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 Donald Hall
When I visited as a boy, too young for chores,
a pair of maples flared before the farmhouse.
My grandfather made me a swing, dangling
rope from stout branches. I hurtled
between them high as I could, pumping
out half the day while my mind daydreamed
the joy of no school, no camp, no blocks
of other children fighting childhood’s wars.
With the old people I listened to radio news
of Japanese in Nanking, Madrid on fire,
Hitler’s brownshirts heiling. The hurricane
of 1938 ripped down the older maple.
When I was twelve and could work the fields,
my grandfather and I, with Riley the horse,
took four days to clear the acres of hay
from the fields on both sides of the house.
With a scythe I trimmed the uncut grass
around boulders and trees, by stone walls,
and raked every blade to one of Riley’s piles.
My grandfather pitched hay onto the wagon
where I climbed to load it, fitting it tight.
We left the fields behind as neat as lawns.
When I moved back to the house at forty,
a neighbor’s machine took alfalfa down
in an afternoon. Next morning, engines
with huge claws grappled round green bales
onto trucks, leaving loose hay scattered
and grass standing at the field’s margin.
A solitary maple still rises. Seventy years
after my grandfather hung the swing,
maple branches snap from the old tree.
I tear out dead limbs for next year’s sake,
fearing the wind and ice storms of winter,
fearing broken trees, cities, and hipbones.
“Maples” by Donald Hall, from The Back Chamber. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of the sci-fi and fantasy writer George R.R. Martin (books by this author), born in Bayonne, New Jersey (1948). Martin is most famous for his best-selling series A Song of Ice and Fire. The epic fantasy series of seven planned novels — only five of which have been published so far — was recently adapted for HBO’s drama Game of Thrones, which was also the title of the first volume in Martin’s series. He also plans three prequels.
Martin, a former writer on The Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast, got his start selling monster stories to kids in his neighborhood.
It’s the birthday of poet Donald Hall, (books by this author) born in Hamden, Connecticut (1928). When he was growing up, he loved horror movies, and on Saturdays he would take the bus into New Haven to watch them. When he told a neighborhood friend how much he loved horror movies, that boy suggested that he read Edgar Allan Poe. Donald Hall had no idea who Edgar Allan Poe was, but he went through his parents’ bookshelves and found a set of his books. They inspired him to write, and he wrote his first poem, called “The End of All,” all about death.
Donald Hall continued writing poems on and off, and a couple of years later he was bragging to a 16-year-old about writing poetry, and the older boy told Donald that he had dropped out of school to become a poet. Hall was impressed, and he decided that he would become a serious poet as well, and started writing after school for a couple of hours a day. He went on to publish many books of poetry, including The One Day (1988), Without (1998), and White Apples and the Taste of Stone (2006). He was named Poet Laureate in 2006.
He said: “I see no reason to spend your life writing poems unless your goal is to write great poems. … To desire to write poems that endure — we undertake such a goal certain of two things: that in all likelihood we will fail, and that if we succeed we will never know it.”
Hall died in June of 2018.
It’s the birthday of poet and novelist Stevie Smith (books by this author), born Florence Margaret Smith in Hull, Yorkshire, England (1902). She lived in the same house from the time she was three years old until her death in 1971. She approached a publisher with her first book of poems when she was in her 30s. He told her to go away and write a novel instead. So that’s what she did. Her first novel was Novel on Yellow Paper (1936), and she went on to write other novels and short stories, but her greatest love was always poetry. She actually wrote one of her short stories in meter, and later published it as a poem.
She was known for writing light verse about dark subjects. Her most famous collection of poems is Not Waving but Drowning (1957). In the title poem, she wrote: “Nobody heard him, the dead man, / But still he lay moaning; / I was much further out than you thought / And not waving but drowning.”
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