Literary Birthdays – March 7 – 13

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March 7

Robin Becker (b. 1951) – U.S. poet – Domain of Perfect Affection (2006)

Read about Robin Becker here

Excerpt from “Why We Fear the Amish”

Because they are secretly Jewish and eat matzoh on Saturday.
Because they smell us in fellowship with the dead works
of darkness and technology. Because we doubt ourselves.
We find their clothing remorseless; we find their beards unsanitary.
Who among us is not ashamed, speeding, to come upon a poor
horse pulling a cart uphill, everyone dressed the same?
We believe in the state and they believe in the button.

With their fellow Pennsylvanians, the Quakers, they hold noisy pep rallies.
They know the quilting bee, the honey bee and the husking bee
are the only proper activites for women.
Even their bones are thrifty and willing to starve for Christ.
In the Poconos, the men vacation with Hassidim and try on
each other’s coats. Back home, no tractors with pneumatic tires.
Pity the child who wants a radio and must settle for a thermos.

Read the entire poem here

Excerpt from “My Mother’s Sweet Tooth”

A last go at pleasure
she takes the world into her mouth,
she takes the sour cream coffee cake and
the rugelach with walnuts and currents.
She wants a pecan raisin loaf, two loaves,
See’s suckers, and almond mandlebread,
and I’ll take her hunger any way I can,
mainlining my mother’s desires, finding
in her appetites the young woman—
tortoise-shell sunglasses and dark hair
pulled back in a silk scarf—
who gunned the white Ford Galaxy hard-top
convertible, a ringer for Jackie O.

Read the entire poem at Elsa Dorfman’s website

Listen to Robin Becker read from her work at

Vanderbilt University (45 mins)

and at Boston College (1 hour)

March 8

Carole Bayer Sager (b. 1947) – U.S. songwriter

Read about Carole Bayer Sager

Visit Carole Bayer Sager’s website

Groovy Kind of Love (1965)

When I’m feeling blue, all I have to do
Is take a look at you, then I’m not so blue
When you’re close to me, I can feel your heart beat
I can hear you breathing near my ear
Wouldn’t you agree, baby you and me got a groovy kind of love

Anytime you want to you can turn me onto
Anything you want to, anytime at all
When I kiss your lips, ooh I start to shiver
Can’t control the quivering inside
Wouldn’t you agree, baby you and me got a groovy kind of love, oh

When I’m feeling blue, all I have to do
Is take a look at you, then I’m not so blue
When I’m in your arms, nothing seems to matter
My whole world could shatter, I don’t care
Wouldn’t you agree, baby you and me got a groovy kind of love
We got a groovy kind of love
We got a groovy kind of love, oh
We got a groovy kind of love

Watch Kady Malloy sing Groovy Kind of Love

That’s What Friends Are For (1982)

And I, never thought I’d feel this way
And as far as I’m concerned
I’m glad I got the chance to say
That I do believe I love you

And if, I should ever go away
Well then close your eyes and try
To feel the way we do today
And then if you can remember

Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for

Well you came and opened me
And now there’s so much more I see
And so by the way I thank you

And then, for the times when we’re apart
Well then close your eyes and know
These words are coming from my heart
And then if you can remember

Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends are for

In good times, in bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for

Watch the videos:
Gladys Knight, Elton John, Stevie Wonder & Dionne Warwick sing That’s What Friends Are For (1988)

Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross & Whitney Houston sing That’s What Friends Are For

The Prayer (1997)

I pray you’ll be our eyes, and watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise in times when we don’t know.
Let this be our prayer, when we lose our way.
Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

La luce che tu dai
Nel cuore restera
A ricordarci che
L’eterna stella sei.

I pray we’ll find your light,
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night,
Remind us where you are..

Nella mia preghiera
Quanta fede c’e.
Lead us to a place ?

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Guide us with your grace

Give us faith so we’ll be safe.

Sogniamo un mondo senza piu violenza,
Un mondo di giustizia e di speranza.
Ognuno dia una mano al suo vicino,
Simbolo di pace…di fraternita.

La forza che ci dai
E desiderio te
Ognuno trovi amor
Intorno e dentro se.
Let this be our prayer,
Just like every child.

We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above.
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love.
Let this be our prayer,
Just like every child.

Needs to find a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe
E la fede che hai acceso in noi
Sento che ci salverai…

Watch Celine Dion and Josh Groban sing The Prayer

March 9

Tecumseh (b. 1768) – Shawnee Indian leader, orator

Read a short biography here

Read about Tecumseh in the Los Indios blog

Read about Tecumseh and the Red Sticks War

Excerpt from Chief Tecumseh’s Address
to General William Henry Harrison (ca. 1810)

The way, the only way to stop this evil, is for the red people to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land, as it was at first, and should be now — for it was never divided, but belongs to all.

