Half the Battle

Occasionally, I lapse into a medieval mood. This usually occurs after I have read an especially moving piece of fantasy. It occurred after I finished Beowulf this last summer. When I get into such a mood, images of stone castles with moss creeping up their sides, knights bearing tattered crimson pennants, and rolling green hills fill the nooks and crannies of my cranium. I am tempted to use thee and thou in conversation. Mostly, I feel an outpouring of imagination, which is where poems like “Half the Battle” originate.

 

Half the Battle

 

The parapets were well-equipped,

The battlements safe-guarded,

The walls of this sage citadel,

Prepared to be bombarded.

 

The ballistae and catapults,

Were primed to make their mark,

The tower keep surveyed the deep,

A sentinel of dark.

 

Yet no vigil, howe’er sharp,

Absorbs entirely.

Still they believed they were prepared

To thwart the enemy.

 

The sun slunk up the horizon’s edge,

As pressure piled high,

And through the braggadocio,

They feared that death hung nigh.

 

The sun snuck up the morning sky,

As morale decayed the day,

And doubt’s disease brought evening,

And fear’s control held sway.

 

All through the night the hope was leeched,

Until the flow ran dry,

And terror held the hearts of men,

Too afraid to cry.

 

So live your life in knowing,

That impending battles come,

But fear not to your soul’s defeat,

And half the battle’s won.

 

 

If you are having a bad day, remember that having a positive attitude can help enormously. If you are feeling down, draw a picture. I drew this one two years ago.

Fear Not!

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The Jabberwocky and the Art of Nonsense Poetry

I love children’s literature. Indeed, most of the poems or stories I write could be classified as such. The part that I love the most about children’s lit. is its cheerfulness. The playful goofy verse of Dr. Seuss, the fairy-tale depth of the Chronicles of Narnia, the magic and complexity of Harry Potter, the innocence of Beverly Cleary, and the adventure of Curious George. Children’s books bring out the best in us. They present complex themes -life, death, happiness, forgiveness, and friendship to name a few- in simple, entertaining ways. There is no room for the snooty grown-up ‘that’s highly illogical’ or “that’s nonsense” or ‘that’s preposterous!” (And no one even cares what preposterous means!) Children’s literature is an escape from the staunch, professional world of adults into the fluid, vivacious world of kids.

For this reason, I love nonsense poetry. Nonsense poetry is pretty self-explanatory; it includes made-up words, fantastic or impossible situations, and seemingly random illusions. Think of Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, and Lewis Carroll. My favorite nonsense poem is from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. It is called “Jabberwocky”. Be careful as you read “Jabberwocky.” There is some sense to it, though less than most poems. Also watch out for portmanteaus. (Portmanteaus are words created from the combination of two words.)

JABBERWOCKY

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Mostly, “Jabberwocky” is fun to read aloud.

I felt that this poem deserved an illustration, so I borrowed one from jabberwocky.com.

Fun fact: The word “chortle” was coined in this poem, formed as a combination of chuckle and snort.

And now for my own attempt at nonsense. I have included a list of portmanteaus I created in writing this piece, but feel free to try to figure them out before scrolling down to the bottom. And now, without any more interruptions. . .

 

The Brusted Wheel at Frempton’s Mill

 

The brusted wheel at Frempton’s Mill,

Bescraped away adown the hill,

Smusmashing gree and daisidill,

The brusted wheel of Frempton’s Mill.

 

It sprolled along the dusten woad,

Where the knortmen nobly rode,

In the dark with sneakret load.

It sprolled along the dusten woad.

 

It flurst out of the floriage,

And floppled o’er the clifflet’s edge,

And loafted out to Brinely’s Wedge,

Postflursting from the floriage.

 

Don’t bejudge the water wheel by finentual restination,

But atherly, mark it by its succete journeration.

