Aug. 20, 2007

Lines to a World-Famous Poet Who Failed To Complete a World-Famous Poem; or, Come Clean, Mr. Guest!

by Ogden Nash

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Poem:"Lines to a World-Famous Poet Who Failed to Complete a World-Famous Poem; or, Come Clean, Mr. Guest!" by Ogden Nash, from Verse from 1929 On.© Little, Brown, 1959. Reprinted with permission.

Lines to a World-Famous Poet Who Failed To Complete a World-Famous Poem; or, Come Clean, Mr. Guest!

Oft when I'm sitting without anything to read waiting for a train in a
I torment myself with the poet's dictum that to make a house a home,
    livin' is what it takes a heap o'.
Now, I myself should very much enjoy makin' my house a home, but
    my brain keeps on a-goin' clickety-click, clickety-click, clickety-click,
If Peter Piper picked a peck o' heap o' livin', what kind of a peck o' heap
    o' livin' would Peter Piper pick?
Certainly a person doesn't need the brains of a Lincoln
To know that there are many kinds o' livin', just as there many kinds o'
    dancin' or huntin' or fishin' or eatin' or drinkin'.
A philosophical poet should be specific
As well as prolific,
And I trust I am not being offensive
If I suggest that he should also be comprehensive.
You may if you like verify my next statement by sending a stamped, self-
    addressed envelope to either Dean Inge or Dean Gauss,
But meanwhile I ask you to believe that it takes a heap of other things
    besides a heap o' livin' to make a home out of a house.
To begin with, it takes a heap o' payin',
And you don't pay just the oncet, but agayin and agayin and agayin.
Buyin' a stock is called speculatin' and buyin' a house is called investin',
But the value of the stock or of the house fluctuates up and down,
    generally down, just as an irresponsible Destiny may destine.
Something else that your house takes a heap o', whether the builder came
    from Sicily or Erin,
Is repairin',
In addition to which, gentle reader, I am sorry to say you are little more
    than an imbecile or a cretin
If you think it doesn't take a heap o' heatin',
And unless you're spiritually allied to the little Dutch boy who went
    around inspectin' dikes lookin' for leaks to put his thumb in,
It takes a heap o' plumbin',
And if it's a house that you're hopin' to spend not just today but
    tomorrow in,
It takes a heap o' borrowin'
In a word, Macushla,
There's a scad o' things that to make a house a home it takes not only a
    heap, or a peck, but at least a bushela.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of poet Edgar Guest (books by this author, born in Birmingham, England (1881). He was one of the last poets who wrote primarily for newspapers. He published a poem a day, almost every day of his adult life, totaling more than 11,000 poems. He is perhaps best known for having written, "It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home."

It's the birthday of Jacqueline Susann (books by this author), born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1918). She was 44 years old and a failed Broadway actress when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1962. So she went to a wishing hill in Central Park and made a deal with God. If He gave her 10 more years, she would become a success.

Four years later, Susann published her novel Valley of the Dolls (1966). It's the story of a woman struggling to become an actress, and it describes the sex lives, drug abuse, and catfights of starlets. When her publisher first read it, he thought it was awful. But then he gave it to his wife, and she loved it. The book went on to become the best-selling novel ever published at that time, selling more than 28 million copies.

Susann developed a system for promoting Valley of the Dolls that helped to revolutionize the way books are marketed. She went on coast-to-coast tours, appeared on local radio and television stations, and made personal appearances in bookstores to read and sign autographs, becoming one of the first modern celebrity authors.

It was on this day in 1977 that Voyager 2 was launched by NASA to explore the planets of our solar system. It was the first of the two spacecraft launched for that purpose, and it's a mystery why Voyager 2 was launched before Voyager 1. Both Voyagers went on to take the first up-close photographs of the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Each of the Voyagers were each equipped with a gold-plated phonograph containing a variety of earthly sounds, including a heartbeat, a mother's kiss, wind, rain, surf, a chimpanzee, footsteps, laughter, the music of Bach and Mozart, and the Chuck Berry song "Johnny B. Goode." There are also greetings in 55 languages, including ancient Sumerian, and a message from then-President Jimmy Carter.

Today, the Voyagers have traveled farther from Earth than any other human-made objects in history, more than 5 billion miles away from the sun. Voyager 2, which launched on this day in 1977, is currently headed toward Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

It's the birthday of a man who would have shuddered at the thought of the Voyager missions into space: H.P. [Howard Phillips] Lovecraft (books by this author), born in Providence, Rhode Island (1890). At a time when most horror stories were about ghosts and vampires, Lovecraft began to write a new kind of horror story, based on his fear of modern science. His work had a big influence on Stephen King.

H.P. Lovecraft said, "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

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