Thursday

Oct. 3, 2002

A Poem for Emily

by Miller Williams

THURSDAY, 3 OCTOBER 2002
Listen
(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "A Poem for Emily," by Miller Williams from Living on the Sun Face (Louisiana State University Press).

A Poem for Emily

Small fact and fingers and farthest one from me,
a hand's width and two generations away,
in this still present I am fifty-three.
You are not yet a full day.

When I am sixty-three, when you are ten,
and you are neither closer nor as far,
your arms will fill with what you know by then,
the arithmetic and love we do and are.

When I by blood and luck am eighty-six
and you are someplace else and thirty-three
believing in sex and god and politics
with children who look not at all like me,

sometime I know you will have read them this
so they will know I love them and say so
and love their mother. Child, whatever is
is always or never was. Long ago,

a day I watched awhile beside your bed,
I wrote this down, a thing that might be kept
awhile, to tell you what I would have said
when you were who knows what and I was dead
which is I stood and loved you while you slept.



It's the birthday of cartoonist, writer and editor Harvey Kurtzman, born in Brooklyn, New York (1924), who founded MAD magazine in 1952.

It's the birthday of etiquette expert Emily Post, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1873), whose 1922 book on manners sold over one million copies.

It's the birthday of historian George Bancroft, born in Worcester, Massachusetts (1800), known as "The Father of American History" for his ten-volume History of the United States, published between 1834 and 1874.

It's the birthday of novelist and historian Gore Vidal, born Eugene Luther Vidal, in West Point, New York (1925). Gore Vidal published his first novel, Williwaw, in 1946 at the age of 21. Two years later, he published The City and the Pillar and he changed the course of his career. The story of a young homosexual, the book received scathingly moralistic notices from most of the mainstream press, and The New York Times refused to review his next five novels in the newspaper. Sales slipped along with his prestige, and so in the early 1950s, under three different pseudonyms, he wrote five pulp fictions while continuing to publish his literary novels. He said: "Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies."

It's the birthday of author Thomas Clayton Wolfe, born in Asheville, North Carolina (1900). His childhood in the boardinghouse at 48 Spruce Street colored his work and influenced the rest of his life. Wolfe's father drank heavily and his mother was ahead of her time as a successful female real estate speculator. His reminiscences of his life in Asheville were so frank and realistic that Look Homeward, Angel was banned from Asheville's public library for over seven years. Look Homeward, Angel is the story of Eugene Gant, a sensitive, intelligent boy growing up in a small Southern mountain city. Wolfe, who was a teacher, left his job after the success of the novel and continued writing. In New York City, he met Aline Bernstein, a successful set and costume designer in the New York theater, and they began a passionate and turbulent love affair. She was almost twenty years older than Wolfe, married, and the mother of two grown children.
With the aid of Mrs. Bernstein, he was able to continue his writing in New York.



(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 »