It is the 24th of August 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1923.
In the United States, the move westward continued. Now joining the miners searching for gold were the executives and actors searching for fame on the silver screen. The nascent film industry decided that the West Coast was the best coast for making films for a few reasons: the climate and diverse settings allowed various scenes to be shot, and it was far from Thomas Edison's lawyers. Holding a patent on the early motion picture camera, he would sue those using similar cameras or technologies. Filming across the nation from Edison's home of New Jersey made California an appealing spot for many filmmakers.
In 1923, two brothers, fresh off a set of comedic shorts called "The Alice Comedies," rented a small office in the office of a real estate company for $10 a month. Walter and Roy, the Disney brothers, were on their way.
In 1923 the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Harry Chandler, purchased a $21,000 billboard. Rather, it was several electrically lit 40' letters spelling out the name of Chandler's new housing development: Hollywoodland. After the development folded, the sign went into disrepair. It was later refurbished, but the last letters were removed such that the sign would now only read "Hollywood." But the year wasn't only about the film industry. It was a banner year for literature of all sorts.
The popular magazines Time and Weird Tales both saw their debut issues this year. Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy Sayers' fictional sleuth, appeared for the first time in her 1923 "Whose Body?" Sayers was joined by Agatha Christie, who followed with her Inspector Poirot in "Murder on the Links."
It was a year marked by famous poetry. The previous year, T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" was published and sent shockwaves through the industry. William Carlos Williams, an established poet, publishing in 1923, wrote of Eliot, "I felt at once that The Waste Land had set me back twenty years, and I'm sure it did. Critically, Eliot returned us to the classroom just at the moment when I felt we were on a point to escape to matters much closer to the essence of a new art form itself."
Emboldened by Eliot and others, E.E. Cummings published his first book of poetry, "Tulips & Chimneys." 1923 saw collected poems published from Robert Frost to Wallace Stevens, Pablo Neruda, and the poets mentioned above.
1923 was one of those years that saw many people born who grow up to become iconoclasts in their chosen fields. Paddy Chayefsky and Norman Mailer, two giants in the golden age of television, were born in 1923. Shusaku Endo and Joseph Heller, two giants of 20th-century literature, were born. Hank Williams I the first was born this year, as was all-time great Irish poet Brandon Behan.
And in this vein of iconoclasts and poets and the year 1923, it was on this the 24th of October in 1923 that poet, agnostic, and Christian convert Denise Levertov was born. She was born in England to a Welsh mother and Russian Jewish father. Her father, Philip Levertov, had converted from Judaism to Christianity and moved the family to England to become an Anglican priest. Denise and her sister received no formal education, but she had written many poems by the age of 12 and sent them to T.S. Eliot. Surprised by his response to them, she would set out to become a poet.
Denise served as a nurse in England during World War 2 and moved to America when she married American author Mitchell Goodman. In the 50s and 60s, Levertov associated herself with the Black Mountain poets. Her poems move from the standard meter and verse to more ambitious thought projects. Her poetry became especially political in the 60s, which caused some to suggest that her better and more innovative days were behind her. In 1984, in her own words, Denise Levertov made a move from "regretful skepticism" to Christianity. She began to speak of the chief purpose of art as to "enfaith," that is, through the imagination's engagement, poetry can help to exercise faith. In 1995, the final work published in her lifetime, "Tesserae: Memories and Suppositions," contained autobiographical poems and essays about her life and faith. Levertov died of lymphoma in 1997. Born on this, the 24th of October, in 1923, Denise Levertov was 74 years old.
The reading for today comes from Denise Levertov. This is her "a Cure of Souls."
of grief and dreams
guides his flock towards
the next field
with all his care.
He has heard
the bell tolling
but the sheep
are hungry and need
the grass, today and
every day. Beautiful
his patience, his long
shadow, the rippling
sound of the flock moving
along the Valley.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 24th of October 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man for whom "Catch 22" means an excellent play from Jason Heyward, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.