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+
The Couple Next Door
by Kim Dower
The couple next door reads all day long.
I can see them from our adjoining hotel patios
high above the sea.
The couple next door sits
at a round white plastic table on hard chairs,
their books touching as they
turn their pages at the same time.
I listen for any sounds they might make:
soft cough, sigh of joy,
I hear nothing except for southbound traffic
on Pacific Coast Highway, distant
waves, morning sounds of housekeepers
cleaning the grounds below our deck.
The man’s book looks fat; I see him
thick glasses brand new cap
staring intently into the page,
I never see him smile so I know the book is not funny.
I never see him shake his head so I know the book does not
confuse him, but he suddenly lifts his head
looks out at the ocean, puts his hand over his mouth.
The woman looks content like her book understands her:
it’s about something she knows too well––
bringing up children, watching them grow,
I brought books too but prefer watching them:
wonder how they arrived at this place
where reading in silence carries them through the day.
“The Couple Next Door” by Kim Dower from Air Kissing on Mars. © Red Hen Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of Bob Dylan (books by this author), born Robert Zimmerman in 1941. He was born in Duluth, Minnesota, and grew up in nearby Hibbing, just off the road that ran all the way up from New Orleans and lent its name to his sixth album, 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited. He moved down to Minneapolis and studied art at the University of Minnesota, and though he’d started out his musical career with a rock ‘n’ roll band, he soon converted to folk, playing gigs at a coffeehouse, the 10 O’clock Scholar, in the Dinkytown neighborhood north of campus. Rock was catchy, but it wasn’t deep enough to satisfy him, and he later said: “I knew that when I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing. The songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings.” He left Dinkytown for New York and became the darling of Greenwich Village’s folk community.
By the mid-1960s, he’d gone electric, forsaking folk and returning to his rock roots. It wasn’t a popular move among his fans, and at a show in England they booed him and called him “Judas.” He responded by cranking the amps even louder, never one to worry about a rapport with his audience.
His lyrics evolved too, from protest songs into more literary undertakings, influenced by Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, and John Keats (to say nothing of Dylan Thomas, who inspired Zimmerman’s name change). He’s been called one of America’s great contemporary poets, and his lyrics are studied in college poetry classes, stripped of the music. Boston University lecturer Kevin Barents directs students to consider the iambic and ballad meter on Dylan’s album John Wesley Harding. Oxford professor Christopher Ricks puts him on a par with Milton, Keats, and Tennyson. He’s been nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature every year since 1996. He wrote a volume of poetry and prose called Tarantula in 1966 (published in 1971), even though he had famously proclaimed himself “a song-and-dance man” in 1965, when asked outright if he was a songwriter or a poet; The New Yorker published two of his poems from that period in 2008. Perhaps it’s best to draw the distinction where he did, in the liner notes for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan: “Anything I can sing, I call a song. Anything I can’t sing, I call a poem.”
He’s also kept up with his art, drawing and painting to fill the time when he’s on the road. Some critics compare his style to Degas, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Matisse. Others say he is “spasmodically brilliant,” and one art history professor said he “paints like any other amateur.” The artist himself says, in his typically laconic style: “I just draw what’s interesting to me and then I paint it. Rows of houses, orchard acres, lines of tree trunks, could be anything. I can turn it into a life and death drama.”
It’s the birthday of novelist Michael Chabon (books by this author), born in Washington, D.C. (1963). He loved comics as a kid, and wrote his own. When he was 10 years old, he wrote his first short story starring Sherlock Holmes.
He went to graduate school at the University of California, Irvine, and he wrote a novel as his thesis. One of his professors sent the novel off to an agent, and Chabon got a big advance. That novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), was a best-seller, but soon afterward his career stalled. He spent five years working on a novel that just kept getting longer. He finally gave up completely and started a new project. In just seven months, Chabon had completed Wonder Boys (1995), which became another best-seller.
Criticized by one reviewer for not being ambitious enough, Chabon decided he needed to go in a new direction. About that time, he said: “I found one remaining box of comics which I had saved and I’d been dragging with me for 15 years. When I opened it up and that smell came pouring out […] I was struck by […] a sense of my childhood self that seemed to be contained in there.” Soon he wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), an epic story about 1940s comic book creators. The novel moves from the ghetto of Nazi-occupied Prague to the bohemian nightlife of New York City.
It’s the birthday of poet Joseph Brodsky (books by this author), born in Leningrad (1940). His father was a professional photographer, but since the family was Jewish, he was often denied work. As a young boy, Brodsky lived through the Siege of Leningrad, and as he grew up, it was clear that the city had not recovered — that “the suffering and poverty were visible all around.”
Brodsky dropped out of school when he was 15, and he worked in a morgue, a ship’s boiler room, and a lighthouse. He said: “I was a normal Soviet boy […] But something turned me upside down: [Dostoevsky’s] Notes from the Underground.” By the time he was 18, he was publishing poems, and was mentored by the poet Anna Akhmatova.
When he was 23, he was charged with “malicious parasitism” and arrested by the KGB. He testified in court, and his testimony was copied down and smuggled out of Russia. When the judge asked Brodsky, “Who told you that you were a poet? Who assigned you that rank?” he responded: “No one. Who assigned me to the human race?” He was sentenced to five years in a Siberian labor camp, but his testimony only made him more famous.
After 18 months of hard labor, he was released and went back to Leningrad, spending the next few years trying to make a living as a poet, but everything he did angered the authorities. In 1972, when Brodsky was 32 years old, the KGB showed up and put him on a plane to Vienna. There he was taken in by Carl Proffer, an American professor of Russian literature. Proffer introduced Brodsky to W.H. Auden, who was the young poet’s hero.
Auden took a liking to him and helped secure Brodsky residency in the United States, where he was quickly offered teaching positions. In 1987, Brodsky won the Nobel Prize in literature. When he learned that he had won the prize, he said, “A big step for me, and a small step for mankind.”
His books include Selected Poems (1973), A Part of Speech (1979), and To Urania (1988).