Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reading Gone With the Wind

Apparently, I've decided this is "true stories about reading" week, so I intend to just roll with that theme and tell you more embarrassing stories involving reading. Today's story finds 16-year old Kelly reading Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell in late June, 1980. (Yeah, you can do the math, or I can tell you straight up that I'm currently 46. I don't know how on earth that happened. But I digress.)

As I've already mentioned, I can get very caught up in reading. VERY caught up. So intensely caught up that if Tara started burning around me, Rhett (or Ashley, or, well, SOMEBODY) would have to scoop me on up and haul me out of there, because I wouldn't notice the hollering or the flames or the smoke as long as my eyes could see the page in front of me. And we've already established that I'm willing to read under really stupid circumstances involving moonlight and slivers of light under the bedroom door, so . . .

I took Gone With the Wind out of the public library, and I started reading it in the evening. I managed to put it down for bedtime, probably at about the point where Scarlett returns to Tara. The next day, I started reading it when I got up. I was done reading the book by about 3:30 in the afternoon (quick reader, remember?)*SPOILER ALERT* Although seriously, this is an old book at this point, so I don't feel bad about talking about it freely. However, just in case you haven't seen it, haven't read it, and still really want to, I thought it fair to warn you to skip the next part.)

I started crying at about 2 in the afternoon, when Scarlett fell down the stairs and miscarried. I started sobbing when Bonnie Blue died after a fall from her horse just after that. And I didn't stop crying until close to 4:30. That's right. I cried continuously while reading for something like an hour and half, and I cried for close to an hour after I put the book down. Because my crazy absorption in a book knows no bounds, apparently.

Gone With the Wind was not the first book to move me to tears, nor was it the last. (Heck - I cried during each of the last five Harry Potter books, and sometimes more than once. And during Guernsey Literary Society. And Looking for Alaska. Too many books to keep listing, really.) But it was the first book that kept me crying after I'd put it down, which is one of the reasons I remember it so clearly. It is also one of the first books to keep me crying for such a long period of time, and if there is such a thing as a "personal best" for crying time, it wins.

Has there been a particular book for you that made you cry and kept you crying for a really long time? And has anyone else stayed in tears after closing the book, or is that just me?

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It's Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder

Remember my post on Sunday about staying up after bedtime reading books - and not just when I was a kid? Well, last night it was entirely Lisa Schroeder's fault, since I was spending time with Isabel, the main character of It's Raining Cupcakes. I had every intention of marking my place and going to bed at a decent hour - really and truly I did - but it just didn't pan out that way for me. Instead I found myself up until after 1 a.m. so I could finish the book. (It's my own copy, which I bought when the book was first released, and just now got around to. Eep.)

N.B.: Staying up until very late at night/early in the morning to read this particular book is an especially egregious mistake because there are CUPCAKE RECIPES at the conclusion of the book, and willpower is weak, but energy levels are low at that time of night and so I went to bed wishing I had a cupcake. And I don't even have a particular affinity for cupcakes. Speaking of which, could Lisa's timing on this book have been any better? Cupcakes are the new black, or so it seems, with special cupcake stores opening all around the country, places like Starbucks and chain bookstores now carrying them (both Borders and Barnes & Noble have them), and a variety of popular cupcake cookbooks being available? Some sort of cupcake Zeitgeist is sweeping the nation. Too bad the Zeitgeist doesn't deliver cupcakes at 1 a.m.

In case you haven't yet heard about this book, it's the story of only child and soon-to-be 7th-grader Isabel. Isabel has spent her whole life in Willow, Oregon, and she desperately wants to travel elsewhere. Everyone except her parents have been places - her aunt is a flight attendant, her best friend goes to camp, Disney and the Grand Canyon, her neighbors go to various places in Europe, even her teacher has been out of the country. But travel isn't something that Isabel's parents do, so she's stuck waiting until she's a grown-up. Or is she?

When Isabel's friend Sophie tells Isabel about a baking contest for kids with a prize involving travel to New York City, Isabel sets out to create the perfect recipe for jam-filled tarts. Isabel's mother, who is in the process of opening a cupcakery called "It's Raining Cupcakes", leans on her hard to create and submit a cupcake recipe instead, in order to help promote her new business. Isabel has to decide what to do - a decision made that much harder by her mother's precarious mental state: she appears to suffer from depression (at the very least), and everyone walks on eggshells around her for most of the book, putting that much more pressure on Isabel.

Isabel is a resourceful, clever kid with an advanced knowledge of baking (certainly more advanced than me!) and a lot of heart, and I enjoyed reading her story to find out how things turned out for her. With so many hurdles in her way - some of her own making and some created by others - it proved to be unputdownable.

In the end, I think one of Isabel's little notes sums up how this book made me feel:

People travel to see beautiful things,
But really, beauty is everywhere,
isn't it?

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Another true story about reading

I was thinking again today about what an avid reader I was as a kid. I'm still a pretty avid reader - I spend at least a couple hours a day reading, pretty much every single day, and I can read fast, yo. If the Harry Potter books had existed then, they'd for sure have been my favorite books. As it is, my internal 12-year old self adores them with an abiding love, putting them next to my actual favorites from that time, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books (which were in three volumes for me, even though technically it's all one story, and my current edition is all in one volume, but hey, I digress).

Anyhow, when it came to reading at "inappropriate" times, not only did I read after bedtimes, resulting in potential fatality and actual property damage, but I also read during classes. Not in the "I didn't do my homework last night so I'm trying to get it done in class" way, although that certainly happened from time to time, but in the "I know we're supposed to be paying attention to the teacher but I'd really much rather read Jane-Emily or The Borrowers or Lord of the Rings, which I'm trying to do surreptitiously by holding the book in my lap/under the edge of the desk" sort of way.

In fact, I believe I had books "confiscated" by teachers on at least two occasions (once in elementary school and at least once in high school) for that very reason. I am positive that It's Like This, Cat by Emily Neville was confiscated from me in elementary school. Also, that Emily Neville made me cry ridiculous amounts of real tears over the demise of a fictional orange kitten, and that I will never, ever, ever get over that kitten's death, or forget that roomful of reporters, even though I have repeatedly forgotten the title of this book and its author's name and have had to look it up, including just now for this post. GAH! I AM TRAUMATIZED FOR LIFE! (I should note that this massive - and very real - psychological trauma did not prevent me from rereading the book.

