January 31 Writer Birthdays

1559 – Maximiliaan de Vriendt, Flemish poet who was arrested and tortured for his opposition to the Calvinist regime, but later, after a change in administration, became a civic office-holder and New Latin poet and speechwriter.

1585 – Daniel Schwenter, German poet, mathematician, librarian, inventor, Orientalist, and linguist.

1624 – Arnold Geulincx, controversial Flemish author and philosopher who tried to work out more detailed versions of a generally Cartesian philosophy.

1723 – Petronella Johanna de Timmerman, Dutch poet, writer, translator, and scientist who conducted scientific experiments and studied physics and was inducted as an honorary member of the academy ‘Kunstliefde Spaart Geen Vlijt’; she presented the academy with her poetry, translated French plays, and planned to write a book about physics for women but suffered a stroke before she completed it.

1735 – J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur (born Michel Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur), French and U.S. essayist famous for his book Letters from an American Farmer, which drew on his experience farming in Orange County, New York. (Some sources give his birthday as December 31, 1735.)

1785 – Magdalena Dobromila Rettigová (née Artmann), Czech writer, poet, and playwright who was famous for her bestselling cookbook, Domácí kucharka aneb Pojednání o masitých a postních pokrmech pro dcerky ceské a moravské (A Household Cookery Book or A Treatise on Meat and Fasting Dishes for Bohemian and Moravian Lasses), which for many years remained the only cookbook written in Czech.

1788 – Felice Romani, Italian writer, poet, librettist, and translator who wrote a six-volume dictionary of mythology and antiquities.

1800 – Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, U.S. Ojibwe author, poet, historian, and translator; she was also known by her Ojibwe name, Bamewawagezhikaquay, which translates as, “Woman of the Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky.”

1823 – Elise Polko, popular German writer, singer, novelist, and poet.

1825 – Miska Magyarics, Hungarian Slovene poet who was best known for writing a Catholic hymnal.

1837 – Charles Jules-Joseph de Gaulle (also known by the Breton-language version of his name, Charlez Vro-C’hall), French writer and poet who was a pioneer of Pan-Celticism and the bardic revival; he was the uncle of the general and statesman Charles de Gaulle.

1845 – Lydia Arms Avery Coonley-Ward, U.S. poet, writer, nonfiction author, children’s writer, songwriter, educator, patron of the arts, and social leader who served as president of the Chicago Women’s Club; she also helped her second husband, naturalist Henry Augustus Ward, expand his meteorite collection.

1854 – Alice MacDonell, Scottish poet who was chieftainess and bard of the MacDonell clan of Keppoch. Her full name and title was Alice Claire MacDonell of Keppoch (or, in Scottish Gaelic, Ailis Sorcha Ni’ Mhic ‘ic Raonuill na Ceapaich), and she wrote verses as “Alice C. MacDonell of Keppoch.”

1864 – Matilda Knowles, Irish botanist, lichenologist, and author who is considered the founder of modern studies of Irish lichens; her most important publication, The Lichens of Ireland, added more than 100 species of lichen to those known to grow in Ireland, and recorded the distribution of the eight hundred species identified there.

1871 – Éva Circé-Côté, Canadian journalist, writer, poet, playwright, essayist, and librarian who established the first public library in Montreal; she wrote under various pseudonyms, including Colombine, Musette, Jean Nay, Fantasio, Arthur Maheu, Julien Saint-Michel, and Paul S. Bédard.

1872 – Zane Grey, U.S. author of western novels and short stories, known for his idealized depiction of the American West; many of his works have been made into films. He was also a dentist.

1879 – Helena Ivanovna Roerich (born Shaposhnikova), Russian writer, translator, philosopher, theosophist, and explorer who created, in cooperation with the Teachers of the East, a philosophic teaching of Living Ethics (“Agni Yoga”) and took part in expeditions to remote regions of Central Asia; she was also Honorary President-Founder of the Institute of Himalayan Studies “Urusvati” in India.

1891 – Luís de Montalvor, Portuguese poet, author, and publisher who was better known by the pseudonym Luís da Silva Ramos.

1892 – Ozaki Kihachi, Japanese poet, writer, lyricist, and translator.

1893 – Freya Madeline Stark, French-born Anglo-Italian explorer, essayist, and travel writer who wrote more than two dozen books on her travels in the Middle East and Afghanistan as well as several autobiographical works and essays; she was one of the first non-Arabs to travel through the southern Arabian Desert.

1896 – Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre (popularly known as Da Ra Bendre), award-winning Indian Kannada poet who was given the honorific Varakavi (Gifted Poet-Seer) and who published most of his work as Ambikatanayadatta, which he said was not a pseudonym in the Western sense, but the “universal inner voice” within him that dictated what he presented in Kannada to the world.

