Jan. 22, 2009


by Robert Phillips

I'm honest, discreet, and no way a lech.
Staying home with a rented video is just fine.
I'm seeking a friend first, we'll see what happens next.

My definition of fun is not very far-fetched:
Enjoy fishing, four-wheeling, casinos, and wine.
I'm honest, discreet, and no way a lech.

Want face-to-face conversation, no phone sex,
Non-smoking, drug-free women—the old-fashioned kind.
I'm seeking a friend first, we'll see what happens next.

I like a lady to let her hair down, get a little wrecked.
I have brown hair, brown eyes, am built along trim lines.
I'm honest, discreet, and no way a lech.

I'm thirty-seven, white, have two teenagers by my ex.
Looking for a lady, any age or race, similarly inclined.
I'm seeking a friend first, we'll see what happens next.

No psychos! (My ex didn't play with a full deck.)
I live on the northwest side, near the refinery.
I'm honest, discreet, and no way a lech.
I'm seeking a friend first. We'll see what happens next.

"Personals" by Robert Phillips, from Spinach Days. © The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the Romantic poet Lord Byron, (books by this author) born George Gordon Noel in London, England (1788). His father was nicknamed "Mad Jack," was deeply in debt, made his living by seducing rich women, and may have killed his first wife.

Byron was the product of his father's second marriage. He was a poorly behaved child. After college, he went off to travel in the eastern Mediterranean and kept a diary of his adventures there. He turned it into a book-length poem, Child Harold's Pilgrimage. It was published between 1812 and 1818, and it made Byron one of the most popular poets of his time.

Byron wrote many more books of poetry, including Don Juan (1819). He lived a life of controversy and excess, so when he died at age 36, his friend burned Byron's unpublished memoirs before he had even been buried.

It's the birthday of the poet Howard Moss, (books by this author) born in New York City (1922). A quiet, unassuming man, he served as poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine for almost four decades. When he was asked his definition of a good poem, Howard Moss said: "One I like."

It's the birthday of poet Timothy Steele, (books by this author) born in Burlington, Vermont (1948). He is an advocate of metrical poetry, as opposed to free verse. He said, "I believe that our ability to organize thought and speech into measure is one of the most precious endowments of the human race." And he said, "The original free-versers hoped their revolution would lead to a new metrical system. They did not want their efforts to result in poetry's degenerating into lineated prose, which is sort of what's happened."

Timothy Steele teaches at California State University Los Angeles. He wrote: "Form gives you a way not only of expressing things, but also of understanding them. The medium makes you look at phrasing and thought from different angles and almost inevitably leads you to think about elements of this or that experience or subject in ways you would not have otherwise."

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 »