Wednesday

May 9, 2001

Make Yourself Invisible

by Charles Simic

WEDNESDAY, 9 MAY 2001
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Make Yourself Invisible," by Charles Simic, from Walking the Black Cat (Harcourt Brace & Co.)

Make Yourself Invisible

Drew islands with palm trees
My sister did.
The beaches were empty.
We wanted to lie on their hot sand
And drink lemonade.

Read your book and be quiet,
They yelled at us from the kitchen.

That spring we could smell lilacs
During the blackout.
Boom! Boom! The bombs fell
While a dog barked bravely
In someone's back yard.

Make yourself invisible,
The old witch said.
From now on, we were breadcrumbs
In a dark forest
Where the little red birds
Had just fallen silent.

It's the birthday of poet and translator Charles Simic, born in Belgrade (1938) at a time when it was under attack by air strikes and bombing campaigns from both the Nazis and the Allies. At the age of 15, he immigrated to the United States and completed high school outside of Chicago. His first poems were published when he was just 21; his first full-length collection was called What the Grass Says (1967). Since then he has published more than 60 books, including The World Doesn't End: Prose Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990. His most recent book, A Fly in the Soup (2001), is a memoir of his earliest childhood and young adulthood.

It's the birthday of playwright and humorist Alan Bennett, born in Leeds, England (1934). He's probably best known for his screenplay for the film The Madness of King George (1994). His first novel came out in February of 2001: The Clothes They Stood Up In. It's the story of a man and a woman who come home from the opera one night to find that their home has been robbed of everything they own.

It's the birthday of poet Mona Van Duyn, born in Waterloo, Iowa (1921).

It's the birthday of writer Richard Adams, born in Newbury, England (1920). He used to tell stories to his young daughters about rabbits, and the girls urged him to write them down. He did, and they became the novel Watership Down, which was a huge best seller when it came out in 1972.

It's the birthday of broadcast journalist Mike Wallace, born Myron Leon Wallace in Brookline, Massachusetts (1918). He started out as an actor and announcer on such popular radio series as The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet. In the mid 1950s, he started broadcasting an hour-long weekly talk show called Night Beat, where he developed his style of interviewing.

It's the birthday of children's writer and illustrator William Pène du Bois, born in Nutley, New Jersey (1916). He started out to be an architect, but just before he was about to enter college, he sold his first children's book, The Great Geppy. His most famous book is The Twenty-One Balloons (1984).

It's the birthday of author and animal trainer Barbara Woodhouse, born in County Dublin, Ireland (1910). At the age of 70 she became famous on television - first in England, then in the United States - with her show, Training Dogs the Woodhouse Way.

It's the birthday of playwright and author J(ames) M(atthew) Barrie, born in Kirriemuir, Scotland (1860). A lonely boy, the 9th of 10 children, he was very short, and melancholy all of his life. He created one of the most memorable literary characters in history: Peter Pan. The play premiered in London in 1904. Though it was tremendously successful, he lived the last 21 of his life as a recluse, suffering from depression.

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 »