Jan. 30, 2000

The Grey Heron

by Galway Kinnell

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: January 30, 2000

Poem: "The Grey Heron" by Galway Kinnell from his Selected Poems published by Houghton Mifflin.

It’s the birthday of writer Michael Dorris, born in Louisville, Kentucky (1945), author of A Yellow Raft in Blue Water (1987) and The Broken Cord. His final novel, T he Cloud Chamber (1997), was published shortly before Dorris committed suicide, at 52, in Concord, New Hampshire (1997).

It’s the birthday of cartoonist (Garretson Beekman) ‘Garry’ Trudeau, born in New York City (1948). He was educated at where he started his satiric comic strip "Bull Tales," later changed to "Doonesbury" for national syndication. The strip starred Zonker Harris, Joanie Caucus, and Uncle Duke.

It’s the birthday of novelist Richard Brautigan, born in Tacoma, Washington (1935), author of Trout Fishing in America (1967) which sold over two million copies.

It’s the birthday of historian Barbara Tuchman, born in New York City (1912). Author of The Guns of August (1962), and Stilwell and the American Experience in China: 1911-45 (1971).

It’s the birthday of politician Franklin Delano Roosevelt, born in the upstairs bedroom of the family home in Hyde Park, New York (1882). He weighed 10 pounds at birth—a difficult delivery that nearly killed both mother and child. Only with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation could the doctor breathe life into the blue baby. In 1921, after a day of sailing and fishing with his sons on Campobello Island, in New Brunswick, Canada, he helped neighbors fight a forest fire, then took a cold dip in the Bay of Fundy, and jogged the mile back home. In his wet swimming suit, he went through his mail; that night he went to bed with chills. Two days later, he couldn’t move his legs. The 39-year-old politician, known for his ebullient vigor, had polio. 7 years later, he would be elected Governor of New York; and five years after that, president.

It’s the birthday of nonsense poet Gelett Burgess, born in Boston (1866), the founder and editor of the humor magazine Lark. Its first issue featured a daffy quatrain for which he is still known: "I never saw a purple cow, / I never hope to see one; / But I can tell you, anyhow, / I’d rather see than be one." He is also credited with adding several words to the English language, including ‘blurb.’

On this day in 1847, Herman Melville’s novel Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas was published. Based on Melville’s experiences in the South Pacific, the episodic Omoo was a lighter, more comic novel than Typee. The narrator takes part in a whaling-ship mutiny, then wanders about Tahiti with the ship’s doctor. Melville was 26 years old when Omoo came out. Hard as it is to believe, this period—his mid-twenties—marked his high point as a popular writer. When Moby-Dick came out 4 years later, it was universally dismissed. Only when he landed a job as customs inspector on the New York docks (1866) did Melville float free of poverty—and his death in 1891 brought forth a total of one obituary notice from all the newspapers of the world.

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