Jun. 7, 1998

Mountain Corn Song

by Louise McNeill


Today's Reading: "Mountain Corn Song" by Louise McNeill from GAVLEY MOUNTAIN A HISTORY IN VERSE, published by Harcourt Brace & Company.

It's the birthday in Little Falls, Minnesota, 1954, of novelist and poet LOUISE ERDRICH, born to an Ojibwa Indian mother and a German father, and whose first three novels, Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, and Tracks, centered on Ojibwa families in Minnesota and North Dakota. These all came out in the 1980s, after she'd gotten degrees at Dartmouth and Johns Hopkins, and worked as a waitress, teacher, lifeguard, and as a flag signaler on a highway construction crew. Her most recent novel, The Antelope Wife, came out just a few weeks ago, a story about the Roys and the Shawanos, two closely related Ojibwa families in modern-day Minneapolis.

It was on this day in 1940 that KING HAAKON of NORWAY set sail for London, ending the Norwegian military resistance against the Nazis. Norwegians idolized Haakon, and saw him as a symbol of courage. Many were heartbroken when Haakon left, but glad he made it out alive, and they kept up an underground resistance for the rest of the war.

It's the birthday in Topeka, Kansas, 1917, of poet GWENDOLYN BROOKS, whose second book of poems, Annie Allen, about a black girl growing up in Chicago, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950. After getting an English degree and working as a housekeeper, she started publishing her poems in Harpers and the Saturday Review, coming out with her first collection, A Street in Bronzeville, in 1945. She also wrote novels, children's books and memoirs, and in 1968 succeeded Carl Sandburg as the poet laureate of Illinois.

It's the birthday in Westfield, New Jersey, 1909, of VIRGINIA APGAR, the physician who in 1952 developed the test for newborns that determines if they need any medical help. It's called the Apgar Score and is given at 60 seconds, then again at five minutes after birth, checking heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, reflexes and skin color.

It's the birthday in Dublin, 1899, of the British novelist, ELIZABETH BOWEN, best known for her books about upper-middle class girls coping with lives they're unprepared for - like the 1938 The Death of the Heart, the story of orphaned 16-year-old Portia Quayne. She came out with her first short story collection in her early 20s, and followed that in the late 1920s and 30s with novels that were very popular in the UK, like, The Hotel, and The House in Paris.

The French painter PAUL GAUGUIN was born in Paris on this day, 1848. He was a stockbroker for nearly 12 years, painting on Sunday afternoons. But he lost his job, then abandoned his wife and five children and took up painting seriously. He and Van Gogh were roommates for a few weeks, but they didn't get along. Gauguin moved out and not long after left France for Tahiti, painting bold-colored tropical scenes in reaction to the French Impressionists.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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