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
March 4 in Kent, OH 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
Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 11 in Joliet, IL Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 10 in Ottumwa Iowa Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
by Kathleen Flenniken
Gil tells you his story in the company truck
on your first job under his wing.
He cuts the engine and pulls
to the shoulder, which is alarming.
He’s a big man who talks rough all day
to drillers, but you know he’s kind—
everybody in the office says so. Gil’s
a sweetheart, they say without elaboration.
He rolls to a stop and waits,
which prepares you, I think; it wipes
the fake smile off your face. He clears
his throat, then it streams like a steady well—
that lazy drive home from vacation,
his wife napping in the camper
before she and their daughter switch,
his careful introduction of the boy
who has drifted an entire lifetime
into their oncoming lane. It’s beautiful
really, the way they crash into the boy’s
car, how it parts the boy’s curtain
of long blond hair and death anoints him
with a dot of blood on his forehead.
A single hubcap bounds like a tin deer
across the highway. Gil’s frantic wife
pries the camper open to find their dead girl
whose eyes are closed as though
she’s dozing through a horror movie.
Then silence. Gil turns expectantly to you.
As you sit speechless, he’ll nod
at whatever sound or breath escapes you.
He starts the truck with a roar
and you’re driving again to the field.
All afternoon he babies you with the pipes,
the pump, and the rig. And when you return,
the whole office comes out to greet you,
touching your shoulder, saying your name.
Kathleen Flenniken, “Gil’s Story” from Famous. Copyright © 2006 used with permission of the Board of Regents of University of Nebraska Press.. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of poet and author Diane Ackerman (books by this author), born Diane Fink in Waukegan, Illinois (1948). She has a knack for blending science and literary art; she wrote her first book of poetry entirely about astronomy. It was called The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral, and it was published in 1976 while she was working on her doctorate at Cornell. Carl Sagan served as a technical advisor for the book and he was also on her dissertation committee. Her most widely read book is 1990’s A Natural History of the Senses, which inspired a five-part Nova miniseries, Mystery of the Senses, which she hosted. She even has a molecule named after her: dianeackerone.
In 1970 she married novelist and poet Paul West. They shared a playful obsession with words that was central to their expressions of love for each other. In 2005 Paul suffered a stroke and, as Ackerman wrote, “In the cruelest of ironies for a man whose life revolved around words, with one of the largest working English vocabularies on earth, he had suffered immense damage to the key language areas of his brain and could no longer process language in any form.” His vast vocabulary was reduced to a single syllable: mem.
Even when he recovered the ability to speak his brain kept substituting wrong words for the right ones, but she encouraged him not to fight his brain but to just go with it, to say what it was giving him to say. As a result, the hundred little pet names he used to have for her before the stroke have been replaced with non-sequiturs like “my little spice owl,” “my little bucket of hair,” and “blithe sickness of Araby.” Ackerman wrote about the stroke and Paul’s journey back to language in her most recent memoir, One Hundred Names for Love (2011). Her latest publication is The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us (2014).
Diane Ackerman wrote, “It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.”
Allen Ginsberg read his poem “Howl” at the Six Gallery in San Francisco on this date in 1955 (books by this author). The reading was intended to promote the new gallery. The poet Kenneth Rexroth organized the reading and, in preparation, he introduced Gary Snyder to Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg introduced everyone to Jack Kerouac and they became the core of the group of writers known as the Beats.
Ginsberg was the second to the last to read and he started at about 11 p.m. He was 29 years old, and he had never participated in a poetry reading before. He started off in a quiet voice. But as he read he found his rhythm and he took a deep breath before each of the long lines in “Howl” and then said each line in one breath. Jack Kerouac chanted “Go, go, go” in rhythm while Ginsberg read, and the audience went wild.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®