America Burning

Margaret Langstaff

burning flag

Three years ago I posted the comments below never dreaming our national sin and shame of exploitation of the poor and tacit and overt racism would intensify to the pass they have reached in recent days.

Perhaps the civil unrest had to reach this point for the civil rights revolution of the 60s to become truly complete. A sad exigency to contemplate in a nation that promises, nay guarantees, its citizens “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” that in fact was founded on the now tattered principle that “All men are created equal” and deserve equal protection under the law.

The current injustices baked into our society demeaning and degrading non-white Americans cannot stand. As much as reasonable Americans of all races deplore the widespread riots and uncivil destruction of our neighborhoods across the land they are understandable and perhaps unavoidable.

Let’s hope that all the pain and tumult…

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Here’s Another Truthful Humdinger

The last words of John Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn” that I clumsily alluded to but did not mention yesterday:

When old age shall this generation waste,
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
         “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
Ah,  empowered by those lyrical lines, we never lose heart and always soldier on!
Image result for illustration o a grecian urn



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“The World Is Too Much With Us” — William Wordsworth

The last several months have been a challenge to our abilities to verbalize and speak clearly and coherently. Many resorted to ineffectual ranting and raving. Some simply gagged and swallowed their tongues.

I myself fell silent before the onslaught of unsavory and apparently alarming national events, confining my anger and outrage to my own mind.

At any rate, times like this–I don’t know ’bout you–but I fall back on the great poets. They are our cultural treasury and storehouse of the wisdom of the ages and they codify and communicate what we need to know in the most beautiful and memorable way.

One particular poem by one of the giants of modern poetry has been haunting me as I watched and read the news. I’m finally going to get it off my chest (out of my head) and share it here.

I hope this will loosen my tongue, unchain my words and enable me to write regularly here again. If you need explanation and exegesis of this work of genius, you will find plenty online.

‘pity this busy monster, manunkind’

e.e. cummings

pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
--- electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
                          A world of made
is not a world of born --- pity poor flesh

and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if --- listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go

E. E. Cummings
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Einstein’s Desk and Mine: A Sort of Comparative Analysis

Einsteins Desk

Albert Einstein’s office Ñ just as the Nobel Prize-winning physicist left it Ñ taken mere hours after Einstein died, Princeton, New Jersey, April 1955.


Having been the butt of derision and mockery for too many years for my “messy” desk (and office), I believe I have at last  found an effective remedy for silencing my many sneering critics once and for all. This despite the rise of those obnoxious “Tidy Up” books purporting to tell one how to clean up and organize every last post-it covered with IMPORTANT ideas for future reference as well as grocery store lists going back at least ten years. Coiled like a snake among the lines of these dangerous self-important “books” is the implicit promise to painlessly and effortlessly defenestrate one’s indoor habitat of all points of visual and intellectual interest, rough drafts of potential award-winning novels, important phone numbers, email addresses. Whew. Just thinking about all that crap makes me dizzy.

[Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window. The term was coined around the time of an incident in Prague Castle in the year 1618, which became the spark that started the Thirty Years’ War.]

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, by way of introduction, you will recall that it is a well known fact that writers and artists are sloppy slobs (a redundancy, so what? It’s called for). Disordered personal space is one of the chief signatures of the “artistic temperament.” It simply cannot be “improved” upon or otherwise corrected. It is as indelible and compelling as one’s DNA. Housekeeping is not a strong suit of the creative types of our species.  You can quote me on that.

The tidy freaks of this world are the common enemy of the artistic impulse. Everybody knows that. Chaos follows genius wherever it is inspired (key word) to go, ever careening and zig-zagging through the unexplored wilds of the universe. Nay, such is a veritable sign and irrefutable proof that one does indeed have great talent, and the bigger the mess that accompanies an artist, the greater the talent. For chaos is itself the womb of the masterpiece that nourishes and makes ripe the essential fecund circumstances for the birth of artistic masterpieces (begging your pardon, I may have already used that word two or three times in this sentence), if not seismic rearrangement of space/time.

Following me?

If we can agree on that, I can defend my customary (though not deliberate) office disarray as the normal consequence of my artistic labors and indicative of talent to some degree, however small. [See photo below]MYOFFICE2018

Some points of interest:

  • Given the drifts and piles of paper obscuring the surface of my desk (see photo above), it would appear that whatever my faults and short-comings when it comes to “genius,” (or talent), the work space of yours truly here (vis-a-vis my desk) seems to indicate that, if nothing else, I am the more “productive” or possibly experimental or possibly verbose, when viewed side by side with Einstein’s rather meager, puny drafts.
  • He was obviously parsimonious with words; it is clear I am not, often having more to say on any given subject than any given subject warrants.
  • When viewed side by side with the authentic in loco parentis of true genius, any point of comparison, however broad and lacking incontrovertible evidence, falls short. Have I made myself clear? I believe the forgoing substantially demonstrate that.
  • The really Big Brains among us would seem do most of their ruminating and cogitating inside the craniun, spurning paperly exegesis for the Internet, and leaving to others the miserable task of translating the complexities of the artists’  thoughts into the crude lingua franca of the hoi polloi, typing out mundane explanations of their break-through of the moment.
  • ? forgot what I was going to say . . . .
  • Professor Einstein’s desk has a serene subtle sense of order that mine lacks: His books are mostly stacked at right angles, his papers are gathered into sly stacks, implying that each stack has an underlying theme or a cohesive organizing principle.
  • The photograph of Einstein’s desk is in black and white, suggesting, or perhaps re-enforcing, the notion that his theories are as true as true can be, everything about them is black and white self-evident, while the snap of my magic carpet of a desk is a wild profusion of colors and shimmerings of light.
  • Though I cannot be sure at this far remove of space and time, I would wager, given the whirlwind antic profusion of color on  my desk and its surroundings versus the the stiff and grim setting of Einstein’s desk, that one would be hard pressed to find a book of poetry or set of earbuds on it.

Summation and conclusion to follow after I find some mumbling spaced out  genius to explain what all that blackboard chicken scratch behind the desk means.

Thank you for your time, fellow geniuses, and thank you, Albert Einstein, for sharing your space with us.

Posted in Albert Einstein, Literature, Space | Tagged | 42 Comments

Shameless Self-Promotion (wink)



Get out the kleenex!

Posted in Christmas stories, fiction, Holidays, Literary Classics, Literature, Santa Claus | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

“Hunting the Deceitful Turkey” – Mark Twain

Apologies, I’ve already posted this in previous years, but it’s so funny, so witty that I succumb to the urge to promote its hilarity once again. Twain is the quintessential smart aleck-y American writer and social critic, a real national treasure.

Margaret Langstaff

turkey hen


This is from a 1906 issue of Harpers magagine.  Twain’s dry wit and lame brained (fake) susceptibility to always be out witted by any animal that ever tread the earth (so sweet, amusing) is in full flower here. Mama Turkey I can vouch for; yes, she is cunning, sly and usually makes fools out of her hunters (these ladies are all over my pasture every day, prancing, preening and eluding would be assassins!)

Yes, you guessed it, The Complete Works of Mark Twain from the Library of America arrived! All seven volumes. What a happy antidote to the universal unease and malaise in today’s fiction.

Twain’s youthful flummoxing at Mama Turkey’s wingtips is hilarious.  He so obviously respects her and doesn’t really want to shoot her!  And he’ll never eat a sardine again.


Hunting the Deceitful Turkey

By Mark Twain

Harper’s Monthly (Dec. 1906): 57-58.

When I…

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America Burning

burning flag

Three years ago I posted the comments below never dreaming our national sin and shame of exploitation of the poor and tacit and overt racism would intensify to the pass they have reached in recent days.

Perhaps the civil unrest had to reach this point for the civil rights revolution of the 60s to become truly complete. A sad exigency to contemplate in a nation that promises, nay guarantees, its citizens “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” that in fact was founded on the now tattered principle that “All men are created equal” and deserve equal protection under the law.

The current injustices baked into our society demeaning and degrading non-white Americans cannot stand. As much as reasonable Americans of all races deplore the widespread riots and uncivil destruction of our neighborhoods across the land they are understandable and perhaps unavoidable.

Let’s hope that all the pain and tumult we are experiencing leads to a new awareness of the value of all human life and ushers in a new day that sees the real fulfillment of the American promise.


Originally posted Nov. 9, 2017

Okay, seriously.

In the last several months, my life has been strangely on hold in a sort of suspended animation as I became progressively more obsessed with the news, especially national political news.

My eyes have become stuck like suction cups to my computer and TV screens in glassy shock at what is unwinding in Washington. It’s put me in a hypnotized state of fear and dread similar to the effect of events in classical Greek tragedy. I have become riveted, frozen and fascinated at what is happening. Like so many thousands of Americans of every political persuasion, hue or situation, I am horrified and apprehensive at the seemingly hopeless inevitability of the doom awaiting the principle characters in our national drama and the corresponding civilian little people like you and me.

It’s been impossible to tear myself away. My work and social life have suffered as I intuitively responded to a higher call. Since the presidential election of last year, I have sat dumbstruck, paralyzed, and almost catatonic at the shameless trampling and desecration of basic American rights and values. Yes, in plain sight, in broad daylight, on camera, with no one gutsy or effective enough to ride in to the rescue.

“We the People,” like a Greek chorus, could only moan and mourn from the sidelines at what Fate had in store for the main characters. (I would call them heroes, as is the custom, but there are no heroes here).

           “Fake President”

trump hugging flag

For the fifth century Greeks, their busy whimsical mythology provided the basis or landscape and schadenfreude for their drama, which was a cultural and societal event that served to enlighten and purge the dread from the audience which itself was subject to the terrors of Fate.

In our case, the Constitution, the Judiciary, and our shared American history, if you will recall, form the bedrock foundation for our national drama and function as the guardians of our freedom and way of life. To our horror, decent citizens are enduring a daily drama of smirking violation and desecration of our sacred documents and form of government as they are piecemeal destroyed before our eyes as we watch stupefied from the sidelines. Today it’s a rara avis in Washington who has ever read the most revered and central documents of these United States, much less understood them. The prevailing ignorance afoot in D.C. among our elected officials is an embarrassment to all thinking citizens. The daily disrespect shown to the basic ethos of what it means to be an American, the degradation of our heretofore unassailled core beliefs, is astounding and  was unthinkable just five years ago.

No joke, friends, the barbarians are at the gate.

On and on the travesties go. Now, even after ten months of these increasingly crude disgraceful attacks, I am still chilled and infuriated by each new assault on our judicial system and civil liberties. They are unrelenting, ever more numerous, and show no signs of abating. Cumulatively, if they continue unopposed, they will undermine our republic and transform it into—what? An oligarchy? A dictatorship? A laughingstock before other nations of the world?

Once that would have been a far-fetched if not ludicrous idea. No more.

Yet we continue to blink in disbelief as this apocalyptic scenario plays out everywhere in the media, and ask ourselves, doubting what we see and hear, is this really happening? How can this be happening? I never dreamed—did you? that our electoral and legal systems were so fragile they were vulnerable to a frontal attack by a manifest moron. Did you?

But there you go! Isn’t life grand and full of surprises?

What really curls my hair is the grinning self-righteous hypocrisy of the GOP as it tries to use Trump as a sock puppet to further its own agendas, shamelessly acting as a giant shill for the top two percent of the most wealthy segment of our society.

But enough belly-aching. It’s time to do something about this. Time to get off the couch and go for it. Every adult American citizen with a pulse has a duty to get fired up, extend him/herself, get involved, and protest the warping of our laws and the profaning of the tenets upholding our way of life. It’s a civic duty, a mandatory civic duty, to protect–to fight for– the rule of law, our civil rights and the separation of powers.

This isn’t a responsibility any decent American can shirk. For with the privilege of having American citizenship and enjoying basic American freedoms and liberties come ethical and moral responsibilities, which must be discharged in the public sphere.

Procrastination in assuming this responsibility could spell death to the United States and the American way of life. Today, right now, pick up the phone, send emails and write angry letters to your congressional representatives, write letters to the editor and op-ed pieces expressing your outrage, your  justifiable objections to the way things are going. Call the scoundrels out! Better yet, show up at their offices unannounced with a laundry list of grievances. Organize, get organized, and join up with the many opposition groups that have formed to root out this rot before it undermines everything we are and what we stand for!

Run for office. Support and get out and vote for honorable trustworthy candidates.

We all know there is strength in numbers of like-minded citizens joining forces for the common good. We can beat this if we will. We can turn it around. However, it will take great political will to redeem our country from the rapacious thugs. And heroes, many heroes.

So what are we waiting for? We can’t afford to let the treasonous pols become any more entrenched. Come on, let’s go! We’re burning daylight just sitting here. #




Posted in America, Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

A Bit of Advice

A friend of mine sent this to me recently. BE THEGIRL ON THE RIGHT copy I can’t imagine why.

Posted in book reviewing, Editing, Literature, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

In the Game of Life, Bad Spelling is Like Bad Breath

Why You Should Bother About Spelling

I love the BBC.  They are so smart and always take time to do things right. They dot their I’s and cross their T’s, you know what I mean?.

I stumbled on this excellently reasoned and well substantiated piece on the perils of bad spelling on the BBC site today. If you think it’s not a big deal any more in this age of rampant typos facilitated by the dumbing-down  of social media, you are dead wrong.


As an editor I get darn tired of correcting spelling mistakes and lecturing writers about the importance of correct spelling, but, hey, it comes with the territory. Now I can at least save my breath, if not my red ink, by referring morphological derelicts to this masterpiece (link above) on the horrendous toll bad spelling can take on a life.

As in covfefe. Saaaad.


Posted in Editing, Literature, Margaret Langstaff Editorial, online communication, Spelling, writing | 9 Comments

Emily Dickinson’s Summer Reveries

(c) Copyright 2017 Margaret Langstaff, All Rights Reserved

Summer, The Dickinson Homestead, Amherst, Mass.

dickinson garden small

Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most beloved and misunderstood poets was an astute observer and student of the natural world.  Nature’s changing pageantry, big bold and colorful depending on the season, was just outside her windows and just beyond the door. This was the 19th century; most Americans were still engaged in farming, horse- and-buggy was a common mode of transportation, and everyone had a kitchen garden and a flower garden.  Spring and Fall, planting and harvesting, were considered joyful times, times of celebrations and festivals marking nature’s bountiful fecundity and its reliable cycling through the underlying mysteries of birth, fruitfulness, decline and death, only to begin again.

Emily kept her eagle eye on this ever-changing scene, alternately mystified, rhapsodic, and pensive at what passed before and near the Dickinson Homestead. Not much escaped her line of sight that did not inspire her to record her impressions and interpretations in verse.  The natural parade of different multi-colored foliage, “slants of light” and the distinctive sound and sense of each season were on the one hand mighty in themselves, and on the other hand deftly used by the poet as metaphors, figures of speech–even as allegories.

Of all the seasons, Summer held particular fascination for the poet because it was the apex, the high point of the growing season, and wherever one looked there were vistas of ripening grain and lush green crops, images of the invisible hand of Providence supplying the provisions necessary for the continuation of life for another year.

In a tribute of sorts to Dickinson’s  innovative surprising “nature” poems, I feel honor bound as a life-long Dickinson understudy to exhibit them now and then, and to present, maybe introduce new readers for the first time to the teeming kaleidoscopic wonder of the world outside Dickinson’s family home. Some parts of them may seem somewhat obscure or her meaning opaque or enigmatic, but these poems repay frequent re-reading and soon unlock their secrets, yielding new and bountiful ways of seeing and feeling.



Further in Summer than the Birds
Pathetic from the Grass
A minor Nation celebrates
Its unobtrusive Mass.

No Ordinance be seen
So gradual the Grace
A pensive Custom it becomes
Enlarging Loneliness.

Antiquest felt at Noon
When August burning low
Arise this spectral Canticle
Repose to typify

Remit as yet no Grace
No Furrow on the Glow
Yet a Druidic Difference
Enhances Nature now


[More to come.]


