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Photo of Clark Ashton Smith.

Writers’ & Poets’ Birthdays & Other Literary History – January 13, 2018

Today is Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, the birthday of Shonda Rhimes, Michael Bond, Lorrie Moore, and Clark Ashton Smith. It’s Smith’s “Remembered Light” that is our poem for today. An audio version of this post is after the poem below. Thank you for reading. And if you enjoy Bidwell Hollow, please share it with others.

Shonda Rhimes

It’s the birthday of writer and television showrunner Shonda Rhimes.

Born in Chicago in 1970, Rhimes is the creator of popular shows Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and Private Practice. She’s the first woman showrunner to have three TV shows air at least 100 episodes.

Rhimes owns her own production company (Shondaland), and she has an online class about writing for TV. Some of her advice for those who take her class: “You can’t tell anybody that you want to be a writer, or you’re trying to be a writer. If you’re writing every day, then you’re a writer. You may not be a working writer, but you are a writer.”

Clark Ashton Smith

Poet and writer Clark Ashton Smith was born today in 1893.

Photo of Clark Ashton Smith.

Clark Ashton Smith

Smith never attended high school. He instead, with his parents’ permission, taught himself. He was a voracious reader and reportedly read the entire Encyclopedia Britannicca, twice.

Smith began writing poetry at 13, shortly after discovering the works of Edgar Allan Poe. He shared some of what he wrote with others in Auburn, CA, where his family lived on a farm nearby. His poems impressed a local high school teacher, who introduced Smith to the poet George Sterling.

Smith’s work made an impression on Sterling. He made Smith his mentee and introduced the 19-year-old to the publisher A. M. Robertson. It was Robertson who, in 1912, published Smith’s first poetry collection, “The Star-Treader and Other Poems.”

Well-received, the collection of 55 poems earned Smith some notoriety among the California literati. Jack London invited the poet to visit him at his home near Glen Ellen, CA. Smith declined, saying he couldn’t afford the train fare.

Along with poverty, Smith battled physical and mental health problems. His condition grew worse enough for Sterling to offer to put Smith in a sanitorium. Smith said no. He stayed put on his parents’ farm near Auburn.

Smith’s next poetry collection didn’t come out until 1918. It contained only 15 poems. His next two poetry collections, in 1922 and 1926, were self-published at the offices of the Auburn Journal. Few copies sold.

But Smith sent one of the poems from the 1922 collection (“Ebony and Crystal”) to writer H. P. Lovecraft. The poem, “The Hashish Eater -or- the Apocalypse of Evil,” impressed Lovecraft. He and Smith began writing letters to each other. Lovecraft encouraged Smith to write fiction.

Smith followed Lovecraft’s suggestion and began submitting short stories to pulp magazines. Pulp magazines published short stories and were popular in the early 20th century.

Between 1929-1937, Smith became a prolific pulp fiction writer. His work appeared in “Weird Times” magazine, often alongside stories by Lovecraft and writer Robert E. Howard.

By the 1940s, though, Smith’s attention shifted from writing to painting, sculpting, and drawing. He published a dozen stories between 1937 and his death in 1961.

Lorrie Moore

Today is also the birthday of Lorrie Moore, born in 1957 in Glens Falls, NY. She’s the author of three novels and four short story compilations. One of those collections, 1998’s “Birds of America: Stories,” was a New York Times bestseller. A story in the book, “People Like That Are the Only People Here,” won an O. Henry Prize.

Moore is now an English professor at Vanderbilt University. Her most recent book was 2014’s “Bark.”

Michael Bond

And today is the birthday of the man who created a story about a bear who shows up in London from Peru. The man is Michael Bond, born in 1926 in Newbury, England. And the bear is Paddington Bear.

It was Christmas Eve 1956 when Bond stepped into a department store on his way home from work. He saw a toy bear sitting alone on a shelf and bought it as a stocking stuffer for his wife, Brenda.

Later, sitting at his typewriter with a blank page before him, Bond thought about a bear alone in London. He recalled newsreel footage of British children evacuating from London during World War II.

About the children evacuating Bond said, “They all had a label round their neck with their name and address on and a little case or package containing all their treasured possessions.”

And so Bond began to write the bear’s story. He named the bear Paddington after Paddington Station, near where he and Brenda lived. When first introduced, Paddington is sitting on a suitcase wearing a tag that reads, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

“So Paddington, in a sense, was a refugee, and I do think that there’s no sadder sight than refugees,” Bond said.

It took Bond 12 days to write the story. William Collins & Sons purchased it for £75, around £1,800 today. The story published as “A Bear Called Paddington” in 1958.

Now more than 150 Paddington Bear titles have published, with over 35 million books sold. They’ve been translated into 40 languages, made into a BBC TV series and two films.

Michael Bond died last year. His final Paddington Bear Book, “Paddington at St. Paul’s,” is scheduled to be released on June 28.

Remembered Light

The years are a falling of snow,
Slow, but without cessation,
On hills and mountains and flowers and worlds that were;
But snow and the crawling night in which it fell
May be washed away in one swifter hour of flame.
Thus it was that some slant of sunset
In the chasms of piled cloud—
Transient mountains that made a new horizon,
Uplifting the west to fantastic pinnacles—
Smote warm in a buried realm of the spirit,
Till the snows of forgetfulness were gone.

Clear in the vistas of memory,
The peaks of a world long unremembered,
Soared further than clouds, but fell not,
Based on hills that shook not nor melted
With that burden enormous, hardly to be believed.
Rent with stupendous chasms,
Full of an umber twilight,
I beheld that larger world.

Bright was the twilight, sharp like ethereal wine
Above, but low in the clefts it thickened,
Dull as with duskier tincture.

– Clark Ashton Smith

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