Poem: "This Room," by John Ashbery from Your Name Here (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux).
The room I entered was a dream of this room.
Surely all those feet on the sofa were mine.
The oval portrait
of a dog was me at an early age.
Something shimmers, something is hushed up.
We had macaroni for lunch every day
except Sunday, when a small quail was induced
to be served to us. Why do I tell you these things?
You are not even here.
It's the birthday of British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, born in Stratford, England (1844). He was the oldest of nine children born to High Church Anglicans. His father was a marine insurance adjuster and also a poet. For a while Hopkins wanted to be a painter-poet like Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Then he got involved in religion and became a Jesuit priest. He preached in the slums of industrial cities: Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. He went through a phase where he felt that poetry was too self-indulgent, and he burned his early poems. But he eventually grew out of it and sent his written poems to his good friend Robert Bridges, who became Poet Laureate in 1913. Hopkins wasn't well-known as a poet until after he died. He was very depressed toward the end of his life because he was working as a Professor of Greek and Latin in Dublin and hated it. He hated grading papers, especially since so many of his students failed their translation exams. Hopkins wrote, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God."
It's the birthday of English novelist Malcolm Lowry, born in Cheshire, England (1909). His father was a cotton broker who owned plantations in Egypt, Peru and Texas. Lowry rebelled from his wealthy upbringing. When he was fifteen, he wrote angry hymns about his mother, whom he hated. He went to sea to work as a deckhand on ships to China and Norway. When he was at boarding school in Cambridge, he goaded a friend to kill himself, and the friend did. Lowry's masterpiece is Under the Volcano (1947), set on The Day of the Dead in Mexico, 1938. It's about a former British consul who has drinking problems and a troubled marriage. Lowry was also a very troubled man: he was an alcoholic prone to relationship difficulties and mental disorders. Lowry died a mysterious death caused by alcohol and an overdose of sleeping pills in 1957. Nobody is sure if it was suicide or not, but it happened to fall on the same date as the suicide of his childhood friend.
It's the birthday of first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, born in East Hampden, Long Island (1929). She graduated from George Washington University, where she majored in French Literature. Then she worked as the Washington Times-Herald's "inquiring photographer." For $43 a week, she'd go up to people and ask them the question of the day, and take their picture. In 1952 Jacqueline met the young congressman from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. They were at a dinner party. She was graceful and elegant and always fashionably dressed, with a headscarf and dark glasses. The media loved her. People embraced her when she went abroad, with her husband or on her own goodwill tours. In 1961 she and JFK went to France, where they liked her even more because she spoke their language fluently. She said, "The trouble with me is that I'm an outsider. And that's a very hard thing to be in American life."
It's the birthday of poet John
Ashbery, born in Rochester, New York (1927). He was raised on a farm
near Lake Ontario. His father was a farmer, and his mother was a biology teacher.
He was a member of the "New York school of poets," along with Kenneth
Koch and Frank O'Hara. His poetry is often abstract, and has been compared to
the paintings of Jackson Pollock and other avant-garde artists. Ashbery said,
"I think my poems mean what they say...There is no message, nothing I want
to tell the world particularly except what I am thinking when I am writing."
Poem: "the lesson of the moth," by Don Marquis from The Best of Don Marquis (Doubleday).
the lesson of the moth
i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires
why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense
plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves
and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself
It was on this day in 1588 that Spain's "Invincible Armada" was defeated by the English. Spain had hoped to raid England and turn the Protestant isle Catholic again. The Spanish fleet consisted of 130 ships carrying 2,500 guns, 8,000 seamen, and almost 20,000 soldiers. But storms delayed their arrival and by that time, England was ready. Just after midnight, England sent eight burning ships into the harbor at Calais, where the Spanish were anchored for the night.
It's the birthday of French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville, born in Paris (1805). He came over to the United States with a colleague when he was twenty-five to study the American prison system. Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America (1835, vol. I; 1840, vol. II), a compilation of observations and praises of American democracy. It is still widely quoted today.
