This weekend is my birthday, and as I do every year, I look for others who are or were fellow June Bugs. Instead of looking at actors and singers this time, I thought I’d look for writers. Just look who all I found:
First up, The Marquis de Sade. (June 2, 1740 to Dec 2, 1814) I consider it sort of an honor to share my birth month with this perverse (in his day) pusher of the plumed pen since I dabble in female dominant erotica from time to time. He was the original 50 Shades, and to his credit, his work may not have been deemed tasteful, but at least it was very well written. His most popular books include Justine, Juliette, The 120 Days of Sodom, and Philosophy in the Bedroom. This excerpt is from Justine:
The thing which least flatters men, that which makes the least favorable impression upon them, for which they have the most supreme contempt, is good behavior in your sex; here on earth, my child, nothing but what brings gain or insures power is accounted; and what does the virtue of women profit us? It is their wantonness which serves and amuses us; but their chastity could not interest us less.
Also born on June 2nd was Thomas Hardy (June 2, 1840 to Jan 11, 1928) I don’t know much about him, but from what I Googled, I learned that he wrote about disappointment in love and life, and the twistedness of fate in his poems. He wrote stories about the social classes and dared to challenge their constraints in his pages. His notable (and controversial in his day) books include Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Wessex Poems is a compilation of poems spanning 30 years.
I found this poem by Hardy and I really liked it:
She at His Funeral
They bear him to his resting-place-
In slow procession sweeping by;
I follow at a stranger’s space;
His kindred they; his sweetheart, I.
Unchanged my gown of garish dye,
Though sable-sad is their attire;
But they stand round with griefless eye,
Whilst my regret consumes like fire!
Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 to April 5, 1997) is another writer I’m not familiar with, but again, thanks to Google, I have broadened my field of knowledge. He was part of the Beat Movement post WW2 when many poets were questioning mainstream politics and culture in their writing. He was also gay at a time when being so was not accepted. His poem Howl is his best known work. I checked it out, but it’s before my time, so the impact of it is lost on me. He was a pretty outspoken guy, though. You’re welcome to see what you think –http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/49303
Helen Keller (June 27, 1880 to June 1, 1968) has to be included in my list of famous June birthday people because this woman achieved phenomenal things in her lifetime. She was the very first deaf and blind person to get a Bachelor of Arts degree (from Radcliffe). She learned to speak and delivered many speeches while she was alive, and she wrote several books including The Story of My Life and The World I Live In. Below is an excerpt from the latter:
Ideas make the world we live in, and impressions furnish ideas. My world is built of touch-sensations, devoid of physical colour and sound; but without colour and sound it breathes and throbs with life. Every object is associated in my mind with tactual qualities which, combined in countless ways, give me a sense of power, of beauty, or of incongruity: for with my hands I can feel the comic as well as the beautiful in the outward appearance of things. Remember that you, dependent on your sight, do not realize how many things are tangible.
W.B. Yeats: (June 13, 1865- January 28, 1939) was an Irish poet awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923. What’s interesting is that this guy was really into mysticism, the occult, spiritualism and astrology. He was essentially a “ghost buster” in his day, and he belonged to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. His most famous works include Deirdre and of course The Tower which includes the famous poem “Leda and the Swan” (how Helen of Troy came to be) Check it out-http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/43292
Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell (June 25, 1903- January 21, 1950), was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic best known for his novel, 1984, and the political allegory, Animal Farm, both of which warned against the dangers of totalitarianism. He was a big voice on social injustice and totalitarianism really stuck in his craw. He wrote several political essays and also addressed literature, language and culture in his writing.
And last but certainly not least, we have Jose Emilio Pacheco (June 30, 1939 to January 26, 2014). He has been lauded as a Latino poet of great significance in the late 20th century. Being Latina, I felt it important to include him in my birthday list. He racked up some big time awards for his work including the Cervantes Prize, the Pablo Neruda Award, the José Fuentes Mares National Prize for Literature and several others. Here’s a little something he wrote that has been translated into English from the original Spanish courtesy of Katherine M. Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/seven-poems-jose-emilio-pacheco/
The Lives of Poets
In poetry there’s no happy ending.
Poets end up
living their madness.
And they’re quartered like cattle
(it happened to Darío).
Or they’re stoned or wind up
flinging themselves to the sea or with cyanide
salts in their mouths.
Or dead from alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty.
Or worse: canonical poets,
bitter inhabitants of a tomb
entitled Complete Works.
Based on my research, I think June has been a pretty good month over the years for birthing writers. I’m happy to be in the company of such talented wordsmiths.