Aug. 4, 2000
It's the birthday of Robert Hayden, born in Detroit, 1913, who spent some 23 years teaching at Fisk University, then 11 years at the University of Michigan, and said, "I am a poet who teaches in order to earn a living so that he can write a poem or two now and then." He was born Asa Bundy Sheffey, and raised in a troubled Detroit household. The folks who lived next door in Detroit became his foster parents and eventually changed his name to Hayden. This is his "Those Winter Sundays":
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house, Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
It's the birthday of the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun, born in the town of Lum, 1859. He came to America and worked as a streetcar conductor in Chicago and as a farmhand in North Dakota. When he was 30 years old he published a fragment of a novel called Hunger, a story about a starving young writer in Norway. It made Hamsun an overnight sensation. His best-known work, Growth of the Soil, came out in 1920, the year he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
It's the birthday in Sussex, 1792, of the English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. He spent a year at the University of Oxford, but got kicked out for writing a pamphlet entitled, "The Necessity of Atheism." He married, had two children, but fell in love with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and ran off with her to the Continent, where he spent most of the rest of his life writing.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®