Monday

Jan. 19, 2009

Everyone is Afraid of Something

by Dannye Romine Powell

Once I was afraid of ghosts, of the dark,
of climbing down from the highest
limb of the backyard oak. Now I'm afraid

my son will die alone in his apartment.
I'm afraid when I break down the door,
I'll find him among the empties-bloated,
discolored, his face a stranger's face.

My granddaughter is afraid of blood
and spider webs and of messing up.
Also bees. Especially bees. Everyone,
she says, is afraid of something.

Another fear of mine: that it will fall to me
to tell this child her father is dead.

Perhaps I should begin today stringing
her a necklace of bees. When they sting
and welts quilt her face, when her lips
whiten and swell, I'll take her
by the shoulders. Child, listen to me.
One day, you'll see. These stings
Are nothing. Nothing at all.

"Everyone Is Afraid of Something" by Dannye Romine Powell, from A Necklace of Bees. © University of Arkansas Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, (books by this author) born in Boston, Massachusetts (1809). He became a writer, but nobody paid much attention to him until his poem "The Raven" appeared in the New York Evening Mirror in 1845, and he suddenly became a celebrity. Children followed him down the street chanting, "Nevermore, nevermore!" And he was asked to recite the poem at all sorts of gatherings.

It's the birthday of novelist Julian Barnes, (books by this author) born in Leicester, England (1946). His parents were French teachers. He had already published two novels when he happened to visit two museums devoted to the novelist Gustave Flaubert. At the first museum, Barnes saw the stuffed green parrot that Flaubert had kept on his writing desk. Then, at the second museum, Barnes saw another stuffed parrot, which was supposedly the same parrot. It gave him an idea for a short story about a man obsessed with Flaubert, and it grew into his novel Flaubert's Parrot (1984), which became his first big success. His most recent book is a memoir, Nothing to Be Frightened Of (2008).

Julian Barnes said, "The secret of happiness is to be happy already."

It's the birthday of the man who coined the term "altruism" and who helped found the field of sociology: philosopher Auguste Comte, (books by this author) born in Montpellier, France (1798).

He made friends with a social philosopher who insisted that the goal of philosophy should be improved social welfare, and Comte used this as a guiding principle for the rest of his life's work. His most famous work was Système de Politique Positive, published in four volumes between 1851 and 1854. It established a basis for sociology.

And then, Comte's life began to fall apart. He had a mental breakdown and had to be hospitalized. He suffered from serious depression and tried to commit suicide by throwing himself in the Seine River. He was imprisoned, his wife left him, and he lost his job. By the end of his life, he had alienated most of his friends, and he died sad, lonely, and impoverished.

He said, "Everything is relative, and only that is absolute."

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 »