Reading Room Blog

American Life in Poetry: Column 255

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

A honeymoon. How often does one happen according to the dreams that preceded it? In this poem, Wesley McNair, a poet from Maine, describes a first night of marriage in a tawdry place. But all’s well that ends well.

 

For My Wife

Chester Himes: Writing from the fire

Chester Himes had a hard life, even for someone growing up in the 'thirties. He took some knocks early on, knocks many people get in life; it was the racism he encountered in LA that made him bitter, a bitterness which put a fire in his belly and informed so much of his best work. Himes probably would have drawn little consolation over the fact he was breaking new trails for  authors such as  Walter Mosley. But he did.

Re-enacting turns real

    Stonewall Hinkleman is a typical twelve-year-old boy whose parents are ardent Civil War re-enactors.  This means that every weekend he’s dragged (his word) to another Civil War battle site.  His father reveres an ancestor, Cyrus Hinkleman, who fought and died in the war, despite the fact that, as Stonewall puts it, “He was shot in the butt… Which can only mean one thing.  He was running away when he was shot.”  Dressed in a scratchy wool uniform and dragging a bugle that he barely knows how to play, Stonewall sulks around wishing he could play his Game Boy.

A History of Science Fiction: Ray Bradbury & Arthur C. Clarke

Over the course of the twentieth century, many authors have emerged to define the popular perception of science fiction. These authors have created some of the most-read science fiction works and continue to have an enormous influence on the science fiction world to this day. It is the work of these authors that has made the genre into a more diverse and critically respected field.

Great Lives Series: Booker T. Washington

Born a slave in Franklin County, Virginia, Booker T. (Taliaferro) Washington went on to become a nationally-known leader and educator. He shared his educational philosophy with U.S. presidents and served as the first president of Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University.

American Life in Poetry: Column 254

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

What might my late parents have thought, I wonder, to know that there would one day be an occupation known as Tooth Painter? Here’s a partial job description by Lucille Lang Day of Oakland, California.

Tooth Painter

Great Lives Series: Jesus of Nazareth

On Thursday, January 14, 2010, James E. Goehring of the University of Mary Washington’s Department of Classics, Philosophy and Religion gave a talk on Jesus of Nazareth. The lecture was part of the University's Great Lives series.

Haiti - "rich in spirit and culture and love and dedication"

    As we all respond to the tragedy in Haiti, share these children’s books about the island for an inside look at the people, the place and the culture.


    Diane Wolkstein visited Haiti to collect the traditional stories in her collection, “The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales.”

American Life in Poetry: Column 253

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Animals are incapable of reason, or so we’ve been told, but we imaginative humans keep talking to our dogs and cats as if they could do algebra. In this poem, Ann Struthers looks into the mystery of instinctive behavior.

 

Not Knowing Why

A History of Classic Science Fiction: John Carter’s Mars and Flash Gordon’s Universe

The most famed and prolific area of science fiction is the planetary adventure, featuring strange environments, exotic alien races, and massive battle scenes. Many of the most popular science fiction universes, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Avatar, take place in these environments. Most of these universes owe their existence to the adventure fiction of one author.