Today is Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. It’s the birthday of poet W. H. Auden and writers David Foster Wallace and Chuck Palahniuk. It’s also the birthday of filmmaker Jordan Peele. And The New Yorker published its first issue today in 1925. Today’s poem is Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Patience Taught by Nature.” Have a beautiful day.
W H. Auden
Born today in 1907 in York, England, was Wystan Hugh Auden. We know him today as the poet W. H. Auden (affiliate link).
As a young man, Auden received a science and engineering scholarship to attend Oxford University. Once in school, though, he discovered poetry and changed his area of study to English.
It was at Oxford that Auden met fellow writers Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender. Spender helped Auden publish his first poetry collection, “Poems,” in 1928.
Throughout the 1930s, Auden traveled to Iceland, China, and Germany. He also served in the Spanish Civil War. He moved to the United States in 1939, where he became a citizen after World War II.
Auden published some before coming to America. But it was in the U.S. that he reached his most productive writing years. His first volume written in America was “Another Time,” published in 1940. The book was the first of seven Auden released in the 1940s.
Two of Auden’s collections, 1944’s “For the Time Being” and 1945’s “The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden,” were in the running for the Pulitzer Prize. But Auden wasn’t yet an American citizen, so the Pulitzer jury passed.
By 1947, though, when “The Age of Anxiety” came out, the poet was an American citizen. And that volume received the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Many admire Auden’s poetry for its flexible forms and incorporation of topics ranging from science to popular culture. Along with poems, Auden wrote plays and some prose. He produced work up until his death in 1973.
Auden won the 1956 National Book Award in Poetry for “The Shield of Achilles.” In his acceptance speech for the award, Auden said, “Before people complain about the obscurity of modern poetry, they should, I think, first ask themselves how many profound experiences they themselves have really shared with another person.”
David Foster Wallace
It’s the birthday of David Foster Wallace (affiliate link), born in Ithaca, NY, in 1962.
Wallace published several short story collections and essays. But he’s most known for his novel “Infinite Jest.” The book came out in 1996. TIME magazine lists it as one of the 100 best English novels published between 1923 and 2005.
“Infinite Jest” is a 1,000-plus page comedic novel about a future America. Obsessed with entertainment, the country’s President is a former singer. Corporations can sponsor calendar years. And there is a film, “Infinite Jest,” that’s so entertaining it kills anyone who watches it.
The book made Wallace a literary star. To date, over one million copies of the book have sold.
“Infinite Jest” is one of two novels Wallace published during his lifetime. After years of battling depression, he committed suicide in 2008.
The New Yorker Publishes First Issue
On this date in 1925, The New Yorker published its first issue. Founded by The New York Times reporter Harold Ross, The New Yorker first focused on culture and society in New York City. But over the years the magazine expanded to cover national and global news and art.
Each issue of The New Yorker contains in-depth articles on current events, as well as cartoons, poems, book reviews, and a short story.
Recently, one of those short stories, published in the magazine’s Dec. 11, 2017 issue, created a stir. Titled “Cat Person,” by Kristen Roupenian, the story told the tale of a young woman dating an older man.
Many felt the story was an accurate portrayal of women’s dating lives. And the story published at a time when many Americans are discussing issues such as sexual harassment and treatment of women.
The story was talked about online and in person for days after it published.
And today is the birthday of Chuck Palahniuk (affiliate link), born in 1962 in Pasco, WA.
Palahniuk burst onto the literary scene with the 1996 novel “Fight Club,” narrated by an unnamed, sleep-deprived man. The narrator meets another character named Tyler Durden. Durden introduces the narrator to an underground fighting club. The club becomes a form of therapy for the narrator.
A movie version of “Fight Club,” starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, released in 1999.
Palahniuk’s written many novels, including 2001’s “Choke” and 2007’s “Rant.”
“Fight Club,” though, continues to generate opportunities for Palahniuk. For example, Chevrolet paid him for the rights to mention “Fight Club” in a TV ad in 2001.
But for Super Bowl 50 in 2016, Palahniuk said a bank approached him about using some lines from “Fight Club” in a TV commercial. When Palahniuk suggested that he be in the ad instead of an actor, the agency representing the bank declined.
“It’s not that I was too dignified or my principles were too high. It’s that I asked for too much money, I don’t deliver enough eyeballs,” Palahniuk said.
Today is also the birthday of writer and director Jordan Peele. He was born in New York City in 1979.
Peele first made a name for himself by creating “Key and Peele” with Keegan-Michael Key. The show aired 2012-2015. It received the 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series.
Last year, a film Peele wrote and directed, “Get Out,” released to positive reviews. The movie is about a black man traveling to a secluded estate to meet his white girlfriend’s parents.
“Get Out” generated $255 million worldwide so far. The film received four Oscar nominations, including two for Peele: Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
“Patience Taught by Nature”
“O Dreary life!” we cry, “O dreary life!”
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven’s true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle. Ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land: savannah-swards
Unweary sweep: hills watch, unworn; and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,
To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory. O thou God of old!
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these;—
But so much patience, as a blade of grass
Grows by contented through the heat and cold.
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Public Domain