Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
by Louis Jenkins
In Sitka, because they are fond of them, people have
named the sea lions. Every sea lion is named Earl because
they are killed one after another by the orca, the killer
whale; sea lion bodies tossed left and right into the air.
“At least he didn’t get Earl,” someone says. And sure
enough, after a time, that same friendly, bewhiskered face
bobs to the surface. It’s Earl again. Well, how else are
you to live except by denial, by some palatable fiction,
some little song to sing while the inevitable, the black
and white blindsiding fact, comes hurtling toward you
out of the deep?
“Earl” by Louis Jenkins from Where Your House Is Now: New and Selected Poems. Nodin Press © 2019. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
On this day in 1643 the first legal divorce recorded in the American colonies was finalized. Anne Clarke of the Massachusetts Bay Colony had petitioned for divorce from her estranged and adulterous husband, Dennis Clarke. Mr. Clarke admitted to abandoning his wife and two children for another woman, and confirmed that he would not return to the marriage. The court’s record read: “She is garunted to bee divorced.”
It’s the birthday of the woman whom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart addressed “dearest little wife”: Constanze Mozart, born Constanze Weber in Zell im Wiesental, Germany (1762). The two of them first met when Wolfgang was 21 and Constanze was 15, but he was not interested in her so much as her sister Aloysia. Aloysia, however, rejected Mozart and married another man. Several years later, Mozart was back in town and boarding at the Weber family’s house, and he turned his attentions toward courting Constanze.
Their courtship was rife with jealousy, and it almost ended after Mozart found out that Constanze had let some young man measure the length of her lower leg during a parlor game. But Mozart and Constanze eventually wed in August 1782, when she was 20 and he was 26.
It’s the birthday of the man who coined the term “Cold War,” Herbert Bayard Swope (books by this author), born in St. Louis, Missouri (1882). He was a journalist and he was the first person ever to receive the Pulitzer Prize for reporting, which he got in 1917 — in the midst of World War I — after writing a series of articles that ran under the title “Inside the German Empire.”
He spent decades working for The New York Evening World, taking over as editor of the newspaper in 1920. The following year, in 1921, Swope created the first op-ed page. Many people believe that “op-ed” stands for “opinion-editorial,” but it actually means “opposite the editorial page,” which is usually where they can be found in the newspaper.
Swope was also a legendary gambler. Two years after he created the op-ed page, he won $470,300 in a poker game, which took place in a railroad car in Palm Beach against an oil baron, a Broadway impresario, and a steel magnate.
It’s the birthday of the poet W.D. (William DeWitt) Snodgrass (books by this author) born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania (1926). He started writing poetry at a time when the poets T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound had persuaded most poets writing in English that poetry should be full of imagery and symbols and allusions to mythology, but that it shouldn’t contain any obviously personal details.
But while Snodgrass was studying poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the early 1950s, his marriage began to fall apart, and he began writing about it in his poems. He showed some of these personal poems to his teacher, the poet Robert Lowell, but Lowell didn’t like them. He said, “You’ve got a brain; you can’t write this kind of tear-jerking stuff.
Lowell later recanted and helped Snodgrass get his poetry collection, Heart’s Needle, published in 1959. It was Snodgrass’s first book, and it won the Pulitzer Prize. Lowell called it “a breakthrough for modern poetry.”
Snodgrass’s work helped inspire a whole new school of poetry in which American poets began to write openly about their personal lives for the first time in decades. He died in January 2009.
It’s the birthday of Umberto Eco (books by this author), born in the Piedmont region of Italy (1932). He’s the author of the novels The Name of the Rose (1981), Foucault’s Pendulum (1989), and most recently, The Cemetery of Prague (2010). He once said that he knows there are sections of his books that people skip, but that it is important that they are there: “Think of the penultimate chapter of Ulysses, in which Joyce just describes Bloom’s entire kitchen, every drawer. Sometimes I happen to go back and read a drawer. The first time I read it, what was impressive and important was this ideal of describing everything — everything!”
Eco died in 2016 of pancreatic cancer.
Today is the birthday of Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten, born Elizabeth Nevills in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (1895). She taught herself the banjo and guitar at an early age; she would sneak her brother’s instruments to practice on when no one was home. She saved her money and eventually bought a guitar from a local dry goods store. She was left-handed, so she played her instruments “upside down” without restringing them. She fretted with her right hand and picked with her left. She developed her own unique style, which would later come to be known as “Cotten picking.”
Cotten recorded her first album in 1957, at the age of 62. It’s Elizabeth Cotten: Negro Folk Songs and Tunes. She’s best known for her song “Freight Train,” which she wrote when she was about 11 or 12 years old.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®