SPOTLIGHT ON ANNIE DILLARD

 

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Barack Obama presents the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal to Annie Dillard at the White House.

 

American nonfiction writer and novelist Annie Dillard was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (April 30, 1945). In 1970, she began keeping journals of her daily walks around Tinker Creek, by her home outside the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. She’d write about everything she saw, like animals and birds, and even her reflections on theology and literature. Eventually, she wrote so much she filled 20 volumes of journals. She decided she had enough for a book and at the very end, she was writing for 15 to 16 hours a day. That book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974), won the Pulitzer Prize, when Annie Dillard was just 29 years old.

Dillard was the daughter of an oil company executive and read voraciously as a child. She says, “I opened books like jars.” One of her very favorites was The Field Book of Ponds and Streams (1930) by Ann Haven Morgan. She wrote about growing up in Pittsburgh in her autobiography, An American Childhood(1987). It was so popular that it helped usher in the memoir craze.

Dillard went to college, and ended up marrying her writing professor. She says: “In college I learned how to learn from other people. As far as I was concerned, writing in college didn’t consist of what little Annie had to say, but what Wallace Stevens had to say. I didn’t come to college to think my own thoughts; I came to learn what had been thought.” Annie Dillard’s books include Holy the Firm (1977), which is only 66 pages long, but took 14 months to write; Teaching a Stone to Talk (1982); and The Maytrees (2007).

Her advice: “One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek begins: “I live by a creek, Tinker Creek, in a valley in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. An anchorite’s hermitage is called an anchor-hold; some anchor-holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle or a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor-hold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and keeps me steadied in the current, as a sea anchor does, facing the stream of light pouring down. It’s a good place to live; there’s a lot to think about.”

-Excerpt from THE WRITER”S ALMANAC


 

FROM THE ATLANTIC, MARCH 2016

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/03/where-have-you-gone-annie-dillard/426843/

Where Have You Gone, Annie Dillard?

Why the author has become so much less prolific over the past 17 years

The Abundance, a selection from the work of one of the great, original voices in recent American letters, might just as easily be called The Absence. It speaks of absence—for nature’s profusion, in Annie Dillard, is everywhere the signage of the hidden god she seeks—and it also marks an absence: hers. Dillard’s first book appeared in 1974. Over the following 25 years, she published 10 more original volumes, including two that have achieved the status of modern classics, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a latter-day Walden, and The Writing Life, a “spiritual Strunk & White” (as one reviewer put it), and two more that deserve to, Holy the Firm, which might have been written in letters of flame, and Teaching a Stone to Talk, a jewel box of narrative meditations. (Some might add An American Childhood, her celebrated memoir.) In the 17 years since, she’s published one, and none since 2007.

The Abundance only serves to underscore the dearth. The subtitle, Narrative Essays Old and New, is false advertising; there are no new pieces here. The most recent essay in the book, which is also the only one not included in a previous volume, is 11 years old. There are many reasons a writer might slow down or even stop, most of them mysterious to strangers. But Dillard’s turn to silence, if that is what it is, could in retrospect be seen as having been inevitable all along—given her choice of materials, her idiosyncratic sensibility, the very nature of her project.

 

Dillard declared her arrival, at the age of 28—brash and bold and talented beyond belief—with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974). The book was unabashed about its lineage. An ardent young American takes to the woods, anchoring herself beside a water. Sojourning for many a season, she distills her experience down to a symbolic single year. “I propose to keep here,” she announces at the start of her account, “what Thoreau called ‘a meteorological journal of the mind.’ ” She scrutinizes nature with monastic patience and a microscopic eye. She delivers doctrine with the certainty of revelation and the arrogance (and agedness) of youth. She summons us to wake from dull routine. With flourishes of brass, she proclaims a new dawn.The text itself is thickly planted with marvels to watch for, its vision fresh as Adam’s on the first day. A creek bank is a “twiggy haze.” A gibbous moon is “softly frayed, like the heel of a sock.” “It snowed all yesterday and never emptied the sky,” Dillard tells us. “Any object at a distance—like the dead, ivy-covered walnut I see from the bay window—looked like a black-and-white frontispiece seen through the sheet of white tissue.” But she doesn’t need a simile to send a sense aloft. Muskrats in their dens “strew the floor with plant husks and seeds, rut in repeated bursts, and sleep humped and soaking, huddled in balls.” The language makes of brute factuality a verbal music. An egg case of a praying mantis “has a dead straw, dead weed color, and a curious brittle texture, hard as varnish, but pitted minutely, like frozen foam.” There are flashes of humor as well. Newts “are altogether excellent creatures, if somewhat moist, but no one pays the least attention to them, except children.” Children, of course, and her.

 

Yet for all Dillard’s brilliance as a nature writer, nature isn’t finally her subject. She situates herself on territory like Thoreau’s but faces toward a very different compass point. He also went to nature, truth be told, with other things in mind. He looked at the pond, but he was thinking about Concord—how the people there lived, and how it might be possible to live another way. Walden’s first, long chapter is titled “Economy,” complete with lists of expenditures for things like nails and lard. We watch him build his famous little house, and plant his beans, and chop his wood, which warms him twice.

But in Pilgrim there is no economy and no society. We don’t know how Dillard lives, or how she makes a living, or much of anything about her circumstances. Notwithstanding the occasional, distant presence of neighbors in the book, it comes as a surprise to find her describing the creek’s vicinity, in a subsequent volume, as suburban—and a shock to learn, from biographical sources, that she was married the whole time. In a curious way, she is absent from her own book, at least as more than an Emersonian eyeball (albeit one that’s cabled to a buzzing brain), and others are absent altogether. The cabin near Concord had plenty of visitors—in fact, there’s a whole chapter in Walden called “Visitors”—among whom was Thoreau’s dear friend Ellery Channing. Dillard has a companion named Ellery Channing too, but he’s a goldfish. Thoreau, whose commandment is “simplify,” wants to reconstruct society from the ground up. Dillard, whose law is “look,” only wants to renovate your soul.

She looks at crayfish, looks at copperheads, looks at a little green frog, half out of the water, that as she watches “crumpled and began to sag… shrinking before my eyes like a deflating football,” its innards liquefied and emptied by a giant biting bug. But looking at these marvels, she is always looking for God. She is not a naturalist, not an environmentalist; she’s a theologian—a pilgrim. Her field notes on the physical world are recorded as researches toward the fundamental metaphysical conundra: Why is there something rather than nothing, and what on Earth are we doing here? What, in other words—with crayfish and copperheads and giant biting bugs, with creeks and stars and human beings with their sense of beauty—does God have in mind?

Dillard, needless to say, does not answer these questions. But the striking thing about her search for God is that she sometimes finds him. Pilgrim’s second chapter, after a kind of introduction, is titled “Seeing.” (Both sections are included in The Abundance.) There are two kinds, she explains. The common variety is active, where you strain, against the running babble of internal monologue, to pay attention to what’s actually in front of you. That’s the sort of seeing that produces perceptions, and phrases, like twiggy haze. But, she tells us, “there is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go.” You do not seek, you wait. It isn’t prayer; it is grace. The visions come to you, and they come from out of the blue.

The distinction is akin to Proust’s two forms of memory. His holy grail, you might recall, is the involuntary kind, the kind that bursts upon you unexpectedly, as when the narrator’s entire childhood unfurls from the madeleine. That is the epiphany; that is the miracle. So it is with Dillard. She tells us about a girl who was cured of congenital blindness and, being taken into a garden, saw, as she put it, “the tree with the lights in it.” It was for that tree, Dillard says, that she herself searched for years:

Then one day, walking along Tinker Creek, thinking of nothing at all, I saw it—the tree with the lights in it. It was the same backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost, only charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame … It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance … I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.

