It was on this day in 1917 that the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded. Thursday, Jun 4 2009 

From today’s “Writer’s Almanac With Garrison Keillor,” from NPR.

How many of these 10 facts did you already know?

  1. They’re announced each year in April and then awarded at Columbia University in May, during a luncheon at the campus library.
  2. Each Pulitzer Prize winner receives a $10,000 award and a certificate, except in the Public Service category, where the winner is given a gold medal. Only a newspaper, not an individual, can receive the Public Service prize for journalism.
  3. There are 21 Pulitzer categories. Two-thirds of the prizes (14) revolve around journalism. There are six for letters and drama (fiction, drama, history, biography, poetry, and general nonfiction), and there is one prize given for music.
  4. The Pulitzer Prize for fiction used to be called the Pulitzer Prize for the novel. The name was changed in 1948.
  5. Poet Robert Frost won the Pulitzer Prize four times. Playwright Eugene O’Neill also won four Pulitzer Prizes.
  6. The Pulitzer Prize is a very American award. Only U.S. citizens are eligible for the non-journalism Prizes. The exception to this is in the history category: a non-American can win the Pulitzer Prize if he or she wrote a book about the history of the United States. Foreign journalists can win Pulitzers if they write for a newspaper published in the United States.
  7. The New York Times holds the all-time record for number of Pulitzer Prizes received. The paper has collectively won 101 Pulitzers.
  8. Newspapers generally nominate themselves for Pulitzer Prizes. The fee for each entry is $50, and the material that the newspaper wants the prize board to consider must be accompanied by an entry form. An entry has to fit into one of the 21 categories; it can’t be submitted on the grounds that it is just generally good. To be eligible, a paper must be published in the U.S. at least weekly.
  9. In 2009, for the first time, online-only news organizations were eligible for the Pulitzer. Before, it was restricted to print publications.
  10. Decisions about prize winners are made by the Pulitzer board in secret. Afterward, the board does not publicly discuss or defend its decisions.
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“Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, ‘We are All Writing God’s Poem'” Monday, Mar 23 2009 

I found a poem that I really want to share with you, and I hope it touches you the way it touched me.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1850

Emily Dickinson, c. 1850

Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash

I am a writer, but a lot of poetry kind of goes right past me without making a dent. I do like the work of Emily Dickinson and a few other serious poets, as well as some of the clever “light verse” by Ogden Nash, but mostly I have a hard time “getting it” with poetry, especially the non-metered verse. This poem I want to share is one of those non-metered ones, but I got it.

The title, “Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, ‘We are All Writing God’s Poem,'” has lots of sets of quotation marks in it, and it also has the word “God” in it. Those are just a couple of technical details I noticed, before I read the poem the first time, myself. I tend to notice technical details, which may explain my general difficulty with poetic details.

I really like the poem’s superb and evocative sensory imagery, and its sense of hopefulness. It would affect me the same way without the idea of a supernatural being in the title. I mention this because I’m not a person with supernatural or mystical beliefs. Some people who know me may be shocked to learn this, because it’s not something I’m particularly vocal about.

I know I’m not in the majority with my naturalistic world view, and the way I look at it is “different strokes for different folks.” It’s not like I haven’t done a lot of thinking about life and death and what comes before and after: My B.A. is in psychology, and psychology is a branch of philosophy; but my beliefs and world view have been consistent as far back as I can remember, even when I was in Catholic grade school for eight years.

Me, Grade 1, St. Luke's School

Me, Grade 1, St. Luke's School

I don’t try to talk anyone out of their beliefs, and I ask for the same respect in return. I’m always interested in people’s beliefs, though (again, that psychology/philosophy influence at work.) 

jitcrunch_brights-plaqueActually there’s an organization for people who have a naturalistic world view, and a movement, with a logo, stuff on CafePress.com, etc. If you’re interested, it’s at >http://the-brights.net/<. This is for people who are not into the supernatural, and that comprises all supernaturalism, including New Age mystical beliefs about the power of things like crystals and magnets, as well as astrology, Wicca, etc. Nothing wrong with any of those if they help someone make sense of the world and live an ethical and moral life, but they are supernaturalistic world views, and Brights Net is outside that realm.

 Oh, yeah: So, here’s the poem. I hope you like it as much as I do, no matter what your world view.

Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton

“Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton,
‘We are All Writing God’s Poem'” by Barbara Crooker,
from Line Dance. © Word Press, 2008. 

  

Today, the sky’s the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, “The universe is not only stranger than we
think, it’s stranger than we can think.” I think
I’ve driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy
scarves flung over bark’s bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound
and aren’t we just? Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: “There is no end of things
in the heart,” but it seems like things
are always ending—vacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit—
And where do we fit in? How can we get up
in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.
The moon spills its milk on the black tabletop
for the thousandth time. 

Barbara Crooker

Barbara Crooker

# # #

Photo of Ogden Nash from Morgan at Morgan@WestEgg.com

Photo of Emily Dickinson from Hulton Getty Picture Collection/Tony Stone Images

Photo of Anne Sexton from Peabody Opera/Essays

Photo of Barbara Crooker from umbrellajournal.com