Feb. 28, 1999

The Tap of Angry Reins

by Walter McDonald

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: February 28, 1999

Poem: "The Tap of Angry Reins" by Walter McDonald, from COUNTING SURVIVORS (University of Pittsburgh Press).

In 1986, Sweden's Prime Minister, Olof Palme, was assassinated while walking home from a movie in Stockholm with his wife.

It's the birthday of cancer researcher DENIS BURKITT, born in Northern Ireland in 1911. It was Dr. Burkitt who changed the way many people eat when he discovered that a diet of too much sugar and not enough high-fiber foods like bran and vegetables was causing colon cancer.

It's the birthday in London, 1909, of poet STEPHEN SPENDER. He witnessed both world wars and the Spanish Civil War in the 30s and much of his poetry is about war.

It's the birthday in 1894 of writer BEN HECHT, born in New York but brought up in Racine, Wisconsin. He is best known for his play in 1928 that made his name, "The Front Page."

It's the birthday in 1797, in Buckland, Massachusetts, of MARY LYON, the pioneer in women's education who founded Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, which became Mount Holyoke College.

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 »