Dec. 22, 2000

318 I'll tell you how the Sun rose

by Emily Dickinson

Broadcast date: FRIDAY, 22 December 2000

Poem: “I'll tell you how the Sun rose,” by Emily Dickinson.

I'll tell you how the Sun rose
I'll tell you how the Sun rose —
A Ribbon at a time —
The Steeples swam in Amethyst —
The news, like Squirrels, ran —
The Hills untied their Bonnets —
The Bobolinks — begun —
Then I said softly to myself —
"That must have been the Sun"!
But how he set — I know not —
There seemed a purple stile
That little Yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while —
Till when they reached the other side,
A Dominie in Gray —
Put gently up the evening Bars —
And led the flock away —

It’s the birthday of poet and translator Kenneth Rexroth, born in South Bend, Indiana (1905). When he was 10, his mother was diagnosed with tuberculosis and given just 2 months to live; he went along with her to buy her coffin, and was with her when she died. Three years later, his father died. The boy grew up in a tough part of Chicago, but got to meet Clarence Darrow, Sherwood Anderson, Countee Cullen, Carl Sandburg and Langston Hughes. There was a tea room where they used to read and talk about poetry and where jazz was played. While still in his teens, he fell in love with a woman who was 10 years his senior, and followed her East to Greenwich Village. He taught himself Greek, read Plato and other classics, began translating Sappho—and then, with a Japanese primer, translated Oriental poetry. Then he traveled West, out to San Francisco. An early backer of the Beat movement, he wrote poems that at first were heavily influenced by Surrealism but later grew shorter and tighter in form. He translated from Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Latin, and Spanish; his own collections include Bird in the Bush (1959), Assays (1962), and With Eye and Ear (1970).

It’s the birthday of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edward Arlington Robinson, born in Head Tide, Maine (1869), who wrote short dramatic poems describing the people in a small New England village, ‘Tilbury Town,’ very like the place where he grew up.

It’s the birthday of composer Giacomo Puccini, born in Lucca, Tuscany (1858). He wrote La Boheme (1896), Tosca (1900), Madame Butterfly (1904), and Turandot (1924).

It's the birthday today of Thomas Higginson, born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1823). He was an abolitionist and social reformer who had written several pieces for The Atlantic Monthly. But the reason we know him today is that, in the spring of 1862, he received a letter and four poems from Emily Dickinson. The letter read: "MR. HIGGINSON—Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive? The mind is so near itself it cannot see distinctly, and I have none to ask. Should you think it breathed, and had you the leisure to tell me, I should feel quick gratitude. If I make the mistake, that you dared to tell me would give me sincerer honor toward you. I enclose my name, asking you, if you please, sir, to tell me what is true? That you will not betray me it is needless to ask, since honor is its own pawn." He read the poems, but didn’t know what to make of them. He met Emily Dickinson only twice, but after her death, he helped to edit and publish her poems; that is, he re-wrote them to make them acceptable to the readers of his day. It took years to undo his changes.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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