Dec. 10, 2000

324 Some keep the Sabbath going to Church

by Emily Dickinson

A Song for Muriel

by Carolyn Kizer

Broadcast date: SUNDAY, 10 December 2000

Poem: “A Song for Muriel,” by Carolyn Kizer, from Cool, Calm & Collected: Poems, 1960-2000 (Copper Canyon Press); and “Some keep the Sabbath going to church,” by Emily Dickinson.

A Song for Muriel by Carolyn Kizer
No one explains me because
There is nothing to explain.
It's all right here
Very clear.
O for my reputation's sake
To be difficult, and opaque!

No one explains me because
Though myopic, I see plain.
I just put down
With a leer and a frown...
Why does it make you sweat?
Is this the thanks I get?

No one explains me because
There are tears in my bawdy song.
Once I am dead
Something will be said.
How nice I won't be here
To see how they get it wrong.

Some keep the Sabbath going to church
by Emily Dickinson

Some keep the Sabbath going to church —
I keep it, staying at Home —
With a Bobolink for a Chorister —
And an Orchard, for a Dome —

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice —
I just wear my Wings —
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton — sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman —
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last —
I'm going, all along.

It's the birthday of mystery writer Philip R. Craig, born in Santa Monica, California (1933). For the last ten years he's come out with a new murder mystery a year, all featuring a retired Boston cop named J.W. Jackson, and all placed on Martha's Vineyard. Jackson works as a tourist guide, and in his free time fishes and cooks his catch. His titles include A Beautiful Place to Die (1989), Cliff Hanger (1993), A Shoot on Martha's Vineyard (1998), and Vineyard Blues (2000). "Most readers of mysteries... are actually more interested in characters and locale than in plot, puzzle solving, or other traditional aspects of crime stories."

It's the birthday of poet Carolyn Kizer, born in Spokane, Washington (1925). Her collection Yin: New Poems (1984) won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Other books include Knock Upon Silence (1965), Mermaids in the Basement: Poems for Women (1984), and Cool, Calm & Collected: Poems, 1960-2000 (2000)

It's the birthday of novelist and children's author Rumer Godden, born in Eastbourne, Sussex (1907). Author of Black Narcissus (1939) The Greengage Summer (1958), China Court (1961), and many other books.

It's the birthday of children's writer Mary Norton, born in London (1903). She turned out the enchanting Borrowers tales, featuring the Clock family: six inches tall, they are non-doctrinaire utopians who own nothing, share everything, and borrow what they need from humans.

It's the birthday of German poet and playwright Nellie Sachs, born in Berlin (1891). A Jew, she fled Germany for Sweden in 1940, at which point her early, romantic style turned to more psalmlike forms. She is best known for her lyrical lament "O the Chimneys," about the death camps. She shared the Nobel Prize for Literature with S.Y. Agnon (1966).

It's the birthday of poet Emily Dickinson, born in Amherst, Massachusetts (1830). She lived most of her 55 years in the house built by her Grandfather in Amherst. During her last 20 years she never strayed beyond the property.

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 »