Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

writer poet About Me Links Contact

Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Reading the Sunday papers

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some days the news gives you news in unintended ways. In today’s New York Times I read the obituary of a poet named Abraham Sutzkever, whose beautiful, haunting, and heart-breaking work I discovered only recently. He wrote in Yiddish about the Holocaust and the lost world of Eastern European Jewry.

Here is one of his poems, translated by Jacqueline Osherow:

Written on a slat of a railway car:

If some time someone should find pearls
threaded on a blood-red string of silk
which, near the throat, runs all the thinner
like life's own path until it's gone
somewhere in a fog and can't be seen —

If someone should find these pearls
let him know how — cool, aloof — they lit up
the eighteen-year-old, impatient heart
of the Paris dancing girl, Marie.

Now, dragged through unknown Poland —
I'm throwing my pearls through the grate.

If they're found by a young man —
let these pearls adorn his girlfriend.
If they're found by a girl —
let her wear them; they belong to her.
And if they're found by an old man —
let him, for these pearls, recite a prayer.

From Epitaphs 1943-44

When I turned from the Times’ news section to “News of the Week in Review,” I saw its lead story about political anger. It was illustrated with some of the most disturbing photographs I’ve seen in a long time. The front page photo is from a Tea Party rally. Pictured front and center are three women not far off my age cohort. One holds a sign that reads, “Gun Control is being able to hit your target.” The jump has a photo, too, this one from the 1964 presidential campaign. A woman identified as a Barry Goldwater supporter holds a “USA Love It or Leave It” poster. Her face is so contorted with anger that she looks more animal than human. (For some reason, the editors have selected women’s faces here. Food for thought. No comment.)

Left me thinking about hate in its various historical moments and incarnations and what it does to us.

Labels: , , ,

Post a Comment

Nan Robertson, thank you

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nan Robertson died last week. Maybe I missed it, but I saw only a hint of the outpouring of tributes I expected, especially from women journalists.

She was one of the trailblazers, a Pulitzer Prize winner who was known as a generous mentor to countless women in journalism. Certainly she was an inspiration for many more.

Nan was 83 when she died and had made her career, mostly at The New York Times. She started there in 1955, in an era when “women’s news” was a beat. She wrote hundreds of articles on fashion, shopping, and decorating before moving, in 1963, to the paper’s Washington bureau. There her assignment, as she described it, was covering, “the first lady, her children, and their dogs.”

She wrote candidly about her own life, her struggles with alcoholism and depression and, most famously, her horrific experience with toxic shock syndrome, which ultimately led to the amputation of eight fingertips.

Her 1992 book, “The Girls in the Balcony” told the story of the federal class-action suit successfully brought against The New York Times by 550 women employees alleging discrimination in pay, assignments, and chance for advancement. The “balcony” in the book’s title was the less-than-second-class area at the National Press Club in Washington where women journalists could look down at the auditorium from which they were barred. Women were not allowed in the auditorium even on business until 1955 and were denied membership in the Press Club until 1971.

It is shocking to realize how relatively recent those days in the balcony were. But in 2009 around the world, in new media and old, women journalists are writing substantive news stories. And their voices are being clearly heard in the public discussion of how information is gathered and shared. Thank you, Nan.

Labels: , , , , ,

Post a Comment