Oct. 5, 1998

All for the Gazing and Amazing

by John Tagliabue


Today's Reading: "All for the Gazing and Amazing" by John Tagliabue from NEW AND SELECTED POEMS 1942-1997, published by National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine, Orono.

It's MAYA LIN's birthday, the architect of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, born in Athens, Ohio, 1959.

It's the anniversary of THE ACTOR'S STUDIO, founded in New York, 1947, as a place to train actors in The Method, a system that relies on the actor's imagination and memories to create characters.

It's the birthday of VACLAV HAVEL, born in Prague, 1936, the former dissident writer, and now President of the Czech Republic, named to that post when the communist government fell in December, 1989. He said "What made my writing most difficult of all during the Communist regime was something to the point of banality: it was the fear that the police would come and take away an incomplete or recently completed manuscript. I had to scatter copies in various apartments, hide pages behind the furniture whenever the bell rang, and so on. It was enough to make one a neurotic."

It's the birthday of LOUISE FITZHUGH, author and illustrator of the 1967 children's book, Harriet the Spy, born in 1928, Memphis.

The Father of the Space Age, ROBERT H. GODDARD, was born on this day in 1882, Worcester, Massachusetts. Goddard discovered that propulsion can take place in a vacuum, that it doesn't need any air to push against, therefore outer space travel was possible. He spent most of the rest of his life testing rockets at Roswell, New Mexico.

It's the anniversary of the BALLPOINT PEN, patented in 1880 by Alonzo T. Cross. He called it the stylographic pen, and its big advancement over other pens was that it had a self-contained ink supply and a retractable tip.

It's the anniversary of CHIEF JOSEPH's surrender to the U.S. Cavalry, in 1877. He'd led 300 of his people, the Nez Perce tribe, out of their home in Oregon across the American northwest, evading the cavalry for weeks and trying to escape to Canada. In the Bear Paw Mountains of northern Montana, the cavalry finally trapped Joseph and he surrendered. It was here that he gave his famous speech: "My heart is heavy and sad, and I will fight no more forever."

It's the birthday of the cinema pioneer LOUIS LUMIERE (LOO-ee loom-YAIR), 1864, Besancon (buh-saw-SOHN), France, whose last name in French means "light." In the late 1880s Thomas Edison had discovered how to make movies, but hadn't yet worked out a good way to project the images so a number of people at one time — a real audience — could view them. It was Lumiere who developed this, and on December 28, 1895 he set up his projector in a Paris café and showed his movies to a paying audience.

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 »