This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for October 7, 2017: Elegy

October 7, 2017: birthday: James Whitcomb Riley

It’s the birthday of the Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley (books by this author), born in Greenfield, Indiana (1849). As a young man, he had a passion for acting. He first acted in shows staged in a barn loft, and then went on the road with a traveling medicine show. He recited poetry, told stories, and played the banjo and fiddle. He began to write poems in the Hoosier dialect, about ordinary people, about the Indiana countryside. Soon he was publishing as many as a hundred poems a year, most of them in dialect. He wrote “When the Frost is on the Punkin,” “Little Orphant Annie,” and “The Raggedy Man.” His first book of poems, The Old Swimmin’ Hole and ‘Leven More Poems, came out in 1883. At the turn of the century, he was the most popular poet in the United States.