Oct. 27, 2008

The Patience of Ordinary Things

by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

"The Patience of Ordinary Things" by Pat Schneider from Another River: New and Selected Poems. © Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Dylan Thomas, (books by this author) born in 1914 in Swansea, Wales. People loved his deep voice with its Welsh accent. He traveled through America reading his work, and helped popularize poetry readings. People flocked to see Dylan Thomas — he was extremely theatrical and often drunk.

He said, "I hold a beast, an angel and a madman in me, and my enquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, downthrow and upheaval, and my effort is their self-expression."

And he said, "An alcoholic is someone you don't like who drinks as much as you do."

It's the birthday of the poet Sylvia Plath, (books by this author) born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1932. From the time she was a kid, she wanted to be a successful poet. She went to Smith, where she struggled with bipolar disorder, and attempted suicide. But she won a Fulbright Scholarship to England. And in England she met another poet, Ted Hughes, and they got married and had two children. Then her husband left her for another woman, and her depression came back in force. The winter after he left, she wrote almost all the poems that would eventually become the book Ariel (1965). She was seized with creative energy, and she wrote feverishly, completing several poems in the early morning before her kids woke up.

In 1963, she published a novel, The Bell Jar, and two weeks later she committed suicide. Sylvia Plath said, "Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise."

It's the birthday of Zadie Smith, (books by this author) born Sadie Smith in London in 1975. She grew up in a working-class suburb with her Jamaican mother and English father. She wanted to be a tap dancer, but she decided she wasn't skinny enough; then she wanted to be a jazz singer, but she decided she wasn't as good as Aretha Franklin. So she decided to be a writer. She went to Cambridge and worked on writing. One of her short stories got too long to be a short story, but she didn't like novellas, so she just kept writing and writing and eventually she wrote White Teeth (2000), a major best-seller.

Zadie Smith said, "I express myself with my friends and my family. Novels are not about expressing yourself, they're about something beautiful, funny, clever, and organic."

It's the birthday of the novelist and short-story writer Anthony Doerr, (books by this author) born in 1973 in Cleveland, Ohio. He wrote a novel, About Grace (2005), about a hydrologist named David Winkler whose dreams sometimes foretell the future, so when he dreams about his daughter's death, he runs away from his settled suburban life.

It's the birthday of the poet Katherine Harris Bradley, (books by this author) born in 1846 in Birmingham, England. She wrote under a pseudonym, Michael Field, which she shared with Edith Cooper, who was her niece, her ward, and her lover. Under the name Michael Field, they wrote about 30 plays, 11 books of poetry, and they kept a journal of their life together, which has been collected in 30 volumes. They wrote poems and plays about women's rights and about lesbian relationships, but they thought the public could only accept these subjects if men wrote about them, so they chose a male pseudonym.

They wrote:

My love and I took hands and swore,
Against the world, to be
Poets and lovers evermore.

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