Jun. 24, 1998

Things My Grandmother Must Have Said

by Mark Cox


Today's Reading: "Things My Grandfather Must Have Said" by Mark Cox from SMOULDER, published by David R. Godine (1989).

The BERLIN AIRLIFT began on this day in 1948, the first of two million tons of food and supplies flown by British and U.S. planes over a Soviet blockade. Berlin was mostly rubble when the war ended in 1945, and for years afterward thousands were homeless and hungry. When the Western Allies decided to unify the parts of Germany they occupied, the Soviets reacted by banning all rail and road traffic in and out of Berlin. President Harry Truman ordered the blockade broken. Planes began landing on June 24 and kept up throughout 1948. The airlift ended when the Soviets called off the blockade in September 1949.

It's the birthday in Boston, 1916 of poet JOHN CIARDI. Educated at Tufts and the University of Michigan, he taught at Kansas State until WWII broke out. He served as a B-29 gunner over Japan, then came back to lecture on poetry for 30 years at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference in Middlebury, Vermont, half that time directing the program. He edited poetry for the Saturday Review from 1956 to 1972, and authored 40 books of poetry and criticism.

It's the birthday in Waldstein, Austria, 1883, of physicist VICTOR FRANCIS HESS. He won the Nobel Prize in 1936 for discovering cosmic rays, the high-energy radiation that comes from outer space.

It's the birthday near Pomeroy, Ohio, 1842, of writer AMBROSE BIERCE, whose stories about war, horror, and death earned him the nickname "Bitter Bierce." In 1891 he brought out the first of his three best-known books, In the Midst of Life, followed two years later by Can Such Things Be? — both of them story collections. In 1906 he wrote The Devil's Dictionary, a book full of definitions like: Bore, noun: a person who talks when you wish him to listen.

It's the birthday in Litchfield, Connecticut, 1813, of the preacher and social reformer HENRY WARD BEECHER. The Beecher family was prominent in 19th-century Ohio and Connecticut: Henry's sister Harriet wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, and four of his brothers all became famous preachers and teachers.

It was on this day in 1647 that MARGARET BRENT, a wealthy landowner in Maryland, appeared before the Maryland assembly AND DEMANDED THE RIGHT TO VOTE. The men of the Assembly were shocked at her request and turned her down. She moved to Virginia.

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 »