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Posts Tagged ‘the Independent’

I’m thinking about poetry.  Our topic this week is to write a poem for Slam-o-rama.

Poetry came easy to me last year. It poured out of me. I’m not saying it was good. Just that it poured. Like Morton salt. It seems tougher to write now. I have to slow down to write poetry.

I am going to hear Mary Oliver read her poetry in May. Her partner of over 40 years, Molly Malone Cook, died in 2005. Thirst is dedicated to Cook. The pages are full of sorrow, quiet longing, and a search for faith.

I wanted to know more about Molly Malone Cook, so I looked up her obituary. What is it about obituaries?

There is a certain fascination with death. It’s the 2nd thing we all have in common, regardless of race, religion, or creed. (Why did those words come out of my mouth? And what in the world is creed?)

The first is that we are born. And we shall die. When our time will come, we do not know.

The Independent’s obituary was illuminating. I found Malone Cook’s life to be even more fascinating than Mary Oliver’s. She’s the Oliver fire to Stein’s Toklas. I’m ashamed to admit, I had no idea Molly Malone Cook was a photographer with Southern roots who once photographed Eleanor Roosevelt:

Cook continued to work as a professional photographer, making portraits of such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, Walker Evans, Robert Motherwell and Adlai Stevenson, but her career was cut short by the breathing problems which were later to curtail her life: her lungs were unable to cope with the chemicals of the darkroom.

Meanwhile, her relationship with the playwright Lorraine Hansberry – author of To Be Young, Gifted and Black and A Raisin in the Sun, the first drama by a black woman to be produced on Broadway (in 1959) – ended with Hansberry’s early death from cancer, aged 34, in 1965.

Cook had met Mary Oliver in 1958, at the former home of the poet Edna St Vincent Millay in upstate New York – the two women having come to visit Millay’s sister Norma. Six years later Cook and Oliver moved into a Provincetown boathouse owned by one of the port’s Portuguese families, the Seguras.

They travelled together on Oliver’s trips to give readings or classes, and spent several years visiting Virginia in search of Cook’s Southern roots – she was delighted to discover that her ancestry stretched back to Judith Jefferson, aunt of President Thomas Jefferson.

– from the Independent Obituary, Molly Malone Cook, by Philip Hoare, September 7th, 2005


That’s why we read obituaries. I wonder what mine will say? And who the writer will be.

                               

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep, I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

 –Mary Oliver from Thirst, Poems by Mary Oliver
Beacon Press, 2006, copyright Mary Oliver


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, April 9th, 2007

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