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 Art of Revision
by Joyce Sutphen
In the morning I take out
most of what I put in last night.
I cross out everything that seems
excessive, every frill and fandango,
anything fluffy—a word that should
never again appear in a poem,
along with blossom and awesome.
Once I have deleted everything
except the title—which now seems
to have been written by a poet
who knows something I don’t,
I delete that as well and turn
the page. All that empty space
is waiting. What will I say?
“The Art of Revision” by Joyce Sutphen. © 2019 Joyce Sutphen. Reprinted with the permission of the poet. (books by this author)
Today is Leap Year Day when the month of February has 29 days instead of 28. The length of time it takes the Earth to completely orbit the sun is 365 days and six hours. Most calendars only list 365 days. An extra 24 hours accumulates every four years, requiring an extra calendar day. If we didn’t account for this extra day, eventually, we’d have Christmas in July.
Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator, consulted with the top astronomers of the day and in 46 B.C. began adding one day every four years to make up for the discrepancy. Not one to waste an opportunity, he also decided to rename the month “Quintilis” after himself, which is how we got the month named “July.”
Unfortunately, Caesar’s new calendar system wasn’t strictly enforced, and by the 16th century, it was almost 10 days off track, so in 1582, Pope Gregory reformed the Julian calendar. The calendar system we now use is called the Gregorian calendar.
It’s the 100th birthday of American poet Howard Nemerov (books by this author), born on Leap Day in 1920 in New York City. His family owned Russeks, the famous and elegant Fifth Avenue department store where ladies shopped for the finest furs. His father loved photography, painting, and philanthropy and encouraged the same in his children. Howard turned to poetry and his sister Diane took up photography. Under her married name, Diane Arbus, she became quite famous in the 1960s for her unsettling portraits of morgues and circus workers. In later years, Nemerov had a falling out with his sister: he found the content of her photographs distasteful, and she felt he was too conservative artistically.
Nemerov was raised in a sophisticated city environment that included schooling at the very liberal Society for Ethical Culture’s Fieldston School, which strove to introduce its students to social justice, racial equality, and intellectual freedom.
After graduating from Harvard, Nemerov served as a pilot during World War II, first in the Royal Canadian Air Force and later the U.S. Army Air Force. When the war ended, he turned to teaching and published his first collection of poetry, The Image of the Law (1947). Nemerov was a formalist who wrote almost exclusively in fixed forms and meter. He was disdainful of poems that incorporated politics. He said: “I’ve never read a political poem that’s accomplished anything. Poetry makes things happen, but rarely what the poet wants.”
On this date in 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Academy Award. White Hollywood had not been a welcoming place for black actors; in the early 1900s, when silent film was still in its infancy, most African-American parts had been played by white actors in blackface. The trade unions were closed to African-American directors, writers, cinematographers, and editors. There were black filmmakers working in the movies, but they worked in separate production companies, producing what were called “race pictures”: movies with an all-black cast and crew.
Occasionally, an established and respected African-American actor could find a role in a studio picture, but only as a maid, cook, nanny, or butler. They were expected to speak in “Negro dialect,” and if they didn’t know how, a white dialogue coach was brought in to teach them. In the 1920s, the first black actor to establish himself in white cinema was the former vaudevillian and tap dancer “Stepin Fetchit,” whose real name was Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry. Stepin Fetchit played into the most deeply entrenched stereotypes of the black American as simple-minded, lazy, and ingratiating. He was the first black actor to receive screen credit, and the first black actor to become a millionaire, but the African-American community had mixed feelings about his success.
Hattie McDaniel, an accomplished actor and comedian, was cast in the role of Scarlett O’Hara’s kerchief-wearing “Mammy” in Gone With the Wind (1939). She had already been typecast as a sassy black servant, and many members of the black community in the 1930s criticized her for continuing to take the roles, but she responded by saying she’d rather play a maid than be one. She first worked with Clark Gable in 1935’s China Seas and they became friends. He recommended her for the role of Mammy, and when she was prohibited from attending the Atlanta premiere of Gone With the Wind because of Georgia’s segregation laws, Gable angrily threatened to boycott the premiere as well. And at the Academy Awards ceremony, McDaniel and her escort were seated far from her castmates at a segregated table.
It’s the birthday of the man who said, “Give me a laundry-list and I’ll set it to music”: composer Gioachino Rossini, born in Pesaro, Italy (1792). His father was a trumpet player, and his mother was a singer; young Rossini was a lazy student but a natural musician. He composed his first opera when he was only 14. In all, he composed some 39 operas, and the most famous of these is The Barber of Seville (1816); he also wrote Cinderella (1817), Moses in Egypt (1818), and William Tell (1829).
It’s the birthday of Dorris Alexander “Dee” Brown (1908) (books by this author), born in a logging camp near Alberta, Louisiana. His father, a timberman, was killed when Brown was five, and his mother supported the four children by working as a store clerk in Ouachita County, Arkansas. He started a neighborhood tabloid newspaper when he was 15, cranking it out on a hand press. After high school, he worked for a while as a printer and a reporter, then went to Arkansas State Teachers College, majoring in history. He worked as a librarian for most of his life, writing books after his children were in bed. The American West fascinated him; his great-grandfather had known Davy Crockett, and his grandmother often told him stories about the legendary frontiersman.
He wrote 29 books of fiction and nonfiction; his most famous is Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (1970), a less Eurocentric version of the conflict between Native Americans and the United States Army in the latter half of the 19th century.
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