Sunday

May 7, 2000

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: May 7, 2000

Poem: "Now," by Robert Browning (1812-1889).

On this day in 1954 THE FRENCH WERE DEFEATED AT THE BATTLE OF DIEN BIEN PHU in Vietnam, 180 miles west of Hanoi. Nearly all the 16,000 French troops in the garrison were killed. The humiliating defeat was assumed at the time to be the end the Indochina War. But President Eisenhower wasted no time in announcing that the United States would prevent a Communist takeover of Southeast Asia.

In 1945 on this date, GERMANY SURRENDERED TO THE ALLIES at 2:41 a.m., Paris time, in General Dwight Eisenhowerís headquarters, a small schoolhouse in Reims, northern France. Hitler had killed himself a week earlier; Mussolini had been caught and shot by partisans. Three months later, the Japanese surrendered and World War Two finally ended.

Itís the birthday of poet JENNY JOSEPH, born in Birmingham, England (1932), author of children's books and many collections of poetry. Her best-known poem is called "Warning." It's the one that begins, "When I am an old Woman I shall wear purple."

Itís the birthday of novelist and screenwriter RUTH PRAWER JHABVALA, born in Cologne, Germany (1927). She married an Indian architect, then lived in India for 24 years and wrote novels about that country, including Heat and Dust (1974, Booker Prize). Among her film scripts for producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory are adaptations of Henry Jamesís novel The Bostonians (1984) and of E.M. Forsterís A Room With A View (1986 Academy Award) and Howardís End (1992).

Itís the birthday of composer PETER ILICH TCHAIKOVSKY, born in Vatkinsk, Russia (1840). He was thought to have died of cholera after drinking contaminated water, but scholars now claim he committed suicide rather than let his homosexuality be revealed.

Itís the birthday of composer JOHANNES BRAHMS, born in Hamburg, Germany (1833). He was proud of the fact that he never married, and never wrote an opera.

Itís the birthday of poet ROBERT BROWNING born in London (1812). After a correspondence with poet Elizabeth Barrett, an invalid confined to a darkened room by her tyrannical father, the two poets finally met in 1845. She was 39; he had just turned 33. They eloped (to escape her father, who wouldnít allow any of his grown children to marry), and their 16-year marriage was the happiest literary match on record. When she died in Florence in 1861, Browning returned to London and gave himself up to grief for 2 full years (he never could bear to return to Florence) writing nothing, doing nothing but mourn until he decided that for their soní s sake he had to revive. His greatest poetry was still ahead of him.

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 »