Posted in American Literature, Emily Dickinson Poetry, Literary Classics, Literature, poetry, poets | Tagged , | 2 Comments

From the new and edgy digital mag “Real Life”

Worth Reading. Warning: Thought required.

“All My Ghosts”

The intensity and immediacy of online correspondence accelerate the intimacy of relationships — and the ghosting

A digital pen pal is not so different from a pen pal who uses ink. As the nuclear family is no longer the main formation for cohabitation, as villages bleed into suburbs of big cities, there are so many new ways of getting in touch, and we can keep a far greater number of people around for longer, and never be entirely sure, when they disappear, that they’ve disappeared for good. Throughout history, there have been relationships based mostly or entirely on correspondence, often stretching over months or years — certainly by the Victorian era, letter-writing had become a part of daily life. …. more

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THE ART OF MEMOIR by Mary Karr (author of The Liar’s Club)

Margaret Langstaff

[NOTE: Having just finished editing two massive and interesting/ well written memoirs, ‘The Art of Memoir,’ by Mary Karr is of immense interest. Questions are raised that can’t be answered conclusively, yet they must be raised. Very intelligent review, most worth reading and pondering! — MJL.   By GREGORY COWLESOCT. 23, 2015 NYT]


Why not say what happened? All right, then: St. Augustine stole some pears. Kathryn Harrison had sex with her father. Tobias Wolff didn’t do much of anything to disturb his sleep, it would seem, but he still managed to turn his boyhood into beautiful, reflective music.

The vogue for memoir, like all vogues, comes and goes. But the impulse perseveres. Celebrities, addicts, abuse victims, politicians, soldiers, grieving children: Every­one has a story to tell and a conviction that the world wants to hear it — and often enough, if the best-seller lists are any indication, the…

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Merciful Travels with Anne Lamott

Written by a writer friend and client

Sarah e McIntosh

Thought 2: Reading

Anne Lamott’s books never fail to impress and inspire. Years ago I was given a copy of her book Bird by Bird, and being in the midst of my addiction to more costly highs, didn’t pick it up again for many more years. Not until I finished writing my own book did I dust it off and begin to read. Now bird by bird I’m pecking away and have been on a Lamott book binge. In true addict-fashion I want more. I want to devour her words and at the same time I don’t want them to end. I just traveled along on the journey she shares in Traveling Mercies.  Hi, my name is Sarah and I am a book addict.

Book addiction is a lesser of many evils that I have, or could, indulge in though it shares many of the same characteristics. No longer are…

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It Happened Here

Most writers today who publish eventually have to come to terms with plagiarism and the low-down rip-off artists who practice it. It’s everywhere now, to be sure, and no place is it more common and flagrant than online.

The motives for this theft of the products of someone else’s mind and imagination are many. Someone wanting to sound smarter than he/she is by passing off well-wrought prose as one’s own, the urgent need of a harried sub-par journalist writing under deadline, and finally, some jerk who does it just for the heck of it because it’s so easy and the chances of being caught and punished are slim.

Yet to me, none of these  malefactors even approaches the really odious types who steal another’s written work,  presenting it as if it were their own and then sell it to this gullible individual (usually a clueless student) for use as a term paper or some other faux academic exercise as a specimen of his/her own intellectual achievement.

The online “paper mills”  that supply the lame-brained of academia are everywhere and do a lively trade selling “papers” of every kind (term papers, theses, dissertations, white papers), in every style and length.  Some of them are original, some are scribbled out hastily with minimal research, some are dashed off by the minions of the paper mills “customized” to fulfill a particular order to satisfy a particular assignment, while others are ripped wholesale from the internet and marketed on the thieves’ own websites as brilliant “one of a kind” works guaranteed to blow the socks off any instructor or professor.

The fact is plagiarism is illegal, it is stealing, and punishable in all countries that are members of the International Copyright Convention.  The law itself, and its many provisions is a subject too grand for this little burp in the wind post.  Another time, maybe.

But, the (additional!) fact is, recently I too was an unwitting victim of these nitwits. Yeah. Remember all those posts on Flannery O’Connor I wrote a few years ago? Posted here? On her letters as well? Well, low and behold, they are now also stuffed into several “papers” on a certain website and being marketed/sold as original work (they sure were, mine) guaranteed to get an A.

The irony is Google caught this.  But I caught it when Google coughed it up when I did a search on O’Connor. It’s like a cat chasing its tail. On and on. Crazy! And there is not much I can do but MAKE A FRIGGIN INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT OF THIS! Which I WILL DO once I’ve regained my composure.


Posted in journalism, Literature, Plagiarism, publishing | 11 Comments

“I’m Nobody/Who are You?” Emily Dickinson: Major New Book & Exhibit

Posted in American Literature, Emily Dickinson Poetry, Literature, poetry | 1 Comment

Is It Just Me, or that “The World Is too Much with Us?”


I woke up at two a.m. this morning with this well-known masterpiece by the incomparable English bard Wordsworth coiling through my mind.

This sonnet was penned in Britain just as the Industrial Revolution was upending the trusted old courtesies and mores, and wreaking widespread damage in English cities and the countryside. It seems incredibly current and timely today. Amazing, because no one in the eighteenth or nineteenth century could have anticipated the incipient mess could have swollen to the size and seriousness confronting us today.

“The World Is Too Much With Us”
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Posted in Literary Classics, Literature, poetry, poets | Tagged | 9 Comments

Baby, it’s cold inside …

The "Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is."
Wallace Stevens was a seminal, groundbreaking American modernist poet.  A contemporary of Eliot, he flipped the archetype of the wan, pale, misunderstood verbal virtuoso.  Instead, he pursued a lucrative career as a vice president of Hartford Life Insurance and yet somehow was also able to simultaneously write and publish mind-bending original verse in a distinctively American idiom.  Go figure.  Right brain, left brain, maybe. But that’s one of the hallmarks of genius in my book.
Anyway, here is one of his more popular poems to ponder and parse if you are so inclined. Stay warm, stay well.  Spring will be here before you know it, with its birds, bees and own distinctive conundra and delights.
                                          “The Snow Man”
                                           Wallace Stevens
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man” from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. Copyright © 1954 by Wallace Stevens and renewed 1982 by Holly Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Posted in American Literature, Literature, poetry, poets | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

The Father’s Eye. . .

I clipped this beautiful poem from the New York Times years ago.  It still remains one of my all-time Christmas favorites. So subtle, understated and allusive.  Thought I’d share while wishing you the joy of this miraculous season! Pardon the watermarks; it’s survived a lot of handling.

star of the nativity brodsky

fav Russian emigre poet


Posted in Joseph Brodsky, Literature, poetry, poets | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Joy to the World!

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
 Let earth receive her King;
 Let every heart prepare Him room,
 And Heaven and nature sing,
 And Heaven and nature sing,
 And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
 Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
 Let men their songs employ;
 While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
 Repeat the sounding joy,
 Repeat the sounding joy,
 Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.
 No more let sins and sorrows grow,
 Nor thorns infest the ground;
 He comes to make His blessings flow
 Far as the curse is found,
 Far as the curse is found,
 Far as, far as, the curse is found.
 He rules the world with truth and grace,
 And makes the nations prove
 The glories of His righteousness,
 And wonders of His love,
 And wonders of His love,
 And wonders, wonders, of His love.
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My Life as a Turkey (really)


Young wild turkeys on my farm, Spring/fall 2016

Apropos of the holiday, I thought I’d share a curious life-changing experience I had this year with respect to (you got it) turkeys.

For some reason, a number of large wild turkey mamas decided to use my place to feed and raise their babies.  How interesting and what fun…

I watched the babies sprout from tiny little poults (see bottom photo) to the hefty adolescents you see above.

Strangely, my big dogs and horses got along with them famously. Smart move on their part because no one in his right mind would want to tangle with a mama turkey standing watch over her brood. They are gentle but ferocious when it comes to taking care of their babies.

As a captivated spectator of this wonderful exhibit of mother nature at work, I learned so much about their behavior and habits, and I was won over to the turkey “cause,” you might say. They have eyes like ours and are great mothers who make their chicks behave! They sleep (roost) in trees or on fences, love bugs, worms and cracked corn — and the bigger they get, the more land they need to forage. The Florida Wildlife Commission agents who came over and visited with me about how to care for them said grown wild turkeys need 100 sq. miles to forage effectively!

After playing turkey nursemaid for so many months, I suppose it’s no surprise that I’ve lost my taste for turkey and will be celebrating with other festive choices on the holiday dinner table.

Happy Thanksgiving one and all! Thanks for stopping by …




Posted in Humor, Literature | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Lady Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ….”

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“The Mother of Exiles,” a gift from France and dedicated in Oct. 1886, stands tall in New York Harbor, and welcomes all comers yearning to breathe free; immigrants, exiles, the homeless, refugees. Let’s not forget that with the exception of Native Americans, all Americans are the descendants of wave after wave of immigrants. Americans come in all colors, shapes and sizes,  and as a composite, we are as richly textured as all humanity, and yet …

“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”


“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” – Thomas Jefferson 1743 – 1826




Posted in American Literature, Literature, poets, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bob Dylan Wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

Forever Young


From CNN today: Book Critic Jay Parini on “Why Bob Dylan Deserves the Nobel Prize” WORTH READING

Bob Dylan Lyrical Genius

Album: Blonde on Blonde [1966]

All lyrics are property and copyright of their respective owners and are provided for educational purposes only. is a not-for-profit project.

Tracks 14
01 Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
02 Pledging My Time
03 Visions of Johanna
04 One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)
05 I Want You
06 Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again
07 Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
08 Just Like a Woman
09 Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)
10 Temporary Like Achilles
11 Absolutely Sweet Marie
12 4th Time Around
13 Obviously 5 Believers
14 Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

all Bob Dylan lyrics

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good,
They’ll stone ya just a-like they said they would.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to go home.
Then they’ll stone ya when you’re there all alone.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ ‘long the street.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat.
They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ on the floor.
They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ to the door.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table.
They’ll stone ya when you are young and able.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck.
They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say, good luck.
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.Well, they’ll stone you and say that it’s the end.
Then they’ll stone you and then they’ll come back again.
They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car.
They’ll stone you when you’re playing your guitar.
Yes, but I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.Well, they’ll stone you when you walk all alone.
They’ll stone you when you are walking home.
They’ll stone you and then say you are brave.
They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.back to top

Pledging My Time
Well, early in the mornin’
’til late at night,
I got a poison headache,
But I feel all right.
I’m pledging my time to you,
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too.Well, the hobo jumped up,
He came down natur’lly.
After he stole my baby,
Then he wanted to steal me.
But I’m pledging my time to you,
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too.Won’t you come with me, baby?
I’ll take you where you wanna go.
And if it don’t work out,
You’ll be the first to know.
I’m pledging my time to you,
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too.Well, the room is so stuffy,
I can hardly breathe.
Ev’rybody’s gone but me and you
And I can’t be the last to leave.
I’m pledging my time to you,
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too.Well, they sent for the ambulance
And one was sent.
Somebody got lucky
But it was an accident.
Now I’m pledging my time to you,
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too.back to top

Visions of Johanna
Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it
And louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of johanna that conquer my mindIn the empty lot where the ladies play blindman’s bluff with the key chain
And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the d train
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s really insane
Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near
She’s delicate and seems like the mirror
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That johanna’s not here
The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of johanna have now taken my placeNow, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He’s sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall
How can I explain?
Oh, it’s so hard to get on
And these visions of johanna, they kept me up past the dawnInside the museums, infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But mona lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, jeeze
I can’t find my knees
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of johanna, they make it all seem so cruelThe peddler now speaks to the countess who’s pretending to care for him
Sayin’, name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him
But like louise always says
Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?
As she, herself, prepares for him
And madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of johanna are now all that remainback to top

One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)
I didn’t mean to treat you so bad
You shouldn’t take it so personal
I didn’t mean to make you so sad
You just happened to be there, that’s all
When I saw you say goodbye to your friends and smile
I thought that it was well understood
That you’d be comin’ back in a little while
I didn’t know that you were sayin’ goodbye for good.But sooner or later one of us must know
But you just did what you’re supposed to do
Sooner or later one of us must know
That I really did try to get close to you.I couldn’t see what you could show me
Your scarf had kept your mouth well hid
I couldn’t see how you could know me
But you said you knew me and I believed you did
When you whispered in my ear
And asked me if I was leavin’ with you or her
I didn’t realize just what I did hear
I didn’t realize how young you were.But sooner or later one of us must know
But you just doing what you’re supposed to do
Sooner or later one of us must know
That I really did try to get close to you.I couldn’t see when it started snowin’
Your voice was all that I heard
I couldn’t see where we were goin’
But you said you knew and I took your word
And then you told me later as I apologized
That you were just kiddin’ me, you weren’t really from the farm
And I told you, as you clawed out my eyes
That I never really meant to do you any harm.But sooner or later one of us must know
But you just did what you’re supposed to do
Sooner or later one of us must know
That I really did try to get close to you.back to top

I Want You
The guilty undertaker sighs,
The lonesome organ grinder cries,
The silver saxophones say I should refuse you.
The cracked bells and washed-out horns
Blow into my face with scorn,
But it’s not that way,
I wasn’t born to lose you.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.The drunken politician leaps
Upon the street where mothers weep
And the saviors who are fast asleep,
They wait for you.
And I wait for them to interrupt
Me drinkin’ from my broken cup
And ask me to
Open up the gate for you.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.Now all my fathers, they’ve gone down
True love they’ve been without it.
But all their daughters put me down
’cause I don’t think about it.Well, I return to the queen of spades
And talk with my chambermaid.
She knows that I’m not afraid
To look at her.
She is good to me
And there’s nothing she doesn’t see.
She knows where I’d like to be
But it doesn’t matter.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.Now your dancing child with his chinese suit,
He spoke to me, I took his flute.
No, I wasn’t very cute to him,
Was i?
But I did it, though, because he lied
Because he took you for a ride
And because time was on his side
And because I . . .
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.back to top

Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again
Oh, the ragman draws circles
Up and down the block.
I’d ask him what the matter was
But I know that he don’t talk.
And the ladies treat me kindly
And furnish me with tape,
But deep inside my heart
I know I can’t escape.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.Well, shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells,
Speaking to some french girl,
Who says she knows me well.
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked,
But the post office has been stolen
And the mailbox is locked.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.Mona tried to tell me
To stay away from the train line.
She said that all the railroad men
Just drink up your blood like wine.
An’ I said, oh, I didn’t know that,
But then again, there’s only one I’ve met
An’ he just smoked my eyelids
An’ punched my cigarette.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.Grandpa died last week
And now he’s buried in the rocks,
But everybody still talks about
How badly they were shocked.
But me, I expected it to happen,
I knew he’d lost control
When he built a fire on main street
And shot it full of holes.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.Now the senator came down here
Showing ev’ryone his gun,
Handing out free tickets
To the wedding of his son.
An’ me, I nearly got busted
An’ wouldn’t it be my luck
To get caught without a ticket
And be discovered beneath a truck.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.Now the preacher looked so baffled
When I asked him why he dressed
With twenty pounds of headlines
Stapled to his chest.
But he cursed me when I proved it to him,
Then I whispered, not even you can hide.
You see, you’re just like me,
I hope you’re satisfied.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.

Now the rainman gave me two cures,
Then he said, jump right in.
The one was texas medicine,
The other was just railroad gin.
An’ like a fool I mixed them
An’ it strangled up my mind,
An’ now people just get uglier
An’ I have no sense of time.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.

When ruthie says come see her
In her honky-tonk lagoon,
Where I can watch her waltz for free
‘neath her panamanian moon.
An’ I say, aw come on now,
You must know about my debutante.
An’ she says, your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.

