Monday

Aug. 24, 1998

Italy

by Harvey Shapiro

MONDAY 8/24

Today's Reading: "Italy" by Harvey Shapiro from SELECTED POEMS, published by Wesleyan University Press (1997).

It's the birthday in Sheffield, England, 1936, of novelist A.S. BYATT, author of Possession which won Britain's Booker Prize in 1991, the story of two academics and their research into the lives of a pair of Victorian poets. Her most recent book came out last fall, a collection of fairy tales called The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye.

It's the birthday of ALICE SHELDON, the science fiction writer who signed her works, JAMES TRIPTREE, JR. — born this day in Chicago, 1915. She served in Air Force Intelligence right after W.W.II and then at the CIA where she did photo intelligence work while beginning to write. She was best known as a short-story writer, the author of several collections, including Ten Thousand Light Years from Home (1973), and Warm Worlds (1975).

It's the birthday in 1899, Buenos Aires, of the Argentinean poet and short-story writer JORGE LUIS BORGES, author of The Aleph and Other Stories, Labyrinths, and A Universal History of Infamy. These were mostly published in the early '60s, right around the time Borges was going blind from a congenital eye disease.

It's the birthday in Roseau, West Indies, 1890, of novelist JEAN RHYS, author of Wide Sargasso Sea, which came out in 1966. She moved to Europe when she was young, and worked as a dancer, model, chorus girl. In the 1920s and '30s she became famous for a series of short stories and novels about bohemian life in Paris including The Left Bank and Good Morning, Midnight.

It was on this day in 1814, that BRITISH TROOPS INVADED WASHINGTON, D.C. This was in the closing months of the War of 1812. The Americans had had some early naval successes in the War, but by summer, 1814, the British had the East coast blockaded, and controlled the Great Lakes and most of the Mississippi River. The Americans had burned several British government buildings in Toronto, so in retaliation, the British stormed up Chesapeake Bay into Washington and burned the White House, the Capitol, and most of the public buildings.

It's the birthday of poet ROBERT HERRICK, born in London, 1591, best known as author of..."Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,/Old Time is still a-flying,/And this same flower that smiles to-day/To-morrow will be dying." Herrick was a preacher but became famous as a poet in his 30s for writing short lyrics that composers of the day set to music. He wrote over 1,400 of them.

It was on this day in 1572 that thousands of French Huguenots were murdered in Paris, an event that became known as the ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY MASSACRE. The Huguenots were Protestants and there'd been constant strife between them and the Catholic monarchy over the years. The massacre was triggered when the king's mother, Catherine of Medici, feared that the Protestants were gaining too much influence over her son, Charles IX. Huguenot leaders were in Paris for a royal wedding, and she ordered them all killed. The massacre began when the church bells tolled dawn on August 24, but then it spread to Protestant shop owners in Paris, and even though a royal decree went out the next day for it to stop, the massacre continued out into the countryside, and some estimates of the number of dead range as high as 70,000.

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 »