Thinking of Poe

We just passed Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. He was born January 19, 1809, and I’ve been reading his poetry and also some of his essays. One of them in particular, “The Poetic Principle,” where he attempts to explain poetry and beauty and art, is well worth studying.

Here’s a poem inspired by his thoughts, and by the drum beat of alliteration that I love in his poetry.

Where are you pointing, Mr. Poe?                                                                                                               My haunted muse has reappeared and                                                                                                           I search your shrouding shadows                                                                                                               Peer through your misty dripping darkness

As I read your troubled treasures                                                                                                                 Faint ideas push through fog, hesitate                                                                                                          And like kitten paws on keyboards create                                                                                                     A gentle but jangling harmony

Hear with the heart—is that your hint?                                                                                                      I’m frightened at the thought, since                                                                                                            The sounds all settle into seeping sadness                                                                                                  All the words have sorrow’s ring

I’m puzzled, but I’ll persevere                                                                                                                      You lure me with your lingering lines, and                                                                                        Believing reflection brings surprising light                                                                                        Patiently I ponder your perceptions, Mr. Poe.    


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I Believe in New Year’s

2017 was a sad year. In addition to the major shocking, horrifying and depressing events that took place in the world, on a minor, personal note, I got almost nothing written. How can a person who calls themselves a writer end a year with so little to show for it? Where are the publications? Forget that–where are the pages?

Most of what I wrote was book reviews. Reviews of the many, many books I read, partially to escape the shocking, horrifying and depressing things that were going on, and to escape my own writing failures.

Thinking of those books, though, I can’t say I regret any of them. I read James Baldwin for the first time this year: Giovanni’s Room, Another Country, The Fire Next Time, giving me emotional experiences almost as strong as real life. Pablo Neruda’s poetry changed the way I look at everything from tomatoes to cherry trees. And Arundhati Roy’s Ministry of Utmost Happiness took me on such an extraordinary journey—a difficult journey but with hope found in the strangest places (not unlike 2017, come to think of it).

And that’s why I believe in New Year’s. Even the worst years have redeeming value. Things happen that you wouldn’t want to give back. Even making wrong choices, like choosing to read instead of write, can be rewarding. When you know that going in–know that a year will probably not be what you think, but it will give you much you will cherish–it helps. It gives you hope.

So here’s to 2018. I am so ready to turn the page this year. Turn the page and write something on it, hopefully!


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Poetry Summer

Troubled times. Hurricanes and floods, fear and outrage, unbelievable politics and uncertain futures. Where can we turn?

Perhaps to poetry. The word comes from the Greek “Poiesis,” or “to make.” Long before we wrote anything down, we recited poetry to each other in order to preserve; to remember. A versatile art, it can be used for marking events or for making something out of all the feelings bubbling up inside of us.

Audre Lorde, in her essay “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” put it this way: “Poetry forms the quality of light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change …”

In June I decided to read more poetry, to make it a “poetry summer.” I didn’t have a plan—just went with what called to me, starting with Elizabeth Barret Browning. In poor health from an early age, she had her own understanding of suffering. I loved these lines, from “Sonnets from the Portuguese, Number V”:                                                                          … And, looking in thine eyes, I overturn                                                                                      The ashes at thy feet. Behold and see                                                                                          What a great heap of grief lay hid in me …

Next I tried Pablo Neruda, and fell head-over-heels for his words, the way he makes things bloom on the page. In this poem, he takes a sad subject and makes it something beautiful:

I found a more lighthearted celebration of dogs in Mary Oliver’s collection “Dog Songs.” And one of the poems in Margaret Atwood’s “Morning in the Burned House” was ripped right from my childhood. How did she know?

Then I read every poem in my collection of Emily Dickinson, a book I’ve had around for years but somehow never opened before. This is one of my favorites, with its description of being enveloped by the surf: 

I know, I know! There is a pattern here. Clearly I find dogs as comforting as poetry.

I’m finishing the summer with Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” A little challenging, but so full of life. As a matter of fact, is that a barbaric yawp I hear? Must be Walt, calling me back. And he’s got a dog with him too!


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Four Quote Friday – Eclipse

Most of the dandelions had changed from suns to moons. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita


The sky is that beautiful old parchment in which the sun and the moon keep their diary.           Alfred Kreymborg


We are the sun and moon, dear friend; we are the sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement. Hermann Hesse


Men should take their knowledge from the sun, the moon and the stars. Ralph Waldo Emerson


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If Only

I am honored to have my poem “If Only” included in the Spring issue of Apeiron Review!

Issue Twelve is an intense collection, with some amazing prose, poetry, photographs and illustrations.

You can read it online here. (“If Only” is on page 30.)


