Apr. 24, 1998


by Lisel Mueller

Sometimes, When the Light

by Lisel Mueller


Today's Reading: "Sometimes, When the Light" and "Fiction" by Lisel Mueller from ALIVE TOGETHER, published by Louisiana State University Press (1996).

It's SUE GRAFTON'S birthday, in Louisville, Kentucky, 1940, author of an alphabet of mystery novels, like A Is for Alibi, and B Is for Burglar - all about the adventures of Kinsey Millhone, the hard-boiled detective who drives a beat up old VW around Santa Teresa, California solving crimes. Grafton's N is for Noose just came out a few days ago.

It's the anniversary of the Easter Uprising in Dublin, 1916. At noon the day after Easter, poet Patrick Pearse led about 1,500 Irishmen to the steps of the main Post Office and declared Irish independence from Britain. He called on Irish immigrants in America and allies throughout Europe to help - aid that never came. His men took control of the post office, then fanned out and took over the newspapers and hospitals and rail stations; but British soldiers started pouring into Dublin, and by Thursday of that week Pearse was outnumbered 20-1. British gunboats sailed up the Liffey River and started shelling the city, and downtown Dublin turned into a war zone. By Saturday, 450 people had been killed, and the Uprising was over: Pearse surrendered and was led off in chains.

The nation's first Poet Laureate, ROBERT PENN WARREN, was born on this day in 1905, in the little southern Kentucky town of Guthrie, in the Cumberland Valley. His grandfather was a Confederate veteran who used to read the poetry of Byron aloud in the house; his father picked up the habit and read history aloud to his children. Warren himself was one of the few artists ever to win three Pulitzer Prizes. He got his first in 1947 for the novel All the King's Men, the story of politician Willie Stark, who starts off his career as a champion of the little people but in the end is corrupted by power; a story inspired by Louisiana Governor Huey Long. Warren's other two prizes came for poetry, in 1957 and 1979, and at the age of 81 he was named Poet Laureate.

It was on this day in 1800 that Congress created an act for what it called "the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress at the said city of Washington, and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them." The Library of Congress. By 1814, the Library had about 3,000 books, but they all burned when the British shelled Washington that summer. Thomas Jefferson donated his library of 6,000 books to get it going again, but half of that was lost during another fire in 1851. Today it's the world's largest library, with more than 17 million books, about 95 million maps, manuscripts, photographs, and films, spread out over 532 miles of shelves in three buildings.

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