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Photo of Salman Rushdie.

June 18-20, 2018 – Salman Rushdie, Other Writers’ & Poets’ Birthdays

Welcome to the June 18-20, 2018, edition of Bidwell Hollow. In this episode, we recognize the birthdays of Salman Rushdie, Charles Waddell Chestnutt, Sarah Kay, and Paul Muldoon. Our poem is by Cale Young Rice. It’s titled, “Haunted Seas.” Let’s have a wonderful week. And, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, may you enjoy these final few days of spring as we tap toward the Summer Solstice.

Salman Rushdie

It was his fourth novel, “The Satanic Verses,” that put Salman Rushdie’s (affiliate link) life in jeopardy. The book is an epic that unveils a new creation story for Islam, questions the divinity of Muhammad, and disputes the holiness of the Quran.

“The Satanic Verses” created an uproar when it was published in 1988.

India, South Africa, and Canada banned it. Copies of the novel were burned in England. And Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a “fatwa” against Rushdie, providing a bounty to anyone who executed the author.

Rushdie turned to the English police force, Scotland Yard. The group protected Rushdie, who went into hiding.

Still, Rushdie produced four books during this time, including 1991’s, “Imaginary Homelands,” and 1995’s, “The Moon’s Last Sigh.”

In 1998, the Iranian government retracted its “fatwa” against Rushdie.

The author wrote a third-person memoir about his experience. The book, “Joseph Anton,” was titled after one of the pseudonyms Rushdie used while in hiding. “Joseph Anton” was published in 2012.

And then, last year, Rushdie made light of the “fatwa” against him on the HBO TV show, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Rushdie was born June 19, 1947, in Bombay, India. His first novel, “Grimus,” was published in 1975.

Rushdie won critical acclaim with his second book, “Midnight’s Children.” The novel was published in 1981.

Rushdie has produced many books, including 11 novels and some essay collections. Queen Elizabeth knighted him in 2007.

Charles Waddell Chesnutt

June 20 is the birthday of a man some call the first black American novelist. That’s Charles Waddell Chesnutt (affiliate link), born in Cleveland, OH, in 1858.

Chesnutt’s parents were free blacks who’d left their home of Fayetteville, NC, just before the Civil War.Photo of Charles Waddell Chesnutt.

After the War, Chesnutt returned with his parents to Fayetteville. There he attended school and became a teacher. He served as principal of the State Colored Normal School from 1880-1883.

But Chesnutt grew tired of how blacks were treated in the South. And so he moved with his wife and kids back to Cleveland.

Chesnutt’s first published work, a short story titled, “The Goophered Grapevine,” appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1887. It was the first time the periodical had accepted work from a person of color.

Two years later, Chesnutt published his first three books. Two of the books, “The Conjure Woman” and “The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line,” were collections of his stories. And the third work was a biography of Frederick Douglass.

Chesnutt published in 1900 his first novel, “The House Behind the Cedars.” And his second novel, “The Marrow of Tradition,” was released the following year.

Chesnutt’s novels didn’t receive great reviews, and they didn’t sell well. He produced one more book, a novel titled, “The Colonel’s Dream,” in 1905.

Then Chesnutt moved from writing to business and fighting for racial equality. He received the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal in 1928.

And today Chesnutt is seen as the forebearer of modern African American literature.

Sarah Kay

Cover of Sarah Kay's, "All Our Wild Wonder."

Affiliate link

Sarah Kay opened her 2011 TED Talk with a spoken word poem.

Later, Kay received an email from marketing and branding executive Seth Godin. Godin wrote, “Hi. I need to publish the poem you did in your TED talk. Let me know how that can happen.”

And that’s how Kay came to publish her first poetry collection, “B.” The book was published in 2011.

Kay was born June 19, 1988, in New York, NY. She started out as a spoken word poet and founded in 2004 Project VOICE. It’s an organization that uses spoken word poetry to promote literacy and empowerment.

To date, Kay’s published seven books. Her latest, “All Our Wild Wonder,” was released in March.

Paul Muldoon

Cover of Paul Muldoon's, "Selected Poems 1968-2014."

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Paul Muldoon (affiliate link) was born June 20, 1951, in County Armagh, in Northern Ireland.

Muldoon is the creator of many volumes of poetry. His first, “Knowing My Place,” was published in 1971. He was 19 years old and an undergraduate at Queen’s University in Belfast.

It was at university that Muldoon’s schoolmaster sent some of his poems to the poet Seamus Heaney. “What’s wrong with them?” the schoolmaster asked Heaney of Muldoon’s poetry.

To which Heaney replied, “Nothing.”

Muldoon’s 2002 collection, “Moy Sand and Gravel,” won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

“Haunted Seas”

A gleaming glassy ocean

 Under a sky of grey;

A tide that dreams of motion,

 Or moves, as the dead may;

A bird that dips and wavers

 Over lone waters round,

Then with a cry that quavers

 Is gone—a spectral sound.


The brown sad sea-weed drifting

 Far from the land, and lost;

The faint warm fog unlifting,

 The derelict long tossed,

But now at rest—though haunted

 By the death-scenting shark,

Whose prey no more undaunted

 Slips from it, spent and stark.

– Cale Young Rice, Public Domain

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Comments (1)

  • Bruce McLeod

    Poetry and music roadmaps into that unexplored mystery which wraps our brief flight.
    Thank you for nourishing us along the way!


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