May 30, 2000

I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great

by Stephen Spender

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: May 30, 2000

Poem: "I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great," by Stephen Spender, from his Collected Poems (Random House).

It's the anniversary of the British Raid on Cologne, 1942. The Royal Air Force sent a thousand bombers, the largest group of attack aircraft in history, to hit Cologne, which was the rail and industrial center on the Rhine in Nazi Germany. The RAF caught the Germans off guard, and for about an hour and a half, without any let-up, one plane every six seconds dropped its bombs. The city was flattened at a loss of only 44 British planes.

After eight years of construction, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on this day in 1922 on the Mall in the nation's capitol. The 36 marble columns holding the roof up symbolize the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln's death in 1865.

It's the birthday of Britain's favorite ghost-story writer, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, born in Middlesex, England (1919). He started writing them at night after selling furniture at Harrod's Department store in London, and developed his theory that a good ghost story should always contain three things: "humor, pathos, and chilling situations." His first book was The Man from the Bomb (1959); his most recent title is Shudders and Shivers (1995). He's said: "If one hundred years from now an editor who is five thousand words short when compiling an anthology should slip in one of my ghost stories because it is the right length and most important it is free, then forty-odd years of writing will not have been in vain."

It's the birthday in Louisville, Kentucky, 1903, of Harlem Renaissance poet and children's writer Countee Cullen, who was adopted and raised by a Methodist minister in Harlem. At New York University, he wrote most of the poems for his first three volumes: Color (1925), Copper Sun (1927), and The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927). He was the most popular black poet in America at that time. Cullen then published The Black Christ and Other Poems to less than glowing reviews. He spent the rest of his life teaching French and writing for young readers.

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