Want to keep reading?

You've reached the end of your complimentary access. Subscribe for as little as $4/month.

Aready a Subscriber ? Sign In

Behind the Curtain surrounded by candles
Who were the mysterious performers whose music was so captivating?

Illustrator Stanislav Nedzelskyi, 13, for Behind the Curtain by Dylan J. Sauder, 13.
Published January/February 2010.

A note from William Rubel


Hamilton is the first piece of popular culture that my daughter, 11, has brought into the house. How many hours of Hamilton have I listened to? Stella has memorized about forty-five minutes' worth, so let me just say, a lot.

Hamilton is brilliant. It is a massively complex many-layered work of art. The core of the work is the text. And the text is a poem. It is a poem as I am confident most of you know, is about the "The ten-dollar founding father without a father." For those of you who read this newsletter who are not American: Alexander Hamilton's portrait is on our ten dollar bill.

Hamilton is in the oldest literary tradition, that of the history poem. The Iliad and the Odyssey by the Greek poet Homer, written about 2500 years ago, is the history poem of all history poems.  Hamilton brings the history poem into our own time. The poem is written in the poetic style of hip hop, set to music and performed. Homer's work was also originally set to music. Here is someone's idea about how, roughly, the Iliad and the Odyssey would have sounded sung by the blind poet, Homer.

The author of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, performed the opening song at the White House in 2009, when his idea seems to have been that he was writing a hip hop album, not making a Broadway Musical. There is a directness in this performance that I find very moving. I hope you find it direct, and powerful, too. In that first version of what became the opening song of the musical -- the song "Alexander Hamilton" -- Lin-Manuel Miranda sings all of the parts. In fact, Miranda ended up imagining this first song as sung by many people and so I want you to watch this version, also performed at the White House. I've started the clip at around nine minutes. The first nine minutes President Obama is talking.

Online, you can find the lyrics to "Alexander Hamilton" published two ways: as a single text the way Lin-Manual Miranda performed at the White House in 2009, and broken up into parts for specific characters to sing, as in the second White House performance.

I want you to write a story in the form of a song or songs. Choose something from history or make up the story entirely from your imagination. Lin-Manuel Miranda took years and years to finish his whole play. So, being practical, I'd like you to write one song that tells a story but that is part of larger story that you have in your head.

Use any style. It doesn't have to be hip hop. You may send us your story poem just as words -- submit it as a poem -- or if you sing it then submit your recording or video in the music section of the submission web page, and also please include with that submission a copy of the words.

Until next week!


Dinner in San Francisco?

Last week I was asked if I'd like to cook a meal at a restaurant in San Francisco next Saturday, the 27th. Of course, I said, yes! If any of you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and think you might be able to come to the meal -- it is a private dinner for forty -- click on this link to indicate your interest. The restaurant is on Columbus Avenue, in San Francisco's "Little Italy." I'm cooking the meal in the restaurant's wood fired oven. I wrote a cookbook book in 2002 called The Magic of Fire. The meal is a magic of fire meal -- flavors fire-kissed is the meal's theme. The event starts at 7pm sharp with appetizers around the oven and the barr, followed by a single seating sit-down dinner. I'd love to meet you!


From Stone Soup
March/April 2004

The Color of Honor

By Andrew Lorraine, 13
Illustrated by Noel Lunceford, 10


Byron Jones parked his beat-up, old, black Chevy in the driveway and stared at the house in front of him. All of his hopes and dreams lay before him in this green house with the pale yellow shutters.

“This is what I have been working for,” he said to himself, “my own office, my own home.”

It was the summer of 1960. Byron was a family doctor. He had been working at a big Philadelphia hospital, when word came that a new doctor was needed in rural Ambler, about twenty-five miles outside the city Old Dr. Carter was tired and sick. He decided to retire and go live with his daughter. The hospital recommended Byron as his replacement and he jumped at the chance. Now, he was finally here, ready to start his own practice.

He got out of the car and stretched. He let his eyes wander around the pretty front yard. Neat rows of purple pansies sprouted in a flowerbed near the big, wooden porch. Bright red geraniums bloomed in a pot at the wide front door. There was another pot of geraniums at the bottom of the porch steps and one at the side yard.

“Doc Carter must have dabbled in gardening,” again Byron talked to himself.

It all looked so homey. His mama would love it. He thought about her and about his sixteen-year-old brother, Keats. Mama loved poetry and had named her boys after her favorite poets, Lord Byron and John Keats.

Byron leaned back against the car and let his thoughts wander back to the family he loved so much.

Byron had grown up dirt poor. Most of his clothes were hand-me-downs and a couple of sizes too big. They came from the oldest boy of the rich white folks his mama kept house for. Byron never had his own bike, or even a wagon. But his mama made sure that their tiny apartment was always filled with books. He read the classics, like Moby-Dick. He read history books, and even the poetry books that his mama loved so much. When he was eleven years old, he read a book about George Washington Carver, a black scientist who was the son of slaves. From that time on, Byron knew he could make something of himself.../ more

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.