Now the bricks lay on grand street
Where the neon madmen climb.
They all fall there so perfectly,
It all seems so well timed.
An’ here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.back to top

Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Yes, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Well, you must tell me, baby
How your head feels under somethin’ like that
Under your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hatWell, you look so pretty in it
Honey, can I jump on it sometime?
Yes, I just wanna see
If it’s really that expensive kind
You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine
Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hatWell, if you wanna see the sun rise
Honey, I know where
We’ll go out and see it sometime
We’ll both just sit there and stare
Me with my belt
Wrapped around my head
And you just sittin’ there
In your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hatWell, I asked the doctor if I could see you
It’s bad for your health, he said
Yes, I disobeyed his orders
I came to see you
But I found him there instead
You know, I don’t mind him cheatin’ on me
But I sure wish he’d take that off his head
Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hatWell, I see you got a new boyfriend
You know, I never seen him before
Well, I saw him
Makin’ love to you
You forgot to close the garage door
You might think he loves you for your money
But I know what he really loves you for
It’s your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hatback to top

Just Like a Woman
Nobody feels any pain
Tonight as I stand inside the rain
Ev’rybody knows
That baby’s got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls.
She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl.Queen mary, she’s my friend
Yes, I believe I’ll go see her again
Nobody has to guess
Hat baby can’t be blessed
Till she sees finally that she’s like all the rest
With her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls.
She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl.It was raining from the first
And I was dying there of thirst
So I came in here
And your long-time curse hurts
But what’s worse
Is this pain in here
I can’t stay in here
Ain’t it clear that? br>
I just can’t fit
Yes, I believe it’s time for us to quit
When we meet again
Introduced as friends
Please don’t let on that you knew me when
I was hungry and it was your world.
Ah, you fake just like a woman, yes, you do
You make love just like a woman, yes, you do
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl.back to top

Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)
You say you love me
And you’re thinkin’ of me
But you know you could be wrong
You say you told me
That you wanna hold me
But you know you’re not that strong
I just can’t do what I done before
I just can’t beg you any more
I’m gonna let your pass
And I’ll go last
Then time will tell just who has fell
And who’s been left behind
When you go your way and I go mine.You say you disturb me
And you don’t deserve me
But you know sometimes you lie
You say you’re shakin’
And you’re always achin’
But you know how hard you try
Sometimes it gets so hard to care
It can’t be this way ev’rywhere
And I’m gonna let you pass
Yes, and I’ll go last
Then time will tell who has fell
And who’s been left behind
When you go your way and I go mine.The judge, he holds a grudge
He’s gonna call on you
But he’s badly built
And he walks on stilts
Watch out he don’t fall on you.You say you’re sorry
For tellin’ stories
That you know I believe are true
You say ya got some
Other kinda lover
And yes, I belive you do
You say my kisses are not like his
But this time I’m not gonna tell you why that is
I’m just gonna let you pass
Yes, and I’ll go last
Then time will tell who has fell
And who’s been left behind
When you go your way and I go mine.back to top

Temporary Like Achilles
Standing on your window, honey,
Yes, I’ve been here before.
Feeling so harmless,
I’m looking at your second door.
How come you don’t send me no regards?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, why are you so hard?Kneeling ‘neath your ceiling,
Yes, I guess I’ll be here for a while.
I’m tryin’ to read your portrait, but,
I’m helpless, like a rich man’s child.
How come you send someone out to have me barred?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, why are you so hard?Like a poor fool in his prime,
Yes, I know you can hear me walk,
But is your heart made out of stone, or is it lime,
Or is it just solid rock?Well, I rush into your hallway,
Lean against your velvet door.
I watch upon your scorpion
Who crawls across your circus floor.
Just what do you think you have to guard?
You know I want your lovin’, honey, but you’re so hard.Achilles is in your alleyway,
He don’t want me here,
He does brag.
He’s pointing to the sky
And he’s hungry, like a man in drag.
How come you get someone like him to be your guard?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey. but you’re so hard.back to top

Absolutely Sweet Marie
Well, your railroad gate, you know I just can’t jump it
Sometimes it gets so hard, you see
I’m just sitting here beating on my trumpet
With all these promises you left for me
But where are you tonight, sweet marie?Well, I waited for you when I was half sick
Yes, I waited for you when you hated me
Well, I waited for you inside of the frozen traffic
When you knew I had some other place to be
Now, where are you tonight, sweet marie?Well, anybody can be just like me, obviously
But then, now again, not too many can be like you, fortunately.Well, six white horses that you did promise
Were fin’lly delivered down to the penitentiary
But to live outside the law, you must be honest
I know you always say that you agree
But where are you tonight, sweet marie?Well, I don’t know how it happened
But the river-boat captain, he knows my fate
But ev’rybody else, even yourself
They’re just gonna have to wait.Well, I got the fever down in my pockets
The persian drunkard, he follows me
Yes, I can take him to your house but I can’t unlock it
You see, you forgot to leave me with the key
Oh, where are you tonight, sweet marie?

Now, I been in jail when all my mail showed
That a man can’t give his address out to bad company
And now I stand here lookin’ at your yellow railroad
In the ruins of your balcony
Wond’ring where you are tonight, sweet marie.back to top

4th Time Around
When she said,
Don’t waste your words, they’re just lies,
I cried she was deaf.
And she worked on my face until breaking my eyes,
Then said, what else you got left?
It was then that I got up to leave
But she said, don’t forget,
Everybody must give something back
For something they get.I stood there and hummed,
I tapped on her drum and asked her how come.
And she buttoned her boot,
And straightened her suit,
Then she said, don’t get cute.
So I forced my hands in my pockets
And felt with my thumbs,
And gallantly handed her
My very last piece of gum.She threw me outside,
I stood in the dirt where ev’ryone walked.
And after finding i’d
Forgotten my shirt,
I went back and knocked.
I waited in the hallway, she went to get it,
And I tried to make sense
Out of that picture of you in your wheelchair
That leaned up against . . .Her jamaican rum
And when she did come, I asked her for some.
She said, no, dear.
I said, your words aren’t clear,
You’d better spit out your gum.
She screamed till her face got so red
Then she fell on the floor,
And I covered her up and then
Thought I’d go look through her drawer.And, when I was through
I filled up my shoe
And brought it to you.
And you, you took me in,
You loved me then
You didn’t waste time.
And i, I never took much,
I never asked for your crutch.
Now don’t ask for mine.back to top

Obviously 5 Believers
Early in the mornin’
Early in the mornin’
I’m callin’ you to
I’m callin’ you to
Please come home
Yes, I guess I could make it without you
If I just didn’t feel so all aloneDon’t let me down
Don’t let me down
I won’t let you down
I won’t let you down
No I won’t
You know I can if you can, honey
But, honey, please don’tI got my black dog barkin’
Black dog barkin’
Yes it is now
Yes it is now
Outside my yard
Yes, I could tell you what he means
If I just didn’t have to try so hardYour mama’s workin’
Your mama’s moanin’
She’s cryin’ you know
She’s tryin’ you know
You better go now
Well, I’d tell you what she wants
But I just don’t know howFifteen jugglers
Fifteen jugglers
Five believers
Five believers
All dressed like men
Tell yo’ mama not to worry because
They’re just my friendsEarly in the mornin’
Early in the mornin’
I’m callin’ you to
I’m callin’ you to
Please come home
Yes, I could make it without you
If I just did not feel so all aloneback to top

Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands
With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes,
Oh, who among them do they think could bury you?
With your pockets well protected at last,
And your streetcar visions which you place on the grass,
And your flesh like silk, and your face like glass,
Who among them do they think could carry you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?With your sheets like metal and your belt like lace,
And your deck of cards missing the jack and the ace,
And your basement clothes and your hollow face,
Who among them can think he could outguess you?
With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims,
And your match-book songs and your gypsy hymns,
Who among them would try to impress you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?The kings of tyrus with their convict list
Are waiting in line for their geranium kiss,
And you wouldn’t know it would happen like this,
But who among them really wants just to kiss you?
With your childhood flames on your midnight rug,
And your spanish manners and your mother’s drugs,
And your cowboy mouth and your curfew plugs,
Who among them do you think could resist you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?Oh, the farmers and the businessmen, they all did decide
To show you the dead angels that they used to hide.
But why did they pick you to sympathize with their side?
Oh, how could they ever mistake you?
They wished you’d accepted the blame for the farm,
But with the sea at your feet and the phony false alarm,
And with the child of a hoodlum wrapped up in your arms,
How could they ever, ever persuade you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?With your sheet-metal memory of cannery row,
And your magazine-husband who one day just had to go,
And your gentleness now, which you just can’t help but show,
Who among them do you think would employ you?
Now you stand with your thief, you’re on his parole
With your holy medallion which your fingertips fold,
And your saintlike face and your ghostlike soul,
Oh, who among them do you think could destroy you
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?




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Mark Twain for President – 1879

A Presidential Candidate
twain mark-twain-mark-twain-9192207-1109-1377
I have pretty much made up my mind to run for President.
What the country wants is a candidate who cannot be injured
by investigation of his past history, so that the enemies of the
party will be unable to rake up anything against him that
nobody ever heard of before. If you know the worst about
a candidate, to begin with, every attempt to spring things
on him will be checkmated. Now I am going to enter the
field with an open record.
I am going to own up in advance to all the wickedness I have done, and if any Congressional committee is disposed to prowl around my biography in the
hope of discovering any dark and deadly deed that I have
secreted, why—let it prowl.
In the first place, I admit that I treed a rheumatic grand­father of mine in the winter of 1850. He was old and inexpert in climbing trees, but with the heartless brutality that is
characteristic of me, I ran him out of the front door in his night­
shirt at the point of a shotgun, and caused him to bowl up a
maple tree, where he remained all night, while I emptied shot
into his legs. I did this because he snored. I will do it again if I
ever have another grandfather. I am as inhuman now as I was
in 1850.
I candidly acknowledge that I ran away at the battle
of Gettysburg. My friends have tried to smooth over this fact
by asserting that I did so for the purpose of imitating Washington,
who went into the woods at Valley Forge for the
purpose of saying his prayers. It was a miserable subterfuge.
I struck out in a straight line for the Tropic of Cancer because
I was scared. I wanted my country saved, but I preferred to
have somebody else save it. I entertain that preference yet. If
the bubble reputation can be obtained only at the cannon’s
mouth, I am willing to go there for it, provided the cannon
is empty. If it is loaded, my immortal and inflexible purpose
is to get over the fence and go home. My invariable practice
in war has been to bring out of every fight two-­thirds more
men than when I went in. This seems to me to be Napoleonic
in its grandeur.
My financial views are of the most decided character, but
they are not likely, perhaps, to increase my popularity with
the advocates of inflation. I do not insist upon the special
supremacy of rag money or hard money. The great fundamental principle
of my life is to take any kind I can get.
The rumor that I buried a dead aunt under my grapevine
was correct. The vine needed fertilizing, my aunt had to
be buried, and I dedicated her to this high purpose. Does

that unfit me for the Presidency? The Constitution of our  country does not say so.

No other citizen was ever considered unworthy of this office because he enriched his grapevines with his dead relatives. Why should I be selected as the first victim of an absurd prejudice?

I admit also that I am not a friend of the poor man. I regard
the poor man, in his present condition, as so much wasted
raw material. Cut up and properly canned, he might be
made useful to fatten the natives of the cannibal islands and
to improve our export trade with that region. I shall recommend legislation upon the subject in my first message. My campaign cry will be: “Desiccate the poor workingman; stuff him into sausages.”
These are about the worst parts of my record. On them I
come before the country. If my country don’t want me, I will
go back again. But I recommend myself as a safe man—a man
who starts from the basis of total depravity and proposes to
be fiendish to the last.
The above screed was lifted reverently and verbatim from the multi-volume definitive text of THE COMPLETE WORKS OF MARK TWAIN published by The Library of America.
This link is very enlightening. Garfield won the  electoral college, but less than 2000 in the popular vote separated him from Hancock.  We are still struggling with many of the same issues.





Posted in American Literature, American Literature, Literary Lions, Literature, Mark Twain, Politics, Rants, writers, writing | 8 Comments

Ben Lerner’s ‘The Hatred of Poetry’ Revels in Paradox

Heads up, Poets. This review in Flavorwire (6/9/16) of Ben Lerner’s recent book-length essay on the disappointments and shortcomings of poetry is worth reading.

Says reviewer Jonathan Sturgeon, “The Hatred of Poetry is an important essay because it doubles as a self-conscious ars poetica from a major American writer, one who is not uncommonly cast in an Adamic light. (Few other writers are compared to Whitman by major critics, or hailed as “the future.”).”

Hmmm. I don’t know if all that’s hot air or not.  Check back in a hundred years or so.  But the points Lerner makes in his book about the process of writing poetry as experienced by the poet–the dynamic interplay of the poet’s mind, imagination and emotions–ring a bell.

If you have ever experienced that vague unease and sense of inadequacy that often afflicts poets after they have given a poem their best shot and revised it half to death, and then suddenly feel deflated, all the wind gone out of their sails, you will instantly get what Lerner is after here.  Marianne Moore‘s oft quoted poem “Poetry” that begins, “I, too, dislike it,” is the launching pad for this bottle rocket reverie on the false hopes for transcendence that beguile poets in the full flush of early inspiration. The ideas are nothing new but worth re-examining.

Here is an excerpt:


Poetry arises from the desire to get beyond the finite and the historical — the human world of violence and difference — and to reach the transcendent or divine. You’re moved to write a poem, you feel called upon to sing, because of that transcendent impulse. But as soon as you move from that impulse to the actual poem, the song of the infinite is compromised by the finitude of its terms. In a dream your verses can defeat time, your words can shake off the history of their usage, you can represent what can’t be represented (e.g. the creation of representation itself), but when you wake, when you rejoin your friends around the fire, you’re back in the human world with its inflexible laws and logic.

Posted in American Literature, literary theory, Literature, poetry, poets | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Abhorrent Grammar Mistakes #1

scool marmThis is a public service announcement and (maybe) the first in an erratic series of fusillades fired in the direction of blithely ignorant practitioners of faulty grammar. Not that it’ll make any difference, but 1) this exercise will make me feel better and 2) at least I can say I made an effort.

These offenses are not in any order of criminality, but will appear as they offend my ears.

Abhorrent Grammar Mistakes #1


Exhibit #1 “Between you and I”


Because “between” is a preposition and so requires personal pronouns that follow it (as part of a “prepositional phrase”) to be in the objective case.

“I” is in the nominative case.

good grammar

As we all know, though some of us have forgotten, personal pronouns have three cases.  Ahem.  Nominative, objective, and possessive. There is a ton of simple easy to remember information about this (“about” is yet another preposition!) available online, so I won’t belabor this or bore you any further than to suggest you avoid embarrassing yourself and others who know better by uttering the above travesty against our mother tongue and always say instead . . .


Exhibit #2 “Between you and me”

“Me” (ahem) is in the grammatically correct case (in this case), the objective case.

Now, many will object that it “doesn’t sound right,” but that will only betray the kind of company they have been keeping.  Today “between you and I” is widely and incorrectly used, yet those who know the difference are still the people who make a difference, so watch out.

Between you and me, it’s important.

punctuation saves lives






Posted in grammar, Literature | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Too Many Books?


One of my favorite literary websites is LitHub. It’s smart, clever and full of important, insightful book news, very often news you can use.  The editors at LitHub aggregate current interesting pieces from other important sites as well as create their own original bookish journalism, criticism and writing advice.

I want to share a recent piece from the site that is heartrending for any book lover: an essay on the difficulty of reducing the size of one’s personal library.  We’ve all been there, stymied by the threat of books completely overwhelming our very living space.  Such a situation always requires painful decisions and soul searching.  Our love for books has become out-sized, perhaps even an addiction or a type of hoarding. Oh my. So periodically we have  tortured days of reckoning in our book rich lives.

On the Heartbreaking Difficulty of Getting Rid of Books

Summer Brennan Attempts Marie Kondo’s Approach to Tidying Up Her Library

Like a lot of avid readers, I enjoyed Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up but bristled when it came to the section about books. The gist of her now-famous method is this: go through all your possessions by category, touch everything, keep only that which “sparks joy,” and watch as your world is transformed. It seems simple enough, but Kondo gives minimalism the hard sell when it comes to books, urging readers to ditch as many of them as they can. You may think that a book sparks joy, she argues, but you’re probably wrong and should get rid of it, especially if you haven’t read it yet.

