Oct. 28, 1999

Homage to the Word-Hoard

by Joseph Stroud

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: October 28, 1999

Poem: "Homage to the Word-Hoard" by Joseph Stroud from Below Cold Mountain published by Copper Canyon Press.

Today is the feast day of Saint Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes.

On this day in 1919, over the veto of President Woodrow Wilson, the Senate followed the House of Representatives and passed the Volstead Act, commencing the ‘great experiement' of Prohibition.

It's the birthday of medical researcher Jonas Salk, born in New York City (1914)—who discovered the Salk Vaccine against polio. In the early 1950s there were 25,000 cases of paralytic polio every year in the United States, but within a few years of mass inoculations, which began in 1955, the annual number of cases dropped to a dozen. In 1969 not a single polio death was reported in America; the disease has been nearly wiped out worldwide.

It's the birthday of British epidemiologist [eh-pih-DEE-mee-OLL-uh-jist] Sir Richard Doll, born in Hampton, England (1912)—the first scientist to show the link between cigarette-smoking and lung cancer. He showed that cigarette smoke, like tar and soot, contains the carcinogen benzoapyrene [ben-zoh-uh-PIE-reen]. Later he studied the connection between radiation and cancer, and the side effects of contraceptive pills.

It's the birthday of sardonic novelist Evelyn (Arthur St. John) Waugh, born in London (1903). At Oxford he led what he later called "an idle dissolute and extravagant life," much like his character Sebastian Marchmain in Brideshead Revisited (1945). For a while he studied art, then failed as a schoolmaster, then dedicated himself to travel and to writing short, trenchant novels that skewered the British aristocracy, lamented the passing of a more spiritual age, and have such titles as Vile Bodies (1930), Black Mischief (1932), and Scoop (1938). His most mordantly brilliant novel is The Loved One (1948), a satire on California morticians. He also wrote travel books, biographies, and a memoir called A Little Learning (1964), published two years before his death.

On this day in 1886, the Statue of Liberty was unveiled in New York Harbor, a gift from the French people, who wished to pay homage to the United States—the first modern republic—on its 100th anniversary.

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 »