America the Beautiful: My Personal Story

Teri Dreyfuss-Gray

What does it mean to be an American?  To me it means everything.  What it means goes beyond my place of birth.  For me it goes back to when millions of Irish people, Italians, and Eastern Europeans crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a better life.

My mother’s parents were refugees who came to this country from Russia.  They fled religious persecution as the pogroms claimed the lives of their families.  They made a good life for themselves in the safety of Coney Island, owning a dry goods store.  They never talked about the old country:  only about how lucky they were in America,  the land of freedom.

My father’s father left his family in Romania as a young adult, because they were poor.  Once in America, he pursued his dream, became a chef and made a future for himself.  My father’s mom was born in Palestine.  She was the oldest of ten children and was sent to America to find opportunity and a better life.  She often talked of her pride in living in America and loved to sing the song, “America the Beautiful.”  My grandparents felt lucky, blessed, and safe to raise their children in the freedom of this beautiful country.  (More…)

Baseball and the Atomic Bomb

Bharat Pathakjee

While researching for my class on the Atomic Age, I came across a little-known human interest story about a man named Moe Berg. The son of a Jewish pharmacist, he was born in New Jersey in 1902.  He loved baseball and was quite good at it, much to his father’s displeasure. He excelled at his high school, won a scholarship to Princeton, and played ball in the Ivy League. He majored in Romance languages and became fluent in no fewer than six.

After Princeton he was recruited by the pros—the Brooklyn Robins–for $5,000 a year ($71,000 in today’s money). More success was soon to follow, and in 1926 he earned $50,000 ($700,000 in today’s money) playing for the Chicago White Sox.  (More…)

National Poetry Month 2021 – The Finale

We hope you’ve enjoyed the poetry we’ve been able to share with you in our past three issues.  National Poetry Month for this year is almost over, but you don’t have to give up poetry until next April rolls around.  Check out our Events and Resources page. While April has seen a surge in poetic activity, there are many events and resources that celebrate poetry all year long.

And while you’re being inspired by the poetry of others, we hope you’ll also be “inspired” to write some poetry of your own.  And give us the chance to publish it next year.  We’re OLLI Connects, not the Lithuanian Literary Gazette.  Our purpose is to give OLLI-USF members an opportunity to share their creativity.  Hmmm…, make that your creativity! So, let’s give you a little more inspiration right now.  (More…)

National Poetry Month 2021 – Part Three

What makes a good poem? Melissa Donovan tried to answer that question, and you can read her thoughts here. But before you dash off to get someone else’s opinion, pause for a moment and think about what aspects of a poem make you say, “Now, this is a good poem!” 

Is it economy of language?  Not a single word in it that isn’t critical to its wholeness?  Imagery?  Words that paint vivid pictures?  Powerful language that moves you?  A sense of sound  and rhythm that makes reading the poem aloud an experience far beyond just seeing the words on paper?  Authenticity?  The sense that this poet is sharing a powerful and private truth with you?

Got some thoughts?  Good!  Take them with you as you enjoy this week’s issue.  (More…)

National Poetry Month 2021 – Part Two

We can’t actually take you to a live Poetry Slam or introduce you to Nikki Giovanni, but we want to broaden the way you usually think of poetry.  In this issue, we’ve added more OLLI members reading their favorite poetry aloud.  If you missed  seeing and hearing Shelly Belzer and Simone Leal last week, you can catch up now.  And enjoy another poem from Shelly plus a reading from Dylan Thomas by Barbara Brown.  You’ll find the link to that and more at the end of today’s issue.

But, wait!  There’s more!  Can you say “ekphrasis“? Two of our poems for this week bring in works of art by Vermeer and Dali as their inspiration.  The poems, in and of themselves, are powerful.  Seeing the paintings that inspired them makes them even more so.  So, join us today for a multi-media poetry issue.  (More…)

National Poetry Month 2021

Academy of American Poets

“Launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month reminds the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K–12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and, of course, poets, marking poetry’s important place in our lives. In 2021, the Academy of American Poets looks forward to celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of this annual celebration!”

OLLI-USF has a  strong tradition of studying and celebrating poetry and other literature.  So, for National Poetry Month, we’ll be showcasing our own poets, while also linking your to celebrations of poetry nationwide.  And, for something new to OLLI Connects, we’ll feature OLLI members reading some of their favorite poetry aloud.  Look for it on our special Poetry Month Resources page.  You’ll find a link to it at the end of this issue’s poems.  (More…)

Poetry Month Begins

National Poetry Month for 2021 begins today. And you’ll find so much great poetry in the next four issues of OLLI Connects that you may suspect Shakespeare has quietly moved in next door.  But, although we appreciate the Bard, he’s not one of our contributors.  The poetry that you’ll enjoy–that you’ll experience–has been created by poets in our area, often by OLLI members you know.

This isn’t just a local celebration of poetry, though.  It’s National Poetry Month, and there are events taking place around the country.  And, thanks to the power of the Internet, we can connect you to some of them.  (More …)

A Dark and Stormy Night

Linda Ho

It was a dark and stormy night. The fierce wind swirled relentlessly around the rustic oak cabin nestled in a lonely valley of the Smoky Mountains. By nightfall, snow drifts covered the three small windows of the one-room lodge built by the early pioneers of the Tennessee Valley.

Five-year-old twins Jeremiah and Johanna were huddled next to the fireplace, mesmerized by the crackling sounds of pine logs set ablaze and their brightly dancing embers. The warmth of the fire snuggled them in a cocoon of safety against the frightening storm.  (More…)

Cut, Copy, Paste

April is National Poetry Month and we’ll be sharing a variety of “locally grown” poetry with you over the next four issues of OLLI Connects. And you’ll be able to enjoy it all from the comfort of your home computer. Or on your smartphone.  On the sofa. With your feet up.

It wasn’t always this easy to make poetry available to OLLI members.  Let Ara take you back to the distant past of the previous millennium and remind you of how it used to be done. — Editor

Ara Rogers

“Hans wants to produce a book of poems by his class. I told him you would work on this with him.”

It was early 1996 and I was working with the Learning in Retirement Institute as a part-time graduate assistant. Hans Juergensen had retired several years earlier, and he was a “get” for LIR. Hired in 1961 as faculty in the Humanities, Hans had been a consultant to the Nobel Prize Committee on Literature, and was an esteemed poet. Lee, renowned for her arm-twisting abilities, had worked on Hans for a while to get him to try teaching for LIR, a program now in its second year. Hans agreed to focus on poetry writing.  (More…)

The Adventures of Leslie Merriweather

Marilyn Myerson

Leslie Merriweather’s dream slipped from his grasp as he tried in vain to capture it. There was a retreating glimpse of colour and a vague hint of scent. But, alas, the fragments dissolved, and all was lost. Day 180 of dreams forgotten. On his 95th birthday six months ago, his beloved nephew Jeremy had gifted him with a dream diary. “Try it, Uncle Les; you never know what you might dredge up; you might even remember where you buried that gold.”

Not that Jeremy, his only heir, was greedy, but that he knew his uncle fretted about losing the memory of the treasure’s location. Truth be told, Jeremy was not completely sure there even had been any gold to begin with. Leslie was full of stories of how it had been in the old days. From his youth, Jeremy was fascinated by his uncle spinning tales of his adventurous past. As he grew older, though, Jeremy began to wonder how much was real, how much was fanciful.  (More …)