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Photo of Howard Pyle.

March 5, 2018 – Howard Pyle, Other Writers’ & Poets’ Birthdays

Today is Monday, March 5, 2018. It’s the birthday of illustrator and writer Howard Pyle celebrates a birthday today. It’s also the birthday of novelist Frank Norris and poet Katarina Frostenson. Today in 1946, Winston Churchill made his famous “Iron Curtain” speech. And today’s poem is “Dawson, NM. 1905” by Rachel McKibbons. Thank you for reading. Let’s make today wonderful.

Howard Pyle

It’s also the birthday of Howard Pyle (affiliate link), born in 1853 in Wilmington, DE. He’s often called the Father of American Illustration.

Pyle wrote and illustrated his first children’s book, “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.”Photo of Howard Pyle.

The novel published in 1883, based on Medieval ballads about Robin Hood. Pyle revised the stories told in the songs, though, to make them more palatable to American children.

And Pyle’s drawings of Robin Hood, with green tights and a quiver of arrows strapped to his back, created an image of Hood that persists today.

Pyle’s books brought to life scenes and characters that enthralled children. His other novels include “The Story of King Arthur and His Knights,” “The Wonder Clock,” and “Stolen Treasure.”

Pyle died of a kidney infection in 1911. Ten years later, a collection of his unpublished pirate stories and drawings released.

“Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates” features illustrations of pirates in boots, sashes, and bandanas.

The book set the bar for envisioning how pirates dressed. From Blackbeard to Jack Sparrow, Pyle continues to have a hand in how pirates appear in popular culture.

Katarina Frostenson

It’s the birthday of poet Katarina Frostenson. She was born near Stockholm, Sweden, in 1953.

Frostenson released her debut collection, “I mellan” in 1978. She’s published 27 volumes since then, including her most recent book, 2015’s “Sånger och formler.”

In 1992, Frostenson became the fifth woman elected to the Swedish Academy. And she’s received many other awards and honors, such as the Bellman Prize in 1994 and the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 2016 for “Sånger och formler.”

Frank Norris

Today is the birthday of Frank Norris (affiliate link), born in Chicago in 1870. He was one of the first noted naturalist writers in the U.S., and remains a controversial literary figure, due to racist and antisemitic themes in his work.

After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, Norris worked as a news correspondent in South Africa for a year. He served as an editorial assistant for the San Francisco Wave and covered the Spanish-American War for McClure’s Magazine.Photo of Frank Norris.

The following year, 1899, Norris published his first novel that received significant attention. The book, “McTeague,” tells the story of a San Francisco dentist who kills his wife and then meets his demise while fleeing through Death Valley.

Norris also planned to publish a trilogy about wheat.

The trilogy’s first novel, “The Octopus,” published in 1901. It focused on the struggle of California wheat growers against a monopolistic railway company.

“The Pit,” the trilogy’s second book, dealt with wheat trading at the Chicago Board of Trade. “The Pit” published in 1903, a year after Norris died from complications of an appendectomy.

Norris didn’t finish the trilogy’s final novel, “The Wolf.” That book would have covered wheat arriving at a famine-stricken European village.

Norris’ work reflected socialist progressivism popular among writers at the start of the Twentieth century. He wrote about man’s struggle against nature, as well as the wealthy and monopolistic corporations.

Today, though, racism and antisemitism in Norris’ writing taint his legacy. One example is a character in “McTeague,” named Zerkow, who Norris identifies as a Jew from Poland.

But Zerkow’s cultural identity is irrelevant to the story. There is nothing from Zerkow’s background or heritage that factors into the book.

“Even his (Zerkow’s) speech is not the weakly, deformed English of the transplanted foreigner,” Joseph Lebowich wrote in the January 1904 issue of The Menorah magazine.

It appears that Zerkow’s Judaism is only included to suggest that the character is greedy.

Churchill Makes “Iron Curtain” Speech

Today at Westminster College in Fulton, MO, in 1946, Winston Churchill (affiliate link) made his “Iron Curtain” speech. The speech denounced the Soviet Union’s partition of Europe after World War II.Photo of Winston Churchill and Harry Truman at Westminster College in Fulton, MO.

The year before, Churchill lost his position as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Thus Churchill was without a job when he received a letter from Westminster College President F. L. McCluer.

McCluer invited Churchill to speak about international affairs at the school.

Churchill hadn’t met McCluer. But the letter contained a handwritten postscript from U.S. President Harry Truman that read, “This is a wonderful school in my home state. Hope you can do it. I’ll introduce you. Best regards, Harry Truman.”

Churchill didn’t know Truman well, either, having met him just once, at the Potsdam Conference near the end of World War II. But this was an opportunity for Churchill to deliver a speech in another country. And the President of the United States would introduce him. The former prime minister agreed.

And so it was that Churchill and Truman took the train from Washington, DC, to a small town in the American heartland.

There, Churchill said, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an ‘iron curtain’ has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe.”

The speech set the tone for how the U.S. and its allies viewed the Soviet Union. And the phrase, “Iron Curtain,” became a part of the Cold War lexicon.

“Dawson, NM. 1905”

Night awakens,

or someone’s mouth

& out steps

blood & marrow

in a dress. A long

wool thing. Dead brass

watch on a flat-boned wrist.


With a hiss of braids

coiled atop her head,

an infant girl strapped

to her chest, she arrives.

As whole as a woman can be.


Here she is permitted

the soft pleasures

of the ordinary:


pale grit of masa

spread quickly

into husks,

the calloused edge

of her husband’s hand.


Settling into this

foreign kingdom

there is no need

to daydream,

no chore interrupted.


Praise the tender

asylum of repetition:

dishes cleaned,

then stacked.

Skirts hemmed,

floors swept


the New Mexican

soil still intact,


still something

like a gift.


Her healthy daughter

dreaming in milk,

gentle husband

not yet charred


why, then, would she

notice the crows

gathering like germs

on her porch,

their dark throats

chilling the air

with a cold

death noise?

– “Dawson, NM. 1905” from blud. Copyright 2017 by Rachel McKibbens. Used with permission of the author and Copper Canyon Press.

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