Monday

Apr. 19, 2010

Useful Advice

by Catherine Tufariello

You're 37? Don't you think that maybe
It's time you settled down and had a baby?

No wine? Does this mean happy news? I knew it!

Hey, are you sure you two know how to do it?

All Dennis has to do is look at me
And I'm knocked up.
                                  Some things aren't meant to be.
It's sad, but try to see this as God's will.

I've heard that sometimes when you take the Pill—

A friend of mine got pregnant when she stopped
Working so hard.
                           Why don't you two adopt?
You'll have one of your own then, like my niece.

At work I heard about this herb from Greece—

My sister swears by doing quai. Want to try it?

Forget the high-tech stuff. Just change your diet.

It's true! Too much caffeine can make you sterile.

Yoga is good for that. My cousin Carol—

They have these ceremonies in Peru—

You mind my asking, is it him or you?

Have you tried acupuncture? Meditation?

It's in your head. Relax! Take a vacation
And have some fun. You think too much. Stop trying.

Did I say something wrong? Why are you crying?

"Useful Advice" by Catherine Tufariello, from Keeping My Name. © Texas Tech University Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Jon Agee, (books by this author) born in Nyack, New York (1960), along the Hudson River, who has drawn cartoons for The New Yorker and written and illustrated many children's books. He was still in high school when he published his first cartoon, and the publisher of his drawing — which was of a pack of rats running alongside a road — was The New York Times Op-Ed page.

Right after college he took some of his drawings to a publisher and tried to persuade her to print them. The publisher insisted that he write a story to go along with the illustrations, and Agee agreed. He wrote exactly two sentences, about a child who dreams his grandpa becomes Santa, and the picture story became his first published book, If Snow Falls (1982). It received great reviews.

Many of his books revolve around wordplay. There are the books of palindromes (words or phrases that say the same thing when read backward or forward), including Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog! and Other Palindromes (1991) and So Many Dynamos! and Other Palindromes (1994) and Sit on a Potato Pan, Otis!: More Palindromes (1999).

He's composed a book of 60 oxymorons; it's entitled Who Ordered the Jumbo Shrimp? (1998). The children's book includes illustrations of "sharp curves" and a "stiff drink" and the "Great Depression." In a book of spoonerisms, he asks the question, "What did the cowboy say to the rocket scientist?" The answer is the book's title: Smart Feller Fart Smeller; and Other Spoonerisms (2006). Despite all of this, he cites his greatest moment in wordplay as the time he was a clue in The New York Times crossword puzzle.

His book The Retired Kid, published in 2008, is about an eight-year-old named Brian who decides he's had enough school and extracurricular activities and heads to Florida to laze out his days in that Happy Sunset Retirement Community. He said that the book was inspired one day after he saw "a bunch of kids getting off a school bus and they were all weighed down with backpacks, suitcases, trumpet cases, lunchboxes, art projects, etc., and I thought — wow — it's hard work being a kid!"

His most recently published book is Orangutan Tongs: Poems to Tangle Your Tongue (2009). Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog is due out this August (2010).

It's the birthday of Trinidadian-Canadian writer Neil Bissoondath (books by this author) born in Arima, Trinidad (1955). He's the nephew of V.S. Naipaul. He is the author of The Unyielding Clamour of the Night (2005) and The Soul of All Great Designs (2008).

It's the birthday of poet Etheridge Knight (books by this author) born in Corinth, Mississippi (1931). He dropped out of school and ran away from home. In 1960, he was arrested for robbery and went to the Indiana State Prison. It was there that he started writing poetry. His first book, Poems from Prison, was published in 1968, a year before he was released, and he went on to publish many more books. He said, "I died in 1960 from a prison sentence and poetry brought me back to life."

In 1927, on this day, actress Mae West was jailed for her performance in Sex, the Broadway play she wrote, directed, and starred in. She served 10 days in prison, and jail time seemed to have done her good — it didn't make her change her act, but it did bring her national notoriety — and helped make her one of Hollywood's most memorable, and quotable, stars. She said, "There are no good girls gone wrong, just bad girls found out." And, "I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it."

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 »