Monday

Oct. 2, 2000

The Planet on the Table

by Wallace Stevens

Broadcast date: MONDAY, 2 October 2000

Poem:
"The Planet on the Table," by Wallace Stevens, from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Vintage Books).

On this day in 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first black justice of the United States Supreme Court. Marshall served as chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1940 to 1962. He won 29 of the 32 cases that he argued before the Supreme Court for the NAACP, including the landmark case of Brown versus the Board of Education (1954), which declared that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. He served on the Supreme Court until 1991, and died in 1993.

On this day in 1950, the comic strip "Peanuts" made its debut, the creation of a young, free-lance cartoonist named Charles Schulz. He wanted to call the strip "Li'l Folks," but United Feature Syndicate, who had just bought it, thought the name was too similar to another comic strip, and changed it to "Peanuts." It is probably the most popular comic strip ever.

It's the birthday of writer Graham Greene in Berkhamsted, England (1904). He came to divide his fiction into two categories: "novels," with serious, often religious themes; and "entertainments," which were spy thrillers and crime stories, sometimes with a satirical edge. He said, "The world is not black and white. More like black and grey."

It's the birthday of comedian Julius Henry Marx, better known as "Groucho," in New York City (1890). He once said, "I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member."

It's the birthday of poet Wallace Stevens, born in Reading, Pennsylvania (1879). He practiced law for several years in New York, then joined the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company in Connecticut, where he worked his way up to vice-president. He was also a major American poet, and his Collected Poems (1955) won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Once, when discussing one of his poems with an admirer, he said, "I don't think you'd understand this unless you wrote it." He was unconcerned with popularity, and was a solitary man who once admitted, "Life is an affair of people, not of places. But for me life is an affair of places and that is the trouble." One of his places was Florida, whose tropical images color many of his poems.

It's the birthday of Nat Turner, born a slave in Southampton County, Virginia (1800). He learned to read, studied the Bible diligently, and became a preacher who spoke of self-respect and justice, urging his fellow slaves to rebel against their condition of servitude. He believed he was divinely chosen to deliver them from bondage. In February of 1831, he took a solar eclipse as a sign from God that the time for revolt was at hand, and began to prepare, declaring, "I should arise and...slay my enemies with their own weapons." Beginning on August 22, he and his followers killed between 55 and 65 white people in two days. On August 23, they fought and lost a battle with state and Federal troops. Turner escaped, but was captured on October 30. At his trial, he admitted to leading the rebellion but pleaded "not guilty." He was executed on November 11.

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 »