Friday, March 27, 2009

First Lesson, a poem by Phyllis McGinley.

Phyllis McGinley (1905 – 1978) was born in Ontario, Oregon. When she was three, her family moved to Colorado, and then to Ogden, Utah after her father died. She studied at USC and the University of Utah, graduating in 1927. She taught at a junior high school for a year, until her career as a writer and poet took off. Her poems were published in the New York Herald Tribune and The New Yorker, among others. She also wrote the lyrics for a musical revue, Small Wonder, in 1948.

In 1955, she was elected a member of the National Academy of Arts and Letters; in 1961 she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; in 1964 she was honored with the Laetare Medal by the University of Notre Dame (described as an honor to a man or woman who has enriched the heritage of humanity). She was also awarded a dozen honorary degrees, including one from that stronghold of masculine pride, Dartmouth College.

She once observed that, “Praise is warming and desirable. But it’s an earned thing. It has to be deserved, like a hug from a child.”

First Lesson by Phyllis McGinley

The first thing to remember about fathers is, they're men.

A girl has to keep it in mind.

They are dragon-seekers, bent on impossible rescues.

Scratch any father, you find

Someone chock-full of qualms and romantic terrors,

Believing change is a threat -

Like your first shoes with heel on, like your first bicycle

It took months to get.

Walk in strange woods, they warn you about the snakes there.

Climb and they fear you'll fall.

Books, angular looks, swimming in deep water -

Fathers mistrust them all.

Men are the worriers. It is difficult for them

To learn what they must learn:

How you have a journey to take and very likely,

For a while, will not return.

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