The encounter is erotic (“knocked breathless by a powerful glance”), like the ecstasies of Saint Teresa. God has seen and seized her, claimed her. This, again, is something very different from Thoreau’s experience. To use a pair of terms that Dillard introduces in a later book, she is not a pantheist (as he was) but a panentheist. God, panentheism says, is not coextensive with, identical to, the physical world, the world of nature. He is a being that transcends it even as he dwells within it. Get rid of nature, for the pantheist, and you get rid of God. Get rid of nature, for the panentheist, and you see him all the clearer. That, I think, is why it has to be a creek for Dillard, not a pond. Walden, in its depth and stillness (the attributes Thoreau insists upon most keenly), symbolizes nature’s stability and serenity. The world abides and always will. But the creek, for Dillard, is energy, divine spirit, “the stream of light pouring down.” The world does not abide. Creation is continuous, and the heavens will be rolled up as a scroll. She watches the water, but waits for the flame.

Thoreau runs his narrative year from spring to spring—nature filling up, emptying, and starting to fill up again. Dillard runs her own from winter to winter; the emphasis is on the emptiness. In an afterword written for the 25th-anniversary edition, she reveals a deeper, two-part structure. “Neoplatonic Christianity described two routes to God: the via positiva and the via negativa. Philosophers on the via positiva assert that God… possesses all positive attributes.” Those along the other pathway “stressed God’s unknowability.” They “jettisoned everything that was not God; they hoped that what was left would be only the divine dark.” Pilgrim, Dillard says, walks both routes in succession. The first half, culminating with the summer solstice, is the plenitude; the second the reduction. A final chapter recapitulates the movement. Its epigraph—employed again in The Abundance—comes from the Koran. “They will question thee concerning what they should expend. Say: ‘The Abundance.’ ” Accumulate, then spend. Accumulate to spend. Gather nature to get rid of it—but you can’t get rid of it until you’ve done the formic labor that such gathering entails.

 

Get rid of nature, to see the God who dwells in nature. It sounds paradoxical, and it is. (Dillard quotes Augustine in a later book: “If you do understand, then it is not God.”) But Dillard has been chasing that paradox ever since. The via negativa, with its purity and stringency, clearly proved to be the more congenial path. Virginia, where she’d come for college, did not turn out to be her landscape. From Tinker Creek, beneath the Blue Ridge Mountains in the lushness of the Roanoke Valley, she decamped, the year after publishing Pilgrim, for a place considerably more austere: Lummi Island, in the northern reaches of Puget Sound. The region, with its wall of mountains to the east and endless salted ocean to the west, was for her, as she was soon to call it, “the edge of the known and comprehended world… the western rim of the real… the fringey edge… where time and eternity spatter each other with foam”—a place, in other words, where nature stops and the darkness of divinity begins.

The description comes from Holy the Firm(1977), the work she proceeded to write there, a book that is to Pilgrim what Lummi Island is to Tinker Creek. It throws out the crayfish and copperheads, the frogs, the bugs, the twigs, the scientific lore, all meanderings of thought and ambulation. The text runs 65 pages, short ones, and the prose seems pressed out drop by drop. Dillard later said the book took 14 months to write, full-time, which works out to something like 25 words a day. The sentences are bitten rock, bitter water, biting wind: “Nothing is going to happen in this book. There is only a little violence here and there in the language, at the corner where eternity clips time.”

The final phrase articulates the volume’s central theme. For eternity, read “God.” For time, read “the world” (i.e., us). For clips, read “kills”—or maims, burns, starves, causes anguish or grief—that “little violence here and there.” Dillard later explained, in An American Childhood (1987), that she had quit her church, at age 16, over the problem of suffering, the evident impossibility of reconciling the idea of a loving God with the circumstances that prevail in his creation, the law of universal pain. This is the problem of Job, and like whoever wrote his story, Dillard doesn’t try to offer a solution. She knows that all you can really do is frame the question, which she does by telling us about a child named Julie Norwich. Julie is a local girl, 7 years old. Holy the Firm presents itself as the record of three days on the island. On the second, Julie goes down in a plane crash—her father, flying the craft, is unharmed—and has her face burnt off.

I doubt that Julie Norwich ever existed. Her name is an echo of Julian of Norwich, the medieval anchoress and mystic, whom Dillard had alluded to in Pilgrim. Julie’s parents are Jesse and Ann, the father of King David (a figure for Christ in Christian typology) and the mother of the Virgin Mary. Dillard also gives us dates for the book’s events (for example, Friday, November 20) that seem deliberately to misalign with the two years during which the narrative might have taken place. But it doesn’t matter whether Julie is real. Her story is a parable, like Job’s. Her story is a riddle, like his. Why do such things happen? For they happen all the time and everywhere around us. In “The Deer at Providencia,” an essay published just around the time she moved to Puget Sound (also reproduced in The Abundance), Dillard writes about a trip to South America. One day she sees a deer tied up in a village. It’s going to be dinner that night. In language flayed to rawness she describes its suffering:

Trying to get itself free of the rope, the deer had cut its own neck with its hooves … Now three of its feet were hooked in the rope under its jaw. It could not stand … so it could not move to slacken the rope and ease the pull on its throat … Its hip jerked; its spine shook. Its eyes rolled; its tongue, thick with spit, pushed in and out.

She might be a god on Olympus, looking down impassively on human suffering. (She’s also testing us to see how we react.) Afterward she eats a lavish lunch, including a venison stew. Her companions, older men, are surprised at her detachment. “Gentlemen of the city,” she apostrophizes them in the essay, “what surprises you? That there is suffering here, or that I know it?” She has thought about the fact that she (and we, and many, many other animals) eat meat. “These things are not issues,” she tells us. “They are mysteries.”

 

Issues are addressed; mysteries are witnessed. The story of Julie Norwich, in the second part of Holy the Firm, is prefigured by another story in the first. (The most celebrated passage in the book, the earlier story is also in the new collection.) Dillard is camping. A moth gets stuck in her candle flame. It burns—then, a hollowed shell, a wick, it keeps on burning. “The moth’s head was fire. She burned for two hours… like a hollow saint, like a flame-faced virgin gone to God, while I read by her light, kindled, while Rimbaud in Paris burnt out his brains in a thousand poems.” The final reference blossoms in the volume’s final third. The virgin Julie, consecrated by the touch of God, will nonetheless undoubtedly go back into the world, Dillard thinks. So she herself will be the nun, the anchoress, instead. Which means the poet, the artist: head afire, channeling the Holy Spirit, “lighting the kingdom of God for the people to see.” Giving her life to illuminate the divine darkness. Bearing witness to the dear.

Such is the vocation Dillard expands on in The Writing Life(1989). The book is not a manual of tips. It is a portrait of the artist as a soul, its moral qualities and moral situation, offered in the second person. “You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.” And: “Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time.” The book proceeds, like all her finest work, as a series of extended metaphors. The writer is a miner with a pick; the writer is a pilot with a plane; the writer is a rower in a skiff, towing a log against the current, heading stoutly always in the same direction. The volume’s dominant motif is the single room: a shed on Cape Cod, a cabin on a Puget beach, an office, a study, a carrel (a cockpit, a skiff)—the hermit’s cell, the mind alone with itself. “One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.”

The work is a collage, like all her finest books. Dillard has remarked that her objective as a writer of prose has been to reproduce, on a larger scale, poetry’s “capacity for deep internal structures of meaning.” (Her first book, in 1974, was a volume of lyrics, Tickets for a Prayer Wheel. Later, in 1995, she published Mornings Like This, whose poems are assemblages of sentences from other people’s books, one book per poem.) She creates these structures like an artisan working in stained glass. A piece of this, a piece of that, a moment, a story, a scientific fact, a bit of spiritual wisdom: underneath, an iron structure; on the surface, what appears to be a mind at dazzling play. Pilgrim was assembled from a heap of index cards. “ ‘Seeing,’ ” that second chapter, “gave me so much trouble to put together I nearly abandoned the book.” For the Time Being (1999), her most recent work but one, consists of seven sections, each one cycling through a set of rubrics in fixed order (“birth,” “sand,” “China,” “clouds”), 10 of them, a kind of rosary, their facets winking as they’re turned and turned about. The meanings happen in the parts, and in the spaces in between them.In Teaching a Stone to Talk (1982), the pieces are essays themselves. The collection, which includes “The Deer at Providencia,” might just be her greatest book, and it receives the largest share of The Abundance. Its finest piece, its central piece, the one that’s chosen to conclude the new collection, is “An Expedition to the Pole.” The essay is a single long extended metaphor in which the journey toward the Absolute—a k a the God of silence—which she elsewhere calls “this feckless prospecting in the dark for the unseen,” the lifelong effort to know the unknowable and to say the unsayable, is likened to the polar expeditions of yore. To most of us, as Dillard knows, the effort seems completely pointless. To her it is the only thing that gives our life a point.

