The Dead Writers Club was born out of the fact that there are very few living writers out there that are worth reading. (Naturally, this is because we all yearn to live in the past)

Do you consistently feel as though you are living in the wrong time period? We do too.

This blog is a celebration of literature and the greats who wrote before us.
~ Friday, September 7 ~
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Happy Deathday, Mr. Lanier!

On this day in 1881, American poet and musician, Sidney Lanier died from possible complications due to tuberculosis. He was 39 years old.

                     

This one time confederate soldier, first published in 1867, is thought today by many to be the greatest Southern poet to emerge after Edgar Allan Poe. His debut novel, Tiger Lilies deals mostly with his war experiences but is a hint of the sort of musical writer he would one day become.

Unfortunately, many of the poems he is best remembered for, can be rather racist. “The Raven Days,” “Civil Rights,” “Betrayal,” “Corn,” “Laughter in the Senate,” and “The Revenge of Hamish” are just a few that come to mind.  Before pursuing writing full-time, he practiced law, and wrote in 1878 the poem, “The Marshes of Glynn” which endeared him to his native state of Georgia. In 1879, he was made lecturer on English literature at Johns Hopkins University. His lectures became the basis of his Science of English Verse (1880, his most important prose work, and an admirable discussion of the relations of music and poetry.

Since his death, an enlarged and final edition (1884) of his poems, prepared by his wife, his Letters, 1866-1881 (1899), and several volumes of miscellaneous prose have been published. In fact, a posthumous work on Shakespeare and his Forerunners (1902) was edited by H. W. Lanier. If you are a fan of Southern poetry and historical content from this time period, we recommend The Song of the Chattahoochee (1877).

Today, write a love letter to your native state or town. Write about the times we’re currently living in… the war, the politics… get angry, be empathetic… find the beautiful things beneath the turmoil.

Write on in peace, Mr. Lanier!

Tags: sidney lanier happy deathday september 7th 1881 poet writer dead writer
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~ Thursday, June 14 ~
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Happy Deathday, Signore Leopardi!

On June 14th, in 1837, Italian poet and scholar, Giacomo Leopardi, died in Naples, during a cholera outbreak. He was 38 years old.

                               

The product of an aristocratic, religiously fanatic and emotionally stifled household, Giacomo Leopardi began reading and eventually writing as a means of escape. As a child, he was sickly and suffered physical pain and deformity due to scoliosis, and so he was often confined to the house- where he passed the time immersed in his father’s extensive library of classics.

At the tender age of fourteen, he wrote Pompeo in Egitto (Pompey in Egypt) an anti-Caesarean manifesto, and from there, he developed a taste for writing many other philological works, and he may have continued down that path and made a career of it, until…. in 1816, something remarkable happened. Leopardi wrote L’appressamento della morte (The Approach of Death), a poem in terza rima , which was, obviously, well influenced by the works of Dante.

On his transition to poetry, he is recounted as having called it “the passage from erudition to the beautiful”. And how beautiful it was. Leopardi would go on to be praised not only for his lyrical poetry, but also his satirical prose.

Even today, many people regard Leopardi as the “first modern Italian classic” poet. Some scholars liken his style to that of Byron, in that it is often melancholy and despairing, but there is some deeper quality to Leopardi’s work that we find perfectly sobering, if at times depressing.  In fact, we found this great article from the New Yorker, published in 2010, which describes reading Leopardi’s works as not being “an experience for the fainthearted”. This could not be more true. As Frederick John Snell, author of The Primer of Italian Literature, once said of Leopardi’s writing:

“He opens every little scratch, and probes, if he does not poison, the wounds of suffering humanity. Yet in all this he is the reverse of a fanatic. He argues dexterously, in the finest of literary styles.”

If you are unfamiliar with this tragically beautiful poet, you should head to your local library and scout around for him. Some of our favorite works by Leopardi include Zibaldone di pensieri (a collection of observations and criticisms) and the Last Canti, published between 1832 and 1837.

Today… explore your own cynicism and get to know the tormented artist within. Write down everything that you think is wrong with the world. Even if you never share it with another living soul, perhaps Signore Leopardi will appreciate your clever observations.

Write on in peace, Giacomo Leopardi!

Tags: Giacomo Leopardi dead writer dead writers club deathday happy june 14th 1837 Italian Italy poet Pompeo in Egitto philological dante
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~ Tuesday, April 10 ~
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Happy Deathday, Mr. Gibran!

