May 28, 2005

Having Children

by Barbara Tanner Angell

SATURDAY, 28 MAY, 2005
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Having Children" by Barbara Tanner Angell from The Long Turn Toward Light: Collected Poems. © Cleveland State University Poetry Center. Reprinted with permission.

Having Children

A siren goes by,
the scream cuts through me
even though my child is home.
For a moment I think....

Where am I?
In the middle of the night
a cry, dreamed
or heard, a wave washes
over the body of my child.
I have let her drown

or fall. She has fallen
from a high balcony
and I have let it happen.
Negligence. I feel
as if I'm plummeting...

Oh let this be a dream.
I'll be better next time.
I'll watch, I'll watch, I'll watch.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the poet Thomas Moore, born in Dublin (1779), who gave us "The Last Rose of Summer," "Oft in the Stilly Night," and other lyrics.

It's the birthday of the novelist Walker Percy, born in Birmingham (1916). Walker Percy studied chemistry in college, became a doctor, and practiced at Belleview Hospital in New York. He had to quit when he caught tuberculosis while he was performing autopsies on derelicts. He spent two years at a sanitarium in the Adirondacks, reading Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Camus. When he got out, he converted to Catholicism and decided to become a writer. He said, "[Tuberculosis was] the best disease I ever had."

Walker Percy wrote his masterpiece The Moviegoer about a man who feels joy only while watching the movies. It came out in 1961.

It's the birthday of the man who created James Bond, the novelist Ian Fleming, born in London (1908). He wanted to be a diplomat, but he failed the Foreign Office exam. He went into journalism, worked for Reuters in London, Moscow and Berlin. He worked in British intelligence during World War II, after which he bought a house in Jamaica, went fishing, gambling, and bird watching. He decided to try writing a novel about a secret agent. He named him James Bond after the author of a bird-watching book, and created a much more heroic version of himself, a member of the British Intelligence Service, code name 007, with a license to kill. The first James Bond novel was Casino Royale. It came out in 1953.

It was on this day in 1754, that the first engagement of the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years of War, broke out in the United States. It was a war between France and Great Britain that started in North America and spread to Europe, India, the Philippines, Canada, and even the coast of Africa.

The American front was fought over the Ohio River Valley. George Washington fought for the British against the French and Indians. He wrote an 11-page memoir about the war and his memories of the wilderness, and eventurally fighting alongside Indians against the French. It was the only autobiographical writing that Washington ever did.

He was just 22 years old and discovered that the French had a great advantage, having allied themselves with the Indians who knew how to use guerrilla warfare to their advantage, unlike the British who were used to fighting on open fields in formation. Washington was defeated in one of his first battles and had to surrender to the French, who released him back to Virginia where Washington became a hero.

George Washington went on to fight the French for the next five years. He barely survived one battle, had two horses shot out from under him, and four bullets passed through his clothing. The British eventually turned the tide against the French because the French had alienated their own Indian allies, and they were outnumbered by the British. By the end of the war, the little sliver of North America on the east coast that had belonged to the British grew to encompass the entire Ohio Valley. And what Washington learned about the art of wilderness combat would be helpful to him in the War for Independence against the British.

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