Apr. 8, 1999
Looking at Aging Faces
Poem: "Looking at Aging Faces," by Robert Bly, from Eating the Honey of Words: New and Selected Poems (Harper Flamingo, 1999).
Buddhists observe today as the birthday of the BUDDHA, the most important holiday in their calendar. He was born around the year 563 B.C. and lived until 483. B.C. He was given the name Siddartha at birth and is thought to have lived in India. Buddha means "the enlightened one" in Sanskrit.
It's the birthday in Annapolis, Maryland, 1955, of novelist BARBARA KINGSOLVER. The family moved to rural eastern Kentucky when she was a girl, and she wrote about it in her first novel, the 1988 The Bean Trees. Kingsolver says that "Kentucky has, in common with the rest of the South, a captivation with language, that use of story in everyday life. You don't just say someone's 'ugly,' you say she's 'ugly as a mud-stick fence.' I grew up hearing that poetry that I didn't even recognize as poetry. I thought it was just the way you talked to people." Her other books include Pigs in Heaven, Animal Dreams, and her most recent The Poisonwood Bible.
It was on this day in 1935 that Congress approved the WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION, that over the next 12 years would create nearly eight million jobs for Depression-era America. The WPA was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a way for workers to preserve their skills and self-respect after getting laid off. Under the WPA, thousands of public buildings and facilities were constructed, and smaller programs like the Federal Theater Project, Federal Art Project, and Federal Writers' Project helped artists keep going.
It's the birthday in Harlem, 1920, of jazz singer CARMEN MCRAE, who got her start at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, winning an amateur talent contest in the late 1930s. She could play the piano, she could sing, and she could write; Billie Holiday had a hit with McRae's song "Dream of Life," in 1939. She worked for the government in Washington during the war, finally returning to New York where she began substituting for other singers in bands led by Benny Carter, Count Basie and Earl Hines, then setting out on her own.
The SEVENTEENTH AMENDMENT to the constitution was ratified on this day in 1913, changing the way the country elects senators. Since the beginning, senators had been named by their respective state legislatures. But the amendment declared that senators were to be elected by popular vote.
It's the birthday of lyricist EDGAR "YIP" HARBURG, in New York, 1898. He was the owner of an electrical appliance company that went belly-up during the Great Depression, then he started writing lyrics for Broadway. From personal experience, he wrote the hit "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," then went on to win an Academy Award for "Over the Rainbow" from the Wizard of Oz.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®