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ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS FOR THE THINKING PERSON

Forum File

Saturday, April 27, 2013 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“American poetry, whatever its other virtues, has seldom promised a path to fame and fortune. One lively exception was the work of Carl Sandburg, who achieved a celebrity before his death in 1967 that seemed more typical of a Hollywood screen legend or a Hall of Fame athlete.

“In a bristling assessment of the poet's career, literary commentator Joseph Epstein has summarized Sandburg's A-list status in his era's popular culture: 'Carl Sandburg is the only American poet ever asked to address Congress, a date he was able to fit into his crowded schedule in 1959. He also appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Texaco Hour (with Milton Berle), the early Today Show (with Dave Garroway), and See It Now, where he was interviewed by Edward R. Murrow. Sandburg once wrote a poem to which, on television, Gene Kelly danced.The house in which he was born was preserved as a memorial to him when he was still alive.'

“But since his death, Sandburg's stock has fallen. In 'Pertinent Players,' a 1993 collection of critical essays, Epstein concluded that Sandburg is 'a poet not so much forgotten as scarcely any longer read.'

“But despite a diminished profile in the years since his passing, Sandburg continues to claim a place in American letters. His poetry remains in print, along with a good bit of his prose.

"The house where he was born in Galesburg, Illinois, is a local shrine, and the North Carolina home where Sandburg spent the final years of his life is operated as a historic site by the National Park Service. The Day Carl Sandburg Died, a recent public television documentary, argues for Sandburg's abiding relevance in American culture. Back in Galesburg, plans are underway to erect a statue depicting the poet beside one of his family's Nubian goats in the town square.”

From “A Workingman's Poet” at neh.gov

A quiz

You've heard about the “seven-year itch.” But according to new research, when is there a huge decline in happiness in most marriages?

Wisdom of the ages

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” – James Baldwin

Current wisdom

“I don't think there's going to be a sense of normalcy for a while. There are scars here that will be with us for a long time.” — Tom Champoux, pointing to boarded-up windows after last week's twin bombings during the Boston Marathon.

Quiz answer

Four years in, with another decline in years seven to eight. Half of all divorces occur in the first seven years of marriage.

Snob words

Snob words

soigné (swahn-YEH), Fr., adj. – carefully or elegantly done, operated or designed, as in: “The editorial writer snorted in disgust at the politician's dismissal of his soigné editorial.”

Today in history

On this date in 1861, President Lincoln suspended he writ of habeus corpus; because he could, that's why.

Now you know

The Earth’s plates move just a few inches a year – about as fast as a person’s fingernails grow, according to the website RandomHistory.com. This continental pattern predicts that 250 million years from now, a new supercontinent will be born.