Oct. 2, 1999

The Last Judgment

by Czeslaw Milosz

Broadcast Date: SATURDAY: October 2, 1999

Poems: "The Last Judgment" by Czeslaw Milosz from Road Side Dog, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998.

The ALBUQUERQUE INTERNATIONAL BALLOON FESTIVAL begins today and runs through the 10th. About 850 hot air balloons gather near those low mountains outside Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A couple of weekend apple festivals kick off today: it's APPLEFEST in Weston, Missouri; and APPLE HARVEST FESTIVAL at the South Mountain Fairgrounds outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Or if you need your fruit to provide a little more pucker, there's the CRANBERRY FEST in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

It was on this day in 1944 that the devastating two-month WARSAW UPRISING came to an end. It started in late July, when Soviet armies pushing west promised aid to the Polish Underground if they'd rise up against the Germans in Warsaw. The Germans were outnumbered there, and the Uprising was initially a success: within three days Poles had control of the city. But the Germans counterattacked with fresh troops and planes. When the Soviets got to Warsaw, they stopped just outside town and sat idle for 63 days, during which about 200,000 Warsaw Poles were killed. The Underground surrendered on October 2; the Germans then leveled the city and left, and the Soviets entered Warsaw and claimed it for themselves.

It's the birthday in 1904 Hertfordshire, England of writer GRAHAM GREENE, who began as a poet, but supported himself as a freelance journalist, reporting for magazines and newspapers, all the while writing his own books, most of which have moral or religious quandaries running through them. He is best known for his novels of the '40s and early '50s, books like The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair.

It's the birthday in 1890, New York City, of GROUCHO MARX. He got his start in vaudeville as a boy soprano, and later toured with an acting troupe that went belly up in Denver and left him stranded there. He worked as a grocer just long enough to earn trainfare back to New York, then joined his brothers in a singing group, the Four Nightingales. They toured the country before they started to make movies in the late '20s: Animal Crackers (1930), A Night at the Opera (1935), Room Service (1938) and other hits, which usually centered around Groucho's one-liners — like this to a young writer: "From the moment I picked up your book I was convulsed with laughter, and someday I intend to read it."

Poet WALLACE STEVENS was born on this day in 1879, Reading, Connecticut. He said, "It gives a man character as a poet to have daily contact with a job. I doubt whether I've lost a thing by leading an exceedingly regular and disciplined life." After college in 1916 he went to work for the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. He lived quietly and in his early years few people even knew he wrote. But in 1923 he came out with his first collection of poems, Harmonium, and surprised everybody. For the next 10 years he published nothing, and worked his way up to company vice-president at the Hartford. But in 1936, he came out with another collection, Ideas of Order, then began publishing new work every other year or so, and his 1954 Collected Poems won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

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