Thursday

Mar. 29, 2007

The Art of Disappearing

by Naomi Shihab Nye

THURSDAY, 29 MARCH, 2007
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "The Art of Disappearing" by Naomi Shihab Nye from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. © The Eighth Mountain Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

The Art of Disappearing

When they say Don't I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say We should get together
say why?

It's not that you don't love them anymore.
You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven't seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don't start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the memoirist Alexandra Fuller, (books by this author) born in Glossop, England (1969). Her memoir Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight was a big success when it came out in (2002). It's the story of her childhood, growing up in what was then the African country of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Her parents were white settlers in Rhodesia, trying to make a living as tobacco and cattle farmers, and they were trying to do this as a civil war was being fought between the white government and the black nationalist rebels. Whenever the family left the house, they always traveled in groups, and they had to keep a lookout for mines and booby traps, as well as scorpions, snakes, and crocodiles. By the time she was seven years old, Alexandra Fuller had learned to strip, clean, load, and fire a machine gun. Her parents warned her never to sneak into their room at night, because they might shoot her by accident.


It's the birthday of Eric Idle, (books by this author) born in South Shields, Durham, England (1943). He's one of the six founding members of the British comedy group Monty Python. Idle often played old ornery women, as well as creepy old men and annoying talk show hosts. He has written several books for children and adults, as well as a play, Pass the Butler. His first novel, Hello Sailor, came out in 1974, and his second, The Road to Mars, in 1999.


It's the birthday of actor, director, producer, and playwright Howard Lindsay, born Herman Nelke in Waterford, New York (1889). He worked for years with the playwright Russel Crouse, and together they wrote several hit plays, including The Sound of Music (1959), Mr. President (1962), and State of the Union, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1946. Lindsay and Crouse's biggest hit was Life With Father (1939), which ran for 3,224 performances over seven years, the longest-running non-musical play in the history of Broadway.

Howard Lindsay said, "Every so often, we pass laws repealing human nature."


It's the birthday of politician Eugene (Joseph) McCarthy, (books by this author) born in Watkins, Minnesota (1921). He was a U.S. Senator and challenged Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination in 1968, before Johnson chose to drop out of the race. He also wrote several books about politics in America, as well as many collections of poetry, including Ground Fog and Night (1979) and Other Things and the Aardvark (1970). He died on December 10, 2005.

Eugene McCarthy said, "Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it's important."


On this day in 1886, John Pemberton perfected a headache and hangover remedy he had cooked up over a fire in his backyard. It contained coca leaves and extract of kola nut, and he advertised it as an "Esteemed Brain Tonic and Intellectual Beverage." He had been making something called "Pemberton's French Wine Coca," but Atlanta had just passed a prohibition law, and he had to come up with an alcohol-free formula. He sweetened the new elixir with sugar instead of wine, and his bookkeeper suggested he name the beverage "Coca-Cola." The following year, the prohibition law was repealed; and Pemberton decided Coca-Cola was a losing proposition. He sold off his interest in the formula and went back to making French Wine Coca.


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 »