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Breakthrough. The word makes me think of scientists experimenting—Bunsen burners and research log scribbles; mathematicians working and reworking problems. Until … what? What is it they are breaking through exactly? Obstacles, I guess, and fog and wrong thinking. Obstacles can be external, but they can also be internal.

Frankly, I’m in awe of the struggles we beings face. I am overcome sometimes with the sheer number of hurdles that appear in our paths, and the myriad shapes those hurdles can take.

It is so easy—so very easy—to forget that we can actually break through those obstacles. Some of us aren’t used to busting down barriers, and don’t even think that there may be a way to get past them.

Writing has taught me a little about this. When I started writing, I was surprised at all the trouble that comes with it: a storyline doesn’t work, a character turns out to be unlikeable, the point of view needs to shift, the plot fails. In short, big changes are needed. This happens a lot. Changes? Yuck. Changes are hard. And I’ve sat staring at the screen facing what seems an insurmountable problem, thinking, “How am I going to fix this mess?”

First I have to talk myself out of running away, because I could easily put the draft in the drawer and try another story. Second, I sit there. Sitting and staring is sort of the writer’s way of experimenting. That is, it looks like we’re sitting and staring, but our mind is working away like a head full of little elves trying to put together Santa’s toys. Sometimes I have to sit and stare, and sometimes I have to leave it to my subconscious and go do something else.

Then step three happens. I mean it just happens. The cosmos align, the elves mechanisms click into place, and an idea arrives about how to fix the problem. Doesn’t always fix it, but it’s a start.

I’ve discovered this also works for other, non-writing breakthroughs. I sit and stare. I sleep on it. Let my subconscious elves work. The key is getting myself to look at the barrier the right way. Is it solid or does it have cracks? It usually has cracks. I just have to look for the crack, and try not to give up. If it’s there, I’ll eventually make my way to it–I’ll break through.

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Four Quote Friday – Winter

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

cold-snow-road-landscape“Never are voices so beautiful as on a winter’s evening, when dusk almost hides the body, and they seem to issue from nothingness with a note of intimacy seldom heard by day.”– Virginia Woolf, Night and Day

“One kind word can warm three winter months.”– Japanese Proverb

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”– Albert Camus, Return to Tipasa

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The Call of the Tidy

Sometimes life is wild enough and what you long for is orderliness.

the-english-landscape-1334507649hgf-2It was my first trip to England, and I gazed at them from the plane window as we approached the airport: those lovely green patches–emerald, lime and sage, overlaid with intersecting threads of juniper or pine, creating a systematic grid. Hedgerows.

As we circled, I relaxed at the sight of these symmetrical contours. Someone is in control here, I thought. They have a handle on things. This will be a calm place for my unruly thoughts to fall in line.

“I’ll put the kettle on,” she said. I was welcomed with the comforting ritual of tea and biscuits, and there would be a cup waiting outside my bedroom as I fought jetlag the next morning. Everything pleasing and practical.

I sipped my reviving drink. Here the wild could be tamed.

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Hermes–The Greek God for Me?

HermesI heard recently that writers tend to choose either Apollo or Hermes as their patron Greek deity. I always thought of myself as an Apollo kind of gal, but I’ve learned a few things about Hermes that might move me into his camp.

We are told that his mother, the nurturing Pleiad Maia that we named our month of May after, noticed signs he was quite the trickster early on when he jumped out of his cradle and ran off to steal his brother Apollo’s cattle.

The story I like best is about Io, the daughter of a local river god, who was pursued by Zeus. Zeus’ wife Hera got mad, turned poor Io into a cow, chained her up, and had Argos the god of war stand guard over her. So Zeus sent Hermes to lull Argos to sleep and free Io. Apparently Hermes was good at that sort of thing—sometimes using music, or in this case, just telling a long boring story and when it put Argos under, Hermes cut off the war god’s head and rescued Io.

Hermes is the patron of travelers and also of the home, which I love since my heart is in both worlds. And adventuring types should know that his name comes from “herm,” which means “stone heap,” like the way travelers still today mark their trails with stones to prove they were there.

And here’s the writer part: he invented the alphabet, and is the patron of language. But he is also the god of musical instruments, possibly creating both Zeus’ lyre Lyreand Pan’s flute. Plus he is a sort of diplomat, good at reconciling competing sides. I think it’s all related.

So he is this really clever, well-rounded, likable guy, and maybe most important, he’s the one who escorts people to the underworld after death. I figure, why not get on his good side now?


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Four Quote Friday

Just a little idea to provide a bit of inspiration. I’ll start with quotes in honor of my website theme Appreciate … Appreciate.

“Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.” ― Edith Wharton

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” ― Voltaire 

“Life is a spell so exquisite that everything conspires to break it.” — Emily Dickinson

“But listen to me. For one momentflower-827564_960_720

quit being sad. Hear blessings

dropping their blossoms

around you.” ― Rumi


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