Jan. 19, 2002

The Loft

by Richard Jones

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "The Loft," by Richard Jones from The Blessing: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press).

The Loft

I lay on her bed
while she opened windows
so we could see the river
and the factories beyond.
Afternoon light falling
beautifully into the room,
she burned candles,
incense, talking quietly
as I listened-
I, who conspired
to make this happen,
weaving a web of words that held
this moment at its center.
What could I say now?
That I am a man
empty of desire?
She stood beside the bed,
looking down at me
as if she were dreaming,
as if I were a dream,
as if she too had come
to the final shore of longing.
I lay, calm as a lake
reflecting the nothingness
of late summer sky.
Then she spoke-
she said my name-
and I, who did not love her,
opened my arms.

It's the birthday of Alexander Woollcott, born in Phalanx, New Jersey (1887). He was a reporter for the New York Times, and then worked for Stars and Stripes during World War One. After returning to New York, he became a member of the Algonquin Round Table, and began writing for The New Yorker. Many people didn't care for his writing: James Thurber nicknamed him "Old Vitriol and Violets." And some have said he wasn't a very good drama critic: for example, he claimed the plays of Eugene O'Neill were "completely worthless." George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart made Woollcott the model for Sheridan Whiteside in "The Man Who Came to Dinner," and late in his life Woollcott appeared as Whiteside in a touring production of the play.

It's the birthday of painter Paul Cezanne, born in Aix-en-Provence, France (1839). CÚzanne's wealthy family wanted the young man to become a banker, but he persuaded his parents to let him study painting in Paris. He persevered through many discouragements, and became a member of a group of anti-academic painters known as the Refuses, or Refuseniks. Manet, Pissarro, Monet, Renoir and Degas were all part of this radical new movement; they eventually became known as the Impressionists. CÚzanne developed a unique, easily identifiable style. He had great hopes for his work and for his place among the Impressionists, but his paintings were severely criticized by contemporary art writers, and he had difficulty finding buyers for his work. Public enthusiasm for his paintings began to grow at the turn of the century, just a few years before he died, in October, 1906.

It's the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, born in Boston, (1809). After Poe's alcoholic father deserted the family, he was raised in Richmond, Virginia, by John Allan. Allan gave Poe a good education, sending him to the University of Virginia. He published his first collection of poetry in 1827, Tamerlane and Other Poems. His most famous poem, "The Raven," was published in 1845. He's considered to be the inventor of the modern detective story.

It's the birthday of inventor and mechanical engineer James Watt, born in Renfrewshire, Scotland (1736). His father ran a successful ship- and house-building business, and Watt went to work in his father's workshop. He was interested in steam engines, and made many improvements in their design-including the addition of a separate steam-condensing chamber that prevented the loss of steam and enhanced the engine's vacuum power.

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
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show