On April 10th, in 1931, Lebanese poet and novelist, Khalil Gibran died of cirrhosis of the liver. He was only 48 years old.

                          

Gibran drew his words from an overwhelmingly vast well of influences. He often merged Eastern and Western philosophies in his poetry, and having grown up in Lebanon, studied art in Paris with Rodin and then adopted America as his new home, Gibran had a broad view of life, religiously, economically and romantically.

If you are unfamiliar with this spiritually stirring poet, we suggest you take a look at this biography on the young writer’s life, or if you are in a hurry check out this link.

Our favorite work by Mr. Gibran, also happens to be listed as one of the century’s best selling books in America after the Bible! The Prophet ,published in 1923, has touched millions of people, all over the world. This was one of the first books Gibran wrote in English and we highly encourage those who have not experienced it, to give it a chance.You’ll be so glad you did.

Some other favorites of ours include The Madman (1918), Sand and Foam (1926) and The New Frontier (1925). It may surprise some of you to hear that American president, John F. Kennedy was influenced by Khalil Gibran, when he famously stated in his Inaugural Speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” He was, in fact, quoting from The New Frontier, which had been written thirty-six years prior.

“Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?”

Today, we have a fun exercise for you and a nice way to remember Mr. Gibran…  be your own prophet. The prophet begins like this…

The Prophet, who has lived in a foreign city for twelve years, is about to board a ship that will take him back home. He is stopped by a group of people, who interrogate him about the mysteries of life…

Now, YOU, fill in the blanks. What are your mysteries? What are your solutions to the day’s problems? What are you certain of? What lies ahead?

Write on in peace, Mr. Gibran!

Tags: Cirrhosis of the Liver Khalil Gibran Lebanon poet april 10th 1931 novelist happy deathday dead writer dead writers club lebanon the prophet the new frontier the madman sand and foam
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~ Wednesday, March 28 ~
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Adrienne Rich Has Passed On

It has been reported that poet, Adrienne Rich has died today at the age of 82.

           

We welcome Ms. Rich to the Dead Writers Club and our hearts go out to the loved ones and devoted readers she leaves behind.

To read more about the poet, check out this link!

Do you have a favorite Rich poem? We are partial to “Diving Into the Wreck” and “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”.

Write on in peace, Ms. Rich!

Tags: adrienne rich deathday march 28th 2012 dead writer poetry poet dead writers club
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~ Friday, March 2 ~
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Happy Deathday Mr. Wieners!

We received a touching message from one of our readers that we had missed a deathday yesterday. And so, we would like to offer this belated deathday post to American poet John Wieners, who died on March 1st in 2002.Many special thanks to http://thesetelevisionblues.tumblr.com/, for bringing this to our attention.

      

Wieners was a student of the Black Mountain College and studied under fellow poets, Robert Duncan, Robert Creely and Charles Olson. He also worked in the Poet’s Theater in Cambridge, Ma. and lived in San Francisco for a stint, during which time his first book of poems, The Hotel Wentley Poems (1958), was published. In 1960, Wieners was committed to a psychiatric hospital. Though mental illness was something Wieners would struggle with all his life, it has also been said that his illness was thought by many to be “a very special reality”, by which the commonplace gave way to poetry. In fact, it was Robert Creely who once said of Wieners’ work, “His poems had nothing else in mind but their own fact.” Well put, Mr. Creely.

As a beat poet and member of the San Francisco Renaissance, Mr. Wieners was also an antiwar and gay rights activist and founder/editor of the literary magazine Measure (1957–1962). Wieners’ various honors include awards from the Poets Foundation, the New Hope Foundations, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, as well as a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

While we have unfortunately not read much of his work, we have listened to it. And would like to share one of our favorite recordings with you here. We are looking forward to rushing down to the library and scooping up Ace of Pentacles, published in 1964, as it has been highly recommended to us. We hope you’ll do the same.

If you would like to read up on this fascinating poet, we recommend this work by Andrea Brady, "Making Use of the Pain: The John Wieners Archive".

Write on in peace, Mr. Wieners.

Tags: 2002 march 1st john wieners american poet poetry dead writers club deathday ace of pentacles beat allen ginsberg san francisco
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~ Monday, December 5 ~
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Happy Deathday, Ms. Wheatley!

On this day, in 1784, Phillis Wheatley, the first prominent black poet in the United States of America, died from unspecified causes at the age of 31, followed shortly after by her infant son.

