Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Frankfort, KY for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Maryville, TN for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Iola, KS for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Garrison Keillor brings his solo show to Torrance, CA. Be prepared to laugh and sing along as you celebrate all that unites us.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Fort Lauderdale, FL for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
if this continues the children
may take him into their care
(lovingly) or hire a stranger
with an American accent
he explains he must go back
to a place he never saw before
he may have to go tomorrow
this is a mystery
the police will bring him home they
are not like the hooligans in
that old country still they are not
he waited patiently at the
officer’s desk he was not offered
even one small glass of vodka
the children didn’t know what to do
the grandchildren say grandpa
that’s okay come and go why not
come sometimes and sometimes go
“He Wanders” by Grace Paley, from Begin Again: Collected Poems, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000. (buy now)
Today is the birthday of publishing colossus William Randolph Hearst, who was born in San Francisco in 1863. He demanded the helm of his first paper, the San Francisco Examiner, when he was 23 and his father acquired the paper as payment for a gambling debt. It wasn’t long before his papers had a reputation for sensationalism, or as it came to be called, “yellow journalism.” One of his writers said “A Hearst newspaper is like a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.” On the other hand Hearst newspapers also employed some of the best writers in the business, like Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, and Jack London.
He and Joseph Pulitzer had an open rivalry in the New York market. Reporters from Hearst’s Morning Journal and Pulitzer’s World went beyond scooping each other to stealing stories outright from the competition. Hearst had the last laugh when he ran a story about the death of Colonel Reflipe W. Thenuz — an anagram of “we pilfer the news” — and Pulitzer’s paper took the bait, even adding made-up dateline information. This prank was harmless enough but when the U.S. battleship Maine exploded in Havana harbor in 1898 the two papers both published a supposedly suppressed cablegram saying the explosion was not an accident. There was no such cable but it boosted sales of both papers to record levels and the public demanded that President McKinley declare war on Spain. As the famous story goes, artist Frederick Remington was sent to Cuba by Hearst to cover the war. He wrote home, “There is no war. Request to be recalled,” only to be told, “You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.” And so he did.
And it’s the birthday of the man who once said, “Jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with”: bandleader, pianist, and composer Edward Kennedy — better known as Duke Ellington, born in Washington, D.C. in 1899. He composed more than 3,000 songs in his lifetime, enduring jazz classics like “Mood Indigo” (1930), “It Don’t Mean a Thing (if it Ain’t Got That Swing)” (1932), and “Sophisticated Lady” (1933), and he led his big band from 1923 until his death in 1974. His nickname came from his dapper demeanor and easy grace: His mother, Daisy, had worked hard to teach him elegant manners, and he’d learned the lessons well, so his childhood friends took to calling him “Duke.”
He took piano lessons as a boy, but skipped more of these than he attended, and it wasn’t until he started hanging around a poolroom and hearing ragtime and stride piano, played by the likes of Turner Layton and Eubie Blake, that his passion was kindled. For what it’s worth, he also credited the kindling to more earthy causes, saying, “I never had much interest in the piano until I realized that every time I played, a girl would appear on the piano bench to my left and another to my right.”
He formed a band, called the Washingtonians, with some friends, and they enjoyed moderate success in New York City in the mid-1920s, even making a few records, like “Choo Choo (Gotta Hurry Home)” (1924), “Black and Tan Fantasy,” and “Creole Love Call” (both 1927). It was taking a job as the house orchestra at Harlem’s famous Cotton Club that put them over the top and they were heard on radios all across America.
Ellington’s versatility and ability to evolve right along with the music helped him survive most of jazz’s changing styles. He flowed from hot jazz to swing to Big Band, although bebop, which he told Look magazine in 1954 was “like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing,” nearly put him out of business since bebop ensembles were smaller and cheaper for clubs to hire. By the 1960s he began collaborating with former rivals and young bebop artists and it wasn’t long before he was reinstated as one of the highest-earning artists in jazz. His son, Mercer, took up the baton of the orchestra upon Duke’s death of lung cancer in 1974 and his grandson Paul took it up in turn upon Mercer’s death. The Duke Ellington Orchestra still tours.
It’s the birthday of poet Yusef Komunyakaa (Books by this author), born in Bogalusa, Louisiana (1947). He grew up in the South just as the civil rights movement was gathering momentum. Then he went to Vietnam, serving as a war correspondent and editing the military newspaper. When he came back, he started writing poetry and he self-published his first two collections. His third collection, Copacetic (1984), received some attention and then he published a book of poems about the Vietnam War and it made him famous: Dien Cai Dau (1988), which means in Vietnamese “This Crazy Head.”
One of his best-known poems is “Facing It,” about visiting the Vietnam Memorial. It ends:
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He’s lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.
He said, “Poetry is a kind of distilled insinuation. It’s a way of expanding and talking around an idea or a question. Sometimes, more actually gets said through such a technique than a full frontal assault.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®