Apr. 1, 1998
Today's Reading: "Vergissmeinnicht" by Keith Douglas from THE COMPLETE POEMS OF KEITH DOUGLAS, published by Oxford University Press.
It's APRIL FOOL'S DAY. No one is entirely sure of how it all got started but it's been around for centuries. Poor Robin's Almanack of 1760 said: The first of April, some do say, Is set apart for All Fools' Day, But why the people call it so, Nor I nor they themselves do know. Mark Twain added that this is "the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other 364."
Today is also the beginning of National Poetry Month.
It's the birthday in Memphis, 1895, of blues singer ALBERTA HUNTER. Her mother was a cleaning woman in a Memphis brothel and her father was a Pullman porter who died before she knew him. By the time she was in her 20s she'd worked with nearly all the greats, from Louis Armstrong and Eubie Blake, to Fats Waller and Sidney Bechet and had started writing her own songs. One of them was "Down-Hearted Blues" ÷ Bessie Smith's first recording in 1923 ÷ it sold a million copies within months. She played opposite Paul Robeson in "Show Boat," entertained the troops in WWII and the Korean War ÷ then gave it all up in 1954, in order, she said, "to do something to help humanity." She took a course in practical nursing and went to work at a New York hospital for 20 years and revealed nothing about herself to her patients or co-workers. In 1977 the hospital asked her to retire; she was 82 years old. She hated retirement, said it bored her to tears, and one evening that summer she sang at a friend's party. That led to a six-week stint in a Greenwich Village club and pretty soon crowds were lined up around the block to get in. She started writing songs again and performing full-time which she kept up till right before she died at 89.
It's the anniversary of THE DEFEAT AT FIVE FORKS, in 1865, the battle that virtually ended the Civil War. Several thousand Confederate troops under George Pickett were on the run from Union troops when they were cut off and defeated at Five Forks, Virginia. This bottled up Robert E. Lee's armies in the railroad town of Petersburg, Virginia and in the Confederate capitol, Richmond. The next day Lee got word to Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, that he would have to evacuate Richmond. Davis and his cabinet fled Richmond by train for Danville, Virginia, and the war was all but over.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®