In praise of passion

Whether amour fou or teen crush, Garrison Keillor thinks that all you need is love.

by Katrina Wilber

Ah, love. From innocent playground romance to tumultuous middle-school affairs, love at first sight and best-friends-to-lovebirds, poets and songwriters have seen it all. Just because Valentine’s Day has passed doesn’t mean that love and romance aren’t still in the air at the University.

The Green Light at the End of the Dock: A Festival of Romantic Writing, sponsored by the University’s Creative Writing Program, flies into town on the wings of love Sunday night.

Students, staff and faculty from the University were invited to submit original lyrics to love songs or original poetry for a juried competition. The entrants get a shot at the two first-place prizes of $750, the two second-place prizes of $500 and the five third-place prizes of $200.

And if the idea of a wonderful evening of love and money isn’t enough, there will be celebrity judges, and the host is a hometown hero.

Former Minnesota Daily writer Garrison Keillor, emcee of Minnesota Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and “The Writer’s Almanac,” is the host for this year’s event as well as the catalyst.

“I proposed the idea of a romantic writing contest to the Creative Writing Program after I had judged a different poetry contest,” Keillor said. “I was astonished to find that no one in that contest had entered a love poem. These were poems of bitter complaint against bad daddies and bad boyfriends or poems about the end of the world.”

Keillor wants to encourage poets, prose writers and songwriters to create poems of passion and admiration. “One of the best uses of poetry is to impress someone you love, someone you want to love you. I can’t imagine poets not writing to the ones they care about or proclaiming their love.”

As for the title, Keillor suggests a trip back to the days of high school English class.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the greatest romantic writers, hailed from St. Paul. In his 1925 masterpiece, “The Great Gatsby,” the beautiful Daisy Buchanan lives across the bay from her admirer, Jay Gatsby. The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock is all Gatsby has of the married woman that he’s madly in love with, and these madly-in-love people often inspire the greatest romantic poetry.

This is the festival’s first year, and the quality of the work will decide if there’ll be another festival next year. “I’m looking forward to it,” Keillor said. “The works will be performed on the stage, and the judges will make their decisions in the public’s view.”

The entries in The Green Light at the End of the Dock: A Festival of Romantic Writing gets down in words the range of emotions that erupt from that marvelous state.