Jun. 10, 2001

SUNDAY, 10 JUNE 2001
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Leisure," by W.H. Davies.


What is this life, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hid their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stop and stare.

On this day in 1943, the ballpoint pen was patented by the Hungarian inventor Lászlá Biró in Argentina, where he had gone to escape the Nazis. In many languages, the word for ballpoint pen is still simply "biro."

It's the birthday of novelist Philip Caputo, born in Chicago in 1941. He's best known for his book A Rumor of War, an account of his time as a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam in the mid-'60s.

It's the birthday of writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, born in Brooklyn in1928. He was a sickly child who suffered from measles, pneumonia, and scarlet fever, and spent much of his childhood drawing pictures of life he saw outside his window. At the age of nine, he hand-lettered and drew pictures for his stories on shirt cardboards bound with tape. Maurice Sendak, who said: "It is my involvement with the inescapable fact of childhood—the awful vulnerability of children, and their struggle to make themselves King of all Wild Things—that gives my work whatever truth and passion it may have." He is the author of Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and many other books.

It's the birthday of novelist James Salter born in New York City in 1925, the author of Dusk: And Other Stories, A Sport and a Pastime, The Hunters, and his memoir, Burning the Days.

It's the birthday of journalist and novelist Nat Hentoff, born Nathan Irving Hentoff in Boston in 1925.

It's the birthday of Judy Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 1922. She and her sisters changed their stage name to Garland, and she took her new first name from the Hoagy Carmichael song "Judy."

It's the birthday of novelist Saul Bellow, born in Lachine, near Montreal, in 1915. He's the author of Humboldt's Gift, The Dean's December, and he was the recipient of the National Book Award three times for The Adventures of Augue March, Herzog, and Mr. Sammler's Planet. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976.

And it's the birthday of playwright Sir Terence Rattigan, born in London in 1911. He was the master of what is called the 'well made play.' His father agreed to support him in a trial period of playwriting, after which (if he failed) he was to go into banking. Shortly before the trial period expired, he wrote a farce, French Without Tears in1936, which enjoyed one of the longest runs in the history of British theater. Sir Terence Rattigan once said, "A novelist may lose his reader for a few pages—a playwright never dares lose his audience for a minute."

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 »