Did anyone else out there get busted for reading during class? If so, do you remember what you were reading at the time?

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

True story

Earlier this week, I had to write my new bio for the CYBILS Awards. (I am again reprising my job as the coordinator for the poetry category.) This year we decided as a group to focus on our personal reading histories, and I shared a story from when I was in fourth grade. And I nearly set the house on fire. Not with matches, mind you, but because I was trying to hide the fact that I was reading after bedtime. Not having a working flashlight, I opted to put my actual lamp under a heavy blanket, so I could sit under there and read.

It didn't occur to me (being something like 9 years old) that it would get hot under the blanket. Or that the plastic lamp shade would melt. But melt it did, and I had to confess what happened to my mother the next morning. (And then, I had to live with that mutant lampshade for quite a while because we couldn't afford a new one.)

But after I wrote the bio, I got to thinking that the lampshade debacle didn't stop me from sneaking additional reading time after bedtime. I used to climb out of bed and get down on the floor by my bedroom door so I could read by the teeny bit of light that came in under the door from the hall. Or if was a full moon, I'd haul myself over to the window and read by moonlight. Or if we lived somewhere where there was a streetlight outside (we moved a lot until I was 12), I'd read by whatever ambient light made its way in.

As I've gotten older, I haven't had to resort to such drastic measures in order to keep reading, but when I am reading (which is pretty much daily - I've been engaging in "comfort reading" lately, but will be moving my attention to my TBR pile sometime very soon), I continue to have issues with bedtime. I always want to read just a bit more, even when I know I should get to bed. And even when I know that I can read again the next morning, if I want.

What about you? Did you try to stay up late to read? Do you still sneak extra reading time? Do you do it for all books, or only for certain kinds?

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Good things about Saturday

It's not that late, but I have my jammies on already, and will be going to bed soon. I consider that a good thing.

This afternoon, I had some of the best potato salad I've ever ingested. That sure knows how to peel a potato (and combine it with just the right amount of other stuff). I also had some delicious peach cobbler. NOM!

Tomorrow is Sunday, and my writing partner is back from vacation, and this means WRITING TIME WITH ANGELA! *is ded of excitement*

I promise to come up with some better posts in the near future. Meanwhile, if you're after poetry, I hope you'll read the original poem I posted yesterday. And if you want something a bit substantive, you can check out Wednesday's post about poetry being "the rhythmical creation of Beauty".

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Letter to Mum - a Poetry Friday post

This week, I've been enjoying reading Mark Reads Harry Potter over at Buzznet. Turns out that Mark (age 26) had never read a single HP book (I'm shocked!), and he's committed to reading the whole series, start to finish. And he's engaging in a form of torture, really, because he reads one chapter at a time, then blogs about that chapter, then moves on. Those of you who've read the series know how horribly difficult that can be, particular when things get knotty. Just this week, he started reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and as his past (and better-looking) header said, "You are not prepared." Or rather, it's pretty clear that Mark is going to have his mind blown. I hope you'll check out his project, but whatever you do, DO NOT SPOIL HIM. Because reading his complete breakdown over Cedric's death in Goblet of Fire was both funny and exceptionally moving all at the same time, and I expect him to have a complete conniption when the major death in Phoenix occurs. (When he reaches the Battle of Hogwarts in book 7, I fully expect his head to explode.)

But Kelly, you say, I thought you said this was a Poetry Friday post? Well, it is. But one more digression before I get there (and it ties in, I promise). I've commented many times before on the (roughly) weekly writing exercises that I do with Angela De Groot. A while back, we used the following assignment, ganked from a fellow poet at an open reading one night: Pick a fictional character, and have them write a letter to their dead mother. The woman who mentioned the assignment had written a poem from perspective of the Incredible Hulk, which flummoxed me a bit because the Hulk is actually an alter ego for Doctor Bruce Banner, but I digress.

I took the assignment and wrote what is a mixed-up sonnet from the perspective of a character from the Harry Potter books. Savvy readers will identify the speaker easily:

Letter to Mum
by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

You never understood me. Never tried
to see a broader world outside the dark
and hateful world in which you lived and died.
You tried your best to snuff out every spark
of friendship with James Potter, every bond
with anyone whose blood you deemed impure.
When I rebelled, you called me immature,
yet you threw tantrums, blasting with your wand
in anger at the heirloom tapestry,
seeking to wipe me from the family.
I would not have you love me, do not care
that you preferred my brother. In the end,
you died alone in your Grimmauld Place lair,
while I died in the service of a friend.

Form: Mixed-up Shakespearean sonnet, if I have to assign it a name. It's written in iambic pentameter (five iambs per line: taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM), with the following rhyme scheme: ABABCDCDEEFGFG.

Discussion: I suppose this counts as fan fiction, now I think of it. I could happily write an entire collection along these lines, if I'm being honest. It was so much fun to write! (I siriusly hope that you've all figured out who the speaker was in this poem. Bet you saw what I just did there!)

You can find other Poetry Friday participants by clicking on the box, below, to get to this week's host:

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tea and biscotti

I seriously have almost nothing for you today. *rummages around in bin of possible blog topics*

Let's see - I could tell you how very much I love Biffy Clyro's song, "Many of Horror", which is somewhere on the Charlie St. Cloud soundtrack. Not that it's easy to find that information because they haven't actually released a soundtrack, or even a list of songs on it (although you can buy the score), but I have squirreled around teh interwebs and found out eight of the songs used in either the film or the trailers - and I happen to love all of them. Good job, Ms/Mr Music-Picker, say I, while shaking my fist at whoever made it so hard to find out. (I'll put the list in the comments, in case anyone else is interested, but man, I love every single song. Weird, but true. I especially love "When We Were Dreaming" by the Pink Mountaintops and the Biffy Clyro song, both of which are strangely violent romantic songs.)

OR I could talk about how delicious my biscotti are. I baked them the other day, and they include slivered almonds, chocolate chips and dried cherries. NOM!

OR I could tell you about my time at Borders today, which featured a man snoring VERY LOUDLY (true fact: everyone stared and laughed and whatnot for a good 5-10 minutes, until the cafe manager decided to interrupt the man's noisy nap as a courtesy to the entire cafe and surrounding area). While working there, I crossed bunches of things off my list, including the last of the revisions to a collection of poems for middle graders that I wrote last Christmas time, the completion of one proposal for next year's NESCBWI conference, the drafting of a bio for this year's CYBILS awards site, and updating my writer's resume to include new publication details, some of which I haven't yet told you about. But I will. Soon. And I wrote up writerly goals for the next week. So much to do, so much to do.

