Sunday

Jan. 16, 2000

Where the Picnic Was

by Thomas Hardy

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: January 16, 2000

Poem: "Where the Picnic Was" by Thomas Hardy.

It's the birthday of popular poet Robert (William) Service, born in Preston, Lancashire, England (1874)—called "the Canadian Kipling" although he had, in fact, grown up in Britain. At 20 he moved to Canada and worked for the Canadian Bank of Commerce, which stationed him in the Yukon Territory for 8 years. Then he turned to journalism as a correspondent for the Toronto Star during the Balkan Wars (1912-13). During World War One he served as an ambulance driver and reporter—but all through those years his mind roamed back through the dramas he had known or imagined in the 'Frozen North.' After 1912, he lived on the French Riviera, but we associate him with the Yukon, particularly with his verse ballads "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee."

On this day in 1920, the "Noble Experiment," Prohibition of the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors, went into effect across America.

It's the birthday of gorilla expert Dian Fossey, born in San Francisco (1932). Her dream to study African wildlife grew until she mortgaged three years' of future income to finance a trip to Africa (1963). It took her a dozen years, but by 1975 she was established in Rwanda [roo-AHN-dah], living close to mountain gorillas—who, she discovered, led peaceful family lives rather than being the violent monsters popular culture had made them out to be. In 1985, Fossey was murdered by poachers whose snares she had cut.

It's the birthday of essayist and novelist Susan Sontag, born in New York City (1933). She was just 21 when she drew literary celebrity with her essay "Notes on 'Camp,' " which explored the "good taste of bad taste," claiming, for example, that an "awful" work of art can be appreciated not in spite of, but because of, its very awfulness. Her new In America: A Novel came out last year (1999) in England, and will be published this year in America.

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 Sharon Olds 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 »