JUNE LITERARY BIRTHDAYS

(Complete list of June authors here.)

Featured Authors

William Butler Yeats, Irish poet, June 13, 1865 - Jan. 28 1939

Yeats is one of the most important figures of 20th-century literature. His fascination with otherworldly elements and in Irish folktales is evident in much of his poetry, as is the influence of modernism. Yeats was also an acclaimed playwright, collaborating with Lady Gregory to develop works for the Irish stage and to help found, with John Milllington Synge, the Irish National Theatre Society. In 1889, Yeats met Maud Gonne, an English-born Irish revolutionary, suffragette, and actress, and he fell in love with her, proposing marriage several times, but she refused him and married Major John MacBride; many of Yeats' poems are inspired by or mention her. Yeats did marry, to Georgie Hyde-Lees, in 1917 -- she was 25, he was 52 -- , and the couple had two children, Anne and William Michael. In the 1920s, he became a political figure in the new Irish Free State. Important poems include The Second Coming, Sailing to Byzantium, Among School Children, Leda and the Swan, Easter, 1916, and Lake Isle of Innisfree:

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade....

There's an extensive biography of Yeats, written by poet Louise Bogan, in a 1938 Atlantic Monthlyanother bio at Nobelprize.org (he won the Nobel in 1923); and detailed information on Yeats' family, poetry, and the places he spent time from the Yeats Society in Sligo, Ireland.

The text of 382 collected poems of Yeats' is available through the California State University.

Yeats has a page -- with bio, poems, and links -- on The Academy of American Poets' website as well as at Poetry Foundation.

The Yeats' Experience allows tourists to visit places of note in Yeats' life.

Pearl S. Buck, writer and humanitarian, 26 June 1892 - 6 March 1973

'One of the most renowned, interesting, and controversial figures ever to influence American and Chinese cultural and literary history.' Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker was born in Hillsboro, WV, while her Southern Presbyterian missionary parents were on leave from their base in China, where Pearl spent most of the first forty years. She graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, VA in 1914, and married John Lossing Buck in 1917 -- their marriage was an unhappy one, lasting 18 years -- and they moved back to China. Their first child, Carol, born 1921, had phenylketonuria and was profoundly retarded, and due to a hysterectomy after a uterine tumor was found during delivery, Pearl couldn't have any more children; the couple adopted a baby girl, Janice, in 1925. In March 1927, during the violent 'Nanking Incident,' some Westerners were murdered; the Bucks hid out for a day until their rescue by American gunboats.

Buck's first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published in 1930, followed in 1931 by The Good Earth, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932;  the publisher of both books, Richard Walsh, became her second husband in 1935 and the couple eventually adopted a total of six children.  In 1938, Buck won the Nobel Prize in literature -- "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces" -- the first American woman to do so.

The Pearl Buck page at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, contains a biography, bibliography, photos, and excerpts from Buck's works. Maureen Corrigan's review on NPR's "Fresh Air" of Hilary Spurling's 2010 biography of Buck, Pearl Buck in China, offers insight and biographical details (e.g., Buck spent her childhood in China burying the remains of abandoned baby girls left to die outside), plus an excerpt from the book. Pearl S. Buck International is a child assistance/sponsorship and adoption agency.

Dorothy Leigh Sayers, mystery novelist and Christian writer, 13 June 1893 - 17 Dec. 1957

Dorothy Sayers was "a renowned English crime writer and poet. She was also a student of classical and modern languages. She is best known for her mysteries, a series of novels and short stories set between the First and Second World Wars that feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. ... However, Sayers herself considered her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy to be her best work" (Wikipedia). 