        

Born in Gambia, Wheatley was made a slave at age seven. She was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston. Thankfully, this family taught her to read and write, and always encouraged the young girl to write poetry.

The 1773 publication of Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was a big success and was the first book to be published by a black American. She was emancipated by her “owners”, following her poetic success, but chose to stay with the Wheatley family until the death of her former master.

She was a strong supporter of American independence, which is quite obviously reflected in both poems and various plays she wrote during the Revolutionary War.

                  

It is a terrible tragedy that she died so young and impoverished. The statue pictured above can be seen along Boston’s famous Commonwealth Avenue. Sadly, her grave, which can be found at Copps Hill Burying Ground in Boston, was left unmarked.

But her mark upon the face of African-American literature cannot be denied. The fact that this woman had to appear in a court to defend her literary ability before her first work was even published, just to prove she had written it, is a grim reminder of a very dark piece of American history. But it should also serve as a beacon of hope for those out there right now who are struggling to be recognized, to be heard. Follow your dreams and never falter from them. For more biographical information on Wheatley, check out this website!

Today, think on your own freedom. Are you truly free? Have you taken this for granted? Write about what gives you hope. What inspires freedom within you? What does it mean… to be truly free?

Write on in peace, Ms. Wheatley!

Tags: 1784 Phillis Wheatley dead writers club deathday december 5th poerty poet africa slavery
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~ Thursday, November 17 ~
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Happy Deathday Mr. Ignatow!

On this day in 1997, American poet, David Ignatow died at the age of 83.

                                                                                                                                                   

During his literary career, Ignatow worked as an editor of American Poetry Review, Analytic, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Chelsea Magazine, and as poetry editor of The Nation. His many honors include a Bollingen Prize in Poetry, two Guggenheim fellowships, the John Steinbeck Award, and a National Institute of Arts and Letters award “for a lifetime of creative effort.” He received the Shelley Memorial Award (1966), the Frost Medal (1992), and the William Carlos Williams Award (1997) of the Poetry Society of America.

Rescue the Dead, published in 1968, is one of those books every writer should have in their arsenal. It is emotionally exhausting to read but never fails to inspire.The poems in this collection are both horrifying and hopeful. Ignatow brings us face to face with death; the permanence of it, the simplicity of it… even the beauty in it. It is a masterpiece, not to be missed!

A few other collections that may interest you are, Tread the Dark, Leaving the Door Open and Living Is What I Wanted: Last Poems. Ignatow’s writing is infused with urban grit and wry humor and we just adore him for that! Whether he is writing about urban America, family relations, suicide, death or social change, he is always insightful.

Tonight, write about a death. A friend, a family member, someone you’ve never met… your own. Write the truest lines you’ll ever write.

Write on in peace, Mr. Ignatow!

Tags: dead writers club, poetry, american poet dead writer david ignatow 1997
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~ Friday, September 23 ~
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Happy Deathday, Mr. Neruda!

On this day in 1973, beloved Chilean poet and 1971 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, Pablo Neruda, died of prostate cancer at the age of 69.

            

Neruda’s impact on other poets cannot be denied and due to the sheer volume of his work, there is little chance of Neruda ever being forgotten. Translations of his work can be found in almost every language and his poetry has been widely featured in popular music, film and even modern literature.  Longing, passion, love… these are all central themes of Neruda’s universally beloved work.

If you are a Neruda fan and have never seen Il Postino, a film released in the nineties, we highly recommend that you go rent it or add it to your Netflix queue right now! The film’s soundtrack is also quite good and features various celebrities reading some of Neruda’s most moving love poetry. 

Our favorite collections of Neruda’s work include World’s End , Crepuscularioand On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea, all of which can be found in English. If you are interested in a good biography of Neruda, we suggest a look at his memoirs which was co-written with Hardie St. Martin. It is simply called Memoirs.

This evening, we encourage our single readers to go out there and find your heart’s companion! Take a chance on love and expose your inner passions! For our couples out there…well… dim the lights, pop open a nice cab and read some Neruda to each other… satisfaction guaranteed!

Write on in peace Mr. Neruda!

Tags: dead writers club, september 23rd, 1973 cancer chile dead writer love pablo neruda poet poetry il postino the postman Crepusculario world's end on the blue shore of silence poems of the sea
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~ Thursday, May 19 ~
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Happy Deathday Mr. Nash!

On May 19th in 1971, one of America’s finest lyric writers and poets died of Crohn’s disease at the age of 68. It was once said by the New York Times that Ogden Nash’s “droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry”.