But first, I am enjoying my tea and biscotti, whilst listening to "Many of Horror".

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Poetic ponderings

Edgar Allen Poe called poetry "the rhythmical creation of Beauty". Is that not lovely?

But sometimes, Beauty can be a real beast, and I mean that in two senses:

First off, a poem need not be about something attractive in order to be a thing of beauty.

Read, for instance, this beautiful poem by Jack Gilbert about grief following the loss of his wife, Michiko. You will notice that he never mentions grief by name, and that this poem begins with a simile that turns into an extended metaphor. And I predict that you will love this poem as it breaks your heart, and as you feel its weight settle into the box you already carry, and that you will see its beauty, even though it is not about something most people would deem beautiful

Michiko Dead
by Jack Gilbert

He manages like somebody carrying a box
that is too heavy, first with his arms
underneath. When their strength gives out,
he moves the hands forward, hooking them
on the corners, pulling the weight against
his chest. He moves his thumbs slightly

Read the rest here.

Poems can be about loss and fear, about war and rape, about horror and shame, just as they can be about love and hope, about flowers and clouds, about joy and pride. When done well, however, they are a form of Beauty, just as Poe said.

Second, it can be a bear to achieve "rhythmical creation of Beauty."

I have spent the past three days in false starts and erasures of a poem intended for the Shakespeare poems. I haven't given up on this poem yet, but I'm stepping away from it for now because it's to the point where I am working so hard to shove the poem together that it will never become a thing of Beauty; the poem and I are too angry with each other, I think it best for us both to cool down for a bit and start again. Perhaps she and I will get along better after we take a break from one another.

Most everyone I know seems to acknowledge that first drafts of novels aren't usually pretty. But neither are first drafts of poems - even metrical poems. Want proof? Go to the Manuscripts section of this page about Visual Aids for Jonathan C. Glance's English class and have a look at William Blake's page. Or Byron's. Or Keats. Or even Elizabeth Barret Browning, and hers is pretty clean. Sometimes getting things in order is a beastly undertaking. But when it is done, what a thing of Beauty it can be. Read, for instance, the final version of Blake's poem, "The Tyger" from Songs of Experience, with its wonderful trochaic metre and end rhymes, and ask yourself "Is this not Beauty, rhythmically created?":

The Tyger
by William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stephenie Meyer biography by Lisa Rondinelli Albert

I really haven't read any new books since I started working on the Shakespeare poems in earnest back on July 29th, but it occurred to me that I did read Stephenie Meyer: Author of the Twilight Saga by my friend Lisa Rondinelli Albert right before that, and I've been remiss in not pimping reviewing it. (I won a copy of Lisa's book, which is part of the "Authors Teens Love" series from Enslow Publishers, in a blog contest - go me!) Disclaimer of sorts: Lisa is not only a LiveJournal friend of mine, but I met her in person at the LA SCBWI conference a few years back. She's lovely. You should check out her blog, and find out all about her debut novel coming out next year. But I digress.

My hat is off to Lisa for telling Meyer's life story in an interesting manner, and with slanting the biography to the target market (teens) with a significant emphasis on Meyer's Twilight series. The trickiest thing about this particular biography is that it is unauthorized, so quotes had to come from other sources - either from other publications or people. It's a concise, well-organized biography complete with photos of Meyer (including her pre-prom photo from high school - nice score, Lisa!) and photos from the first Twilight movie and its promotions, plus a photo of Cyclops (James Marsden) from the X-Men movies. (What? Cyclops and the other X-Men were part of the underlying inspiration for vampire super-powers - see what you can learn reading this book?)

The index is fun to read if only for the juxtaposition of things. There are character names from the Twilight series (e.g., "Black, Billy" and "Cullen, Edward") as well as names of Meyer's agent and editor (respectively, "Reamer, Jodi" and "Tingley, Megan"). There are organizations (e.g., "Quileute Tribe" and "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)") near other categories (e.g, "vampires", "werewolves", and even "vampire-werewolf relations"). Not only useful, but also entertaining, is how I'd characterize this particular index.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back to School

Here in the U.S., it's time for kids to head back to school. (We run a 9-month school year, which means that kids start classes in either August or September and stop in May or June.)

I am neither a student nor a teacher, but "back to school" time is still one of my favorite times of year. And not just because it means the kids will be in school during the day - in fact, now that both of my girls are teens in high school, and since S has her license, the amount of work required for me to manage them has dropped dramatically, so they really aren't a big deal to manage. But I do love the school year because it means I can count on having the house completely to myself for solid chunks of time every day. It's being able to rely on that being the case that really appeals to me, since right now I never know who's going to be home, or what they're going to be up to.

But come September 7th, I'll know that the house is ALL MINE until at least 3 p.m. every day (when the girls get home if they come straight home from school - high school gets out at 2:30 around here). That means I can actually work at the dining room table if I want, without the possibility of being disturbed by someone watching TV, or I can work at the desktop computer in the family room without having to fight for the right to use that particular computer.

I am so fond of the academic year that for the past two years, I've made sure my Daily Planners run from July through July rather than January through December. It's so much easier for planning, you have almost no idea - and that includes putting things like writing conferences on there. And there's something about back-to-school season that makes me want to start fresh and get organized, all of which are good things (and dovetail nicely with fall cleaning, usually).

This year, I am hoping to start new projects and routines when the kids go back to school. New projects in the form of new writing, of course, but also new things in the house - some re-examining of the rooms and what's in them and the like, cleaning out the garage, re-decorating, etc. And some new routines like establishing a sort of schedule for myself, making sure exercise is on it (!), and planning out meals ahead of time. I guess that means that I'd better take some time to plan my "curriculum" between now and then, or none of it will happen.

Any big back-to-school plans for you?

Meanwhile, here's a link to one of my favorite emails from the movie You've Got Mail, in which Joe talks about school supplies, and says "I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address." *swoon*

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sonnet 141 by William Shakespeare

Happy Wednesday! Egad, but I'm tired today. That will not stay me from my appointed course, which is to provide you with a bit o' the Bard. Today's choice is Sonnet 141 ("In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes"), one of the "Dark Mistress" sonnets that has something in common (I think) with the better-known Sonnet 130 ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"): In both poems, Shakespeare is saying that he sees the person as they truly are, not as a romanticized ideal, and loves them anyway. Awwwwww. Only he's saying it in such a back-handed, sassy way that I once again submit that I believe the Dark Mistress poems were the ones publicly known prior to publication of the entire pack of sonnets, and that they were performance pieces of sorts - a way of showing off amongst peers. Not that I have research to back it up, but it SO makes sense.

