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 Ann Campanella
The day is warm and dank as early summer.
Crows scream and pitch in the woods
like the ruckus of old women fighting
for the shreds of their lives.
A sudden silence — then the hum
of a black-winged cloud oozing
through the naked sky —
the ruckus begins again.
Under the layers of winter grey,
the farm is pale and muted, the barn doors
shut tight. The only animals in sight
an earth-brown squirrel and these harbinger birds.
I am waiting for the sun to shine again,
to learn how to unfurl my heart in its warmth.
These days, neither long nor short, bright nor dark,
wet nor dry, fill me with a sadness I cannot name.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, a day of love
and chocolate. My father, born eighty-one years ago,
always bought red cardboard hearts full of truffles
for my mother, my sister and me. Now he is gone.
This morning, the doctor taps his pencil
against the screen. A six-week ultrasound.
There, that’s the heartbeat.
A tiny flutter outlined by grey.
Ann Campanella, “Mid February” from What Flies Away from Main Street Rag Publishing Company © Ann Campanella. Used by permission of the author. (buy now)
Today is the birthday of novelist Toni Morrison (books by this author), born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio (1931). When she was in her late 20s she returned to teach at her alma mater, Howard University, and she joined a local writers’ group. Members were only allowed to come to the meetings if they had writing to share, and she appreciated the group of people — plus, she said, she really liked the food. She needed a piece of writing for one of her meetings, so she wrote a story about a young black girl who desperately wanted to have blue eyes. Everyone liked it, but she soon put the story aside. Morrison got divorced and moved with her two young sons to Syracuse, New York. She found a job editing textbooks, and then as an editor at Random House. She moved to Queens, where she lived in a small house so close to the jet-landing lane at JFK airport that everything rattled every time a plane landed.
She wanted to read a good novel about the effects of racism on the most vulnerable people, but she couldn’t find the book she wanted to read, so she finally decided to write it herself. She got out her old story from the writing group and began to expand it. She would wake up at 4 a.m. to write, go to work, come home and make dinner and take care of her boys, and return to writing once they were asleep. She said of those days:
“That was a liberation. There were two areas of total freedom for me. One has to do with my children, because they were the only ones who I knew who were not making insane demands on me […] But the writing was the real freedom, because nobody told me what to do there. That was my world and my imagination. And all my life it’s been that way.”
Eventually, she decided to send out her manuscript and received a lot of formulaic rejection postcards. One of her former students, Claude Brown, had recently published Manchild in the Promised Land, and he introduced her to his editor, who immediately recommended Morrison’s book for publication. The Bluest Eye was published in 1970, when Morrison was 39 years old.
She continued working for Random House, raising her sons, and writing. She published three more novels, and then in 1983 she decided to take the leap and quit her publishing job to make her living as a writer. After she quit, she went and sat on her porch, watching the Hudson River. She didn’t feel calm, like she expected, but anxious — she wasn’t sure what she was feeling. She said, “Then it slapped me: I was happy, free in a way I had never been ever. It was the oddest sensation. Not ecstasy, not satisfaction, not a surfeit of pleasure or accomplishment. It was a purer delight, a rogue anticipation with certainty.” High on this new feeling, she immediately went to work on a new novel. Ten years earlier she had helped compile and publish The Black Book (1974), an anthology of archival materials about the African-American experience. While she was working on The Black Book, she had found a short article about Margaret Garner, an escaped slave who killed her two-year-old daughter rather than see the girl returned to slavery. Morrison said, “I think now it was the shock of liberation that drew my thoughts to what ‘free’ could possibly mean to women.” She drew on Margaret Garner’s story for her new novel, which was published as Beloved (1987) and won the Pulitzer Prize. She won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1993. On August 5, 2019 Toni Morrison died from complications of pneumonia, aged 88.
Her novels include Song of Solomon (1977), Paradise (1997), Love (2003), A Mercy (2008), Home (2012), and her final novel, God Help the Child (2015).
It’s the birthday of poet Jack Gilbert (books by this author), born in Pittsburgh in 1925. He flunked out of high school, worked as a door-to-door salesman and in the steel mill. A clerical error got him admitted to college, and he started writing poetry. He went to Europe and then back to San Francisco, where he hung out with the Beat poets. His first book of poems, Views of Jeopardy (1962), was a hit. It won the Yale Series of Younger Poets award, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and he won a Guggenheim fellowship. He was all over magazines, and even had photo shoots in Vogue and Glamour. He was talented, he was handsome, and everyone expected great things.
And then, just as suddenly as he had appeared, he dropped out of the limelight, moving to Europe with the money from his fellowship. Finally, in 1982, he published Monolithos, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His most recent book of poems is The Dance Most of All (2009). He died in 2012 at the age of 87.
It’s the birthday of Nikos Kazantzakis (books by this author), born in Heraklion in what is now Greece (1883). He is most famous as the author of Zorba the Greek (1946) and The Last Temptation (1953).
It’s the birthday of writer Wallace Stegner (books by this author), born in Lake Mills, Iowa (1909). Wallace’s father had what Wallace called “the pioneering itch in his bones,” and he moved his family around hoping to strike it rich in a Western boomtown. They moved from North Dakota to Washington state, then Montana, California, Saskatchewan, and finally settled in Salt Lake City, where Stegner got into the University of Utah when he was just 16. He was finishing his dissertation when his brother died suddenly of pneumonia. Not long after, his mother died of cancer, and, finally, his father committed suicide. By the end of the 1930s, Stegner had lost his entire family.
Stegner wanted to write about the American West, but instead of a novel about cowboys and heroic pioneers, he wrote a novel “about what happens to the pioneer virtues and the pioneer type of family when the frontiers are gone and the opportunities are all used up.” His first big success was The Big Rock Candy Mountain (1943), loosely based on the experiences of his own family. Stegner won a Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1972 and died in 1993.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®