Wednesday

Apr. 4, 2001

Solitaire

by John Updike

WEDNESDAY, 4 APRIL 2001
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Solitaire," by John Updike, from Collected Poems 1953-1993 (Alfred A. Knopf).

Solitaire

Black queen on the red king,
the seven on the black
eight, eight goes on the nine, bring
the nine on over, place
jack on the queen. There is space
now for that black king who,
six or so cards back,
was buried in the pack.
Five on six, where's seven?
Under the ten. The ace
must be under the two.
Four, nine on ten, three, through.
It's after eleven.

On this day in 1968, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, where he had gone to support the city's sanitation workers who were on strike for better working conditions. At 6 in the evening he stood at the railing of his motel balcony, talking with friends the next floor down, when a gunman with a rifle shot him dead.

It's the birthday of Maya Angelou, born in Long Beach, California (1928). She was brought up by her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), describes her rape when she was eight; her life in St. Louis with her glamorous mother, a nightclub performer; and concludes with the birth of Angelou's illegitimate son.

It's the birthday of blues singer and guitarist Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield), born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi (1915). He was recorded by folklorist Alan Lomax in 1941, but it was not until he moved north to Chicago, and took up the electric guitar, that his style emerged. He wrote the song "Rolling Stone" which gave the English rock band it's name. He also wrote "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Caledonia," and many other hits.

It's the birthday of novelist Marguerite Duras, born in Gia Dinh, Vietnam (1914). She went to a French school in Saigon, then went to Paris to study law and politics at the Sorbonne. She wrote the screenplay for Alain Resnais' film Hiroshima Mon Amor (1959), and the novel The Lover (1984), which won the Prix Goncourt. It's the semi-autobiographical story of a French high school girl, living in Vietnam, who has an affair with an older Chinese man.

It's the birthday of playwright and historian Robert Sherwood, born in New Rochelle, New York (1896), who had four or five different careers. He was a member of the Algonquin round table; he was a popular playwright of the thirties—he wrote The Petrified Forest (1935), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1938), and There Shall Be No Night (1940); he was chief speech-writer for a time for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and later wrote Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (1949); and he also wrote the screenplay for the movie The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).

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 »