Dec. 11, 2000

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

Broadcast date: MONDAY, 11 December 2000

Poem: “The Journey,” by Mary Oliver, from Dreamwork (Atlantic Monthly Press).

The text of this poem is no longer available.

It is the birthday of poet and translator Mark Rudman, born in New York City (1948). He’s the editor of Pequod, a journal of contemporary literature and criticism. His books include Rider (1994), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry.

“I gradually discovered that literature legitimized the dark emotions; the characters were suffering from inner divisions which I knew only too well and which had served to isolate me.”

It is the birthday of poet and novelist Jim Harrison, born in Grayling, Michigan (1937), who grew up in a poor family with no television set, so they had plenty of time for talking. His ninth-grade teacher gave him some books that got him interested in writing; he wrote award-winning poetry for years, but made very little money until his trilogy of novellas, Legends of the Fall (1979), came out when he was 42.

“Being a writer requires an intoxication with language, an obsession with language. If you don’t have an incredible playfulness about language, I think you tend to write boring novels....”

It is the birthday of blues singer (Willie Mae) Big Mama Thornton, born in Montgomery, Alabama (1926). She went on the road in the Hot Harlem Review as a singer, dancer and comedienne when she was 14 years old. Big Mama Thornton recorded “(You Ain't Nothin' but a) Hound Dog” (1953) and had a number one hit with it three years before Elvis Presley recorded his version of the song. She was an inspiration to Janis Joplin who asked for, and was granted, permission to record her song, “Ball and Chain.”

It's the birthday of Russian novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, born in Kislovodsk, Russia (1918), winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature. He fought in World War Two as an artillery captain, and was arrested in 1945 for writing a letter to a friend that authorities regarded as anti-Stalin. He was sentenced to eight years hard labor without a trial; his short novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), was based on his prison experience. After his book The Gulag Archipelago (1973) came out, he was charged with treason and exiled. He moved to the United States with his family in 1976, and stayed for nearly twenty years before returning to Russia in 1994.

It is the birthday of cartoonist Marjorie H. Buell, born in Philadelphia (1904), who created the comic strip character Little Lulu, a curly-haired little girl who regularly outsmarted the neighborhood boys.

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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