Thursday

Jun. 6, 2002

After the Heat Wave

by Maxine Kumin

THURSDAY, 6 JUNE 2002
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Poem: "After the Heat Wave," by Maxine Kumin from Connecting the Dots (W.W. Norton and Company).

After the Heat Wave

Rain falls down on the newly shorn sheep.
Deerflies lie doggo, black flies are absent.
Not one emerges from the great storehouse.
The barn cats are sleeping, birds are force-feeding
three clutches of phoebes, two of robins
and I am shelling the first of the season's
peas as a merciful summer rain
falls down all morning around me in strings.


On this day in 1949, George Orwell's novel 1984 was published. It has since sold 10 million copies, and has been translated into 62 languages. Orwell became a celebrity in 1946 with the publication of Animal Farm. With the money he earned from his first success, Orwell bought a house on Jura, an island off the coast of Scotland, a place so far away from civilization that it took several days just to get there. There he started work on 1984. He developed symptoms of tuberculosis, got better for a while, and then fell seriously ill. He pleaded with his publisher to send him a typist, but they couldn't find anyone who was willing to travel to Orwell's island. So, he sat up in bed and typed the whole manuscript by himself, smoking cigarette after cigarette. The day he finished, he was taken to a sanitarium, and he died there six months later.

On this day in 1944, during the Second World War, the long-awaited invasion of France began. Thousands of ships took one hundred and thirty thousand Allied troops across the English Channel, where they streamed onto five separate beaches in Normandy. The Allied forces had prepared for the invasion with a masterful campaign of misinformation. The most natural place for an invasion would have been across the narrow straits of Calais, and decoy messages convinced the Germans that the real invasion was going to take place there. Dummy landing craft were launched. Faked radar signals made it look as if planes were headed for Calais, while radar blackouts concealed planes headed for Normandy. The campaign was so successful that the Germans failed to move any of their divisions south in time to block the Allies. Other messages sent earlier had diverted more German divisions north to Norway and south to the Balkans.

On this day in 1933, Richard Hollingshead opened the first drive-in movie theatre in Camden, New Jersey. Drive-in theatres still exist in the U.S.; the professional association of drive-in movie theatre owners has about one hundred members.

It's the birthday of Maxine Kumin, born in Germantown, Pennsylvania (1925). She has published fourteen books of poetry, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Up Country (1972). She lives on a farm in New Hampshire, where she and her husband raise sheep and horses. Three years ago, she was thrown from a carriage she was driving when her horse bolted. The emergency room doctor told her that ninety-five percent of people with similar injuries wouldn't have made it to the emergency room. She wrote a book called Inside the Halo and Beyond (2000) about the year it took her to recover from the accident. In it, she credits her grown children for the constant help they gave her.

It's the birthday of Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, born in Moscow (1799). His father was from a noble Russian family, and his mother was descended from an Ethiopian servant in the court of Peter the Great. The children of Russian aristocrats were educated entirely in French, and Pushkin heard Russian only from the family's servants. He was the first writer to try writing in colloquial Russian, and he is still considered one of its most accomplished stylists. He's remembered now for his long works in verse, Boris Godunov (1831) and Eugene Onegin (1833).

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