On most mornings, as he trolls through the various wires, news editor Kim Jackson invites me to play a little game that isn’t nearly as crass or insensitive as its name suggests: Name That Dead Guy’s Occupation.
Basically how it works is, he’ll give me the name of someone who is in the news on that particular day for, well, dying, and I’m supposed to guess what the person’s claim to fame was (only on rare occasions have I actually heard of the person; the AP runs lots and lots of obits for folks who weren’t exactly household names).
Today’s edition of the game featured Miroslav Havel, age 86.
“Miroslav Havel,” I repeated confidently, though I had no idea who he was. “He succeeded Ceacescu in Romania.”
Uh, no. Turns out he was a Waterford crystal designer.
Also up today was Hayden Carruth, 87.
“Hayden Carruth,” I said (I always say the person’s name; if nothing else, it buys me time to think). “Hayden Carruth was one of the designers of Stanford’s linear accelerator.”
Again, I was just a bit off the mark. Kim said Mr. Carruth in fact was “one of the most important poets of his time.” Among his works, Kim said, was “Silence.”
Reflecting on how I was unfamiliar with a poet deemed “one of the most important,” I told Kim that wasn’t all that surprising given that I could probably name a total of 20 poets. Nothing against poetry, but it just isn’t my thing.
Here, then, is my attempt at naming as many poets as I can (this probably won’t take long):
1) Robert Frost.
2) Robert Burns.
3) Robert Browning (are you sensing a trend here?).
4) Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
5) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
6) Edgar Allen Poe.
7) Walt Whitman.
8. Carl Sandburg.
9) Allen Ginsberg.
10) Donald Hall (appeared on Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary).
11) Emily Dickinson.
12) Ernest Thayer (“Casey at the Bat”).
After reciting my list to Kim, he added:
13) Mary Shelley (more famous for writing “Frankenstein”).
14) Percy Bysshe Shelley (Mary’s husband)
15) John Keats.
16) William B. Yeats
Two last notes about poetry:
– Poet laureate is one of the coolest-sounding titles ever, and
– “Tinker to Evers to Chance” is one of the top sports poems ever, but I couldn’t pull the poet’s name out of my memory; it’s Franklin Pierce Adams).