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
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
Palm Desert, CA
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Palm Desert, CA for a performance of holiday songs, humor and The News from Lake Wobegon.
Town Hall, New York City
A Prairie Home Companion American Revival comes to Town Hall in New York City with Christine DiGiallonardo, Heather Masse, Rob Fisher and the Demitasse Orchestra, Rich Dworsky, Walter Bobbie, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.
In the Produce Aisle
by Kirsten Dierking
In the vivid red
of the fresh berries,
in the pebbled skin
of an emerald lime,
in the bright colors
of things made
to be transitory,
you see the same
you find in your own
the lines fanned
around your eyes
your life like
all the other
your soft hand
the succulent apple,
you reach for it,
Kirsten Dierking, “In the Produce Aisle” from Northern Oracle. © 2007 Kirsten Dierking published by Spout Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
Today is Twelfth Night. It’s the eve of Epiphany, the official end of the Christmas holiday season, and the day on which many people take down their Christmas decorations or risk bad luck for the coming year. Poet Robert Herrick wrote, “Down with the rosemary, and so / Down with the bays and mistletoe; / Down with the holly, ivy, all, / Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall.” It’s a last Yuletide hurrah before everyone returns to the mundane workaday world of the rest of the year. Though the origin of the celebration dates back to the Roman Saturnalia, most of the traditional observances of the holiday that have survived date back to medieval England. It was the end of a holiday season that began with All Hallows Eve and, in some cultures, it also marks the beginning of the Carnival season.
It’s a Twelfth Night tradition to choose a king and queen for the festivities. Usually this involves beans and baked goods. In English celebrations a plum cake is baked with a bean and a pea inside. If a man finds the bean he is crowned the Twelfth Night King, also known as the Lord of Misrule. The woman who finds the pea is crowned Queen, but if a woman finds the bean instead of the pea she chooses her own king.
Part of the Twelfth Night tradition involves pranks, role reversals, and general chaos. Servants dressed as masters, men dressed as women, and people roamed the streets in gangs, decked out in costumes and blackened faces. Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night features many of the traditional elements of the holiday.
In some parts of England Twelfth Night was also traditionally associated with apples and apple trees. People would troop out to their fruit orchards bearing a hot, spiced mixture of cider and ale for the “wassailing of the trees.” They would pour the wassail on the ground over the trees’ roots and sing songs and drink toasts to the health of their orchards. They also hung bits of cider-soaked toast in the trees to feed the birds. The attention paid to the orchards during the wassailing would be repaid with a bountiful harvest the following fall.
English settlers in the Colonies brought the Twelfth Night tradition with them. In colonial Virginia it was customary to hold a large and elegant ball. Revelers chose a king and queen using the customary cake method; it was the king’s duty to host the next year’s Twelfth Night ball and the queen was given the honor of baking the next year’s cake. George and Martha Washington didn’t usually do much for Christmas except attend church but they often hosted elaborate Twelfth Night celebrations. It was also their anniversary; they’d been married on January 5, 1759. Martha Washington left behind her recipe for an enormous Twelfth Night cake among her papers at Mount Vernon. The recipe called for 40 eggs, four pounds of sugar, and five pounds of dried fruit. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Christmas became the primary holiday of the season in America and, at that point, Twelfth Night celebrations all but disappeared.
Today is the birthday of Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten, born Elizabeth Nevills in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (1895). She taught herself the banjo and guitar at an early age; she would sneak her brother’s instruments to practice on when no one was home. She saved her money and eventually bought a guitar from a local dry goods store. She was left-handed so she played her instruments “upside down” without restringing them. She fretted with her right hand and picked with her left. She developed her own unique style which would later come to be known as “Cotten picking.”
Cotten recorded her first album in 1957 at the age of 62. It’s Elizabeth Cotten: Negro Folk Songs and Tunes. She’s best known for her song “Freight Train” which she wrote when she was about 11 or 12 years old.
It’s the birthday of Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o (books by this author) born James Ngugi in Limuru, Kenya, in 1938. In 1964 he published the first East African novel written in English. That book is Weep Not, Child and it’s based on his family’s troubles during the Mau Mau Uprising. He published The River Between (1965) a year later and A Grain of Wheat in 1967. Around this time he also renounced any residual colonial ties; he changed his name to Ngugi wa Thiong’o to reflect his Kikuyu heritage, and he stopped writing in English. He was sent to a maximum-security prison in 1977 for the overtly political play I Will Marry When I Want and while he was there he wrote Devil on the Cross (1980), the first novel in the Kikuyu language. He was denied paper, so he wrote the novel on prison toilet paper. He later wrote a memoir about his yearlong incarceration, called Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary (1981). His next novel, Matagiri (1986), prompted the government to seize all copies from bookstores and the publisher’s warehouse. His most recent book is The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi (2020), which is shortlisted for the International Booker prize.
He is currently Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and English at the University of California, Irvine. He has also previously taught at Northwestern University, Yale University, and New York University.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o said, “In writing one should hear all the whisperings, all the shouting, all the crying, all the loving and all the hating of the many voices in the past, and those voices will never speak to a writer in a foreign language.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®