May 9, 2000

Caring for Surfaces

by Mona Van Duyn

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: May 9, 2000

Poems: "Caring for Surfaces," by Mona Van Duyn, from Letters From a Father and Other Poems (Atheneum).

It's the birthday of poet CHARLES SIMIC, born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (1938). After WWII, when he was 11, his family moved to Chicago. He said his poetry was most influenced by listening to American jazz: people like Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker. His book of prose poems, The World Doesn't End (1990) won the Pulitzer Prize.

It's the birthday of playwright ALAN BENNETT, born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England (1934). He taught medieval history for a while at Oxford, and he joined with three other young men in the revue Beyond the Fringe (1963). He went on to write plays for the stage and for television, as well as for movies. His big hit was The Madness of King George (1994); his current play is The Lady in the Van.

It's the birthday of poet MONA VAN DUYN, born in Waterloo, Iowa (1921), winner of the National Book Award (1971) and the Bollingen Prize (1970), and the first woman to be made Poet Laureate of the United States (1992-93).

It's the birthday of novelist RICHARD (George) ADAMS, born in Newbury, Berkshire, England (1920). One day he started telling his daughters the story of a rabbit, and the story became the book Watership Down (1972).

It's the birthday of J(ames) M(atthew) BARRIE, born in Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland (1860). He was a good friend of Arthur Conan Doyle?s, and he wrote a book in praise of smoking (My Lady Nicotine, 1890). His most famous work, though, was Peter Pan (1904), which he created out of his own sadness and longing for a happy childhood. His older brother died young, which made his mother withdraw emotionally from young James — he never felt she loved him. He would hear her say that her only consolation was that the dead child would remain a child forever. Barrie himself grew to only 5 feet and was always more comfortable around children. In the middle of his life, he fell in love with a whole family — a couple and their five boys — and he liked to tell the boys stories. One of his stories was about how all infants can fly, and how the baby of the family, named Peter, went out the window every night to fly around the park. He honed these stories, and the material grew into the story The Little White Bird (1902), and then into the play Peter Pan(1904). The youngest boy in the family, Peter, who hated his fame as the model for Peter Pan, later threw himself under a train, killing himself.

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