It's the birthday of novelist Newton Booth Tarkington, born in Indianapolis, Indiana (1869). He was a poor student and hated school. He went to Princeton University because he liked the idea of the Ivy League. But he never graduated. He said, "No doubt I imbibed some education there, though it seems to me that I tried to avoid that as much as possible." Tarkington tried for awhile to make a living from drawing and writing, and sent in tons of manuscripts to popular magazines. But the rejection slips piled up. Finally, in the fall of 1898, he finished The Gentleman from Indiana and sold it to McClure. Gentleman from Indiana became a bestseller in 1900. He went on to write a number of popular novels, including two that won the Pulitzer: The Magnificent Ambersons (1918) and Alice Adams (1921), about the frustrated romantic ambitions of a lower-middle class girl. In 1921, Publishers Weekly polled booksellers who rated Tarkington number one, above Edith Wharton, Sinclair Lewis, Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg.
It's the birthday of newspaper columnist, playwright, and
short story writer Don Marquis,
born Donald Robert Perry Marquis in Walnut, Illinois (1878). He went to work
at the Washington Times and then the Sun and the Tribune
in New York. He had a column called "The Sun Dial." Marquis created
the characters Archy the cockroach, and Mehitabel the alley cat. Archy was a
former free verse poet who "sees life from the underside now." He
wasn't able to reach the shift key so everything he wrote was in lower case.
And Mehitabel was an alley cat with questionable morals who insisted that she
was Cleopatra in one of her former lives. After using Archy and Mehitabel in
columns for 10 years, Marquis made books out of their writing, beginning with
archy and mehitabel (1927). Don Marquis wrote of himself, "Height,
5 feet 101/2 inches; hair, dove-colored; scar on little finger of left hand
Roquefort cheese, 'Tom Jones,' Wordsworth's poetry, absinthe cocktails, most
musical comedy, public banquets, physical exercise, steam heat, toy dogs, poets
who wear their souls outside, organized charity, magazine covers, and the gas
Snapshot of a Lump
I imagine Nice and topless beaches,
women smoking and reading novels in the sun.
I pretend I am comfortable undressing
in front of men who go home to their wives,
in front of women who have seen
twenty pairs of breasts today,
in front of silent ghosts who walked
through these same doors before me,
who hoped doctors would find it soon enough,
that surgery, pills and chemo could save them.
Today, they target my lump
with a small round sticker, a metal capsule
embedded beneath clear plastic.
I am asked to wash off my deodorant,
wrap a lead apron around my waist,
pose for the nurse, for the white walls-
one arm resting on the mammogram machine,
that "come hither" look in my eyes.
This is my first time being photographed topless.
I tell the nurse, Will I be the centerfold
or just another playmate?
My breast is pressed flat - a torpedo,
a pyramid, a triangle, a rocket on this altar;
this can't be good for anyone.
Finally, the nurse, winded
from fumbling, smiles,
says, "Don't breathe or move."
A flash and my breast is free,
but only for a moment.
In the waiting room, I sit between magazines,
an article on Venice,
health charts, people in white.
I pretend I am comfortable watching
other women escorted off to a side room,
where results are given with condolences.
I imagine leaving here
with negative results and returned lives.
I imagine future trips to France,
to novels I will write and days spent
beneath a blue and white sun umbrella,
waves washing against the shore like promises.
It's the birthday of auto maker Henry Ford, born on a farm near Dearborn, Michigan (1863). He loved tinkering with machines all his life. When he was 13 he took apart a working watch and put it together again as good as new. He did it in secret because his dad didn't want him to pursue mechanical ambitions. In 1903, he started the Ford Motor Co., which became enormously successful. Ford is the father of the Model T. It sold for $850 at first, which would be about $16,500 today. The prices eventually dipped lower than $280, which is about $3,000 today. By 1925, he was producing almost 2 million a year and everybody had to have one.
