Sep. 26, 1998

Blackberry Eating

by Galway Kinnell


Today's Reading: "Blackberry Eating" by Galway Kinnell from SELECTED POEMS, published by Houghton Mifflin Co.

The 48th annual TRI-STATE BAND FESTIVAL is today in Luverne, Minnesota, in the southwestern corner of the state. More than 2,500 high school students from South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota are in Luverne with their band instruments to compete for one of four trophies.

It was on this day in 1957 that Leonard Bernstein's musical WEST SIDE STORY opened at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York. Larry Kert played Tony, Carol Lawrence, Maria, and it only had an initial run of 732 performances before closing. Many critics at the time thought the story was too violent for the musical stage.

It's the birthday of JANE SMILEY, author of A Thousand Acres, which won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize; the 1987 short story collection, The Age of Grief, and other books — born in Los Angeles, 1949. Her first book was the 1980 Barn Blind, and her most recent one is The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton, which came out this spring: the story of pioneer life in the Midwest, as told by Lidie Newton, who describes herself in the very first lines like this: It was true as they said that I was useless, that I had perversely cultivated uselessness over the years and had reached a pitch of uselessness that was truly rare, or even unique, among the women of Quincy, Illinois. I could neither ply a needle nor play an instrument. I knew nothing of baking or cookery, could not be relied upon to wash the clothes on washing day nor lay a fire in the kitchen stove. My predilections ran in other directions, but they were useless, too. I could ride a horse astride, saddle or no saddle. I could walk for miles without tiring. I could swim and had swum the width of the river. I could bait a hook and catch a fish. I could write a good letter in a clear hand. But my sisters were entirely correct and thoroughly justified in their concern for me. It was likely that I would end up on their hands forever, useless and ungrateful.

GEORGE GERSHWIN was born 100 years ago today, 1898, in Brooklyn, New York. He wrote hundreds of songs, most of them with his brother Ira as lyricist. Gershwin also wrote the 1931 show Of Thee I Sing, the first musical to win a Pulitzer; and not long before he died from a brain tumor at 38, the opera Porgy and Bess.

It's the birthday of poet T.S. ELIOT, born in St. Louis, 1888. He married a British woman and settled in his late 20s in England, and began publishing his poetry. Prufrock and other Observations came out in 1915 and made him famous; then The Waste Land in 1922. A few years later he became a British citizen, joined the Church of England and began his best-known work, the series of four long poems on the Christian faith called "The Four Quartets," which came out about every year and a half beginning in 1936.

It's the birthday of JOHN CHAPMAN, better known as JOHNNY APPLESEED, born in Leominster, Massachusetts, 1774. Even though he owned several hundred acres of his own, he collected discarded apple seeds from western Pennsylvania cider presses and set out to help pioneer families raise their own trees. When he was 26 years old, he began walking from the Alleghenies, selling apple seeds as he went, all the way to central Ohio and beyond. He died in late winter, 1845, from exposure, near Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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