No tribe has the right to sell, even to each other, much less to strangers.

Sell a country?! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?

How can we have confidence in the white people? We have good and just reasons to believe we have ample grounds to accuse the Americans of injustice, especially when such great acts of injustice have been committed by them upon our race, of which they seem to have no manner of regard, or even to reflect.

Read more here
and here

Earthquake prophecy and rebellion: Read how Tecumseh brought distant tribes ta a central place of battle (Detroit) in 1811 – 1812

Each slab was to be of the same length, thickness and taper, and each was to have carved , on one side only, the same symbols. The slabs were to be made of red cedar and each was to be accompanied by a bundle of thin red sticks. Each of the red sticks was to represent one moon, and, when the bundle and slab was given to a particular chief, he would be directed to throw away one of the red sticks at each full moon until only the slab itself remained, at which time he must prepare for the great sign to be given.

…Now the great Shawnee leader was beginning his swing  northwestward through the Alabama country to seek the important alliance formation with the powerful Upper Creek nation. From there he would move west, heading into the Mississippi land and Louisiana, then again northward on the west side of the mother of rivers to Missouri again. And along the way, he would stop to win over the Natchez and Yazoo, the Tawakonias and Caddos and others.

But first the Upper Creeks. Big Warrior, principal chief of the Upper Creeks, listened with a disapproving frown as Tecumseh told his people of his great plan, its near culmination and the part he wished them to play in it. There could be no doubt of his jealousy of this Shawnee who could come from hundreds of miles away and sway his people so swiftly with his reputation and his elocution.  Sensing his jealousy, Tecumseh became scornful. He looked first at the large crowd, and then he swung his gaze to Big Warrior.

“Your blood is white!” he said. “You have taken my talk and the sticks and the wampum and the hatchet, but you do not mean to fight. I know the reason. You do not believe the Great Spirit has sent me. You shall know. I leave Tuckabatchee directly and shall go to Detroit. When I arrive there, I will stamp on the ground with my foot, and shake down every house in Tuckabatchee!”

Impressed in spite of himself, Big Warrior thereupon agreed to come and join the amalgamation — if and when the houses of Tuckabatchee all fell down.

Excerpt from Panther Across the Sky by David Yarrow

March 10


(Emily) Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (b. 1861) – Canadian First Nations poet, short-story writer – The Legends of Vancouver (1911)

Read the Widipedia biography of Pauline Johnson

Read more about Tekahionwake

Excerpt from “The Recluse” in The Legends of Vancouver

“What do your own tribes, those east of the great mountains, think of twin children?”

I shook my head.

“That is enough,” he said before I could reply. “I see, your people do not like them. ”

“Twin children are almost unknown with us,” I hastened. “They are rare, very rare; but it is true we do not welcome them.”

“Why?” he asked abruptly. I was a little uncertain about telling him. If I said the wrong thing, the coming tale might die on his lips before it was born to speech, but we understood each other so well that I finally ventured the truth:

“We Iroquois say that twin children are as rabbits,” I explained. “The nation always nicknames the parents ‘Tow- wan-da-na-ga.’ That is Mohawk for rabbit.”

“Is that all?” he asked curiously.

“That is all. Is it not enough to render twin children unwelcome?” I questioned.

He thought a while, then, with evident desire to learn how all races regarded this occurrence, he said, “You have been much among the Pale-faces; what do they say of twins?”

“Oh! the Pale-faces like them. They are – they are – oh! well, they say they are very proud of having twins,” I stammered. Once again I was hardly sure of my ground. He looked most incredulous, and I was led to enquire what his own people of the Squarnish thought of this discussed problem.

“It is no pride to us,” he said decidedly, “nor yet is it a disgrace of rabbits; but it is a fearsome thing – a sign of coming evil to the father, and, worse than that, of coming disaster to the tribe.”

Then I know he held in his heart some strange incident that gave substance to the superstition. “Won’t you tell it to me?” I begged.


Beyond a ridge of pine with russet tips
The west lifts to the sun her longing lips,

Her blushes stain with gold and garnet dye
The shore, the river and the wide far sky;

Like floods of wine the waters filter through
The reeds that brush our indolent canoe.

I beach the bow where sands in shadows lie;
You hold my hand a space, then speak good-bye.

Upwinds your pathway through the yellow plumes
Of goldenrod, profuse in August blooms,

And o’er its tossing sprays you toss a kiss;
A moment more, and I see only this–

The idle paddle you so lately held,
The empty bow your pliant wrist propelled,

Some thistles purpling into violet,
Their blossoms with a thousand thorns afret,

And like a cobweb, shadowy and grey,
Far floats their down–far drifts my dream away.


