Apr. 23, 2000

song from "The Tempest"

by William Shakespeare

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: April 23, 2000

Poem: a song from "The Tempest," by William Shakespeare (1564-1616).

It's the birthday VICTORIA GLENDINNING, born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England (1937). She’s famous for her biographies of Elizabeth Bowen, Edith Sitwell, Vita Sackville-West, and Rebecca West.

It's the birthday of novelist J(ames) P(atrick) DONLEAVY born in Brooklyn, NY (1926). He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and used the G.I. Bill to study at Trinity College in Dublin. His first novel, The Ginger Man (1955), was so bawdy that it wasn't published in its entirety in the United States until 1965.

It's the birthday of novelist VLADIMIR NABOKOV, born in St. Petersburg, Russia (1899), the oldest child in the wealthy family of a prominent liberal statesman. When he was just out of his teens, his family had to flee Russia because of the Bolsheviks, and they lost everything. Not long after that, his father was assassinated. He scrounged for a living in Berlin and Paris, and after hours, wrote novels in Russian. In 1939, faced by the Nazi threat, he once again had to flee — and he, his Jewish wife, and baby son barely managed to escape to America. For almost 20 years, Nabokov pursued a quiet life teaching university students, studying butterflies, composing chess problems, and writing. But his quiet life underwent one more major change when he published Lolita, in 1958. This novel — about a jaded European professor named Humbert Humbert who becomes obsessed with a pre-teenaged American girl — scandalized the English-reading world, and made Nabokov famous. His success enabled him to finally write full time: works such as Pale Fire (1962), Speak, Memory (1967), and Ada (1973). Nabokov died in 1977.

It's the birthday of mystery writer NGAIO MARSH, born in Christchurch, New Zealand (1899). She’s the author of 32 mystery novels, many of them starring Police Inspector Roderick Alleyn.

It's the birthday of poet EDWIN MARKHAM, born in Oregon City, Oregon (1852). He’s famous for his poem, "The Man With a Hoe."

It's the birthday of poet and playwright WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, born in Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, England (1564). He married a local girl when he was 18, but then left her behind when he moved to London to make his fortune. He acted and helped to found a theater company, called the Lord Chamberlain's company — for which he began to write plays. We have so many colorful turns of phrase that we say without knowing we're quoting Shakespeare:

--to kill… with kindness
--star-crossed lovers
--a rose by any other name
--every mother's son
--pound of flesh
--cold comfort
--sink or swim
--eaten me out of house and home
--good men and true
--it was Greek to me
--my mind's eye
--foul play
--the world's mine oyster
--what the dickens
--my heart upon my sleeve
--the milk of human kindness
--salad days
--I have not slept one wink.
--white as driven snow
--brave new world

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 »