Paring down one’s wardrobe is one thing, but what kind of degenerate only wants to own 30 books (or fewer) at a time on purpose? What sort of psychopath rips out pages from their favorite books and throws away the rest so they can, as Kondo puts it, “keep only the words they like?”

For those of us for whom even the word “book” sparks joy, this constitutes a serious disconnect. Still, as the weather gets warmer, many readers will tackle their spring cleaning with The Life-Changing Magic in hand.

I wondered, can Kondo’s Spartan methods be adapted for someone who feels about books the way the National Rifle Association feels about guns, invoking the phrase “cold dead hands”? I decided to give it a try.

Following her instructions, I herded all of my books into one room and put them on the floor. There were more than 500, ranging from books I’d been given as a small child to advance review copies of novels I’d received within the last week. Somehow they did not appear as numerous as one would expect. They looked vulnerable and exposed when stacked up in this way, out of context, like when the TSA zips open your suitcase at the airport. But that is the point of the KonMari method—to force us to see our possessions under the fluorescent light of disorientation.

Oh, I thought, scanning tattered paperbacks and long-forgotten class-assigned texts.

Oh. …. [Read the rest here]

Posted in books, Literature, personal library, reading | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Votive Light for Nabokov



Ambushed, waylaid, ravished by an unexpected encounter tonight with Pale Fire, Nabokov’s powerful daemonic masterpiece. An oddity of a novel told in four cantos, 999 lines of seductive, sensuous verse.  A virtuoso piece, a showcase for the author’s extraordinary talent and intellectual fire power; a linguistic fireworks display built upon the slightest pretext for a novel. Literary satire, insider wit.  Published in 1962, it is on most lists of the 100 most important works of literature of the 20th Century.  Vladimir Nabokov, Russian emigre, sheer genius. Poetic mountebank, myth-maker, verbal  alchemist, spellbinding caster of spells, synesthete, lepidopterist, chess expert.

Takes your breath away. Monarch_butterfly 2


I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By the false azure in the windowpane;

I was the smudge of ashen fluff–and I

Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky . . .

. . .

Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass

Hang all the furniture above the grass . . .

Retake the falling snow: each drifting flake

Shapeless and slow, unsteady and opaque,

A dull dark white against the day’s pale white

And abstract larches in the neutral light.

And then the gradual and dual blue

As night unites the viewer and the view . . . .

I’m just at a loss for words in such company.  Hardly fair one person should be so richly gifted. Are we sure he was actually human and not a smirking Parnassus sojourner in disguise having a little prankster fun with us?

Posted in fiction, Literary Classics, Literary Lions, Literature, poetry | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Whitman, Democracy’s Bard

Walt Whitman popped into my thoughts unannounced yesterday as I was listening to a nasty political discussion on NPR. Honestly, it’s hard to avoid the contentious, angry political noise in the air these days that’s camouflaged as debate and dialogue. People everywhere are irate and sounding off, often obnoxiously.


Granted, politics have always been rough, tough and bruising, and in this country, if you know history, you know there never was a golden age of political pablum or balmy rectitude when we were better, “nicer” people in choosing our elected officials.  It’s amazing how consistently rife with personal insult, libel, defamation and even threats of physical harm (think assassination) all of our presidential campaigns have been.  And candidates’ family members, including most of all wives, have always been fair game for pillory. Cf. Old Hickory, Andrew Jackson’s wife, viciously maligned on the basis of a mere rumor that she was a divorcee’.

Ho hum.  The more things change …vitriol

And yet when we recall Whitman’s joyful celebratory poetry, his shameless praise and pride in the American people, their apparent innate goodness, and the as yet untested Idea of America as a democracy vastly rich in values and an honest belief in liberty and justice for all, we are transported to a more innocent, kindlier era quite unlike the moral wasteland of our selfish, self-centered, asphalt present.

the beautiful dreams of a beautifully innocent people . . .

Whitman’s expansive, incantatory and hugely optimistic Leaves of Grass was first published (self-published, actually) in 1855. It subsequently was heavily revised and enlarged upon many times and became Whitman’s lifework, ringing the depth and breadth of the beautiful dreams of a beautifully innocent people.  Today it stands as a powerful witness and testimony of a better time and place, America’s Eden.

Though yet to make a big splash as a nation in international affairs, America at the time was young and full of itself.  The nation took seriously the ideals codified in the Constitution and drew strength and social cohesion from this shared credo.  Its people were  astounded daily by new discoveries on the as yet unexplored western frontier and the seemingly endless bounty of our natural resources.

What a time and place to be alive.  The newspapers, magazines, personal letters and diaries of the day attest to a zest, a joie de vivre, in the air for the simple thrills, chills and joys of living. An unquestioned rock solid faith in the future fueled a steely universal respect for effort, sacrifice and the work ethic. The sky was the limit; upward mobility everywhere in evidence. Human decency was reckoned an essential quality in everyone’s character and attainable; common courtesy was, well, common, a given and expected.  Good manners mattered. Progress had yet to become a dirty word and our natural abundance seemed inexhaustible, infinite.

We were equipped for and capable of anything, we believed. And all eyes were on us in our unapologetic brashness.  The rest of the civilized world was watching us with a raised eyebrow and a jaded jaundiced eye, expecting what history predicted (if past is indeed prologue), a fall from grace.  Never had Democracy been attempted on a scale so grand by a country so grandly endowed. The myth became our reality. We embraced it as scriptural truth.  We were confident of our ability to make most things right, both for our own people and, by example, for rest of The World.


Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America, 1835

No other American poet than Walt Whitman has so ably and consistently given voice to the heady optimistic public spirit prevalent in the  United States in the Nineteenth Century.  We were bold, boastful, proud and hell-bent on making equal opportunity for all a reality.

Oh, the good old days. Today Whitman’s eloquent magnum opus whispers accusations of national malfeasance from memory’s rafters and roof beams; from the shadows of our subsequent common past, for our sins of omission and commission, of our grasping, greedy, me-first failures to realize the promises we made to ourselves and to rest of The (big bad) World.


An obsessive-compulsive, meticulous cataloger and compiler, Whitman was encyclopedic in his efforts to capture and render in his poetry the enormous bounty of the country and the energy and verve of the American people. A sweet sampling follows …


I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Source: Selected Poems (1991)

Below, note the crucial difference between Whitman’s sense of “self” and our contemporary  lapse into the hubris of “Me-ism.”  The “self”  that Whitman refers to  corresponds to all “selves,” not separate lives, superior or inferior. It is a unifying idiom/concept, not a separation of one from others.  “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

That is, it is no “selfie.”  The very practice and attitude behind it would have scandalized the Nineteenth Century American mind.

“The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag . . .”

from Song of Myself (1892 version)

By Walt Whitman

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,

Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,

Nature without check with original energy.

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,

The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,

I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides,

The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?

Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self. . . . .

[Click to read the rest of Song of Myself ]

For all his tireless inspired work, Whitman received little critical acclaim (other than the prescient endorsement of Ralph Waldo Emerson in a letter which he came to treasure) and scanty public appreciation in his lifetime, which was an archetype for the miserable lack of appreciation and dismal financial fate of most of our major literary figures of that era (Poe, Melville, Dickinson, etc.). In fact, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was reviled in certain quarters as pornographic (Emily Dickinson said in a letter that she heard he was “indecent”) and such misunderstandings of his poetry more than once got him fired from positions he very much needed to survive.

Even so, it’s clear from his verse that he had a wonderful life and, wherever he was in his constant traipsing back and forth over the unspoiled continent, even on a battlefield strewn with corpses of young American men during  the darkest bloodiest days of our Civil War, he always fully explored and embraced  the sundry nuances and delectations of his circumstances,  savoring both good and bad, and immortalizing for anyone who might care that vanished golden moment of our history.


Posted in American Literature, Literature, poetry, poets, walt Whitman | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Poets and Poetasters: National Poetry Month

So what’s a poetaster? Most people are pretty sure they know what a poet is, but poetaster, first used by Ben Jonson in 1600, has fallen into disuse.

Poetaster_Sml-300x300Well, fact is, though we throw the word poet around with flippant abandon, there is little widespread agreement on the meaning of this noun.  It all depends on where you’re coming from and how you define poetry.

Since the earlier 20th century and the rise of literary modernism, poetry in a sense has been usurped by academia (and literary snobs and exclusive arts organizations whose members are all MFAs) and its definition in those circles has increasingly narrowed over the years.

Lacking any other distinction, such as being gainfully employed or crusading for an important charitable cause, some of these metaphorical folks comfort themselves with their memberships in exclusive artsy societies and occasional publication in highbrow mags, considering them badges of honor and  proof positive of superiority.

Hey, I’ve been called out as highbrow fairly often, but usually derisively. I admit I have certain credentials and a bit of a bibliography, but I don’t think these are things  to brag about or stake your life on. My family certainly isn’t impressed.  Few people would be, actually. For me, it’s sort of an embarrassing private vice, something indicative of a potentially dangerous lack of practicality. Not one of my siblings has ever taken the time to (haha) read a word I’ve published anywhere in spite of my efforts to bowl them over by ranting about the New York Times, Baltimore Sun etcetera yadda yadda. It’s a big So What in their book. But at least they’ve stopped asking when I’m going to get a real job.

I learned from this a long time ago that in all things, whatever your station,  a little humility goes a long way. We all, whoever we are, put our pants on one leg at a time (without the benefit of imagery, meter and rhyme). And have you noticed that the really great lions of literature have always been ignored, misunderstood, if not reviled, in their lifetime?  They’re “strange, odd, peculiar …” Not that those qualities are necessarily symptoms of literary genius ….

But I thank God Poetry is bigger than all that blab and blah-blah and has always survived the depredations and abuse carried on in its name.

[Below: Original manuscript of a “strange, odd, peculiar” poet.  Emily Dickinson’s poem “The way Hope builds his House” on back of envelope, c. 1863]


Anyway … the point!  What sent me off on this frenzied tangent and reckless reverie was a quotation I stumbled on at the Poetry Magazine website.  It was folded into the body of a longer piece purportedly devoted to the celebration of April as “National Poetry Month.” It stood out from the other quotes in the smorgasbord of academic smugness because of its honesty and implicit democratic view of poetry and its unbounded, often surprising origins and sources. [I took the liberty of adding bold type and breaks in the quote for the sake of readability.] Here you go:

This past fall, for the culminating reading of a poetry class at a Miami elementary school, we tried to order pizza from a major commercial 
chain. They told us that they didn’t deliver to that particular neighborhood, despite it being technically inside their delivery zone. Their refusal was blatantly discriminatory (the neighborhood has “a bad reputation”), and we were frustrated. We wanted pizza and were willing to pay for it; why wouldn’t they just bring it to us?

I relate this story because sometimes I think the poetry world, for all of its good intentions, behaves like that pizza shop. We make decisions 
about who does and doesn’t receive poetry, about where poetry should exist, and about who should be writing it. Much of poetry advocacy would be better defined as poet advocacy and comes packaged with unspoken rules about who is and who isn’t a poet. It says: if and when poetry receives more attention (insert: money, fame, etc.), here is who should benefit. This advocacy becomes a frail mouthpiece for a fringe sector of society. If we want poetry to have a more central place in our culture, we have to let go of our personal investment in its growth. We have to admit that we don’t fully understand how poetry exists in the lives of people who don’t have MFAs, who don’t take workshops, who have no idea what AWP stands for, and we have to admit that those people have far more to teach to us than we have to teach to them.

Poetry isn’t pizza. It doesn’t need to be delivered. It’s already in our communities, and by listening to those communities, we might learn that poetry’s power is far greater than we had ever envisioned.

— P. Scott Cunningham, Director, O, Miami Poetry Festival

This guy was onto something (as the great novelist Walker Percy liked to say). I want to remember that and maybe so should you:  “Poetry isn’t pizza.”

Posted in American Literature, Literature, poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

What Rough Beast?

“William Butler Yeats is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.” The Poetry Foundation 

And I certainly agree.

At the risk of becoming a Yeats “bore,” I am going to provide my readers with yet another “Yeats fix.” This time it’s the rightfully famous and revered shorter poem “The Second Coming.” It’s been rattling around in my mind for weeks because it seems to me unusually prescient and apropos of the current news, both national and international.

It makes me reflect and wonder . . . Does the breakdown of civility in human discourse (from social media to national politics, all the way to world “diplomacy”) herald a breakdown in civilization?  Once I might have thought such a thing impossible, not worth a moment’s consideration or passing glance . . . but no more, sad to say.  What do you think?

Audio of “The Second Coming” read by William Butler Yeats

“The Second Coming”

by William Butler Yeats


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)
[There is supposed to be a stanza break just before the line that begins “Surely . . .” For the life of me, I can’t get WP to show it.  Anybody have any ideas?]
Posted in Literature, poetry | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

A Woman’s Rx for a Long and Happy Life! Smart Aging for Women by Elizabeth Rigley, R.N., M.H.S.

A ground breaking new book coming soon from Canadian publisher Borealis Press An Interview with Elizabeth Rigley, R.N. Author of SMART AGING FOR WOMEN: A Guide to a Healthier, Happier and Longer Li…

Source: A Woman’s Rx for a Long and Happy Life! Smart Aging for Women by Elizabeth Rigley, R.N., M.H.S..

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A Woman’s Rx for a Long and Happy Life! Smart Aging for Women by Elizabeth Rigley, R.N., M.H.S.


A ground breaking new book coming soon from Canadian publisher Borealis Press

An Interview with Elizabeth Rigley, R.N., M.H.S.


A Guide to a Healthier, Happier and Longer Life

© Copyright 2016, Margaret Langstaff

Editor & Publishing Consultant

All Rights Reserved

E Rigley

Elizabeth Rigley is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in nursing from St. Francis Xavier University (2002) and a Master of Health Studies from Athabasca University (2007). In addition she has earned certificates in gerontology and continuing care from St. Francis Xavier University (2002). She has worked for many years in acute care hospitals as a front-line critical care nurse and more recently as a healthcare manager improving quality of care for elderly patients in long-term care facilities across Canada. She is a passionate advocate for healthy living and smart aging, and has done extensive research on the impact of lifestyle on aging. She lives in Ottawa, Canada, with her husband Jack, and near her three sons and their families while pursuing her hobbies of physical fitness, and playing the piano, as well as a lifelong passion for learning.


 As a veteran editor, I can tell you that nothing is more gratifying in my work than playing “midwife” to important books that will improve the quality of people’s lives.  Books, especially significant ones with a message that demonstrably helps people, last a long time.  Over the course of their publishing history, they can become ”backlist” staples that can inform and enlighten  generations of readers and spur further research in a critical area.

Recently I have had the privilege of editing for publication a half dozen such titles, and would welcome the opportunity to continue in this vein.

Yet in this recent assortment of worthy manuscripts coming my way from clients, none is more significant and potentially life enhancing than Elizabeth Rigley’s Smart Aging for Women. For it distills the wisdom and hands-on experience acquired during a distinguished nursing career specializing in female gerontology and healthcare management, and incorporates the latest ground-breaking research and medical findings about women’s longevity.

And it’s a great read!  The writing in Smart Aging for Women is lively, very convincing and full of fascinating real life examples, anecdotes and individual narratives. Without beating around the bush, Elizabeth Rigley tells women clearly and persuasively exactly what they must do in order to live a long and happy life. 

Perhaps it should be no surprise that the Rx is healthy lifestyle choices and behavior, but the myth persists that women are ultimately helpless in this respect and that they have a foregone destiny locked up in the genes they inherit. Nothing could be further from the truth.

After winding up the editing of the book, I recently had a “post-partum” discussion with Elizabeth about it that most women will find interesting and a boon to their own health and joie de vivre.

 Here are some highlights—

Elizabeth, writing a book, any book, is an arduous process, a marathon really, and usually the author has no guarantee of success, let alone publication.  What stimulated you to undertake this feat and kept you going? 

