Mar. 15, 1998


by Stephen Dunn


Today's Reading: "Aging" by Stephen Dunn from LOOSESTRIFE: POEMS, published by W.W. Norton & Company (1996).

It is the IDES OF MARCH, and on this day in 44 B.C., Julius Caesar ignored the warnings of his fortune-teller and went out in public to attend a meeting in the Pompeii theater. He had recently compared himself to Alexander the Great and was planning the conquest of Parthia, and many Romans thought he had to be stopped. Marcus Brutus stabbed him, and Caesar fell with the words, "You, too, Brutus?"

The 15th of March is also the day in Hinckley, Ohio when THE BUZZARDS RETURN from their wintering grounds in the Great Smoky Mountains. Spring is just around the corner.

It's the birthday in Brooklyn, 1933, of Supreme Court Justice RUTH BADER GINSBURG. She graduated at the top of her class from Columbia Law School in 1959 and received no job offers; most firms were leery of hiring a woman.

TSAR NICHOLAS abdicated the Russian throne on this day in 1917, ending 300 years of the Romanov dynasty. During WWI he took command of the Russian army and turned a deaf ear to the peasants who were starving. During the 1917 food riots in St. Petersburg he ordered his soldiers to shoot the peasants, but they refused. He tried unsuccessfully to give the crown to his brother, then fled Moscow.

It's the birthday of the trumpeter and big-band leader, HARRY JAMES, born in Albany, Georgia, 1916. His father taught him how to play trumpet and by the age of 12 he was in front of his own band. The Harry James Orchestra hits included "You Made Me Love You," "I Don't Want to Walk without You" and "I've Heard That Song Before."

BASEBALL WENT PROFESSIONAL on this day in 1869. The game had been around since the 1820s and consisted of a confederation of clubs in the east, none of whom paid their players. The first team to go pro was the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »