I remember the first time I heard the Writer’s Almanac on NPR. It was my freshman year at Vassar and one of those great snowy days. My roommate Abbie had this candle that smelled like Christmas trees that we burned every second of the day starting December 1st and I was huffing it while listening to the radio. Abbie had 5 am Spanish class for crazies and I was taking my time before my lazy people classes. Then, all of a sudden, a wonderful soothing voice came on the radio and recited a poem by someone dead and spectacular and then proceeded to tell me all the important literary events that happened on that day, some day in December 1998.
Since then I’ve been hooked. In college I was always able to catch Keillor on the radio, but since then it’s been the internet that brings me my daily poetry dose. Of course now I have an iphone and the first thing I do when I wake up after cursing my alarm clock, is listen to the Writer’s Almanac on speakerphone. It’s like Garrison Keillor is in my room, swaying on my rocking chair and telling me that it’s Emily Dickinson’s birthday. It’s a perfect way to start the day.
When I lived in Tokyo, my friend who was a trader at Merrill Lynch used to send the text version to the entire trading floor after I got him hooked on it too. That is probably my biggest accomplishment in life – getting bankers to peer at poetry in the early morning.
Keillor is from Minnesota, which seems to be the hotbed for American literary talent. Hello, F. Scott. And as I am now an expert about those from the Midwest, as I am dating a Nebraskan, I can say that what I love about Keillor’s voice is that slow Midwestern drawl. Not an accent, but that, “I’m not in a hurry so let’s just sit here and recite poetry” voice of his.
My very first professional aspiration was to be a poet. I used to sit on a pile of tires in our garage and write horrific poetry about nothing. Then in high school I used to experiment to see if I was a better poet after smoking pot or after getting really drunk. Neither. Luckily for America, I no longer wish to be a poet. Just a writer of longer sentences. But I still love poetry and I love Garrison Keillor for bringing it to me every morning with his wonderful vocal chords.