Jul. 11, 1999

Taking a Wooden Statue of Don Quixote Down from the Top of My School Office Bookshelf…

by John Tagliabue

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: July 11, 1999

Poem: "Taking a Wooden Statue of Don Quixote Down from the Top of My School Office Bookshelf as I am About to Retire and Transpose Him to a Secret Place We Need His Courage, I Vow Eternal Support," by John Tagliabue, from New and Selected Poems, 1942-1997 (National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine, Orano).

On this day in 1937 the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, 22, married his Irish sweetheart Caitlin Macnamara at the Registry Office in Penzance, Cornwall.

It's the birthday of historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, born in Sugar City, Idaho (1938), who in 1991 won both the Bancroft Prize and the Pulitzer Prize for history for A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. Ballard, a housewife and mother of 9, recounted being paid for her midwife services in tea kettles, lumber credits, cheese, butter and turkeys. The book is loaded with obstetrical detail, comparing Ballard's career favorably with a 19th century doctor and a 20th-century hospital—Ballard had better statistics, in terms of stillbirths and maternal deaths, than either. Among Ulrich's findings was that two centuries ago, 38% of the 814 births the midwife attended resulted from extramarital liaisons.

It's the birthday of literary critic Harold Bloom, born in New York City (1930). After graduating from Cornell, he earned his Ph.D. at Yale, where he began teaching in 1955. He championed the six major romantic poets (Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats) in his first book, The Visionary Company (1961).

Today is the 70th birthday of Danish poet and jazz musician Benny Andersen, born in Copenhagen (1929).

It's the birthday of essayist and stylist E. B. White, born in Mount Vernon, New York (1899), author of Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte's Web (1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970). He's also he's known to millions of undergraduates and authors for The Elements of Style, co-authored with Cornell professor William Strunk, Jr. (1959). "Vigorous writing is concise," he says.

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