Thursday

Jul. 31, 2003

THURSDAY, 31 JULY 2003
Listen
(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "The Monks of St. John's File in for Prayer," by Kilian McDonnell from Swift, Lord, You Are Not (St. John's University Press).

The Monks of St. John's File in for Prayer

In we shuffle, hooded amplitudes,
scapulared brooms, a stray earring, skin-heads
and flowing locks, blind in one eye,
hooked-nosed, handsome as a prince
(and knows it), a five-thumbed organist,
an acolyte who sings in quarter tones,
one slightly swollen keeper of the bees,
the carpenter minus a finger here and there,
our pre-senile writing deathless verse,
a stranded sailor, a Cassian scholar,
the artist suffering the visually
illiterate and indignities unnamed,
two determined liturgists. In a word,
eager purity and weary virtue.
Last of all, the Lord Abbot, early old
(shepherding the saints is like herding cats).
These chariots and steeds of Israel
make a black progress into church.
A rumble of monks bows low and offers praise
to the High God of Gods who is faithful forever.


Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of J(oanne) K(athleen) Rowling, born in Chipping Sodbury, England (1966). But her readers know today as Harry Potter's birthday. On Harry Potter's 11th birthday, he learns that he is a wizard. He is officially invited to leave his Muggle aunt and uncle and attend the special Hogwarts school for wizards. As a child, Rowling was short and stocky and wore very thick glasses, just like Harry Potter. She says she was very bossy, very bookish and terrible at school until she got older. When Rowling started writing Harry Potter, she was unemployed and divorced and living on public assistance in a tiny Edinburgh apartment with her infant daughter. She wrote during her daughter's naps, at a table in a café. She couldn't afford even a used typewriter. Then the Scottish Arts Council gave her a grant to finish the book. She did, and in the U.S. it was called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998). It was a dramatic overnight success. She was instantly famous and Harry Potter became a household name. She experienced a type of fame usually reserved for politicians and rock stars. On book tours, she spoke at big sporting venues, with images of her face projected on big screens behind her. She gave press conferences. At age 35 she was the highest-earning woman in Britain, netting more than $30 million in 2000. Rowling has had a series of seven Harry Potter books in her head since 1995 and she plans to write them all. She has the plots all mapped out already. There is a book for each year that Harry spends at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She said, "I want to finish these seven books and look back and think that whatever happened-however much this hurricane whirled around me-I stayed true to what I wanted to write. This is my Holy Grail: that when I finish writing book seven, I can say-hand on heart-I didn't change a thing. I wrote the story I meant to write." Rowling released Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on June 21 this year. Within an hour, Barnes and Noble, the largest bookseller in the country, had sold 286,000 copies. That's 80 books per second. By the end of the day the book had sold five million copies total.



(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 »