Aug. 20, 2000

A Hymn to God the Father

by John Donne

Broadcast date: SUNDAY, 20 August 2000

Poem: "A Hymn to God the Father," by John Donne.

On this day in 1940, in Mexico City, Leon Trotsky, a leader of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, was murdered, on the orders of Joseph Stalin, by a Soviet secret agent.

Also in 1940 on this date, the British first used their new invention, RAdio Detection And Ranging: radar. Using radar, the Royal Air Force was alerted to the approach of Luftwaffe bombers, 75 miles away, and so had enough time to put their planes in the air and meet the Luftwaffe pilots before they could drop their bombs. Winston Churchill paid tribute to the British pilots with his stirring phrase: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

It's the birthday of romance fiction writer Jacqueline Susann, born in Philadelphia (1921). She was 45 when her first novel, Valley of the Dolls (1966) went to the top of the best seller lists.

It's the birthday of psycho-biologist Roger Sperry, born in Hartford, Connecticut (1913)--who shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1981) for his studies of the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

It's the birthday of jazz trombonist Jack Teagarden (Weldon John Teagarden), born in Vernon, Texas (1905). Entirely self-taught, he began playing the trombone at 7, and went on to develop a widely imitated style that seemed to have occurred to him fully formed. He performed with Louis Armstrong (1947-51), and was also a great jazz singer.

On this day in 1904, the Abbey Theatre was established in Dublin. The theater was founded to foster Irish drama and culture, and to serve Irish audiences. Yeats's On Baile's Strand and Lady Gregory's Spreading the News were the first plays performed there. In 1924 the Abbey became the first state-subsidized theater in the English-speaking world.

It's the birthday of horror writer H(oward) P(hillips) Lovecraft, born in Providence, Rhode Island (1890)-author of macabre short novels and stories, and the 20th century's first master of the Gothic tale of terror.

It's the birthday of theologian Paul Tillich, born in Starzeddel, Germany (1886), the son of a pastor. He's the author of the 3-volume Systematic Theology (1951-63). Paul Tillich said,

"Faith comprises both itself and doubt of itself."

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 Jeffrey Harrison 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 »