Oct. 25, 2000

Some Thirty Inches from My Nose

by W. H. Auden

Broadcast date: WEDNESDAY, 25 October 2000

Poem: "Some Thirty Inches from My Nose," by W. H. Auden, from As I Walked Out One Evening (Vintage).

Some Thirty Inches from My Nose

Some thirty inches from my nose
The frontier of my Person goes,
And all the untilled air between
Is private pagus or demesne.
Stranger, unless with bedroom eyes
I beckon you to fraternize,
Beware of rudely crossing it:
I have no gun, but I can spit.

It's the birthday of American novelist Anne Tyler, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1941). Tyler spent her childhood in North Carolina, went to Duke University, then settled in Baltimore, where she became a full-time writer. Baltimore is the setting for many of her best-known novels, including Searching for Caleb (1975) and The Accidental Tourist (1985). Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

It's the birthday of poet John Berryman, born in McAlester, Oklahoma (1914). His poetry began to appear in literary magazines in the late 1930's, and he established his reputation as a major American poet with the publication of his Homage to Mistress Bradstreet (1956), and 77 Dream Songs (1965).

It's the birthday of Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, better known as "Minnie Pearl," born in Centerville, Tennessee (1912). She entertained audiences for five decades both at the Grand Ole Opry and on the television show Hee Haw, telling comic stories about the fictional small town, Grinder's Switch, Tennessee. Before she went on stage, Opry founder George D. Hay saw how nervous she was, and told her, "Just love 'em, honey, and they'll love you right back."

It's the birthday of one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century, Pablo Picasso, born in Málaga, on the south coast of Spain (1881). His father, José Ruiz, taught at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona. As a child, Picasso often went with his father to bull fights, which made a lasting impression on him; his first oil painting, painted when he was nine, depicts a bull ring. At 15, Picasso was admitted to the School of Fine Arts, and a year later left for further study in Madrid. He settled in Paris, where he joined a circle of painters, writers and artists that included the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse, and Jean Cocteau. Although he worked in a number of styles, Picasso is perhaps best known for the invention of cubism, which created distorted figures by breaking the image into geometric planes and angles. His painting "Les Demoiselles D'Avignon" (1907) was the first expression of the new cubist movement. Perhaps his most famous work is the great mural painting "Guernica" (1936), named for the Spanish town caught in a German bombing raid during the Spanish Civil War, where 600 civilians were killed. Picasso liked to paint at night so that his days would be free for spending time with his friends. He often started painting at four in the afternoon and continued until two or three in the morning, with a break at 10:30 for dinner. "Painting is my hobby," he said. "When I am finished painting, I paint again for relaxation."

It's the birthday of French composer (Alexandre César Léopold) Georges Bizet, born in Paris (1838). In 1872, Bizet was asked to write an opera based on a story by Prosper Mérimée about a beautiful Spanish cigar factory worker named Carmen. The opera, Carmen, premiered three years later (1875) and was a modest success, though it became enormously popular after Bizet's death. The German philosopher Nietzsche saw it twenty times, and the composer Tchaikovsky correctly predicted that it would become the most popular opera in the world.

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