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
West Bend, WI
Garrison Keillor brings his show to West Bend, WI for a performance of sing-a-longs, 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. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Garrison Keillor brings his solo show to Peekskill NY. Be prepared to laugh and sing along as you celebrate all that unite us.
Fish Creek, WI
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Fish Creek, Wisconsin for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
by Marilyn Donnelly
took the steps
on each tread
who love him so
Marilyn Donnelly, “Passage” from Coda. Copyright © 2010 by Marilyn Donnelly. Used by the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC, on behalf of Autumn House Press, autumnhouse.org. (buy now)
It’s the second Sunday in May, which is Mother’s Day here in the United States. It’s Mother’s Day in other countries, too, including Denmark, Italy, Venezuela, Turkey, Australia, and Japan.
A woman named Anna Jarvis was the person behind the official establishment of Mother’s Day. Her mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis, had a similar idea and in 1905 the daughter swore at her mother’s grave to dedicate her life to the project. She campaigned tirelessly for the holiday. In 1907 she passed out 500 white carnations at her mother’s church, St. Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia — one for each mother in the congregation. In 1912 West Virginia became the first state to adopt an official Mother’s Day and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday.
Anna Jarvis became increasingly concerned over the commercialization of Mother’s Day. She said, “I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit.” She was against the selling of flowers, and she called greeting cards “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write.” Nevertheless, Mother’s Day has become one of the best days of the year for florists. When Anna Jarvis lived the last years of her life in nursing home without a penny to her name, her bills were paid, unbeknownst to her, by the Florist’s Exchange.
Today is the birthday of poet Gary Snyder (books by this author), born in San Francisco (1930). When he was 15, he read Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and he liked it so much that he went to the library to see what else Lawrence had written. He found a book called Birds, Beasts and Flowers. He said, “I was disappointed to find out that it wasn’t a sexy novel, but read the poems anyway, and it deeply shaped me for that moment in my life.” He began writing his own poetry and continued to write during his years at Reed College where he studied anthropology and literature. After graduating he decided that the life of a poet wasn’t for him and he went to work on a trail crew in the mountains.
In the mountains he started writing again, poems about rocks and birds. He had never written anything like them before and he realized that he must finally be writing in his own voice. He taught himself Chinese and was particularly inspired by Chinese poetry. In 1955, at the Six Gallery reading in San Francisco, Snyder read his poem “A Berry Feast.” He spent many years studying Zen Buddhism in Japan. In 1961 he published an essay about what he called “Buddhist anarchism,” a concept that excited many of his fellow Beat writers. He was the model for Japhy Ryder in Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums (1958). He lived with a counterculture group on a Japanese island, translated poetry, taught English at the University of California Davis, and became an environmental activist.
His books include Turtle Island (1974), No Nature (1992), New and Selected Poems (1992), and, most recently, Nobody Home: Writing, Buddhism, and Living in Places (2014).
He said, “I am a poet who has preferred not to distinguish in poetry between nature and humanity.”
It’s the birthday of Edmund Wilson (books by this author), born in Red Bank, New Jersey (1895). He is generally considered one of the greatest American man of letters of the 20th century though he published almost all of his work in popular magazines. He never took a teaching position and rarely gave lectures.
He went to communist Russia and learned both Russian and German to write about the history of socialism in his book To the Finland Station (1940). He wrote about Russian poetry, Haitian literature, the Hebrew language, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the literature produced during the American Civil War.
Wilson introduced Americans to writers like James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Vladimir Nabokov. He almost single-handedly resurrected the reputation of the novelist Henry James who had been forgotten for years. He championed new writers like Ernest Hemingway and it was Wilson who persuaded American readers that F. Scott Fitzgerald had been a genius, and that The Great Gatsby was an American classic.
Wilson said, “If I could only remember that the days were, not bricks to be laid row on row, to be built into a solid house, where one might dwell in safety and peace, but only food for the fires of the heart…” and, “No two persons ever read the same book.”
Today is believed to be the birthday of poet Phillis Wheatley (books by this author), born in West Africa, most likely in Senegal or Gambia (1753). She was kidnapped and put on a slave ship, the Phillis, when she was eight years old. She ended up at a slave auction in Boston where John Wheatley, a prominent tailor, bought her as a personal servant for his wife, Susanna. She was slender, frail, and asthmatic, and the captain believed she was terminally ill, so he sold her at a greatly reduced price.
The Wheatleys named her Phillis after the ship that had brought her to Boston and she took their last name as was customary. It soon became apparent that the child was exceptionally bright so she was taught to read and write by the older Wheatley children. She mastered English in two years and went on to learn Latin and Greek, and translated a story by Ovid. She studied astronomy, geography, history, and British literature — especially John Milton and Alexander Pope. She began writing poetry as a teenager, and the first poem she wrote was probably “To the University of Cambridge in New England” — although she didn’t publish it until she was older. She published her first poem in a Rhode Island newspaper when she was 13; that was “On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin” (1767). But it was “An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of the Celebrated Divine … George Whitefield” (1770) that brought her wide renown.
In 1772 Wheatley appeared in court to prove that she really was the author of her poems. She was examined by 17 Boston men who then signed an affidavit that was included in the preface for her first and only book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773). No one in Boston would publish her book so she went to London in 1773, escorted by the Wheatleys’ son Nathaniel. With the help of Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon, she found a publisher there.
English friends appealed to John and Susanna Wheatley to grant Phillis her freedom, and she was manumitted in 1778.
She was an admirer of George Washington and the fight for American independence from Great Britain. She wrote several poems in Washington’s honor and he invited her to his headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1776. But she rarely wrote about herself, or her childhood in Africa, or her life as a slave. The most notable exception was “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” which includes the lines “Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, /May be refin’d and join th’ angelic train.”
In 1778 she married John Peters, a free black man from Boston. They had three children together, but two died in infancy and the third, a son, was a sickly baby. They were terribly short of money, and Wheatley worked as a scullery maid in a boarding house. It was hard work under poor conditions, unlike the relatively easy life she had at the Wheatleys. One Wheatley relative remarked: “The woman who had stood honored and respected in the presence of the wise and good … was numbering the last hours of life in a state of the most abject misery, surrounded by all the emblems of a squalid poverty!” In 1784 her husband was thrown in jail for debt. Phillis Wheatley, whose health had always been poor, died in poverty, followed just a few hours later by their baby son.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®