Nov. 3, 2001

Man and Wife

by Mitchell Goodman

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Man and Wife," by Mitchell Goodman from American Poetry of the 20th Century (Bantam Books).

Man and Wife

It was late,
talked        it all
came out        words
fell        we stuffed them
in each other's ears

I talked, she listened
and agreed.        Not
enough.        Don't shout
she yelled, Don't—I'm
not—.     Quietly: In other
words, I said—There are
no other words
she said.        Think. I
(thought) can't think.
Words she could not say
I said, then she
spoke for me.

Be a woman, I said.
What is a woman,
she asked, nakedly,
taking off her clothes. That
ended it.     The next night
we began again, as if
there were someone
who knew
the answer.

It's the birthday of the American novelist Martin Cruz Smith, born in Reading, Pennsylvania (1942), the child of a jazz saxophonist and a singer. Graduating from Smith in 1964 with a degree in creative writing, Smith began working as a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News and as a stringer for the A.P. The editor of action stories, he wrote many himself under pseudonyms. His first commercial success as an author, Nightwing (1977), was a grisly thriller with an American Indian background. With the money he received for this novel, Smith continued to work on Gorky Park, a novel he had been working on for five years.  The book was inspired by an article about the Russian forensic pathologist M. M. Gerasimov, a specialist in recreating the faces of long-dead murder victims. Gorky Park, told from the Russian perspective, was an immediate best seller.

It's the birthday of the Australian writer Kath Walker, born in Queensland, Australia (1920). She was one of the first aboriginal writers to be published. Her collection of poems, We Are Going (1964), sold out in 3 days. Over the next 25 years of her life, she followed that collection with books like The Dawn is At Hand, Father Sky and Mother Earth, and The Rainbow Serpent. Walker eventually changed her name to Oodgeroo Noonuccal and gave up her membership in the Order of the British Empire as an act of protest against the treatment of aboriginals.

It's the birthday of the photographer Walker Evans, born in St. Louis, Missouri (1903). He is primarily remembered for documenting the effects of the Great Depression in the South.

It's the birthday of the French novelist André Malraux, born in Paris (1901). At the age of 21, he went to Cambodia, searching for an ancient temple he had read about in an archeological bulletin. He was arrested for attempting to remove some artifacts from the temple and was detained by the Cambodian government. After he returned to France, he worked on writing novels about his life experiences including Man's Hope, a novel about his experiences as a pilot during the Spanish Civil War. Later, he fought in the French Resistance and served in the government of Charles De Gaulle as a minister of information and then as a minister of cultural affairs. He commissioned the painter Marc Chagall to paint lovers on the ceiling of the Paris Opera and had public buildings in Paris cleaned for the first time.

It's the birthday of the author and politician Ignatius Donnelly, born in Philadelphia (1831). His novel, Caesar's Column, was written in response to his disgust with the upcoming technological advances in the U.S. Despite his feelings of helplessness and despair, Donnelly clung to the hope that men could and would control their own destinies using the new available technologies of automobiles, radio, television, and poison gas. The novel is one of Utopian origins. Donnelly moved to Minnesota and served as lieutenant governor, as well as a U.S. Congressman from 1863 to 1869. He is perhaps best known for trying to prove his theory that Francis Bacon actually was the author of William Shakespeare's plays.  Among his works is Atlantis (1882—his most popular book: It traced the origin of civilization to the legendary continent of Atlantis).

It's the birthday of American poet William Cullen Bryant, born in Cummington, Massachusetts (1794) in a log house.  His most famous poem, "Thanatopsis," was written when Bryant was only 17 years old, and was inspired by the country surrounding his home. He was the editor of the New York Evening Post for 50 years, and it became, under his direction, one of the most liberal newspapers of its time. He defended the right of workers to strike, spoke out against slavery, and fought against the infamous and powerful Tweed Ring gang.

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 »