Story Preservation Initiative®

Preserving the Stories of Our Lives by capturing the voices, words, and meanderings of artists, scientists, writers, poets, musicians, and eyewitnesses to history. Listen, learn, and be amazed! WEB: www.storypreservation.org

Archive for ‘February, 2014’

Audio Up! on our Conversation with Space Shuttle Neurolab Researcher⎥ Jay Buckey

Dr. Jay Buckey was a crew member and Bio-lab researcher on the Space Shuttle Columbia’s …

16-day Neurolab mission from April 17 to May 3, 1998. The 7-member crew served as both experiment subjects and operators for 26 individual life science experiments focusing on the effects of microgravity on the brain and nervous system. The STS-90 flight orbited the Earth 256 times, covered 6.3 million miles, and logged over 381 hours in space.

Neurolab, a NASA research mission dedicated to the study of the neurosciences, focused on the most complex and least understood part of the human body – the nervous system. This joint NASA-NIH sponsored mission explored five key areas affected by weightlessness: blood pressure control, balance, sleep, nervous system development and the blending of vision with balance and position sense.

Jay is the author of Space Physiology (Oxford Press: 2006), that tells about the effects of weightlessness on the body.

He holds a B.A. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University (1977) and an M.D. from Cornell in 1981, interning at New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center and completing his residence at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

Currently, Jay is a Professor of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School.  He was also a flight surgeon with the US Air Force Reserve for 8 years.

To hear Jay’s story, click on the links below:

Jay Buckey_Track 01_Intro

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Jay Buckey_Track 06

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

 

In Honor and Memory of Maxine Kumin 1925 – 2014

Maxine’s oral history, recorded in 2012 at her home in Warner, NH, can be heard in its entirety by clicking on the links below.


It was a pleasure meeting and recording Maxine at her farm in Warner, New Hampshire.

Excerpted from The Poetry Foundation:

An enduring presence in American poetry, Maxine Kumin’s career has spanned over half a century. She has been the recipient of prestigious awards such as the Pulitzer Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award. She was the poetry consultant for the Library of Congress in 1981-1982, and has taught at many of the country’s most prestigious universities, including MIT, Princeton, and Columbia. Despite traveling away from home to lecture at schools and universities around the United States, Kumin has retained close ties with her farmhouse in rural New Hampshire; in an interview with Joan Norris published in Crazy Horse, the poet disclosed, “Practically all of [my poems] have come out of this geography and this state of mind.”

Her “well-made poems and stories are two ways of coming at the same immemorial preoccupations: aging and mortality,” wrote Clara Claiborne Park in the Nation, and deemed Kumin’s work “the fiction and poetry of maturity.” Her poems are also mature for another reason: Kumin did not begin to write and publish until mid-life, when she found encouragement in workshops at the Boston Center for Adult Education. Her early poems display her mastery of technique and deal with themes that she has continued to explore throughout her career: identity, the ephemeral nature of life, loss, and man’s relationship to nature. Many of these early works were collected in Kumin’s first book of poems, Halfway (1961), published when she was thirty-six. While attending the Boston workshops, Kumin met and befriended the poet Anne Sexton. Both homemakers with children when they began their literary careers, they wrote four children’s books together and in general contributed to each other’s development. The two poets communicated on a nearly daily basis, conducting private workshops by letter and phone. Consequently, critics tried to trace a strong mutual influence, but both poets denied one. Nonetheless, there were some significant exchanges, and the two poets suggested titles for each other’s work on at least two occasions.

Kumin is most often compared to Robert Frost.  The work of both poets shows a close attention to the details of New England rural life. Booth commented: “The distinctive nature of Maxine Kumin’s present poems derives from the primary fact that she lives in, and writes from, a world where constant (if partial) recovery of what’s ‘lost’ is as sure as the procession of the equinoxes, or as familiar as mucking-out the horses’ daily dung.” Kumin’s preference for traditional verse forms has also caused critics to liken her to Frost. Not only is there an order “to be discovered…in the natural world,” she told Martha George Meek in a Massachusetts Review interview, “there is also an order that a human can impose on the chaos of his emotions and the chaos of events.” Kumin achieves this order by structuring and controlling her most emotional subjects, fitting them to exacting patterns of syllable count and rhyme. As she told Hammond, “The harder—that is, the more psychically difficult—the poem is to write, the more likely I am to choose a difficult pattern to pound it into. This is true because, paradoxically, the difficulty frees me to be more honest and more direct.”

Kumin is also a noted writer of fiction, and has admitted to a certain overlap between the two genres. “I tend to steal from myself,” she said in an interview published in To Make a Prairie. “The compass of the poem is so small and so demanding, you have to be so selective, and there are so many things that get left out that you feel cheated. So you take all those things…and they get into fiction.”

