Sep. 23, 2000

Stepping Out of Poetry

by Gerald Stern

Broadcast date: SATURDAY, 23 September 2000

"Stepping Out of Poetry," by Gerald Stern, from This Time: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton).

It's the birthday of singer Ray Charles (Robinson), born in Albany, Georgia (1930). He was already performing on the piano when he began losing his sight from glaucoma at the age of 6; by 7 he was completely blind. He had his first hit in 1951 with "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand" (1951).

It's the birthday of saxophonist John Coltrane, born in Hamlet, North Carolina (1926). He played with Dizzy Gillespie and, later, Johnny Hodges, before coming to broad public attention as a member of the Miles Davis quintet and sextet during the late 1950s.

It's the birthday of physicist Clifford G. Shull, born in Pittsburgh (1915). He was awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics for his development of neutron-scattering techniques: a beam of neutrons is passed through target material; neutrons are then scattered in a pattern which, when recorded on film, shows the relative positions of atoms in the target material.

The first Keystone Cops movie was released on this day in 1912. Called Cohen Collects a Debt, it featured a squad of bumbling police whose antics made the picture an instant success.

It's the birthday of sculptor Louise Nevelson, born Louise Berliawsky, born in Kiev, the Ukraine (1899). Her family moved to Rockland, Maine, when she was a small child. Her father was in the lumber business, and Louise made artworks out of wood scraps from an early age. She lived very simply, and toiled in obscurity until her sixties, when shows and commissions finally came her way. Her breakthrough epiphany occurred while she studied an empty liquor box, which suggested the idea for her wall-sized sculptures of the 1960s, many constructed of wooden packing crates, stacked in provocative patterns and containing a variety of sculptural objects.

On this day in 1846, the planet Neptune was discovered. It's about 30 times as far from the sun as the Earth is, and it needs 164.8 of our years to revolve once around the sun. The discovery is credited to an English mathematician, John Couch Adams, and the Frenchman Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le--who calculated, in separate studies, that the planet should appear where in fact it did.

On this day in 1779, during a lull in a furious naval engagement in the North Sea off Flamborough Head during the American War of Independence, John Paul Jones, commanding the American vessel Bonhomme Richard, said, "I have not yet begun to fight," before going on to defeat the British warships Serapis and Countess of Scarborough.

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