I have always loved writing, particularly short stories. I began this project by writing the short story, which begins the book, and then it just evolved from there. I had no idea of the work involved in writing a book although I found it to be very enjoyable and a valuable learning experience. The motivation that kept me going was my desire to help women become smart agers, free from chronic diseases.

Throughout my nursing career, I have seen so many people become ill due to unhealthy lifestyle choices. I have also seen people in perfect health in their eighties and nineties because of healthy lifestyle choices. I want to share what I have learned with women about how to extend their active life in good health. I have spent numerous hours reading and researching in an effort to extract important and vital information and in this book, I share some of the best and most credible information available today—information that will deliver the kind of results that women want and deserve.

As a health care professional, I have often seen what happens when people do not practice preventative health care. So many times, I have heard doctors sigh with frustration when something could easily have been avoided with some very small preventative intervention, such as a routine screening test. And unfortunately, the consequences of that omission are often fatal.

I would like women to know that by keeping a watchful eye on their health they can often mitigate the development of diseases or lessen their severity through early detection.  One important way to do this is by having an annual physical examination and age-appropriate screening tests and blood work.

What are you hoping to accomplish with Smart Aging for Women?

 Clearly, when we look at the statistics, many women are not getting the message about the impact of lifestyle on healthy living and aging.  For example in 1997, the obesity rates in the US were 20%. Today, in 2015, a large study of a nationally representative group of 15,208 people recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that the number of obese women is 37%. The percentage for combined overweight and obese women in the US is now 67%, which is an alarming increase.

And along with getting fatter, people are getting sicker and sicker, and the costs to care for them are growing higher and higher. Obesity is incompatible with healthy aging because it increases the risk of a number of age-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and osteoarthritis, which often lead to premature disability, suffering, and an early death.

Elizabeth Rigley pic HalfMarathon_2015

(above)  Elizabeth, participating in a Half Marathon in 2015


 I want women to understand that they are in control of their health destiny, for the most part, and that they can dramatically improve their odds of living healthier, happier, and longer well into their senior years by making good lifestyle and attitudinal choices.  They need to understand that chronic diseases are not an inevitable aspect of aging but the result of poor lifestyle choices.

 If you had to boil your message down into a few sentences, what would you say?

 At 60, most of us still have thirty years left, and whether they’re downhill or not is up to us. We may be alert, vigorous, and sexy through this latter third of our lives or we may descend into Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, pulmonary disease, or other chronic diseases that torture the elderly. Mostly it depends on us.


 Studies reveal that many common chronic diseases associated with aging are, for the most part, preventable. For example, 90% of type 2 diabetes, 82% of cardiovascular disease, and 70% of strokes and cancer are preventable. While genes account for a very small part of one’s health and longevity, environment and lifestyle account for the majority. In fact, 90% of us could live to age 90, free from chronic diseases, by simply making healthier lifestyle choices.

Chronic diseases rob people of their independence and the treatments required such as surgery, chemotherapy, and dialysis can often cause great suffering. They represent a substantial loss of the benefit gained from living a longer lifespan, which is to stay in good health for as many years as possible.

There are certainly many diseases over which we have limited to no control, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes, which are autoimmune diseases. No amount of exercise will prevent or cure them. But diseases that arrive because of poor lifestyle choices are a very different matter.

Heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity, and diabetes are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems. Fifty percent of all adults over the age of 50 in the U.S. have one or more chronic diseases. Seven of the top 10 causes of death are from chronic diseases, with heart disease and cancer leading the way.

 While there is no single thing that can prevent cancer or guarantee that you will live a long and healthy life, by making some simple lifestyle changes you may substantially improve the odds that you will live healthier, happier, and longer.

 Can you list briefly the most important changes women can make in their lives to improve their health and extend their life expectancy?


 The vast majority of chronic diseases that have such a huge impact on healthy aging could be prevented or significantly delayed with the following lifestyle changes:

  1.  Foster a positive attitude
  2. Stop smoking
  3. Reduce consumption of mass-produced processed foods
  4. Consume a diet rich in plant foods
  5. Maintain a normal weight (Body Mass Index, or BMI, between 19 and 24)
  6. Do regular vigorous exercise (30 minutes a day minimum).
  7. Self-monitor blood pressure and blood sugar.

While the list may be short, the adherence can be challenging. This is because people often try to make too many changes all at once. And when they fail, they just give up and go back to their bad habits.  The goal is to make more good choices in the run of a day than bad ones. These good choices all add up to smart aging!

By implementing these lifestyle changes, women can greatly decrease the likelihood that they will be afflicted with preventable diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, many cancers, lung disease, heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, strokes, liver and kidney disease, as well as other medical conditions such as depression, orthopedic problems, and sleep apnea.


 With these simple lifestyle changes, women will become younger on the inside and the outside and reap the unbelievable benefits that go along with that. They will look healthier, with younger-looking skin and nails, shinier hair, and clearer eyes. They will lose weight, tone muscles, and retain their quick mind and interest in life while warding off depression. Their libido will increase, allowing them to continue enjoying a healthy sex life. And the most important benefit of all is that they will stop the chronic diseases of aging like type 2 diabetes and hypertension from ever becoming part of their lives.


 The single most important change that women can make in their lives is to exercise daily. Exercise is undisputedly the be-all and end-all. It is by far the single most important and smartest thing women can do for themselves each day in their quest for a healthier, happier, and longer life.

And while lifestyle is the main focus of this book, other relevant issues for women will also be discussed, such as

  • menopause
  • sex
  • non-surgical and surgical cosmetic procedures
  • preventative health care
  • housing options

… and much more. There are a myriad of things that can impact aging and the more information women have, the better. The years simply fly by and they know it, they are there. I want to make sure they arrive safely!


 Are you watching any new promising developments in gerontology that could materially improve the aging experience for women?

Today, one in ten thousand people make it to one hundred years old and the majority of them are women.  Dr. Nir Barzili, Director of the Institute for Aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, currently leads the longevity genes project, whose goal is to try and discover the genes that allow some people to live to a very old age free from the chronic diseases of aging.   The discovery of such genes could lead to drug therapies that might help people live longer, healthier lives and avoid or significantly delay age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

There are still many things to be learned about the aging body and why the genetic make-up of some people predisposes them to a longer life than others, but one thing is certain. While there are things in our bodies and in our susceptibility to disease and aging that we cannot control, we have the ability to ward off many chronic diseases and increase our longevity by the lifestyle we choose. By making healthy lifestyle choices now, like eating healthy food and exercising daily, we have the power to significantly decrease the likelihood that we will spend our older years tortured by debility and chronic diseases.

Thank you, Elizabeth! You have done a great service to all women and the men who love them with Smart Aging for Women.  It certainly deserves a large audienceWe wish you every success!


Questions for Elizabeth? Any observations or concerns? Fire away, fellow bloggers!





Posted in Author Interview, book publishing, editing, Literature, Margaret Langstaff Editorial | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Prayer for My Daughter” –William Butler Yeats

And now, dear friends, enjoy one of the greatest poets in the English language and one of his most highly regarded poems.

I’ve been dipping into Yeats’ Collected Poems and savoring them for many years, but recently this one  really struck a chord with me and seemed to me a poem just about everyone could appreciate.  Something in the wind, maybe.

Yes, it’s rather long, but every word is priceless and the poem builds to one of the most profound and poignant conclusions you will ever read 🙂

[Apologies, WordPress won’t let me show stanza breaks for some reason. Am investigating!]


         by William Butler Yeats
Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle
But Gregory’s Wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack and roof-levelling wind,
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.
I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour,
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come
Dancing to a frenzied drum
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.
May she be granted beauty, and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass; for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness, and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.
Helen, being chosen, found life flat and dull,
And later had much trouble from a fool;
While that great Queen that rose out of the spray,
Being fatherless, could have her way,
Yet chose a bandy-leggèd smith for man.
It’s certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone.
In courtesy I’d have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift, but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful.
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty’s very self, has charm made wise;
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.
May she become a flourishing hidden tree,
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
And have no business but dispensing round
Their magnanimities of sound;
Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
Oh, may she live like some green laurel
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.
My mind, because the minds that I have loved,
The sort of beauty that I have approved,
Prosper but little, has dried up of late,
Yet knows that to be choked with hate
May well be of all evil chances chief.
If there’s no hatred in a mind
Assault and battery of the wind
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.
An intellectual hatred is the worst,
So let her think opinions are accursed.
Have I not seen the loveliest woman born
Out of the mouth of Plenty’s horn,
Because of her opinionated mind
Barter that horn and every good
By quiet natures understood
For an old bellows full of angry wind?
Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
And that its own sweet will is heaven’s will,
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.
And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
Where all’s accustomed, ceremonious;
For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony’s a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.



Originally published in Poetry Magazine in 1919, still the most influential periodical in English in the genre of poetry.


Posted in Literature, poetry, poets, Reading | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Back from Computer Hell

Friends and followers, I’m back! (haha)

News flash. My computer crashed nearly a week ago.  I’ve been unable to access my online accounts for that period of time.

However, all data was successfully recovered and the computer was essentially “rebuilt” from the ground up. Great back up systems have been put in place to avert any possible future disasters like this, thank heavens.

I’m very fortunate to have top of the line security and really terrific computer gurus watching my back.

All of which is to say, I have a lot of catching up to do at this point, particularly with my editorial services

Thank you for hanging in there with me during this infernally aggravating time.  Look for new posts to appear here very soon!

Thanks, guys!



Posted in computers, editor, Literature | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Love is the slowest form of suicide–Fiza Pathan

(C) Copyright 2016, Margaret Langstaff,, All Rights Reserved


 Fiza Pathan, a very young self-published author, recently was awarded three prestigious book prizes, one at the London Book Festival and two at the New England Festival of Books. fiza pic
Her attentive, admiring uncle Blaise reports that “at the New England Book Festival  Amina The Silent One received an award in Regional Literature, and Raman and Sunny: Middle School Blues received two awards in Young Adult, one at the above festival and the other at the London Book Festival.”
Fiza is 26 years old, a middle school teacher in Mumbai, and English is not her native language.  It has been my pleasure and privilege to edit most of her books, and to watch her rapid growth and development, as she agreeably responded to a light editorial hand.  Her skills and imaginative range have exploded almost exponentially with each new book.  She has become more daring, confident and proficient–surprisingly so to this veteran editor.  One rarely encounters a nascent writer as responsive to example, correction and new and greater challenges.
Fiza has written and published nine books and one short story to date.
Except for the short story, all are available in paperback and Kindle format. At this tender stage of her career she has already accumulated 20 awards for her titles.
Let’s listen to what Fiza has to say about all this. Her candor may shock you.  This is not a writer thrilled with her sudden notoriety, nor one in pursuit of literary fame and fortune for selfish reasons or personal gain.

Miss Fiza, as you know, an eternal question readers who are not writers have is “why write?” It is a question that can only be answered individually by any given writer.

I write because I am helpless! Everything that I have been through in my life has caused me pain and being a person who is not very vocal about her feelings, I tend to bring out my anguish in the form of the written word. When I wasn’t a writer, I used to write in my diaries.  Now since I am a published writer, I celebrate my sadness in my books.

My father and his family did not want to look after me because I was a girl, so my mother left her in-laws’ place when I was barely a few months old, to lead the life of a single parent in her mother’s house. I grew up thinking at first that every child lives with a single parent until I realized the truth at age 6…and that hurt.

Since then the lacerations inflicted upon my soul and heart have grown from tiny scratches to open wounds infested with the worms of melancholy, which gnaw at my very being, not wanting me to go on. In such a state, what could I do but write? I had no mouth to speak, for I was told that people go through worse problems, so I must push the pain back. I’ve been pushing ever since.

Writing is my way of pushing the sorrow back. I don’t write my books; I bleed on my books with the blood everyone calls ‘ink.’ I am 26 years old and my writing is my “life support system.” If I don’t write, I will die and I cannot afford to do so because I have to look after my mother and her family, my family who raised me, even though I was not their responsibility. So I have got to go on, no matter how bad the pain is. I’ve got to keep writing. The morbid joke is that, the better the books are that I write, the greater the pain involved at that point in time.

Isn’t that funny! I am a very simple person, so I can assure you of one elementary fact in my life which holds true: the day I stop writing, I will cease to exist.

Very simply, what made you want to write? All writers encounter failure and discouragement, but you were able to overcome these things. Something kept you going. Was it faith or an inner voice? Did you perhaps find your greatest joy and satisfaction losing yourself in the lives of your challenged characters?

I am a very insignificant person with simple wants and needs. Simple people like me don’t encounter the travails of the regular “writers.” I have never felt discouraged, I have never needed a ‘push’ to write. I have no idea what a “writer’s block” is nor what my inner voice says or doesn’t say. My characters don’t live in me and neither do I live in them. I’m here referring to my fiction books only. The moment I finish bleeding in one book, I go on to the next. If given the freedom to do so, I would have written a book every month, or maybe two in a month, or maybe four.

But I have got my responsibilities. I need to teach to earn money for my family and to fulfill many dreams. I would like to complete my own education, to build a school for the street children of Mumbai, to open a study centre for poor students, to start a circulating library for disadvantaged sections of the Indian society and much more. In order to fulfill these dreams I need to be alive, of course, and the only way I can be alive is to be on my “life support system”…by writing. So therefore I at least can manage to write three books in a year. Amina: The Silent One was written in a month’s time while Raman and Sunny: Middle School Blues took me 50 days exactly.

If I can sit still in Church even for a moment, at least ten ideas for new books come to me with the whole story intact from beginning to end. All the books which I have penned till now have been somehow ‘sent’ to me during mass, especially during the elevation of the Host, the moment of consecration, when the Catholic priest blesses the bread and it is transformed into the body and blood of Christ; that is, during the miracle of transubstantiation.


I have never been in want of ideas to write, but yes, I had to write. I am just muffling my sobs in the pages of my notebooks, and that’s the blunt truth. I don’t like to be fake, and I dislike people who speak a falsehoods. Maybe that is why I am always getting “hurt.”

Would it be strange to say that I started writing because I have no friends, except the ones I create? Would it be peculiar to say that I wanted to write because I am the butt of all jokes because of my physical looks? Would it be novel to say that my characters are more like someone you may recognize, but whom I find hard to even fathom? I am a very simple person with a mystery within my heart to be unlocked, but you shall never have the key, for who but I know the meaning of that cliché … “love is the slowest form of suicide?”

Social injustice is a recurrent theme in your writing. Would you say the effort to defeat it keeps you writing?

To be truthful, I myself don’t know why I am often inspired to write about social issue topics. Sometimes I don’t realize it is a social issue that I am writing about until the book or story is finally over! Maybe this is because social injustice has become such a part of my life, which I see every day in the world around me. What seems like a serious social issue to some people, seems quite normal and routine to me. I’m now too used to pain to be shocked anymore. That I want to do something about it, yes, it is true, and when I say I’m going to do something about it, I’ll do it, but not in writing. That is to me another form of “witnessing” and we’ve got way too many “witnesses” here on our planet than “people who act.”

Rape, molestation, communalism, terrorism, regionalism, bureaucratic corruption, wars, child abuse, female foeticide, female infanticide, bride burning, poverty, epidemics, famines, environmental destruction, drug abuse.

Yes, Fiza, all themes that wend their way into your novels . . . .

Well, these are everyday affairs in my world, and I seriously want to stop writing about them and start doing something concrete about them. Injustice in any form has been a blood brother to me and not only me, but to hundreds of millions of people all over the world. The world needs to rehabilitate this monster before he lifts up his serpent hydra head and spits out his toxic venom to such an extent that it destroys us all. If my books help in some way towards “action” and “reaction” against this possibility, then I will be indirectly pleased. But if my writing on social issues is read for the sake of “entertainment,” well, that is for the reader to decide, not me.

