Mar. 29, 1999

Street Ballad

by George Barker

Broadcast Date: MONDAY: March 29, 1999

Poem: "Street Ballad," by George Barker (Faber & Faber).

It was on this day in 1973 that the last American troops left VIETNAM, just two months after the Treaty of Paris had been signed, bringing an end to the American involvement in the war.

It's the birthday of JOHN MAJOR, born 1943 in London, Prime Minister of Britain for seven years and the one who took over after Margaret Thatcher's downfall in November 1990.

It was on this day in 1912 that the British explorer ROBERT FALCON SCOTT made the last entry in his diary during his expedition to the South Pole. He wrote: "Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more." On the way back his expedition was hit by a nine-day-long blizzard and the party froze to death in their tent.

It's the birthday in 1872 of ALBERT VON TILZER, born in Indianapolis, Indiana, composer of the tune to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," which he wrote with lyricist Jack Norworth in 1908.

It's the birthday in 1867 of baseball great CY YOUNG, born Denton True Young in Gilmore, Ohio, the pitcher who pitched more innings and won more games than anyone else in major league history.

It was on this day in 1848 that an enormous ice-jam on the eastern shore of Lake Erie brought NIAGARA FALLS to a complete stop.

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 »