Tuesday

Sep. 14, 1999

The Kingfisher

by Mary Oliver

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: September 14, 1999

Poem: "The Kingfisher" by Mary Oliver, from House of Light, Beacon Press, Boston, 1990.

On this day in 1982, novelist John Gardner, 49, died in a motorcycle accident near Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. He made his reputation with Grendel (1971), a retelling of the Beowulf story as told by the monster, then, in 1976, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for his novel October Light. His book of essays, On Moral Fiction (1978), claims that the pessimism of many modern writers misses the true goal of art, which is to celebrate life.

Itís the birthday of black American writer John Steptoe, born in Brooklyn, New York (1950), who wrote the hit childrenís book Stevie (1969), about a black childís struggle to get over peer jealousy, when he was just 16. He went on to write childrenís books that dealt with such themes as parent/child tension, in Daddy Is a Monster (1980).

Itís the birthday of Irish novelist and scriptwriter Bernard MacLaverty, born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, (1942). He writes of modern Irish inhabitants who smash up against rough reality, as in his novel Cal, about a young Catholic who falls in love with the widow of a murdered Protestant policeman.

Itís the birthday of Czech novelist and playwright Ivan Klima, born in Prague (1931)—after the Prague Spring of 1968, Klima was among 200 Czech writers banned in their own country. He chose to stay in the country and write as well as possible under such conditions. Among his fiction titles are: Love and Garbage (1990), Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light (1994), and The Ultimate Intimacy (1997).

Itís the birthday of philosopher Allan Bloom, born in Indianapolis (1930), who wrote The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Todayís Students (1987).

Itís the birthday of American critic and stage director Eric Bentley, born in Bolton, Lancashire, England (1916)—who translated Bertold Brechtís plays into English.

Itís the birthday of childrenís writer Edith (Thacher) Hurd, born in Kansas City, Missouri (1910). She wrote over 75 childrenís stories—50 of them, including Engine, Engine, Number 9 (1940), Benny the Bulldozer (1947), and Toughy and His Trailer Truck (1948).

Itís the birthday of birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger, born in Corning, New York (1883).

Itís the birthday of illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, born in the Roxbury, Massachusetts (1867). His pen-and-ink drawings of ĎGibson Girlsí—women with pale skin and delicate features and elegantly upswept hair, who wore long tight-waisted skirts and tailored blouses with Ďleg-of-muttoní sleeves—were everywhere in the 1890s.

Itís the birthday of novelist and poet (Hannibal) Hamlin Garland, born in West Salem, Wisconsin (1860). After his farm family moved further and further westward, he left them and joined the literary set in Boston. Still, his novels and poetry were about the Midwest—A Son of the Middle Border (1917) and A Daughter of the Middle Border (1921, Pulitzer Prize).

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 »