The April 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

US Government Created Housing Shortages

Hate Crimes in S.F. and Boston

Urban Removal in S.F. Bayview

Stop Bulldozers of Gentrification

The Death of Two Eloquent Homeless Voices

Grandmother Is Left Homeless by Car Wreck

Building Strong Unions on U.S./ Mexico Border

Transit Justice Is Derailed

Poor People Use the Internet to Organize

Just Wage for All

Ruling Class Runs Economy into the Ground

Art & Altruism: The Paintings of Elizabeth King

Poor Leonard's Almanack: On Writers

April Poetry of the Streets


March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005




Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

On Writing and Writers

Poor Leonard's Almanack

Quotations and Original Thoughts
by Leonard Roy Frank
Street Spirit, April 2006

1. A man would do well to carry a pencil in his pocket and write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought are commonly the most valuable and should be secured because they seldom return.
FRANCIS BACON (English philosopher, 1561-1626), quoted in Wisdom, vol. 38, 1962

2. It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.
GERALD BRENAN (English writer), "Writing," Thoughts in a Dry Season: A Miscellany, 1978

3. The nobility of our calling will always be rooted in two commitments difficult to observe: refusal to lie about what we know, and resistance to oppression.
ALBERT CAMUS (French writer), Nobel Prize acceptance address, Stockholm, December 1957

4. To me, the greatest pleasure in writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make.
TRUMAN CAPOTE (writer), quoted in McCall's, November 1967

5. Better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self.
CYRIL CONNOLLY (English writer), quoted in "Miscellany: Last Words," New Statesman (British magazine), 25 February 1933

6. My first notebook was a Big Five tablet, given to me [at age five] by my mother with the sensible suggestion that I stop whining and learn to amuse myself by writing down my thoughts.
JOAN DIDION (writer), "On Keeping a Notebook," 1966, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, 1969

7. Writing should be the settlement of dew on the leaf.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON (philosopher), journal, 1845

8. Let the reader find that he cannot afford to omit any line of your writing because you have omitted every word that he can spare.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON, journal, 1862

9. The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the Universe which runs through himself and all things.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON, journal, 1867?

10. The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written.
WILLIAM FAULKNER (writer), Jean Stein vanden Heuvel interview, 1956, published in Malcolm Cowley, editor, Writers at Work: First Series, 1958

11. I aim to give to those who read me strength, joy, courage, defiance, and perspicacity - but I take care above all not to give them directions, for I feel that they can and must find them by themselves. I was about to say: in themselves.
ANDRE GIDE (French writer), "Portraits and Aphorisms: Characters," 1931, Pretexts: Reflections on Literature and Morality, edited by Justin O'Brien, 1959

12. The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY (writer), George Plimpton interview, 1958?, published in Plimpton, editor, Writers at Work: Second Series, 1963

13. Ignore authors who shout at you.
HOLBROOK JACKSON (English writer), Maxims of Books and Reading, 1934

14. Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.
SAMUEL JOHNSON (English writer and lexicographer), recalling a college tutor's dictum, 30 April 1773, quoted in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791

15. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don't worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you're a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act -- truth is always subversive.
Anne Lamott (writer), Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, 1995

16. The rich nation confers its richest rewards on those writers who can preserve the illusions of innocence.
LEWIS H. LAPHAM (writer and editor), Money and Class in America: Notes and Observations on the Civil Religion, 1988

17. I still have the manuscript [of The Wrench]: typed straight out with hardly a correction. It seemed very easy to write it that way.... It really felt as though I was recording with a tape recorder what someone else was telling me out loud.
PRIMO LEVI (Italian writer and chemist), Giuseppe Grassano interview, 1979, The Voice of Memory: Interviews 1961-1987, edited by Marco Belpoliti and Robert Gordon, 2001

18. Writing is the calisthenics of the brain.
DAVID McCULLOUGH (historian), television interview, C-SPAN2, 24 September 2005

19. The essence of a sound style is that it cannot be reduced to rules -- that it is a living and breathing thing, with something of the devilish in it -- that it fits its proprietor tightly and ever so loosely, as his skin fits him.
H. L. MENCKEN (journalist), "The Fringes of Lovely Letters: Literature and the Schoolma'm," Prejudices: Fifth Series, 1926

20. I'm always looking for the author who can lift me out of myself.
HENRY MILLER (writer), George Wickes interview, 1961, published in George Plimpton, editor, Writers at Work: Second Series, 1963

21. Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery.
HENRY MILLER, interview, Playboy, 1968

