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I've always had a weakness for ongoing fictions that grow with the years. When I was a kid I liked "Gasoline Alley" because Skeezix grew up and his father got fat. Recently I've been watching reruns of the entire Walton's dramatic series. Normally, when a TV cast member died, the producers killed her off and went on with it. But in "The Walton's" when Ellen Corby (Grandma) suffered a heart attack in real life, the writers wrote it into the script and Corby kept right on going, even though she could no longer talk.
Back in the 1920s and 1930s, when most black women worked as domestics, scrub ladies and washerwomen, one young black woman born in 1895 in Washington, D.C. would spend her life on the world political and cultural stage. It wasn't all beer and skittles, however, when her lawyer father died young and her mother had to work as a beautician. But that didn't stop the daughter, Eslanda Cardozo Goode, from making acquaintance with a wide variety of world leaders. "Blacks" like Jomo Kenyatta and Patrice Lumumba.
Summer will soon be upon us.
University of Iowa Press has just re-issued a book of poetry by Philip Levine, winner both the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the National Book Award, and who served for a year as United States Poet Laureate. The book is "Sweet Will," published by Prairie Lights after being out of print for years. It's a quiet book, lovely in its restraint. One of my favorite poems treats of Levine's life as a boy in Detroit.
Humorists can make hay of the least likely subjects. Like death. Remember W. C. Fields? He said he wanted the following inscription on his tombstone: "On the Whole I'd Rather Be in Philadelphia." And then there was "Pep" Simek of Medford, who recently passed on to the big pizza parlor in the sky. He and his brother ran a saloon across the road from the Medford cemetery.
"I wander thro' each charter'd street Near where the charter'd Thames does flow, And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe/ In every cry of every Man In every Infant's cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, The mind-forged manacles I hear. How the Chimney-sweeper's cry Every black'ning Church appalls; And the hapless Soldier's sigh Runs in blood down Palace walls.
When I was a kid in a small Wisconsin grade school, one of my favorite subjects was Wisconsin history, taught to me by my sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Lily Reich. One of our texts was a book called "Men Who Made Wisconsin" or something like that. The book contained brief profiles of famous folks from Badgerland. I remember that one of these folks was the fellow who bred the famous silver mink, which was the greatest mink ever known (with my apologies to PETA). Another famous Wisconsinite was Curly Lambeau of the Green Bay Packers.
River Falls poet Thomas R. Smith writes that Kristin Laurel's new book of poetry will "burn itself on your memory." Minnesota poet Deborah Keenan writes that Laurel's work is "the start of a remarkable career." Endorsements from Smith and Keenan are good enough for me, so I plowed into Laurel's "Giving them All Away" (Evening Street Press, Dublin Ohio) n.p. Laurel is a mother, an emergency room nurse who splits her life between Waconia, Minn., and Ashville, N.C. She's divorced and now has a female partner. Her poems which bare for all, her experiences at work and at home and in love.
Not long ago I raved about a first novel written by a neighbor down the road in Lake Elmo, Minn.
I have ancestors who came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century, so I'm always on the lookout for books, movies or plays about that fabled place. My interest lies in artistic recreations of a time long past, creations like Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," and movies like "Plymouth Adventure," where, to my dismay, I learned that Gov.