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ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS FOR THE THINKING PERSON

Forum File

Saturday, March 2, 2013 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“It isn't easy to even think about Edna St. Vincent Millay's body of work without also thinking about her actual body. This is entirely her doing … she was blessed with not only uncommon genius but the romantic Gibson Girl looks prized by her era — winsome face, comely curves, heavy masses of auburn hair — and she wasn't afraid to use them. In the spring of 1912, just 20, she put the finishing touches on her epic poem '' and submitted it to the prestigious Lyric Year poetry contest. When the editor, a man, responded with a letter praising her verse, she replied with a photograph of herself. He asked if he could keep it.

“Let's just say Millay placed fourth in the Lyric Year poetry contest but won the war. Published alongside the victors in a commemorative anthology, her poem incited a public sensation that biographer ranks on par with that of '' and '': readers fought the verdict in letters and newspaper columns; the winner recused himself from the awards banquet. In 1917 Millay's first book, 'Renascence and Other Poems,' made her the muse and celebrity of Greenwich Village bohemia, and as fans of her poetry are well aware, she took so effortlessly to the neighborhood's progressive sexual politics that she fast became its emissary. Millay wasn't the first woman to tell a lovesick man to just get over it … but she may have been the first to publish a poem in a respected literary journal saying so.”

– From “Working Girl” at poetryfoundation.org

A quiz

Who was the first president to get married while in office?

Wisdom of the ages

“Those who do not move do not notice their chains.” – Rosa Luxemburg

Current wisdom

“I think people can genuinely understand that the world is changing. And while some people are still very reliant on the mail, for a lot of people that's a fraction of the way they receive information.” – New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on proposals to cut mail delivery to three days per week.

Quiz answer

John Tyler, although his eight children from his first wife did not approve of the wedding and did not attend. He had seven children with that second wife, so with 15 he was also the president with the most kids

Snob words

whipsaw (HWIP-saw), v. – to subject to two opposing forces at the same time, as in: “The mayor's agenda was whipsawed by the demanding public and the astute editorial writer.”

Today in history

On this date in 1824, interstate commerce came under federal control; well, that worked out OK until the feds got so power-hungry.

Now you know

The Chinese were using the decimal system as early as the 14th century B.C., nearly 2,300 years before the first known use of the system in European mathematics.