Jun. 10, 1999

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

by William Butler Yeats

The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water

by William Butler Yeats

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: June 10, 1999

Poems: "The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water" and "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven," by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939).

It's the birthday of journalist and novelist Philip Caputo, born in Chicago (1941)—best known for A Rumor of War (1977), an account of his time as a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam in the mid-sixties. Other novels: Horn of Africa (1980), Indian Country (1987), Equation for Evil (1996).

It's the birthday of children's book writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, born in Brooklyn (1928). A sickly child, he suffered measles and pneumonia at 2, scarlet fever at 4, and spent much of his childhood drawing pictures of life he saw outside his window. He wrote and illustrated Where the Wild Things Are (1963), In the Night Kitchen (1970), and illustrated scores of books by other writers. "I seem to have been blessed—or cursed—with a vivid memory of childhood. This is not supposed to happen. According to Freud, there's a valve that shuts off the horrors of childhood to make room for the horrors of adolescence. I must have a leaky valve, because I have these torrential memories."

It's the birthday of novelist James Salter, born in New York City (1925). Known as a "writer's writer," he won the 1988 PEN/Faulkner Award for his story collection Dusk: And Other Stories. His novels include The Hunters (1957), A Sport and a Pastime (1967), and Light Years (1976). His recent memoir is called Burning the Days (1998).

It's the birthday of social critic, jazz chronicler, Village Voice columnist, and novelist Nat Hentoff, born in Boston (1925).

Today is the birthday of Judy Garland (Frances Ethel Gumm), born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota (1922). She became a teen film star in Broadway Melody of 1938, followed by The Wizard of Oz (1939), then Meet Me in St. Louis (1944).

It's the birthday of novelist Saul Bellow, born in Lachine, near Montreal (1915), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976. His parents had emigrated from Russia to Canada; they moved to Chicago when he was 9. His novels include Henderson the Rain King (1959), Herzog (1964), Humboldt's Gift (1975), The Dean's December (1982), More Die of Heartbreak (1987).

It's the birthday of playwright Sir Terence Rattigan, born in London (1911)—master of what is called the "well-made play," including French Without Tears (1936), The Winslow Boy (1948—recently remade as a movie, by David Mamet), The Yellow Rolls Royce (1965), and Goodbye Mr. Chips (1968).

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 »