March 31-April-1, 2018 – Samuel R. Delany, Other Writers’ & Poets’ Birthdays
Welcome to the weekend of March 31 and April 1, 2018. It’s the weekend of Easter and April Fools’ Day. The last time Easter and April Fools’ shared a date, Edwin O’Connor’s “The Last Hurrah” topped The New York Times bestsellers list. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Song of a Second April” is our weekend poem. And it’s the birthdays of Samuel R. Delany and Augusta Baker.
Samuel R. Delany
It’s the birthday of a writer who uses science fiction and fantasy to address topics considered to be taboo or controversial. That’s Samuel Ray Delany (affiliate link), born April 1 in New York City in 1942.
Delany is the author of many books, starting with his first, “The Jewels of Aptor,” which published in 1962. For the rest of the Sixties, Delany published at last one novel a year.
It’s his 1967 title, “The Einstein Intersection,” that first won Delany popular recognition. The book netted Delany his first Nebula Award. And it touched on issues of sexual identity, a theme the writer would explore more in his later work.
In “Dhalgren,” released in 1975, Delany features a bisexual male in a city that’s suffered a major catastrophe. His 1976 novel, “Triton,” features a character who undergoes gender reassignment.
And in his Nèverÿon series, Delany takes on modern issues such as AIDS. The set comprises four books, published between 1979 and 1987.
Along with his fiction, Delany’s produced some works of nonfiction, including a book about writing.
In it, he wrote, “Good writing is clear. Talented writing is energetic. Good writing avoids errors. Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind.”
Being the child of two schoolteachers, Augusta Baker developed a love for reading when she was young.
At 16, Baker graduated from the all-black high school where her father taught. She started college at the University of Pittsburgh. But after her sophomore year, she transferred to the New York College for Teachers in Albany, NY.
Baker earned two degrees from the school, graduating in 1934.
After teaching for three years, Baker became a children’s librarian. She worked at what was then called the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library. The branch, located in Harlem, is now named after poet Countee Cullen.
Baker realized there weren’t many children’s books that featured black characters. And so she identified works that presented positive black role models for children.
Baker’s effort led to the creation of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Children’s Books. And in 1957 she published a bibliography of the collection. The catalog contained hundreds of titles.
In 1961, Baker became the coordinator for children’s services for all New York Public Libraries. And, later, she served as an advisor to Sesame Street.”
Baker was born tomorrow in 1911 in Baltimore, MD. She ended her career at the University of South Carolina. There she served as storyteller-in-residence from 1980-1994.
Easter and April Fools’ Day
April 1, 2018, is the Easter holiday for Christians. And it’s April Fools’ Day for pranksters. The last time Easter and April Fools’ fell on the same day was 1956.
Easter for Christians commemorates Jesus’s resurrection. Early Christians believe the resurrection took place after Jewish Passover.
The lunar cycle determines when Passover occurs. So the holiday moves each year. And because Easter’s based on when Passover falls, Easter also changes every year.
How rare is it for April Fools’ and Easter to fall on the same day? This year will be the 12th time it’s happened since 1700.
The next time April Fools’ Day and Easter share a date will be 2029. It will happen again in 2040. And then it will be 68 years, 2108, before Easter falls once more on April 1.
“Song of a Second April”
April this year, not otherwise
Than April of a year ago,
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;
Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.
There rings a hammering all day,
And shingles lie about the doors;
In orchards near and far away
The grey wood-pecker taps and bores;
The men are merry at their chores,
And children earnest at their play.
The larger streams run still and deep,
Noisy and swift the small brooks run
Among the mullein stalks the sheep
Go up the hillside in the sun,
Pensively,—only you are gone,
You that alone I cared to keep.
– Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), Public Domain