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I interviewed Karen Armstrong, the deep-thinking comparative religionist and former nun in 2009 and still remember vividly the openness and subtlety of her thoughts on religion. Now, more than ever, her insights into the kinship among religions and the value of compassion and empathy seem worth hearing. Her landmark book is the 1993 A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. • More… “Celebrating Karen”

Paula Marantz Cohen is Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the host of  The Drexel InterView, a unit of the Pennoni Honors College. The Drexel InterView features a half-hour conversation with a nationally known or emerging talent in the arts, culture, science, or business. She is author of five nonfiction books and six bestselling novels, including Jane Austen in Boca and Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs. Her essays and stories have appeared in The Yale ReviewThe American Scholar, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. Her latest novels are Suzanne Davis Gets a Life and her YA novel, Beatrice Bunson’s Guide to Romeo and Juliet.

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My birthday cake sat on the dining room table. Fluffy, Linda’s elderly tabby, made an unhurried entrance to join the more-energetic Sam, who’d claimed a close place as soon as we put the cake box on the table. Sam’s full cat-name is “Sammy-get-down from-there.”

 

I’ve never seen Sam leap from the floor to the table. He favors a stealthy approach. He jumps onto a chair and sits like an attentive, polite guest waiting for the platter to come around. Sometimes he even lies down on the seat as though indifferent to the conversation that flows over him. He doesn’t fool me.

If he’s occupying someone’s chair, Sammy-get-down-from-there gives up his seat, but not before giving a reproachful look to indicate his displeasure.

I’ve been told that the cake is going on the traditional family cake plate, which Linda… More…

 

It’s my birthday. Will you write me a poem? — Ken S., Portland, Oregon

It’s my birthday, too!  Let’s celebrate together with a heroic couplet:

This is for people whose name starts with K: you’re getting old — you better seize the day!

Yuck, that was awful. Here’s a better one by Richard Wilbur, addressed to someone with initials very close to yours

For K.R. on her Sixtieth Birthday

Blow out the candles of your cake. They will not leave you in the dark, Who round with grace this dusky arc Of the grand tour which souls must take.

You who have sounded William Blake, And the still pool, to Plato’s mark, Blow out the candles of your cake. They will not leave you in the dark.

Yet, for your friends’ benighted sake, Detain your upward-flying spark; Get… More…