Today is Tuesday, March 27, 2018. It’s the birthday of poet Frank O’Hara. It’s also the birthday of writer Thorne Smith and World War I poet Roland Leighton. Today’s poem is by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It’s titled, “Crossing the Bar.” If you have a second, would you mind liking Bidwell Hollow on Facebook? Thank you, and have an excellent Tuesday.

Frank O’Hara

Frank O’Hara (affiliate link) published his first volume of poetry in 1952.

Photo of Frank O'Hara.
Frank O’Hara postcard [scan]” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by m kasahara
“A City Winter and Other Poems” was well received, as were the essays and reviews O’Hara published in Art News.

O’Hara associated with painters such as Jackson Pollock and Larry Rivers.

From these artists’ works, O’Hara drew inspiration. He created with the painters’ paintings of words that O’Hara called “poem paintings.”

But it’s in his original verse that O’Hara made his most distinct mark. His “Meditations in an Emergency” published in 1957, followed by “Lunch Poems” in 1964.

The books feature fast-paced poems that reflect the frenetic pace of the New York City in which the poet lived.

In “Lunch Poems,” O’Hara recounts his activities while on lunch break from his job as an assistant curator at the Modern Museum of Art.

O’Hara was born today in Baltimore, MD, in 1926. He died in a sand buggy accident on Fire Island, NY, in 1966.

Thorne Smith

Cover of Thorne Smith's "Topper."
Affiliate link

Thorne Smith (affiliate link) was born today in 1892 in Annapolis, MD, the son of a Navy commodore. Smith followed in his father’s footsteps when he enrolled in the U.S. Navy in 1917.

During his service, Smith edited the Naval Reserve journal The Broadside. Smith created for the journal a fictitious recruit named Biltmore Oswald.

Smith’s stories about Oswald proved popular. Two collections of them published in 1918 and 1919.

Also in 1919, Smith published a book of poetry. He dedicated the book, “Haunts and By-Paths,” to his father.

After leaving the Navy, Smith published the book “Topper.” It’s about a banker named Cosmo Topper. Topper meets two ghosts who introduce him to other spirits.

“Topper” published in 1926. And Smith released a sequel in 1932 titled, “Topper Takes a Trip.”

Cary Grant and Constance Bennett starred in the 1937 film “Topper.” In all, three “Topper” movies released. And a “Topper” TV series aired between 1953 and 1955.

Some of Smith’s other work includes “The Stray Lamb” and “Rain in the Doorway.” Most of his books combined humor and fantasy. Many of the concepts and plotlines that Smith pioneered continue to feed writers still today.

Smith died in 1934. His unfinished novel, “The Passionate Witch,” published in 1941. It inspired the 1942 film, “I Married a Witch,” starring Veronica Lake.

Roland Leighton

Instead of taking his place as a student at Oxford, Roland Leighton volunteered for the British army. It was October 1914, two months after Britain declared war on Germany.

The military sent Leighton to France in early 1915. He became engaged to Vera Brittain in August of that year.

From France, Leighton wrote letters to Brittain. In them, he talked about the war, British society, and their relationship. And he often added a poem.

In December 1915, a sniper’s bullet struck Leighton in the stomach. He died at an army field hospital. Leighton, born March 27, 1895, was 20 years old.

Brittain published in 1933 “Testament of Youth.” The book recalls her World War I years and the men she knew who died in the war, including Leighton and her brother, Edward. The memoirs also included the poems Leighton wrote to Brittain.

A film based on “Testament of Youth” released in 2014. Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow in the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” portrayed Leighton in the film.


“Crossing the Bar”

Sunset and evening star,  

 And one clear call for me!  

And may there be no moaning of the bar,  

 When I put out to sea,  

 

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,  

 Too full for sound and foam,  

When that which drew from out the boundless deep  

 Turns again home.  

 

Twilight and evening bell,  

 And after that the dark!     

And may there be no sadness of farewell,  

 When I embark;  

 

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place  

 The flood may bear me far,  

I hope to see my Pilot face to face  

 When I have cross’d the bar.

– Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), Public Domain

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9 Replies to “March 27, 2018 – Frank O’Hara, Other Writers’ & Poets’ Birthdays”

  1. I’m really enjoying your choice of daily poems. It’s somehow refreshing to be reading a lot of old Public Domain poems. I thought I’d miss the newer ones, like those read on Writer’s Almanac, but I don’t (though I sorely miss Garrison’s deep, sonorous, fatherly, voice). I also like that you will sometimes use a poem by an obscure writer I didn’t know, whose birthday it is–as your daily choice. Which is nice. You are doing a really fine job with this. When I signed up to have a daily e-mail reminder sent to me, I did so with some hesitation, but seeing the reminder fills me with a little stab of curiosity and joy, when it arrives each day. Keep up the GREAT work!!! And Thankyou!

    p.s. One thing I would consider doing on the online version, is to add a couple lines at the bottom that start with, “It is also the birthday of William Rontgen, Gloria Swanson and on this day in 1968 Yuri Gargaran died.” Or whatever the heck you find interesting. It doesn’t have to be a long exposition of events. Just a few sentences. Who else was born? Who got married? Who died? Who might have won an academy award or grammy. What wars might have started? You don’t have to do a whole write up. “Oliver Hardy married….” Just a couple choice non literary people and non literary events. A couple sentences with a few names.

    1. Great feedback, Michael, and those of us working on Bidwell Hollow appreciate you. As someone who used to receive the WA’s daily email, I know how much it can be to try and stay on top of. There were weeks when I would have to wait until Saturday or Sunday to catch-up on the Writer’s Almanacs I missed earlier in the week. But that just made the weekends all the sweeter.

      Until we can hire some professional talent, we won’t have anything close to Garrison Keillor’s voice. But perhaps we’re helping fill a void left by the loss of something upon which many of us relied for inspiration, nourishment, or even just a few moments of peace in a hectic world.

    1. Haha, Michael, I do not blame you. I’m more than satisfied to count you as a reader. No Facebook required!

      1. Don’t hire someone else to voice this. You’re doing it and you should use your own voice. It’s a nice voice. It’s grows on one day by day.

  2. Don’t hire someone else to voice this. You’re doing it and you should use your own voice. It’s a nice voice. It’s grows on one day by day.

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