Thursday

Aug. 6, 1998

In My Craft or Sullen Art

by Dylan Thomas

THURSDAY 8/6

Today's Reading: "In My Craft or Sullen Art" by Dylan Thomas from COLLECTED POEMS, published by New Directions (1946).

At 8:15 in the morning on this day in 1945, an American B-29 dropped the first atomic bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy," on Hiroshima. It went off about 1,800 feet above ground and instantly killed around 105, 000 people; another 100,000 died later from radiation burns and poisoning.

It's the birthday in 1892, Hawarden (HAY-word-un), Iowa, of writer RUTH SUCKOW. In the 1920s and '30s she wrote about rural and small town Iowa life in stories like "Uprooted," and novels like The Folks. Most of her stories were written while she was running a bee-keeping operation in the little eastern Iowa town of Earlville.

It's the birthday in Ayr, Scotland, 1883, of ALEXANDER FLEMING, who discovered penicillin in 1928. He began his career in WWI, treating infectious diseases. Because of the new, mechanized weapons in that war, soldiers came to him with deeper and far more jagged wounds than doctors had ever seen before. Fleming said, "Surrounded by all those infected wounds, by men who were suffering and dying without our being able to do anything to help them, I was consumed by a desire to discover, after all this struggling, something which would kill these microbes." Years later he left a culture dish out on the windowsill of his lab, and a friend noticed that the mold was behaving strangely. Fleming studied the molds, cultured them and named them penicillin, and it became the first antibiotic to be used successfully in the treatment of bacterial infections in humans.

It's the birthday in Lincolnshire, England, 1809, of poet ALFRED LORD TENNYSON. He started writing early, publishing his first collection with his brothers when he was 18 years old. After college, he became famous for poems like Mariana, The Lotos-Eaters, and The Lady of Shallot. In 1833, his best friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, died; over the next 16 years Tennyson worked at a long, book-length poem dedicated to Hallam, "In Memoriam A. H. H." that made Tennyson a house-hold name in England and led to Queen Victoria naming him the nation's poet laureate. I falter where I firmly trod,/And falling with my weight of cares/Upon the great world's altar-stairs/That slope thro' darkness up to God,/I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,/And gather dust and chaff, and call/To what I feel is Lord of all,/And faintly trust the larger hope.

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 »