Sep. 9, 2005


by Elinor Wylie

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Prophecy" by Elinor Wylie from Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf).


I shall lie hidden in a hut
     In the middle of an alder wood,
With the back door blind and bolted shut,
     And the front door locked for good.
I shall lie folded like a saint,
     Lapped in a scented linen sheet,
On a bedspread striped with bright-blue paint,
     Narrow and cold and neat.
The midnight will be glassy black
     Behind the panes, with wind about
To set his mouth against a crack
     And blow the candle out.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of soul singer and songwriter Otis Redding, born in Dawson, Georgia (1941), who dropped out of high school to play in Little Richard's band. His biggest hit, in 1967, was "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," which was released after his death in an airplane crash. "Sittin' in the morning sun, I'll be sitting when the evening come, Watching the ships roll in, And I'll watch 'em roll away again."

It's the birthday of novelist, poet, and playwright Paul Goodman, born in New York City in 1911. He was an academic, a teacher, whose anarchism and sexual mores caused him many professional difficulties. He was fired from every teaching job he ever had because he insisted on his right to fall in love with his students, even though he had a wife and family. During the 1940s he wrote furiously, producing five novels, 100 short stories, and numerous plays and poems, all while supplementing his income by writing plot synopses of French novels for the MGM story department for $5 apiece. Goodman turned from writing fiction to writing social criticism, and is best known for his 1960 work, Growing Up Absurd.

It's the birthday of poet, novelist, and translator Cesare Pavese, born in Santo Stefano Belbo, Italy, in 1908. In the 1930s, Pavese edited the anti-Fascist review "La Cultura," for which he was arrested and imprisoned by the Mussolini government. He translated many American writers of the time, including Steinbeck, Dos Passos, Hemingway, and Faulkner. After WWII, Pavese wrote several novels of his own, including The Comrade (1948), Among Women Only (1953), and The Moon and The Bonfire (1950). In 1950, unhappy with his personal life and the political climate of postwar Italy, he committed suicide.

It's the birthday of novelist and screenwriter James Hilton, born in Lancashire, England (1900), an instructor at Cambridge University and the author of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, about Mr. Chipping, a classics teacher who sacrifices his academic career because he is caught up in the lives of his students. Another of Hilton's novels became a best seller: Lost Horizon, about a Utopian paradise hidden high in the Tibetan mountains.

It's the birthday of chef and entrepreneur Harland Sanders, born near Henryville, Indiana (1890), a streetcar conductor, a soldier, a railroad fireman, an insurance salesman, and a service station operator, and in 1929, when he was about 40 years old, he opened Sanders' Café at the rear of his service station in Corbin, Kentucky, where he developed a secret combination of eleven herbs and spices and learned how to fry chicken in a pressure cooker, techniques which he then franchised. This was the beginning of Colonel Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

It's the birthday of poet and short-story writer Elinor Wylie, born in Somerville, New Jersey (1885), to a wealthy family. At the age of 25, she left her husband and son and ran away with a man named Horace Wylie, also married. They moved to England, where she published her first book of poetry, Incidental Numbers. In 1928, she wrote what many consider her best poems in a collection called Angels and Earthly Creatures. On December 15th of that year, she finished the last poem, and prepared the manuscript for the printer. She died the following day.

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