A Happy Birthday
By Ted Kooser – 1939-
This evening, I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.
Tomorrow, I will turn 45. Somedays, I can’t believe I am 45 years old, then other days, I feel every minute of my age. However, the depiction of “A Happy Birthday” in this poem by Ted Kooser, sounds like a pretty good way to end a day.
About Ted Kooser
Poet Laureate of the United States, 2004-2006
Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa on April 25, 1939. He received his BA from Iowa State and his MA in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he is currently a visiting professor in the English department.
He is the author of twelve collections of poetry published from 1980 to as recent as 2018. He has written several fiction and nonfiction books including Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (Bison Books, 2002), which won the Nebraska Book Award for Nonfiction in 2003. His honors and awards include two NEA fellowships in poetry, a Pushcart Prize, the Stanley Kunitz Prize from Columbia, and a Merit Award from the Nebraska Arts Council. In the fall of 2004, Kooser was appointed the thirteenth United States Poet Laureate.
I have a busy week ahead. Mostly, it’s going to be one meeting after another with a few classes scattered in on a couple of days. At least I have Wednesday off, for two reasons: 1) it’s my birthday, which I always try to take off, and 2) I have to work on Saturday, so it’s also my comp day. Most everything I’m doing at work this week is in the mornings. I don’t think I have anything in the afternoon all week, though I do not expect that to stay true. Anyway, I hope y’all have a good week.
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Jesus at the Gay Bar
By Jay Hulme
He’s here in the midst of it –
right at the centre of the dance floor,
robes hitched up to His knees
to make it easy to spin.
At some point in the evening
a boy will touch the hem of His robe
and beg to be healed, beg to be
anything other than this;
and He will reach His arms out,
sweat-damped, and weary from dance.
He’ll cup the boy’s face in His hand
my beautiful child
there is nothing in this heart of yours
that ever needs to be healed.
About the Poem
I saw this posted on Wilson Cruz’s Instagram (@wcruz73), and it just grabbed my heart and nearly brought tears to my eyes. It is such a beautiful poem and a sentiment that we should all remember: “my beautiful child / there is nothing in this heart of yours / that ever needs to be healed.” Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” It does not say God created man in the image of other men or what other men want you to be. He said we were created in “His own image…male and female He created them.” It’s a beautiful thing to remember. No matter what others tell you that you should be, remember, you are who you are because God created you that way, whether that is gay or straight, cisgender or transgender, male or female, or any of the colors of the rainbow, God created you that way.
About the Poet
Jay Hulme is an award-winning transgender performance poet, speaker, and educator. Alongside his writing and regular performances, he teaches in schools, performs sensitivity reads and consults, and speaks at events and conferences on the importance of diversity in the media, and, more specifically, transgender inclusion and rights. In 2017 he gave a TED talk and was featured in Nationwide Building Society’s “Voices” advertising campaign, with him and his work appearing in both TV and radio adverts.
In recent years Jay has worked alongside and/or consulted with Amnesty International, The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, Stop Funding Hate, and The Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards, among other groups, on inclusion and diversity in literature, especially YA and children’s literature, and has performed confidential inclusion and sensitivity reads for a number of large publishers, improving the quality and accuracy of transgender representation in a number of books.
Jay is currently Poet-in-Residence at ‘The Poet’s Church’, St Giles-in-the-Fields in Central London.
Jay performs his poetry across the country regularly, as both stand-alone sets, and as part of larger events. He occasionally writes essays as well as poetry, and his work has been published in a number of magazines and journals, as well as anthologies by both independent and well-known publishers, including Bloomsbury and the Ladybird imprint of Penguin Random House.
He has been focusing, most recently, on poetry for children and young adults, and the five-poet collection “Rising Stars”, of which he was a part, was Highly Commended in the 2018 CLiPPA awards – the UK’s biggest award for children’s poetry collections.
His most recent collection, “Clouds Cannot Cover Us” is aimed at teenagers, was published by Troika Books in October 2019, and has been nominated for the 2021 Carnegie Medal – ‘the UK’s oldest and best-loved children’s book award’ (their words).
As a speaker, he has given a number of high-profile talks, almost all of which also included the performance of one or more of his poems. Most notably, he’s spoken at 2019’s London Book Fair, the 2018 Children’s Media Conference, and 2017’s TEDx Teen. He has also spoken in Parliament about trans rights, alongside Stonewall and PinkNews, and has worked with large and small companies on LGBT inclusion, as well as working with a number of NHS Hospital Trusts, giving talks and staff training focused on ensuring transgender patients are provided with dignity and adequate medical care.
As an educator, Jay has taught poetry to adults and children and has worked in libraries and a number of schools, primary and secondary, state and private, working alongside the curriculum to not just expand the pupils’ knowledge of poetry but to generate enthusiasm and excitement for a form that is so often seen as difficult and intimidating. Pupils often express how their perspective on poetry has changed, and their teachers report that their enthusiasm for and engagement with poetry remains long after their visits. Jay also teaches poetry to adults through lectures at universities and through workshops, at venues as varied as libraries and theatres, and at festival sites and pubs. He has also been the coach of the Durham University Slam Poetry Team since its first year. The team has, under his tutelage, won ‘Slam of the North’, and come third in ‘UniSlam’, the UK’s biggest team poetry slam competition.
Jay gained a BA (honours) degree in English Literature and Journalism in 2018, focusing, in his final year, on Victorian Sensation novels, and how they informed and reflected the morality and social mores of mid-19th century British society. He has also taken part in short training courses in order to develop his own practice and educational skills, including a course with the National Literacy Trust focused specifically on working with primary school students, and a course run by Pop-Up Projects and Historic Royal Palaces on the use of heritage sites in literary education and as stimuli for creative writing, something which is very much a passion of his.
Bio was taken from his website.
I actually prefer apple cider (hard cider, sparkling cider, or regular cider) above actual apples, but cider doesn’t make for good pictures.
For those of you in the United States, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. For those of you in other countries who don’t celebrate the holiday, I hope you’re having a nice week. A lot of people will be out shopping today. There are always loads of Black Friday sales. I doubt I will be one of them. My plan is to stay in and be lazy. Isabella gets to be lazy everyday, so I’m going to take a page out of her playbook. I doubt I’ll sleep like she does, but I plan to just relax.
By the way, my Thanksgiving dinner turned out very nice. I wish I’d had someone to share it with, then maybe I wouldn’t have eaten too much of the dressing I made. Cornbread dressing is one of my favorite part of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.