Apr. 30, 1999


by Steve Kowit

Broadcast Date: FRIDAY: April 30, 1999

Poem: "Notice," by Steve Kowit, from Mysteries of the Body, from A Book of Luminous Things, ed. Czeslaw Milosz (Harcourt, Brace & Co.).

It's the Spring festival known as WALPURGIS NIGHT, commemorating St. Walpurgis, a night when people in Europe light bonfires to ward off evil spells cast by witches who ride across the sky.

It was on this day in 1975 that SAIGON fell and the Vietnam War was over.

It's the birthday in Pittsburgh, 1945, of ANNIE DILLARD, the poet and novelist, best known for her essays, including the collection called Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.

It's the birthday of country music songwriter and singer WILLIE NELSON, born in Abbott, Texas, in 1933.

It's the birthday in San Francisco of ALICE B. TOKLAS, 1877, best remembered as the partner of Gertrude Stein—their home in Paris became the center of the American expatriate arts community between the two world wars.

The LOUISIANA PURCHASE was signed on this day in 1803, extending the United States' boundaries westward from the Mississippi River all the way to the Rocky Mountains; more than 800,000 square miles of land purchased from France for about $15 million.

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 »