Wednesday, February 8, 2017

1909


The little boy in this picture is my maternal grandfather. (I wrote about him a while back in Still.) He was born in 1906. His older sister here was born in 1905, and the baby entered the world in June 1908, so judging from their apparent ages, the photo was most likely taken in the late summer or early fall of 1909. William Howard Taft was sworn in as President that year. Joan of Arc was beatified and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (now known as BP) was incorporated. Nelson Algren and Eudora Welty were born. Geronimo died, and so did vile Leopold II. And speaking of vile things, if you'd like to see a reminder of the deep roots of our present crisis, check out Taft's inaugural address. It's all there. Pay special attention to the remarks about immigrants and voting rights. Taft lacked 45's flare for the apocalyptic and was much better at doublespeak, but they share some favorite themes.

I hide myself behind simple objects so you may find me,
if you do not find me, you will find the objects,
you will touch those objects my hand has touched
the traces of our hands will mingle.

~ From "The Meaning of Simplicity" by Yannis Ritsos, who was born in 1909. See the rest of this translation by Rae Dalven at Poetry Foundation.

3 comments:

Shylotus said...

I love the context. And an oil company beatified Joan of Arc? How weirdly disturbing. The photo was preserved so well, too!

Anonymous said...

Yannis Ritsos ... what a wonderful revelation.

BitterGrace said...

Ritsos is wonderful. I never heard of him until about a year ago. So many poets, so little time...
Shylotus, I don't think that's quite what happened -- though BP partakes of a certain vile religion. :-) I wish I knew more about the history of that photo. I need to hunt down some elderly relatives.