It's the birthday of economist Thorstein Veblen, (1857). He's best known for his book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). In it he introduced the concept of "conspicuous consumption."
It's the birthday of Emily
Bronte, born in Thornton, Yorkshire, England (1818). She's the author
of Wuthering Heights (1848), a story of love and tragedy set in the moors
of Yorkshire. She was the fifth of six talented Bronte children born to parents
who seemed to have had no literary genius themselves. Their mother died when
Emily was two, and the children were pretty much left to their own devices.
Their father was aloof and treated his children as intellectual equals. Other
than that, he mostly ignored them. The Bronte children had only each other for
playmates. Their house was bounded on two sides by the village graveyard. They
became best friends with each other. All the Bronte children were avid readers
and storytellers. They made up a mythical land called Gondal, and Emily made
it the subject of many of her poems. Emily was shy and reclusive and whenever
she left home she got homesick. She joined her three older sisters at a school
for clergymen's children when she was six. In 1845, Charlotte found out that
Emily had been writing poetry. Charlotte had also been secretly writing verse.
So had Anne. They published their joint work the next year. Instead of using
their real names, they called it Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.
That book sold only two copies, but it paved the path for Charlotte's Jane
Eyre (1846) and Emily's Wuthering Heights (1847) and Anne's Agnes
Grey (1847). Jane Eyre was an instant success, but Emily's book didn't
get any attention until after she fell ill and died the next year, at age 30.
Charlotte wrote a preface for it explaining why it was better than her own
Jane Eyre, and then it became a classic.
The Monks of St. John's File in for Prayer
In we shuffle, hooded amplitudes,
scapulared brooms, a stray earring, skin-heads
and flowing locks, blind in one eye,
hooked-nosed, handsome as a prince
(and knows it), a five-thumbed organist,
an acolyte who sings in quarter tones,
one slightly swollen keeper of the bees,
the carpenter minus a finger here and there,
our pre-senile writing deathless verse,
a stranded sailor, a Cassian scholar,
the artist suffering the visually
illiterate and indignities unnamed,
two determined liturgists. In a word,
eager purity and weary virtue.
Last of all, the Lord Abbot, early old
(shepherding the saints is like herding cats).
These chariots and steeds of Israel
make a black progress into church.
A rumble of monks bows low and offers praise
to the High God of Gods who is faithful forever.
It's the birthday of J(oanne)
K(athleen) Rowling, born in Chipping Sodbury, England (1966). But her
readers know today as Harry Potter's birthday. On Harry Potter's 11th birthday,
he learns that he is a wizard. He is officially invited to leave his Muggle
aunt and uncle and attend the special Hogwarts school for wizards. As a child,
Rowling was short and stocky and wore very thick glasses, just like Harry Potter.
She says she was very bossy, very bookish and terrible at school until she got
older. When Rowling started writing Harry Potter, she was unemployed and divorced
and living on public assistance in a tiny Edinburgh apartment with her infant
daughter. She wrote during her daughter's naps, at a table in a café.
She couldn't afford even a used typewriter. Then the Scottish Arts Council gave
her a grant to finish the book. She did, and in the U.S. it was called Harry
Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998). It was a dramatic overnight success.
She was instantly famous and Harry Potter became a household name. She experienced
a type of fame usually reserved for politicians and rock stars. On book tours,
she spoke at big sporting venues, with images of her face projected on big screens
behind her. She gave press conferences. At age 35 she was the highest-earning
woman in Britain, netting more than $30 million in 2000. Rowling has had a series
of seven Harry Potter books in her head since 1995 and she plans to write them
all. She has the plots all mapped out already. There is a book for each year
that Harry spends at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She said, "I
want to finish these seven books and look back and think that whatever happened-however
much this hurricane whirled around me-I stayed true to what I wanted to write.
This is my Holy Grail: that when I finish writing book seven, I can say-hand
on heart-I didn't change a thing. I wrote the story I meant to write."
