Friday

Oct. 7, 2005

Instructions

by Sheri Hostetler

FRIDAY, 7 OCTOBER, 2005
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Instructions" by Sheri Hostetler, from the anthology A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry © Reprinted with permission of the author.

Instructions

Give up the world; give up self; finally, give up God.
Find god in rhododendrons and rocks,
passers-by, your cat.
Pare your beliefs, your absolutes.
Make it simple; make it clean.
No carry-on luggage allowed.
Examine all you have
with a loving and critical eye, then
throw away some more.
Repeat. Repeat.
Keep this and only this:
   what your heart beats loudly for
   what feels heavy and full in your gut.
There will only be one or two
things you will keep,
and they will fit lightly
in your pocket.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Desmond Tutu, born in Klerksdorp, South Africa (1931). He was elected the first black archbishop of Cape Town and the head of the Anglican Church in South Africa.

It was Desmond Tutu who said, "When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land."


It's the birthday of the novelist Thomas M. Keneally, born in Sydney Australia (1935). He's the author of Schindler's Ark. It came out in 1982, and it became the movie Schindler's List.


It was on this day in 1955 in San Francisco at the Six Gallery, the poet Allen Ginsberg read his poem "Howl" for the first time. The poem begins, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness." His friend Jack Kerouac sat on the edge of the stage and when Ginsberg was done, the audience exploded in applause.

When Lawrence Ferlinghetti published the poem "Howl" out of his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, he was arrested and tried for obscenity, but he was found not guilty.


It's the birthday of the poet and playwright Amiri Baraka, born LeRoi Jones in Newark (1934), whose collection of poems Funk Lore came out in 1996. Amiri Baraka said, "A man is either free or he is not. There cannot be any apprenticeship for freedom."


It's the birthday of the poet and essayist Diane Ackerman, born Diane Fink in Waukegan, Illinois (1948). She wrote her first book of poems, The Planets, entirely about astronomy. It came out in 1976. She became a journalist as well. She wrote essays about animals. She's best known for her book A Natural History of the Senses, a collection of essays about her own experiences of sight and sound, smell, touch and taste.

Diane Ackerman said, "I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well."


It's the birthday of the poet and novelist Sherman Alexie, born near Spokane, Washington (1966) on an Indian reservation. His first big success was his collection of short stories The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. It was one of the first works of fiction to portray Indians as Americans who watch all the same TV programs as everybody else and eat the same breakfast cereal.

Sherman Alexie said, "All too often Indian writers write about the kind of Indian they wish they were. So I try to write about the kind of Indian I am. I'm just as much a product of The Brady Bunch as I am of my grandmother."


It's the birthday of the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, born in Paris (1955). He made his debut at Carnegie Hall at the age of nine.


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 »