Wednesday

Oct. 15, 2008

The Cows at Night

by Hayden Carruth

The moon was like a full cup tonight,
too heavy, and sank in the mist
soon after dark, leaving for light

faint stars and the silver leaves
of milkweed beside the road,
gleaming before my car.

Yet I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist

of mountain-dark, among farms
so quiet, and the roadside willows
opening out where I saw

the cows. Always a shock
to remember them there, those
great breathings close in the dark.

I stopped, and took my flashlight
to the pasture fence. They turned
to me where they lay, sad

and beautiful faces in the dark,
and I counted them-forty
near and far in the pasture,

turning to me, sad and beautiful
like girls very long ago
who were innocent, and sad

because they were innocent,
and beautiful because they were
sad. I switched off my light.

But I did not want to go,
not yet, nor knew what to do
if I should stay, for how

in that great darkness could I explain
anything, anything at all.
I stood by the fence. And then

very gently it began to rain.

"The Cows At Night" by Hayden Carruth from Toward the Distant Islands: New & Selected Poems. © Copper Canyon Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the Italian novelist Italo Calvino, (books by this author) born in Santiago de Las Vegas, Cuba, in 1923. He wanted to do for Italy what the Brothers Grimm had done for Germany. He published Italian Folktales in 1956, and after that he wrote novels influenced by all the folktales he learned. These novels are full of magic and allegory, and they include Baron in the Trees (1957) and If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (1981).

It's the birthday of P.G. Wodehouse, (books by this author) born Pelham Grenville Wodehouse in Guildford, England (1881). He's best known for his books about a butler named Jeeves and his employer, Bertie Wooster. Jeeves is constantly saving Wooster from all kinds of absurd situations.

It's the birthday of the novelist Mario Puzo, (books by this author) born in New York City in 1920. He was the son of Italian immigrants. He wrote two novels that sold almost no copies, and he was in serious debt. Then one Christmas Eve, he had a severe gall bladder attack, and he was in so much pain that he fell into the gutter. As he was lying there, he said to himself, "Here I am, a published writer, and I am dying like a dog." He vowed that if he got better he would devote the rest of his life to becoming rich and famous. His next book was The Godfather (1969), a huge success, and he went on to write The Sicilian (1984) and The Last Don (1996). He said, "A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a thousand men with guns."

It's the birthday of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, (books by this author) born in Röcken, a village in Prussia (1844). His most famous book is called Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883). Nietzsche is famous for claiming that "God is dead," but what he actually said is, "God is dead … and we have killed him!"

It's the birthday of the poet Virgil, (books by this author) born Publius Vergilius Maro near Mantua, Italy, 70 B.C.E. The government asked Virgil to write a poem persuading Romans who had left the countryside to return home and become farmers again. He wrote The Georgics, a kind of poetic farming manual about grain production, trees, animal husbandry, and beekeeping. The emperor was so impressed that he gave Virgil a generous stipend, and the poet spent the rest of his life working on his epic poem, The Aeneid.

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 »