 

Make no mistake about her spiritual extremity. This is a woman who has seen angels (as she tells us in another essay), who has seen visions, who has seen the tree with the lights in it, which another witness called the burning bush. But miracles like that, she later came to feel, are things that happen only to the young. Her mission since may be conceived of as a quest to recapture those glimpses by other, more deliberate means. No longer could she count on cracks appearing of a sudden in the midst of things through which the holy might pour. So she went to the edges. After Virginia, the scenes of her writing are almost uniformly places of, or next to, emptiness: Puget Sound, Cape Cod, the Alaskan Arctic, the Galápagos, the deserts of China and Israel—the wilderness, eternal haunt of seekers. Virginia itself, which she left around the time she turned 30, may be seen, in its spiritual fecundity, as a kind of figure for youth, her empty spaces as a metaphor for middle age.

The only thing that gives our life a point. Dillard, like Thoreau, is never shy about pronouncing wholesale condemnation on the way her fellows live. To her the mass of men lead lives not of quiet desperation but of superficiality, insensibility, and rank illusion. We live as if we think we’re never going to die. We live as if our petty business counted. We live as if we weren’t as numerous as sand, and each of us ephemeral as clouds. We live as if there hadn’t been a hundred thousand generations here before us, and another hundred thousand were not still to come. Yet all around us holiness and grace, freely given every moment for the taking.

One of the most remarkable things about her work, in fact, is just how much is absent from it. No economy, no society: no current events, no public affairs, no social engagement. With few exceptions, her writing seems to take place entirely outside the history of its own time. (A contrast may be drawn with Marilynne Robinson, Dillard’s nearest kin among contemporary authors, whose religious convictions are inseparable from strong political and social commitments.) “I had a head for religious ideas,” Dillard reports in An American Childhood, her chronicle of growing up in postwar, upper-class Pittsburgh, a book that is largely concerned with the development, in solitude, of the writer’s own consciousness. “They made other ideas seem mean.”

 

That feeling, it appears, has never altered. The social novel, the novel that “aims to fasten down the spirit of its time,” she tells us in The Writing Life, “has never seemed to me worth doing.” Her own novels, The Living (1992) and The Maytrees (2007), each a brilliant performance, find different ways to eschew the contemporary. The first is a multigenerational saga, set in the late 19th century, about the earliest white settlements near Puget Sound, written, with remarkable fidelity and tact, in period idiom. But it isn’t really about history, either, in the sense of thinking that it matters, or seeing it in terms of some kind of development, or tracing its connections, if only implicitly, to the present. Like all her work, the novel is about the fact of being alive, for a brief span, within the overwhelming context of the natural world. The Maytrees, her most recent book—its prose a prodigy of velocity and precision, language concentrated to an essence—dissents in space instead of time, taking up a handful of Provincetown bohemians, a kind of spiritual elect, who devote themselves to art, simplicity, and contemplation out there on the Outer Cape. Dillard’s mind is on eternity; she couldn’t give a damn about the spirit of her time.That, of course, is her prerogative (though the odor of self-congratulation starts to get a little thick in The Maytrees). But it points to several problems, and beyond them, to a fundamental limitation. For she is not content to walk her path in solitude. She also wants to tell us how to live. She has an ethic as well as a metaphysic, and it consists, in its entirety, of worship. “Quit your tents,” she preaches. “Pray without ceasing.” Dillard doesn’t seem to understand it’s not that simple, and I think it’s fair to note here not only that her family was rich, but that she married, in college, an established professional (and published, early, a perennial best seller). “It is noble work,” she says in reference to another pilgrim’s spiritual exercises, “and beats, from any angle, selling shoes.” Except the part where you, you know, get to feed your family.

 

Dillard is not content to affirm her own way. She needs to denigrate all other ways (unlike Thoreau, who wrote, “I would not have any one adopt my mode of living on any account; for… I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible”). The social novel isn’t simply not her thing; it’s not worth doing at all. The life in nature is good; the life of civilization, the life of cities, as she repeatedly insists (it is a major theme in The Maytrees), is obsessed with stuff and status, the cultivation and display of good taste. The judgment seems, to put it mildly, overbroad. It sounds not like all life in all cities (and Dillard, as far as I can tell, hasn’t lived in any cities since abandoning her native Pittsburgh after high school), but like the white-gloved milieu that she tells us about in An American Childhood. Not to mention that the life of reading and writing to which she has devoted herself is inconceivable without civilization, and the cities where it’s principally created. Crayfish don’t write books, and copperheads don’t buy them.

But the problems go beyond hypocrisy and spiritual snobbery. Ordinarily, the thought that none of us matters in the larger scheme of things is followed by the corrective that, of course, we matter a great deal to one another, and need to take care of one another, and isn’t that what life is after all about? The word for this is morality, also known as love. But neither has much place in Dillard’s thought. For the Time Being, her last work of nonfiction, the book of seven parts and 10 rubrics, represents, among other things, a long meditation over her decades of reading in the literature of spirit. Its hero is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Catholic priest, paleontologist, and theologian. Second place goes to the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism. But Teilhard and the Baal Shem, mystics though they were, had codes of conduct, codes of service, too, which came to them from their religions. Dillard seems, at least in this late work, to sense what she is missing. Every once in a while, she pulls a kind of quarterback sneak, smuggling morality (“aiding and serving the afflicted and poor,” “a holy and compassionate intention”) into the discussion. The effect is of a man who finishes rebuilding the engine of his car and, finding a bolt on the driveway, balances it carefully on the hood. The bolt, in Dillard’s case, is the entire universe of human attachment.

And that, I think, may be the explanation for her movement into silence. Her works are each unique in formal terms, but there are only so many times, and so many ways, that you can make the same points. Already in her last two books, the only ones that she has written in more than 20 years, it feels as if, thematically at least, she is merely giving the old prayer wheel another spin. The Abundance, a collage of existing material, is, by definition, nothing new. One hopes it heralds a return. One fears it is a valedictory.


Annie Dillard – Official Site

A site maintained by Dillard herself, provides contact information as well as complete bibliographic information and a curriculum vitae.

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SPOTLIGHT ON CONNIE WANEK

http://writersalmanac.org/bookshelf/connie-wanek/

Connie Wanek

Connie WanekConnie Wanek is the author of four books of poetry, including her latest, Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems (2016). She is also the author of a book of prose called Summer Cars, published in 2014 by Will o’ the Wisp Books. She recently took the time to speak with us at The Writer’s Almanac as we celebrate National Poetry Month.

You were born in Madison, Wisconsin — the second of sixth children. Can you please tell us about your childhood, the sights and other sensory sensations that remain vivid in your memory? You were an avid tennis player, correct?

When I was a child I lived on what remained of an old farm after the land was sold off, five acres and a hand-built house and barn, outside Green Bay, near Duck Creek and the stone Catholic church with creaky wood floors where we went every Sunday, back when Mass was in mysterious Latin. It was always winter in that church, people tracking in the snow, coughing, and stomping and crossing themselves. Our school was a rural one-room structure, Highline Elementary (it burned down long ago), with 17 students total, grades one through eight, taught by a single overwhelmed teacher. When she quit, we didn’t have school for several months! I was almost 11 when we moved to a Wisconsin village, Verona, where my mother’s mother lived, and where I finally went to an ordinary elementary school. I was very shy — and desperately behind in math. I suppose I never did catch up.

