LitBirthdays March 13 – 19, 2011

March is

Women’s History Month


Small Press Month

Tweet us today with author birthdays!

March 13

André Téchiné (born March 13, 1943 – French filmmaker, screenwriter – La Fille du RER / The Girl on the Train (2009)

Read about Andre Techine here and here



Born March 13

Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet (born March 13, 1941)

Common, U.S. rapper (born March 13, 1972)



March 14

27-march-3pm-pam-ayres-king Pam Ayres (born March 14, 1947) – U.K. poet, comedienne

Read about Pam Ayres here and here

Watch Pam Ayres perform



Born March 14

Horton Foote, Jr., U.S. playwright/screenwriter (born March 14, 1916)

Caryl Phillips, Caribbean novelist (born March 14, 1958)



March 15


Ben Okri (born March 15, 1959) – Nigerian poet, novelist

Read about Ben Okri here

Read Okri’s controversial “Mental Tyranny” essay:

The black and African writer is expected to write about certain things, and if they don’t they are seen as irrelevant. This gives their literature weight, but dooms it with monotony. Who wants to constantly read a literature of suffering, of heaviness? Those living through it certainly don’t; the success of much lighter fare among the reading public in Africa proves this point. Maybe it is those in the west, whose lives are untouched by such suffering, who find occasional spice and flirtation with such a literature. But this tyranny of subject may well lead to distortion and limitation.

Read a blog review of Okri’s essay collection, A Way of Being Free

The book contains 12 essays from Ben that were written over a ten-year period.

… these essays remind me so much of his talk the passion he invokes for the reader and how he said it is for the reader to interpret the writers words not for the writer to tell the reader.  Another essay dealt with Othello and why he is still played from time to time by white actors, when the role is a moor, ben asks do people still have a fear of a single black man on the stage in a lead role…

Watch Ben Okri speak of and read from his writings

The World Is Rich
(in video at minute 5:15)

The tell me that
the world is rich
with terror

I say
the world is rich
with love unfound

It’s inside us
and all around

Terror is there
no doubt
violence, hunger, and drought

that no longer flow
to the sea

It’s the shadow
of humanity

There’s terror in the air
and we have put it there

We have made
God into
an enemy

have made
God into
a weapon
of poverty
of blindness
an army

But the world is rich
with great love

Even in the terror
there is love
twisted round and round

Set it free
River, flow
to the sea



Born March 15

Veronica Maggio, Swedish songwriter (born March 15, 1981), Jamaican-American songwriter (born March 15, 1975)

Madelyn Pugh, U.S. television writer – I Love Lucy series (born March 15, 1921)



March 16

Zoe Jenny

Zoe Jenny (born March 16, 1974) – Swiss/U.K. author – The Sky Is Changing (2010)

Read the Wikipedia article about Zoe Jenny

Read Jim Murdoch’s blog about Zoe Jenny and her novel The Sky Is Changing

Zoë Jenny sat down to write looking to find some kind of catharsis, which she did. She also found that writing in English for the first time was a help:

I think it is a process of emancipation. I always wanted to free myself from the shackles of my mother tongue. Swiss German is a language few understand – I learned High German in school and wrote my first four books in that language, but I never truly felt ‘at home’ in it. The English language suits my writing very well. German is very analytical – an excellent language for philosophy but not necessarily for narrative and telling stories. I feel I can write much more freely in English.



 Born March 16

Sully Prudhomme, French poet, winner of the first Nobel Prize for Literature (1901) (born March 16, 1839)

Richard Matthew Stallman, U.S. computer software designer (born March 16, 1953)

James Madison, U.S. President, contributing author, U.S. Constitution (born March 16, 1751)



March 17



Born March 17

Yokomitsu Riichi (横光 利一) Japanese novelist (born March 17, 1898)



March 18


Luc Besson (born March 18, 1959) – French film director, screenwriter – The Transporter (2002)

Read the Wikipedia article for Luc Besson



Born March 18

Christa Wolf, German novelist (born March 18, 1929)

John Updike, U.S. novelist (born March 18, 1932)



March 19


John Burnside (born March 19, 1955) – Scottish novelist, poet

Read about John Burnside here and here

Read an interview where Burnside speaks of his father

‘When my son was born, I went back to visit my aunt in Fife. When you have a child, you think about your personal history and what you offer them as a larger narrative and I realised I knew nothing about my father’s circumstances other than what he’d told me.’

Burnside knew his father had been adopted as a baby. What he learned from his aunt was that his father had been a foundling, left on a Fife doorstep in 1926.

‘It made me think differently about him because he’d had to suffer things that, had he told me about them, I might have been more forgiving of his behaviour. I started writing this partly because I needed to work out how I felt about my father now that I knew his history.’

Read a review of Burnside’s memoir Waking Up in Toytown

Burnside has an ability to lend a beauty to the mundane and the debased. Early on he describes how Harry, a companion at an AA meeting, ‘sat there, his face and hands soft?…?the way they might have been for a lost child or a bird trapped in a conservatory’. The characters we meet, no matter how ordinary their circumstances, are afforded a dignity and are convincingly rendered …


As cats bring their smiling
mouse-kills and hypnotised birds,
slinking home under the light
of a summer’s morning
to offer the gift of a corpse,

you carry home the snake you thought
was sunning itself on a rock
at the river’s edge:
sun-fretted, gracile,
it shimmies and sways in your hands
like a muscle of light,
and you gather it up like a braid
for my admiration.

I can’t shake the old wife’s tale
that snakes never die,
they hang in a seamless dream
of frogskin and water,
preserving a ribbon of heat
in a bone or a vein,
a cold-blooded creature’s
promise of resurrection,

and I’m amazed to see you shuffle off
the woman I’ve know for years,
tracing the lithe, hard body, the hinge of the jaw,
the tension where sex might be, that I always assume
is neuter, when I walk our muffled house
at nightfall, throwing switches, locking doors.

An essay concerning religion
I    God BlessAllergic to salt,
or language,
they sit out the conflict

in angles that barely exist,

expressed as the pity we feel
for the lost in our children:

leftovers; chess pieces; undershirts hanging to dry
in misted bathrooms.

On winter nights, they come in from the dark
to lamplight
and the yellow aftermath

of aniseed and cow-gum:
windswept, untouched,
but meshed, one with another,

a history
of silk

and listening,
not quite
pity, after all,

but how we manage love
on laundry days:

T-shirts and gym shoes,
flowers of grease on a tie,
the facts we would need, to recover, in any event,

the shape of foreboding, the caught breath
of all shall be well


(continued here)



Born March 19

Valerio Zurlini, Italian filmmaker, screenwriter (born March 19, 1926)

Philip Roth, U.S. novelist (born March 19, 1933)



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