Jun. 28, 2002


by Michael McFee

FRIDAY, 28 JUNE 2002
(RealAudio) | How to listen

: "Nap," by Michael McFee from Colander (Carnegie Mellon University Press).


Little deep word, how we crave
a dip in your healing waters!

Nap was once the ocean where we lived,
surfacing occasionally.
Now it's just a shrunken pool,
part of an oasis in the Desert of Light.

You won't find it on any map:
it requires a long unrouted detour
through Lesser Amnesia,
a hiatus in the mind's greedy itinerary.

But cats know where it is, and dogs,
and old men in the shade catching forty winks
so delicious they will always wake
salivating, born again.

It's the birthday of King Henry VIII, born in Greenwich, England, in 1491. He became king when he was 18 years old and married his brother Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragon. When she did not provide him with a male heir, however, he sought to divorce her. When the Pope refused permission for the divorce, Henry decided that the English Church should separate from Rome and be ruled by the king. He divorced Catherine therewith.

It's the birthday of painter Pieter (sometimes Peter) Paul Rubens, born in Siegen, Germany, in 1577. He was a successful court painter to the Austrian archduke, Albert, and to the wealthy of Flanders. He is best known for his paintings of voluptuous women.

It's the birthday of author and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1712, whose first important work, Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts, was published in 1750. He wrote in this work that man is good by nature but has been corrupted by society and civilization. He later coined the phrase: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," and wrote: "Man was born free, but he is everywhere in chains."

It's the birthday of the author and playwright Luigi Pirandello, born in Girgenti, Italy, in 1867. He is the author of Right You Are if You Think You Are, and Six Characters in Search of an Author.

It's the birthday of historian and novelist Esther Forbes, born in Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1891. She is best known for Johnny Tremain: A Novel for Young and Old.

It's the birthday of composer and lyricist Richard Rodgers, born in New York City in 1902. He collaborated for 20 years with Lorenz Hart, and later with Oscar Hammerstein II.

On this day in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending World War I.

It's the birthday of actor, director, screenwriter, and playwright Mel Brooks, born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn, New York, in 1926. While Brooks was in the Army in World War II, deactivating mines after the Battle of the Bulge, he was also organizing shows for fellow servicemen. When he returned to the States, he worked as a drummer and pianist in the Catskills, taking over for an ailing stand-up comedian one night. In 1949, Brooks' friend Sid Caesar asked him to write for his comedy program, Your Show of Shows. In 1968, he wrote his first feature film, The Producers. Although the movie did poorly at the box office, it has been made into a Broadway musical, winning 15 Tony Awards.

It's the birthday of novelist and short-story writer Maureen Howard, born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1930, who wrote about her Catholic school upbringing and her life as a professor's wife in her much-acclaimed autobiography, Facts of Life. Her latest work is Big as Life: Three Tales for Spring.

It's the birthday of novelist and short-story writer Mark Helprin, born in New York in 1947. He is the author of A Soldier of the Great War, and Winter's Tale.

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
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  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
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