Friday, April 26, 2013

Wherein I meet a beloved radio personality

May Swenson was an American Poet who was born and raised here in Logan, then after graduating from USU promptly headed East to seek the bohemian life in New York, teach at Bryn Mawr and various other institutions of higher learning, and generally live life to its fullest.  She never forgot Logan, and Logan never forgot her.  She is buried in the Logan cemetery and there is a beautiful stone bench memorial on her grave. 

When I was in high school my English teacher gave extra credit during the poetry section of the class.  To get the credit anyone who wanted it, had to go to the cemetery, find the bench, and bring a photograph of it back to class.  I was the only person in the class that did it, but I'm glad I did.  Reading the poetry on the memorial inspired to me read more of May's work and then I was hooked for life.

May 28th marks what would have been May's 100th birthday.  USU has been celebrating her centennial with various commemorations, culminating in a program called "Centennial Celebration of May Swenson".  The program featured poet and UofU professor Katherine Coles, as well as humorist and radio personality Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame.

So time to interjection a Good News/Bad News moment.

Good News, I was able to score two tickets to the show, I went and had a great time.   

Bad News, all the people that did want to go to the show couldn't be there that night.  And I couldn't talk anyone else who could be there into actually going with me.  Seriously, what's the matter with all y'all?  You lost out.

(On a side note I met Elizabeth from the blog Imma Walking Fashion Crime for the first time.  She was helping usher at the show, and she is just as adorable in person as she is in her photos.  It was nice to finally meet her in person.  I read a lot of Logan based blogs but I rarely run into the authors in real life.)

Katherine and Garrison discussed May's life, read many of her poems, and also recited some of their own works.  Katherine's poem entitled "Dog Years" actually made me misty eyed, which isn't hard considering the trauma Molly went through on Tuesday and the aftermath I've been dealing with (yeah I'm a boob, deal with it).

Garrison's poem about the scientific facts of fatherhood brought the house down, you can find it here, but don't read it if you are easily offended by "the birds and the bees".

I was very happy that they read three of my favorite poems: "By Morning" (also called "Snow By Morning" thanks to The New Yorker), "Analysis of Baseball", and "Staying At Ed's Place".  Two of May's surviving siblings were in the audience and after they read Staying At Ed's Place the siblings were asked which Ed it was that May was referring to in the poem (Ed Fields if you were wondering). 

May was the oldest of 10 kids, so it isn't surprising that some of her family was in attendance.  In fact my father was in the same grade at Logan High School as her little sister Grace and he took an engineering class from her father at USU. 

The show was sweet, funny, thoughtful, interesting, and engaging.  It was a fitting way to honor May's work.

After the program there was a reception and book signing in the Tippets Exhibit Gallery.  I bought Katherine's book of poems about her trip to Antarctica titled "The Earth Is Not Flat".  The cover art for the book is a photo of an art installation by Lita Albuquerque and the story behind it is really interesting, you should look it up if you have time.  Here is a photo of the book cover:


And I also purchased "Lake Wobegon Days" by Garrison Keillor. 


He was kind enough to sign my copy and to pose for a photo with me, but what REALLY made my day month year was that he mistook me for a college student.  Yep, I've got a bit of a crush going on now.  Anyone who thinks this aging carcass is that of someone at least a decade younger than it really is, has my undying devotion.

Me and Mr. Prairie Home Companion himself, it was pure awesomeness AND there were cookies and fruit tarts.  Why doesn't anyone believe me when I try to talk them into going to these things with me?!?
When I got home I found Molly moping at the top of the steps.  Either she's not a poetry fan, or she knew I was having fun without her.  Regardless of the reason for the sulk, all was forgiven when I invoked the two magic words held sacred by all dogs: Treat and Outside.


I think the night can be summed up by saying: all the women were strong, all the men were good looking, fortunately for us there were no children in attendance, but if there were I'm sure they would have been above average.  All in all it was a pretty darn good night.

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