Sep. 2, 1998

Walking the Dog

by Howard Nemerov


Today's Reading: "Walking the Dog" by Howard Nemerov from TRYING CONCLUSIONS, published by University of Chicago Press.

On this day in 1945—also called V-J Day—World War Two came to an end in Tokyo Bay, on the deck of the battleship the U.S.S. Missouri. The Japanese foreign minister signed the unconditional surrender announced by Emperor Hirohito the previous month.

And on this day in 1945, in Hanoi, the nationalist leader HO CHI MINH proclaimed the independence of Vietnam from all colonial powers. He said the new nation would be called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and declared himself its first president. But even though he had wide support in Vietnam, France had no intention of giving up Indochina, and did not recognize the new republic.

It's the birthday of the American poet and journalist EUGENE FIELD, born in St. Louis (1850). Much to his disgust, he was often called the Poet of Childhood. Of his poems, "Wynken, Blynken and Nod" and "Little Boy Blue" have become classics of a sort.

It's the birthday, in Honolulu of LILIUOKALANI [lih LEE uh WOE kuh LAWN eeh], in 1838, Queen of the Hawaiian Islands before they were annexed by the United States in 1898. A bitter foe of annexation, Queen Liliuokalani led the "Stand Firm" movement. In 1895 an insurrection in the queen's name was put down by Sanford B. Dole and his Missionary Party, and Liliuokalani, kept under house arrest on charges of treason, formally abdicated—then withdrew from public life to write her memoirs.

THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON started on this day in 1666 at a bakery on Pudding Lane and spreading to the neighboring warehouse which stored tar barrels, causing a sudden explosion. The fire destroyed 13,000 buildings and homes within four days.

On this day in 1189, Richard the First was crowned in Westminster Cathedral, London. The crown came from his father, King Henry the Second of England, from whom Richard forcibly took it. His first act as the new king was to free his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, from the Tower of London, where his father had imprisoned her 16 years earlier.

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 »