Sep. 10, 2000

The Sun Rising

by John Donne

Broadcast date: SUNDAY, 10 September 2000

"The Sun Rising," by John Donne.]

It's the birthday in New York City, 1941, of Stephen Jay Gould, who has taught paleontology and zoology at Harvard University since the late1960s, and, along the way, has published eight essay collections, each one subtitled, Reflections in Natural History. These are books of science written for lay people, and have won him The National Book Award, The National Book Critics Circle Award, and others. Gould's main work is noting how oddities in the natural world serve as historical evidence that evolution is an actual process, that it's real. For instance, his 1981 book, The Panda's Thumb, makes the case by describing the odd thumb of the panda "which isn't really a thumb at all, but an enlarged wristbone that lets the panda strip leaves from bamboo shoots." His best known book is The Mismeasure of Man (1981), where he focuses on the development of IQ testing, and debunks scientists who claim to measure human intelligence objectively. In Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms he said,

"All great science, indeed all fruitful thinking, must occur in a social and intellectual context--and contexts are just as likely to promote insight as to constrain thought."

It's poet Mary Oliver's birthday today in Cleveland, born in 1935, winner of 1984's Pulitzer Prize for her collection, American Primitive, and the National Book Award in 1992, for her New and Selected Poems, in which she wrote: "When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms."

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 »