March 11

11193742-large Ezra Jack Keats (b. 1916) – U.S. children’s book author and illustrator – The Snowy Day (1962)

Read the Wikipedia biography of Ezra Jack Keats

Watch a YouTube biography of
Ezra Jack Keats (student project)

Jean “Binta” Breeze (b. 1956) – Jamaican-U.K. poet, novelist, screenwriter

Read about Jean Breeze


from a standpipe in a basement
days of
dirty bundles
by a cistern

swollen feet
clawed on cracks
in the hot gutter

lizard eyes
of women
fixed in worship
on the mouth
of god
which coughed its
chronic lumps
of air
begging them for

back to a standpipe in a tenement
we set drums
to catch the rain

it didn’t rain
we trekked miles
to the river

the river dried
the trucks came
once or twice

then stopped

we marched
to see the councillor

who told us ‘sorry
my party’s not
in power’

Watch Jean Breeze read her poem “Third World Blues”

“…would that nutmeg choke their opia, and the dust of cinnamon lift their prints as evidence for babes now growing in an island’s belly …”

Jean Breeze Jamaican-izes Chaucer

March 12

Tian Han 田汉 (b. 1898) – Chinese revolutionary playwright, poet, librettist, lyricist (words for the Chinese National Anthem “March of the Volunteers”) – The White Snake (opera) xq30_01

Read about Tian Han and his part in China’s National Anthem in Liang Luo’s excellent blog article

Tian Han came to conceive the film story Fengyun ernü (Lovers in Troubled Times) which the future National Anthem emerged from … For the “lovers in troubled times” in Shanghai, physical sacrifice and anti-Japanese activism seem to substitute for sexual intercourse. The sexual energy between the young men and the young girl is further disguised as educational zeal to mold the virgin girl into a modern woman. … The overflow of sexual energy and the mutually beneficial sexual relationship between the poet and the femme fatale further illustrate the uneasiness surrounding the platonic relationship between the young men and the virgin.”

Read the Wikipedia article about China’s National Anthem

Arise! All who refuse to be slaves!
Let our flesh and blood become our new Great Wall!
As the Chinese nation faces its greatest peril,
All forcefully expend their last cries.
Arise! Arise! Arise!
Our million hearts beat as one,
Brave the enemy’s fire, March on!
Brave the enemy’s fire, March on!
March on! March on! On!

Read about Tian Han’s revolutionary Peking Opera adaptation of the Tang Dynasty story, White Snake

Read more about The Legend of White Snake

“Tian Han’s opera is not particularly political. But there are respects in which we can see a political or social message. For instance, like many other operas in the 1950s and later in China, he appears to be pressing for women’s rights and participation in politics by showing the wife as such a strong and positive character who dares fight against the evil abbot when her husband is willing to give in.”

March 13


Mahmoud Darwish (Arabic: محمود درويش‎) (b. 1941) – Palestinian poet, political activist – Unfortunately, It Was Paradise

Read the Wikipedia biography of Mahmoud Darwish

Read the Authors Calendar article about Mahmoud Darwish

Psalm Three

On the day when my words
were earth…
I was a friend to stalks of wheat.

On the day when my words
were wrath
I was a friend to chains.

On the day when my words
were stones
I was a friend to streams.

On the day when my words
were a rebellion
I was a friend to earthquakes.

On the day when my words
were bitter apples
I was a friend to the optimist.

But when my words became
flies covered
my lips!…

(Translated by Ben Bennani)

Read more poems by Mahmoud Darwish at

Read a eulogy to Mahmoud Darwish

He protested the view that ‘Palestinians are supposed to be dedicated to one subject — liberating Palestine. This is a prison. We’re human, we love, we fear death, we enjoy the first flowers of spring. So to express this is resistance against having our subject dictated to us. If I write love poems, I resist the conditions that don’t allow me to write love poems.’ ”

Read Darwish’s poems
“We Are Entitled To Love Autumn” and “A Gypsy Melody”

First part of Darwish’s “Identity Card”

Write down!
I am an Arab
And my identity card number is fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth will come after a summer
Will you be angry?

Write down!
I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks …
I do not supplicate charity at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?

Read the entire poem here:

Watch an Al Jazeera video tribute to Mahmoud Darwish

Athens Airport (excerpt)

Athens airport disperses us to other airports. Where can I fight? asks the fighter.
Where can I deliver your child? a pregnant woman shouts back.
Where can I invest my money? asks the officer.
This is none of my business, the intellectual says.
Where did you come from? asks the customs’ official.
And we answer: From the sea!
Where are you going?
To the sea, we answer.
What is your address?
A woman of our group says: My village is my bundle on my back.
We have waited in the Athens airport for years.

Read the entire poem on the Gaza Mom blog:


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