students at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, they ran into a police officer who asked Mr. Mailer, “If you and Breslin go ape on the same evening, who will run the city?” Mr. Mailer, of course, was an original (as was Mr. Breslin). Mr. Mailer had a column in the Village Voice for a while, but he quit after four months because a mistake in copy-editing had changed his nuance into nuisance. Obviously, Mr. Mailer’s beliefs, whether in literature or politics, were strong. After deciding to vote for Bobby Kennedy, whom he thought had a prep-school arrogance but was capable of greatness, Mr. Mailer wrote, “To vote for a man who is neuter is to vote for the plague. I would rather vote for a man on the assumption he is a hero and have him turn into a monster than vote for a man who can never be a hero.”
• Stephen Elliot, editor of Sex for America: Politically Inspired Erotica, writes and speaks often about his sexual experiences. For example, he wrote a sexual memoir that he titled My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up. Of course, another of his interests is political, and he wrote a book titled Looking Forward to It: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the American Electoral Process. Occasionally, politics can interfere with the pursuit of sex. For example, he met a woman online, then he met her in person. Unfortunately, she told him that she had voted for George W. Bush in 2004. Mr. Elliott says, “I was like, great, I just wasted two hours. I mean, OK, in 2000, I’ll give you a pass. Nobody knew. But in ’04?”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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