Today is Thursday, March 22, 2018. It’s the birthday of Western writer Louis L’Amour. Other birthdays today include poet Billy Collins, best-selling novelist James Patterson, and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Sherwood Anderson’s “Spring Song” is today’s poem. Thank you for reading, and sharing, Bidwell Hollow. Stay safe and joyful.

Louis L’Amour

If it hadn’t been for a John Wayne movie, we might not know the real name of one of the world’s most prolific Western writers.

Louis L’Amour (affiliate link) worked as a miner, boxer, elephant handler, sailor, and fruit picker. Then, in the 1940s, he embarked on a writing career.

Cover of Louis L'Amour's "The Daybreakers."
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At first, he published short stories in Thrilling magazines. When L’Amour started writing Westerns, a publisher told him no one would read stories about cowboys written by someone named L’Amour.

So L’Amour wrote Westerns using the pen name Jim Mayo.

Then, in 1950, a publisher hired L’Amour to write four books about Hopalong Cassidy. For these, he used the name, Tex Burns.

The first novel L’Amour published under his name was “Westward the Tide.” But it released, in 1950, only in England.

In 1952, though, L’Amour’s short story, “The Gift of Cochise,” published in Collier’s magazine. Movie star John Wayne read it, purchased the rights from L’Amour, and turned the story into the 1953 film, “Hondo.”

From that moment on, L’Amour published using his name.

L’Amour, born today in 1908 in Jamestown, ND, wrote more than 100 books, selling more than 225 million copies.

Billy Collins

When he served as U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins (affiliate link) launched an initiative to bring poetry to high school students.

Photo of poet Billy Collins.
Billy Collins” (CC BY 2.0) by marcelo noah

Called Poetry 180, the program provides a poem for every day of the school year.

“The idea behind Poetry 180 is simple: to have a poem read each day to the students of American high schools across the country,” Collins said.

Collins served as Poet Laureate from 2001-2003.

Collins was born today in New York City in 1941. He’s been writing poems since he was 12.

Collins has published several poetry collections. His first, “Pokerface,” released in 1977.

His latest is 2016’s “The Rain in Portugal.”

James Patterson

Even before he became a best-selling author, James Patterson (affiliate link) gave the world something to remember. He was a junior copywriter at an ad agency when he came up with the catchphrase, “I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us Kid.”

Photo of James Patterson holding up two of his books.
Amazing fundraiser last night for the Li” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by pcumby

From there, Patterson climbed to become chairman of the agency’s North American division by 1990.

Along the way, Patterson wrote fiction. But his work didn’t get much attention. So in the early 1990s, he modified his style. The author started writing shorter chapters with quicker plots.

The first novel Patterson wrote using these changes is 1993’s “Along Came a Spider.” It was the first in what’s now called the Alex Cross Series. The series focuses on Washington, DC, police detective Alex Cross.

Patterson’s published 25 Alex Cross books. Movies based on the books released in 1997 and 2001 starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd.

In all, Patterson’s written more than 160 books. He’s a continual presence on best seller lists.

Patterson was born today in Newburgh, NY, in 1947.

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Cover of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Unmasked."
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It’s the birthday of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (affiliate link), born today in London in 1948. He’s the winner of three Tony Awards, three Grammys, and an Oscar.

Since 1979, at least one Andrew Lloyd Webber production has been playing on Broadway. His musicals include “Evita,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Sunset Boulevard,” and “Cats.”

Some of the most memorable songs Webber’s composed include “Memory” from “Cats” and “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” from “Evita.”

Queen Elizabeth II knighted Webber in 1992. She made him a Lord in 1996.

Webber served in Britain’s House of Lords from 1997 until stepping down last year.


“Spring Song”

In the forest, amid old trees and wet dead leaves, a shrine.

Men on the wet leaves kneeling.

The spirit of God in the air above a shrine.

 

Now, America, you press your lips to mine,

Feel on your lips the throbbing of my blood.

Christ, come to life and life calling,

Sweet and strong.

 

Spring. God in the air above old fields.

Farmers marking fields for the planting of the corn.

Fields marked for corn to stand in long straight aisles.

 

In the spring I press your body down on wet cold new-plowed ground.

Men, give your souls to me.

I would have my sacred way with you.

 

In the forest, amid old trees and wet dead leaves, a shrine.

Men rising from the kneeling place to sing.

Everywhere in the fields now the orderly planting of corn.

– Sherwood Anderson (187-1941), Public Domain

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