Apr. 24, 2008

Man Writes Poem

by Jay Leeming

This just in a man has begun writing a poem
in a small room in Brooklyn. His curtains
are apparently blowing in the breeze. We go now
to our man Harry on the scene, what's

the story down there Harry? "Well Chuck
he has begun the second stanza and seems
to be doing fine, he's using a blue pen, most
poets these days use blue or black ink so blue

is a fine choice. His curtains are indeed blowing
in a breeze of some kind and what's more his radiator
is 'whistling' somewhat. No metaphors have been written yet,
but I'm sure he's rummaging around down there

in the tin cans of his soul and will turn up something
for us soon. Hang on—just breaking news here Chuck,
there are 'birds singing' outside his window, and a car
with a bad muffler has just gone by. Yes ... definitely

a confirmation on the singing birds." Excuse me Harry
but the poem seems to be taking on a very auditory quality
at this point wouldn't you say? "Yes Chuck, you're right,
but after years of experience I would hesitate to predict

exactly where this poem is going to go. Why I remember
being on the scene with Frost in '47, and with Stevens in '53,
and if there's one thing about poems these days it's that
hang on, something's happening here, he's just compared the curtains

to his mother, and he's described the radiator as 'Roaring deep
with the red walrus of History.' Now that's a key line,
especially appearing here, somewhat late in the poem,
when all of the similes are about to go home. In fact he seems

a bit knocked out with the effort of writing that line,
and who wouldn't be? Looks like ... yes, he's put down his pen
and has gone to brush his teeth. Back to you Chuck." Well
thanks Harry. Wow, the life of the artist. That's it for now,

but we'll keep you informed of more details as they arise.

"Man Writes Poem" by Jay Leeming, from Dynamite on a China Plate.© The Backwaters Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, (books by this author) born in London, England (1815). His father was a British gentleman who had failed at being a lawyer, a scholar, and a farmer, and the family sank deeper and deeper into debt. The children at school made fun of his worn, muddy clothes and his teachers were exceptionally cruel. He later said, "[I may have] been flogged oftener than any human being alive." The only reason his family didn't fall into complete poverty was that his mother started writing books for a living, and he looked up to her so much that he decided to become a writer himself.

He got a job in London as a postal clerk. He struggled to pay his bills, he had a series of unhappy love affairs, and nothing came of his writing. Then, in 1841, he was offered a transfer to Ireland, and he saw it as a chance to make a clean start.

In Ireland, Trollope developed a social life for the first time. He went hunting, and he went to pubs and he fell in love and got married, all within a few years. Once he had settled down to his new life, he began to write fiction. In his job for the postal service, he rode a horse over all the rural routes himself, to ensure that a letter could be delivered to the remotest possible areas. It was while he was riding across the countryside that a fictional English county called Barsetshire sprang up in his mind.

In just eleven years, between 1855 and 1866, Trollope published six novels about the extended families and parishioners and civil service workers living in that imaginary county of Barsetshire, novels such as The Warden (1955), Barchester Towers (1857), and The Last Chronicle of Barset (1866), all of which were best-sellers.

The novelist Henry James said, "Trollope did not write for posterity. He wrote for the day, the moment; but these are just the writers whom posterity is apt to put into its pocket."

Anthony Trollop said, "Of the needs a book has, the chief need is that it be readable."

On this day in 1916, the Easter Rebellion began on the streets of Dublin. The British police extinguished the rebellion a few days later. Called "the poet's rebellion," it was led by six patriotic poets and men of letters including Patrick Pearse and James Connolly. They barged inside and read their "Proclamation of Independence" to a baffled crowd. The rebellion seemed hopelessly unsuccessful until the British government valorized many of the rebels by executing them a few weeks later. The executions set in motion a movement for Irish nationalism, and in 1921 Ireland finally achieved independence from Great Britain—except for the six northernmost counties of the island that comprise Northern Ireland.

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
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