The farm, as we called it, smelled like ponies (I talked my dad into buying several, since we had the big barn) and also faintly like the sulfur of smashed ancient chicken eggs around the pump house where the coop had been. The barn loft, up the wooden ladder and through a square hole, was a cathedral, though it still had old piles of hay, and light came streaming through cracks in the boards, through the knotholes, burning the dust motes. They were like those floaters in your eyes, wandering somewhat out of your control, but you could affect them with a wave of your hand. I might have been more religious if they had held Mass in the hayloft.

I didn’t start playing tennis until we moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico when I was going into seventh grade. I loved running madly and hitting the ball as hard as I could, but I never liked keeping score or playing matches. I have a line in a poem: “You never had to crush me and I never had to cheat.” That’s my idea of how sports should be played. That would eliminate a whole lot of our culture, however, and I recognize I am the anomaly.

When did you leave home for the first time? It could have been summer camp or a larger time, like leaving for college. Where do you consider “home”? I’ve read that you relocated several times growing up.

I wonder if “home” is more about people or more about place. The first time I ever left home was right after high school. I drove alone up to Denver for the summer, found a job as a clerk at a 7-Eleven convenience store, found an apartment after sleeping in the car for a few nights, and stayed alive. I’m sure I missed my parents far more than they missed me. There were six of us kids, after all. At the end of August, I went home to Las Cruces to start college at New Mexico State, and I remember driving all night from Denver, desperate to get home, and then when I arrived in the morning, just sitting in the parking area with the several other sleeping cars that so many family drivers seemed to require, and crying. I could cry right now, honestly, but that’s what it’s like to get old and miss those faraway years and times.

Home is where my people are. I’m trying to be near them these days, but they refuse to stay put! If home is also a place, though, for me that place is Duluth, Minnesota. I lived there more than 25 years, raised my kids there, worked at the library, worshiped the lake, wandered around Hartley Field, and felt part of the tribe of writers and artists and wilderness lovers who also call Duluth home.

In “The Death of the Hired Man,” Robert Frost wrote, using two voices:

‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,

They have to take you in.’

‘I should have called it

Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.’

That’s a poem that really should be read again in today’s political climate. I would say that Mary, in the poem, has the voice we need right now. I love it so much.

When did you start writing seriously?

I suppose I’ve written little poems and stories since I knew my name was Connie since I could tie my shoes. But writing seriously … that was in college when I gave up on being a visual artist. I really didn’t have the talent for that. As far as trying to publish, that would have been when my kids were older and I was in my late 30s, in Duluth, and I could carve out a few hours in the morning, before anyone was up, to write. Trying to publish seemed like the next step, once I had some poems I thought were worthy. Phil, my husband, and I were close friends with Louis and Ann Jenkins (still are) and Louis provided a model for me in many ways as a poet who really devoted his soul to his work.

Have you had any unusual jobs?

I don’t think so. They all seemed rather obviously designed to provide a little income, though working at the Mount Royal library in Duluth was most meaningful to me. I think lucky people are those who are truly interested in their jobs, so it doesn’t feel as though they are trading their lives for the money required to stay off the street and out of debt.

What is the one thing that should be part of a writer’s routine, in your opinion? Is there something you wish you’d been told when you were first starting out?

I think it was hard for me to learn patience, in pretty much every area of my life, but especially my writing. Revision was very hard. How could I light a fire again when all the kindling and logs had burned to ash? For me, and perhaps for others, too, it’s important to be able to set something you’ve just written aside for a time, a few hours, a few months or years (ha!), then look at it again with dispassion. In writing, as in life, one’s errors are clearer in retrospect.

Your poetry has been praised by the likes of Maxine Kumin, Bart Sutter, Linda Pastan, and Joyce Sutphen, to name a few. Who are the poets that have shaped and influenced you?

It would impossible to name them all. I also learn from work I don’t particularly like, as well as from other genres. It’s clear that I gravitate toward the natural image and clear language, both as reader and writer. The poets you named certainly are invaluable to me. I am constantly amazed by the number of wonderful poets we have, our literary riches. I know I learned the most, though, from my closest friends, which makes perfect sense to me, and from Phil, my husband, who is a great reader. Also, I would like to say here that the selections and the historical background on The Writer’s Almanac are a daily joy. Many mornings give me marvelous poems from people I’ve never heard of, which illustrates the beauty and breadth of our literary landscape.

What matters most to you in a poem?

I want to be touched, to feel a kinship. Dylan Thomas says that in the end, “You’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words.” Yes, I want to be moved by words.

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Ted Kooser writes a lovely introduction in your latest collection, Rival Gardens, in which he says, “[Connie] was not a professor of creative writing on her way to a better position but a person who worked at a public library [and] fixed up old houses for resale, a part-time painter and decorator, a gardener, a full-time mother, and a journeyman framing carpenter of our beautiful American language.”

 I was so moved by this. When I read your poems, there is such life in them. I’ve read well-crafted poems from students/graduates of MFA programs, but they sometimes feel rarefied or removed from the common daily minutiae that make poems relatable and inspiring in the first place. So many today are on the straight path to an MFA — poetry in particular. Is it valuable to sit in a classroom and study form, aesthetics, and devices for extended periods of time? Or is it just as important, perhaps more so, to simply get outside — observe — write by living foremost? Perhaps there is a middle ground. I wonder how a waitress or a mailman or a veterinary assistant with some good poems under his/her belt could best approach getting their work published. I’d like to believe they are out there, writing in little notebooks or on iPads at the end of a shift.

First, thank you for these incredibly kind words. I am so grateful to Ted Kooser also. He has been a model for me in many ways — he is certainly one of our finest poets.

I worked on an MA in English as a teaching assistant, and I think it was great fun (as well as a job), but I never felt there was a future for me in academia. Why? The numbers were against me: at least 1,000 applicants for every position in an English Department back in the late ’70s. So be it. I think it’s lovely that there are many university programs that encourage and teach creative writing, whether it leads to a job or not. I think when we are young writers, we imitate, in the great tradition of apprentices of all sorts. Finally, it’s your own life, the particularity of it, that shapes “your voice.” You are exactly right when you say that looking out at the world is crucial. We learn that as we mature.

I think I drifted quite a bit in my life, took many paths of least resistance. I wouldn’t call that a virtue, though. I did the work-at-hand as well as I could.

Poetry is a big house, and there are rooms dedicated to many different kinds of poetry. There’s a room for the kind I like to read and write; there are rooms for a wide range of approaches. We should feel free when we try to write, I think. Unconstrained by what we have done before, and what anyone has done before, for that matter.

A former poet laureate of Wisconsin, Max Garland, used to be a mailman in Kentucky. It’s not easy to break into publishing, now or ever, but I think the best approach is to start with the small literary magazines, online or print, in your area, and maybe to join a writing group. A lot of people find that to be very encouraging, and certainly, at least one good reader is crucial to every writer.

Can you tell us about your poem “Girdle” from Rival Gardens? It was featured on TWA in March. I laughed out loud after reading it.

I have written a lot of “object” poems, and that’s how this poem started. Focus on an object and see where it leads. I thought … hmmm, a series of poems on women’s undergarments … but this is as far as I got. There’s a line about a heaven for pets in this poem, and I want to say I believe that, if there’s a heaven for people, there’s a heaven for pets, too.

You’ve also written prose, a book of short stories called Summer Cars (2014). Do you enjoy writing prose? Does a story start like a poem that couldn’t be contained? Is it nice to have all those extra words at your disposal? I imagine writing a poem is more difficult, somehow.

Oh, for me, writing poetry is far easier. So much less typing! But you’re right, “Summer Cars” was originally a poem that could not be contained. I kept getting ideas—what’s the story of each of those lovely cars that emerge up north in May, nosing up to the stop signs? I would like to write more prose, certainly, and maybe if I drink enough coffee, I can sustain a narrative more easily and keep my fingers hovering over the keyboard.

Do you routinely write from a particular desk? If so, what’s on your desk right now?

Desks are so serious and intentional. Sometimes I feel like I have to sneak up on a poem, which is hard to do sitting at a desk. I’m a bit like an old hound looking for a quiet place to curl up. A dog with blank paper and a pencil, and one eye half-open—sniffing for a poem on the air.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done?