                                      

While the volume of his work may not be as great as some other epic poets of our time, his contribution to popular culture can certainly not go unnoticed. You may recall this famous line, used in the 1971 film adaptation of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”; “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker”. Well, that little gem was written by none other than Mr. Ogden Nash. 

It may interest you all to know that Mr. Nash was a Harvard dropout who, having studied and become frustrated with the style of 18th century Romantic poetry, got his big break when he teamed up two Doubleday coworkers to produce Born in a Beer Garden; or, She Troupes to Conquer, which made fun of classic literature.

Nash was elected to both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and National Institute of Arts and Letters. During the 1950s he wrote more frequently for the children’s market, with such titles as The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus (1957), Custard the Dragon (1959), and a personal favorite, Girls are Silly (1962). He also wrote for television productions of Peter and the Wolf and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Our all time favorite collection by Nash is undoubtedly Hard Lines, his first major work which was published in 1931. If you have never read Nash, we highly suggest you dash out to your local library or check him out online here.

Ogden Nash frequently wrote about his experiences babysitting his grandchildren. Today, pay close attention to the children in your life. Observe them, quote them, dedicate a story or poem to them. If there are no children in you life currently, then we challenge you to spend the day with your inner child.

Write on in peace, Mr. Nash!

Tags: dead writer, lyric-writer, 1971 Ogden Nash crohn's disease dead writers club deathday happy may 19th hard lines poet poetry children
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~ Thursday, March 31 ~
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Two Deathdays!

Firstly, we would like to apologize for our absence. Been a busy month for all of us.

But we are back with much vigor today! Two deathdays to celebrate!

On March 31st two English writers passed on; Charlotte Brontë in 1855 and John Donne in 1631. Both died relatively young. Charlotte died at only 38 years old and Donne at the age of 59.

    

If you’d like a little bio information on these two, we recommend a quick glance at our post from last year. Ms. Brontë, of course, is most remembered for her novel , Jane Eyre. And Mr. Donne, who we might add is one of our favorite poets, is best remembered for his sonnets and satirical humor. We did find an interesting site which features John Donne’s work, and we encourage those of you who enjoy him or may not be terribly familiar with him, to check it out!

Today, keep these two writers in mind as you work and read. You never know… perhaps the literary world is ready for a mashup of the metaphysical and the symbolic!

Write on in peace, Mr. Donne and Ms. Brontë!

Tags: 1631 1855 bronte sisters charlotte bronte dead writers club deathday john donne march 31st poet writer jane eyre satire sonnets
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~ Sunday, January 9 ~
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~ Tuesday, November 30 ~
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Happy Deathday Mr. Wilde!

Notorious playwright and wit Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde died of “infection” on this day in 1900 at the age of 46.

                                   

Let’s face it, anybody who is anybody knows who good ole Oscar Wilde is! We’ll not list here his accomplishments or the impact his work has had on popular culture, theatre and aspiring “fame whores” everywhere… it would simply take up too much bandwidth! Oscar Wilde was, without a doubt, a truly gifted writer- but it was his personality that propelled him ever forward into the spotlight during his life. He lived large.

Unfortunately, this lavish lifestyle and flamboyant conduct led to rumors and then scandal. For those of you who do not know it, Mr. Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor, which broke not only his spirit but his body as well. He died only a few years after being released from prison. And what did he go to prison for? For being himself. Mr. Wilde was officially sentenced for what was referred to as “gross indecency”. To put it plainly, he was a homosexual. Wilde lost everything; his money, his children…his wife and most of his friends, who upon Wilde’s release, avoided him like the plague.

Since his death, he has been immortalized in Great Britain with sculptures and various monuments. His face can be found on tshirts, bookstore walls and even action figures!

If you are new to Wilde and his writings, first let us say we are so sorry to hear you have been so unjustly deprived. Secondly, let us direct you to a wonderful little website for all things Oscar : http://www.oscarwildecollection.com/. We cannot choose his best works, for they are all superb but we will point out a few of our favorites; The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Happy Prince, and The Importance of Being Earnest!

Today, we ask that you hold your head high today and proclaim “I am Me”! Be proud of who you are and never make any apologies for it! Live large today, dear readers, and do try to be as witty as possible in all that you do!

Wit on on peace, Mr. Wilde.

