Wednesday

Nov. 29, 2000

Winter Coming

by Michael Chitwood

Broadcast date: WEDNESDAY, 29 November 2000

Poem: ďWinter Coming,Ē by Michael Chitwood, from Salt Works (Ohio Review Books).

On the back porch
the wind slams the screen door coming in.
The first time I learned the lesson of the seasons
was a Saturday morning in 1964, in my miniature rocker,
my father coming in with red eyes, my uncle with him
because my grandfather died in the night.
The sparrow cheeps in his tree.
The fence gate bats the post.
For every winter there is something pinned on the coat
like my name and bus number
the day I went to first grade
and not to the funeral.
The empty clothesline bows out the way the wind blows.
The crow is knocked sideways.
The wood stove sucks its teeth
and the elm sings in the fire.
The sway of old electric lines
makes the lamplight billow and fade.

Itís the birthday of writer Madeleine LíEngle, born in New York City (1918). When she was twelve, she and her parents moved to Europe, and she attended an English boarding school in Switzerland. She began writing professionally while raising three children in an old farmhouse in Connecticut. Her most popular work, A Wrinkle in Time, was rejected twenty-six times before it was published in 1962. It won the prestigious Newberry Award the following year.

"We are not supposed to get over our greatest griefs. They are a part of what makes us who we are."

Itís the birthday of composer Billy Strayhorn, born in Dayton, Ohio (1915). He started writing songs as a teenager and submitted one to Duke Ellington, who was so impressed he invited him to move to New York and join his orchestra. On his way there, Strayhorn took the directions Ellington had given him and turned them into the song that would become the Ellington orchestraís theme: ďTake the ĎAí Train.Ē He spent the next three decades as Ellingtonís associate arranger and composer and, it was often said, alter ego. He wrote Lush Life, Chelsea Bridge, Lotus Blossom, Passion Flower and Day Dream Ė all favorites of jazz musicians.

Itís the birthday of scholar and writer C(live) S(taples) Lewis, born in Belfast, Ireland (1898), best known for his fantasy for children, The Chronicles of Narnia. He was a scholar of medieval and Renaissance literature, teaching at Oxford and Cambridge, and wrote literary criticism, memoirs, religious books for laymen and even science-fiction. His book The Screwtape Letters takes the form of advice from an older devil to a younger one on methods of temptation. A Grief Observed is a memoir about the death of his wife.

Itís the birthday of film director and choreographer Busby Berkeley, born in Los Angeles (1895), who loved spectacle, opulent sets and huge chorus lines. He once shot a scene which featured 100 women playing white grand pianos for 100 dancing men in tuxedos for The Gold Diggers of 1935. In Footlight Parade, 150 chorus girls turned into a synchronized swim team, sliding down water slides and rising on fountains.

Itís the birthday of abolitionist speaker Wendell Phillips, born in Boston, Massachusetts (1811). He was one of the most transfixing public speakers of his time, and other speakers refused to follow him.

Itís the birthday of writer Louisa May Alcott, born in Germantown, Pennsylvania (1832). She grew up in Concord, Massachusetts, took nature walks with Henry David Thoreau, and got her books out of Ralph Waldo Emersonís Library. When a publisher asked her to write a book for young girls, she accepted only because she needed the money. Little Women sold 82,000 copies within four years, a huge number for the time, and continues to be one of the most popular novels ever written. She wrote several sequels, and eventually published 270 works.

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 Sharon Olds 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 »