Literary Birthdays – August 23 – 29

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August 23

Nazik al-Mala’ika (b. 1922) – Iraqi poet, essayist – “Love Song for Words” in Modern Arabic Poetry

Read the excellent biography of Nazik al-Malaika at Authors Calendar:

Read about Nazik al-Malaika’s legacy

Read an academic paper on Nazik al-Malaika’s poetry

Love Song for Words

Why do we fear words?
They can be rose-petal hands
Cool, fragrant hands stroking our faces
And sometimes cups of refreshing drink
Sipped in summer by thirsty lips.

Why do we fear words?
Some words are secret bells, the echoes
of their tone announce the start of a magic
And abundant time
Steeped in feeling and life,
So why should we fear words?

We took to silence
We did not want our secrets to pass our lips
We thought that words amassed an unseen monster
Pent up inside the letters, hiding from the ear of time
So we battened down the words
And did not let them spread the night for us
With a pillow of music, fragrance, hopes,
And warm cups.

Why do we fear words?

Read the entire poem here

August 24

Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges (b. 1899) – Argentinian poet, essayist, story writer – Labyrinths

Read about Jorge Luis Borges here:

Listen to an excerpt of Borges’ lectures at Harvard University:

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry (born August 24, 1957) – U.K. comedian, novelist, nonfiction author – The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within (2005)

Read the Wikipedia article about Stephen Fry here

Watch a classic comedy sketch with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie:

August 25

Charles Wright (b. 1935) – U.S. poet – “River Run” from A Short History of the Shadow: Poems

Listen to Charles Wright’s melodic voice as he reads his poems [20 minutes]:

Transcendence is a young man’s retreat,
and resides in a place
Beyond place, vasty, boundless.
It hums, unlike the beauty of the world,
without pause, without mercy.

If it’s an absence, it’s we who are absent, not it.
If it’s past cold and colorless,
it’s we who are colorless, not it.
If it’s hidden, it’s we who hide.

March is our medicine,
we take it at morning, we take it at night.
It, too, is colorless, it, too, is cold and past tense.
But it’s here, and so are we.

Each waits for deliverance.
March, however, unlike ourselves, knows what to expect—
April again in his Joseph coat.

The seasons don’t care for us. For them,
transcendence is merely raiment,
And never a second thought.
Poor us, they think, poor us in our marly shoes,
poor us in our grass hair.

In spite of armchair and omelette,
In spite of the daily paradise and quid pro quo,
Like Lorca, I wait for
the things of the other side,
A little river of come and go,
A heartbeat of sorts, a watch tick, a splash in the night.

Wherever I turn, everything looks unworldly
the stars in their empty boxes, the lights
Of the high houses glowing like stones
Through the thrones of the trees,
the river hushed in a brown study.

What isn’t available is always what’s longed for,
It’s written, erased, then written again.
Thus Lost and Unknown,
Thus Master of the Undeciphered Parchment, thus Hail and Farewell.
It’s not the bullet that kills you, as the song goes,
it’s the hole.
It’s not the water you’ve got to cross, it’s the river.

Read some poems by Charles Wright in the Blackbird journal:

August 26

Mother Teresa (Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu) (b. 1910) – Albanian/Macedonian Catholic nun, humanitarian, teacher, 1979 Nobel Peace Prize winner – Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light – The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta
Mother Teresa

“To be somebody to somebody”
Watch Mother Teresa preach about love:

Read a biography of Mother Teresa here:

August 27


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (b. 1770) – German philosopher – Science of Logic [3 volumes] (1812-1817)

August 28

Tasha Tudor (b. 1915) – U.S. children’s book illustrator, author – Edgar Allan Crow (1953)

Read about Tasha Tudor at the Gracious Hospitality blog (June 18, 2008):

Tasha Tudor

Read about a 2014 celebration of Tasha Tudor’s birthday here

August 29

Dorothy Tennov (b. 1928) – U.S. psychologist –Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love (1979)

Read a definition of limerence here:


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