Philip Appleman

Photo by Brent Nicastro Photo by Brent Nicastro

On this date in 1926, Philip Appleman was born in Kendallville, Ind. The Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Indiana University, considered the "Poet Laureate of Humanism and Freethought," has nine published volumes of poetry. One of Appleman's most notable volumes is New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996, which includes his powerful freethought poetry from the acclaimed "Let There Be Light."

Appleman, a Darwin scholar and aficionado, is the editor of the impressive and widely-used Norton Critical Edition, Darwin, and the Norton Critical Edition of Malthus' Essay on Population. Appleman's poetry and fiction have won many awards, including a fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Humanist Arts Award from the American Humanist Association, the Friend of Darwin Award from the National Center for Science Education, and the Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America. His writing has appeared in Harper's Magazine, The Nation, New Republic, The New York Times, Paris Review, Partisan Review, Poetry, Sewanee Review and Yale Review. Phil is married to playwright Marjorie Appleman and they live in New York.

O Karma, Dharma, Pudding and Pie

“O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie,
gimme a break before I die:
grant me wisdom, will, & wit,
purity, probity, pluck, & grit.
Trustworthy, helpful, friendly, kind,
gimme great abs and a steel-trap mind,
and forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice --
these little blessings would suffice
to beget an earthly paradise:
make the bad people good --
and the good people nice;
and before our world goes over the brink,
teach the believers how to think.”

—Philip Appleman, from Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie

Last-Minute Message for a Time Capsule

“I have to tell you this, whoever you are:
that on one summer morning here, the ocean
pounded in on tumbledown breakers,
a south wind, bustling along the shore,
whipped the froth into little rainbows,
and a reckless gull swept down the beach
as if to fly were everything it needed.
I thought of your hovering saucers,
looking for clues, and I wanted to write this down,
so it wouldn't be lost forever --
that once upon a time we had
meadows here, and astonishing things,
swans and frogs and luna moths
and blue skies that could stagger your heart.
We could have had them still,
and welcomed you to earth, but
we also had the righteous ones
who worshipped the True Faith, and Holy War.
When you go home to your shining galaxy,
say that what you learned
from this dead and barren place is
to beware the righteous ones.”
 

—Philip Appleman, from New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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