22. What I offer [in my writings] is not my teaching, but my study; not a lesson for others, but for myself.
MONTAIGNE (French writer, 1533-1592), The Autobiography of Michel de Montaigne, edited by Marvin Lowenthal, 1935

23. The problem is to teach ourselves to think, and the writing will take care of itself.
CHRISTOPHER MORLEY (writer), Inward Ho! 1923

24. Why write
when you can dance?
PABLO NERUDA (Chilean writer, 1904-1973), The Book of Questions, translated by William O'Daly, 1991

25. Avoid the kind of pompous language used by people you'd like to punch in the nose.
PATRICIA T. O'CONNER (writer), Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing, 1999

26. One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:
i. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word it you can think of any everyday English equivalent.
vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
GEORGE ORWELL (English writer), "Politics and the English Language" (essay), April 1946

27. I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short.
BLAISE PASCAL (French theologian and mathematician), Lettres provinciales, 1657

28. What task in life could I have performed nobler than this, to write what is of great service to mankind and to bring the nature of things into the light for all to see?
PLATO (Greek philosopher, 427?-347 B.C.), Epistles, translated by John Harward, 1932

29. You ask me why I spend my life writing?
Do I find entertainment?
Is it worthwhile?
Above all, does it pay?
If not, then, is there a reason?
I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still.
SYLVIA PLATH (poet and writer, 1932-1963), untitled, 1948, quoted in the introduction to Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963, edited by Amelia Schober Plath, 1975

30. More writers fail from lack of character than from lack of intelligence.
EZRA POUND (poet), ABC of Reading, 1934

31. Each man carries within him the soul of a poet who died young.
CHARLES-AUGUSTIN SAINTE-BEUVE (French writer), Critiques et portraits litteraires, 1836-1839

32. Writers should use common words to say uncommon things....
A writer should never be brief at the expense of being clear....
He who writes carelessly confesses... that he does not attach much importance to his own thoughts...
Nothing is more difficult than to express deep things in such a way that everyone must necessarily grasp them.
ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER (German philosopher), "The Art of Literature: On Style," Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer, translated by T. Bailey Saunders, 1851

33. "Fool!" said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write."
SIR PHILIP SIDNEY (English poet, 1554-1586), Astrophel and Stella, 1595

34. Writing a column is easy. I just sit down at the typewriter, open a vein and bleed it out.
WALTER "RED" SMITH (sportswriter), quoted in Pete Axthelm, "The Master's Touch," Newsweek, 17 May 1976

35. Writing is the continuation of politics by other means.
PHILIPPE SOLLERS (French writer), "Ecriture et Revolution," Tel Quel: Theorie d'Ensemble, 1968

36. The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement. Furthermore, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit -- for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love.
JOHN STEINBECK (writer), Nobel Prize acceptance address, Stockholm, December 1962

37. [Writing is] the only thing that, when I'm doing it, I don't feel I should really be doing something else.
GLORIA STEINEM (writer and women's rights activist), Mirium Berkley interview, Publishers Weekly, 12 August 1983

38. When I went to school, they told me literature was a rope I must use to climb out of the dark well of unknowing. Writers are the knots on the rope.
JENNIFER STONE (Berkeley writer and KPFA radio commentator), "Life Styles of the Wise and Feminist," Before Columbus Review, Winter 1993

39. You always find things you didn't know you were going to say, and that is the adventure of writing.
JOHN UPDIKE (writer), interview with the author, published in Naim Attallah, Singular Encounters, 1990

40. A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibilities of their own souls.
WALT WHITMAN (poet), remark to the author, 21 November 1888, quoted in Horace Traubel, Walt Whitman's Camden Conversations, edited by Walter Teller, 1973

41. I have had people say to me: "Walt, you write as if it was no effort whatever for you to do so." That may be how it looks but that's not how it is.
WALT WHITMAN, remark to the author, 4 May 1889, quoted in Horace Traubel, Walt Whitman's Camden Conversations, 1973

42. Writing came easy -- it would only get hard when I got better at it.
GARRY WILLS (writer and historian), Confessions of a Conservative, 1979

43. Write as though there were left in the world only one drop of ink, and you had it.

44. Many a good line might well have been lost forever had not some plagiarist given it currency.

45. A single word is worth a thousand pictures -- if it's the right word.


Leonard Roy Frank is the editor of Random House Webster's Quotationary. His "Frankly Quoted" column, distributed freely over the Internet every month, consists of 30-35 quotes and original thoughts, mostly about current events. To get on the "Frankly Quoted" listserve, send your e-mail address.

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