I’ve had wild dreams and I was irresponsible as a kid, but actually, I’ve gotten very boring over the years. I think maybe the wildest thing was climbing Long’s Peak in Colorado, 14,280 feet, in tennis shoes with a peanut butter sandwich and a tiny plastic canteen meant for a child. I was 18. What could go wrong? It was just a hike, right?

Thank you for taking the time to do this!

It was my pleasure, truly, and a great, great honor.

 

Interview by Joy Biles

 

MARK STRAND, POET LAUREATE

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Poet Mark Strand (books by this author) was born in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada (1934), though he spent much of his adolescence in South and Central America. His father worked for Pepsi-Cola and moved the family from Cuba to Peru to Mexico. Strand once said, “I never found my own place. I really come from nowhere.” For a long time, he spoke English with a heavy French accent.

Strand’s parents wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer, but he wanted to be a painter, so he enrolled in the Yale School of Art. He’d been painting since he was 13, when he did a self-portrait after copying figures from a book on Donatello, the Italian Renaissance sculptor.  Strand was a good student at Yale, though poor, and he worked as a waiter and delivered laundry to pay his way. He also started to read poetry, mostly Wallace Stevens, which led him to enroll in English courses, and his professors encouraged his writing, and he decided to become a poet. After Yale, Strand went to Italy and studied 19th-century Italian poetry. “I was never much good with language as a child,” he said. “Believe me, the idea that I would someday become a poet would have come as a complete shock to everyone in my family.” He wrote steadily during the 1960s, enjoying the wild atmosphere that came with being an artist. Some people complained his poems were too intense and dark, but he dismissed his critics, saying, “I find them evenly lit.”

Strand’s books include Sleeping With One Eye Open (1964), The Continuous Life (1990), and Almost Invisible (2012). He won the Pulitzer Prize for his collection Blizzard of One: Poems (1998) and even served as poet laureate for the United States, though he was uncomfortable with the post. He said, “It’s too close to the government. It’s too official.”

He served as poet laureate of the United States from 1990 to 1991 and as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1995 to 2000. He taught English and comparative literature at Columbia University in New York City. He died at eighty years old on November 29, 2014, in Brooklyn, New York.

Mark Strand died in 2014. In his last years, he stopped writing poetry and returned to art, mostly making collages by hand.


Harmony in the Boudoir
by Mark Strand
After years of marriage, he stands at the foot of the bed and
tells his wife that she will never know him, that for everything
he says there is more that he does not say, that behind each
word he utters there is another word, and hundreds more be-
hind that one. All those unsaid words, he says, contain his true
self, which has been betrayed by the superficial self before her.
“So you see,” he says, kicking off his slippers, “I am more than
what I have led you to believe I am.” “Oh, you silly man,” says
his wife, “of course you are. I find that just thinking of you
having so many selves receding into nothingness is very excit-
ing. That you barely exist as you are couldn’t please me more.”
“Harmony in the Boudoir” by Mark Strand from Almost Invisible. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. .

SOURCES: WIKIPEDIA/MPR

Minnesota Public Radio. 480 Cedar Street, Saint Paul, MN 55101

THE WORKS OF IGOR MORSKI

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Polish illustrator, artist, and co-owner of Morski Studio Graficzne, Igor Morski creates surreal images imbued with hidden meaning. He graduated with honors from the Interior Architecture and Industrial Design Faculty at the State Higher School of Fine Art in Poznań, and worked for public broadcasting in the 80s and 90s, before finally pursuing a career in press illustration. Morski opened his own studio in 1995.

“Sometimes I used to use popular symbols, such as Pinocchio’s long nose,” Morski told Bored Panda. “However, most frequently I have tried to think up my own symbols. For example, [my piece] “creative archaeology” is about the commercialisation of archaeology. There, I depict a halved human head filled with the sand with a stylised figure of Indiana Jones, the archaeologist, at the top. The symbolism becomes clear. On the one hand, you have the head filled with the sand, on the other, the figure digging in it.”

SOURCE: http://www.boredpanda.com/surreal-illustrations-poland-igor-morski/

original

He was recently commissioned for the artwork on Uriah Heap’s new album.

 

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BIOGRAPHY: http://www.artgalaxie.com/index.php/igor-morski

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IGOR MORSKI

Igor Morski (b. 1960) Polish graphic designer, illustrator and set designer, Presently,  focuses on mixed media graphic art, based manly on photo manipulation, drawing, recently also 3D.

Morski graduated with honors from the Interior Architecture and Industrial Design Faculty at the State Higher School of Fine Art in Poznań (now the University of Arts).

In the late 80’s and early 90’s he worked for public broadcasting company Polish Television creating set design for TV theatre, culture and commentary shows.In the early 90’s the artist pursued a career in press illustration, working for leading Polish titles including  Wprost,  Newsweek,  Businesweek,  Businesman Magazine,  Manager Magazine, Charaktery, Psychologia dziś and  Focus.

So far, he has created about 1000 illustrations. His work also regularly appears in international magazines such as the American Deloitte Review,  the Australian  Prevention, Money, ITB,  Men’s Health, Womans Health and George.

He is a winner of many prestigious awards including Communication Arts Excellence Award (2008, 2010) and Applied Arts Award (2010, 2011). Golden Stellar Digital Arts California (2013) Igor Morski is co-owner of a graphic design studio Morski Studio Graficzne in his hometown. His advertising art has been commissioned by Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore, Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney and Abelson Taylor among others.

Privately, he is a proud father of two daughters. He is interested in natural sciences in a broad sense, genetics, cosmology and theoretical physics.

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OLD AGES

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ORDERING PRINTS  SEE: http://igormorski.pl/category/works/print/

INTERVIEW:  http://sunriseartists.com/2013/06/13/igor-morski-interview/

 

Hans Christian Andersen

 

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THE WRITER’S ALMANAC

Saturday, Apr. 2, 2016

 

Today is the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen (books by this author), born in Odense, Denmark (1805). He was the only son of a shoemaker who used to tell him stories from Arabian Nights. His mother was an illiterate washerwoman who was widowed when her son was 11. When Andersen was 14, he told his mother that he wanted to go to Copenhagen. When she asked what he intended to do there, he said, “I’ll become famous! First you suffer cruelly, and then you become famous.”

He intended to find his fame on the stage. He even found a patron, Jonas Collin, who was the director of the Royal Danish Theatre. But Andersen was tall and gawky, and people used to laugh at his attempts to sing and dance; he also experienced poverty worse even than he had known in Odense. He felt like an outsider. These feelings were reinforced when he finally went back to school at Collin’s urging. Andersen was a country boy not used to life in the capital city, he was much older than the other students, and he was a mediocre student at best; his schoolmaster used to pick on him mercilessly. He finally graduated from the University of Copenhagen in 1828, and he published his first story in 1829. It was called “A Journey on Foot from Holmen’s Canal to the East Point of Amager,” and it was a success. His writing career was launched.

Andersen followed up that first story with volumes of poetry, plays, autobiographical novels, and travelogues. He published his first collection of fairy tales in 1835, but still continued writing for adults. Although his novels did well, his fairy tales were overlooked at first, and it wasn’t until an English translation was published in 1845 that they became popular. Andersen gave us “The Princess and the Pea,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and “The Little Match Girl,” among many others – more than 150 fairy tales in all.

With his literary success came the fame and acceptance that Andersen had always wanted. He traveled extensively around Europe, rubbing elbows with fellow writers like Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, and Henrik Ibsen. In England, he met Charles Dickens, whose work he admired. The two men shared a concern for the less fortunate members of society, and had both grown up without money, and they became friends.

In 2012, a Danish historian came across a previously unknown Andersen fairy tale in the bottom of a storage box in the national archive. The story is called “The Tallow Candle,” and it’s about a lonely candle that feels misunderstood and unappreciated until it is finally recognized by a tinderbox. Andersen wrote it when he was a teenager, during a particularly unhappy period at school, and he presented it to a vicar’s widow who had loaned him books when he was a child.

In 1872, Andersen was badly injured when he fell out of bed. He never fully recovered from his injuries; he also developed liver cancer, which claimed his life in 1875.

