Mar. 1, 1998


by Howard Nemerov


Today's Reading: "Trees" by Howard Nemerov from THE COLLECTED POEMS OF HOWARD NEMEROV, published by University of Chicago Press (1977).

It was on this day in 1961 that President Kennedy signed the order requesting Congress to establish THE PEACE CORPS. Congress passed legislation and by the fall of '61 the first volunteers were in the field. Today the Peace Corps is in 90 countries with about 6,500 volunteers.

It's the birthday of poet RICHARD WILBUR, New York, 1921, who was the nation's poet laureate in 1987-88. When he was a college student he took off summers and rode freight cars to see the U.S. He fought in Italy and France during WWII and began to write poetry just as soon as the it ended. He said, "One does not use poetry until one's world somehow gets out of hand. Poetry, to be vital, seems to need a periodic, personal acquaintance with the threat of chaos."

HOWARD NEMEROV, who followed Wilbur as the nation's poet laureate in 1988, was also born on this date, in New York, 1920. He was a bomber pilot in the war and came back to write and teach at Washington University in St. Louis.

It's the birthday in 1914, Oklahoma City of RALPH ELLISON, best known for his first and only novel, Invisible Man, a story of a young black man who leaves the South for New York to join the civil rights movement, but who winds up ignored, invisible to both whites and blacks.

His friend Richard Wright's novel, NATIVE SON, was published on this day in 1940, the story of the violent character Bigger Thomas set in the tenements of Chicago.

President Ulysses Grant declared a two-and-a-quarter million acre parcel of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana a national park on this day in 1872. YELLOWSTONE was the world's first national park, "a pleasuring ground," Grant called it, "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people." Nearly 3 million people visit Yellowstone each year.

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