I’m just a writer… as Samuel Johnson has said:
“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”

Many write out of a simple “what if” curiosity about human nature and begin a book with a character or two in mind in a certain situation, desiring to see how he or she will handle the challenge, not having a foregone conclusion for a book at the outset. The writer wants to discover, given the situation and the character of the protagonist (s), how will this all play out. Haha, that’s why I write: I want to discover what people will do in certain situations. Writing is an act of discovery, solving a mystery for me. It’s for me an exercise in learning about human nature and mankind’s on again off again relationship with God. Flannery O’Connor has been a major influence on my work. Many other writers, however, are incapable of writing the first word until they have the book completely outlined, start to finish. John Irving (whom I know, author of the bestseller The World According to Garp ) writes like that.

No, Ma’am, before I write a word, I know the ending of all my stories as well as their beginning. I know which characters are going to appear in my story and what they have to do. I have got several ideas for the books which I wish to write. I want to write the Indian version of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita…I wish to write a complete study guide of the famous Indian writer R.K.Narayan’s works as he is my favourite author, and I am currently researching on this very topic. I wish to write a theosophical novel on a Vampire and a lot more.

It just comes to me…everything, but always in a church while meditating. I am an avid reader of books of all genres, yet it is strange that I have never taken literature as a subject either in college, or even now for my masters which I am currently pursuing! My pet subject happens to be History and I’m doing my masters in that subject. The only time I really studied literature was in school and in my teacher’s training college. Political science is another one of my favourite subjects along with Sociology, which I may pursue at a later date.


Fiza Pathan has bootstrapped her way into publication and reader and award recognition as a self-published author. Kudos and honors are difficult to acquire from such a vantage point, as we all know.  Talent, motivation and unwavering persistence are key, but then so is luck, sad to say.

Congratulations, Miss Fiza. Godspeed.

Posted in Book Reviews, editing, fiction, Literature, novel, novelists, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

BIG NEWS! FIZA PATHAN, One of my clients, took awards at the London Book Festival and …

the New England book Fair!  Kudos! She is barely a child, but has worked very hard at her writing craft, studied the classics intensely, and in the last year has made stellar improvements, writing several great and lasting books!

The full story and, I hope, an interview with this paragon of persistence, determination and huge talent will appear here tomorrow or the next day.

Fiza is a smart, conscientious middle school teacher in Mumbai, India. I have had the pleasure of working with her editorially on many of her books and expect–based on my proffiza pic experience with young writers–great things to issue from her pen.



Posted in fiction, Literature | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Gigging a Gig! Journalists, for what it’s worth


(As you know if you’ve been hanging around here for a bit, there is almost no kind of writing or editing I haven’t done over the years, with the exception of erotica and other icky or brutalizing stuff.  So this is the deep voice of experience responding to a plea for help.)


Perhaps it will be useful to others too.

Short, but to the point.

It works!


tortured writer

delete, revise, reprise …


“I am a feature writer for newspapers and magazines and I want to branch out to write for businesses and organizations. I am finding out about skills such as Search Engine Optimization and I’m wondering if anyone has done anyone who has done any PR writing knows of any other skills that would be helpful to acquire? Also, anyone who writes for business/non-profits – how do you reach out to potential clients?”

REPLY–(from moi)

Skills you learn on the job.  If you have a hot story idea and some clips to prove you’re legit, don’t be shy! Pick up the phone and just call editors. CALL THEM! If you exude enough confidence, they’ll put you through. Then you have less than 60 secs to pitch and convince them, so make it good. Do your homework on the mag or journal or newspaper. Prove you know their publication and know what they need to sell copies/get subs etc. I’ve gotten the editors of Forbes, the LA Times Book Review., Vanity Fair and the NYT, etc. on the line this way.

All editors need hot stories, skills (other than brilliant writing ability) can be tapped from staffers.

Not everything pans out, some eds are quirky and want tweets or smoke signals, or referrals, but if your pitch is irresistible (it must be true, do not stretch the facts!), you have introduced yourself and now have a new valuable connection you can call again.

Go for voice communication over texts, tweets or email,  if at all possible.

Sound knowledgeable, intelligent, articulate–and in a hurry.  Other editors are just dying to have a crack at this piece of yours!  No time to spare!


Don’t leave a message unless it is so compelling, shocking and newsworthy the editor HAS to call you back.

You can do it, so prep thoroughly and make the calls.  Good luck.

Posted in journalism, Literature | 4 Comments

#shortstory Zoya’s Christmas Eve-a short story from my book S.O.S. Animals And Other Stories

Posted in Literature | 2 Comments

#shortstory Zoya’s Christmas Eve-from my book S.O.S. Animals And Other Stories


Zoya was a girl living a normal Christian life with her family in a small apartment overlooking the sea. Zoya was a happy child and was thoroughly spoilt by her parents, uncles and aunts because she was the only child in the family. Every day was made special for little Zoya including Christmas.
There would be the beautiful decorations, the elaborate dinner party, the get together and a basketful of Christmas goodies. But little Zoya loved the Christmas season, not for the Christmas Stockings nor for the gifts neatly packed by friends and loved ones but for that Christmas Eve when she would tuck herself up warmly under a little bed cover early, so that Santa would come on his Reindeer driven sleigh and deposit her Christmas gift under her little Christmas Tree. Come Christmas morning she would awaken to clasp her precious gift from her Santa and then go…

View original post 397 more words

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“A Child Was Born in a Cave to Save the World”

Joseph Brodsky was an emigre poet from the Soviet Union who lived in New York City, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987.

He was an amazingly gifted, modest man.  He wrote in English after emigrating as an adult to the US.

His poems are full of the longing and the deep unease of the displaced person; his loneliness is palpable, and yet he retains a wry wit — something that no doubt carried him through the desolation and isolation of a man without a country and permanently isolated from his loved ones and his native land.

star of the nativity brodsky

Russian emigre poet



The ache of such a compromised living, disoriented, unmoored, is painfully laced through his verse.

A wonderful intellectual poet, multiphasic, tough yet sensitive.

His Nobel Lecture December 8, 1987



For someone rather private, for someone who all his life has preferred his private condition to any role of social significance, and who went in this preference rather far – far from his motherland to say the least, for it is better to be a total failure in democracy than a martyr or the crème de la crème in tyranny – for such a person to find himself all of a sudden on this rostrum is a somewhat uncomfortable and trying experience.

This sensation is aggravated not so much by the thought of those who stood here before me as by the memory of those who have been bypassed by this honor, who were not given this chance to address ‘urbi et orbi’, as they say, from this rostrum and whose cumulative silence is sort of searching, to no avail, for release through this speaker.

The only thing that can reconcile one to this sort of situation is the simple realization that – for stylistic reasons, in the first place – one writer cannot speak for another writer, one poet for another poet especially; that had Osip Mandelstam, or Marina Tsvetaeva, or Robert Frost, or Anna Akhmatova, or Wystan Auden stood here, they couldn’t have helped but speak precisely for themselves, and that they, too, might have felt somewhat uncomfortable.

These shades disturb me constantly; they are disturbing me today as well. In any case, they do not spur one to eloquence. In my better moments, I deem myself their sum total, though invariably inferior to any one of them individually. For it is not possible to better them on the page; nor is it possible to better them in actual life. And it is precisely their lives, no matter how tragic or bitter they were, that often move me – more often perhaps than the case should be – to regret the passage of time. If the next life exists – and I can no more deny them the possibility of eternal life than I can forget their existence in this one – if the next world does exist, they will, I hope, forgive me and the quality of what I am about to utter: after all, it is not one’s conduct on the podium which dignity in our profession is measured by.

I have mentioned only five of them, those whose deeds and whose lot matter so much to me, if only because if it were not for them, I, both as a man and a writer, would amount to much less; in any case, I wouldn’t be standing here today. There were more of them, those shades – better still, sources of light: lamps? stars? – more, of course, than just five. And each one of them is capable of rendering me absolutely mute. The number of those is substantial in the life of any conscious man of letters; in my case, it doubles, thanks to the two cultures to which fate has willed me to belong. Matters are not made easier by thoughts about contemporaries and fellow writers in both cultures, poets, and fiction writers whose gifts I rank above my own, and who, had they found themselves on this rostrum, would have come to the point long ago, for surely they have more to tell the world than I do.

I will allow myself, therefore, to make a number of remarks here – disjointed, perhaps stumbling, and perhaps even perplexing in their randomness. However, the amount of time allotted to me to collect my thoughts, as well as my very occupation, will, or may, I hope, shield me, at least partially, against charges of being chaotic. A man of my occupation seldom claims a systematic mode of thinking; at worst, he claims to have a system – but even that, in his case, is borrowing from a milieu, from a social order, or from the pursuit of philosophy at a tender age. Nothing convinces an artist more of the arbitrariness of the means to which he resorts to attain a goal – however permanent it may be – than the creative process itself, the process of composition. Verse really does, in Akhmatova’s words, grow from rubbish; the roots of prose are no more honorable.

If art teaches anything (to the artist, in the first place), it is the privateness of the human condition. Being the most ancient as well as the most literal form of private enterprise, it fosters in a man, knowingly or unwittingly, a sense of his uniqueness, of individuality, of separateness – thus turning him from a social animal into an autonomous “I”. Lots of things can be shared: a bed, a piece of bread, convictions, a mistress, but not a poem by, say, Rainer Maria Rilke. A work of art, of literature especially, and a poem in particular, addresses a man tete-a-tete, entering with him into direct – free of any go-betweens – relations.

It is for this reason that art in general, literature especially, and poetry in particular, is not exactly favored by the champions of the common good, masters of the masses, heralds of historical necessity. For there, where art has stepped, where a poem has been read, they discover, in place of the anticipated consent and unanimity, indifference and polyphony; in place of the resolve to act, inattention and fastidiousness. In other words, into the little zeros with which the champions of the common good and the rulers of the masses tend to operate, art introduces a “period, period, comma, and a minus”, transforming each zero into a tiny human, albeit not always pretty, face.

The great Baratynsky, speaking of his Muse, characterized her as possessing an “uncommon visage”. It’s in acquiring this “uncommon visage” that the meaning of human existence seems to lie, since for this uncommonness we are, as it were, prepared genetically. Regardless of whether one is a writer or a reader, one’s task consists first of all in mastering a life that is one’s own, not imposed or prescribed from without, no matter how noble its appearance may be. For each of us is issued but one life, and we know full well how it all ends. It would be regrettable to squander this one chance on someone else’s appearance, someone else’s experience, on a tautology – regrettable all the more because the heralds of historical necessity, at whose urging a man may be prepared to agree to this tautology, will not go to the grave with him or give him so much as a thank-you.

Language and, presumably, literature are things that are more ancient and inevitable, more durable than any form of social organization. The revulsion, irony, or indifference often expressed by literature towards the state is essentially a reaction of the permanent – better yet, the infinite – against the temporary, against the finite. To say the least, as long as the state permits itself to interfere with the affairs of literature, literature has the right to interfere with the affairs of the state. A political system, a form of social organization, as any system in general, is by definition a form of the past tense that aspires to impose itself upon the present (and often on the future as well); and a man whose profession is language is the last one who can afford to forget this. The real danger for a writer is not so much the possibility (and often the certainty) of persecution on the part of the state, as it is the possibility of finding oneself mesmerized by the state’s features, which, whether monstrous or undergoing changes for the better, are always temporary.

The philosophy of the state, its ethics – not to mention its aesthetics – are always “yesterday”. Language and literature are always “today”, and often – particularly in the case where a political system is orthodox – they may even constitute “tomorrow”. One of literature’s merits is precisely that it helps a person to make the time of his existence more specific, to distinguish himself from the crowd of his predecessors as well as his like numbers, to avoid tautology – that is, the fate otherwise known by the honorific term, “victim of history”. What makes art in general, and literature in particular, remarkable, what distinguishes them from life, is precisely that they abhor repetition. In everyday life you can tell the same joke thrice and, thrice getting a laugh, become the life of the party. In art, though, this sort of conduct is called “cliché”.

Art is a recoilless weapon, and its development is determined not by the individuality of the artist, but by the dynamics and the logic of the material itself, by the previous fate of the means that each time demand (or suggest) a qualitatively new aesthetic solution. Possessing its own genealogy, dynamics, logic, and future, art is not synonymous with, but at best parallel to history; and the manner by which it exists is by continually creating a new aesthetic reality. That is why it is often found “ahead of progress”, ahead of history, whose main instrument is – should we not, once more, improve upon Marx – precisely the cliché.

Nowadays, there exists a rather widely held view, postulating that in his work a writer, in particular a poet, should make use of the language of the street, the language of the crowd. For all its democratic appearance, and its palpable advantages for a writer, this assertion is quite absurd and represents an attempt to subordinate art, in this case, literature, to history. It is only if we have resolved that it is time for Homo sapiens to come to a halt in his development that literature should speak the language of the people. Otherwise, it is the people who should speak the language of literature.

On the whole, every new aesthetic reality makes man’s ethical reality more precise. For aesthetics is the mother of ethics; The categories of “good” and “bad” are, first and foremost, aesthetic ones, at least etymologically preceding the categories of “good” and “evil”. If in ethics not “all is permitted”, it is precisely because not “all is permitted” in aesthetics, because the number of colors in the spectrum is limited. The tender babe who cries and rejects the stranger or who, on the contrary, reaches out to him, does so instinctively, making an aesthetic choice, not a moral one.

Aesthetic choice is a highly individual matter, and aesthetic experience is always a private one. Every new aesthetic reality makes one’s experience even more private; and this kind of privacy, assuming at times the guise of literary (or some other) taste, can in itself turn out to be, if not as guarantee, then a form of defense against enslavement. For a man with taste, particularly literary taste, is less susceptible to the refrains and the rhythmical incantations peculiar to any version of political demagogy. The point is not so much that virtue does not constitute a guarantee for producing a masterpiece, as that evil, especially political evil, is always a bad stylist. The more substantial an individual’s aesthetic experience is, the sounder his taste, the sharper his moral focus, the freer – though not necessarily the happier – he is.

It is precisely in this applied, rather than Platonic, sense that we should understand Dostoevsky’s remark that beauty will save the world, or Matthew Arnold’s belief that we shall be saved by poetry. It is probably too late for the world, but for the individual man there always remains a chance. An aesthetic instinct develops in man rather rapidly, for, even without fully realizing who he is and what he actually requires, a person instinctively knows what he doesn’t like and what doesn’t suit him. In an anthropological respect, let me reiterate, a human being is an aesthetic creature before he is an ethical one. Therefore, it is not that art, particularly literature, is a by-product of our species’ development, but just the reverse. If what distinguishes us from other members of the animal kingdom is speech, then literature – and poetry in particular, being the highest form of locution – is, to put it bluntly, the goal of our species.

I am far from suggesting the idea of compulsory training in verse composition; nevertheless, the subdivision of society into intelligentsia and “all the rest” seems to me unacceptable. In moral terms, this situation is comparable to the subdivision of society into the poor and the rich; but if it is still possible to find some purely physical or material grounds for the existence of social inequality, for intellectual inequality these are inconceivable. Equality in this respect, unlike in anything else, has been guaranteed to us by nature. I am speaking not of education, but of the education in speech, the slightest imprecision in which may trigger the intrusion of false choice into one’s life. The existence of literature prefigures existence on literature’s plane of regard – and not only in the moral sense, but lexically as well. If a piece of music still allows a person the possibility of choosing between the passive role of listener and the active one of performer, a work of literature – of the art which is, to use Montale’s phrase, hopelessly semantic – dooms him to the role of performer only.

In this role, it would seem to me, a person should appear more often than in any other. Moreover, it seems to me that, as a result of the population explosion and the attendant, ever-increasing atomization of society (i.e., the ever-increasing isolation of the individual), this role becomes more and more inevitable for a person. I don’t suppose that I know more about life than anyone of my age, but it seems to me that, in the capacity of an interlocutor, a book is more reliable than a friend or a beloved. A novel or a poem is not a monologue, but the conversation of a writer with a reader, a conversation, I repeat, that is very private, excluding all others – if you will, mutually misanthropic. And in the moment of this conversation a writer is equal to a reader, as well as the other way around, regardless of whether the writer is a great one or not. This equality is the equality of consciousness. It remains with a person for the rest of his life in the form of memory, foggy or distinct; and, sooner or later, appropriately or not, it conditions a person’s conduct. It’s precisely this that I have in mind in speaking of the role of the performer, all the more natural for one because a novel or a poem is the product of mutual loneliness – of a writer or a reader.