 

SAYING WHAT YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE

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by Erica Verrillo               Feb 14, 2016:  5 minute read

Saul Bellow (June 10, 1915 — April 5, 2005) was one of our most famed American writers. He won the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts; and he is the only writer to have won the National Book Award for Fiction three times.

In spite of all the accolades Bellow received during his lifetime (and after) Bellow thought of himself as a “working stiff.”

“Celebrity interferes with the business of writing,” he said. “But it gives you a certain amount of confidence. Before, I said anything I damn pleased, and I did it defiantly. Now, I say anything I damn please, but I do it with confidence.”

Bellow was not afraid to say what he pleased, ever. At a PEN conference, he stated (like Churchill) that democracy was the worst form of government, except for all the others. Predictably, he “had a fight on his hands.” But Bellow was not one to back down. And, as it turned out, neither was I.

Developing judgment

One of the hardest things to learn during the publishing process is judgment. Writing alone, in your garret, does not demand anything from you other than time and thought. But once your work is exposed to the world, critics emerge from the woodwork. Everyone has an opinion. If they like what you have written, you feel confident that you have done a good job. And if they don’t, doubts creep in. The question you face is whether those doubts are justified.

My editor at Random House had a great deal to say about everything I had written — every word, every sentence, every paragraph, every chapter (some of which she crossed out in their entirety). We did revision, after revision, after revision.

At the start, I assumed she was right, and I did everything she told me to do. I eliminated anything she might remotely find objectionable. But, by the end of that three-year period, I learned not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of eliminating, I simply tweaked. And, in some cases, I outright refused to make the modifications she suggested.

What had changed?

I had finally learned to “say what I damn well pleased.” I had learned to block out the advice that wasn’t consistent with what I wanted to say. And my work was all the better for it.

The last book in my series was the one in which I finally learned to stick to my guns. It was published just as I wrote it, and it got the best reviews of any of my books. Critics remarked that my writing had “really come along.” What they didn’t know was the writing had been the same in all three books. The difference was that by the time book number three came along, I had developed enough confidence to tell the difference between a good suggestion and a bad one.

The trick is to develop that confidence early — before you sacrifice your integrity.

Integrity

What constitutes integrity for a writer?

Your first loyalty is to your manuscript. You must tell your story as best you can, realizing its full potential. You must ignore the distractions of what people say will sell, or what you think readers may like. You are not a panderer, you are an artist. Your job is to interpret reality through language.

Your second loyalty is to your readers. You have offered to tell them a tale. So, do it. Don’t try to impress them with linguistic gymnastics. Don’t point a finger at yourself. “Look at me!” is for actors, not writers. (Yes, I am thinking of Cloud Atlas.) Your readers shouldn’t even know you are there. You are your story.

Your third loyalty is to yourself. Nothing is more frightening than writing fiction. It lays you bare. So, don’t lie. Don’t shy away from emotions that are difficult, and from scenes that leave you raw. Tell the truth as only you can tell it.

Here is some of what Saul Bellow had to say about writing. I guarantee Saul will help you on the road to saying what you damn well please.

“You must either like what you are doing very much, either like your characters or hate them, you can’t be indifferent.”

“Your own natural, original voice provides the engine for your writing.”

“The Bible says, ‘Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.’ That’s where the critics come in.”

“The writer cannot make the seas of distraction stand still, but he can at times come between the madly distracted and the distractions. He does this by opening another world.”

“When you open a novel — and I mean of course the real thing — you enter into a state of intimacy with its writer. You hear a voice or, more significantly, an individual tone under the words. This tone you, the reader, will identify not so much by a name, the name of the author, as by a distinct and unique human quality. It seems to issue from the bosom, from a place beneath the breastbone. It is more musical than verbal, and it is the characteristic signature of a person, of a soul.”

“The most pleasurable moments in writing are when you are either laughing or weeping, and scribbling at the same time. That’s what one lives for in this trade.”


 

Erica Verrillo has published five books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on how to get an agent, lists agents who are looking for clients as well as publishers accepting manuscripts directly from writers, explains how to market and promote your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews, how to self-publish, and how to keep your confidence on Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity.

This collection is sister to The Curious Cat Project (CCP), a website that connects writers from all over the world. Follow CCP on Facebook.

 


7094134Erica Verrillo was raised in Syracuse NY, the daughter of classical pianist, Violet Silverstein, and noted psychophysicist, Ronald T. Verrillo.  At age seventeen Ms.Verrillo moved to England, where she performed in the Oxford Symphony Orchestra. On her return to the U.S. she attended New England Conservatory. She finished her undergraduate education at Tufts, where she majored in History.

Erica's website is ericaverrillo.com. Her blog, Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity can be found 
at http://www.ericaverrillo.com as well.


 

Erica is also the writer of Stella’s Star Wish found here in Helios. https://heliosliterature.com/2014/11/13/stellas-star-wish/

Drew Pearson

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=15588pearson-drew3

Drew Pearson, Columnist

Andrew Russell “Drew” Pearson was one of the best-known American columnists of his day, noted for his syndicated newspaper column “Washington Merry-Go-Round,” in which he attacked various public persons.  Wikipedia
BornDecember 13, 1897, Evanston, IL
DiedSeptember 1, 1969, Washington, D.C.

[KHF notes: I read Drew Pearson’s column regularly in the Dayton Daily News when I was a teenager. Some may never have heard about him and the power he had in Washington.]

Drew Pearson and the Assassination of JFK

by John Simkin

John Simkin's Photo

Posted 03 March 2010 – 08:47 AM

Drew Pearson was America’s leading investigative journalist in 1963. However, as far as I can see, little has been written about his thoughts on the assassination of John Kennedy.

First of all I want to look at his record.

In 1929 Drew Pearson became Washington correspondent of the Baltimore Sun. Three years later he joined the Scripps-Howard syndicate, United Features. His Merry-Go-Round column was published in newspapers all over the United States. He soon established himself as an anti-corruption journalist. His politics came from his religious beliefs – he was a Quaker.

Pearson was a strong supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal program. He also upset more conservative editors when he advocated United States involvement in the struggle against fascism in Europe. Pearson’s articles were often censored and so in 1941 he switched to the more liberal The Washington Post.

During the Second World War Pearson created a great deal of controversy when he took up the case of John Gates, a member of the American Communist Party, who was not allowed to take part in the D-Day landings. Gates later pointed out: “Newspaper columnist Drew Pearson published an account of my case… Syndicated coast-to-coast, the column meant well but it contained all kinds of unauthorized, secret military information – the name of my battalion, the fact that it had been alerted for overseas, my letter to the President and his reply, and the officers’ affidavits. As a result of this violation of military secrecy, the date for the outfit going overseas was postponed, the order restoring me to my battalion was countermanded and I was out of it for good. It seems that some of my friends, a bit overzealous in my cause, had given Pearson all this information, thinking the publicity would do me good.”

Pearson also became a radio broadcaster. He soon became one of America’s most popular radio personalities. After the war he was an enthusiastic supporter of the United Nations and helped to organize the Friendship Train project in 1947. The train travelled coast-to-coast collecting gifts of food for those people in Europe still suffering from the consequences of the war.

In 1947 Jack Anderson became Pearson’s assistant. Anderson had worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in China in the Second World War. This included working with Paul Helliwell, John K. Singlaub, Ray S. Cline, Richard Helms, E. Howard Hunt, Mitchell WerBell, Robert Emmett Johnson and Lucien Conein. Others working in China at that time included Tommy Corcoran, Whiting Willauer and William Pawley. I am convinced that Anderson was also working for the OSS that became the CIA in 1947.

Over the next few years Anderson was able to use his contacts that he had developed in the OSS to help Pearson with his stories. One of Anderson’s first stories concerned the dispute between Howard Hughes, the owner of Trans World Airlines and Owen Brewster, chairman of the Senate War Investigating Committee. Hughes claimed that Brewster was being paid by Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) to persuade the United States government to set up an official worldwide monopoly under its control. Part of this plan was to force all existing American carriers with overseas operations to close down or merge with Pan Am. As the owner of Trans World Airlines, Hughes posed a serious threat to this plan. Hughes claimed that Brewster had approached him and suggested he merge Trans World with Pan Am. Pearson and Anderson began a campaign against Brewster. They reported that Pan Am had provided Bewster with free flights to Hobe Sound, Florida, where he stayed free of charge at the holiday home of Pan Am Vice President Sam Pryor. As a result of this campaign Bewster lost his seat in Congress.

