Jun. 6, 1999

The Rebel

by David Ignatow

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: June 6, 1999

Poem: David Ignatow, from At My Ease: Uncollected Poems of the Fifties and Sixties (BOA Editions, 1998).

George Orwell's novel NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR was published on this day in 1949; the story of Winston Smith, a man looking for truth and decency in a totalitarian world where just about every freedom is denied and posters warn that "Big Brother is Watching You."

It's the anniversary in 1944 of D-DAY, the largest military invasion in history, when over a million Allied soldiers came across the English channel and began landing on the beaches of Normandy, France to make a final push into Nazi Germany. A few minutes after midnight on June 6th, the gliders landed in Normandy and the flyers knocked out Nazi communications posts. Then at dawn, 5,000 ships under Dwight D. Eisenhower approached beaches code-named Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword, and soldiers began landing. Four of the beaches fell relatively quickly, but Omaha — where many Americans landed — was the costliest. American casualties that day were about 6,000, far ahead of the French, British, and Canadians.

It's the birthday in 1925, in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, of writer MAXINE KUMIN, author of 11 poetry books including Connecting the Dogs (1996); and Up Country: Poems of New England (1972), for which she received the Pulitzer Prize. She came to poetry in the late 1950s, studying in Boston where she met Anne Sexton, another student. Each woman was married with children, and they became such good friends and writing partners that they had second phone lines installed in their homes so they could talk and not tie up the main line. Kumin says, "We kept that line linked for hours at a stretch, interrupting poem-talk to stir the spaghetti sauce, switch the laundry, or try out a new image on the typewriter; then we whistled into the receiver for each other when we were ready to resume."

It's the birthday of the German novelist, THOMAS MANN, in Lübeck, 1875, author of Death in Venice (1912), and The Magic Mountain (1925). These novels-of-ideas won him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929. When Hitler came to power in 1933 Mann and his Jewish wife fled to Switzerland, then in 1938 came to America, where he taught at Princeton, then settled in Southern California.

It was on this day in 1872 in Rochester, New York that SUSAN B. ANTHONY led a group of women to the polls to vote. Women weren't yet allowed to vote — the 19th Amendment giving them the ballot wasn't passed until 1920 — but at her trial she stood up, quoted the preamble of the Constitution, then gave a barn-burner of a speech, saying, "It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people who formed the Union. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of the enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this government — the ballot."

It's the birthday in Moscow, 1799, of the man Russians regard as the founder of their modern literature, the poet ALEXANDER PUSHKIN. He was nearly always in hot water with the authorities for his liberal views and spent most of his life in political exile, banished from Moscow, and he died when he was 37 years old in a gun duel defending the honor of his wife. His best-known works are the long poems — like "Russlan and Ludmilla," "Eugene Onegin," and "Boris Godunov," all of which became opera librettos for the Russian composers Glinka, Tchaikovsky, and Mussorgsky.

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