Dec. 6, 2000

The Orange

by Wendy Cope

Broadcast date: WEDNESDAY, 6 December 2000

Poem: “The Orange,” by Wendy Cope, from Serious Concerns (Faber & Faber).

The Orange
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I got a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.

It’s the feast day of St. Nicholas. There was a nobleman in St. Nicholas’ city of Myra, in Asia Minor, who grew so poor he considered allowing his three daughters to become prostitutes. Hearing of this, St. Nicholas went to the man’s house three nights in a row, and threw a bag of gold each night into the daughters’ room, which provided dowries for the girls, and saved them from disgrace.

It's the birthday of Khalil Gibran, born in Lebanon (1883). He lived in Boston from age 12 to 15, then returned to Beirut, where he studied Arabic. At 29 he settled in New York City for good, where he wrote in English and Arabic on such topics as love, death, nature, and a longing for homeland. He’s best known for his book The Prophet (1923).

It's the birthday of poet Joyce Kilmer, born in New Brunswick, New Jersey (1886). He was killed in action near Ourcy, France, in 1918. He’s famous for his poem "Trees" (1913), which begins: “I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree..”

It's the birthday of lyricist Ira Gershwin, born in New York (1896). He collaborated with his brother, George Gershwin, and other composers on such shows as: Lady Be Good (1924), and Lady in the Dark (1940, with Kurt Weill), and Cover Girl (1944, with Jerome Kern). His songs include "The Man I Love," "I Got Rhythm," and "Someone To Watch Over Me."

It's the birthday of photographer Eliot Porter, born in Winnetka, Illinois (1901). After medical training at Harvard, and then 10 years spent teaching biochemistry there, he took up photography full-time. He’s noted for his color landscapes in books including In Wilderness Is the Preservation of the World (1962), The Place No One Knew (1963), Baja California (1967), and The Tree Where Man Was Born (1972).

On this day in 1921, the Irish Free State was born. Ireland's 26 southern counties were granted independence from Britain, while 6 of the 8 Protestant-majority counties of Ulster, in the northeast, remained part of the United Kingdom.

It's the birthday of novelist and playwright Peter Handke, born in Griffen, Austria (1942). He first drew attention with his play Offending the Audience (1966), in which 4 actors analyze the nature of theater for an hour, then insult the audience--then praise the act of performance. His other plays include Kaspar (1968) about the foundling Kaspar Hausar, and The Ride Across Lake Constance (1971). His novels include The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1970), and The Left-Handed Woman (1976).

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 »