Tags: oscar wilde happy deathday november 30 1900 Irish playwright poet dorian gray the importance of being earnest wilde homosexuality infection wit witty
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~ Wednesday, November 17 ~
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Happy Deathday Mr. Ignatow!

On this day in 1997, American poet, David Ignatow died at the age of 83. Few poets have brought us face to face with death… Ignatow is one of them.

                             

During his literary career, Ignatow worked as an editor of American Poetry Review, Analytic, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Chelsea Magazine, and as poetry editor of The Nation. His many honors include a Bollingen Prize in Poetry, two Guggenheim fellowships, the John Steinbeck Award, and a National Institute of Arts and Letters award “for a lifetime of creative effort.” He received the Shelley Memorial Award (1966), the Frost Medal (1992), and the William Carlos Williams Award (1997) of the Poetry Society of America.

Though he has a rather large selection of poetry to browse, we always find ourselves coming back to Rescue the Dead, published in 1968. Rescue the Dead is one of those books every writer should have in their arsenal. It is emotionally exhausting to read but never fails to inspire.The poems in this collection are both horrifying and hopeful.  A few other collections that are not to be missed are Tread the Dark, Leaving the Door Open and Living Is What I Wanted: Last Poems. Ignatow’s writing is infused with urban grit and wry humor and we just adore him for that! Whether he is writing about urban America, family relations, suicide, death or social change, he is always insightful.

Tonight, write about the America you know. Write about the death you know. Write the truest lines you’ll ever write.

Write on in peace, Mr. Ignatow!

Tags: american, david ignatow deathday happy dead writers club november 17 1997 new york poet poerty poems rescue the dead
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~ Wednesday, November 10 ~
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Happy Deathday Monsieur Rimbaud!

In 1891, on November 10th, French poet and adventurer Arthur Rimbaud died at the age of 37 by what is presumed now to have been cancer though he was treated for tuberculosis, syphilis and arthritis.

          

Rimbaud’s work is moving, dark and can in some cases, only best be described as an open wound - sore, raw, exposed and vibrant. Some of our favorite works by Rimbaud include Une Saison en Enfer and Illuminations, although admittedly A Season in Hell (Une Saison en Enfer) is his most famous work.

By the time Rimbaud was nineteen years old, he had lived so voraciously and had experienced so much, with the help of poet Paul Verlaine, that he had become deeply disillusioned and determined to abandon Europe and literature altogether!  It is quite remarkable that the deeply stirring poetry he is now so very renowned for was all written by age 19!

The poet truly led a fascinating life, both as a writer and after that, as a merchant in many exotic places.  If you are interested in a great biography of this epic man, check out Rimbaud: A Biography by Graham Robb.

Today, we dare you to abandon all inhibitions and love deeply, dangerously and without doubt that you are remarkable! We like to think that is how Rimbaud is celebrating this day and every day in his eternal resting place.

Write on in peace, Monsieur Rimbaud!

Tags: arthur rimbaud november 10th 1891 French France poet dead writers club dead poet Une Saison en Enfer a season in hell
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~ Tuesday, November 9 ~
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Happy Deathday Mr. Thomas!

Today in 1953, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas died, presumably from pneumonia, which was not helped by a weakened liver. He was only 39 years old.

             

Dylan Thomas is perhaps the most renowned Welsh poet of all time. His rhythmic lyricism is legendary and mimicked often by writers of almost every poetry style. One of our very favorite works by Thomas will always be Under Milk Wood, a drama written in 1953 and performed on the radio in 1954 - later adapted for the screen in the seventies. (In fact, a wonderful recording of it can be found on iTunes)  Thomas is reported to have said once that Under Milk Wood was developed in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, “as a way of reasserting the evidence of beauty in the world”. Well, we can assure you… it is beautifully written.

What is perhaps so striking about Dylan Thomas’ writing is the way in which he writes death. It never needs to be said “this is death” or “this is why death is”. It is almost as if Thomas lifts the veil of death just enough to let us all get a glimpse and then he poses the questions to us in his wonderfully rhapsodic verse.

Though it is true that Dylan Thomas had a severe dependency on alcohol and we here at DWC in no way encourage irresponsible binge drinking, we hope you will raise your glass tonight in honor of Mr. Thomas and perhaps recite one of his poems with friends, for truly, that is where his poems are best spoken aloud.

Write on in peace, Mr. Thomas!

Tags: dylan thomas deathday happy dead writer poet poetry dead writers club november 9th 1953 wales welsh itunes under milk wood drama radioplay
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