I’ve just read Garrison Keillor‘s most recent letter. Not actually a letter to me personally, but I take his Writer’s Almanac very personally. His conversational tone speaks to me and me alone. And when I hear him read, we two are together hip-to-hip on the couch. Other times we are on the porch swing. Sometimes we are propped up in bed with the cat and a pot of tea at our side.
When his voice in my ear, I am blind. I don’t notice that he is a galumphing kind of guy with big feet and thin hair. His voice is so strong that my love transcends his appearance.
Reading the March 7 Writer’s Almanac, I was struck by Garrison’s comments on three authors: each comment had something to teach me. Thomas Wolfe‘s relationship with his editor was difficult at best. Wolfe’s first installment of Of Time and the River measured two feet high, and Maxwell Perkins, red pencil in hand, “slashed pages from corner to corner.” Lesson: Cut everything (a serious something, obviously not a blog) by one-third. As for Kenneth Grahme, Wind in the Willows was rejected over and over by publishers and “got terrible reviews,” but once published “went through four editions in six months.” Lesson: Try try again. And finally, the writer John McPhee whose high school English teacher required students to write three compositions a week, submit each with a detailed outline, and read their work aloud in front of the class. Impressive!
I was also very taken with a new Almanac feature titled “Current Faves.” Under this heading you will find the work of six poets. Of the six, I knew the work of Mark Strand, Hal Sirowitz, and Marge Piercy. I did not know the remaining three to include Marcus Jackson, Barbara Hamby and Jacqueline Berger.
How clever of Garrison to set the table with food that we already like, and while we are feasting, to slip in a new and foreign taste to tempt us. Among the unknown poets, I was attracted to Jacqueline Berger on the basis of her poem “Gin.”
Perhaps you have noticed that beaches are fueled with alcohol. The photo that I took at Marina Cantina says it all. Check out the drink prices. 10.00 Mexican pesos converts to 79 cents in U.S currency. Note the Happy Hour hours. Think of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” and you have it. “Wasted away again in Margaritaville / Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt…” (And if you haven’t listened to “Margaritaville” recently, pull it up on YouTube, sit on the edge of your bathtub, swish your feet in the warm water and sing along.
Anyway, I invite you to read “Gin,” a poem from her book The Gift that Arrives Broken. Not to infringe copyright, you’ll have to go to http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/poets/berger.shtml. For those who don’t have the time (now that’s a shame), perhaps I can tempt you with a few lines. Berger writes of how gin takes the edge off a disagreement between a couple. Happy hour, when the landscape / loses its daylight meaning / as it slips into the silk dark / before night pours down its jazzy notes / is a cathedral of crushed velvet. Read the entire poem: these few lines don’t do the poem justice.
Just why people drink on the beach escapes me. Perhaps they are physically distancing themselves from the work-a-day world which has very long tentacles. Completely sober, it is difficult to break free of self-imposed and external obligations. Our feet are planted firmly in the ground. Mine are solid in cement.
Alcohol doesn’t seem to work. I’m switching to chocolate.