“Be well, do good work and keep in touch.”

If I have a motto, it’s that.  And, fittingly, I’ve cribbed it from someone else.

That creed, of course, is how the venerable Garrison Keillor signs off each and every radio broadcast (and podcast, ’cause yes, I’m old, but not that old) of his approximately five minute daily show The Writer’s Almanac.  And listening to TWA is about the closest thing I have to a pre-typing ritual.

Radio: It's your grandparents' Internet.

If you’re only familiar to Garrison Keillor A Prairie Home Companion (and yes, now I am that old), TWA is a small daily dose of the lives of writers (who was born on what day, today being the late, great William Safire!, who published what when), odd little tidbits that delve into literature, both high and low, and a daily poem to help you along life’s journey.  And if this sounds respectably dull, like, say, your senior AP English teacher, well, it’s all leavened by a sly sense of humor.  Sometimes.

If ever there was a face for radio...

Of course this is all likely to appeal to the English majors that Keillor’s been gently making sport of over the years (cue up Avenue Q‘s brilliant, ‘What Do You Do With a BA in English?’) or, I don’t know, theatre geeks, but what most delights me about this ritual is that it forces me to encounter a poem each day.

I mean, seriously, consider this for a moment:  How much poetry does the typical American–yours truly certainly included–digest in a year?  I mean, when does poetry enter our media-saturated 21st century lives?  And so to me Keillor is providing the same service art in public spaces is:  Slow down, contemplate your life in a different way, if only for a precious, forgotten and usually banal minute or two a day.

Keillor gets a lot of criticism (okay, in some circles) that the poems are a bit sentimental, a bit chiefly American, but I haven’t really found that to be the case.  One of my favorite poems, of several days ago, was anything but.  Here’s Freya Manfed’s somewhat brutal Stars: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2009/12/03 And I wouldn’t have discovered the less-than-sympathetic Billy Collins without him.  But I won’t lie: Could I do with a little less Emily Dickinson?  Yes, I could.

Not all poets are this twee, thank goodness.

So before we tackle the adage, check it out.  You can podcast it free on iTunes, and of course download, subscribe, Twitter, Facebook, etc, etc to ad nauseam: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org

And what of this straightforward mantra (yes, I had to Thesaurus-motto)?  To me it represents our daily, simple ideals:  Take care of yourself and others, push the pebble a bit more up the hill as best you can, and drop a line–preferably a postcard–now and then.  The whole dictum (See?) and indeed podcast may seem a little too tidy, like a blog for a year or NPR’s excellent-but-concluded ‘This I Believe’ series, but sometimes tidy, in our unbelievably messy world, works.  So there you have it.  And if I have a second truism (Yes, yes, enough already!) it comes from an actual poet, Robert Frost: He had a lover’s quarrel with life.

Hey, let's make a joke about roads!


6 Responses to ““Be well, do good work and keep in touch.””

  1. Rebecca Royce aka Rebecca Berg Grimaldi Says:

    Walter, I have to say that growing up I had no idea who he was. None what-so-ever but since I got older and became aware of him, I do find him to be as the critics do, a little over sentimental. But, I enjoy it none-the-less and I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog!


  2. thiswaytotheegress Says:

    Rebecca: Thank you for reading the blog! Very kind. I enjoy him as I imagine I’m a bit over sentimental as well (shh, don’t tell anyone). Hope the family’s well, the writing flows, and to cross paths sometime. Yours, Walter

  3. Tommy Says:

    So….this is what you do just before writing, huh? Hmmm, I just load up on all the free internet porn my browser can handle. And by browser, I do mean the one on the computer. May explain a few things…

  4. thiswaytotheegress Says:

    I try not to look at porn before I write, as I’m basically writing porn. Hey, let’s do a post-New Year’s drink, catch-up in the city… it’s been too long.

  5. Tommy Says:

    WOuld loooove to see you. Been much too long.

  6. Shh, Don’t Tell Anyone « Wally's Blog Says:

    […] but still, a day in The Pit, typing, and re-typing, is hard.  And I’ve written before about little rituals I have as an alleged writer. […]

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