Saturday

Mar. 27, 2004

Song

by John Ciardi

SATURDAY, 27 MARCH, 2004
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Song," by John Ciardi, from The War Poets (John Day).

Song

The bells of Sunday rang us down
And flowers were blowing across the town
Through faucets of the sun turned on.

For Mary's giggle and Martha's glance
The bankrolls flashed from pants to pants,
The Captain did a Highland dance.

Oh, there were troops in every door,
And liquor spilled on every floor,
And when the sun became a bore

We turned it off and hung a star,
For we were beautiful and far
And all the papers spoke of war.

And all night long from window sills
The Angels beckoned and the bills
Of visors turned and made their kills.

We burned like kisses on the night,
And talented and drunk and bright
We shed ourselves in colored light.

Because the train was at the gate,
And clocks were closing down the date,
And all seas were running late.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Louis Simpson, born in Jamaica, the British West Indies (1923). He's written seventeen volumes of poetry, including At the End of the Open Road (1963), which won the Pulitzer Prize. His mother died when he was a teenager, and his stepmother kicked him out of the house. He arrived in New York City when he was seventeen and didn't go back to Jamaica for fifty years.


It's the birthday of clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, born in St. Louis, Missouri (1916). He played with Bix Beiderbecke, Eddie Condon, and Louis Prima. He was called Pee Wee because he was so tall and thin. He had a huge nose and a perpetually mournful expression; one critic said "even his feet looked sad." Early on, he developed a kind of dirty playing style—he convinced his instrument to give up a wild medley of barks, shrieks, wails, and blats.


It's the birthday of Quentin Tarantino, born in Knoxville, Tennessee (1963). His mother was sixteen when he was born, and she took him to the movies regularly from the time he was a toddler. When he was older, he got a job in a video store, and he spent most of his time sitting around watching movies with his co-workers and talking about what was wrong with them. He wrote a couple of screenplays, and then he met an actor who knew another actor who knew Harvey Keitel. Keitel agreed to look at one of his scripts, and was impressed enough to volunteer to help Tarantino cast the film, and to act in it himself. Reservoir Dogs (1992) was a hit in both the U.S. and Europe, and his next film, Pulp Fiction, won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994.


It's the birthday of Sarah Vaughan, born in Newark, New Jersey (1924). She sang "Misty," "Tenderly" and "All of Me," and she made dozens of other classic jazz recordings with Count Basie, Cannonball Adderly, Lester Young, and Oscar Peterson. She had a range of four octaves, as wide as an opera singer's. When she died in 1990, Mel Torme said, "She had the single best vocal instrument of any singer working in the popular field."


It's the birthday of T. R. Pearson, born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (1956). He's the author of eight novels, including Cry Me a River (1993) and Polar (2002). He published his first novel, A Short History of a Small Place (1985), when he was painting houses for a living.


On this day in 1931, Arnold Bennett died of typhoid, which he is thought to have contracted after drinking the water in a Paris hotel to show his companions that it was safe to drink. Virginia Woolf and Bennett had had several well-publicized literary disagreements, but when she heard of his death, she wrote in her diary, "Queer how one regrets the dispersal of anybody . . . who had direct contact with life—for he abused me; and yet I rather wished him to go on abusing me; and me abusing him."

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 »