Poet of the Month
Henry Miller was born on December 26, 1891, in New York. Miller was an avid reader from an early age, who was brought up by his father on classic literature. He was an excellent student in high school, and went on to take classes at the City College of New York, only to leave after two months. From 1909 to 1924 he worked different jobs, including working for a cement company, assisting his father at a tailor shop, and sorting mail for the Post Office. It was only while working as a postman when he began to write his first novel, Clipped Wings (1922). It was never published, but served as a blueprint for one of his later novels Tropic of Capricorn (1939). Determined to become a writer, Miller went to Paris, France, in 1930 where he remained for nearly ten years with very little money. In 1934 he wrote Tropic of Cancer (1961), a loosely constructed autobiographical novel describing his struggles during his first years in Paris. Famous for its striking descriptions of real life, it won praise from other writers such as T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Many were outraged by the book's sexual passages, however, and Miller had to go to court to lift a ban on his work. The publicity helped the book become a best-seller, although critics continued to argue over its value. His later novels Black Spring and Tropic of Capricorn (1939) are similar in style to Tropic of Cancer, drawing from the experiences of Miller's boyhood in Brooklyn, New York, and his early years overseas. Returning to the United States in 1940, Miller settled permanently in Big Sur, on the Pacific coast of California. Miller's major works of this period were the three-volume series, The Rosy Crucifixion, which included Sexus (1949), Plexus (1953), and Nexus (1960). These focus on retellings of his earlier adventures but lack the violent language of his earlier works. In Miller's later years he was admired mainly for his role as spokesman and thinker. Criticizing the empty materialism of modern existence, he called for a new religion of body and spirit based upon the ideas of the writers Friedrich Nietzsche, Walt Whitman, and D. H. Lawrence. Miller's novels, despite shocking material and offensive language, express deep emotion. Their freedom of language and subject also helped lead the way for Beat Generation writers such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Miller lived his final years alone pursuing his lifelong interest in watercolor painting. He died on June 7, 1980, in California. Below is one of his works.
The Honey Masquerade in Delta
Love and Lust
The Others dissolve
who cares, Lovers don't -
Lovers are in a world of their own
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To be numb, is when March feels like an eternity.
To be alive, is to stroll outside in a premature Spring,
but this is not the rebirth of seasons I am used to.
Instead, CNN tells me to be afraid.
So, I am afraid. I would have wished for pollen, and warmth to touch my skin,
and to sit down in a restaurant. And I accept that this is not my reality.
This is not anyone’s reality. March is so long, what is reality?
With a mask, I can’t breathe. And I learn in two months,
That America can’t breathe.
And so it goes that as the May heat fills my town, the rest of New York feels it.
A fire disperses across the nation, but cannot simply be taken down.
No, it will take every soul to put it out.
Some days will feel so short, but one full day
will always be twenty-four hours. Nothing has changed.
I have not given up. For a Phoenix will burn up,
only to be reborn, renewed, and revitalized.