1. West Virginia USA quarters are out, and (SPOILER ALERT) the designs for all the 2006 quarters have been released on the US Mint’s website. Once again, literature doesn’t get a quarter. It’s not like I really expected Hunter S. Thompson’s craggy face to decorate the Colorado quarter, but I can hope. And I really did expect to see Mark Twain show up on the Missouri quarter back in 2003, and I still say my idea was better. Wouldn’t it have been great if Massachusetts gave us Thoreau and his cabin? Instead we get a guy with a gun.
Three quarters have slight traces of literary content: Alabama, California and the upcoming South Dakota. Alabama’s Helen Keller and California’s John Muir both wrote books, and Keller is reading a braille book on her quarter. Theodore Roosevelt, who shows up on South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore, was a popular author during his life.
The USA state quarters don’t favor the arts at all. There are two exceptions: Tennessee, which rightfully honors its musical heritage, and my favorite quarter of them all, Iowa, which is a bona fide work of art, a Grant Wood painting embossed in metallic bas-relief. Grant Wood is a painter who produced his most famous work, American Gothic in 1930. Some say the painting is meant as a satire on American heartland mythology, and cite the presence of an incongrous rubber tree on the porch as an example of a private joke. Anyway, Iowa’s got a nice looking quarter, and that’s what matters.
And here’s my vote for the worst design: Connecticut. The quarter is as boring as the state.
Enough about quarters, let’s talk about stamps. A bunch of contemporary kidlit characters are going to be honored by the US Post Office’s new 39 cent issuance. We’re talking about Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar, E. B. White’s radiant pig Wilbur, and Curious George (soon to be murdered in a live action film starring Will Ferrell, who needs to just stop). Here’s some more information (thanks to BookNinja for the link).
2. The following people will someday appear on either quarters or stamps, if I have anything to say about it. Diane DiPrima’s got a new poetry book out, Timebomb, and she’s reading in San Francisco and Berkeley. Patti Smith, who published poetry chapbooks before she became a punk singer, is returning to the form with Auguries of Innocence (the title evokes Blake, which isn’t a big stretch for Smith). And former Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter (who has been blogging longer than most people) is apparently working on a novel, which we consider good news.
3. Video from David Amram’s excellent jazz poetry reading, Ode to the Sidewalks of New York is up at Insomniacathon.org. You’ll notice me as one of the performers, butchering two of my short poems. I’m kind of annoyed as I watch this now, because I really wasn’t nervous at all (I used to get nervous onstage, but I don’t anymore) during the performance. But I watched this video and I look nervous even though I wasn’t. I hate when that happens. Anyway it was an honor to read to the piano stylings of David Amram, not to mention the percussion of Kevin Twigg and David’s teenage son, Adam, who was hitting the bongos.