From Songs of a Housewife, by Marjorie Rawlings. It's an odd book of poetry, recording in verse all the various complaints and problems of 1920's housewives, such as husbands who complained about being given canned food.
This charming collection of poems that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (The Yearling, Cross Creek) wrote in the 1920s were so popular that they appeared one-a-day in a New York newspaper for two full years. Organized by task, the poems graphically depict the life of a housewife (mending, baking, dusting, and the joy of a sunny window) with wisdom and humor. In the days before convenience stores and microwaves, Rawlings reminds us of the horror of having company show up with nothing fixed to feed them. Or in a more timeless vein, the disdain a harried mother feels for the neighbor who has all her Christmas shopping done and wrapped early.
In science, the phenomenon of simultaneous discovery, or "multiple independent discovery," is well known. The term describes how two or more researchers often independently discover the same idea, at around the same time. For instance, both Newton and Leibniz came up with the idea of calculus in the late 17th century, and both Darwin and Wallace developed the concept of evolution by natural selection in the mid-19th century.
An example of this phenomenon might have recently occurred in the field of sheep poetry. Though whether it's simultaneous discovery or idea theft depends on whom you believe.
In 2002, Valerie Laws came up with the concept of "Quantum Sheep" or "haik-ewe." Her idea was to spray paint a different word on the backs of 15 sheep, and then watch them as they grazed in a field to see what poems would they would form. Then, last year, artist Alison Cooper came up with the same idea, though she called it "Write to Roam."
Cooper insists she was completely unaware of Laws' previous work, but Laws thinks it's more likely Cooper stole her idea, either consciously or subconsciously. Who to believe? Perhaps someone should ask the sheep what they think. [journallive.co.uk]
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
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