Sonnet 141
by William Shakespeare

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who, in despite of view, is pleased to dote.
Nor are mine ears with thy tongue's tune delighted;
Nor tender feeling to base touches prone.
Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with thee alone.
But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,
Who leaves unswayed the likeness of a man,
Thy proud heart's slave and vassal wretch to be.
  Only my plague thus far I count my gain,
  That she that makes me sin awards me pain.

Form: Shakespearean sonnet, a term indicating it's written in iambic pentamter and rhymed ABABCDCDEFEFGG. Iambic pentameter: Pentameter means five poetic feet per line; iambic indicates that the poetic foot in question is the iamb, a two-syllable foot composed of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one: taDUM.

Discussion: Just as the rhyme scheme can be broken into sections, so can the poem. In the first quatrain (four lines), Shakespeare says (in essence) "Well, it's certainly not your looks for which I love you, because I see a bunch of things wrong with you". In the second quatrain, he continues in kind: "It's not your voice either, nor your touch, taste or smell that make me want to get close to you." (Truly, he is not at all complimentary here!) In the third quatrain comes the turn, where he goes from enumeration of the particular ways in which he finds the woman unattractive to a bigger-picture issue: despite all that, he's her servant. He says neither his five wits nor his five senses (more on that below) can persuade his heart not to love her and to dedicate himself to her; his body is hers to command. In the final couplet, which turns further still, with a double meaning: on the one hand, he says that the woman who thus plagues him and causes him to sin punishes his sin with pain (a variation on the "pay to play" notion, I suppose, or to the Christian idea that punishment or penance be imposed for sin); on the other hand, he says that the love he feels for the woman causes him pain (possibly because she withholds herself from him, a convention of poetry at that time).

Sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants, eh, Will?

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday a-a-afternoon!

Yeah, I quoted the Moody Blues. What of it?

I am waiting.

Waiting for the internet to come back (where have you all gone?). Waiting for a phone call from Arizona to tell me that M has made it there safely (since her plane hasn't actually left yet, that will be hours from now). Waiting for what I consider important emails and/or bits of snail mail.

Know what? Ordinarily I don't mind waiting. Because if I'm waiting, it means that something's going on; something has been set in motion, in which I have some level of involvement, and that means that at least once upon a time, I was active. Waiting usually involves something over which I have no control, really, because if I had control, I'd be doing, not waiting.

So most of the time, I see waiting as a necessary part of the process, and I realize it means I have irons in the fire or whatever, and that I have to wait for them to get hot (if I want to extend that metaphor, and I guess I did), and I'm good with it. But this afternoon finds me a wee bit edgy about it. Mayhap it's because there are too many irons sitting there, waiting to get hot? Who knows? (Not me. There's something due any day; I will know right away, soon as it shows. And yes, now I've moved from the Moody Blues to Westside Story. What of it?)

But since I'm here now, singing my fantastic West Side Story medley in my head (and yes, I have a fantastic West Side Story medley, which I can sing the hell out of. What of it?), I will share the first half of the lyrics to "Something's Coming" with the rest of you who might be out there, waiting . . .

Something's Coming
by Stephen Sondheim

Could be!
Who knows?
There's something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

The rest of the lyrics are here, or scrolling across the screen on this video:

Fine, Mr. Sondheim, I will try to be more positive about this. But seriously? The waiting is the hardest part. (Yeah, now I'm quoting Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - what of it?)

I guess I'll just find something else to do.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Poetry in the Round

Went to my local poetry group tonight - so lovely to see old friends and new faces and to hear so much poetry. I read "Margaret Rose", the poem that's going to appear in Mountain Magic: Spellbinding Tales of Appalachia, for which this book trailer is now available. Looky! It's going to be available on October 9th!

I also read a poem about the gulf coast oil spill that I wrote, along with four of my Shakespeare poems, which went over like a house afire. So much so that I ended up sending one of them home with a lovely gentleman who asked if I had a spare copy. And no, I'm not going to tell you what they're about. Yet. All in due course of time, I hope.

I also got to listen to a dizzying assortment of poems, from haiku to free verse to works in forms, and from a variety of perspectives. One of the best poems I heard was from a recently published collection by Rafey Habib entitled Shades of Islam: Poems for a New Century, which my friend B.J. read aloud. It was really wonderful - and the whole evening was a marvelous use of time on a Monday evening.

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1, 2, 3, . . .

I spent time this evening looking at the Shakespeare poem project in a big-picture, organizational way, and I've come to the following completely mind-boggling conclusion:

I have as few as three must-write poems to go, and no more than 10 more total possible, even if I write all the "possible" poems I've identified. I've written 17 poems since I started writing this project in earnest on July 29th. I wrote the first poem on July 19th. No matter how you slice it, that is . . . exceptionally speedy. Weird. And reports from my erstwhile first readers (who are struggling to keep up with me) are good; thus far, I don't have massive revisions ahead of me.

I am:

(a) happy
(b) flummoxed
(c) excited
(d) frenzied
(e) all of the above

Any answer is correct, but bonus points if you selected (e) all of the above.

*spins around with arms out and head back until dizzy (in fairness, it doesn't take long)*

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kiss Me Kate

Hmmmmm . . .

I just finished watching the DVD of the Broadway revival of Kiss Me Kate, which I understand occasionally plays on PBS.

On the plus side:

1. I adore Cole Porter's music. And I knew all but two songs (the ones specific to the play within the play, Kiss Me Kate and something else), but had no idea they were from this musical. See, I've got this CD from the 90s called Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter that has most of them on there, and some of them I knew from other collections, like Linda Ronstadt's collection of torch songs. (Although these days when I hear the name "Cole Porter", I think of Hugh Grant in Music & Lyrics, saying that Drew Barrymore's character was "like Cole Porter in panties. Although, come to think of it, Cole Porter probably wore panties" or words to that effect. But I digress.)

2. I enjoyed hearing so very much Shakespearean dialogue, both in the play within in the play and in the play itself and even in a couple of songs.

