May 25, 2000
Poem: "Idyll," by Theodore Roethke, from The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (Doubleday Anchor Books).
Itís the birthday of American novelist and short story writer Jamaica Kincaid, born Elaine Potter Richardson in St. Johnís, Antigua (1949). Kincaid left the islands when she was 17 to become an au pair in New York City. She published her first magazine article in 1975 and was hired as a staff writer the following year at The New Yorker. She's the author of At the Bottom of the River (1983), Annie John (1985) and other books.
It's the birthday of American short-story writer and poet Raymond Carver, born in Clatskanie, Oregon (1938). The son of a sawmill worker, he was married and the father of two before he was twenty. He picked tulips, pumped gas, swabbed toilets, and managed an apartment complex. His first success as a writer came in 1967 with the short story "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" A collection with the same title (1976) established his reputation, but Carver had begun to drink heavily. He continued to turn out stories while repeatedly being hospitalized for alcoholism. In the late 9170s he gave up drinking and turned to teaching until a literary prize enabled him to write full time. He died of lung cancer at 50.
On this day in 1935, Jessie Owens turned in what is widely regarded as the greatest single performance in the history of track and field. He was competing for Ohio State University in a track meet at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and in a span of just 45 minutes, Owens matched the world record in the 100-yard dash, set a world record in the long jump, and followed that with world records in the 220-yard dash and 220-low hurdles.
Itís the birthday of American poet Theodore Roethke, born in Saginaw, Michigan (1908), the son of a greenhouse owner. After a brief stint as a University of Michigan law student, he dropped out and decided he wanted to pursue teaching - and poetry - as a career. He kept copious notes and journals throughout his life, often stuffing his pockets with bits of paper full of ideas and fragments of conversations. He won the 1954 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection of poems The Waking: Poems 1933-1953. He died of a heart attack in 1963.
Itís the birthday of publisher Bennett Cerf, born in New York City (1898), probably best known as a panelist on the TV game show What's My Line? for 16 years. But for 50 years he was at Random House, publishing the work of writers such as James Joyce, John OíHara, Marcel Proust, and William Faulkner.
Itís the birthday of American poet, essayist and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson, born in Boston (1803). An ordained Unitarian minister, he resigned from the pulpit following the premature death of his wife and set out on a quest for his own spiritual philosophy, which culminated with the publication of Nature in 1836. It became the rallying point for a group of intellectuals who came to be known as Transcendentalists.
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