Kumin’s later work has received praise for its emotional attentiveness and elegiac nature. Reviewing Nurture (1989), in the New York Times Book Review, Carol Muske remarked, “These poems are exhaustive in their sorrow: they are predominantly short, brutal elegies for the natural world.” In later books, such as The Long Approach (1986), Nurture, Looking for Luck (1992), and Connecting the Dots: Poems(1996), Kumin continues to focus on the daily rituals of farm-life, as well as turning her attention to social and environmental problems such as pollution, religious persecution, nuclear holocaust, and famine.

In 1997, Kumin published Selected Poems, 1960-1990. Covering the first nine books of Kumin’s career, the volume was praised by Judy Clarence in Library Journal for allowing the reader the opportunity to “move slowly, meanderingly, deliciously through the stages of Kumin’s poetic life.” Noting that the poet’s “unsentimental affinity for animals has been her divining rod for locating and observing the natural world’s seemingly inexhaustible beauty and mankind’s terrifying willingness to destroy it,” a Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the collection for illustrating this through Kumin’s “plain style,” “surprising imagery…and recurring reflections.” Kumin followed Selected Poems with The Long Marriage (2002), which celebrates her five-decade marriage to her husband, their life together in New Hampshire, and nature. The book was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award of the Academy of American Poets. The New York Times Book Review contributor Megan Harland called Kumin’s observations “earthy” and “practical,” and she declared that “Kumin’s tonal clarity is transformative.”

When Kumin was seventy-three she suffered an accident while preparing a horse for competition and broke her neck, receiving serious internal injuries. She was able to make a successful recovery, however, and her book Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery (1999) describes her convalescence. Anne Roiphe, writing for the New York Times Book Review, described Kumin’s language as “precise and spare.” Roiphe noted that although Kumin is a poet, this book “is rarely poetic in the usual sense of heightened metaphor or compacted image.” Roiphe likened the work “to a dignified prayer of thanks” that resonates with “wisdom while announcing a triumph of body and soul.” The same year that Inside the Halo and Beyond was released, Kumin also published Always Beginning: Essays on a Life in Poetry, a collection of essays and poems describing Kumin’s daily life as a poet. She includes interviews, diary entries, and keynote addresses, as well as poetry.

Kumin’s latest poetry collections are Jack and Other New Poems (2005and Still to Mow (2007).  She recently won the  L.A. Times Book Award for her latest collection of poems, Where I Live.

Maxine Kumin on Story Preservation’s New Hampshire Public Radio program “Inspired Lives:”

http://nhpr.org/post/inspired-lives-poet-maxine-kumin

Click on a link to listen: 

Maxine Kumin Intro to Recording Track 01

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Maxine Kumin_Track 05

Maxine Kumin_Track 06

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Maxine Kumin_Track 08

Maxine Kumin_Track 09

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Maxine Kumin_Track 11

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

 

Victor Kumin’s oral history can be found at: https://storypreservation.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/one-of-oppies-boys/

 

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Stories Matter

 

Victor Kumin ⎥ One of Oppie’s Boys


An eyewitness to history, Kumin’s story is a cautionary tale.

Victor Kumin graduated from Harvard in January of 1943 with a degree in Chemistry.  A year and a half later, in June 1944, he was drafted.   Three months after becoming a soldier, he was in the final phase of basic training when  he was called out and brought before a civilian and a military officer who quizzed him about physical chemistry. At the end of the oral exam, they told him he had flunked. They needed chemists, they said, but he had been away from his studies for too long.

Kumin returned to the mud. Within a few days, he got another call. This time he was told to pack his bags and be ready to leave the next morning. Along with a train ticket to Santa Fe, N.M., he was given orders in a manila envelope with instructions not to open it.

“I was told to keep my mouth shut and not tell anyone anything,”he said.

A young soldier who had studied metallurgy in college had also been plucked from the ranks to travel west with Kumin. At every meal stop along the way, strangers sidled up to the two soldiers and tried to strike up a conversation. They disclosed nothing.

Between themselves, Kumin and the other soldier speculated about their destination. Their best guess was a rocket development project.  But, as he says, “We couldn’t have been more wrong.”  Their destination was Los Alamos, where they were to work with a team assembled by J. Robert Oppenheimer to help build the Atomic bomb.

Kumin and his colleagues attended weekly meetings at which leaders of the project explained aspects of the work. As the Trinity test drew near, Oppenheimer made a statement that stuck in Kumin’s mind.

He recalled it this way: “There are many of us here who hope and pray that this will prove to be impossible. But we’re going to go down to Alamogordo, and we’re going to make this test, and if it doesn’t work, we’re going to come back and we’re going to work twice as hard to make it work.”

After the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Kumin refused to continue his work and faced court marshall.   He was ultimately honorably discharged.

Click on the links below to listen: 

Victor Kumin_Track 01

Victor Kumin_Track 02

Victor Kumin_Track 03

Victor Kumin_Track 04

Victor Kumin_Track 05

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

(Concord Monitor, July 2005, Destruction, Pride, and Compassion by Mike Pride)

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Stories Matter