writer’s almanac

February 21, 2007

 For over 2 months now I have been receiving daily copies of the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor; a five minute segment that begins with a poem and concludes with various literary and historical tidbits revolving around birthdays and anniversaries that happen on each particular day.  While it would be better to hear each day’s verse read in Keillors deep baritone, the pieces are always well crafted enough to be interesting even when heard only on the page.  Today’s poem was by W. H. Auden and is called “Funeral Blues” and I really loved the rhythm of this piece.  Despite being about the death of someone dearly loved the genius of each lines meter is wonderful.  My favorite stanza is:

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Other favorite days of mine include Valentine’s day in which Keillor talks about the various ways famous writers were effected by love.  He tells a great nugget about Sylvia Plath who describes her first meeting with her future husband:

In 1956 Sylvia Plath was studying in Europe on a Fulbright Scholarship when she went to a publication party for a literary magazine. It was there that she met the poet Ted Hughes, whose poetry she admired. When he introduced himself, Plath quoted one of his poems to him, and he guided her to a side room of the bar. She later wrote in her journal, “He kissed me bang smash on the mouth and ripped my hairband off … and my favorite silver earrings … I bit him long and hard on the cheek and when we came out of the room, blood was running down his face.” They got married four months later.

Another Almanac story that fascinated me was December 6th, 2006 in which Keillor talked about two disasters that had their anniversary’s on the same day.  One, the Halifax Explosion took place during WWI and ended up with a half a city blown apart.  Caused by the collision of the Mont Blanc with a Norwegian freighter,

It was the single most powerful man-made explosion at that point in human history, and there wouldn’t be another more powerful explosion until the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

And I found myself wondering why I had never heard of this event.  Granted it happened in Canada, but still an event of that magnitude should probably have made its way into at least one of my history textbooks, don’t you think?

For my final Almanac tidbit, I loved this piece on Richard Nixon, in which Keillor gives a great summary of Nixon’s drive and ambitions. 

Nixon’s luck only began to change when he decided to join the military during World War II. He’d been raised a Quaker, but he was interested in politics, and he knew that military service would look good on his résumé. One of the things he learned in the military was that he was a fantastic poker player. By the end of the war, he had earned almost $10,000. When he got back to civilian life, he used that money to fund his first political campaign. 

Obviously if one really wanted an in depth look into the mind of Nixon, one should probably try reading a full biography of the man (for example try President Nixon: Alone in the White House)

So consider subscribing to Writer’s Almanac and let me know which are your favorite ones.



  1. thanks for the interesting commentary!

  2. Indepted to you for the link to the halifax explosion. I had not heard of it before.

  3. […] 12, 2008 in writer’s almanac As I have said before, I get daily installments of the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Recently I […]

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