Dec. 28, 2003

Welcoming Angels

by Pat Schneider

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Welcoming Angels," by Pat Schneider from Long Way Home (Amherst Writers and Artists Press).

Between the last war
and the next one,
waiting for the northbound train
that travels by the river,
I sit alone in the middle of the night
and welcome angels.
Welcome back old hymns, old songs,
all the music, the rhyme and rhythm,
welcome angels, archangels,
welcome early guesses
at the names of things,
welcome wings.

I have grown tired of disbelief.
What once was brave is boring.
Welcome back to my embrace stranger,
visitor beside the Jabbok.
Welcome wrestling until dawn,
until it is my hip thrown out of joint,
my pillow stone, my ladder
of antique assumptions.
Welcome what is not my own;
glory on the top rung, coming down.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of author and humorist Sam Levenson, born in New York City (1911). He said, "Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we'll find it."

It's the birthday of the 28th president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, born in Staunton, Virginia (1856). His earliest memories were of the Civil War, seeing Union soldiers marching into town, and watching his mother care for wounded Confederates in the hospital. His Fourteen Points, incorporated into the Treaty of Versailles, laid the foundation for the League of Nations. As President, Wilson maintained a neutral position in the first years of World War I but eventually brought the U.S. into the conflict after German submarine incidents. Wilson said, "Never murder a man who is committing suicide."

It's the birthday of comic book writer Stan Lee, born Stanley Lieber, in New York (1922). He started at Marvel Comics (then called Timely Comics) when he was 16 years old, and he became the editor and chief writer by the age of 20.

It's the birthday of philosopher, educator, and author Mortimer J. Adler, born in New York City (1902). Throughout his life, he advocated the reading of classic books as the best way to educate oneself. As an instructor at Columbia University, he held seminars on great books, and eventually developed the idea for a 52-volume set, Great Books of the Western World, which was published in 1952 by Encyclopedia Britannica.

It's the birthday of novelist Manuel Puig, born in Vallegas, Argentina (1932). His first novel was Betrayed by Rita Hayworth (translated in 1971). His best-known work is The Kiss of the Spider Woman (1979), which brought him international fame. The Kiss of the Spider Woman tells the story of two prisoners who have nothing in common but who eventually bond by retelling the plots of old classic films to one another. It was turned into a film itself in 1985.

It's the birthday of novelist Simon Raven, born in London (1927). He wrote 25 novels in his lifetime, most notably Alms for Oblivion (1959-1976), a 10-volume saga of English upper-class life. He said, "I arrange words in pleasing patterns in order to make money. I try to be neat, intelligent, and lucid; let others be 'creative' or 'inspired.'" He was an outspoken atheist and hedonist. A peer of his said that Raven "trailed an odour of brimstone."

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