Monday, December 12, 2011

"It is a delicious thing to write..."

It is the birthday of Gustave Flaubert who said of his craft: "It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes."

His most famous book, Madame Bovary (1856), tells the story of Emma, a stuffy doctor's passionate wife, who is dissatisfied with her life and filled with the notion that much more awaits her...somewhere. She has two ill fated long-term affairs, becomes plagued by debt, and, finding no way out, takes her own life with arsenic. It was banned by the French government as being offensive to the religious and public morality of the day. France....?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Great Men Are Also Humble

A fellow writer and much published poet, Terresa Haskew, loaned me "Conversations with Ernest Hemingway," which is a compilation of interviews edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. There is, of course, very good advice and awareness about the writing process in these views of the man and his thoughts, but it is his philosophy and way of being that has provoked my deep admiration.

One quote on politics mentioned that whenever he got near politics, which he didn't like to talk about, he felt like he was drinking from a spittoon. (With his great love of drink, that means so much more...;).)

One obsevation of love: “Love has its limits, but when it is given, it is given for keeps though awful things may happen to it.”

Here's another direct quote, 1954, on receiving the Nobel Prize: "As a Nobel Prize winner I cannot but regret that the award was never given to Mark Twain, nor to Henry James, speaking only of my countrymen. Greater writers than these also did not receive the prize.I would have been happy -- happier -- today if the prize had gone to that beautiful writer Isak Dinesen, or to Bernard Berenson, who has devoted a lifetime to the most lucid and best writing on painting that has been produced, and I would have been most happy to know that the prize had been awarded to Carl Sandburg."

Years later he would only refer to it as 'that Swedish thing.' Clearly, he wrote because he had to, not for the recognition and awards of the world.

I wish I could share his whole acceptance speech, which was read for him by the then U.S. Ambassador to Sweden...but instead, I will just tell you it is on the last page. If you love Hemingway's writing or just have an interest in finding out who he really was, beyond the myths, I do recommend this book!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Bronte Sisters revealed...

The woman pictured here is Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre and the subject of a wonderful novel, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (wish I could see how to insert the dots over the 'e'). Author Syrie James was given access to never before seen letters, diaries and other information. She chose to write her book as if it is Charlotte herself and reads much like a Bronte novel. It is a great success in my opinion. I feel like I know Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne and have a wonderful insight into the time period (early to mid 1800's, small town England).

This might be an idealized portrait, but Charlotte is hardly the 'plain, ugly spinster' that she imagined she was. Her love story with curate Arthur Nicholls is as compelling as anything she wrote.

I'm told James also has a book on Jane Austen (who preceded Charlotte in time frame) and I will be getting that as soon as possible. If you loved Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights (Emily's classic), you will love this book.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

D.H.Lawrence was born today...

Did you know this writer was so popular with the ladies that his wife had to have his ashes scattered in a concrete memorial to avoid them being stolen?? He rests in beautiful Taos, NM, near the Ring of Enchantment...where you can see this monument for yourself.

As an English major at NYU, reading his works changed the way I looked at life. Had I pursued my PhD, no doubt I would have been teaching a course on him somewhere today...

"It's the birthday of novelist and poet D.H. Lawrence, born in Eastwood, England (1885). His father was a coal miner. He wrote: "The great crime which the moneyed classes and promoters of industry committed in the palmy Victorian days was the condemning of the workers to ugliness, ugliness, ugliness: meanness and formless and ugly surroundings, ugly ideals, ugly religion, ugly hope, ugly love, ugly clothes, ugly furniture, ugly houses, ugly relationship between workers and employers. The human soul needs actual beauty more than bread." Lawrence called Nottinghamshire "the country of my heart," and he set almost all of his novels in the green hills and woods of that country.

He is the author of Sons and Lovers (1913), The Rainbow (1915), Women in Love (1920), and Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928). He wrote: "My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong in our minds. But what our blood feels and believes and says, is always true. The intellect is only a bit and a bridle. What do I care about knowledge. All I want is to answer to my blood, direct, without fribbling intervention of mind, or moral, or what-not." The Writer's Almanac

He also wrote a novel of Mexico called "The Plumed Serpent" -- this man was both innovative and courageous in his day. Not many like him...then, or now.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sandburg Poem...for Lois P. Jones

Lois, I found a shorter one that is very lovely and probably written later in life...seems also like it would have been written in NC, but if you know differently, please, do tell...this is clearly not one of the political poems and has a much softer appearance but still, the depth of feeling.

Under the Harvest Moon
by Carl Sandburg

Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.

Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Fell in Love with Carl Sandburg

Last night, I fell in love with Carl Sandburg. A little late, I know, and he did have the perfect helpmate with his wonderful wife. But still... I couldn't help it. Those eyes, that mind, that mission!

I saw the wonderful documentary, "The Day Carl Sandburg Died" at the Flatrock Cinema in Flatrock NC, just a few miles from Sandburg's mountain home. is where you can find out more and see events. It is not in wide distribution, but at this time in our country's history, it should be.

As a poet, I felt remiss in never having read his poems. I loved one of his own comments about how modern poetry was being written with the brain but with no blood. Passion and vision, both are in his poetry and no one could ever doubt his great love for 'the people'.

I'll be taking a notepad and heading to his Appalachian home, Connemara Farms, to see if his Spirit still walks the beautiful grounds and will inspire my pen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Poet and Politics

Last night at Poetry Group, Roxanne shared a segment from an article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine on August 14. In it, the author suggests Congress might do well to read a little (or even write a little) poetry. Here are some highlights:
"I'm not suggesting that poetry will guide our legislators to wisdom any more than prayer has. Just that it might make them a little more human."
"The poet Shelley, in a rather highfalutin defense of poetry nearly two centuries ago, wrote, "A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own." Shelley concludes that essay by calling poets "the unacknowledged legislators of the world," because they bring imagination to the realm of "reasoners and mechanists."
"The relevance of poetry was declared more succinctly in five lines from the love poem "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower," by William Carlos Williams:
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

A response to the author from David Orr, poetry columnist for the NYT book review, on prescribing poems that if closely read and considered might be of value to our ossified Congress:
"If our respresentatives have spent the last few months huffily asserting, our poets have spent the past century hesitantly questioning -- and the latter approach seems far more useful to the country at the moment."
Several poems David Orr offered can be found at

Here is my own political 'Haiku' series:

Political Haiku (or, a contradiction in terms)

Election Day nears
Handsome candidates spinning
Myopic daydreams

TV timeshares climb
Force campaign funding higher
Backing their 'yes' man

Wake up world and know
In spending our dollars lies
The true power vote

I hope you'll write some political poems of your own...