Aug. 11, 2000


by James Laughlin

Broadcast date: FRIDAY, 11 August 2000

“Poets,” by James Laughlin, from The Bird of Endless Time (Copper Canyon Press).

It's the birthday in Lake Charles, Louisiana, 1936, of Andre Dubus, the short-story writer and author of collections like Dancing After Hours, and The Times Are Never So Bad. Dubus was a great baseball fan, particularly of the Red Sox, and shortly before he died wrote: "I rarely concentrate on a moment of anything but writing and receiving Communion. Yet watching a game I do. A batter steps out of the box, looks to his left at the third-base coach; the coach moves his hands, touches his arm, his chest, his face, his cap; the batter steps to the plate; the catcher's right fingers signal to the pitcher; the pitcher nods, brings up his hands, kicks, throws. The ball is moving 93 miles per hour, but there is time for me to focus on it, maybe hold my breath. The reality I am watching is moments of grace and skill, gifts received by men who do not turn away from them, but work with them for the few years they are granted. One spring the batter will not be able to hit a fast ball, the pitcher will not be able to throw one; the gifts are gone, as if they existed independent of men, staying with one for a time, then moving on to another, a boy in the womb, and when he is in elementary school you can already see that he has it."

It is the birthday of Alex Haley, born in Ithaca, New York, 1921. He was the collaborator and editor of The Autobiography of Malcom X, and the author of Roots: the Saga of an American Family. The book, which was based on his African-American roots, came out in 1976, and in 1977 it was made into a very successful television mini-series.

It is the birthday of Mary Roberts Rinehart, born in Pittsburgh in 1876. A novelist and playwright, she is best known for her mystery stories; the first of these stories was "The Circular Staircase," which came out in 1908.

It's the birthday in 1897, Livermore Falls, Maine, of poet Louise Bogan.

It's the birthday of Hugh MacDiarmid, the Scottish poet, born Christopher Murray Grieve, in Langholm. He was the leader of the Scottish literary renaissance when he came out with his book written in Scotts dialect, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle in 1926. McDiarmid was also one of the founding members of the Scottish National Party.

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