In the history of our species, in the history of Homo sapiens, the book is anthropological development, similar essentially to the invention of the wheel. Having emerged in order to give us some idea not so much of our origins as of what that sapiens is capable of, a book constitutes a means of transportation through the space of experience, at the speed of a turning page. This movement, like every movement, becomes a flight from the common denominator, from an attempt to elevate this denominator’s line, previously never reaching higher than the groin, to our heart, to our consciousness, to our imagination. This flight is the flight in the direction of “uncommon visage”, in the direction of the numerator, in the direction of autonomy, in the direction of privacy. Regardless of whose image we are created in, there are already five billion of us, and for a human being there is no other future save that outlined by art. Otherwise, what lies ahead is the past – the political one, first of all, with all its mass police entertainments.

In any event, the condition of society in which art in general, and literature in particular, are the property or prerogative of a minority appears to me unhealthy and dangerous. I am not appealing for the replacement of the state with a library, although this thought has visited me frequently; but there is no doubt in my mind that, had we been choosing our leaders on the basis of their reading experience and not their political programs, there would be much less grief on earth. It seems to me that a potential master of our fates should be asked, first of all, not about how he imagines the course of his foreign policy, but about his attitude toward Stendhal, Dickens, Dostoevsky. If only because the lock and stock of literature is indeed human diversity and perversity, it turns out to be a reliable antidote for any attempt – whether familiar or yet to be invented – toward a total mass solution to the problems of human existence. As a form of moral insurance, at least, literature is much more dependable than a system of beliefs or a philosophical doctrine.

Since there are no laws that can protect us from ourselves, no criminal code is capable of preventing a true crime against literature; though we can condemn the material suppression of literature – the persecution of writers, acts of censorship, the burning of books – we are powerless when it comes to its worst violation: that of not reading the books. For that crime, a person pays with his whole life; if the offender is a nation, it pays with its history. Living in the country I live in, I would be the first prepared to believe that there is a set dependency between a person’s material well-being and his literary ignorance. What keeps me from doing so is the history of that country in which I was born and grew up. For, reduced to a cause-and-effect minimum, to a crude formula, the Russian tragedy is precisely the tragedy of a society in which literature turned out to be the prerogative of the minority: of the celebrated Russian intelligentsia.

I have no wish to enlarge upon the subject, no wish to darken this evening with thoughts of the tens of millions of human lives destroyed by other millions, since what occurred in Russia in the first half of the Twentieth Century occurred before the introduction of automatic weapons – in the name of the triumph of a political doctrine whose unsoundness is already manifested in the fact that it requires human sacrifice for its realization. I’ll just say that I believe – not empirically, alas, but only theoretically – that, for someone who has read a lot of Dickens, to shoot his like in the name of some idea is more problematic than for someone who has read no Dickens. And I am speaking precisely about reading Dickens, Sterne, Stendhal, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Balzac, Melville, Proust, Musil, and so forth; that is, about literature, not literacy or education. A literate, educated person, to be sure, is fully capable, after reading this or that political treatise or tract, of killing his like, and even of experiencing, in so doing, a rapture of conviction. Lenin was literate, Stalin was literate, so was Hitler; as for Mao Zedong, he even wrote verse. What all these men had in common, though, was that their hit list was longer than their reading list.

However, before I move on to poetry, I would like to add that it would make sense to regard the Russian experience as a warning, if for no other reason than that the social structure of the West up to now is, on the whole, analogous to what existed in Russia prior to 1917. (This, by the way, is what explains the popularity in the West of the Nineteenth-Century Russian psychological novel, and the relative lack of success of contemporary Russian prose. The social relations that emerged in Russia in the Twentieth Century presumably seem no less exotic to the reader than do the names of the characters, which prevent him from identifying with them.) For example, the number of political parties, on the eve of the October coup in 1917, was no fewer than what we find today in the United States or Britain. In other words, a dispassionate observer might remark that in a certain sense the Nineteenth Century is still going on in the West, while in Russia it came to an end; and if I say it ended in tragedy, this is, in the first place, because of the size of the human toll taken in course of that social – or chronological – change. For in a real tragedy, it is not the hero who perishes; it is the chorus.

Although for a man whose mother tongue is Russian to speak about political evil is as natural as digestion, I would here like to change the subject. What’s wrong with discourses about the obvious is that they corrupt consciousness with their easiness, with the quickness with which they provide one with moral comfort, with the sensation of being right. Herein lies their temptation, similar in its nature to the temptation of a social reformer who begets this evil. The realization, or rather the comprehension, of this temptation, and rejection of it, are perhaps responsible to a certain extent for the destinies of many of my contemporaries, responsible for the literature that emerged from under their pens. It, that literature, was neither a flight from history nor a muffling of memory, as it may seem from the outside. “How can one write music after Auschwitz?” inquired Adorno; and one familiar with Russian history can repeat the same question by merely changing the name of the camp – and repeat it perhaps with even greater justification, since the number of people who perished in Stalin’s camps far surpasses the number of German prisoncamp victims. “And how can you eat lunch?” the American poet Mark Strand once retorted. In any case, the generation to which I belong has proven capable of writing that music.

That generation – the generation born precisely at the time when the Auschwitz crematoria were working full blast, when Stalin was at the zenith of his Godlike, absolute power, which seemed sponsored by Mother Nature herself – that generation came into the world, it appears, in order to continue what, theoretically, was supposed to be interrupted in those crematoria and in the anonymous common graves of Stalin’s archipelago. The fact that not everything got interrupted, at least not in Russia, can be credited in no small degree to my generation, and I am no less proud of belonging to it than I am of standing here today. And the fact that I am standing here is a recognition of the services that generation has rendered to culture; recalling a phrase from Mandelstam, I would add, to world culture. Looking back, I can say again that we were beginning in an empty – indeed, a terrifyingly wasted – place, and that, intuitively rather than consciously, we aspired precisely to the recreation of the effect of culture’s continuity, to the reconstruction of its forms and tropes, toward filling its few surviving, and often totally compromised, forms, with our own new, or appearing to us as new, contemporary content.

There existed, presumably, another path: the path of further deformation, the poetics of ruins and debris, of minimalism, of choked breath. If we rejected it, it was not at all because we thought that it was the path of self-dramatization, or because we were extremely animated by the idea of preserving the hereditary nobility of the forms of culture we knew, the forms that were equivalent, in our consciousness, to forms of human dignity. We rejected it because in reality the choice wasn’t ours, but, in fact, culture’s own – and this choice, again, was aesthetic rather than moral.

To be sure, it is natural for a person to perceive himself not as an instrument of culture, but, on the contrary, as its creator and custodian. But if today I assert the opposite, it’s not because toward the close of the Twentieth Century there is a certain charm in paraphrasing Plotinus, Lord Shaftesbury, Schelling, or Novalis, but because, unlike anyone else, a poet always knows that what in the vernacular is called the voice of the Muse is, in reality, the dictate of the language; that it’s not that the language happens to be his instrument, but that he is language’s means toward the continuation of its existence. Language, however, even if one imagines it as a certain animate creature (which would only be just), is not capable of ethical choice.

A person sets out to write a poem for a variety of reasons: to win the heart of his beloved; to express his attitude toward the reality surrounding him, be it a landscape or a state; to capture his state of mind at a given instant; to leave – as he thinks at that moment – a trace on the earth. He resorts to this form – the poem – most likely for unconsciously mimetic reasons: the black vertical clot of words on the white sheet of paper presumably reminds him of his own situation in the world, of the balance between space and his body. But regardless of the reasons for which he takes up the pen, and regardless of the effect produced by what emerges from beneath that pen on his audience – however great or small it may be – the immediate consequence of this enterprise is the sensation of coming into direct contact with language or, more precisely, the sensation of immediately falling into dependence on it, on everything that has already been uttered, written, and accomplished in it.

This dependence is absolute, despotic; but it unshackles as well. For, while always older than the writer, language still possesses the colossal centrifugal energy imparted to it by its temporal potential – that is, by all time Iying ahead. And this potential is determined not so much by the quantitative body of the nation that speaks it (though it is determined by that, too), as by the quality of the poem written in it. It will suffice to recall the authors of Greek or Roman antiquity; it will suffice to recall Dante. And that which is being created today in Russian or English, for example, secures the existence of these languages over the course of the next millennium also. The poet, I wish to repeat, is language’s means for existence – or, as my beloved Auden said, he is the one by whom it lives. I who write these lines will cease to be; so will you who read them. But the language in which they are written and in which you read them will remain not merely because language is more lasting than man, but because it is more capable of mutation.

One who writes a poem, however, writes it not because he courts fame with posterity, although often he hopes that a poem will outlive him, at least briefly. One who writes a poem writes it because the language prompts, or simply dictates, the next line. Beginning a poem, the poet as a rule doesn’t know the way it’s going to come out, and at times he is very surprised by the way it turns out, since often it turns out better than he expected, often his thought carries further than he reckoned. And that is the moment when the future of language invades its present.

There are, as we know, three modes of cognition: analytical, intuitive, and the mode that was known to the Biblical prophets, revelation. What distinguishes poetry from other forms of literature is that it uses all three of them at once (gravitating primarily toward the second and the third). For all three of them are given in the language; and there are times when, by means of a single word, a single rhyme, the writer of a poem manages to find himself where no one has ever been before him, further, perhaps, than he himself would have wished for. The one who writes a poem writes it above all because verse writing is an extraordinary accelerator of conscience, of thinking, of comprehending the universe. Having experienced this acceleration once, one is no longer capable of abandoning the chance to repeat this experience; one falls into dependency on this process, the way others fall into dependency on drugs or on alcohol. One who finds himself in this sort of dependency on language is, I guess, what they call a poet.

Translated from the Russian by Barry Rubin.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1981-1990, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Sture Allén, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1993


Posted in Literary Classics, Literary Lions, Literature, poetry, poets | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments



An anthology guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes. A filled-to-the-brim treasure chest of over 500 pages of heart-warming Christmas stories from days gone by. Wonderful stories from O. Henry, L. Frank Baum, Henry Van Dyke and many others guaranteed to refresh and revive the true Christmas spirit and the joy of the holiday season in every reader. Great stories to read aloud and share with family members and friends during holiday get-togethers. These old Christmas stories revive, refresh and remind us of what Christmas really means and what every Christmas avails to the human heart.


The first story in HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: BEST LOVED STORIES OF ALL TIME ed. by Margaret Langstaff:


“Home for Christmas” allowed me to feel the magic of the season once again. It may sound silly to some, but I was nearly in tears after reading the first story, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. It is a story with which I was familiar from childhood. The memories it induced hit me like a ton of bricks. It made me nostalgic. I actually got a little teary eyed at its simple beauty and message. It made me realize this collection was one which I needed to share.” — G. Jackson

Gift of the Magi


“The Gift of the Magi”

by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling—something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practiced hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation—as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value—the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do—oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty seven cents?”

At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please God, make him think I am still pretty.”

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two—and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

“Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again—you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice—what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you—sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year—what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs—the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jeweled rims—just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

“Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Posted in American Literature, Christmas stories, Literary Classics, Literature | 11 Comments

“Hunting the Deceitful Turkey” – Mark Twain

turkey hen


This is from a 1906 issue of Harpers magagine.  Twain’s dry wit and lame brained (fake) susceptibility to always be out witted by any animal that ever tread the earth (so sweet, amusing) is in full flower here. Mama Turkey I can vouch for; yes, she is cunning, sly and usually makes fools out of her hunters (these ladies are all over my pasture every day, prancing, preening and eluding would be assassins!)

Yes, you guessed it, The Complete Works of Mark Twain from the Library of America arrived! All seven volumes. What a happy antidote to the universal unease and malaise in today’s fiction.

Twain’s youthful flummoxing at Mama Turkey’s wingtips is hilarious.  He so obviously respects her and doesn’t really want to shoot her!  And he’ll never eat a sardine again.



Hunting the Deceitful Turkey

By Mark Twain

Harper’s Monthly (Dec. 1906): 57-58.

When I was a boy my uncle and his big boys hunted with the rifle, the youngest boy Fred and I with a shotgun — a small single-barrelled shotgun which was properly suited to our size and strength; it was not much heavier than a broom. We carried it turn about, half an hour at a time. I was not able to hit anything with it, but I liked to try. Fred and I hunted feathered small game, the others hunted deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, and such things. My uncle and the big boys were good shots. They killed hawks and wild geese and such like on the wing; and they didn’t wound or kill squirrels, they stunned them. When the dogs treed a squirrel, the squirrel would scamper aloft and run out on a limb and flatten himself along it, hoping to make himself invisible in that way — and not quite succeeding. You could see his wee little ears sticking up. You couldn’t see his nose, but you knew where it was. Then the hunter, despising a “rest” for his rifle, stood up and took offhand aim at the limb and sent a bullet into it immediately under the squirrel’s nose, and down tumbled the animal, unwounded but unconscious; the dogs gave him a shake and he was dead. Sometimes when the distance was great and the wind not accurately allowed for, the bullet would hit the squirrel’s head; the dogs could do as they pleased with that one — the hunter’s pride was hurt, and he wouldn’t allow it to go into the game-bag.

In the first faint gray of the dawn the stately wild turkeys would be stalking around in great flocks, and ready to be sociable and answer invitations to come and converse with other excursionists of their kind. The hunter concealed himself and imitated the turkey-call by sucking the air through the leg-bone of a turkey which had previously answered a call like that and lived only just long enough to regret it. There is nothing that furnishes a perfect turkey-call except that bone. Another of Nature’s treacheries, you see. She is full of them; half the time she doesn’t know which she likes best — to betray her child or protect it. In the case of the turkey she is badly mixed: she gives it a bone to be used in getting it into trouble, and she also furnishes it with a trick for getting itself out of the trouble again. When a mamma-turkey answers an invitation and finds she has made a mistake in accepting it, she does as the mamma-partridge does — remembers a previous engagement and goes limping and scrambling away, pretending to be very lame; and at the same time she is saying to her not-visible children, “Lie low, keep still, don’t expose yourselves; I shall be back as soon as I have beguiled this shabby swindler out of the country.”

When a person is ignorant and confiding, this immoral device can have tiresome results. I followed an ostensibly lame turkey over a considerable part of the United States one morning, because I believed in her and could not think she would deceive a mere boy, and one who was trusting her and considering her honest. I had the single-barrelled shotgun, but my idea was to catch her alive. I often got within rushing distance of her, and then made my rush; but always, just as I made my final plunge and put my hand down where her back had been, it wasn’t there; it was only two or three inches from there and I brushed the tail-feathers as I landed on my stomach — a very close call, but still not quite close enough; that is, not close enough for success, but just close enough to convince me that I could do it next time. She always waited for me, a little piece away, and let on to be resting and greatly fatigued; which was a lie, but I believed it, for I still thought her honest long after I ought to have begun to doubt her, suspecting that this was no way for a high-minded bird to be acting. I followed, and followed, and followed, making my periodical rushes, and getting up and brushing the dust off, and resuming the voyage with patient confidence; indeed, with a confidence which grew, for I could see by the change of climate and vegetation that we were getting up into the high latitudes, and as she always looked a little tireder and a little more discouraged after each rush, I judged that I was safe to win, in the end, the competition being purely a matter of staying power and the advantage lying with me from the start because she was lame.

Along in the afternoon I began to feel fatigued myself. Neither of us had had any rest since we first started on the excursion, which was upwards of ten hours before, though latterly we had paused awhile after rushes, I letting on to be thinking about something else; but neither of us sincere, and both of us waiting for the other to call game but in no real hurry about it, for indeed those little evanescent snatches of rest were very grateful to the feelings of us both; it would naturally be so, skirmishing along like that ever since dawn and not a bite in the mean time; at least for me, though sometimes as she lay on her side fanning herself with a wing and praying for strength to get out of this difficulty a grasshopper happened along whose time had come, and that was well for her, and fortunate, but I had nothing — nothing the whole day.

