Wednesday

Oct. 5, 2005

The Future

by Wendell Berry

WEDNESDAY, 5 OCTOBER, 2005
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "The Future" by Wendell Berry, from Given © Shoemaker Hoard. Reprinted with permission.

The Future

For God's sake, be done
with this jabber of "a better world."
What blasphemy! No "futuristic"
twit or child thereof ever
in embodied light will see
a better world than this, though they
foretell inevitably a worse.
Do something! Go cut the weeds
beside the oblivious road. Pick up
the cans and bottles, old tires,
and dead predictions. No future
can be stuffed into this presence
except by being dead. The day is
clear and bright, and overhead
the sun not yet half finished
with his daily praise.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Jonathan Edwards, born in South Windsor, Connecticut (1703). He was a popular preacher of his day. He was considered the leader of the Great Awakening, the great religious revival that swept across the eastern United States before the revolution.


It's the birthday of the French encyclopedist Denis Diderot, born in Langres, France (1713). Over the course of 20 years, he wrote his great Encyclopedia—not only wrote it, but typeset it himself by hand. Denis Diderot said, "The world is the house of the strong. I shall not know until the end what I have lost or won in this place, in this vast gambling den where I've spent more than 60 years, dicebox in hand, shaking the dice."


It's the birthday of the Irish author Flann O'Brien, born Brian O'Nolan in Strabane, Ireland (1911). He was a civil servant in Dublin. He wrote in his spare time. His masterpiece was considered to be At Swim-Two Birds, which came out in 1939. It's a book with three beginnings, three endings, three different strands running alongside each other for the length of the book. It's a book about a man writing a novel about a novelist.


It's the birthday of one of the few writers ever to become the leader of a country, and that was Vaclav Havel, born in Prague (1936), to a well-to-do family. He was a teenager when the family's property was seized by the Communists as they took control of the country.

In the 1960s, Havel wrote a series of absurdist plays, including The Garden Party and The Memorandum, attacking the Communist Party. He spent the 1980s in and out of prison, writing plays that he could not see performed in his own country. In 1989, after he was arrested and imprisoned yet one more time, he was released because thousands of people protested. He had become a national hero. And after the collapse of the Communist regime, he helped negotiate the transition to democracy and, in December '89, was elected president.

It was Vaclav Havel who said, "If you want to see your plays performed the way you wrote them, become president."


It's the birthday of the short story writer and novelist Edward P. Jones, born in Arlington, Virginia (1950). He was raised in Washington, D.C. by his mother who couldn't read or write. She washed dishes and worked as a maid to support the family. To support his mother and himself, he edited a publication about tax law called Tax Notes.

Then in 1992, he came out with a collection called Lost in the City, stories about African Americans living in the capital. It got awards. It got him a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, out of which came his first novel The Known World, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.


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 »