She was an only child, born to Helen Mary (née Leigh) and the Rev. Henry Sayers, who was chaplain of Christ Church and headmaster of the Choir School. He began to teach her Latin when she was six. In 1912, Sayers she won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford, where she studied modern languages and medieval literature, graduating in 1915. She worked for Blackwell's, the Oxford publishers, then was a copywriter at Bensons, a London advertising firm, where she developed a very successful national campaign for Colman's mustard. It was at Benson's that her first Lord Peter novel, Whose Body?, was published, and between 1923 and 1937 she published twelve detective novels. She also published books of poetry, several plays, and books of essays on Christian themes, becoming "one of the foremost Christian apologists of her generation;" friends included  T.S. Eliot, Charles Williams, and C.S. Lewis. 

Sayers became pregnant out of wedlock to a car salesman; the pregnancy was hidden and her son, John Anthony, born in 1924, was brought up by relatives; the secret was made public in 1975. Two years after her son was born, she married the divorced Captain Oswald Atherton 'Mac' Fleming, a Scottish journalist with two children, who eventually adopted John. 

The Dorothy L. Sayers Society, the official site, offers a biography of Sayers and a list of Sayers' works. A BBC piece delves into her "lives and loves" and more. Thoughts on Sayers as a Christian thinker and writer are offered in a Christian journal, CBE International, titled "Dorothy Sayers: A Writer and Theologian for Today."

Athol Fugard, South African anti-apartheid playwright, 11 June 1932 -

Fugard was born Harold Athol Lanigan Fugard in Cape Province, South Africa. He worked as a crew member on a steamer ship and as a journalist before co-founding a theatre in South Africa. In 1961, he was recognised for his play The Blood Knot, and he has since written many more plays, which often address apartheid and other political issues, as well as novels and teleplays. Plays include Boesman and Lena (1969), The Island (1972), Sizwe Banzi is Dead (1972), A Lesson from Aloes (1978), Master Harold...And the Boys (1982), The Road to Mecca (1984), A Place with the Pigs (1987), My Children! My Africa! (1989), Playland (1992), Valley Song (1995), and The Captain's Tiger (1999). His novel, Tsotsi, was adapted as a film in 2005, winning the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

There's an interview with Fugard by Lloyd Richards in the Paris Review, 1989;  another interview with Fugard, at age 81, in 2014, on NPR's Morning Edition; a short biography and list of works at South African History Online; and a summary of Fugard's play, The Road to Mecca.

Nikki Giovanni, American poet & civil rights promoter, 7 June 1943 -

Yolanda Cornelia 'Nikki' Giovanni was born in Knoxville, TN, and raised in Cincinnati, OH. She received a BA in history in 1968 from the all-black Fisk University in Nashville, where she edited the literary magazine. She "gained initial fame in the late 1960s as one of the foremost authors of the Black Arts Movement. Influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement of the period, her early work provides a strong, militant African-American perspective .... During the 1970s, she began writing children's literature, and co-founded a publishing company, NikTom Ltd" (per Wikipedia) to provide exposure for exposure for other African-American women writers, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, Carolyn Rodgers, and Mari Evans.  Giovanni's poetry collections include Black Feeling, Black Talk (1967), Black Judgement (1968), My House (1972), Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978), Woman (1978), Knoxville, Tennessee (1994), Love Poems (1997), and Bicycles: Love Poems (2009). 

Nikki Giovanni is one of my favourite poets; I love her voice.  She's also published nonfiction, children’s literature, and recordings (nominated for a Grammy), and has taught at Queen's College, Rutgers, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech University (she was there in 2007 during the shooting). Giovanni has a species of bat named after her, the Micronycteris giovanniae, a big-eared bat found in Ecuador.

Giovanni's official page has a bio, poetry, essays and interviews, children's poetry, records and CDs, awards, degrees, etc.; Giovanni's page on The Academy of American Poets' site also has biography and links to poems, as does Giovanni's page at Poetry Foundation. She's interviewed on NPR in 2013: Poet Nikki Giovanni On The Darker Side Of Her Life. She was also interviewed at "On Being" by Krista Tippett in March 2016.

Other June Birthdays