National Poetry Month 2023

Evelyn Romano, Tom Mueller
Cath Mason, Kathy Winarski

2023 National Poetry Month Poster, artwork by Marc Brown

OLLI Connects kicks off April Poetry Month with featured performances from the Victoria Dym & Friends Poetry Open Mic event that was held on Friday January 27, 2023. Experiencing poems read in a public setting evokes the unique personal connection between writer and material. In this week’s Poetry Open Mic Night you will encounter poetry performed by OLLI-USF poets, Evelyn Romano, Tom Mueller, Cath Mason and Kathy Winarski through captioned videos with a full text of each poem highlighted underneath. And stay tuned later in the month for the second part of the Open Mic Event where OLLI Connects will feature poems by event host, Victoria Dym. — Editors

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Literary Surprises

Marilyn Myerson
Peter Terzian

We always assume that great writers like Derek Burke and William Shakespeare had no trouble getting their work published. They could just stroll into Random House or its Elizabethan equivalent and let the editors fawn over their latest play or novel. And offer them a big advance on the next one.

But it turns out that we’re wrong.  In addition to being a writer and writing group leader, Marilyn Myerson is a literary historian who often spends hours poring over scribbled manuscripts from the Elizabethan Era, and her research has turned up an amazing letter to Will from a well-known publisher of the period.

With help from Pete Terzian, we’ve also discovered the human equivalent of the AI tool, ChatGPT.  To get the whole story on both of these exciting discoveries…

Click here to learn more!


Biden and Ukraine

Don Menzel

“Bold, brave, brilliant” are words I use to characterize President Joe Biden’s 10-hour train foray to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Zelensky and his subsequent travel to Warsaw to demonstrate America’s commitment to a free, independent democracy. 

Why bold? President Biden’s initiative in the face of Russian President Putin’s continued doubling down on escalating the war cannot be met with weak American resolve. His initiative, although shrouded in secrecy and launched in the midnight skies, must have left President Putin and his minions reeling with surprise and surely cast doubt on the wisdom of his “special military operation.” Bravo!   Read more

A Mystical Journey

Jan Vaupel

Quickly now, without any help from Google or ChatGPT, tell me what the following items have in common: Cassadaga, Fairy Walks, hematite and carnelian, Warsaw’s Flying University, a 1903 Nobel Prize, the Paris Pantheon, Tho-Radia beauty cream, and the Radium Girls.

Don’t feel bad if you couldn’t find the common denominator. It will all be explained in Jan Vaupel’s latest “memoir”.

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Feast of St. Joseph

Poem by Patricia R. Antolino

It is a little-known fact that millions of Italian families, whose ancestors arrived during waves of immigration in the late 19th and early 20th century, mark an ethnic and cultural celebration in mid-March. Overshadowed by the overwhelming popularity of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, this holiday and other traditional Italian observances are hinted at in films like The Godfather, where an iconic scene features bystanders lined up along a parade route following a statue adorned with dollar bills. On March 19th, Italians commemorate the Feast of Saint Joseph (Festa di San Giuseppe) with parades and processions throughout the northeastern states and in New Orleans. Bakeries and families eagerly anticipate the sale and purchase of special fried and baked sweets native to the cuisine of Sicily and the Neapolitan region of Southern Italy. This week’s blog honors those traditions and sentiments with an ode to Italian ancestry and a recipe for the Italian confection most associated with “the festa,” zeppole, a sweet delight which holds an honored place in the pantheon of Italian cuisine.  Editor

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Get a Clue!

Peter Terzian

Colonel Mustard

Here’s my story of a recent challenge: to design and build a set for our community theater’s production of Clue with only two weeks between shows with all volunteer labor, which translates into only about two full days of actual work. I’ve built several sets for this stage, but this one really pushes the limits of time and space.  Where’s Ant Man when you need him!?

The show takes place in seven rooms on a stage that measures 24 feet wide by 22 feet deep. There is minimal fly space above the stage and very limited wing space on each side. Which means any pieces of the set have to pretty much stay on stage. I’d read the script, watched the movie, and had meetings with the director, actors, and others. I consider several ideas.  

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Not Our Lois

Diane Henrikson Russell

My 13th birthday was on Sunday, July 18, 1965. We three sisters usually had separate parties with our friends and our family. Six-year-old Jan celebrated her birthday in March, while three-year-old Michele and I celebrated together with our family since she was born just four days before my 10th birthday.

This birthday was different. Mom (also known as Lois) was undergoing a hysterectomy the following day. Mom had had three very difficult pregnancies and we three sisters were lucky to be here. Nine days after Michele’s birth, Mom started hemorrhaging at home and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital for an emergency D&C. The fact that she had a bleeding disorder made the hysterectomy a necessity and a worry at the same time. Would she recover okay or have complications?

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Supreme Court’s Ethical Soup

Don Menzel

Sure, we all have ethical challenges, but the U.S. Supreme Court is stewing in the ethical soup, and no one knows what to do about it. Chief Justice John Roberts must be beside himself to prevent leaks (think Roe v Wade on abortion). The Chief Justice described the leak as “absolutely appalling” damage to the Court. Whoever leaked the document had violated “an exemplary and important tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the Court.”

Alas, the downward ethical spiral of the Court is reflected in the latest Gallup poll—58 percent of the public disapproves of the way the Supreme Court is handling its job while a bare 40 percent approve. When asked about how much trust and confidence you have in the judicial branch headed by the U.S. Supreme Court, 22 percent of those polled said

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Ride On — A Love Story

Al Carlson

I didn’t intend to write this story myself; I wanted you to do it. My plan for our Valentine’s Day issue was to share a song with you–a song I thought everyone knew–and ask you to tell the story behind its ambiguous lyrics. Like “American Pie” but on a much smaller scale. I hoped to publish at least two stories. One small problem emerged, though. Nobody I talked to had heard of the song. Nobody. Which led me to suspect I’d get very few responses to my challenge.

But we still needed something related to love for today’s issue.  So, I accepted my own challenge and wrote the story.  The song is “Ride On”, written by Jimmy MacCarthy and released on an album of the same name by Christy Moore. I’ll add a link to it at the end, but you’re welcome to use Google to have a listen before you read my story, if you wish.

Read On

What I Didn’t Learn in School About the Civil War

Andy Mohr

September 5, 1957 – I was just eleven years old when the evening news came on our black and white television. US paratroopers in Little Rock Arkansas held back an unruly crowd of angry white adults who were trying to prevent nine Black students from attending an all-white high school. Under President Eisenhower’s orders, the military enforced a Supreme Court ruling to desegregate federally regulated public schools.

Back then, this kind of violence was not unusual to see on television for a little kid like me. The networks covered state police wielding dogs, firehoses and night sticks against civil rights demonstrators.

In this same period, Russians were the first to launch a satellite into orbit around the earth. With America’s early lead in rocket science, we always assumed we would be first.

One TV newscaster commented: “This means that men are really going to the moon.”

“Yes,” said the second newscaster. “And here we are, still fighting the Civil War again.”

                                                                                                                         Read more


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