More than once, after I was very tired, I gave up taking her alive, and was going to shoot her, but I never did it, although it was my right, for I did not believe I could hit her, and besides, she always stopped and posed, when I raised the gTURKEY  FL WILD TURKEY GOBBLERun, and this made me suspicious that she knew about me and my marksmanship, and so I did not care to expose myself to remarks.

I did not get her, at all. When she got tired of the game at last, she rose from almost under my hand and flew aloft with the rush and whir of a shell and lit on the highest limb of a great tree and sat down and crossed her legs and smiled down at me, and seemed gratified to see me so astonished.

I was ashamed, and also lost; and it was while wandering the woods hunting for myself that I found a deserted log cabin and had one of the best meals there that in my life-days I have eaten. The weed-grown garden was full of ripe tomatoes, and I ate them ravenously, though I had never liked them before. Not more than two or three times since have I tasted anything that was so delicious as those tomatoes. I surfeited myself with them, and did not taste another one until I was in middle life. I can eat them now, but I do not like the look of them. I suppose we have all experienced a surfeit at one time or another. Once, in stress of circumstances, I ate part of a barrel of sardines, there being nothing else at hand, but since then I have always been able to get along without sardines.


Posted in Book Reviews, Literary Classics, Literary Lions, Literature, Reading, writers | 15 Comments

All Is Well That Ends Well – Goodreads Catastrophe Reversed!

FINALLY the problem seems to be solved.  I’m holding my breath, though. Shouldn’t have taken so long IMHO in view of the length of my membership, my activity as a reviewer and author.

Anyway, dear friends, WHEW!!!

Posted in Book Reviews, Goodreads, Reading | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments


Consider this a public service announcement for authors.  I can’t believe it, but it happened. And it happened to me.

Two days ago I simply changed my GR password and email –for security reasons –and my whole account, five years of activity, blogging, book reviewing, book listing and GR Author’s Program member activities (I had over 1000 followers, many fans) was ….


Poof, everything disappeared, all gone,  all the good reviews and endorsements of my books, others’ books etc. vaporized.

They don’t know how to fix it–or the rep assigned to the problem doesn’t.  She suggested I change my email back to my old email and reset my password.  Problem is, I closed that email account.  She can’t seem to comprehend why her suggestion is nonsensical.  I tried it anyway and it bombed. No go.

Irony and odd twist, one of my books, Marlin, Darlin, was one of the top ten Goodreads mysteries when it was published in July, 2010.

Trying to fix an online disaster is like talking to a single AAA battery robot.  A cat or bird could do a better job.

Life cannot be automated, Goodreads. Nor can writing, book reviews or books.

Posted in Amazon, book marketing, book reviewing, Goodreads, Reading, writing | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

How Extravagant! My Christmas Present to Myself! Everything My Hero Ever Wrote!

[an “aside” in a stage whisper:]

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”–Erasmus, 1469-1536

Mark Twain is the funniest, most original, wholly American literary genius this country has ever produced.

He took ordinary common speech, our quintessential low-brow grammatically mangled vernacular blather and blab, and transformed it into literary masterpieces, one after another.  A journalist, travel writer, public speaker, newspaper man, a gold miner in the Gold Rush of ’49, Twain participated fully in every major event or phenomenon of his day. Loved by all, laughter and grins followed him everywhere he went. He skewered and critiqued our pretences, pomposities and folderall with such stiletto precision and skill, that he angered no one as he did it but made us instead laugh at ourselves without feeling diminished by it, but rather lifted up and proud to be an American, decent, hardworking, optimistic, however uncouth!

It was a great time to be alive.  The country was coming into its own, our western frontier and natural resources seemed infinite. We gloried in the breath-taking, unspoiled beauty of the land and what appeared to be the brightest future any nation on earth had yet embraced.

twain mark-twain-mark-twain-9192207-1109-1377

The Complete Mark Twain Library
(7 volumes, plus a FREE book!)

from the Library of America, the final, definitive, flawless texts

edited by the best Twain scholars on the planet!

16 full-length works • over 270 tales, sketches, speeches, and essays • more than 7,300 pages
List price: $270.00
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ONLY $195.00 (I paid $150, though. cuz I’m a critic and a member of the National Book Critics Circle!)

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SAVE $75
on the seven-book set!
This Library of America edition includes all of Mark Twain’s major works in seven clothbound volumes:

Mississippi Writings | 1,126 pages
Tom Sawyer • Life on the Mississippi • Huckleberry Finn • Pudd’nhead Wilson

Historical Romances | 1,031 pages
The Prince and the Pauper • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court • Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc

The Innocents Abroad & Roughing It | 1,027 pages

A Tramp Abroad, Following the Equator, Other Travels | 1,145 pages

The Gilded Age & Later Novels | 1,053 pages
The Gilded Age • The American Claimant • Tom Sawyer Abroad • Tom Sawyer, Detective • No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger

Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays 1852–1890 | 1,076 pages

Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays 1891–1910 | 1,050 pages

Also, FREE with your set ($35 in bookstores!):
The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Works | 492 pages

A century and a half of the best writing about America’s quintessential writer.

“Both familiar classics and forgotten treasures”

—Christian Science Monitor

Posted in American Literature, Humor, Literary Classics, Literary Lions, Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

The Irony is Almost Too Much! “Amazon Killed the Bookstore. So It’s Opening a Bookstore.”

Not kidding, folks.


[This just in from Digital Book World.  Click through and read the rest of the sordid, sorry story.  I confess that I myself many years ago owned an independent bookstore–before I went to NY and publishing.]

“Bookstore owners already loathe Amazon for gutting the cost of books online and driving so many brick and mortar shops out of business. Now, the online retailer is both beating them and joining them, with the opening of its first physical bookstore in Seattle.

Amazon Books, as the new store is called, will be like any other Main Street bookstore (remember those?), except that Amazon will use the troves of data it collects from its online customers to stock the shelves. That means its book displays will feature real Amazon book reviews, and the store will showcase books that have amassed the most pre-orders online. The books will also come with Amazon’s trademark low price tags.

“It can afford those cut-rate prices, of course, because Amazon Books is as much a bookstore as it is a billboard. Amazon’s not suddenly betting big on the bookstore business, and it certainly doesn’t need the store to be a success in order for Amazon to succeed. It’s better to think of Amazon Books as a giant advertisement. If it makes a little extra money for a $294.7 billion company, all the better. . . . ”

Much more.

Posted in book marketing, New and Recent Books | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Book Review: The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Excellent, thorough review.

A View From My Summerhouse

The Art of Memoir By Mary KarrMary Karr’s newly released The Art of Memoir couldn’t have arrived at a better time for me.

As bestselling author of The Liar’s Club, Cherry and Lit, and teacher of the form for thirty years, I couldn’t wait to devour her latest creation.

Written for both the “wannabe memoirist” and “general reader”, Karr’s passion for the reading, writing and teaching of her craft bursts through the door of every chapter.

As she tells her students:

“Listen up. I’m a passionate, messy teacher. I give a rat’s ass, and my sole job is to help students fall in love with what I already worship, which means, I show you stuff I’ve read that I can’t live without.”

(An extensive list of all the memoirs she has both read and taught stretches over five pages at the back of the book and had me gawping in awe.)

And this is what…

View original post 559 more words

Posted in Literature | 7 Comments

THE ART OF MEMOIR by Mary Karr (author of The Liar’s Club)

[NOTE: Having just finished editing two massive and interesting/ well written memoirs, ‘The Art of Memoir’ by Mary Karr is of immense interest to me. Questions are raised that can’t be answered conclusively, yet they must be raised. Very intelligent review, most worth reading and pondering! — MJL.   By GREGORY COWLESOCT. 23, 2015 NYT]


Why not say what happened? All right, then: St. Augustine stole some pears. Kathryn Harrison had sex with her father. Tobias Wolff didn’t do much of anything to disturb his sleep, it would seem, but he still managed to turn his boyhood into beautiful, reflective music.

The vogue for memoir, like all vogues, comes and goes. But the impulse perseveres. Celebrities, addicts, abuse victims, politicians, soldiers, grieving children: Every­one has a story to tell and a conviction that the world wants to hear it — and often enough, if the best-seller lists are any indication, the world does.

Mary Karr has told three stories the world wanted to hear. In “The Liars’ Club” (1995), she wrote about her hardscrabble Texas upbringing, including her rape by a neighborhood boy and molestation by a babysitter; in “Cherry” (2000), about her adolescent coming-of-age; and in “Lit” (2009), about her adult recovery from alcoholism and embrace of Catholicism. (Given the inherently confessional nature of memoir, it may be no coincidence that so many of its most successful practitioners have been Catholic to some degree — Karr, Wolff, Harrison and of course Augustine, but also Mary ­McCarthy, David Carr, Mary Gordon, Patricia Hampl, Frank McCourt — or that even non-Catholic memoirists slip so easily into the churchly narrative of penitence and redemption.)

All three of Karr’s memoirs have been best sellers, and for 25 years she has taught literature and creative writing at Syracuse University. So she would seem as well positioned as anybody in our selfie-­besotted age to explain the art of memoir, which is just what she sets out to do in her new book, plainly titled “The Art of Memoir.” It is not, alas, a very good book. Repetitive, unorganized, unsure of its audience or tone, it can’t decide whether it wants to be a how-to guide or a work of critical analysis. I would have voted for analysis myself, partly because Karr proves to be an excellent reader of other people’s work and partly because the genre doesn’t readily lend itself to the reductive prescriptions of how-to: There’s no one way to write a memoir, any more than there is one way to live a life.

Karr recognizes this — “Every writer worth her salt is sui generis,” she concedes at the outset — and she seems a bit hamstrung by it. On the advice front, she pads the book with chipper lists and pop quizzes and general encouraging bromides. Her most insistent tip is the somewhat tepid suggestion that aspiring memoirists keep their work “carnal,” by which she means not sexual (despite the obvious commercial advantages that might bring) but grounded in details that appeal to the senses. For most writers that’s decent advice, if not especially revelatory, but for memoirists it runs headlong into another of Karr’s sensible, seemingly unobjectionable guidelines: the injunction not to make things up.

“Deceit in memoir irks me so badly,” she complains. “It’s the busted liars who talk most volubly about the fuzzy line between nonfiction and fiction. Their ­anything-goes message has come to dominate the airwaves around memoir” — an outcome that, for Karr, has moral as well as literary implications: “The popular, scoffing presumption that memory’s solely concocted by self-serving fantasy and everyone’s trying to scudge has perhaps helped to bog down our collective moral machinery.”

It’s true that fabricated memoirs have taken a lot of heat in recent years, and rightly so. But all of the shouting about James Frey and Margaret Seltzer and their ilk tends to obscure an essential, elementary point: Everybody is, in fact, trying to scudge. Even nonfraudulent memoirs, by scrupulous writers making good-faith efforts to reconstruct their pasts, are by nature unreliable — as tenuous and conditional and riddled with honest error as memory itself. And done right, that’s exactly what makes them so thrilling.

By Mary Karr

229 pp. Harper/HarperCollins Publishers. $24.99.

Gregory Cowles is an editor at the Book Review.


Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

“Beauty crowds me till I die.” Emily Dickinson

Here are some of my favorite lines from my favorite poets–just to share and for the heck of it.  Poetry (the really good stuff) has always been my favorite genre as both a reader and writer.

The above line is from ED’s poem #1654 (Collected Poems). The rest of the stanza goes like this:

Beauty crowds me till I die
Beauty mercy have on me
But if I expire today
Let it be in sight of thee --

w-b-yeatsYeats, the incomparable, is another fav of mine.  He is so eloquent and eminently quotable.
Here's one for the ages: it refers to the  grief that attends the death of love--

Murmur a little sadly, "how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And his his face among the stars."

from WHEN YOU ARE OLD, The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats.

He's amazing--and a heart breaker.

This is heavy stuff, so here's just one more, for now, this one from Gerard Manley Hopkins, a magnificently gifted poet who happened to be a monk as well in 19th c. England. This is from CARRION COMFORT, Poems and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
He  is lavishly gifted.

More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
  Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
                                                      ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.”‘
                                                      O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall [fav line. bold type mine]
                                                    Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
                                                       May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
                                                       Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
                                                       Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
                                                        Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.
Wow. Dazzling dexterity with words and loaded to the breaking point with feeling, from Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose
Anyway–haha-“beauty crowds me till I die!” I prefer to  laugh than cry!

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Why Every Writer Needs a Good Copy Edit – Great Advice from Freelancers Union!

Latest, Creativity

Why content pros always copy edit

Why content pros always copy edit
This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.With so many guides on editing online content, it’s almost impressive how many bloggers and social media writers manage to ignore that aspect.

They keep posting draft versions that make real readers lose their interest after few sentences.

The process of understanding what your readers want is long and challenging. The sooner you realize that they want to read polished, clean content, the greater your success will be.

Why do you need to publish edited content?

1. You need to be better than your competition.

Think about it: you’re not the only one who publishes posts in the particular niche.

There is hardly a topic that hasn’t been elaborated by multiple bloggers and social media writers.

Take one very confusing, unstructured post on one side, and readable, organized content on the other. Which one would attract more readers and comments?

2. Grammar is more important than you think!

“Write as you think” is a nice advice to follow when you want to sound genuine. That doesn’t mean you should neglect grammar, spelling, and syntax.

If you simply write from your inspiration, you will end up with a chaotic piece. No one will read an entire post of that type.

Even if you are careful during the writing process, you cannot end up with perfectly-polished content without editing it.

3. You’ll notice your own mistakes.

When you are stuck with an idea, it’s easy to get carried away.

Let’s say you are elaborating the psychological background of women who prefer to commit to their careers instead of family life. This is a sensitive issue, so a great deal of your readers may end up offended.

The editing process will enable you to balance out the arguments and find an acceptable way to rely on freedom of speech without crossing the line. That’s hard to achieve in the first version you write.

Join Freelancers Union (it’s free!)

Become a member

How to edit blog and social media content?

1. Make the sentences powerful!

Don’t try to sound smart; try to be convincing instead!

It doesn’t matter whether you are writing for the general audience or a specific base of highly-intellectual readers; the Internet is a place where people look for content that’s easy to comprehend.

When you are going through the content you just wrote, make sure it’s written in concise language. Long sentences are acceptable only if you know your way around them.

If you don’t organize their structure well, the reader’s mind will be scattered in different directions.

2. Use the right editing tools!

With so many opportunities that can make the editing process more effective, it would be a shame to rely on MS Word’s Spelling and Grammar feature. These are some of the online tools you should try:

3. Leave space between the writing and editing process.

You’ve probably heard this before, but you need a reminder until you start practicing the strategy.

If you edit and proofread the content right after you write it, you won’t be able to spot all minor and major mistakes.

You’ll be mostly focused on spelling issues and you’ll probably ignore the essence of the post in the hurry to publish it as soon as possible.

If, on the other hand, you allow the post to “sit” at least for few hours (a day is necessary for your longer, more important publications), you’ll notice a peculiar thing: the content doesn’t seem as perfect as it was when you wrote it.

Thus, you will be able to spot the flaws and correct them before exposing yourself to brutally honest comments.

4. Try to make it shorter!

You planned to write a 500-word post, but somehow ended up with extra 300 words? That calls for drastic measures.

The attention span of blog and social media readers is not that great. For them, less is always more.

Unless your audience specifically requires detailed, lengthy posts, you should get rid of all unnecessary parts. Make sure the content is free of overused words and excessive usage of adverbs and adjectives.

5. Learn from the mistakes!

No matter how diligent you are through the editing process, perfection is nearly impossible to achieve.

All readers have different preferences, so you might still get comments of dissatisfaction. Don’t take them wrong!

Pick yourself up and learn from the feedback of your audience. Analyze the things you’ve done wrong and try to improve your overall style.

Robert Morris is a writer and editor from NYC. Follow Robert on Google+!

Posted in book critics, Effective persuasive writing, freelance writers, novelists, online communication, poets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments
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