Aug. 7, 1998

What Poems

by Barbara Jordan


Today's Reading: "What Opens" by Barbara Jordan from TRACE ELEMENTS, published by Penguin Books (1998).

There's a PENUMBRAL LUNAR ECLIPSE tonight, beginning at 9:30 Eastern Time. The moon is full tonight and it'll take about an hour to enter penumbra, then another hour to leave it. And we're HALFWAY DONE WITH SUMMER, too: right at the midpoint between June 22 and September 23.

The BATTLE FOR GUADALCANAL began on this day in 1942, in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. Japanese troops had started building an airstrip there the month before, and on August 7, in the Allies' first major offensive in the Pacific, 6,000 U.S. Marines landed and seized the airfield. Both sides then began pouring in reinforcements, with bitter fighting in the jungle. By January, 1943, six separate naval battles were fought near Guadalcanal as both sides tried to land more men. The Japanese finally evacuated the island in February, 1943.

It was on this day in 1934 that the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled against the government's attempt to confiscate and ban all copies of James Joyce's novel, ULYSSES. Two weeks ago, a group of librarians and authors voted Ulysses the greatest novel of the 20th century.

It's the birthday in Galesville, Wisconsin, 1911, of director NICHOLAS RAY, best known for the 1955 James Dean film, Rebel Without a Cause. He started out as an architect and actor in Chicago, made his way to New York, then Los Angeles, and broke into films in the late '40s and early '50s with low-budget movies: They Live by Night, Knock on Any Door, and Johnny Guitar.

It's the birthday in Kenya, 1903, of anthropologist LOUIS LEAKEY, whose East African fossil discoveries proved that humans have been here at least a million years longer than anybody thought. He and his wife Mary uncovered tools and animal fossils, then one day in 1948 found the remains of an ancestor common to both apes and humans that lived about 25 million years ago.

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
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