May 30, 2001
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Poem: "Here," by Grace Paley from Begin Again: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus Giroux).
Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face
how did this happen
well that's who I wanted to be
at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sliding
on off my lap a pleasant
that's my old man across the yard
he's talking to the meter reader
he's telling him the world's sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips
It's the birthday of poet Garrett Hongo, born in Volcano, Hawaii, in 1951 . He's the author of two collections of poetry, Yellow Light, and The River of Heaven, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.
It's the birthday of Benny Goodman, the "King of Swing," born in Chicago in 1909, the eighth of twelve children of an immigrant tailor. When he was ten years old, the local synagogue offered him music lessons and a free loaner clarinet to practice on. At the age of 16, he joined Ben Pollack's band along with Glenn Miller, Jack Teagarden, and Jimmy McPartland.
It's the birthday of Mel Blanc, born in San Francisco in 1908, who did the voice of Bugs Bunny, the voice of Porky Pig, and Barney Rubble on The Flintstones.
It's the birthday of poet and novelist and a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Countee Cullen, born in Louisville in 1903. His first three volumes came out in the late '20s, Color, Copper Sun, and The Ballad of the Brown Girl. He was the most popular black poet in America at that time and then he published his longest and most complex poem, "The Black Christ," and received less-than-favorable reviews. He was bitterly disappointed, and after that he wrote a great deal less and spent the rest of his life teaching French at Frederick Douglass Junior High School in Harlem where he had James Baldwin in his classroom. He also wrote for children. The Lost Zoo, a collection of poems about the animals Noah did not take on the ark, and an autobiography of his cat, My Lives and How I Lost Them.
It's the birthday of Cornelia Otis Skinner, born in Chicago in 1901. She is best known for her memoir, Our Hearts Were Young and Gay and the play, The Pleasure of His Company.
It's the birthday of the film director Howard Hawks, born in Goshen, Indiana in 1896. He started out in Hollywood as a prop man, then a story editor, and then started directing gangster movies, westerns, film noir, screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby, the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and To Have and Have Not.
It was on this day in 1783 that America's first daily newspaper began publication. The Pennsylvania Evening Post and Daily Advertiser, composed and printed by Benjamin Towne, who also hawked the paper on the street himself, shouting, "All the news for two coppers." It came out every day for one month and then it went under.
It was on this day in 1431 that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a witch.
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