3. The guys who did "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" had me shaking with laughter. Especially the line "Kick her right in the Coriolanus." Here's a good concert version of the song:

On the minus side:

I have to wonder if there was a scene missing or something. I mean, the female lead was leaving to marry the dumbass general. And the two thugs were headed to Georgetown to pay a visit to somebody (was it the general? I sure hoped so). And Bianca/the actress playing her had her story line left completely unresolved. Yet in came Kate (late) for her cue, and it was the end of the play and the end of the DVD.

To which I say: What. Ever.

I suppose the moral of the story is that slapping an ending on there without actually, you know, writing the denouement is a crap move.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I just got home from a late afternoon showing of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I'm pretty certain I surprised my hubby by wanting to see it. I'm pretty sure I surprised him even more by expecting it to be exactly what it was, and by liking it. Turns out that while he reallyreally wanted to see it, he didn't expect it to be so video game-like, whereas it was pretty much what I bargained for. I liked the voiceovers and the graphic novelesque split screens (especially at the commencement of fights) and the little labels that popped up now and again to let you know what was what (or whose, if you were in the one-room basement apartment that Scott shared with his gay friend, Wallace, played by Kieran Culkin (who was my very favorite character in the movie - his delivery of every line and gesture was so spot on). So I left saying, "that was fun" and hubby left shrugging, saying "it was okay." (It's all about expectations, I think.)

So, about expectations: If you are looking for in-depth character building and motivation, this is not the film for you. Of course, if you've seen any ad for this film at all, you should already know not to expect that. But if you like fun! action! fights! Michael Cera! and rock music! then this is the film for you. It includes video game-like sequences, including a game-style Universal logo and opening tune at the start, cartoon violence, and stylized graphic novel elements. It also includes some impeccable grammar, including grammar humor. Oh, grammar humor, how I love you!

Evil Ex 3: "We have unfinished business, I and he".

Scott Pilgrim: "He and me."

Evil Ex 3: "Don't you talk to me about grammar."
For some further thoughts on the movie, I defer to Linda Holmes from NPR, who wrote 'Scott Pilgrim' Versus the Unfortunate Tendency to Review the Audience. To which I add, "What she said."

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Garden Gnomes - an original Fibonacci poem

A few months back, Angela De Groot () had us write Fibonacci poems (often called Fibs) for our weekly assignment.

Here's one that I wrote, based on my own sudden realization. Turns out that while I was writing those early middle grade novels about garden gnomes, gnomes were busy moving in:

Garden Gnomes
by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

On shelves,
In corners,
All around my house:
It seems I have a collection.

Form: It's a Fib, a form artfully defined and mastered by Gregory K (he of the blog that got him signed by Arthur A Levine to a book deal). It's based on the Fibonacci series of numbers:

1,1,2,3,5,8 (okay, so the first number is technically zero, then one, then you add the last two numbers together (to get one), then repeat (1+1=2), (2+1=3), (3+2=5), etc.) I tend to end the form with an 8-syllable line.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

A bit of Don Juan

My second Shakespeare poem of the day (16th overall) was an ottava rima. I won't tell you what mine is about, but I will tell you that I used the words "vouchsafed", "filial", and "adieu", and you may make of that what you please.

I was just doing a bit of checking on my formatting for my ottava rima, to see whether the ending couplet is typically indented (the answer is NO), and it occurred to me to share this bit of Don Juan (pronounced "Don Jew-en", as it turns out) by George Gordon, Lord Byron:

"Go, little book, from this my solitude!
I cast thee on the waters – go thy ways!
And if, as I believe, thy vein be good,
The world will find thee after many days."
When Southey 's read, and Wordsworth understood,
I can't help putting in my claim to praise –
The four first rhymes are Southey's every line:
For God's sake, reader! take them not for mine.

Form: Ottava rima is a rhymed form (hence the "rima") written in eight lines (or an "octave", hence the "ottava"). It is an Italian form, hence the Italian name, and it is rhymed ABABABCC. Eight lines, three rhymes, and you may stop with one stanza or write book-length epics (a la Byron) this way.

I love Byron's wit: He wrote half of this particular octave by quoting Southey; as a result he had to come up with one A line, one B line and a couplet in order to finish. And so funny!

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Shakespeare poems update

I started writing the project I'm calling the Shakespeare poems two weeks ago today.

I currently have 15 completed poems to show for it.

Make that 15 poems, an untidy house, and piles of laundry. Plus an abundance of joie de vivre.

*shrugs at laundry pile, opens a new Word doc*

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A bit of poetry from As You Like It

It's Wednesday, which is a good day for something from Shakespeare (and a bit of a tradition around here, when I remember to get my act together). Speaking of acts, today's poetry is found in Act III, scene 2 of As You Like It. You can read my (somewhat irreverent) summary of the play if you'd like, but assuming that not all of you have the time or inclination, I'll just set up today's selection for you.

As You Like It is a comedy featuring a female main character (Rosalind) who spends most of the play in drag as a boy, calling herself Ganymede (the name of Jove's page and sometime sex partner). Rosalind loves Orlando; Orlando loves Rosalind. They interact quite a lot as Orlando and Ganymede, with Orlando not realizing Ganymede and Rosalind are one and the same, during which time Rosalind instructs Orlando on the proper way of expressing love, and on what to expect when dealing with an actual woman, as opposed to his romanticized notion of her.

In Act III, scene 2, Orlando has entered the Forest of Arden and has strewn his (mostly bad) poetry in praise of Rosalind about the forest. Rosalind has found some of it, and enters this scene (dressed as Ganymede) to find Touchstone (a jester, who knows that Rosalind and Ganymede are one and the same) and Corin (a shepherd, who believes Ganymede to be a boy) together. Touchstone tweaks Rosalind by extemporizing some poetry on the spot, only Rosalind can't really set him down because she is, after all, supposed to be a boy named Ganymede, who has no idea who this Rosalind is. Savvy?

Interspersed with the poetry is a bit of dialogue between Touchstone and Ganymede/Rosalind. I let Touchstone have the last word in this edit:

[Enter ROSALIND (as Ganymede), reading aloud]

From the east to western Ind,
No jewel is like Rosalind.
Her worth, being mounted on the wind,
Through all the world bears Rosalind.
All the pictures fairest lined
Are but black to Rosalind.
Let no fair be kept in mind
But the fair of Rosalind.

I'll rhyme you so eight years together, dinners and
suppers and sleeping-hours excepted: it is the
right butter-women's rank to market.

