UnPoetia:The Best of The Writer's Almanac

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n p r NPRNational Public RadioThe Writer's AlmanacGarrison KeillorA Prairie Home CompanionCar Talk
Garrison Keillor, son of Batman and Batgirl

(cue boring piano)

(prod comatose host with a long stick)

"And here is The Best of The Writer's Almanac for Friday, March 1, 2024.

"It's the birthday of poet Palmer Dinkel, born in Newark, New Jersey in 1929. He fell in love with the poetry of Walt Whitman when he was in high school, then later with the man himself when he ran across a picture of Walt in a swimming costume. Dinkel framed the picture and placed it over his desk where it remained the muse of inspiration for his subsequent works over the next 51 years, including: "Bearded Splendor", "Muskrat Love", and the voyeuristic classic, "Scenes from a Men's Restroom".

Here's a poem by Palmer Dinkel for his birthday. A poem from 1959, and what many consider to be his master work:

"Requiem for a Rusty Fork"
Heel, discarded cutlery.
Splines obscenely twisted;
Bane of the dining room table
Once a proud solider, marching smartly plateside
Deftly parrying the teasing stabs of friendly knives,
While stowed away in the cupboard after maneuvers
Until called from furlough to wrest open a sealed drawer,
Barred by a forgotten key
Never returned to the barracks, nor the silversmiths
But exiled to the utility drawer,

"It's the birthday of poet Rusty Rickshaw. Abandoned at birth at a hostel in Gofuku, Japan in 1927, he was given the name "Bigeye Whitey Bastardchild" when attending staff were at a loss for what to call him. He later adopted his new monkier when rickshaws were banned in China after the Communist takeover in 1949.

"Famous for writing about everyday events, he was oft criticized for being unimaginative, until he wrote a poem about being criticized for being unimaginative.

"Here's a poem by Rusty Rickshaw for his birthday. A poem from 1959, and what many consider to be his master work:

"Airport Security"
Into the airport I wandered,
Feeling lonely but looking suspicious
Our eyes met; he beckoned me to the wall
I felt his hands grasp me roughly
Fingers riverdancing down my ribcage
Circling my waist like drivers around a racetrack
But failing to achieve pole position
Much to my obvious dismay
"I've seen you here before?" he said.
I nodded solemnly.
"Show me your ticket." he said.
I shrugged nervously.
His palms seized my thighs,
Patting me forcefully but meaningfully,
In a way that made my feet sweat,
And my buttocks tingle.
Our eyes met; there was the slightest pause.
He looked me up and down.
"Same time next week?" he asked.
I nodded.

"It's the birthday of novelist Elmer Gluesniffer, born in Intercourse, Pennsylvania in 1961. He wrote his first novel, The Flasher Only Rings Twice in 1983, when he was just twenty-two years old. The protagonist, a misunderstood ex-figure studies model facing middle age, copes with his sagging body and diminishing profile as best he can, by displaying the remains of his earthly gifts door-to-door, to a series of unsuspecting strangers.

"Disgraced in 1985 by a high profile arrest for public indecency, Gluesniffer claimed to have been "conducting important research" for his follow-up novel, when taken into custody in a suburban neighbourhood in Allentown. His career would never recover, though most of his contacts that day have done just fine after intense, daily counseling in the years since.

"Here's an excerpt from Elmer Gluesniffer's debut/swan-song novel, in celebration of his birthday:

The Flasher Only Rings Twice
Nervously, I approached the door, terrified but intoxicated with the anticipation. Or perhaps the wine?
Who might answer? An attractive young woman? A stodgy old priest? A young boy readying himself for baseball practice? I didn't know.
There was a time that I would case out a home in advance, but such was my appetite to surprise that I now needed to surprise myself.
Trenchcoat at the ready, I raised my knuckles to rap at the door when I felt a hand grasp my shoulder from behind.
"Can I help you, sir?" a voice asked.
I turned. It was the police.
"Good afternoon, sir," I replied, "Might I interest you in a new Electrolux vacuum cleaner?"
"No, I don't think so," he replied. "Do you have anything else I might find of interest?"
There was the tiniest pause as I considered his motives.
"No, I'm sorry." I said.
"Haven't we met before?" he asked.
I shrugged.
Our eyes met; again, there was the slightest pause.
He looked me up and down.
"Want to come back to my place?" he asked.
I nodded.

"It's the birthday of Duane Pipe, born in Toad Suck, Arkansas, USA in 1932. He's the prolific writer of many instructional guides to Do-It-Yourself plumbing, but yearned to be a poet according to his widow Elaine. By her account, he would never share any of his personal writings, but kept many scraps of paper in a wooden box under his desk, and in his toolkit.

"After his tragic blimp-related death in 1959, she gathered all his papers together and sought the attention of every major publisher in America, only to have them rejected as 'poor, 'amateurish' and 'not even real poetry - did you bother to actually read these before submitting them?'

"Later, she sold most of their worldly goods in an estate sale to finance a self-published book under the title: 'Duane Pipe: Broken But Unbowed'

"Here's a poem by Duane Pipe for his birthday. A poem from 1959, and what many consider to be the least bad of his writings, which were quite bad, and coincidentally the last bit of writing he completed before his untimely demise:

- 1 dozen eggs (check)
- 1 gallon of milk (check)
- 1 pound of butter (check)
- 12 ounces cheddar cheese (check)
- 5 pounds of potatoes (check)
- 2 ribeye steaks (check)
- 120 feet of lead pipe (check)
- sink (check)
- toilet (check)
- bathtub (check)
- plans for installing a sink, toilet and tub into a blimp (check)
- a smaller blowtorch (still looking)
- a parachute (back ordered 7 weeks)

(cue boring piano)

"Do well, be good to children and old people, and please... ask before touching.®"

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