Rowling released Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on June 21
this year. Within an hour, Barnes and Noble, the largest bookseller in the country,
had sold 286,000 copies. That's 80 books per second. By the end of the day the
book had sold five million copies total.
John Green Takes His Warner, New Hampshire, Neighbor to a Red Sox Game
Everett down the hill's
52 and trim. No beer gut.
Raises beef, corn, hay, cuts
cordwood between harvests.
Goes to bed at 8 and falls
into sleep like a parachutist.
He's never been to a ballgame.
He's never been to Boston though
he went over to Portland Maine
one time ten, fifteen years ago.
In Sullivan Square, they
luck out, find a space
for John's car, take
the T to Fenway Park.
The famous T!
A kind of underground trolley.
Runs in the dark.
No motorman that Ev can see.
Jammed with other sports fans.
John has to show him
how to put the token in.
How to press with his hips
to go through the turnstile.
How to stand back while
the doors whoosh shut.
How to grab a strap
as the car pitches forward.
How to push out
with the surging crowd.
Afterward Ev says the game's
a whole lot better on tv.
Too many fans.
Too many other folks for him.
It's the birthday of the man who wrote the lyrics for our national anthem, Francis Scott Key, born in Frederick, Maryland (1779). He was 35 years old on September 13, 1814, when he composed the poem "The Star Spangled Banner." He wrote it on a truce ship in the harbor while the British bombed Fort McHenry, eight miles away. He had gone to the British to negotiate the release of a Maryland doctor they had captured. They made him wait under their surveillance until the bombing was over. He had to watch from afar and did not know if the Americans had been able to defend themselves. But in the morning he looked through a telescope and saw their raised garrison flag. He checked into a Baltimore hotel when he reached land and finished his poem there. Not until 1931 did Congress make it the official national anthem.
It's the birthday of American explorer William Clark, born in Caroline County, Virginia (1770). He co-commanded, with Meriwether Lewis, an expedition from the Louisiana Purchase territory to the Pacific Coast. They left St. Louis on May 14, 1804 and were gone for two years, four months, and nine days. By the time they returned home, people assumed they had died.
It's the birthday of novelist Herman
Melville, born in New York City (1819). He was born into a successful
merchant family and was the third child of eight. When he was twelve, his father
went insane and died and his mother was left alone to raise all the children.
A bout of scarlet fever left young Melville with permanently poor eyesight.
But he taught himself to read and loved it. He read Shakespeare and books of
history, anthropology, and science. Melville got a job as a cabin boy on the
359-ton whaling ship Acushnet when he was twenty-one. Then he joined the Navy
and sailed to the Atlantic and the South Seas. He was a clerk and a book keeper
at a general store in Honolulu and he lived for a while among the Typee cannibals
in the Marquesas Islands. Another ship came there and rescued him and took him
to Tahiti. He came home to live with his mother and write about his adventures
in his book Typee (1846). For the Revised Edition of that book, he was
forced to edit out some of the more graphic scenes. He had to take out certain
bits about the Marquesan girls that he and his mates had encountered. It was
his most popular book during his lifetime. Melville is best known for his novel
Moby-Dick (1851), which begins with the famous line, "Call me Ishmael."
It continues, "Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely --having
little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore,
I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation
The novel is about the mysterious Captain Ahab and his quest to hunt down the
white whale, Moby-Dick, who cost him his leg on a previous voyage. Melville
filled the book with symbolism and philosophy and Shakespearean rhetoric. The
public didn't get it and it only sold about 3,000 copies while Melville was
alive. Melville died in 1891, with a manuscript of the unfinished novel Billy
Bud on his desk.
Poem: "Coffee Cup Café," by Linda Hasselstrom from Land Circle: Writings Collected from the Land (Fulcrum Press).
Coffee Cup Café
Soon as the morning chores are done,
cows milked, pigs fed, kids packed
off to school, it's down to the café
for more coffee and some soothing
"If it don't rain pretty soon, I'm
just gonna dry up and blow away."