In the late 1940s Anderson became friendly with Joseph McCarthy. As he pointed out in his autobiography, Confessions of a Muckraker, “Joe McCarthy… was a pal of mine, irresponsible to be sure, but a fellow bachelor of vast amiability and an excellent source of inside dope on the Hill.” McCarthy began supplying Anderson with stories about suspected communists in government. Pearson refused to publish these stories as he was very suspicious of the motives of people like McCarthy. In fact, in 1948, Pearson began investigating J. Parnell Thomas, the Chairman of the House of Un-American Activities Committee. It was not long before Thomas’ secretary, Helen Campbell, began providing information about his illegal activities. On 4th August, 1948, Pearson published the story that Thomas had been putting friends on his congressional payroll. They did no work but in return shared their salaries with Thomas.

Called before a grand jury, J. Parnell Thomas availed himself to the 1st Amendment, a strategy that he had been unwilling to accept when dealing with the Hollywood Ten. Indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government, Thomas was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months in prison and forced to pay a $10,000 fine. Two of his fellow inmates in Danbury Federal Correctional Institution were Lester Cole and Ring Lardner Jr. who were serving terms as a result of refusing to testify in front of Thomas and the House of Un-American Activities Committee.

In 1949 Pearson criticised the Secretary of Defence, James Forrestal, for his conservative views on foreign policy. He told Jack Anderson that he believed Forrestal was “the most dangerous man in America” and claimed that if he was not removed from office he would “cause another world war”. Pearson also suggested that Forrestal was guilty of corruption. Pearson was blamed when Forrestal committed suicide on 22nd May 1949. One journalist, Westbrook Pegler, wrote: “For months, Drew Pearson… hounded Jim Forrestal with dirty aspersions and insinuations, until, at last, exhausted and his nerves unstrung, one of the finest servants that the Republic ever had died of suicide.”

Drew Pearson also began investigating General Douglas MacArthur. In December, 1949, Anderson got hold of a top-secret cable from MacArthur to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressing his disagreement with President Harry S. Truman concerning Chaing Kai-shek. On 22nd December, 1949, Pearson published the story that: “General MacArthur has sent a triple-urgent cable urging that Formosa be occupied by U.S. troops.” Pearson argued that MacArthur was “trying to dictate U.S. foreign policy in the Far East”.

Harry S. Truman and Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State, told MacArthur to limit the war to Korea. MacArthur disagreed, favoring an attack on Chinese forces. Unwilling to accept the views of Truman and Dean Acheson, MacArthur began to make inflammatory statements indicating his disagreements with the United States government.

MacArthur gained support from right-wing members of the Senate such as Joe McCarthy who led the attack on Truman’s administration: “With half a million Communists in Korea killing American men, Acheson says, ‘Now let’s be calm, let’s do nothing’. It is like advising a man whose family is being killed not to take hasty action for fear he might alienate the affection of the murders.”

On 7th October, 1950, Douglas MacArthur launched an invasion of North Korea by the end of the month had reached the Yalu River, close to the frontier of China. On 20th November, Pearson wrote in his column that the Chinese were following a strategy that was “sucking our troops into a trap.” Three days later the Chinese Army launched an attack on MacArthur’s army. North Korean forces took Seoul in January 1951. Two months later, Harry S. Truman removed MacArthur from his command of the United Nations forces in Korea.

Joe McCarthy continued to provide Jack Anderson with a lot of information. In his autobiography, Confessions of a Muckraker, Anderson pointed out: “At my prompting he (McCarthy) would phone fellow senators to ask what had transpired this morning behind closed doors or what strategy was planned for the morrow. While I listened in on an extension he would pump even a Robert Taft or a William Knowland with the handwritten questions I passed him.”

In return, Anderson provided McCarthy with information about politicians and state officials he suspected of being “communists”. Anderson later recalled that his decision to work with McCarthy “was almost automatic.. for one thing, I owed him; for another, he might be able to flesh out some of our inconclusive material, and if so, I would no doubt get the scoop.” As a result Anderson passed on his file on the presidential aide, David Demarest Lloyd.

On 9th February, 1950, Joe McCarthy made a speech in Salt Lake City where he attacked Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State, as “a pompous diplomat in striped pants”. He claimed that he had a list of 57 people in the State Department that were known to be members of the American Communist Party. McCarthy went on to argue that some of these people were passing secret information to the Soviet Union. He added: “The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because the enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer – the finest homes, the finest college educations, and the finest jobs in Government we can give.”

The list of names was not a secret and had been in fact published by the Secretary of State in 1946. These people had been identified during a preliminary screening of 3,000 federal employees. Some had been communists but others had been fascists, alcoholics and sexual deviants. As it happens, if McCarthy had been screened, his own drink problems and sexual preferences would have resulted in him being put on the list.

Pearson immediately launched an attack on Joe McCarthy. He pointed out that only three people on the list were State Department officials. He added that when this list was first published four years ago, Gustavo Duran and Mary Jane Keeney had both resigned from the State Department (1946). He added that the third person, John S. Service, had been cleared after a prolonged and careful investigation. Pearson also argued that none of these people had been named were members of the American Communist Party.

Jack Anderson asked Pearson to stop attacking McCarthy: “He is our best source on the Hill.” Pearson replied, “He may be a good source, Jack, but he’s a bad man.”

On 20th February, 1950, Joe McCarthy made a speech in the Senate supporting the allegations he had made in Salt Lake City. This time he did not describe them as “card-carrying communists” because this had been shown to be untrue. Instead he argued that his list were all “loyalty risks”. He also claimed that one of the president’s speech-writers, was a communist. Although he did not name him, he was referring to David Demarest Lloyd, the man that Anderson had provided information on.

Lloyd immediately issued a statement where he defended himself against McCarthy’s charges. President Harry S. Truman not only kept him on but promoted him to the post of Administrative Assistant. Lloyd was indeed innocent of these claims and McCarthy was forced to withdraw these allegations. As Anderson admitted: “At my instigation, then, Lloyd had been done an injustice that was saved from being grevious only by Truman’s steadfastness.”

McCarthy now informed Jack Anderson that he had evidence that Professor Owen Lattimore, director of the Walter Hines Page School of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University, was a Soviet spy. Pearson, who knew Lattimore, and while accepting he held left-wing views, he was convinced he was not a spy. In his speeches, McCarthy referred to Lattimore as “Mr X… the top Russian spy… the key man in a Russian espionage ring.”

On 26th March, 1950, Pearson named Lattimore as McCarthy’s Mr. X. Pearson then went onto defend Lattimore against these charges. McCarthy responded by making a speech in Congress where he admitted: “I fear that in the case of Lattimore I may have perhaps placed too much stress on the question of whether he is a paid espionage agent.”

McCarthy then produced Louis Budenz, the former editor of The Daily Worker. Budenz claimed that Lattimore was a “concealed communist”. However, as Jack Anderson admitted: “Budenz had never met Lattimore; he spoke not from personal observation of him but from what he remembered of what others had told him five, six, seven and thirteen years before.”

Pearson now wrote an article where he showed that Budenz was a serial liar: “Apologists for Budenz minimize this on the ground that Budenz has now reformed. Nevertheless, untruthful statements made regarding his past and refusal to answer questions have a bearing on Budenz’s credibility.” He went on to point out that “all in all, Budenz refused to answer 23 questions on the ground of self-incrimination”.

Owen Lattimore was eventually cleared of the charge that he was a Soviet spy or a secret member of the American Communist Party and like several other victims of McCarthyism, he went to live in Europe and for several years was professor of Chinese studies at Leeds University.

