Sep. 19, 2008


by George Bilgere

My mother stands in this black
And white arrangement of shadows
In the sunny backyard of her marriage,
Struggling to pin the white ghosts
Of her family on the line.
I watch from my blanket on the grass
As my mother's blouses lift and billow,
Bursting with the day.
My father's white work shirts
Wave their empty sleeves at me,
And my own little shirts and pants
Flap and exult like flags
In the immaculate light.

It is mid-century, and the future lies
Just beyond the white borders
Of this snapshot; soon that wind
Will get the better of her
And her marriage. Soon the future
I live in will break
Through those borders and make
A photograph of her-but

For now the shirts and blouses
Are joyous with her in the yard
As she stands with a wooden clothespin
In her mouth, struggling to keep
The bed sheets from blowing away.

"Laundry" by George Bilgere from The Good Kiss. © The University of Akron Press, 2002. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1819 that John Keats wrote the last of his odes, "To Autumn," which the critic Harold Bloom called "as close to perfect as any shorter poem in the English Language." The ode begins:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core

It's the birthday of the writer William Golding, (books by this author) born in 1911 in St. Columb Minor, Cornwall. He started writing when he was seven years old, but his parents wanted him to go into science, so he studied both science and literature. He worked as an actor, producer, settlement house worker, sailor, and teacher, and he published a book of poems (Poems, 1934). Then he went to fight in WWII, and he was part of the Normandy invasion; afterward, he went back to teaching and writing, but he was haunted by the war.

He said, "Man produces evil, as a bee produces honey." He wrote four novels, but none of them got published. Then he wrote a novel about a group of normal schoolboys who get stranded on an island and descend into brutality and chaos. It was rejected by 21 publishers, but he kept sending it out. Finally, Lord of the Flies was published in 1954, and it was a huge success. He resigned from teaching and wrote 10 more novels.

He said, "Language fits over experience like a straight-jacket."

It was on this day in 1991 that the body of Ötzi the Iceman was found in the Alps between Austria and Italy. Ötzi was discovered by German tourists who thought they had found a recent corpse, but after a series of tests it turned out that in fact this man was alive more than 5,000 years ago, in about 3300 B.C.E. Ötzi has helped scientists learn a lot about what life was like for Neolithic people in Europe, and the overall conclusion is that Neolithic people were more sophisticated than we had imagined them. Ötzi was wearing clothes made of leather and of woven grass. He carried weapons, made from copper that he probably smelted himself, and he had tattoos. And he carried mushrooms with antibacterial properties, and a fire starting kit. But even though Ötzi was highly prepared, it didn't save his life: X-rays found an arrowhead and wounds on his body, and he was probably murdered.

It was on this day in 1846 that the poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning eloped to Italy. In January of 1845, Robert Browning sent a letter to Elizabeth Barrett. He had just read her book Poems (1844) and he said: "I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett. … I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart — and I love you too."

They started writing letters, and they met four months later. Barrett was 40 years old, an invalid; her father didn't let her leave the house, and she only saw a few people outside her immediate family. Browning was 34, worldly, and athletic. They fell in love. Between Browning's first letter and their elopement, they exchanged 574 letters. Barrett's father didn't believe that any of his children should get married, so after a secret wedding a week earlier, the couple fled to Italy and lived happily there.

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