Out, fool!

For a taste:
If a hart do lack a hind,
Let him seek out Rosalind.
If the cat will after kind,
So be sure will Rosalind.
Winter garments must be lined,
So must slender Rosalind.
They that reap must sheaf and bind;
Then to cart with Rosalind.
Sweetest nut hath sourest rind,
Such a nut is Rosalind.
He that sweetest rose will find
Must find love's prick and Rosalind.
This is the very false gallop of verses: why do you
infect yourself with them?

Peace, you dull fool! I found them on a tree.

Truly, the tree yields bad fruit.
Form: The poems are in rhymed couplets, sometimes using a short I and sometimes a long, but with every line rhyming with a variant of Rosalind. The meter is trochaic in nature (a trochee being a two-syllable foot composed of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one: DUMta or, if you prefer, TRO-key). It's what's known as the catalectic version of trochaic tetrameter, meaning that there are four feet per line, they are trochees, but the final foot is cut short. (Another way of analyzing it is to say that it's two trochees followed by an amphibrach, if you want to get persnickety about it.) Shakespeare often used this meter to indicate madness, supernatural forces ("When shall we three meet again?") or, in this case, ineptitude.

Discussion: Orlando's four couplets are all based in courtly love, comparing her to jewels, proclaiming her the most worthy woman in the world, and extolling her fairness. (Exactly the sort of thing that Shakespeare does himself in praise of the Fair Youth in his lovely Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?") and the precise thing he mocks in his Dark Mistress tribute, Sonnet 130 ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun").)

Touchstone's extemporaneous six couplets are far more earthy and, in some cases, downright bawdy. To wit: The first couplet is about mating deer, the second about mating cats. The third says that winter garments need to be lined (filled with something warm), and so does Rosalind. (Hey now!) The fourth is a harvest pun that involves tossing Rosalind in the hay, the fifth (my favorite) refers to Rosalind's disguise (at least, that's my take on it) - Rosalind the woman is sweet, but she is dressed as a male (the "sourest rind"). And the sixth goes one further by combining the notion that Rosalind is hidden and must be found with the bawdy suggestions at the start, saying that a man would have to "find love's prick and Rosalind." There's a double meaning to the "love's prick", of course: On the one hand, he's talking about the pain sometimes associated with love. On the other, he's talking about male anatomy.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Am Not Yours by Sara Teasdale

I've posted poems by Sara Teasdale before ("Night" and "The Look"), and each time I come across one of her poems, I find I love her work. I must, therefore, try to remember to read more of it still. In my (almost nonexistent due to current writing frenzy) spare time.

Today's choice is "I am not yours", which was the poem of the day from The Academy of American Poets a few days back. It's so nice of them to email me a poem each day. Well, not just them. The Writer's Almanac does that, too. So I read at least two poems each day, even if I don't have time to read more. But I digress.

I particularly commend today's poem to those of you who are writing romance, whether it be an entire story or just part of your work, and most especially to those of you who are writing romance for teens, who all, I think, want to be "lost" in the way Teasdale describes.

I Am Not Yours
by Sara Teasdale

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love — put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

Form: The poem is written in rhymed iambic tetrameter, in which the odd lines do not rhyme, but the even ones do. Tetrameter means there are four (tetra) poetic feet per line, and the iambic part tells you they are iambs (a two-syllable foot composed of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one: taDUM). Iambic tetrameter = taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM.

Discussion: By the time Teasdale wrote this poem, I seriously doubt that "blind" and "wind" rhymed, since she was referring to a great gusty blowing sort of wind, and not to being wound up in something. But we shall allow her poetic license, and I will certainly not complain about it, given the romantic, aching, swoony quality of this poem, which means, as close as I can figure: You love me, and I like you alright, but I want to be completely swept away by love.

I especially love her lines about wanting to be lost:

. . . I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.


Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Man, haven't we all been there at one point in time, so wrapped up in the emotion that we are lost? (Or didn't we at least want to be?)

For reasons that I will explain in a moment, this poem has my brainradio playing "Widmung", a lied by Robert Schumann, which was originally a poem entitled Liebesfrühling ("Love's Dawning") by Friedrich Rückert, which (as you will see if you click that link), I've translated into English and talked about before. See, in that poem (and, more to the point, in the lied setting of it), there's this gorgeous line where the poet says "Du hebst mich liebend über mich" ("You have me loving beyond myself") that keeps playing in my head when I think about this Teasdale poem.

Of course, the poem has also summoned up the song Let's Get Lost by Beck & Bat for Lashes from the soundtrack to Eclipse. I know I'm repeating myself, but man, do I love that soundtrack. And no, you needn't love the movie to love the soundtrack, although I do, in fact, like that movie quite a bit. (Because, mmmmmmmm, candyyyyyy!)

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Metamorphosis by Betsy Franco

I've written a review of Betsy Franco's YA novel, Metamorphosis: Junior Year, which combines Franco's prose and poetry with illustrations done by her son, Tom Franco. (And if you're wondering "are they any relation to actor James Franco?", the answer is yes - Betsy is his mom, Tom is his brother.)

The "journal" written by a high school kid named Ovid is a modernized version of Ovid's tales, which proves that the more things change, the more they stay the same, as ancient stories get a modern twist set in high school in a way that teens can readily relate to. While I wondered at first what to make of so many stories about various friends and to try to figure out what "that f*cking thing I do" really was (and boy, did I guess wrong), I found myself completely sucked into the book and loving it by the end.

You can read my actual review of the book over at Guys Lit Wire. And I hope you will.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Bug Zoo by Nick Baker

Say you are a young entomologist. I know I was. Once upon a time, I was fearless in flipping over rocks and poking roly poly bugs so they'd do their thing. I caught grasshoppers and lightning bugs and put them in jars with holes punched in the lids (long story short - this always led to dead bugs). I rescued worms that were stranded on sidewalks after rainstorms (okay - I still do that), and crushed little red "blood bugs" and picked up caterpillars and inchworms, and more. Okay, so I was also fascinated by pouring salt on slugs in the garden and watching them shrivel and die. (I know - mean, right? But I thought it was really cool when I was, like, 8, and my grandmother handed me the salt.)

Nowadays, I am a bit of a girl when it comes to bugs, but the little scientist part still tucked away inside me found Bug Zoo: How to capture, keep, and care for creepy crawlies by Nick Baker to be completely fascinating. I was variously "oohing" and "ewwing" as I read this new book from the folks at DK.