1901 – Marie Luise Kaschnitz (born Marie Luise von Holzing-Berslett), award-winning German poet, essayist, novelist, and short-story writer; she is considered one of the leading post-war German poets and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

1902 – Alva Myrdal, Nobel Prize-winning Swedish writer, politician, diplomat, and sociologist who was a prominent leader of the disarmament movement.

1905 – María Angelina Acuña Sagastume de Castañeda, award-winning Guatemalan writer of prose and poetry who was especially known for her rigor in managing classical verse within the sonnet; she founded and directed several literary journals and was also a professor.

1905 – Anna Blaman (real name Johanna Petronella Vrugt), Dutch poet, novelist, short-story writer, and teacher whose openness about her homosexuality helped pave the way for other lesbians.

1905 – John O’Hara, U.S. writer who started in short stories, continued into novels, and dabbled in screenplays.

1912 – Velta Toma, Latvian poet who used the pen name Velta Pavasara (literally Velta Spring). Her work explores themes of life and death, family roots, patriotism, a longing for love, and the place of women in the world; as an émigré who spent much of life in Germany and Canada, she also wrote verses that are infused with the need for a sense of belonging and with the sadness of exile.

1915 – Thomas Merton, British and U.S. Catholic writer, monk, poet, and social activist whose autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, became a bestseller.

1923 – Norman Mailer, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. novelist, journalist, essayist, playwright, filmmaker, actor, cultural commentator, critic, and liberal political activist; he is considered a key figure in creative nonfiction, a genre sometimes called New Journalism, which uses the style and devices of literary fiction in fact-based journalism.

1927 – Aco Karamanov, Macedonian and Bulgarian poet and partisan who was killed in 1944, at the age of 17, while fighting against the withdrawing Germans; despite his short life and the fact that he wrote in Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian, he is considered one of the founders of contemporary Macedonian literature.

1935 – Kenzaburō Ōe, Nobel Prize-winning Japanese author who “with poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today.”

1938 – Jorge Debravo, prominent Costa Rican poet and writer who, according to popular anecdote, wrote his first poems on banana paper; he was killed at the age of 29 while riding his motorcycle, the victim of a drunk driver. His birthday is celebrated in Costa Rica as the National Day of Poetry.

1938 – Ajip Rosidi, prolific Indonesian poet, translator, editor, publisher, autobiographer, and short-story writer who worked to preserve Sundanese culture as well as other cultures of Indonesia, researching folklore and promoting the continued use of local languages.

1940 – Kyriakos Charalambides, renowned Cypriot poet, writer, essayist, and critic whose work celebrates the ideas of Western civilization, expressed through the language and history of Greek culture.

1940 – Hamid Mosadegh (also spelled Mosaddegh and Mosadeq), Iranian poet, author, professor, and lawyer; his poetry is not only Romantic but also political and social, voicing the emotions, hopes, and dreams of Iranian youth during the 1970s.

1941 – Gerald McDermott, U.S. children’s author known for colorful treatments of mythological subjects.

1950 – Denise Fleming, award-winning U.S. author and illustrator of children’s picture books.

1950 – Janice Rebibo (née Silverman), U.S.-born Israeli poet, writer, and translator who wrote in Hebrew; using allusions, humor, and eroticism, her poetry explores the ways in which relationships are shaped by language, culture, religion, and politics.

1952 – Anne-Marie Berglund, award-winning Swedish poet, novelist, short-story writer, children’s author, and artist.

1959 – Laura Lippman, U.S. journalist who is also an author of short stories and bestselling detective novels.

1962 – Anna Aguilar-Amat, award-winning Spanish writer, poet, essayist, and university teacher who writes primarily in the Catalan language but who also has written in Spanish.

1971 – Santiago Villafania, Filipino poet and writer who writes both in English and in his native language of Pangasinan.

1979 – Daniel Tammet, British writer whose memoir Born on a Blue Day describes his life as an autistic savant.

1988 – Onyeka Nwelue, award-winning Nigerian novelist, filmmaker, publisher, talk-show host, bookseller, and author best known for his book Hip-Hop is Only for Children and for his novella Island of Happiness, which he adapted into an award-winning Igbo-language film, Agwaetiti Obiụtọ; he is also the founder of a Paris-based record label and co-founder of a U.K.-based publishing house.

1991 – Anastasia Dmitruk, Ukrainian poet who writes in both Russian and Ukrainian; her most widely cited poem, “Never Can We Be Brothers,” written in Russian in response to the Russian occupation of Crimea in 2014, celebrates the Ukrainian revolution and rejects “Great Russia.”

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