Friday

Jun. 6, 2008

Farmhouses, Iowa

by Baron Wormser

Invariably, a family in each one
And someone opening the fridge to fetch
A carton of milk, someone sitting in
A chair and shelling peas, someone looking

Out a window at a barn, two willow trees.
Solitude broods like a pursuing shadow;
A radio fades in and out -the voice
Eager yet eerie. Three ages anchor

The oaken dinner table: Mom and Dad
Up-before-dawn weary, Grandma perturbed
About half-thawed rolls, the children recounting
School stories, then silent. In the parlor
A whiskey tumbler rests beside a Bible.
The old collie whimpers when a car goes by.

"Farmhouses, Iowa" by Baron Wormser, from Scattered Chapters. © Sarabande Books, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Alexander Pushkin, (books by this author) born in Moscow (1799). He's considered the greatest Russian poet of all time. His mother was descended of a slave from Cameroon who had been bought as a gift for Peter the Great. His father was a small-time nobleman. Alexander was short — only 5'6" — and left his side whiskers and his long fingernails ungroomed.

He liked women with small feet, the opera, and smoked sturgeon. He once called his wife his "113th love." He had extreme mood swings that scholars say would today be diagnosed as manic-depressive. His poems about the monarchy earned him enforced exile to the south in 1820. He liked to sit in bed with a notebook on his knees and compose poems.

He was quick to anger and a participant in numerous duels. His final one was with a French nobleman who fancied Pushkin's wife — and Pushkin died from the wound he received in the fight. He was only 38. His most famous work is Eugene Onegin (1823).

It's the birthday of Thomas Mann, (books by this author) born in Lubeck, Germany (1875), the son of a Brazilian Catholic mother and German Lutheran grain merchant. He was a lackluster student, studying science at gymnasium, then went to work as a clerk for an insurance company. He wrote in his free time and later attended a university to prepare for a career in journalism. He moved to Italy for a year with his older brother Heinrich, also a writer, and during this time his first collection of short stories, Little Herr Friedemann (1898), was published. In Italy he also began to write the novel Buddenbrooks, which appeared in 1901.

He exiled himself from Germany when Hitler came to power, and then Hitler revoked Mann's German citizenship. He moved to Switzerland in 1933. In 1940, he became an American citizen and lived in Santa Monica, California, for most of the rest of his life.

He won the Nobel Prize in 1929. His many novels include Mario and the Magician (1929), The Beloved Returns (1939), and Dr. Faustus (1947).

He said, "A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."

It's the birthday of the poet, novelist, and children's author Maxine Kumin, (books by this author) born in Philadelphia (1925). She won the Pulitzer Prize for a book inspired by her New Hampshire farm titled Up Country: Poems of New England (1972). In college, an instructor handed back comments on her poetry that read: "Say it with flowers, but for God's sake don't try to write poems." She didn't, for a long time, until she got serious about it again in her 30s, in the middle of her third pregnancy. She said, "The grit of discontent, the acute misery of early and uninformed motherhood worked under my skin to force out the writer."

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 »