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+
Untying the Knot: A Sonnenizio
by Diane Lockward
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
admit that what lies between us is not love
but merely something physical. No platonic knot
immaterially binds us, wedding mind to mind. Not for us
the lure of two eggheads nodding at breakfast,
The Times spread between us, coffee hot and laced
with hazelnut, our souls transcending last night’s tumble.
We grasp only what can be touched. Purity’s not for us.
We embrace the corporeal, admit nothing
of old age, no knuckles knobbed and arthritic,
nor our two ring fingers encircled with silly love knots.
We cherish each wild indiscretion, fear not the body’s
hungers, only its decline, and regret not
the broken promises, but seize the flesh and fret not.
“Untying the Knot: A Sonnezio” by Diane Lockward from The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement. © Wind Publications, 2016. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of novelist Jon Hassler, (books by this author) born in Minneapolis (1933). He grew up in Plainview, Minnesota, and began working at the local grocery store when he was 11 years old. He later said: “I’ve always thought of the Red Owl Grocery Store in Plainview, Minnesota, as my training ground, for it was there that I acquired the latent qualities necessary to the novelist, namely … the fun of picking the individual out of a crowd and the joy of finding the precise words to describe him. I dare say nobody ever got more nourishment than I did out of a grocery store.”
He taught at high schools and community colleges for 20 years before he began writing seriously. His first novel, Staggerford, came out in 1977, when Hassler was 42 years old. Jon Hassler died in 2008, 10 days before his 75th birthday, from a rare brain disease called progressive supranuclear palsy. His last novel was The New Woman (2005), set in his fictional town of Staggerford, about an 88-year-old woman named Agatha McGee.
It’s the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, born in Zundert, Holland (1853). As a young man, he was deeply religious and went off to do missionary work in a coal-mining region in Belgium. One day he decided to give away all of his worldly goods and live like a peasant. But his religious superiors thought he was having a nervous breakdown. They kicked him out of the mission and he had to go home. It was then that he started to draw and paint. He taught himself with art books and by studying the masters.
On this day in 1867, the United States agreed to purchase Alaska from Russia for the sum of $7.2 million dollars. It had belonged to Russia for about 125 years, since Russians had been the first European explorers to get to the place and had proclaimed it their territory in 1741.
The American Civil War ended in 1865, and a couple years later, on this day in 1867, the deal to buy Alaska was negotiated and signed by President Andrew Johnson’s secretary of state, William Seward. He announced that someday this big chunk of land would be a U.S. state. The American public by and large was not sold on the purchase of frozen tundra. People thought it was a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a faraway place, which they alternately referred to as Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden” and “Seward’s Icebox.” In fact, the purchase became commonly known as “Seward’s Folly.”
But then gold was discovered there in the 1890s and the Klondike Gold Rush followed, with tens of thousands of people heading north to try to strike it rich. They settled in as fishers and miners and trappers and producers of minerals, and Alaska was granted territorial status in 1912. It became the 49th state of the union, the largest one (consisting of 663,268 square miles) and also the least densely populated state. In 1968, oil was discovered at the far northern part of the state, at Prudhoe Bay. A pipeline was built and began to pump oil in 1977, becoming one of the largest oil fields in the U.S.
On this day in 1858, Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia patented the first pencil to have an attached eraser. The eraser-tipped pencil is still something of an American phenomenon; most European pencils are still eraserless. The humble pencil has a long and storied history, going back to the Roman stylus, which was sometimes made of lead, and why we still call the business end of the pencil the “lead,” even though it’s been made of nontoxic graphite since 1564.
Pencils were first mass-produced in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1662, and the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century really allowed the manufacture to flourish. Before he became known for Walden and “Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau and his father were famous for manufacturing the hardest, blackest pencils in the United States. Edison was fond of short pencils that fit neatly into a vest pocket, readily accessible for the jotting down of ideas. John Steinbeck loved the pencil and started every day with 24 freshly sharpened ones; it’s said that he went through 300 pencils in writing East of Eden (1952), and used 60 a day on The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Cannery Row (1945).
Our common pencils are hexagonal to keep them from rolling off the table, and they’re yellow because the best graphite came from China, and yellow is traditionally associated with Chinese royalty. A single pencil can draw a line 35 miles long, or write around 45,000 words. And if you make a mistake, thanks to Hymen Lipman, you’ve probably got an eraser handy.
Today is the birthday of the French poet Paul Verlaine (books by this author), born in Metz, in the northeast of France, in 1844. He began writing as young as 14, when he sent his poem “La Mort” to Victor Hugo. He published his first volume of poetry when he was 22.
You must let your poems ride their luck
On the back of the sharp morning air
Touched with the fragrance of mint and thyme …
And everything else is Literature.