As the name implies, Baker is giving tips on how to make your own bug zoo. As in, what sorts of containers to use for what sorts of bugs, how to create the proper environment, what to feed them, etc. This book is all about the catching of and caring for insects and arachnids (and mollusks - the snail and the slug fall into the mollusk category - and invertibrates, which is what wood lice turn out to be).

          Two-page spread describing slugs & snails

Nick Baker is a naturalist who is, I am told, the host of Nick Baker's Weird Creatures, which is on the Smithsonian Channel. In his introductory note, Baker says:

I built my first bug zoo, and, wow, did it open my eyes!

Each pot, pickle jar, and matchbox was a source of wonder, a dramatic little world with as much excitement as any TV soap opera. I witnessed what looked like scenes from a science fiction movie - some so terrifyingly bizarre they'd be unfit for broadcast. I saw MURDER and cannibalism, slashing blades, and chemical warfare. I watched caterpillars being reincarnated as butterflies. And I learned firsthand that there's nothing ladylike about a ladybug!
Baker's introduction was so persuasive, that I almost decided to start a bug zoo. But then I remembered that I am no longer an intrepid bug explorer, but a bit of a screamer when it comes to bugs. I am, in fact, in favor of leaving them alone outside, and squashing them flat when inside, if I'm being truthful. So intentionally bringing them in no longer appeals to me. But I almost wish it did, because this book is a thoroughly clever and thoroughly thorough resource for the capture, care and keeping of things like roly poly bugs (actual name: wood lice), slugs & snails, aphids, caterpillars, worms, earwigs (EWW!), ladybugs, spiders (ACK!), crickets & katydids, pseudoscorpians, mosquitoes (WHY?), dragonflies, and backswimmers.

        Two-page spread showing the proper establishment of a cricket "pavilion"

A must for budding young scientists everywhere. Just don't bring those bugs inside my house, okay?

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare

As long-time readers already know, M is my younger daughter, who is now 15-1/2 and about to be a high school sophomore. Here's M's review of Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, based on ARC I brought home from ALA.

I don't know how long I've been a Cassandra Clare fan, but I've read ll her books more than 5 times (and they never get old), so imagine my surprise when I opened my bad of ARCs my mother graciously scored for me at ALA, and sitting (strategically place - at least that's my theory) on the bottom is an ARC of Cassandra Clare's new novel, Clockwork Angel. I'm not sure how many minutes of high-pitched squealing and "Oh my God-ing" my mother had to listen to over that one book. [KRF: It was at least a full minute, and it was loud and long.]

I have a bad habit of not going to sleep until the early morning anyway, so there I was, sitting in my bed at 2:00 a.m., reading Clockwork Angel and dying because it was JUST SO GOOD. Like usual, Cassandra Clare fills Clockwork Angel with excitement, witty benter, an awesome heroine, crazy plot twists, and hot boys.

Set in 1817 London, Clockwork Angel follows our heroine Tessa (who is no just kickass but . . . LOVES to read - bonus!) as she pairs up with the Nephilim (shadowhunters). Cue the hot boys! In come Will and James who - much like Alec & Jace [from the Mortal Instruments books] - provide us with light-hearted best-friend banter, but who will gladly kick your ass if you look at them funny. Or at least one of them will.

Their adventures together (and their touching backstories) keep you reading and thinking: what the heck is going to happen now?

I never once let this book leave my side as I was reading. It's the kind of book you sneak out of the house with if you have somewhere to go. It's not only the beautiful people and excitement that keep you going - it's Cassandra Clare's beautiful writing. The way she throws you for a loop after you turn a corner, or makes you think. Also, there are little references that catch a fan's eye, like our favorite characters' [from the Mortal Instruments books] great relatives, or mention of the Pandemonium Club. Of course, this book speaks for itself, and you don't need to read the Mortal Instruments series first, but it gives you a little insight if you have.

I was sad when it ended, and can recall telling my mom "I wish I didn't read it yet. Now I have to wait!"

And so the countdown starts for the sequel. I don't think I can wait, actually . . .
Those of you familiar with M's reviews or opinions will not be surprised to hear that she has re-read this book already. And that she is chomping at the bit for the next Mortal Instruments book (despite having said "Wait - there's a fourth book in the trilogy?", then laughing about it).

I'll see if I can con her into writing a few more reviews before school starts. I can tell you for sure that she loved WHITE CAT by Holly Black and RAISED BY WOLVES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, as well as completely loving the ARC of REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly.

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Only a Book Lover Would Understand

This new comic by Debbie Ohi perfectly expresses how I felt when I first held HP7 (that's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, for those of you who live in a cave might not know) in my hands.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Take, O Take Those Lips Away by William Shakespeare

At the start of Act IV, scene 1 of Measure by Measure comes this song, sung by the frustrated Mariana, who was betrothed to Angelo ages ago - only he refuses to marry her without a dowry:

Take, O take those lips away,
  That so sweetly were forsworn;
And those eyes, the break of day,
  Lights that do mislead the morn!
But my kisses bring again, bring again,
Seals of love, but sealed in vain, sealed in vain!

Form: Rhymed ABABCC, like Venus & Adonis stanza, but using a different meter. Each line consists of two trochees and an amphimacer. A trochee (pronounced TRO-key) consists of an accented syllable followed by an unaccented one (TUM-ta). An amphimacer has three syllables: stress, non, stress, or TUM-ta-TUM. Put together, each line goes TUM-ta TUM-ta TUM-ta-TUM. Except, of course that the last two lines have an echoing refrain that makes them longer by an extra amphimacer. Don't worry, you won't be tested on this, but for the one or two of you out there who might have cared, there it is.

Discussion: Mariana is suggesting that Angelo take his lips away, since he used them to break promises, and to take his eyes as well, because they also lie. She asks that he return her kisses to her - a double meaning, of course, in that it means, on the one hand, that she wishes she'd not kissed him in the first place and, on the other, that she'd like to kiss him again.

Here's a setting of it done by John Wilson, a composer who lived in the early 17th century, performed by Dave Rogers, whom I found on YouTube. I quite like him:

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Borrowed Names by Jeannine Atkins

I promise to tell you all more about this book once I've finished reading it. Then I'll do a proper review. But for today, you'll have to settle for this half-assed blathering. See, I might not get back to finish it for a little while, but I simply cannot NOT tell you about it until then.

