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 Billy Collins
It was at the end of dinner,
the two of us in a red booth
maintaining our silence,
when I decided to compose a message
for the fortune cookie you were soon to receive.
Avoid mulishness when choosing
a position on the great board game of life
was my mean-spirited contribution
to the treasury of Confucian wisdom.
But while we waited for the cookies,
the slices of oranges,
and the inescapable pot of watery tea,
I realized that by mulishness
I meant your refusal to let me
have my own way every time I wanted it.
I watched you looking off to the side—
your mass of dark hair,
your profile softened by lamplight—
and then I made up a fortune for myself.
He who acts like a jerk
on an island of his own creation
will have only the horizon for a friend.
I seemed to be getting worse at this,
I thought, as the cookies arrived at the table
along with the orange slices
and a teapot painted with tigers
menacingly peering out from the undergrowth.
The restaurant was quiet then.
The waiter returned to looking out at the street,
a zither whimpered in the background,
and we turned to our cookies,
cracking the brittle shells,
then rolling into little balls
the tiny scrolls of our destinies
before dropping them, unread, into our cups of tea—
a little good-luck thing we’d been doing ever since we met.
Billy Collins, “Imperial Garden” from Whale Day and Other Poems published by Random House. © 2020 Billy Collins. Used with permission of the Chris Calhoun Agency. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of educator and writer Mary Ellen Chase (books by this author), born in Blue Hill, Maine (1887), a seacoast village founded in 1762 by her ancestors. She wrote A Goodly Heritage (1932), Silas Crockett (1935), and Windswept (1941), about the seafaring life of people living in rural Maine. She taught at Smith College for almost 30 years, influencing students such as Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Sylvia Plath, and Betty Friedan. She said, “Most readers think that a novel is, first of all, a story. Well, it really isn’t … A novel is an evolution of life. Its story is merely a means to an end.”
It’s the birthday of writer and story collector Wilhelm Grimm (books by this author), born in Hanau, Germany (1786). He spent his life researching and writing with his older brother, Jacob; together they became known as the “Brothers Grimm.” The brothers complemented each other: Jacob was quiet, a better scholar than his brother, and preferred to be alone; Wilhelm was an imaginative storyteller who loved music and the company of friends. In 1825, Wilhelm married a pharmacist’s daughter, and although Jacob never married, they all continued to share a house. The brothers went off to the University of Marburg to study law together, where one of their professors inspired in them a passion for linguistics and cultural history. They decided to study folklore, which they considered a pure form of national literature. Both brothers found positions as librarians, and although they didn’t make much money, the jobs were flexible, and they had time to pursue their own scholarship.
The Grimms were interested in the stories of common people. Despite how they are portrayed these days, they didn’t actually wander through the German countryside collecting fairy tales. Instead they asked people to come to their homes and recite stories. Most of these storytellers were educated, middle-class people, many of them young women. The brothers asked their visitors to recite stories they had read, or that had been told to them, so often they were stories that servants had shared. One family of three young women provided the Grimms with many stories they had grown up hearing, and since the family was French, the Grimm brothers ended up with a lot of stories that were actually French in origin. The brothers edited the stories to make them clearer, more logical, and more appropriate for children. They also added in phrases and language to create what they believed was an authentic rustic sound. Their Children’s and Household Tales (1812), commonly known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, went through seven editions in their lifetime, and each time they changed the stories. The brothers taught at the university in Berlin, and spent the final years of their lives attempting to create a comprehensive dictionary of the German language.
It’s the birthday of Jane Hirshfield (books by this author), born in New York City (1953). She went to Princeton, where she was in the first graduating class to include women–in 1973. She published her first poem not long after, then went off to northern California to study Buddhism for the next eight years, during which time she didn’t write at all. She said, “I don’t think poetry is based just on poetry; it is based on a thoroughly lived life. And so I couldn’t just decide I was going to write no matter what; I first had to find out what it means to live.” Her latest collection, Ledger: Poems (2020), came out last year.
She said, “One breath taken completely; one poem, fully written, fully read — in such a moment, anything can happen.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®