April 6, 2022

Hello Laura. Farewell Writer's Almanac

I was saddened to learn that Garrison Keillor will be ending The Writer's Almanac program this spring. I have listened to that daily program since it began in 1993 - first as a radio program and later as a podcast. I was fortunate to have several of my poems featured on the show. Each day, you got a poem read aloud in his good radio voice with some almanac-style notes on things about the day, mostly about writers.

Today, for example, you learn about poor Petrarch and his unrequited love for his sonnet muse, Laura.

"It was on this day in 1327 that Italian poet Petrarch first set eyes on “Laura,” the ethereal woman he would use as his muse for more than 300 sonnets. He met Laura on a Good Friday at St. Clare Church in Avignon. Some historians think she was a woman named Laura de Noves, a married woman, and mother, and most agree she never responded to Petrarch’s overtures. She died during the Black Death of 1348. The first 263 poems Petrarch wrote for her are known as the Rime in Vita Laura. After she died the remaining poems were known as Rime in Morte Laura. Petrarch’s works for Laura laid the groundwork for the sonnets of the Elizabethan era. Shakespeare would not be Shakespeare without Petrarch."

About his unconsummated love for Laura, Petrarch wrote:

“In my younger days, I struggled constantly with an overwhelming but pure love affair — my only one, and I would have struggled with it longer had not premature death, bitter but salutary for me, extinguished the cooling flames. I certainly wish I could say that I have always been entirely free from desires of the flesh, but I would be lying if I did.”

Apparently, the Almanac just wasn't paying its way and Garrison Keillor is leaving radio in favor of writing. He has a full shelf of books written already and lots of audio collections. Many of those concern his fictional town, Lake Woebegone, and come from his long-running radio program A Prairie Home Companion

How many radio shows became major motion pictures? PHC did - directed by Robert Altman with Keillor, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Meryl Streep, and Lily Tomlin. Wow!

He still writes frequent columns, and newsletters and has a new audiobook, Serenity at 70, Gaiety at 80, coming out, (here is a preview) so he hasn't given up on reading aloud to us.

The show's ending leaves a poetry gap that I hope someone else fills.

More about Petrarch and his poetry

Visit our website at poetsonline.org

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