I read the first third of Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie and Their Daughters last week before being struck by the lightning-like impulse to write the Shakespeare poems. (I totally blame Sara Lewis Holmes for my inability to finish reading Jeannine's book for the time being, but I expect I'll get back to Borrowed Names as soon as I'm done drafting this particular collection. I blame the Jane project for having waited as long as I did to open Jeannine's wonderful book, because it was biography in verse, and Jeannine's poems are biographies in verse. And somehow my brain can't hold two of these things in it at the same time - or rather, if I'm writing such a thing, I can't also be reading it. Silly brain.)

HOWEVER. Can I just take a second to rave about the section of the book that I did read? I read the first third of the book, which is about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane; it is absolutely magnificent, and that word only barely touches on exactly how splendiferous it is. I am completely blown away by what Jeannine did here. Because while she wrote poems, and while she wrote biography, what she really, truly did, was to evoke the essence of her subjects in all its complexity. And she does this in part with a chiaroscuro-like attention to detail: what is left in shadow is as important as what is brought forward, and there are places where she leaves gaps for the reader - not to leap over, but to leap into. As with the start of the very first poem in the book, entitled "Fire":

Rose sees blood on the linen
before her grandmother plunges
the sheets in a tub. Pa scrubs dirt
from his hands. Whatever happens,
fields must be tended.
Mama Bess goes back to bed. Again.

We've been told that "Mama Bess" was what Rose Wilder called her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder. When this poem takes place, Rose is a little girl. She doesn't seem to know what those bloody sheets are about, or why Mama is back in bed, but most readers will immediately figure it out. And if they don't, there's a poem much later in Rose's story that explains it - that comes after Rose is grown, and has become pregnant. All the losses in Rose's story add up, and I have to assume I'm not the only reader who cried for poor Rose along the way, even with all her successes.

The poem "Not Today" completely took my breath away when I reached p. 72 of the book, even though I read it before - back in April, when Jama Rattigan posted it on her blog. If you are a writer, an artist, a musician - a creator of things - I strongly encourage you to click that link and read "Not Today", in which Rose tells her mother to ignore the housework and to work on her writing.

Jeannine, if you're reading this, I apologize for being such a slacker: for not having read this sooner, for not having finished it yet, for not being able to summon the words to explain exactly how impressed, enchanted and awed I am by what you've done here. This book deserves better than I've given it thus far. It deserves to be read and re-read, and I can safely say that will be the case for me.

Anyone else reading this: Do yourself a favor and get your hands on this book. The first 80 pages alone are worth the price of the book, and I have a sneaking suspicion that reading the whole book will pay you back in remarkable ways.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Is love a fancy or a feeling?

Today, a sonnet from Hartley Coleridge, eldest son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A poem of his came to mind as I was working on the Shakespeare poems. Not that I knew it was Hartley Coleridge's poem, at the time, but I thought of the line "Is love a fancy, or a feeling?", having no idea what it was from, really. Turns out I knew the line because of the 1995 production of Sense & Sensibility starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Winslet's Marianne voices the question to Elinor, saying "Is love a fancy, or a feeling, or a Ferrars?" (Too bad the poem was written 22 years after the novel, but it was a nice addition anyhow, Ms Thompson.)

Is love a fancy, or a feeling? No,
It is immortal as immaculate Truth.
'Tis not a blossom, shed as soon as youth
Drops from the stem of life— for it will grow,
In barren regions, where no waters flow
Nor ray of promise cheats the pensive gloom.
A darkling fire, faint hovering o'er a tomb,
That but itself and darkness nought doth shew*,
Is my love's being,— yet it cannot die,
Nor will it change, though all be changed beside;
Tho' fairest beauty be no longer fair,
Tho' vows be false, and faith itself deny,
Tho' sharp enjoyment be a suicide,
And hope a spectre in a ruin bare.

*shew: pronounced "show" (just as "strew" is pronounced "strow")

Form: It's an Italianate sonnet, written in iambic pentameter (five iambs per line: taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM), and using the following rhyme scheme: ABBAACCADEFDEF.

Discussion: According to Coleridge, Love is a constant, "immortal as immaculate Truth". If you'd like a Shakespeare analogy, this is similar to the Bard's Sonnet 116, quoted the other day in the clip from Much Ado About Nothing that I shared with you. Or, if you prefer a biblical analogy, it's similar to I Corinthians 13:7-8: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."

I hope you liked today's poem selection. I know I did. And now, I'm off to work on my own Shakespeare poems. *rubs hands with glee*

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Monday, August 02, 2010


"I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs."

Gotta love the Bard.

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Converting all your sounds of woe into hey nonny nonny

What an interesting writing day today yesterday proved to be.

As I said in the prior post, I woke up knowing what I wanted to write, by which I mean that I knew what it was about, not necessarily what I specifically wanted to say. Should have been easy, yes?

Not so much. I wrote 1/2 of a poem, then scrapped it. I wrote 2/3 of another. Ditto. (On the plus side, the lather-rinse-repeatness of the process reminded me to dye my hair, so at least that got done midway through the day. But I digress.) I read my own blog posts on Much Ado About Nothiong. I listened to Mumford & Sons song, "Sigh No More", which cobbles together bits from here and there within the play to form coherent lyrics. I listened to Patrick Doyle's setting of "Sign No More", just because I like it so much. I read scenes. I watched the BBC's ShakespeaRetold version of Much Ado About Nothing starring Damian Lewis and Sarah Parish (God, I love that version! And not just because of all the Tom Jones songs. Here - see a wee bit of why. In this version, Benedick and Beatrice are news anchors with a history, and he's a bit of a ladies man. They have both been led to believe that the other person is in love with them just before this bit.)

But again, I digress. None of that really helped. Neither did watching Zac Efron in 17 Again, but boy is he cute or what? (I know, another digression.)

Anyhow, after flailing around like a muppet for a while, it occurred to me to give more thought to the particular form of the poem first, and then start. So I did some thinking on how to characterize the sort of poem I wanted to write, and some research on what sorts of forms are generally used for them (come on - you're not actually surprised by that, are you? You all have to know what a geek I am by now!),and hey presto! A sort of success! Half a poem written, and I want to keep it. The rest will wait for tomorrow morning's writing session.

*capers off to bed, thinking fondly of my lovely new project, singing hey nonny nonny*

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