Literary Birthdays – Week of October 25 – 31

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Sunday October 25

Geoffrey Chaucer (b. 1342 or 1343) British writer – The Canterbury Tales

Excerpt from Troilus and Cressida

“When that the cock, commune astrologer,
Gan on his breast to beat, and after crow,
And Lucifer, the daye’s messenger,
Gan for to rise, and out his beames throw;
And eastward rose, to him that could it know,
Fortuna Major,  then anon Cresseide,
With hearte sore, to Troilus thus said:

“My hearte’s life, my trust, and my pleasance!
That I was born, alas! that me is woe,
That day of us must make disseverance!
For time it is to rise, and hence to go,
Or else I am but lost for evermo’.
O Night! alas! why n’ilt thou o’er us hove,
As long as when Alcmena lay by Jove?

“O blacke Night! as folk in bookes read
That shapen art by God, this world to hide,
At certain times, with thy darke weed,
That under it men might in rest abide,
Well oughte beastes plain, and folke chide,
That where as Day with labour would us brest,
There thou right flee’st, and deignest not us rest.

“Thou dost, alas! so shortly thine office,
Thou rakel Night! that God, maker of kind,
Thee for thy haste and thine unkinde vice,
So fast ay to our hemisphere bind,
That never more under the ground thou wind;
For through thy rakel hieing out of Troy
Have I forgon thus hastily my joy!”

This Troilus, that with these wordes felt,
As thought him then, for piteous distress,
The bloody teares from his hearte melt,
As he that never yet such heaviness
Assayed had out of so great gladness,
Gan therewithal Cresside, his lady dear,
In armes strain, and said in this mannere:

“O cruel Day! accuser of the joy
That Night and Love have stol’n, and fast y-wrien!
Accursed be thy coming into Troy!
For ev’ry bow’r hath one of thy bright eyen:
Envious Day! Why list thee to espyen?
What hast thou lost? Why seekest thou this place?
There God thy light so quenche, for his grace!

“Alas! what have these lovers thee aguilt?
Dispiteous Day, thine be the pains of hell!
For many a lover hast thou slain, and wilt;
Thy peering in will nowhere let them dwell:

————————-

Anne Tyler (b. 1941) – U.S. novelist – The Accidental Tourist

Monday October 26

Shan Sa (b. 1972) – French-Chinese novelist, poet, artist – The Girl Who Played Go

Read about Shan Sa here

Read an excerpt from Shan Sa’s novel Empress:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5409751

Watch a French talk show interview of Shan Sa discussing her novel
Empress (Imperatrice, 2009) here

Tuesday October 27

Nawa El Sadawi
Nawal El Saadawi (Arabic: نوال السعداوى‎) (b. 1931) – Egyptian novelist, essayist –

Read about Nawa El Saadawi here

‘I am becoming more radical with age,” says Nawal El Saadawi, laughing. “I have noticed that writers, when they are old, become milder. But for me it is the opposite. Age makes me more angry.”

[The Guardian, April 15, 2010]

Watch Nawal El Saadawi on BookTV “Creativity is not just writing”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxBR4C156D0&feature=related]


Wednesday October 28

Ayi Kwei Armah (b. 1939) – Ghanaian novelist, poet – Two Thousand Seasons

Watch the Pyramid Books review of Two Thousand Seasons:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B4Z39nLLT0

Listen to An Evening with Brother Ayi Kwei Armah (47 min.)

http://www.archive.org/details/AnEvieningWithBrotherAyiKwieArmah

Thursday October 29

Zbigniew Herbert (b. 1924) – Polish poet, playwright

A Knocker

There are those who grow
gardens in their heads
paths lead from their hair
to sunny and white cities

it’s easy for them to write
they close their eyes
immediately schools of images
stream down their foreheads

my imagination
is a piece of board
my sole instrument
is a wooden stick

I strike the board
it answers me
yes–yes
no–no

for others the green bell of a tree
the blue bell of water
I have a knocker
from unprotected gardens

I thump on the board
and it prompts me
with the moralists dry poem
yes–yes
no–no

Listen to a description of Herbert  and the
English translation of “My Word”

or watch this video interpretation of Herbert’s
“I Would Like To Describe”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9WRQPlPNr0

I would like to describe
the simplest emotion
joy or sadness
but not as others do
reaching for shafts of rain or sun

I would like to describe a light
which is being born in me
but I know it does not resemble
any star
for it is not so bright
not so pure
and is uncertain

I would like to describe courage
without dragging behind me a dusty lion
and also anxiety
without shaking a glass full of water

to put it another way
I would give all metaphors
in return for one word
drawn out of my breast like a rib
for one word
contained within the boundaries
of my skin

but apparently this is not possible

and just to say — I love
I run around like mad
picking up handfuls of birds
and my tenderness
which after all is not made of water
asks the water for a face

and anger
different from fire
borrows from it
a loquacious tongue

so is blurred
so is blurred
in me
what white-haired gentleman
separated once and for all
and said
this in the subject
this is the object

we fall asleep
with one hand under our head
and with the other in a mound of planets

our feet abandon us
and taste the earth
with their tiny roots
which next morning
we tear out painfully .

———————————–

Friday October 30

Grace Slick (Grace Barnett Wing) (b. 1939) – U.S. singer/songwriter (The Jefferson Airplane)

Watch Grace Slick talk about her life:

———————————————

Saturday October 31

John Keats (b. 1795) – English poet

Read the Authors Calendar biography of Keats:

https://web.archive.org/web/20150303121405/http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/jkeats.htm

Read some of Keats’ letters here:

http://englishhistory.net/keats/letters.html

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