Friday

Jul. 13, 2001

Titanic

by David R. Slavitt

FRIDAY, 13 JULY 2001
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Titanic," by David R. Slavitt from New and Selected Poems (Doubleday).

Titanic

Who does not love the Titanic?
If they sold passage tomorrow for that same crossing,
who would not buy?

To go down... We all go down, mostly
alone. But with crowds of people, friends, servants,
well fed, with music, with lights! Ah!

And the world, shocked, mourns, as it ought to do
and almost never does. There will be the books and movies
to remind our grandchildren who we were
and how we died, and give them a good cry.

Not so bad, after all. The cold
water is anaesthetic and very quick.
The cries on all sides must be a comfort.

We all go: only a few, first-class.

Today is Friday the 13th, a day that has a reputation for being unlucky, except in Scandinavian countries, where it's considered very lucky.

It's the birthday of inventor Ernõ Rubik, born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1944. In 1974, he was earning $150 a month as a professor of design, when he constructed a cube made of 27 rotating wooden blocks. Each side of the cube was a different color. When the blocks were turned, the colors mingled. The hard part was getting them back together so that each side was uniform again. 4.5 million of Rubik's Cubes were sold in 1980, and twenty million in 1981.

It's the birthday of writer Wole Soyinka, born near Abeokuta, Nigeria, in 1934, a member of the Yoruba people. His first novel was The Interpreters, which was published in 1965. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the first black writer to do so.

It's the birthday of playwright and novelist David Storey, born in Wakefield, England, in 1933, who writes about the tension between working-class parents and their educated children. His first novel was This Sporting Life, which came out in 1960, and his most recent is A Serious Man, published in 1998.

On this day in 1832, geologist Henry Rowe Schoolcraft discovered the source of the Mississippi River. He had been part of an earlier, failed expedition, but this time Schoolcraft thought to ask the local Indians. According to his published account, an Ojibwa named Oza Windib pulled out a map his tribe had used for years, and pointed to a small lake, which they called Omushkos, or Elk Lake. After his guide took him there, Schoolcraft named it Lake Itasca, from the Latin veritas, or "truth," and caput, or "head."

On this day in 1798, William Wordsworth began his famous poem "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey...." Five years earlier, in a state of emotional turmoil, he went on a walking tour, eventually coming across Tintern Abbey, an old ruin. He visited the place later in his life in a much different frame of mind. "No poem of mine was composed under circumstances more pleasant for me to remember than this," he wrote. "I began it upon leaving Tintern ... and concluded it just as I was entering Bristol in the evening, after a ramble of 4 or 5 days, with my sister. Not a line of it was altered, and not any part of it written down till I reached Bristol."

It's the birthday of poet John Clare, born in Helpston, England, in 1793, the son of a poor farmer who could barely read. In his first book of poems, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery, he described himself as a "rural peasant," and caused a stir. He was known as the "ploughboy" poet. He was later placed in an insane asylum and remained there, writing some of his best poetry under the delusion that he was Robert Burns or Lord Byron. John Clare once said, "If life had a second edition, how I would correct the proofs."

(Instapaper)

-->

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 »