Dec. 9, 1999

I Ride Greyhound

by Ellie Shoenfeld

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: December 9, 1999

Poem: "I Ride Greyhound" by Ellie Shoenfeld from Screaming Red Gladiolus published by Poetry Harbor.

It's the birthday of poet John Milton, born on Bread Street in Cheapside, London (1608). After earning B.A. and M.A. degrees at Cambridge, he lived outside London with his parents for 6 years, writing verse and "turning over the Latin and Greek authors." He traveled to Italy and met Galileo, then returned to England as civil war loomed, and wrote propaganda pamphlets favoring the execution of King Charles, though doctors warned that if he insisted on continuing to write, the effort would blind him—as it did, when he was 43. His masterpieces came only after physical blindness permitted spiritual visions. Seven years after going blind, he began dictating the 12 books of Paradise Lost, which took 5 years to complete (1667). Last came Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes (both 1674).

It's the birthday of children's writer Jean de Brunhoff [jawh duh BROON-hoff], born in Paris (1899)—author and illustrator of the Babar the Elephant books, inspired by a story his wife told their children. Her version began, "A little elephant was happily playing in the jungle when a hunter shot his mother." He embellished and illustrated the story, and suggested that his wife be listed as co-author, but she refused. After The Story of Babar (1931), he did 6 sequels, one a year, then died of TB at 38. After World War Two his son Laurent [loh-RAHN], an abstract painter, continued the series.

It's the birthday of storywriter Joel Chandler Harris, born near Eatonton, Georgia (1848)—author of the Uncle Remus tales about Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and other animals.

On this day in 1854, six weeks after the Battle of Balaclava (a battle in the Crimea, in which 600 British troops obeyed an order to charge a heavily defended position, even though the move was suicidal and tactically useless) Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" was published in the London Examiner.

It's the birthday of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, born in Montrose, Colorado (1905). He served a year in prison for refusing to cooperate with HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee), then was blacklisted by Hollywood and moved to Mexico, where he turned out scripts for low-budget films and sold them under pen names. The only member of the Hollywood Ten to come from a working-class background, he once said, "I never considered the working class anything other than something to get out of." Pre-blacklisting credits include the screenplay Thirty Seconds over Tokyo and the war novel Johnny Got His Gun (1939—National Book Award).

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