Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I’m Doug Johnson.
Today we tell about some country music award winners ...
Answer a listener’s question about the founding fathers, and mothers, of the United States ...
And report on the nation’s poet laureate.
Charles Simic has served as America’s poet laureate for almost a year. He says he will not seek a second year because he wants to spend more time writing. Barbara Klein tells about the man and his poetry.
Charles Simic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in nineteen thirty-eight. He says he spent his early years avoiding bombs dropped by German and Allied forces during World War Two. He became one of the millions of displaced persons.
He said the experience provided him with his own little story of bad luck as well as those of many other people. His poem, “Prodigy,” speaks of his wartime life. Here he reads it:
"I grew up bent over
I loved the word endgame.
All my cousins looked worried.
It was a small house
near a Roman graveyard.
Planes and tanks
shook its windowpanes.
A retired professor of astronomy
taught me how to play.
That must have been in 1944.
In the set we were using,
the paint had almost chipped off
the black pieces.
The white King was missing
and had to be substituted for.
I’m told but do not believe
that that summer I witnessed
men hung from telephone poles.
I remember my mother
blindfolding me a lot.
She had a way of tucking my head
suddenly under her overcoat.
In chess, too, the professor told me,
the masters play blindfolded,
the great ones on several boards
at the same time."
Charles Simic came to the United States when he was sixteen years old. He lived with his parents in Chicago, Illinois. His first book of poems was published when he was just twenty-one. He served in the Army and later graduated from New York University. Mister Simic is a retired professor of American literature and creative writing at the University of New Hampshire, the state where he still lives. He also writes essays about art, ideas and beliefs and music.
The poet can speak several languages. He has translated poetry by writers in French, Serbian and other languages. Mister Simic said being poet laureate of the United States was an especially great honor because, he said, “I am an immigrant boy who didn’t speak English until I was fifteen.”
Charles Simic has written more than twenty books of poetry. He has won a MacArthur Fellowship and a Pulitzer Prize. The same day he was named Poet Laureate he won the Wallace Stevens Award for Mastery in the Art of Poetry. The award, given by the Academy of American Poets, comes with a one hundred thousand dollar prize.
Last month, Charles Simic published a new book of poetry called “That Little Something.”
America’s Founding Parents
Our listener question this week comes from Japan. Fumio Nishimoto and his students want to know about America's Founding Fathers -- and Founding Mothers.
Most Americans know about their country's Founding Fathers who created and established the new government of the United States. These included the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. This document announced the American colonies' separation from England in seventeen seventy-six. The Founding Fathers also included men who fought in the American Revolutionary War to win independence. And they included the men who helped write the United States Constitution in seventeen eighty-seven.
The most famous Founding Fathers included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin.
Most of the Founding Fathers had wives, mothers, sisters and daughters who also played important parts in the birth of the new nation. These women defended their homes during the war. They supervised their husbands' businesses, provided them with political advice and supported their efforts.
Who were these Founding Mothers? Reporter Cokie Roberts wrote a book about them called "Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation."
Miz Roberts studied the personal letters and private writings of these women to tell their stories. She writes about Martha Washington and Abigail Adams, the wives of the country's first and second presidents. During the Revolutionary War, Martha Washington helped the troops survive a severe winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. She treated their wounds, made clothing for them and kept them from leaving.
Miz Roberts also writes about some women who were not as well known. For example, Deborah Read Franklin was the wife of Benjamin Franklin. While her husband was serving in Europe, she supervised the postal service and her husband's businesses and properties in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She also used a gun to protect the Franklin house against an angry crowd.
Cokie Roberts writes that the efforts of these women for their families and their country were just as important to building the new nation as the rebellion that established it.
Country Music Awards
The Academy of Country Music held its forty-third yearly awards ceremony Sunday night in Las Vegas, Nevada. For the first time, fans picked the winner of the top award through voting over the Internet. Mario Ritter tells about the winners and plays some of their music.
(MUSIC: "Better as a Memory")
That was Kenny Chesney, winner of the Academy of Country Music entertainer of the year award for the fourth time in four years. He welcomed the praise and thanked his fans. But he criticized the new method for choosing the winner of the big award.
Chesney said the online voting showed "complete disrespect" for the artists. He said it turns the award into a “sweepstakes to see who can push people’s buttons the hardest on the Internet.”
Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley won as best female vocalist and best male vocalist for a second year. Here they sing “Oh Love.”
Miranda Lambert was honored with the award for album of the year for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” Listen to the title song from that album.
Finally, the band Sugarland won the Academy of Country Music award for best single record and song of the year. We leave you with “Stay.”
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written by Shelley Gollust and Caty Weaver, who was also our producer. Charles Simic’s reading was provided by the Poetry Foundation. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.