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 Stephen Dunn
Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear
one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac
with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
and changed nothing in the world
except the way I stumbled through it,
for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving
someone or something, the world shrunk
hand-size, and never seeming small.
I acknowledge there is no sweetness
that doesn’t leave a stain,
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet.
Tonight a friend called to say his lover
was killed in a car
he was driving. His voice was low
and guttural, he repeated what he needed
to repeat, and I repeated
the one or two words we have for such grief
until we were speaking only in tones.
Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough
to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don’t care
where it’s been, or what bitter road
to come so far, to taste so good.
“Sweetness” from New and Selected Poems 1974-1994 by Stephen Dunn. Copyright © 1994 by Stephen Dunn. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. (buy now)
The first Oktoberfest had its origins in Munich on this date in 1810. The occasion was a royal wedding: Ludwig, Crown Prince of Bavaria, was marrying Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, and the royal couple wanted to invite all of Munich to their wedding reception. They threw a parade and a huge party in the field outside the city gates, culminating in a horse race. The citizens of Munich had such a good time that they decided to repeat the horse races at the same time the following year.
On the first anniversary of the royal wedding, the organizers added an agricultural show, to bring attention to the Bavarian farming industry. The horse races are no longer held these days, but the agricultural show remains a big part of Oktoberfest in Bavaria. Over the years, attractions have been added to the celebration: in 1818, organizers brought in a carousel and a couple of swings. They also set up a few modest beer stands. By the end of the century, the little stands had been replaced by huge beer tents and halls, sponsored by German breweries, and the carousel had grown into a full-fledged fair. In 1885, the beer tents were lit with electric lights for the first time.
The Oktoberfest was canceled on a few notable occasions during the 19th century — usually because of war or disease. In 1933, the swastika replaced the flag of Bavaria, and the festival was canceled for the duration of World War II. And in 1980, a bomb planted in a trash can by a right-wing extremist killed 13 people and wounded more than 200. And, unsurprisingly, it has been canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On this day in 539 BCE, Cyrus the Great led his Persian Army into Babylon and defeated the Babylonians, declaring himself ruler of a region that today includes Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Cyrus was a master military strategist and crafted a careful plan during the Battle of Opis: he and his men diverted the Euphrates River into a canal, which lowered the water-level to the height of their thighs. This allowed them to march directly through the riverbed under cover of night, surprising the Babylonian army. The history of the battle was recorded on clay tablets known as the Nabonidus Chronicle, though scholars differ on how brutal the attack actually was.
On this day in 1823, Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh sold the first raincoat. Macintosh had been trying to find uses for the waste products of gasworks when he discovered that a substance called coal-tar naphtha dissolved India rubber — basically, bonding melted rubber to wool, which created a waterproof fabric. The first raincoats smelled bad, stiffened in cold weather, and gummed up in hot weather, but farmers, fishermen, and firemen loved them. They became so beloved in Great Britain that when referring to a raincoat, people simply asked for a “Mac” or a “Mack.” Mackintosh raincoats are still made today.
It’s the birthday of American poet and translator Robert Fitzgerald (1910) (books by this author), born Robert Stuart Fitzgerald in Springfield, Illinois. He’s best known for his English translations of Homer’s The Odyssey (1961) and The Iliad (1974), which are still held as the some of the standard works for scholars and students, along with others such as those by Robert Fagles and Richmond Lattimore.
Fitzgerald went to Harvard University and read T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which he said changed his life. Later, he met Eliot in London and worked up the courage to give him one of his poems. Eliot studied the poem for several minutes and then looked up and said, “Is this the best you can do?”
After graduation (1933), he kicked around as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, worked for Time Magazine, and began publishing his own collections of poetry, including Poems (1935) and A Wreath for the Sea (1943). During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy in Guam and Pearl Harbor. The books in his footlocker included the works of Virgil and a Latin dictionary. He had no formal training in translation, but when he had free time, he would practice translating the Virgil in a little notebook, line by line.
After the war, Fitzgerald was living in Connecticut, teaching, and wondering what he could do to supplement his income with a growing family. He realized that in Europe, the cost of living and domestic help were much cheaper than in America, so he convinced an editor to give him $3000.00 for five years to translate Homer’s epic The Odyssey. He also won a Guggenheim. He spent the next decade living frugally in Italy with his family. They had no telephone, no refrigerator, and no car. He spent every day writing out the Greek in a ledger-type notebook, with each line of Greek followed by two blank lines, which he would use for his translation. He kept a dictionary on hand.
On translating poetry from one language to another, Robert Fitzgerald said, “I think that one poet is lending himself to the other poet, that the obligation is to the other poet, and that one is taking on for the time being the spirit and impulse and intent of the other poet, and so the wish is to make all that clear in one’s own language rather than express oneself, so to speak.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®