Tuesday

Jul. 28, 1998

This is Just to Say (for William Carlos Williams)

by Erica-Lynn Gambino

TUESDAY 7/28

Today's Reading: "This is Just to Say (for William Carlos Williams)" by Erica-Lynn Gambino from THE MUSE STRIKES BACK, published by Story Line Press.

It's the birthday in Rochester, New York, 1927, of poet JOHN ASHBERY, whose 1975 collection, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Prize. His other collections since then have include, Houseboat Days and Flow Chart.

It was on this day in 1914 that AUSTRIA DECLARED WAR ON SERBIA, marking the beginning of World War I. Exactly one month earlier, a Serbian nationalist assassinated Archduke Ferdinand of Austria at Sarajevo. And when Austria declared war on Serbia, the Serb's ally, Russia, jumped in, then Germany sided with the Austrians. The war pitted the Central Powers – mainly Germany, Austria, and Turkey – against the Allies: France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, and, from 1917, the United States.

It's the birthday in 1902, Oak Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, of poet and novelist KENNETH FEARING. When he was in his early 20s he moved to New York and began work as a freelance writer, publishing his poems in The New Yorker, free verse that usually incorporated newspaper and advertising jargon. His collections included Dead Reckoning (1938), and Stranger at Coney Island (1948). Then he turned to writing psychological thrillers, books like The Big Clock (1946), and The Generous Heart (1954).

It's the birthday in France, 1887, of the artist MARCEL DUCHAMP (mar-SELL dew-SHAWM), best known for his 1912 painting "Nude Descending a Staircase," that caused a scandal here in the U.S. when it was exhibited. When that ruckus died down, Duchamp lived a quiet, almost unrecognized life until he was nearly 70 years old; then his painting, sculptures, and pieces called "ready-mades" were hailed as precursors to Pop art. A "ready-made" was an art piece Duchamp specialized in that used everyday items, like his 1913 "Bicycle Wheel" – just a plain old bicycle wheel; or his "Pharmacy," a painting of a winter scene to which he added a pair of pharmacists' bottles.

It's the birthday in 1866, just outside London, of BEATRIX POTTER, author of children's stories about Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck and other animals. Potter was the only child of wealthy parents and, growing up, got to go on long vacations in the English Lake District and Scottish Highlands where she painted the landscape and animals, and made up little stories about what she saw. When she was 27 years old she sent one from the Highlands to a former governess' sick child – complete with pictures – about four rabbits named Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter. In 1900 she published The Tale of Peter Rabbit and during the next 20 years wrote 22 more books.

It's the birthday in Essex, England, 1844 of the poet and priest GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS, who as a young man loved to write poetry, but forsook it all when he joined the Roman Catholic church. But he continued making notes in his journals, and after seven years one of the priests encouraged him to try poetry again. He turned out a series of sonnets like nothing anyone had ever seen before. One of his first was "The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord," which reads in part: I caught this morning morning's minion,/ kingdom of daylight's dauphin,/dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding/Of the rolling level underneath him steady/air, and striding.

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 Sharon Olds 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 »