Despite the efforts of Jack Anderson, by the end of June, 1950, Drew Pearson had written more than forty daily columns and a significant percentage of his weekly radio broadcasts, that had been devoted to discrediting the charges made by Joseph McCarthy. He now decided to take on Pearson and he told Anderson: “Jack, I’m going to have to go after your boss. I mean, no holds barred. I figure I’ve already lost his supporters; by going after him, I can pick up his enemies.” McCarthy, when drunk, told Assistant Attorney General Joe Keenan, that he was considering “bumping Pearson off”.

On 15th December, 1950, McCarthy made a speech in Congress where he claimed that Pearson was “the voice of international Communism” and “a Moscow-directed character assassin.” McCarthy added that Pearson was “a prostitute of journalism” and that Pearson “and the Communist Party murdered James Forrestal in just as cold blood as though they had machine-gunned him.”

Over the next two months Joseph McCarthy made seven Senate speeches on Drew Pearson. He called for a “patriotic boycott” of his radio show and as a result, Adam Hats, withdrew as Pearson’s radio sponsor. Although he was able to make a series of short-term arrangements, Pearson was never again able to find a permanent sponsor. Twelve newspapers cancelled their contract with Pearson.

Joe McCarthy and his friends also raised money to help Fred Napoleon Howser, the Attorney General of California, to sue Pearson for $350,000. This involved an incident in 1948 when Pearson accused Howser of consorting with mobsters and of taking a bribe from gambling interests. Help was also given to Father Charles Coughlin, who sued Pearson for $225,000. However, in 1951 the courts ruled that Pearson had not libeled either Howser or Coughlin.

Only the St. Louis Star-Times defended Pearson. As its editorial pointed out: “If Joseph McCarthy can silence a critic named Drew Pearson, simply by smearing him with the brush of Communist association, he can silence any other critic.” However, Pearson did get the support of J. William Fulbright, Wayne Morse, Clinton Anderson, William Benton and Thomas Hennings in the Senate.

In October, 1953, Joe McCarthy began investigating communist infiltration into the military. Attempts were made by McCarthy to discredit Robert T. Stevens, the Secretary of the Army. The president, Dwight Eisenhower, was furious and now realised that it was time to bring an end to McCarthy’s activities.

The United States Army now passed information about McCarthy to journalists who were known to be opposed to him. This included the news that McCarthy and Roy Cohn had abused congressional privilege by trying to prevent David Schine from being drafted. When that failed, it was claimed that Cohn tried to pressurize the Army into granting Schine special privileges. Pearson published the story on 15th December, 1953.

Some figures in the media, such as writers George Seldes and I. F. Stone, and cartoonists, Herb Block and Daniel Fitzpatrick, had fought a long campaign against McCarthy. Other figures in the media, who had for a long time been opposed to McCarthyism, but were frightened to speak out, now began to get the confidence to join the counter-attack. Edward Murrow, the experienced broadcaster, used his television programme, See It Now, on 9th March, 1954, to criticize McCarthy’s methods. Newspaper columnists such as Walter Lippmann also became more open in their attacks on McCarthy.

The senate investigations into the United States Army were televised and this helped to expose the tactics of Joseph McCarthy. One newspaper, the Louisville Courier-Journal, reported that: “In this long, degrading travesty of the democratic process, McCarthy has shown himself to be evil and unmatched in malice.” Leading politicians in both parties, had been embarrassed by McCarthy’s performance and on 2nd December, 1954, a censure motion condemned his conduct by 67 votes to 22.

McCarthy also lost the chairmanship of the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate. He was now without a power base and the media lost interest in his claims of a communist conspiracy. As one journalist, Willard Edwards, pointed out: “Most reporters just refused to file McCarthy stories. And most papers would not have printed them anyway.”

In 1956 Pearson began investigating the relationship between Lyndon B. Johnson and two businessmen, George R. Brown and Herman Brown. Pearson believed that Johnson had arranged for the Texas-based Brown and Root Construction Company to avoid large tax bills. Johnson brought an end to this investigation by offering Pearson a deal. If Pearson dropped his Brown-Root crusade, Johnson would support the presidential ambitions of Estes Kefauver. Pearson accepted and wrote in his diary (16th April, 1956): “This is the first time I’ve ever made a deal like this, and I feel a little unhappy about it. With the Presidency of the United States at stake, maybe it’s justified, maybe not – I don’t know.”

Jack Anderson also helped Pearson investigate stories of corruption inside the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower. They discovered that Eisenhower had received gifts worth more than $500,000 from “big-business well-wishers.” In 1957 Anderson threaten to quit because these stories always appeared under Pearson’s name. Pearson responded by promising him more bylines and pledged to leave the column to him when he died.

Pearson and Anderson began investigating the presidential assistant Sherman Adams. The former governor of New Hampshire, was considered to be a key figure in Eisenhower’s administration. Anderson discovered that Bernard Goldfine, a wealthy industrialist, had given Adams a large number of presents. This included suits, overcoats, alcohol, furnishings and the payment of hotel and resort bills. Anderson eventually found evidence that Adams had twice persuaded the Federal Trade Commission to “ease up its pursuit of Goldfine for putting false labels on the products of his textile plants.”

The story was eventually published in 1958 and Adams was forced to resign from office. However, Jack Anderson was much criticized for the way he carried out his investigation and one of his assistants, Les Whitten, was arrested by the FBI for receiving stolen government documents.

In 1960 Pearson supported Hubert Humphrey in his efforts to become the Democratic Party candidate. However, those campaigning for John F. Kennedy, accused him of being a draft dodger. As a result, when Humphrey dropped out of the race, Pearson switched his support to Lyndon B. Johnson. However, it was Kennedy who eventually got the nomination.

Pearson now supported Kennedy’s attempt to become president. One of the ways he helped his campaign was to investigate the relationship between Howard Hughes and Richard Nixon. Pearson and Anderson discovered that in 1956 the Hughes Tool Company provided a $205,000 loan to Nixon Incorporated, a company run by Richard’s brother, Francis Donald Nixon. The money was never paid back. Soon after the money was paid the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reversed a previous decision to grant tax-exempt status to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

This information was revealed by Pearson and Jack Anderson during the 1960 presidential campaign. Nixon initially denied the loan but later was forced to admit that this money had been given to his brother. It was claimed that this story helped John F. Kennedy defeat Nixon in the election.

Like other political journalists, Pearson and Anderson investigated the death of President John F. Kennedy. Sources close to John McCone and Robert Kennedy claimed that the assassination was linked to the plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba.

In 1966 attempts were made to deport Johnny Roselli as an illegal alien. Roselli moved to Los Angeles where he went into early retirement. It was at this time he told attorney, Edward Morgan: “The last of the sniper teams dispatched by Robert Kennedy in 1963 to assassinate Fidel Castro were captured in Havana. Under torture they broke and confessed to being sponsored by the CIA and the US government. At that point, Castro remarked that, ‘If that was the way President Kennedy wanted it, Cuba could engage in the same tactics’. The result was that Castro infiltrated teams of snipers into the US to kill Kennedy”.

Morgan took the story to Pearson. The story was then passed on to Earl Warren. He did not want anything to do with it and so the information was then passed to the FBI. When they failed to investigate the story Jack Anderson wrote an article entitled “President Johnson is sitting on a political H-bomb” about Roselli’s story. It has been suggested that Roselli started this story at the request of his friends in the Central Intelligence Agency in order to divert attention from the investigation being carried out by Jim Garrison.

In 1968 Jack Anderson and Drew Pearson published The Case Against Congress. The book documented examples of how politicians had “abused their power and priviledge by placing their own interests ahead of those of the American people”. This included the activities of Bobby Baker, James Eastland, Lyndon B. Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower, Hubert Humphrey, Everett Dirksen, Thomas J. Dodd, John McClellan and Clark Clifford.

On 18th July, 1969, Mary Jo Kopechne, died while in the car of Edward Kennedy. Pearson was investigating the case when he died on 1st September. Chalmers Roberts of the Washington Post wrote: “Drew Pearson was a muckraker with a Quaker conscience. In print he sounded fierce; in life he was gentle, even courtly. For thirty-eight years he did more than any man to keep the national capital honest.”