It's almost as though Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had picked a fight with the Rev. Billy Graham. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Kong Phirun is asking the government's Ministry of Religion to silence the gong in a Buddhist pagoda near his home that awakens him daily at 4 a.m. Monks use the gong as a call to prayer during their faith's 90-day Lenten period. "An immoral act," the high court justice huffed in a letter last week. But the pagoda chief clearly isn't intimidated by the jurist's stature. Firing right back, he questioned Kong Phirun's piety and called the complaint "hateful."
The selection of Ted Kooser of Garland, Neb., as the new poet laureate of the United States is historic. He's the first person from the Great Plains to be so honored. In announcing the choice last week, Librarian of Congress James Billington called Kooser, currently a visiting professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, "a major poetic voice for rural and small town America." The poet laureate delivers and organizes readings, usually for up to two years, and is given an office at the Library of Congress and a $35,000 salary. Among those who previously have held the post since it was created in 1937: Robert Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Robert Penn Warren. The last 10 poet laureates, the years they served, and their hometowns:
Mark Strand 1990-91 Chicago
Joseph Brodsky 1991-92 New York
Mona Van Duyn 1992-93St. Louis
Rita Dove 1993-95 Charlottesville, Va.
Robert Haas 1995-97 Berkeley, Calif.
Robert Pinsky 1997-2000 Newton, Mass.
Stanley Kunitz 2000-01 New York
Billy Collins 2001-03 New York
Louise Gluck 2003-04 Cambridge, Mass.
Ted Kooser 2004 Garland, Neb.