Jun. 25, 2002

Next of Kin

by Calvin Forbes

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Poem: "Next of Kin," by Calvin Forbes from The Shine Poems (Louisiana State University Press).

Next of Kin

your name the one
I wrote down when asked

your name the one I carried
around just in case

your phone number I knew
better than my own

your's never did change
as I moved around

way back from jump
always the same eventually

no matter the friends I found
you were next of kin

On this day in 1950, the Korean War began when the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea. More than three million people lost their lives in that war, and many years later, an American veteran named Harold Richards wrote: "I was not brave, nor was I a hero in any way. I was just as scared as anyone else under fire ... I took part in five major battles and two invasions. I suffered the cold of North Korea along with every G.I. during the northern campaign. There were so many unsung heroes of that war, only men there could understand."

It's the birthday of mystery writer Dorothy Gilman, born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1923. She is the author of the Mrs. Pollifax mysteries. They're about a lonely widow in her 60s who applies for a job with the CIA and is chosen for special assignments in exotic locales. One book was made into a movie starring Rosalind Russell, and another was made into a television film starring Angela Lansbury.

It's the birthday of novelist George Orwell, born Eric Blair in Motihari, India, in 1903. He moved to England as a child and went off to prep school where he was looked down upon by both his headmaster and his wealthy peers. Because of that experience, Orwell concerned himself with the lives and the struggles of the poor. He lived in poverty for more than a year, and wrote an account of his experiences in Down and Out in Paris and London in 1933. He is best known to us as the author of Animal Farm ("All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.") and Nineteen Eighty-Four, written in 1949, the year before he died of tuberculosis.

On this day in 1903, Marie Curie announced the discovery of radium, for which she later won the Nobel Prize. In a lecture at Vassar College 18 years later, she said, "We must not forget that when radium was discovered, no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science."

It's the birthday of the radical writer and editor V.F. Calverton, born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1900. In 1923, Calverton founded the magazine Modern Quarterly, in which he published the work of black writers and intellectuals, including Zora Neal Hurston and Langston Hughes, when it was not particularly popular to do so. He lived in Greenwich Village, and wrote many books including Sex, Expression and Literature, and The Bankruptcy of Marriage.

It's the birthday of the playwright, director, and producer George Abbot, born in Forestville, New York, in 1887. He wrote many plays and musicals, including The Boys from Syracuse, Pal Joey, Where's Charley?, and The Pajama Game. He wrote his autobiography, Mister Abbott, in 1963, but he lived for many years after that. He died at the age of 107.

The Battle of the Little Big Horn was fought on this day in 1876. General George Armstrong Custer and his force of about 300 men were up against approximately 4000 Sioux Indians, led by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull.

On this day in 1857, the novelist Gustave Flaubert went on trial in Paris for publishing a morally offensive work-Madame Bovary. He was acquitted, and the book came out that same year.

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