Apr. 11, 2002

Lester Tells of Wanda and the Big Snow

by Paul Zimmer

(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Lester Tells of Wanda and the Big Snow," by Paul Zimmer from Crossing to Sunlight (University of Chicago Press).

Lester Tells of Wanda and the Big Snow

Some years back I worked a strip mine
Out near Tylersburg. One day it starts
To snow and by two we got three feet.
I says to the foreman, "I'm going home."
He says, "Ain't you stayin' till five?"
I says, "I got to see to my cows,"
Not telling how Wanda was there at the house.
By the time I make it home at four
Another foot is down and it don't quit
Until it lays another. Wanda and me
For three whole days seen no one else.
We tunneled the drifts and slid
Right over the barbed wire, laughing
At how our heartbeats melted the snow.
After a time the food was gone and I thought
I'd butcher a cow, but then it cleared
And the moon come up as sweet as an apple.
Next morning the ploughs got through. It made us sad.
It don't snow like that no more. Too bad.

On this day in 1970, NASA launched lunar mission Apollo 13 from the Kennedy Space Center. The first two days were uneventful, but 56 hours into the mission, the crew heard a sharp bang and felt a vibration. Astronaut James Lovell looked out a window and saw that something - a gas - was leaking into space. It turned out that an oxygen tank had exploded, and there was a leak in the second tank. The mission was aborted in order to get the three astronauts home safely. They jerry-rigged systems with plastic bags, cardboard and tape to survive. The return trip took 85 hours; it got as cold as 38 degrees in the capsule, but they got home safely.

It's the birthday of Ellen Goodman, born in Newton, Massachusetts (1941). She was a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, then moved to The Boston Globe, where she is now associate editor and columnist. Her column has syndicated since 1976.
"If there's a single message passed down from each generation of American parents to their children, it is: Better Yourself. And if there's a temple of self-betterment in each town, it is the local school."

On this day in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby was published by Scribner's. Three years earlier, Fitzgerald said that he planned to write "something new - something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned." His old friend, Edmund Wilson, read the book immediately. He told Fitzgerald it was the best work he had done, although he thought the characters were unpleasant. T.S. Eliot told him it was the best new novel he had read in years.

It's the birthday of humorist Leo Rosten, born in Lodz, Poland (1908). He came to America as a small boy, first to Chicago, and then to New York City. He's best known for creating the character Hyman Kaplan, in a series of humorous stories in the New Yorker magazine. He's also the editor of The Joys of Yiddish (1968), a dictionary of Yiddish words and their many nuances, including 29 meanings for the word "oy."

It's the birthday of poet, novelist and essayist Glenway Wescott, born in Kewaskum, Wisconsin (1901). He lived abroad for many years - in England, Germany, and in Paris - but his stories, Goodbye to Wisconsin (1928), and his best-known novel, The Grandmothers (1927), were set in Wisconsin.

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