Literary Birthdays – Week of April 19 – 25

April 19

Etheridge Knight (b. 1931) – U.S. poet

The Idea of Ancestry

Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black
faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead), grand-
fathers (both dead), brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,
cousins (1st and 2nd), nieces, and nephews.They stare
across the space at me sprawling on my bunk.I know
their dark eyes, they know mine.I know their style,
they know mine.I am all of them, they are all of me;
they are farmers, I am a thief, I am me, they are thee.

I have at one time or another been in love with my mother,
1 grandmother, 2 sisters, 2 aunts (1 went to the asylum),
and 5 cousins.I am now in love with a 7-yr-old niece
(she sends me letters in large block print, and
her picture is the only one that smiles at me).

I have the same name as 1 grandfather, 3 cousins, 3 nephews,
and 1 uncle. The uncle disappeared when he was 15, just took
off and caught a freight (they say).He’s discussed each year
when the family has a reunion, he causes uneasiness in
the clan, he is an empty space.My father’s mother, who is 93
and who keeps the Family Bible with everbody’s birth dates
(and death dates) in it, always mentions him.There is no
place in her Bible for “whereabouts unknown.”

See Etheridge Knight recite some of his prison poems on YouTube:


Gad Elmaleh (born April 19, 1971) – Moroccan French stand-up comedian, actor – “L’autre c’est moi” / I’m the other guy (one-man show)

See Gad Elmaleh speak of his work and perform (in French) on YouTube:

April 20
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

John Paul Stevens (b.1920) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice – Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006)
Excerpt from Stevens’ opinion in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld:
Petitioner Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni national, is in custody at an American prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. … For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the military commission convened to try Hamdan lacks power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate both the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions.
* * *

The charge against Hamdan, described in detail in Part I, supra, alleges a conspiracy extending over a number of years, from 1996 to November 2001.30 All but two months of that more than 5-year-long period preceded the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the enactment of the AUMF—the Act of Congress on which the Government relies for exercise of its war powers and thus for its authority to convene military commissions.31 Neither the purported agreement with Osama bin Laden and others to commit war crimes, nor a single overt act, is alleged to have occurred in a theater of war or on any specified date after September 11, 2001. None of the overt acts that Hamdan is alleged to have committed violates the law of war.

These facts alone cast doubt on the legality of the charge and, hence, the commission; as Winthrop makes plain, the offense alleged must have been committed both in a theater of war and during, not before, the relevant conflict. But the deficiencies in the time and place allegations also underscore—indeed are symptomatic of—the most serious defect of this charge: The offense it alleges is not triable by law-of-war military commission. See Yamashita, 327 U. S., at 13 (“Neither congressional action nor the military orders constituting the commission authorized it to place petitioner on trial unless the charge proffered against him is of a violation of the law of war”).32

There is no suggestion that Congress has, in exercise of its constitutional authority to “define and punish . . . Offences against the Law of Nations,” U. S. Const., Art. I, §8, cl. 10, positively identified “conspiracy” as a war crime.33 … To demand any less would be to risk concentrating in military hands a degree of adjudicative and punitive power in excess of that contemplated either by statute or by the Constitution. Cf. Loving v. United States, 517 U. S. 748, 771 (1996) (acknowledging that Congress “may not delegate the power to make laws”); Reid, 354 U. S., at 23–24 (“The Founders envisioned the army as a necessary institution, but one dangerous to liberty if not confined within its essential bounds”); The Federalist No. 47, p. 324 (J. Cooke ed. 1961) (J. Madison) (“The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands … may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny”).34

Read the Wall Street Journal article about Justice Stevens’ opinion as to who Shakespeare really was:

John OstranderJohn Ostrander (b. 1949) – U.S. comic book writer – Suicide Squad (1987 comic series)

ostrander-sscover grimj-ostrander grimcover

April 21

Charlotte Bronte (b. 1816) – British novelist – Jane Eyre (1847)

