May 3, 2000
Lovers at the Zoo
Poem: "Lovers at the Zoo," by May Sarton, from Collected Poems 1930-1993 (W.W. Norton).
Itís the birthday of journalist and reformer JACOB RIIS, born in Ribe, Denmark (1849). He emigrated to America 1870, barely getting by in a series of jobsironworker, farmer, coal miner, peddlerand learned about life on the brink of poverty. He became a police reporter for The New York Tribune. In 1888 he bought a camera, which allowed him to combine his articles on poverty with pictures of dark tenement rooms and hallways. His efforts culminated with the book How the Other Half Lives (1890), illustrated with line drawings based on his photographs.
Itís the birthday of poet and novelist MAY SARTON, born in Wondelgem, Belgium (1912). Her family moved to America, where they became citizens when she was 12 years old. In her mid-twenties she turned to writing, and produced novels, poetry collections, a play, 2 childrenís books, and many short stories and essays. She made her living by writing book and theater reviews and by teaching creative writing. For decades she toiled in obscurity, then was "discovered" by feminist readers during the 1970s. She wrote, "Perhaps the greatest gift we can give to another human being is detachment. Attachment, even that which imagines it is selfless, always lays some burden on the other person. How to learn to love in such a light, airy way that there is no burden?"
Itís the birthday of playwright WILLIAM INGE, born in Independence, Kansas (1913). He was inspired to become a playwright after seeing Tennessee Williamsí The Glass Menagerie. His plays include The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1957), Come Back, Little Sheba (1950), Picnic (1953Pulitzer Prize), which made Paul Newman a star, and Bus Stop (1955). He also wrote the screenplay for Splendor in the Grass (1961). But his next 4 plays drew increasingly harsh reviews, and, 2 years after his last play flopped, he killed himself.
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