Tuesday

Jun. 9, 2009

A Plea For Mercy

by Anne Porter

When I am brought before the Lord
What can I say to him
How plead for mercy?

I'll say I loved
My husband and the five
Children we had together
Though I was most unworthy

I'll say I loved
The summer mornings
I loved the way the sun comes up
And sets the dew on fire
I loved the way
The cobwebs shine
On the tall grass
When they are strung with dew

I'll say I loved
The way that little bird
The titmouse flies
I'll say I loved
Its lightness
Lilt
And beauty.

"A Plea For Mercy" by Anne Porter, from Living Things Collected Poems. © Zoland Books, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of playwright and screenwriter George Axelrod, (books by this author) born in New York City (1922). He's the author of The Seven Year Itch (1952) and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1955), and he wrote the screenplays for Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962).

It's the birthday of actor Johnny Depp, born in Owensboro, Kentucky (1963).

It was on this day in 1909 that the first woman to drive across the United States, Alice Huyler Ramsey, left New York City for San Francisco. She was 22 years old, a housewife from Hackensack, New Jersey. Her trip got a lot of media attention. In 1909, not many women drove cars, and some doctors thought that it was dangerous for women to even ride in cars because they would get too worked up at more than 20 miles an hour. Alice Huyler Ramsey drove 3,800 miles across the country in a Maxwell 30 with three other women, but she was the only one who knew how to drive. They drove for 41 days and used 11 spare tires. She wrote a book about the trip called Veil, Duster, and Tire Iron (1961). In 2000, she was the first woman inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

It's the birthday of the playwright John Howard Payne, born in New York City (1791). His mother died when he was 13, he wrote his first play at age 15, and he spent his life traveling around the world as an actor and writer. He lived in London, Paris, and Tunis. He adapted a French play into the opera Clari, or the Maid of Milan, and for it he wrote a song whose lyrics have become famous:

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble there's no place like home!
[...] Home! Home! Sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home! There's no place like home!

It's the birthday of novelist Charles Webb, (books by this author) born in San Francisco in 1939. In 1963, he published The Graduate, and in 1967 it was made into the famous film starring Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman. Not many people realize that The Graduate is based on a book, but in fact the dialogue in the film comes almost entirely from the dialogue Webb wrote for the novel.

Webb grew up in a wealthy family living in Pasadena, California. He was attracted to the wife of a friend of his parents. He said he decided "it might be better to write about it than to do it," so he wrote The Graduate in the poolside bar of the Pasadena Huntington Hotel. He was 24 when it was published.

It's the birthday of Cole Porter, born in Peru, Indiana, in 1891. He went to Yale University, and he got horrible grades but he wrote and performed more than 300 songs for school shows. Porter was gay, but he married a close friend, the socialite Linda Thomas, to keep up appearances. In the 1920s, he and Linda moved to Paris. They had lavish parties at their apartment, and Cole Porter played songs for his guests while they lounged on his zebra-print furniture. In 1928, he got his break with the hit "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love," in which he sang: "Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. Let's do it, let's fall in love." He wrote musicals, including Anything Goes (1934) and Kiss Me, Kate (1948), which is based on a Shakespeare play, The Taming of the Shrew. He went on to write many songs that are still popular today, like "I Get a Kick Out of You," "Night and Day," and "I've Got You Under My Skin."

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 »