Sunday

Aug. 9, 2009

A Summer Night

by Kate Barnes

A summer night. The moon's face,
almost full now, comes and goes
through clouds. I can't see
any stars, but a late firefly
still flicks his green lamp on and off
by the fence.
                    In this light
that is more illusion
than light, I think of things
I can't make out: milkweed opening
its millions of flowerets, their heavy heads
smelling like dark honey in the night's
darkness; day lilies
crowding the ditch, their blossoms
closed tight; birds asleep with their small legs
locked on twigs; deer stealing
into the uncut hay; and the young bay mare
kneeling down in the pasture, composing herself
to rest, as rounded and strong
as a meant prayer.

"A Summer Night" by Kate Barnes, from Kneeling Orion. © David R Godine, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist Jonathan Kellerman, (books by this author) born in New York City (1949). Like the hero of his mysteries, Alex Delaware, Kellerman is a child psychologist. While studying in college and graduate school, he wrote fiction obsessively, and he finished at least eight unpublished novels while working toward his career in psychology. For 13 years, he called himself "a failed writer with a really good day job." Recent novels include Obsession (2007), Compulsion (2008), and Bones (2008).

It's the birthday of English poet Philip Larkin, (books by this author) born in Coventry, England (1922). During his life he was called "England's other Poet Laureate," and when the position became vacant in 1984, many poets and critics wanted Larkin to be appointed. But Larkin was shy and avoided the limelight. His books of poetry include The Less Deceived (1955), The Whitsun Weddings (1964), and High Windows (1974). Philip Larkin said, "I can't understand these chaps who go round American universities explaining how they write poems: It's like going round explaining how you sleep with your wife."

He said, "Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth."

And he said, "I think writing about unhappiness is probably the source of my popularity, if I have any. After all, most people are unhappy, don't you think?"

It's the birthday of English Renaissance writer Izaak Walton, (books by this author) born in Stafford, England, in 1593. It was the year that English theaters shut down because of the plague, and Shakespeare's career as actor and owner of an actor's group derailed. Shakespeare wrote two narrative erotic-themed poems that year, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece,and subsequently began to write the tragedies for which he is best known, starting with Romeo and Juliet in 1595.

Izaak Walton's wrote mostly biographies, including one on John Donne, but his best-known work is a guide to the joys of fishing, entitled The Compleat Angler and first published in 1653. It's now been through more than 300 new printings; it's one of the most re-printed books in British history. It's a how-to manual intertwined with personal narrative, meditations on nature, lively anecdotes, folklore, geographical descriptions, songs, ballads, and famous quotations.

From The Compleat Angler:
"Indeed, my good scholar, we may say of angling, as Dr. Boteler said of strawberries, 'Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did'; and so, if I might be judge, God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than angling."

It's the birthday of poet John Dryden, (books by this author) born in Northamptonshire, England, in 1631. Dryden was also a translator, playwright, and prominent literary critic, and he was so well known and influential that the era in which he lived was referred to by later scholars as "The Age of Dryden."

One of the big things he did was establish the heroic couplet as the standard meter of English poetry. Nearly all of his writing he composed in heroic couplets. There were the dramatic masterpieces, in which he wrote lines like:

"Plots, true or false, are necessary things,
      To raise up commonwealths, and ruin kings."

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 »