Dec. 18, 2008

The Shop

by Joyce Sutphen

There was a window
filtering the sunlight,
dusty as it came,

and boxes of nails,
long and dark,
tin-colored and squat,

boxes of silver bolts,
washers and screws,
tacks, inch-long staples.

The vice that could crush
a finger hung open jawed
on the edge of the workbench;

the welding mask tilted
its flat and mouthless face
towards the rafters.

The old harnesses hung
in the back corner, their
work-lathered leather

soft as the reins of memory,
guiding him through the tangle
of one year into another.

"The Shop" by Joyce Sutphen, from Coming Back to the Body. © Holy Cow! Press, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of playwright Christopher Fry, (books by this author) born in Bristol, England (1907). He's best known for The Lady's Not for Burning (1948), a play set in the Middle Ages. It's about an ex-soldier who wants to die and a young woman who is accused of being a witch.

He said, "In my plays, I want to look at life as if we had just turned a corner and run into it for the first time."

It's the birthday of playwright Abe Burrows, (books by this author) born in New York City (1910). In 1950, he teamed up with composer Frank Loesser to write the musical Guys and Dolls, which was a huge success. Burrows continued writing for Broadway, including Can-Can (1953), Silk Stockings (1955), and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961).

It's the birthday of American dramatist Ossie Davis, (books by this author) born Raiford Chatman Davis in Cogdell, Georgia (1917). He acquired the name "Ossie" after a county clerk misheard his mother pronounce his initials, "R.C." His father was a railroad engineer, an unusual career for a black man in the Deep South at the time, and Davis said that he was inspired to be a writer when he found out that his father was harassed by white colleagues. But in general, he had a happy childhood, and said, "Some of the sweetest memories I have are of my father telling us stories. It gave us a chance to laugh at the world."

He decided to become an actor. His first major role on Broadway was in Robert Ardrey's Jeb. The production closed after only nine performances, but critics praised Davis. And in that production, he met Ruby Wallace, whose stage name was Ruby Dee, and whom he eventually married.

He acted in Hollywood, but only in roles that weren't the stereotypical, subservient roles readily available for black actors at the time. Davis studied playwriting at Columbia University. His most famous play is Purlie Victorious (1961), about a smooth-talking black preacher.

It's the birthday of the British writer known as Saki, (books by this author) born Hector Hugh Munro in Akyab, Burma (1870). He wrote short, whimsical stories about the British upper class, full of witty sayings and surprise twists. His first book under the pen name Saki was a satire of the British government, The Westminster Alice (1902). It was extremely popular, so he kept the pen name for his short stories. He worked as a journalist in London, Paris, and Russia. When World War I broke out in 1914, he enlisted in the army. He enjoyed being a soldier, and formed a social club with other members of his regiment. In 1915, he sent his sister a Christmas card that said, "While the Shepherds watched their flocks by night / All seated on the ground / A high-explosive shell came down / And mutton rained around." He died from a bullet wound the next year.

He said, "The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened."

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