Literary Birthdays: Week of February 1 – 7

February 1

Langston Hughes (born 1902) – U.S. poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer – Not Without Laughter (1930)

Excerpts from Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again”
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
* * *
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free? Who said the free? Not me?

Read more about Langston Hughes in the 2010 LitBirthdays post here:


Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin (born 1884) – Russian essayist, novelist, playwright, short story writer – We (1920)

See the Author’s Calendar post for more information about Zamyatin:

February 2

James Joyce (born 1882) – Irish novelist – Dubliners (1914)

Listen to a 1929 recording of James Joyce reciting from his novel Finnegan’s Wake:

Watch a biography of James Joyce:

February 3

James Michener (born 1907) – U.S. novelist – Tales of the South Pacific (1948)

CSpan interview of Stephen May, biographer of Michener.

February 4

Betty Friedan (born 1921) – U.S. writer, feminist – The Feminist Mystique (1963)

Betty Friedan speaking at the August 26, 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality march in New York (at 00:58)

Betty Friedan speaking in 1970

February 5

Jovan Dučić (born 1871) – Bosnian Serb poet – Meeting (poem)

Serb language version of Meeting / Сусрет with English translation help from Duya

Једне се ноћи беше срела One night
На једној зрачној стази, On a track in the air
Душа у небо што се пела, A soul that had climbed to the sky
И ангел што на свет слази. Met an angel descending to earth.
Ангел исприча причу сјајну The angel told a great story
Шта су небески врти, About heavenly gardens
А душа целе земље тајну: And the soul told the secret of the world:
Магију љубави и смрти. The magic of love and death.
И осмехну се ангел потом And the angel smiled
На царство вечних зрака; O’er the realm of everlasting rays;
Душа заплака за лепотом While the soul wept for the beauty
Игре светлости и мрака. Of the game of light and darkness

February 6

Christopher Marlowe (born 1564) – British playwright, Shakespeare’s contemporary – Doctor Faustus

Excerpt from Doctor Faustus in Act 5, Scene 1:

Enter Helen again, passing over between two cupids.
Was this the face that launched a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul; see where it flies.
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena.
I will be Paris, and for love of thee,
Instead of Troy shall Wittenberg be sacked,
And I will combat with weak Menelaus,
And wear thy colours on my plumed crest.
Yea, I will wound Achilles in the heel,
And then return to Helen for a kiss.
O, thou art fairer than the evening’s air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars.
Brighter art thou then flaming Jupiter,
When he appeared to hapless Semele,
More lovely than the Monarch of the sky,
In wanton Arethusa’s azure arms,
And none but thou shalt be my paramour.

February 7

Charles Dickens (born 1812) – British novelist, journalist, short story writer – Bleak House

John Leech illustration from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

George Cruikshank


Eubie (James Hubert) Blake (born 1883) – U.S. jazz composer, lyricist – Shuffle Along (Broadway Musical, 1921)

Listen to Eubie Blake talk about his early days and ragtime music in this 1970 interview:

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