Apr. 4, 1999

Old Boards

by Robert Bly

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: April 4, 1999

Poems: "Old Boards," by Robert Bly, from Selected Poems (Harper Perennial).

It's EASTER SUNDAY—the day that Jesus Christ is said to have risen from the dead after his crucifixion two days before.

It was on this day in 1968 that the civil rights leader MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. was assassinated by a sniper while he stood on the balcony outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had been talking to Jesse Jackson and a local minister. He was in Memphis to support a garbage worker's strike, and the night before had spoken to a crowd of 2,000 at the Mason Temple in Memphis, saying, "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I' m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

It was on this day in 1918 that the SECOND BATTLE OF THE SOMME ended, the first of five offenses launched by the Germans that spring in an attempt to win the war with a blitzkrieg before the Americans had a chance to arrive on the scene. They thought that that if they managed to drive the British out the French would collapse and the Americans would back out.

It's the birthday in 1895 of ballroom dance king ARTHUR MURRAY, born Arthur Murray Teichman in New York City. He was the son of an Austrian-born baker in East Harlem, and learned ballroom dancing from a girlfriend, eventually quitting his job in an architect's office to take lessons full time. For a while he sold dancing lessons by mail complete with little photographs of himself dancing that a person could view through a toy "kinetoscope," but later devised the black feet diagrams for which he later became famous.

It was on this day in 1887 that the FIRST WOMEN MAYOR in the United States was elected, Medora Salter, elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas. Her name had been submitted for the election without her knowledge by the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and she didn't know she was a candidate until she got to the polls to vote. She won by a two-thirds majority and served for one year for a salary of $1.00.

It's the birthday in 1802 of the philanthropist and reformer DOROTHEA DIX, born in Hampden, Maine. She was head of a girls' school in Boston for 15 years who, one day in 1841, taught Sunday school in a local prison and was appalled to find many mentally-ill patients thrown in with the criminals without regard to age or sex—many were left unclothed, in darkness, without heat, and some where chained to the walls. She later helped build more 32 mental asylums and hospitals in over 20 states.

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 »