Jan. 21, 2004
Poem: "Birches," by Robert Frost, from The Poetry of Robert Frost (Henry Holt and Co.).
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of singer-songwriter Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, born in Mooringsport, Louisiana, 1888 (sometimes given as January 20 or January 29). He is known for his versions of "Goodnight Irene" and "Rock Island Line." He was an inmate at Angola Prison in Louisiana when a man named Alan Lomax arrived, asking to record any songs the prisoners knew. Lomax was traveling across the South making field recordings for the Library of Congress. He helped Lead Belly obtain a pardon and took him to New York, where he was a big hit.
It was on this day in 1952 that William Shawn succeeded Harold Ross as the editor of The New Yorker.
It's the birthday of literary critic Richard P. Blackmur, born in Springfield, Massachusetts (1904). He was expelled from high school in 1918 after a dispute with the headmaster, and he never completed a formal education. He read the classics at the local library, but always felt uneasy about his homemade education and did his best to conceal its shortcomings. He went on to become a leading American literary critic at Princeton University.
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