Feb. 1, 2000

Little Old Letter

by Langston Hughes

Morning After

by Langston Hughes

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: February 1, 2000

Poems: "Little Old Letter" and "Morning After" by Langston Hughes from Selected Poems of Langston Hughes published by Vintage Books.

It's the birthday of novelist REYNOLDS PRICE, born in Macon, North Carolina (1933). He's best known for his novel Kate Vaiden (1986). Other novels include The Tongues of Angels (1990) and Blue Calhoun (1992), followed by a memoir called A Whole New Life (1994). He's been wheelchair-bound since a bout with spinal cancer in 1984. He says he's nervous about describing the exact way he survived: "I think I'm programmed to laugh about every five minutes, but I still don't feel ready yet to say, ‘Didn't I go through this wonderfully?’ I don't want to give the devil ideas."

It's the birthday of S.J. PERELMAN, born in Brooklyn (1904) — best known for his humor essays in the New Yorker and for his Marx Brothers screenplays like Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932). When a journalist asked how many drafts of a story he'd go through, Perelman said: "Thirty-seven. I once tried doing thirty-three, but something was lacking, a certain — how shall I say? — je ne sais quoi [juh nuh say KWAH]. On another occasion, I tried forty-two versions, but the final effect was too over-worked. So I stick with thirty-seven."

It's the birthday of poet (James Mercer) LANGSTON HUGHES, in Joplin, Missouri (1902), whose parents separated after he was born. He was raised by his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas; she told him stories of his grandfather who died at Harper's Ferry fighting alongside abolitionist John Brown. Hughes was part of the Harlem Renaissance, a movement of writers in New York in the 1920’s, and went on to write dozens of plays, poetry books, and short stories. He said, "I didn't know the upper class Negroes well enough to write much about them. I knew only the people I had grown up with, and they weren't people whose shoes were always shined, who had been to Harvard, or who had heard of Bach. But they seemed to me good people, too."

It was on this day in 1898 that The Travelers Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut, issued THE VERY FIRST CAR INSURANCE POLICY, to a Dr. Truman J. Martin of Buffalo, New York. Cars had been on the road half a dozen years at that point, and car-makers were sprouting up left and right: that year, 1898, there were 50 auto-makers, mostly producing a few hand-built cars a year. Dr. Martin's car was a three-horsepower Oldsmobile, the best-selling model at the time.

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 »