May 26, 2010


by Lowell Jaeger

I once shoplifted
a tin of Vienna sausages.
Crouched in the aisle
as if to study the syllables
of preservatives, tore off the lid,
pulled out a wiener and sucked it down.

I've cheated on exams.
Made love to foldouts.
Walked my paper route in a snowstorm after dark,
so I could steal down a particular alley
where through her gauze curtains, a lady
lounged with her nightgown undone.

I've thrown sticks at stray dogs.
Ignored the cat scratching to come inside.
Even in the rain.
Sat for idle hours in front of the TV, and not two feet away
the philodendrons for lack of a glass of water
gasped and expired.

So many excuses I've concocted to get by.
Called in sick when I was not. Grabbed credit
for happy accidents I had no hand in.
Pointed fingers
to pin the innocent with crimes
unmistakably mine.

I have failed
to learn from grievous error.
Repeated gossip.
Invented gossip. Held hands
in a circle of friends to rejoice
over the misfortune of strangers.
Pushed over tombstones.
Danced the devil's jig.

Once, when I was barely old enough
to walk home on my own, I hid
behind an abandoned garage.
Counted sixteen windows.
Needed only four handfuls of stones
to break every one.

"Confessions" by Lowell Jaeger, from We. © Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of writer Alan Hollinghurst, (books by this author) born in Gloucestershire, England (1954), who won the 2004 Booker Prize for his novel The Line of Beauty.

He studied at Oxford, wrote a master's thesis on three gay writers, including E.M. Forster, got a job teaching there at Oxford, and then became editor of the Times Literary Supplement. In the meantime, he wrote novels, like The Swimming Pool Library (1988), The Folding Star (1994) and The Spell (1999), all of which featured gay narrators; he said he wanted "to write about gay life from a gay perspective … as naturally as most novels are written from a heterosexual position." It was his fourth major novel, The Line of Beauty (2004)— about a young Londoner named Nick Guest — that won the Booker Prize. The story is set during the 1980s, with Margaret Thatcher's politics and the growing prominence of AIDS forming the backdrop of the novel.

Hollinghurst has a tremendously deep voice (some of his friends nicknamed him "Basso Profundo"), is obsessed with the music of Wagner, idolizes writer Henry James, and is known for living an ascetic lifestyle. He said, "The great wisdom for writers, perhaps for everybody, is to come to understand to be at one with their own tempo."

It's the birthday of Caitlin Kiernan, (books by this author) who was born in Dublin, Ireland (1964), and raised in a small town in Alabama. Her first book, Silk, about a dreadlocked, tattooed woman named Spyder and her goth friends in Alabama, received a number of major first-book awards. Before that, her writings had been published in places like the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology; she'd spent most of her career looking at fossils.

Her novels include The Five of Cups, (2003), Murder of Angels (2004), and Daughter of Hounds (2007). Her most recent novel, The Red Tree, came out last year.

She said: "Since I was a child, I've had a powerful fascination for the macabre, and most of the writers that I read when I was a kid fueled that fascination —Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, and a little later, Harlan Ellison and Shirley Jackson. So I think a good portion of what I'm doing now ... goes right back to those stories, those authors, and all the time I spent sleeping with the lights on because of them."

In 1897, on this day, Dracula, by Bram Stoker, (books by this author) was published. Stoker added several chilling details to the vampire tale: that the undead show no reflection in a mirror, that they shun garlic, and that they can be killed only by a stake through the heart.

It's the birthday of photographer and author Dorothea Lange, (books by this author) born in Hoboken, New Jersey (1895). She took some of the most famous photographs of the Great Depression, including "White Angel Breadline," which depicted a crowd of well-dressed, newly unemployed men waiting for food on a breadline, and "Migrant Mother," which showed a prematurely aged woman in a tattered tent with her children.

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Maxwell Bodenheim, (books by this author) born in Hermanville, Mississippi (1892). His family was among the only Jews in rural Mississippi, and after his father's store went bankrupt, his family moved to Chicago. He became friends with the poet Carl Sandburg and published his first poems in Poetry magazine. He published many books of poetry in the 1920s, including Against This Age (1923), and he wrote several best-selling erotic novels, including Replenishing Jessica (1925) and Naked on Roller Skates (1930).

It's the birthday of Robert W. Chambers (books by this author) born in Brooklyn, New York (1865). He was one of the most popular writers of the early 20th century. He's best known as the author of supernatural tales like those in his book of short stories The King in Yellow (1895).

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