"Dry? This ain't dry. You don't know
how bad it can get. Why, in the Thirties
it didn't rain any more than this for
(breathless pause) six years."
"I heard Johnson's lost ninety head of calves
in that spring snowstorm. They
were calving and heading for home
at the same time and they just walked
away from them."
"Yeah and when the cows
got home, half of them died
"I ain't had any hay on me since that hail
last summer; wiped out my hay crop, all
my winter pasture, and then the drouth
this spring. Don't know what I'll do."
"Yeah, but this is nothing yet.
Why in the Thirties the grasshoppers came
like hail and left nothing green on the ground.
They ate fenceposts, even. And the dust, why
it was deep as last winter's snow drifts,
piled against the houses. It ain't bad here yet,
and when it does come, there won't be so many of us
So for an hour they cheer each other, each story
worse than the last, each face longer. You'd think
they'd throw themselves under their tractors
when they leave, but they're bouncy as a new calf,
caps tilted fiercely into the sun.
They feel better, now they know
somebody's having a harder time
and that men like them
can take it.
On this day in 1876, James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok was killed in what is now Deadwood, South Dakota. The notorious 39-year-old gunfighter was playing poker when he was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall, at 4:15 pm at the No. 10 Saloon. He died with a Smith and Wesson revolver in his holster and holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights. We now call that the "dead man's hand."
It was on this day in 1824 that Fifth Avenue in New York City was opened. It's America's most fashionable shopping street today, but it started out as a posh residential area.
It's the birthday of the man who designed Washington, D.C., Pierre Charles L'Enfant, born in Paris, France (1754). George Washington put him to work designing Washington D.C., but then dismissed him a year later for trying to exert complete control over the project. L'Enfant's design was based on the same principles used for the palace and garden of Versailles. Long avenues radiate from key points marked by monuments. It's symbolic of power emanating from a central source.
It's the birthday of writer James Baldwin, born in poverty-stricken Harlem, New York (1924). His stepfather was a preacher and James followed in his footsteps. From the age of 14, James gave sermons at the Fireside Pentecostal church. These experiences inspired his famous 1953 novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, about a young minister named John Grimes. In middle school, Baldwin took French classes from poet Countee Cullen, who was a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. Baldwin learned French from him and then moved to Paris in 1948, where he wrote the famous essay collection, Notes of a Native Son (1955). Baldwin lived in Europe for ten years -- Paris, London, Istanbul -- to avoid the racism he experienced in the U.S. But he returned to America in 1957 to get involved in the southern school desegregation struggle. He spoke passionately in support of civil rights. He organized protests. He said: "People can't, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and friends, any more than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life."
It's the birthday of writer Isabel
Allende, born in Lima, Peru (1942). Her father was a diplomat, so the
family moved around and she grew up in Chile, Bolivia, Europe, and the Middle
East. Her uncle was Salvador Allende, the Chilean president. He was a radical
socialist and his reforms led to military uprising in 1973. He was killed. She
fled to Venezuela and left behind her beloved grandfather, on his deathbed.
She started to write him a long letter, to tell him he would always be kept
alive in her memory. The letter grew until it became her first novel, The
House of the Spirits (1982), about four generations of a Chilean family.
More recently, she wrote Daughter of Fortune (1999) and Portrait in
Sepia (2000). She writes everything in Spanish, but her work is translated
into many languages.
Poem: "My Husband Discovered Poetry," by Diane Lockward from Eve's Red Dress (Wind Publications).
My Husband Discovers Poetry
Because my husband would not read my poems,
I wrote one about how I did not love him.
In lines of strict iambic pentameter,
I detailed his coldness, his lack of humor.
It felt good to do this.
Stanza by stanza, I grew bolder and bolder.
Towards the end, struck by inspiration,
I wrote about my old boyfriend,
a boy I had not loved enough to marry
but who could make me laugh and laugh.
