Monday

Jun. 15, 1998

Birthday Card to My Mother

by Philip Appleman

MONDAY 6/15

Today's Reading: "Birthday Card to My Mother" by Philip Appleman from OPEN DOORWAYS, published by W.W. Norton Co. (1976).

Two big music FESTIVALS kick off today and run through most of the summer. In Colorado, it's the ASPEN FESTIVAL, running through August 16; chamber music and symphony concerts. Outside Chicago, in Highland Park, it's the RAVINIA FESTIVAL, through September 7. Two Chicago dance companies the Joffrey Ballet, and Hubbard Street are a part of the festival and on July 10 the Chicago Symphony starts its eight-week residency.

It's the birthday in New Providence, Iowa, 1920, of poet AMY CLAMPITT, who was in her late 50s when she began to be published. She'd worked as a reference librarian, an editor, always around books and words, but few of them her own. She's best known for her collections, The Kingfisher (1983), and What the Light Was Like (1985).

It's the birthday of the New Yorker cartoonist, SAUL STEINBERG, born in Romania, 1914. He started out studying sociology and psychology in Bucharest, then moved on to Italy and took up architecture. He fled the Fascists in the early 1940s, came to the U.S. and joined the Navy in WWII. Most of his cartoons look like elaborate doodles, but he also used rubber stamps, official seals, thumbprints, silhouetted figures, and illegible handwriting.

It's the birthday of psychoanalyst ERIK ERIKSON, born to Danish parents in Frankfurt, Germany, 1902. He moved to the U.S. in 1933 to teach at Harvard. He wrote Childhood and Society, in 1950, where he laid out eight stages of psychological development from infancy to old age. He also wrote two biographies, one of Martin Luther, called Young Man Luther (1958), the other of Gandhi, called Gandhi's Truth on the Origins of Militant Nonviolence (1969), which won the Pulitzer Prize. In the Luther book, he coined the term "identity crisis" which he said "occurs in that period of life when each youth must forge for himself some central perspective and direction, some working unit, out of the effective remnants of his childhood and the hopes of his anticipated adulthood."

A late-spring thunderstorm rolled across Philadelphia on this day in 1752, and 46-year-old BENJAMIN FRANKLIN went outside and flew his kite in it. He'd been studying electricity for about six years, and had a theory that lightning and electricity were the same thing. To prove it he put a pointed wire at the end of his kite and tied an iron key partway up the string. It could've killed him, but he survived and went on to recommend that buildings have lightning rods installed to reduce lightning damage.

The MAGNA CARTA was signed this day in 1215 by King John of England the agreement between John and several dozen English barons that took away the King's total authority, and granted basic rights and liberties to the British citizens; rights like the freedom of the church, no imprisonment without a jury trial, and the proper execution of the laws of the land. The Magna Carta, or Great Charter, was the forerunner of many other countries' constitutions, including our own.

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
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »