Jun. 6, 2001


by Maxine Kumin

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Poem: "Appetite," by Maxine Kumin from Selected Poems 1960-1990 (W.W. Norton and Company).


I eat these
wild red raspberries
still warm from the sun
and smelling faintly of jewelweed
in memory of my father

tucking the napkin
under his chin and bending
over an ironstone bowl
of the bright drupelets
awash in cream

my father with the sigh of a man
who has seen all and been redeemed
said time after time
as he lifted his spoon

men kill for this.

It's the birthday of playwright Harvey Fierstein, born in Brooklyn in 1954. Fierstein is the author of Torch Song Trilogy, the story of a drag queen's search for lasting love.

It was on this date in 1949, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four was published. The novel is set in a future world dominated by three police states, continually at war with each other. The hero, Winston Smith, a minor official, longs for truth and decency and rebels, secretly, against the government.

On this day in 1944, the largest amphibious assault ever, D-Day, took place. The Allies crossed the English Channel and landed on the beaches of western Normandy. The American troops landed at 'Omaha' and 'Utah' beaches; the Canadians landed at 'Juno' beach, and the British troops landed at beaches named 'Gold' and 'Sword.' At least half of the Allied casualties came at Omaha Beach, where the Allied air and sea bombardment had been misdirected, striking far inland. 130,000 men landed by the end of D-Day; 9,000 were killed or wounded.

It's the birthday of poet Maxine Kumin, born in Philadelphia in 1925. Her poetry collection Up Country: Poems of New England, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973. She began writing poetry seriously in her mid-30s. She was married, the mother of three, living in a Boston suburb, and was, in her words, "acutely miserable." She joined an adult education poetry workshop that included Anne Sexton, with whom she stayed close friends. She has also published five novels for adults and more than 20 books for children.

It's the birthday of novelist Thomas Mann, born in Lübeck, Germany in 1875. His first novel was Buddenbrooks, published in 1901. It was for The Magic Mountain in 1924 that he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. He himself considered his greatest work to be his four-book cycle on Joseph (of the Bible), but this evaluation was shared by very few critics.

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