For the second time in Ohio’s history, a poet laureate has been named. Serving a two year term is Dave Lucas, a native of Cleveland, award-winner (including an award from Ohioana in 2012), published writer and teacher.
It is of course a great honor to the individual, but it’s also a great benefit to the people of Ohio. We will be able to learn from this creative writer who will share his love of words during his tenure.“Our state’s poet laureate has an opportunity to engage Ohioans of every age in unique and challenging ways,” said Governor Kasich. “I’m confident Mr. Lucas will fulfill the special calling that comes with this honor, to help us look at our world from a new perspective and I wish him the best in his new role.”
During his time as poet laureate, Lucas said he wants to help Ohioans use poetry to understand and enhance their lives. He is planning a multimedia project involving people from diverse places and backgrounds allowing them to experience a variety of opinions about poetry.
Dave Lucas is the author of Weather (Georgia, 2011), which received the 2012 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. Named by Rita Dove as one of thirteen “young poets to watch,” he has also received a “Discovery/The Nation Prize and a Cleveland Arts Prize. A co-founder of Brews + Prose at Market Garden Brewery and Cleveland Book Week, he teaches at Case Western Reserve University.
In our parallel trajectory, many Ohioans have been the recipients of the Oscar, including Clark Gable, George Chakiris, Eileen Heckart, and Paul Newman. Halle Berry made history in 2002 as the first (and thus far only) African American winner of the Best Actress award. Composer Henry Mancini is our state’s all-time winner at the Oscars, receiving four statuettes for his music, including the Best Song of 1961, “Moon River,” one of the classics of the American popular songbook.
An Oscar winner whose name you might not be as familiar with is author and screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart. Stewart was born in Columbus on November 30, 1894 (just twelve days before and two miles away from other future celebrated writer – James Thurber). After graduating from Yale and serving in the Navy in World War I, Stewart settled in New York and began to write. His quick wit soon led him to becoming a member of the Algonquin Round Table, the celebrated literary circle that also included Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Ernest Hemingway.
Stewart turned to writing plays, and success on Broadway led him eventually to Hollywood. Among his notable screenplays in the 1930s were The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Marie Antoinette, Holiday, and the 1939 classic, Love Affair (remade in 1957 as An Affair to Remember).
In 1940, M-G-M hired Stewart to adapt Phillip Barry’s play The Philadelphia Story for George Cukor’s film version starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart (who was no relation). The film was a critical and popular smash, and earned six Oscar nominations, including the two Stewarts, both of whom won – James Stewart for Best Actor and Donald Ogden Stewart for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The host at that year’s awards ceremony was comedian Bob Hope (another Ohioan, from Cleveland). Hope would later recall it as “one of those bathos-drenched evenings where winners thanked everyone from their producer, director, and co-stars down to the ‘little people’ – by which I assumed they meant pygmies, dwarves, and elves.” Then Donald Ogden Stewart’s name was called.
Walking to the podium and taking the Oscar in his hand, Stewart said, “There’s been so much niceness here tonight that I’m proud to say I’m totally responsible for the success of The Philadelphia Story. Nobody lifted a damn finger to help me.”
The audience broke up in laughter and gave Stewart a huge ovation. Hope would remember it as one of the favorite moments of his record-breaking nineteen times as the awards host.
Stewart continued writing screenplays throughout the 1940s, working with top-flight directors such as Cukor and Michael Curtiz, and stars such as Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, William Powell, and Lana Turner. Then came the second “Red Scare” of the early 1950s. Stewart, who had been actively involved in the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League during World War II, admitted that at one time he had belonged to the Communist Party. Blacklisted by Hollywood studios, Stewart and his wife moved in 1951 to England, where he remained until his death in 1980 at the age of 85.
While not as well remembered today as some of his contemporaries, many of the films for which Stewart wrote his sparking screenplays continue to entertain. As his biography on the Internet Movie Database states, Stewart was “noted for his satirical observations of American high society, best exemplified by The Philadelphia Story.”
So as this movie-laden holiday season takes us into a new year, and as Hollywood prepares for the 90th anniversary Oscar ceremony on March 4 – Ohioana raises its glass to Donald Ogden Stewart.
He looks like a certain jolly old elf and he does bring gifts, but he’s not Santa. He’s King Gambrinus and he doesn’t have a special day, but maybe he should. We’d like to suggest December 5 because of its significance in United States History: it’s the day that Prohibition ended.
In 1933, after a less-than-successful run at being alcohol-free, America threw in the towel, effectively saying “Oh to heck with it,” and alcohol was again legal and could be sold, produced, transported, and generally enjoyed.
Our very own King Gambrinus statue in Columbus once adorned a brewery owned by August Wagner, a Bavarian brewer. The statue was saved even though the building is long gone, and his serene highness is now on display in Columbus’ Brewery District.
Beer is back in Columbus and all over Ohio with the rise of independent brewers. The later day beer barons and the fruits of their labors are celebrated in books like Ohio’s Craft Beersby Paul Gaston, published by Kent State University Press. The latest addition to the genre of Ohio beer book includes Columbus Beer: Recent Brewing & Deep Roots by Curt Schieber.
King Gabrinus himself is less well-documented. He’s not exactly a god and certainly not a historic figure. He’s like Bacchus or any other merry reveler of myth; a personification of good times. With one leg up on a barrel and a foaming flagon held high, he reigns victorious over lesser beverages.
One of the things I treasure about fall in Ohio is the number of events celebrating books and authors that happen around the state. Book fairs and festivals, poetry readings, writing workshops – there is something going on every week, and sometimes almost every day!