Dec. 29, 1998

Year's End

by Richard Wilbur


Poem: "Yearís End," by Richard Wilbur, from CEREMONY AND OTHER POEMS (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978).

Itís the anniversary of the BATTLE OF WOUNDED KNEE, fought between the U.S. government and the Sioux in 1890. The conflict at Wounded Knee started when some Sioux left their reservation at Pine Ridge in early December. They surrendered peacefully on December 28th, but the next day there was a scuffle over a shotgun and a soldier was shot. The troops responded with machine gun fire and over 200 Sioux men, women and children were massacred.

Itís the birthday of cellist and conductor PABLO CASALS, born in 1876 in Vendrell, Spain. He made his career as a cellist in Spain in the early 20th century but was forced to move to France in 1936 because he was opposed to fascism. He returned to Spain after the Civil War of 1936-39, but retired in 1946 as a protest against Francoís regime in Spain. He returned to recording and conducting in 1950 but remained an active campaigner for peace all his life.

Itís the birthday of the British Prime Minister WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE, born in 1809 in the northern city of Liverpool. He became Prime Minister in 1868 and held that office on four different occasions over the next forty years. One of the main political issues which plagued him in office was "Irish Home Rule"—the policy of giving Ireland its own parliament in Dublin. Gladstone supported it, and the issue forced him out of office several times.

Itís the birthday of ANDREW JOHNSON, 17th President of the United States, born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1808. He is took over as President following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. As president he got into trouble by dismissing his Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, in 1867, and was the first U.S. President to have articles of impeachment voted against him by the House of Representatives. The Senate rejected the charges and he finished his term of office.

Itís the birthday of the Danish archeologist CHRISTIAN JÜRGENSEN THOMSEN, born in 1788 in Copenhagen. He is known for developing and naming the three ages of pre-history: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. He was the curator of the National Museum of Denmark for most of his life and devised the classification scheme while organizing the museumís collection of Scandinavian antiquities.

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 »