Jun. 21, 2002

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

FRIDAY, 21 JUNE 2002
(RealAudio) | How to listen

: "Wild Geese," by Mary Oliver from New & Selected Poems (Harcourt Brace).

The text of this poem is no longer available.

It's the birthday of cartoonist and children's book author and illustrator Berke Breathed, born in Encino, California (1957). While attending the University of Texas, Breathed created a comic strip called Academia Waltz that appeared in the university's newspaper, The Daily Texan, in 1978 and 1979. The strip caught the attention of the Washington Post, and on December 8th, 1980, the comic strip Bloom County made its debut, eventually appearing in more than twelve hundred newspapers around the world with an estimated forty million readers. The cast of Bloom County includes the cynical Milo Bloom, the hairball-spitting Bill the Cat, and Opus the penguin, who is the consistently befuddled observer of world events. Breathed won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1987. He published a number of collections of Bloom County, including Penguin Dreams, and Stranger Things (1985), Bloom County Babylon (1986), and Classics of Western Literature: Bloom County 1986-1989 (1990). Then, in 1989, Breathed decided to terminate the strip.

It's the birthday of novelist and playwright Francoise Sagan, born in Carjac, France (1935). On a summer vacation in 1953, when she was eighteen years old, Sagan wrote a story, based on her own experiences, of a confused young girl who tries to manipulate her father's relationships with various women. She finished the manuscript in three weeks, and it was published the following year as Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness).

It's the birthday of novelist, memoirist and literary critic Mary McCarthy, born in Seattle, Washington (1912). McCarthy used her personal experiences for most of her books and stories, including her most famous work, The Group (1963), which follows the lives of eight graduates of Vassar.

It's the birthday of philosopher, playwright, novelist, and critic Jean-Paul Sartre, born in Paris, France (1905). He began teaching after graduation, and then traveled to Germany where he met the philosopher Martin Heidegger, whose theories led to Sartre's own philosophy of existentialism, which emphasizes the individual as responsible for his or her free choices, decisions, and actions. Sartre's treatise, Being and Nothingness (1943), discusses his philosophy of existentialism and established him as one of the leading philosophers of the period.

It's the birthday of artist and illustrator Al(bert) Hirschfeld, born in St. Louis, Missouri (1903). In New York in 1926, he took in a performance of the French actor Sacha Guitry, and drew a sketch of him on the theater program. A friend who saw the sketch submitted it to the New York Herald Tribune, where it appeared on the Sunday drama page. That was the beginning of Hirschfeld's long career creating theatrical drawings. Within two years, his drawings were appearing in five different newspapers, including The New York Times, for whom he still works today after more than seventy years. In 1945, Hirschfeld's daughter Nina was born, and he drew her name in the background of a drawing for the play Are You With It. Ever since then, he has included her name in almost every one of his drawings, usually in the folds of costumes or curtains, or in hairdos or the leaves of trees.

It's the birthday of playwright and short story writer Joseph (Otto) Kesselring, born in New York City, New York (1902).

It's the birthday of minister, educator, and author Increase Mather, born in Dorchester, Massachusetts (1639). He was one of the most influential members of the second generation of the Massachusetts colony, and was president of Harvard College from 1685 to 1701. Increase Mather was sent to England in 1688 to try and negotiate a new colonial charter for Massachusetts. While he was there, the outbreak of suspected witchcraft occurred at Salem Village. When Mather returned to Massachusetts, many of its citizens were under arrest for being agents of the devil. At first, Mather did not voice any objections, but as time went on, he began to have doubts about the methods used at the witchcraft trials. In 1692, he received a petition from John Proctor and subsequently held a meeting with several other Boston Ministers. Mather then published Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits, expressing disapproval of the "spectral evidence" used to convict witches. Although Mather never questioned the reality of witchcraft, and did not condemn the trials outright, his writing was the first public utterance against the practices of the court. He stated that he felt that it was better for a guilty witch to escape than for an innocent person to die.

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