Monday

Nov. 10, 2008

Sole watchman of the flying stars, guard me
against my flicker of impulse lust: teach me
to see them as sisters & daughters. Sustain
my grand endeavours: husbandship & crafting.

Forsake me not when my wild hours come;
grant me sleep nightly, grace soften my dreams;
achieve in me patience till the thing be done,
a careful view of my achievement come.

Make me from time to time the gift of the shoulder.
When all hurt nerves whine shut away the whiskey.
Empty my heart toward Thee.
Let me pace without fear the common path of death.

Cross am I sometimes with my little daughter:
fill her eyes with tears. Forgive me, Lord.
Unite my various soul,
sole watchman of the wide & single stars.

from "Eleven Addresses to the Lord"

"3" by John Berryman from Collected Poems 1937-1971. © The Noonday Press, 1989. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Irish poet and patriot Padraic Pearse, (books by this author) born in Dublin (1879). Though he spent most of his short life as an academic and writer, he's best known as a leader of the Easter Rising of 1916, a failed Irish rebellion against Britain.

He wrote:

The beauty of the world hath made me sad, This beauty that will pass. […] Things bright and green, things young and happy; And I have gone upon my way Sorrowful.

Pearse began studying Gaelic at the age of 12. He joined the Gaelic League, an organization dedicated to the revival of the language and culture. He thought that the British-imposed school system stripped young people of their Irish identity. He believed that the Gaelic language was a fundamental part of Irish identity, and so he set out to establish bilingual schools in Ireland.

Eventually, Pearse became convinced that Irish independence could be obtained only by revolt. He was recruited into the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and because he was so eloquent, was chosen as the group's spokesperson. He helped organize the Easter Rebellion of 1916, and from the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin, which the rebels had taken over, he proclaimed: "We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies."

He was declared the provisional president of the provisional Ireland. Militarily, the Irish rebels didn't have a chance of winning. British troops destroyed Irish property and slaughtered civilians. Six days later after his initial proclamation, Pearse delivered a speech of surrender. He was captured by the British, imprisoned, and a week later, at the age of 36, executed by a firing squad.

It's the birthday of poet and theologian Martin Luther, (books by this author) born in Eisleben, Saxony (1483). He wrote: "A mighty fortress is our God/ A bulwark never failing." He's best known as the man who sparked the Protestant Reformation, but he was also an extraordinarily productive writer. After he posted his 95 Theses and had to go into exile, he completed the first translation of the Bible into German. He wrote theology, hymns, poetry, liturgies, sermons, commentaries, translations, and polemics. Toward the end of his life, Luther began to regret how many books he had written. He said, "The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no limit to this fever for writing." Today, most of Luther's writings are only read by theologians.

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 »