Wednesday

Jun. 6, 2012

To Waiting

by W. S. Merwin

You spend so much of your time
expecting to become
someone else
always someone
who will be different
someone to whom a moment
whatever moment it may be
at last has come
and who has been
met and transformed
into no longer being you
and so has forgotten you

meanwhile in your life
you hardly notice
the world around you
lights changing
sirens dying along the buildings
your eyes intent
on a sight you do not see yet
not yet there
as long as you
are only yourself

with whom as you
recall you were
never happy
to be left alone for long

"To Waiting" by W.S. Merwin, from Present Company. © Copper Canyon Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is the birthday of the man who said, "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." That's Thomas Mann (books by this author), born in Lübeck, Germany (1875). He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1929. His many novels include Buddenbrooks (1901), Mario and the Magician (1929), and Dr. Faustus (1947).

It's the birthday of poet Maxine Kumin (books by this author), born in Philadelphia (1925). In college, an instructor handed back comments on her poetry that read: "Say it with flowers, but for God's sake don't try to write poems." She was so discouraged that she gave it up until she was in her 30s, in the middle of her third pregnancy. She said, "The grit of discontent, the acute misery of early and uninformed motherhood worked under my skin to force out the writer." She's written many poems about her farm in New Hampshire, especially in her book Up Country: Poems of New England (1972), which won the Pulitzer Prize.

Kumin has often been compared to Robert Frost. She said: "My poetry is pretty much centered in New England, but more poetry of people and animals than of landscape. I suppose it could be called pastoral, but not a romanticized pastoral. It has real manure in it and real rain, and real anguish and loss just as much as it has some of the sunny hours."

Her most recent book is Where I Live: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 (2010).

George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four (books by this author) was published on this date in 1949. Nineteen Eighty-four begins with the famous line: "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." Orwell wrote most of the novel on the island of Jura in the Scottish Hebrides; grieving the loss of his wife and overwhelmed with all the demands on his time that arose from the success of Animal Farm (1945), he retreated there with his son. The weather was bad, and so he stayed inside and wrote. He kept on with the book even as he became more and more ill with tuberculosis. He died in 1950, less than a year after the book was published.

It's the birthday of the father of modern Russian literature: Aleksandr Pushkin (books by this author), born in Moscow (1799). He died at the age of 38, but in his brief life, he worked in nearly every literary form. His masterpiece was the verse novel Eugene Onegin (1833), about a man who kills his friend in a duel, and loses the one woman he loves.

Pushkin married Natalya Goncharova who was described at the time as the most beautiful woman in Russia. She had many admirers, including Czar Nicholas. One of her suitors was so persistent that Pushkin finally challenged him to a pistol duel in 1837. Pushkin died two days later.

The government initially tried to cover up the death, because Pushkin was so popular among common Russians that they thought his death might spark an uprising. When word of his death finally did get out, people all over the country went into mourning. One man, weeping openly in the street, was asked by a newspaper man if he had known Pushkin personally. He replied, "No, but I am a Russian."

The Great Seattle Fire destroyed downtown Seattle on this date in 1889. The fire started in the basement of a cabinet shop on the corner of Front and Madison. An employee had set a pot of glue on top of a lit stove, and the glue caught fire. Over the next 18 hours, the blaze wiped out the town's business district and waterfront. Miraculously, there were no human fatalities.

In a year's time, Seattle had nearly been rebuilt. All the construction jobs sparked a population boom, and Seattle grew from a town of 25,000 into a full-fledged city of more than 40,000.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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  • “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
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