Aug. 1, 2005


by Steve Straight

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Lesson" by Steve Straight, from The Water Carrier. © Curbstone Press. Reprinted with permission.


Standing by the side of the road in Jenner, California,
hitchhiking. At least that is the idea.
So few cars pass that one may not stop today.
It's sunny. Goats dispersed across the hillside behind me
chew their way up the green hill gradually, attentive.
The sea breeze carries phrases of seagull chatter
from below a cliff. In my pack are clothes, water,
oranges, three loaves of sourdough, peanuts, cheese.
Hung below the pack, a tent. I peel an orange,
tucking the continents of rind into a loose pocket.
Drops of juice fall onto the sand and on my boots.
A bee lands on the lip of a yellow blossom and walks
inside it. It emerges, dusted with pollen, drunk,
surprised by the generosity of light.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of William Clark, of Lewis and Clark, born in Caroline County, Virginia (1770).

It's the birthday of the man who wrote the lyrics of "The Star Spangled Banner," Francis Scott Key, born in Frederick, Maryland (1779). He was 35 on that September day in 1814, and when he was sitting on a British ship about eight miles away from Fort McHenry as it was being bombed by the British in the War of 1812. In the morning, he saw the flag flying from the fort and checked into a hotel in Baltimore and finished writing the poem that became our national anthem.

It's the birthday of Herman Melville, New York City (1819). He got a job as a cabin boy on a whaling ship when he was 21, and sailed off to the Atlantic Ocean and the South Seas and then came home to write about it.

It was on this day in 1988 that Rush Limbaugh's show premiered on WABC in New York, eventually becoming the most popular radio talk show in the country. Rush Limbaugh had grown up loving radio. He got his radio broadcaster's license when he was 16 and got a job at a local station, working his way up to disc jockey. He only went to college because his father wanted him to. He flunked all of his classes, even speech. He dropped out of school after a year and tried to get back into radio.

He worked for more than ten years as a DJ and a news reader, often using the name Jeff Christie. He was fired often. He was often told he had no talent, and he should go into sales. And he did. He worked as a group ticket sales manager for the Kansas City Royals.

In the early '80s, he got a job reading news at a station in Kansas City and started inserting his own opinions. He was fired by management, but he caught on with a station in Sacramento, hosting a talk show. There were other controversial talk shows at the time, but what made Limbaugh successful was that he was funny. And though he insulted groups of people, he didn't insult individuals who called into his show.

The FCC had just dropped the "Fairness Doctrine" which required radio stations to provide balanced viewpoints on every issue. So now there was an opportunity for talk shows that were openly one-sided and partisan.

Limbaugh's show in Sacramento was popular. He got a syndication deal with ABC and moved to New York City. His first syndicated show was broadcast on this day in 1988 from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. Most people in the radio business thought that time slot was a graveyard, that listeners would only tune in to a national show at night, but Limbaugh changed the way that people listened to the radio. And within a few years, his show had become the most popular talk show in the country. It airs on 580 stations with more than ten million listeners.

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