Thursday

May 25, 2000

Idyll

by Theodore Roethke

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: May 25, 2000

Poem: "Idyll," by Theodore Roethke, from The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (Doubleday Anchor Books).

Itís the birthday of American novelist and short story writer Jamaica Kincaid, born Elaine Potter Richardson in St. Johnís, Antigua (1949). Kincaid left the islands when she was 17 to become an au pair in New York City. She published her first magazine article in 1975 and was hired as a staff writer the following year at The New Yorker. She's the author of At the Bottom of the River (1983), Annie John (1985) and other books.

It's the birthday of American short-story writer and poet Raymond Carver, born in Clatskanie, Oregon (1938). The son of a sawmill worker, he was married and the father of two before he was twenty. He picked tulips, pumped gas, swabbed toilets, and managed an apartment complex. His first success as a writer came in 1967 with the short story "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" A collection with the same title (1976) established his reputation, but Carver had begun to drink heavily. He continued to turn out stories while repeatedly being hospitalized for alcoholism. In the late 9170s he gave up drinking and turned to teaching until a literary prize enabled him to write full time. He died of lung cancer at 50.

On this day in 1935, Jessie Owens turned in what is widely regarded as the greatest single performance in the history of track and field. He was competing for Ohio State University in a track meet at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and in a span of just 45 minutes, Owens matched the world record in the 100-yard dash, set a world record in the long jump, and followed that with world records in the 220-yard dash and 220-low hurdles.

Itís the birthday of American poet Theodore Roethke, born in Saginaw, Michigan (1908), the son of a greenhouse owner. After a brief stint as a University of Michigan law student, he dropped out and decided he wanted to pursue teaching - and poetry - as a career. He kept copious notes and journals throughout his life, often stuffing his pockets with bits of paper full of ideas and fragments of conversations. He won the 1954 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection of poems The Waking: Poems 1933-1953. He died of a heart attack in 1963.

Itís the birthday of publisher Bennett Cerf, born in New York City (1898), probably best known as a panelist on the TV game show What's My Line? for 16 years. But for 50 years he was at Random House, publishing the work of writers such as James Joyce, John OíHara, Marcel Proust, and William Faulkner.

Itís the birthday of American poet, essayist and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson, born in Boston (1803). An ordained Unitarian minister, he resigned from the pulpit following the premature death of his wife and set out on a quest for his own spiritual philosophy, which culminated with the publication of Nature in 1836. It became the rallying point for a group of intellectuals who came to be known as Transcendentalists.

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 »