Each month, our Literary Laureates share thoughts and writings inspired by Laguna Beach. 

National Poetry Month: Mary Oliver

One of my very favorite poets, Mary Oliver, died this January at the age of 83. Now, with April just around the corner, we are at the start of National Poetry Month, and I can think of no better time to honor Mary Oliver, her work, and her affection for the changing of seasons. Toward that end, I invite you to listen to Mary Oliver reading her tender and moving poem, Wild Geese.

Mary Oliver is a perfect introduction to poetry for the uninitiated because she writes so crisply and accessibly about the natural world around us. Oliver demonstrates a strong command of language, and writes in partnership with it, rather than allow it to overwhelm her.

"One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear," Oliver said in an 2012 interview with NPR. "It mustn't be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now are… they sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn't necessary shouldn't be in a poem."

Simplicity, directness and clarity are great goals to keep in mind for writers penning poems for the 21st Annual John Gardiner Poetry Contest, sponsored by Laguna Beach Library. Named in honor of the beloved local poet who died in 2017, this event celebrates writers of all ages who are encouraged...

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Take Me Out to the Ball-Game

Every year about this time, baseball fans anticipate Spring Training, which starts on February 21st. Many writers have been inspired by baseball, from Ernest Thayer who penned “Casey At the Bat” to W.P. Kinsella, author of the novel Shoeless Joe (which was made into the movie Field of Dreams). Did you know that two of baseball’s best-known writers made Laguna Beach their home base?

Jack Norworth was a Vaudeville actor/singer in 1908 when he wrote the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” According to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Norworth was inspired by a sign on the New York subway advertising a NY Giants game at the Polo Grounds. Norworth brought his lyrics to composer Albert Von Tilzer, and together, they’re responsible for the second most widely sung song in America (second only to the National Anthem).

Northworth lived in Laguna Beach for many years and founded the Little League here. He is also remembered for passing out Cracker Jacks from the Little League float in the annual Patriots Day parade. Norworth died on September 1, 1959 at the age of 80 and is buried at Melrose Abbey Memorial Park in Anaheim.

Laguna’s other famous baseball writer is Arnold Hano, author of A Day in the Bleachers, which vividly captures the experience of watching Willie Mays’ legendary centerfield catch in Game One of the 1954 World Series between the NY Giants and the Cleveland Indians. Hano went on to write biographies of Mays, Sandy Koufax, and Roberto Clemente, as well as many other non-fiction and fictional works. Now age 96, Hano has lived in Laguna Beach since 1955, where he and his wife, Bonnie, have been active in numerous social causes.

-Lojo Simon

Literary Lagunans:

June 2018