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 Marcus Jackson
Finished early at the library,
I strolled Canal Street to fill
before we’d meet home for dinner.
Late-winter light sneered,
reluctant to leave
the streets, bargain tables
with t-shirts or imposter purses,
where gold necklaces refracted
from squares of scarlet felt.
All down Mulberry, arched
garlands of festival bulbs
From Italian restaurant stoops,
waiters with handsome accents
lured tourists by describing
entrées like landscapes.
At Ferrara’s dessert café,
the wait bent
halfway up the clogged block.
I whittled inside, browsed
glass cabinets of cookies,
on paper placemats
that looked like lace.
I arrived 40 minutes late.
You balanced, hand
against bedroom door-jamb,
pulling off your office heels.
Once you noticed the bakery box
under my arm, your face calmed—
my earlier whereabouts
evidenced in sweetness
we would fork from the same plate.
Marcus Jackson, “Whereabouts” from Neighborhood Register. © 2011 by Marcus Jackson. Reprinted with permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of CavanKerry Press, Ltd, cavankerry.org (buy now)
It’s the birthday of poet Richard Wilbur (books by this author), born in New York City (1921). He wrote poetry occasionally as a child — he was paid one dollar for his first published poem at age eight — but it was just one of many interests, and he didn’t imagine that it would become his career. He went to Amherst, where he was the editor of the student literary magazine.
Immediately after graduation, he married his college sweetheart. He planned to join the Army as a cryptographer, so he spent part of his honeymoon learning Morse Code. He started training in cryptography, but when the Army uncovered evidence of his involvement in leftist organizations in college and found a volume of Marx he carried with him, they demoted him to the infantry. He said:
“It was quite true that I held leftist views […] but then as now I had an uncomplicated love of my country, and I was naively amazed to learn that my service record was stamped ‘Suspected of Disloyalty.’”
In his new position, he fought on the front lines in Italy and France. As a means of coping he began writing poems and sending them home to his wife and close friends. He said of his time in the war:
“There are all kinds of ways to forget how frightened and disoriented you are. But I think one of the best is to take pencil and paper — which is all you need, thank heavens, to be a poet and which makes it possible to practice poetry in a foxhole — and […] jell things into an experience that will be a poem.”
He published more than 10 volumes of poetry, including Ceremony and Other Poems (1950), Things of This World (1956), New and Collected Poems (1988), and Anterooms (2010), his last volume before his death in 2017. He won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize (twice), and served as poet laureate.
He said, “As embarrassing as that word is — ‘inspiration’ — I do think it corresponds to my experience. A poem comes looking for me rather than I hunting after it.”
President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation making Yellowstone this country’s first national park on this date in 1872.
People had been living in Yellowstone for 11,000 years, but the first European American to see the region was most likely a man named John Colter, in 1807. People ridiculed his stories and began referring to the place as “Colter’s Hell.” But the word of its natural wonders continued to trickle eastward over the next few decades. Most of the descriptions sounded like feverish delusions. The famous trapper and guide Jim Bridger reported seeing stone forests and upside-down waterfalls. Another trapper named Joe Meek described fire and brimstone, steaming rivers, and boiling mud. East Coast newspapers refused to print the description sent to them by a group of prospectors in 1869, saying that they didn’t publish works of fiction. In 1870 a railroad man named Nathaniel Pitt Langford led an expedition through the region in hopes of drumming up support for the Northern Pacific Transcontinental Railroad. He was stunned to find that all the tall tales were true. Finally, in 1871, the government sent out an official scouting party made up of a group of scientists. The party submitted a 500-page description of the region, which was enough to convince Congress to place the area under governmental protection.
Yellowstone covers nearly 3,500 square miles and is home to one of the world’s 30 active supervolcanoes. The volcano lies underneath Yellowstone Lake, and it’s responsible for some of the more dramatic of the park’s features, including hot springs, mud pots, and the famous Old Faithful and Steamboat Geysers.
It’s the birthday of poet Robert Lowell (books by this author), born in Boston, Massachusetts (1917). He once said, “Sometimes nothing is so solid to me as writing — I suppose that’s what a vocation means — at times a torment, a bad conscience, but all in all, purpose and direction.”
Today is the birthday of novelist and essayist Ralph Ellison (books by this author), born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1914. He was the grandson of slaves, and he originally wanted to be a classical composer, but when he met the great African-American writers Langston Hughes and Richard Wright they encouraged him to become a writer instead.
One day, while recovering from a bad kidney infection on his friend’s Vermont farm, Ellison was sitting in the barn with a typewriter. He stared at it for a while and then suddenly typed the sentence “I am an invisible man.” He didn’t know where it came from, but he wanted to pursue the idea, to find out what kind of a person would think of himself as invisible. It took him seven years to write the book, and it was the only novel published in his lifetime. It was Invisible Man, published in 1952.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®