Excerpt from Jane Eyre:
“Am I a liar in your eyes?” he asked passionately. “Little sceptic, you shall be convinced. What love have I for Miss Ingram? None: and that you know. What love has she for me? None: as I have taken pains to prove: I caused a rumour to reach her that my fortune was not a third of what was supposed, and after that I presented myself to see the result; it was coldness both from her and her mother. I would not — I could not — marry Miss Ingram. You — you strange, you almost unearthly thing! — I love as my own flesh. You — poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are — I entreat to accept me as a husband.”
“What, me!” I ejaculated, beginning in his earnestness — and especially in his incivility — to credit his sincerity: “me who have not a friend in the world but you- if you are my friend: not a shilling but what you have given me?”
“You, Jane, I must have you for my own — entirely my own. Will you be mine? Say yes, quickly.”
“Mr. Rochester, let me look at your face: turn to the moonlight.”
“Because I want to read your countenance — turn!”
“There! you will find it scarcely more legible than a crumpled, scratched page. Read on: only make haste, for I suffer.”
His face was very much agitated and very much flushed, and there were strong workings in the features, and strange gleams in the eyes
“Oh, Jane, you torture me!” he exclaimed. “With that searching and yet faithful and generous look, you torture me!”
“How can I do that? If you are true, and your offer real, my only feelings to you must be gratitude and devotion — they cannot torture.”
“Gratitude!” he ejaculated; and added wildly — “Jane accept me quickly. Say, Edward — give me my name — Edward — I will marry you.”
“Are you in earnest? Do you truly love me? Do you sincerely wish me to be your wife?”
“I do; and if an oath is necessary to satisfy you, I swear it.”
“Then, sir, I will marry you.”
“Edward — my little wife!”
“Dear Edward!”

April 22
Immanuel Kant (b. 1724) – German philosopher – The Critique of Pure Reason

Excerpt from Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason

There is nothing actually given–we can be conscious of nothing as real, except a perception and the empirical progression from it to other possible perceptions.

For phenomena, as mere representations, are real only in perception; and perception is, in fact, nothing but the reality of an empirical representation, that is, a phenomenon.

To call a phenomenon a real thing prior to perception means either that we must meet with this phenomenon in the progress of experience, or it means nothing at all. For I can say only of a thing in itself that it exists without relation to the senses and experience.

But we are speaking here merely of phenomena in space and time, both of which are determinations of sensibility, and not of things in themselves. It follows that phenomena are not things in themselves, but are mere representations, which if not given in us–in perception–are non-existent.

Vladimir Nabokov (born April 22, 1899) – Russian novelist, short story writer, poet – Lolita (1955)

Excerpt from Lolita:
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

April 23
William Shakespeare (b. 1564; baptized April 26, 1564) – English playwright, poet – Hamlet (1600)

Sonnet 130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,
Coral is far more red, than her lips red,
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun:
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head:
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks,
And in some perfumes is there more delight,
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet by heaven I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.

Listen to Alan Rickman recite Sonnet 130 in a YouTube montage:

April 24
carl-spitteler Carl (Friedrich Georg) Spitteler (pseudonym Carl Felix Tandem) (b. 1845) – Swiss poet, essayist, 1919 Nobel Prize winner – Olympian Spring

April 25

Albert Uderzo (b. 1927) – French comic book artist, scriptwriter – Asterix


Fish (Derek William Dick) (b. 1958) – Scottish singer/songwriter

Excerpt of Fugazi Lyrics:
Vodka intimate, an affair
with isolation in a Blackheath cell,
extinguishing the fires in a private hell,
provoking the heartache to renew the licence
of a bleeding heart poet in a fragile capsule
propping up the crust of the glitter conscience
wrapped in the christening shawl of a hangover,
baptised in the tears from the real, tears from the real
drowning in the liquid seize on the Piccadilly line,
rat race, scuttling through the damp electric labyrinth,
caress Ophelias hand with breathstroke ambition,
an albatross in the marrytime tradition,
sheathed within the walkman wear the halo of distortion,
aural contraceptive aborting pregnant conversation,
she turned the harpoon and it pierced my heart
she hung herself around my neck.

* * *
d-d-do you realise? D-d-do you realise?
D-d-do you realise, this world is totally fugazi?
where are the prophets, where are the visionaries,
where are the poets, to breach the dawn
of the sentimental mercenary.

Photo montage w/ FISH singing Cliche love song on YouTube:


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