Saturday

Jun. 9, 2012

When you, that at this moment are to me

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

When you, that at this moment are to me
Dearer than words on paper, shall depart,
And be no more the warder of my heart,
Whereof again myself shall hold the key;
And be no more—what now you seem to be—
The sun, from which all excellences start
In a round nimbus, nor a broken dart
Of moonlight, even, splintered on the sea;
I shall remember only of this hour—
And weep somewhat, as now you see me weep—
The pathos of your love, that, like a flower,
Fearful of death yet amorous of sleep,
Droops for a moment and beholds, dismayed,
The wind whereon its petals shall be laid.

"When you, that at this moment are to me" by Edna St. Vincent St. Millay, from Collected Poems. © 1931, 1958 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Norma Millay Ellis. Used with the permission of the Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Holly Peppe, Literary Executor, The Millay Society. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the man who wrote the songs "I Get a Kick Out of You," "You're the Top," and "Let's Do It, Let's Fall In Love": Cole Porter, born in Peru, Indiana (1891). Most of his great songs were written within a 10-year period: between his first popular Broadway musical, Paris (1928)—his first musicals had been complete flops—and a terrible riding accident in 1937. Porter was at a party at the New York home of the Countess Edith di Zoppola when his horse rolled and crushed his legs. He claimed that he didn't realize how badly he was hurt and that while someone ran for help he finished up the lyrics to "You Never Know." But he was in fact seriously injured—the doctors insisted that his right leg be amputated, maybe his left as well. Porter refused. He preferred to be in intense pain than be missing a leg.

He lived with the pain for more than 20 years, and he continued to write songs, but never at the same rate of success as he had before his accident. In 1958, after 34 operations on his leg, he finally agreed to have the leg amputated. Porter never recovered from the trauma of the operation. He told friends, "I am only half a man now," and never wrote another song. He died in 1964 at the age of 73.

He wrote "I Hate Men" for his musical Kiss Me Kate (1948):

Of all the types of men I've met in our democracy,
I hate the most the athlete with his manner bold and brassy.
He may have hair upon his chest, but sister, so has Lassie!
Oh, I hate men!

It was on this day in 1860 that the first dime novel was published. It was called Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter, by Ann S. Stephens (books by this author), and it was the first of 321 novels published by Beadle & Adams in their series Beadle's Dime Novels. The early dime novels were wrapped in a salmon-colored cover, and they actually cost 10 cents. Before long, the phrase "dime novel" was used to mean any cheap, melodramatic pulp fiction, some of which actually cost 15 cents.

Many authors of dime novels wrote nothing else, but there were some established writers who tried their hands at writing pulp fiction. Theodore Dreiser may have helped write the Diamond Dick dime novels. Louisa May Alcott published more than 30 dime novels under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard. She wrote to her friend Alfred Whitman: "I intend to illuminate the Ledger with a blood and thunder tale as they are easy to 'compoze' and are better paid than moral and elaborate works of Shakespeare, so don't be shocked if I send you a paper containing a picture of Indians, pirates, wolves, bears and distressed damsels in a grand tableau over a title like this: 'The Maniac Bride' or 'The Bath of blood, A Thrilling Tale of Passion.'" Upton Sinclair wrote boys' adventure novels; he would dictate about 6,000-8,000 words a day to a stenographer.

It's the birthday of the novelist and peace activist Baroness Bertha von Suttner (books by this author), born in Prague (1843). Bertha was fluent in several languages, and traveled all over Europe. When she was 33 she became the secretary to the industrialist Alfred Nobel.

Bertha was a peace activist, and had written a wildly popular novel that advanced the cause called Die Waffen nieder, or Lay Down Your Arms (1889). Alfred had made his fortune as the inventor of dynamite and later through the development of weapons. It was her influence on Nobel that convinced him to leave money in his will for the creation of what is now the Nobel Peace Prize. Nobel died in 1896, and the first Nobel Prize was given in 1901. In 1905, Bertha von Suttner became the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize that she had helped inspire.

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 »