I wrote about a night years after we parted
when my husband's coldness drove me from the house
and back to my old boyfriend.
I even included the name of a seedy motel
well-known for hosting quickies.
I have a talent for verisimilitude.
In sensuous images, I described
how my boyfriend and I stripped off our clothes,
got into bed, and kissed and kissed,
then spent half the night telling jokes,
many of them about my husband.
I left the ending deliberately ambiguous,
then hid the poem away
in an old trunk in the basement.
You know how this story ends,
how my husband one day loses something,
goes into the basement,
and rummages through the old trunk,
how he uncovers the hidden poem
and sits down to read it.
But do you hear the strange sounds
that floated up the stairs that day,
the sounds of an animal, its paw caught
in one of those traps with teeth of steel?
Do you see the wounded creature
at the bottom of the stairs,
his shoulders hunched over and shaking,
fist in his mouth and choking back sobs?
It was my husband paying tribute to my art.
It's the birthday of mystery author P(hyllis) D(orothy) James, born in Oxford, England (1920). Her first book was Cover Her Face, published in 1962. It was meant to be a practice run for a much more serious novel she wanted to write. But it was immediately successful and so she continued to write detective fiction. Her main detective is Adam Dalgleish. He's a dedicated, hard-working policeman who is also very sensitive and a successful poet.
It's the birthday of writer Leon Uris, born in Baltimore (1924). He's most famous for his book Exodus (1958), about the European Jewish experience from the turn of the century to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
It's the birthday of Rupert Chawner Brooke, born in Warwickshire, England (1887). His father was a housemaster at the local school and his mother took care of the students' meals and welfare. Rupert went to King's College, Cambridge. He was smart and athletic and strikingly attractive, with long red-gold hair. W.B. Yeats called him "the handsomest young man in England." His charm made him lots of friends, like E. M. Forster, Maynard Keynes, Virginia Woolf and Edward Thomas, the people that would become the Bloomsbury group. Brooke became a socialist. He was a member of the Fabian Society, the group that eventually evolved into the Labour Party. He wrote a thesis, John Webster and the Elizabethan Drama, and won a Fellowship at King's. But first he traveled around to New York City, Canada, and San Francisco. He sent back poems and articles to the Westminster Gazette. He traveled in New Zealand and Tahiti, where he lived for awhile with a Tahitian woman. Then he ran out of money and got sick from coral poisoning and came back to England. His first volume of poetry was Poems 1911 (1911). It gave him a small profit within a few weeks and over the next 20 years sold around 100,000 copies. The day after his 27th birthday, Britain entered the war. And he signed up for the Royal Naval Division. He died on April 23, 1915, on a French hospital ship in the Aegean Sea, from blood poisoning he got from an infected mosquito bite on his lip. His fellow officers carried his coffin for two hours up a narrow and stony path to an olive grove on the island of Skyros. He wrote:
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home
And it's the birthday of one of America's first embedded reporters, Ernie Pyle, born Ernest Taylor Pyle in a little white farmhouse near Dana, Indiana (1900). He wrote for newspapers about World War II in the form of daily letters home from the war front. He became a journalist only because he thought it was easy. Pyle went to Canada, Flemington, Montana, the Dakotas, and Alaska. He sailed the Arctic with the Coast Guard. He went 1,000 miles down the Yukon. He spent five days with the lepers at Molokai and wrote, "I felt unrighteous at being whole and clean." He went to Devil's Island and South America. He covered about 150,000 miles of the Western Hemisphere, crossed the United States thirty-five times, and wore out three typewriters and three cars. In the fall of 1940, Pyle went to London to travel around with Yank troops, and they went to Africa, Italy, and France. When he covered the war, he never made it look glamorous. He hated it, and described all the horror and agony around him. He included the names and hometown addresses of all the soldiers he wrote about. Pyle died on April 18, 1945, on Ie Island, just west of Okinawa. He was killed instantly by Japanese machine-gun fire.