Jul. 29, 2006

I Want to Say

by Natalie Goldberg

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "I Want to Say" by Natalie Goldberg from Top of My Lungs. © The Overlook Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

I Want to Say

Before I'm lost to time and the midwest
I want to say I was here
I loved the half light all winter
I want you to know before I leave
that I liked the towns living along the back of the Mississippi
I loved the large heron filling the sky
the slender white egret at the edge of the shore
I came to love my life here
fell in love with the color grey
the unending turn of seasons

Let me say
I loved Hill City
the bench in front of the tavern
the small hill to the lake
I loved the morning frost on the bell in New Albin
and the money I made as a poet
I was thankful for the white night
the sky of so many wet summers
Before I leave this whole world of my friends
I want to tell you I loved the rain on large store windows
had more croissants here in Minneapolis
than the French do in Lyons
I read the poets of the midwest
their hard crusts of bread dark goat cheese
and was nourished not hungry where they lived
I ate at the edges of state lines and boundaries

Know I loved the cold the tap of bare branches against windows
know there will not be your peonies in spring
wherever I go
the electric petunias
and your orange zinnias

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville, (books by this author) born in Paris (1805). He was just twenty-five years old when he got the idea to go to America. His father had gotten him a boring bureaucratic job when he was twenty-one, and he decided to get out of France for a while, and so he came up with a plan to travel to America. He claimed that the trip would be a public service, since he would be studying recent American prison reforms. But secretly, Tocqueville thought that he would try to write a book about the American form of government, in hopes of improving the government in France.

He went with his best friend, Gustave de Beaumont, and after a brief stop in Newport, they arrived in Manhattan at sunrise May 11, 1831. Over the course of the next nine months, Tocqueville and his friend traveled more than 7,000 miles, using every vehicle then in existence, including steamer, stage-coach, and horse, going as far west as Green Bay, Wisconsin, and as far south as New Orleans.

Tocqueville interviewed everyone he met: workmen, doctors, professors, as well as famous men, such as Daniel Webster, Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence and the richest man in America. At the end of nine months, Tocqueville went back to France, and in less than a year, he had finished his masterpiece, Democracy in America (1835).

More than anything else, Tocqueville was impressed by the fact that American democracy actually worked. He wrote, "America demonstrates invincibly one thing that I had doubted up to now: that the middle classes can govern a State. ... Despite their small passions, their incomplete education, their vulgar habits, they can obviously provide a practical sort of intelligence and that turns out to be enough."

It's the birthday of the poet Stanley Kunitz, (books by this author) born in Worcester Massachusetts (1905). He was a poet who spent most of his life bouncing around, farming and teaching, working various jobs. He finally settled down to a life of writing until he was almost fifty. His real breakthrough didn't come until his mother and sisters had all died. He said, "The disappearance of my family liberated me. It gave me a sense that I was the only survivor and if the experiences of my life, whatever it meant, were to be told, it was within my power to do so."

It's the birthday of newspaper columnist, playwright, and short-story writer Don Marquis, (books by this author) born Donald Robert Perry Marquis in Walnut, Illinois (1878). Marquis created the characters Archy the cockroach, and Mehitabel the alley cat.

It's the birthday of novelist Newton Booth Tarkington, (books by this author) born in Indianapolis, Indiana (1869). He wrote The Magnificent Ambersons (1918) and Alice Adams (1921). In 1921, Publishers Weekly polled booksellers, who rated Tarkington number one, above Edith Wharton, Sinclair Lewis, Robert Frost, and Carl Sandburg.

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