Jun. 24, 1999

A Secret Life

by Stephen Dunn

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: June 24, 1999

Poem: Stephen Dunn, "A Secret Life," from Landscape at the End of the Century (W. W. Norton).

It's the birthday of SUSAN ALLEN TOTH, Ames, Iowa, 1940, whose first book came out in 1981, Blooming, about growing up in Ames in the 1950s. Toth didn't begin writing until she was in her mid-30s.

It's poet STEPHEN DUNN's birthday, born in New York, 1939. He served in the army and played professional basketball in the early '60s. His poems started to get published in the early 1970s, with the collection Five Impersonations, and he's followed that up with a new collection every two or three years; best known for the 1986 Local Time; and his most recent came out a year ago in April, Riffs and Reciprocities.

It's the birthday of the novelist and short-story writer, ANITA DESAI, born of a part-Bengali, part-German family in Mussoorie, India, in 1937. She's the author of nine books about contemporary Indian life, including Baumgartner's Bombay (1989), and Journey to Ithaca (1995).

Journalist and fiction writer PETE HAMILL's birthday is today, born in Brooklyn, 1935. He was the oldest of seven children born to Irish immigrants, worked as a sheetmetal worker, went into advertising, and then started his writing career as a journalist with the New York Post. Hamill's probably most famous, though, for a memoir that came out in 1993, A Drinking Life, in which he talks about his dad taking him into a Brooklyn bar, when he was eight years old and where he first learned of what he called "the tight, dark, amber-colored, wool-smelling world of a saloon." Hamill wrote: "This is where men go, I thought; this is what men do." After years of heavy drinking, Hamill quit in 1972.

It's the birthday in Boston, 1916, of poet JOHN CIARDI. He taught at Kansas State until World War II broke out, then served as a B-29 gunner over Japan. When the war was over he came back to lecture on poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference in Middlebury, Vermont. He edited poetry for the Saturday Review from 1956 to 1972, and authored 40 books of poetry and criticism.

It's the birthday in Waldstein, Austria, 1883, of physicist VICTOR FRANCIS HESS. He won the Nobel Prize in 1936 for discovering cosmic rays, the high-energy radiation that comes from outer space.

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