Jul. 29, 1998

To the Evening Star: Central Minnesota

by James Wright


Today's Reading: "To the Evening Star: Central Minnesota" by James Wright from ABOVE THE RIVER: COMPLETE POEMS, Wesleyan University Press (1990).

It was on this day in Munich, 1921, that ADOLF HITLER took over the fledgling National Socialist Worker's Party – Nazis for short. The party was mostly former soldiers who were disgruntled at losing WWI and the punitive peace agreement Germany had struck with the Allies.

It's the birthday in Charleston, West Virginia, 1918, of MARY LEE SETTLE, author of a series of historical novels about Appalachia known as the Beulah Quintet, beginning with her 1956 O Beulah Land and wrapping up with the 1982 book, Killing Ground. Her 1977 novel Blood Tie won the National Book Award.

It's the birthday in Jefferson City, Missouri, 1909 of CHESTER HIMES, author of books on race like If He Hollers Let Him Go, and The Lonely Crusade; as well as Harlem detective stories like Cotton Comes to Harlem and All Shot Up – books featuring the black detectives Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson.

It's the birthday in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1905, of poet STANLEY KUNITZ, winner of the 1959 Pulitzer Prize for his Selected Poems. Just before Kunitz was born, his father took his own life. Kunitz wrote this poem called "Self Portrait." My mother never forgave my father for killing himself,/especially at such an awkward time and in a public park,/that spring when I was waiting to be born./ She locked his name in her deepest cabinet/and would not let him out, though I could hear him thumping. /When I came down from the attic/with the pastel portrait in my hand of a long-lipped stranger /with a brave mustache and deep brown level eyes,/she ripped it into shreds without a single word and slapped me hard./In my sixty-fourth year I can feel my cheek still burning.

It's the birthday in Walnut, Illinois, 1878, of the man who created Archy, the literary cockroach, DON MARQUIS. Marquis started out as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal, then in 1912 moved to New York City and began writing columns for The Sun and the Tribune. Archy appeared in The Sun one day in the '20s, his philosophical writings – like, "an optimist is a guy that has never had much experience" – always typed lowercase because he was, after all, just a cockroach and couldn't hold the shift key down on Marquis' typewriter while jumping from key to key typing.

It's the birthday in Paris, 1805 of the political scientist and writer, ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE (tok-VEEL), author in 1840 of the four-volume Democracy in America which he wrote after a nine-month visit to the United States. He thought Americans were driven first and foremost by a love of money, but he said, "If I were asked to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of the Americans ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply: To the superiority of their women."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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