 

 

 

Glossary of Secret things in this poem:

“Brusted” is a combo of Brown Broken and Rusted

“Frempton” is derived from Middle English “frempt” meaning “strange”

“Bescraped” is escaped and broke

“adown” means away down

“smusmashing” is smush and smash squished together

“gree” = any number of green trees

“daisidil” = hybrid flower combination of a daisy and a daffodil known for its bright yellow flowers and ordinariness

“sprolled” = sped and rolled

“dusten” is dusty and beaten

“woad” is simply way and road (or road with a speech impediment)

“knortmen” is a combo of horsemen and knight

“sneakret” is sneaky and secret

“flurst” is flew and burst

“floriage” is flora and foliage

“floppled” is fell, flopped, and toppled

“clifflet” is a small cliff

“loafted” is floated and drifted

“Brinely’s” is Lonely and briny (salty)

“Postflurting” means after flursting (see a”flurst” above)

“finentual” is final and eventual

“restination” is rest and destination

“atherly” is a combo of actually and rather

“succete” is success and complete

“journeration” is a weird way to say journey.

You might just say “Well that’s nonsense!”

Yes.

Yes it is.

August Adieu

There is something magical about beginnings and endings. Beginnings draw you in, excite you, and stir your curiosity. Beginnings may daunt you.

They sat that starting is the hardest part, but I beg to differ. It’s the middles that are tricky. The middle is where we can lose focus, drive, and interest. In the middle, the end seems too distant to reach and the beginning seems too important to abandon. Nevertheless, the middle is where most of us are. The middle of becoming a better person. That is why it is important to keep perspective. I like to think of each day as a new beginning and treat bedtime as an evaluation period. Did I do everything I wanted to do? The answer has rarely been yes. But, as long as I am moving forward I don’t really care how close to the end I get.

In all actuality, most ‘endings’ are deceptive. Sure, you can finish writing a story, singing a song, doing the dishes, reading a book, but there will always be another story to scribble down, another smash hit to scream at the top of your lungs, another mealtime of dishes to do, and another book to read. The great part- no two moments are identical. So, even though I am marking the end of a summer in my life, I still have a lifetime of summers stretching in front of me. This is my farewell to summer.

There is something magical about beginnings and endings. Beginnings draw you in, excite you, and stir your curiosity. Beginnings may daunt you, but endings- endings are merely small naps before you get up and moving again.

On to bigger and brighter things.

August Adieu

 My sunglasses sit safely on my shelf,

The sand and the shells sail away,

And semi-sadly I sit by myself,

As Summer slips softly away.

Seminary Theme Song

This is a piece of music I wrote for Seminary this year. It is based off of our Theme Scripture (Matthew 5:14-16). The song has a lilting triple meter and a high-energy feel. Coupled with a simple melody, the song, I feel, is one of my better projects. The sheet music can be accessed by clicking on the link words below “Seminary Theme Song 2012”.

Let music lift you and carry you to knew heights.

Seminary Theme Song 2012

Smiles in the Sky

The name of this site is taken from a poem that I wrote. I felt that this poem was very emotional and powerful. I like to think of the people who read this as my smiles in the sky. I cannot see the smile on your face but I can feel your happiness, just like the woman in this story. Let this be a reminder to smile a little and share some sunshine. (more…)

Unraveling Rowling

In my quest to become a better writer, I think it is only logical to study those who have found success in their own writing. In my mind, no one has done better than J. K. Rowling in writing success in the last fifteen years. So, I am going to dissect one page of her writing, bit by bit to see what I can discover.

The following is an excerpt from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Page 90.

“Just been showing Professor Sprout the right way to doctor a Whomping Willow! But I don’t  want you running away with the idea that I’m better at Herbology than she is! I just happen to have met several of these exotic plants on my travels…”

“Greenhouse three today, chaps!” said Professor Sprout, who was looking distinctly disgruntled, not at all her usual cheerful self.

There was a murmur of interest. They had only ever worked in greenhouse one before -greenhouse three housed far more interesting and dangerous plants. Professor Sprout took a large key from her belt and unlocked the door. Harry caught a whiff of damp earth and fertilizer mingling with the heavy perfume of some giant, umbrella-sized flowers dangling from the ceiling. He was about to follow Ron and Hermione inside when Lockhart’s hand shot out.

“Harry! I’ve been wanting a word – you don’t mind if he’s a couple of minutes late, do you, Professor Sprout?”

Judging by Professor Sprout’s scowl, she did mind, but Lockhart said, “That’s the ticket,” and closed the greenhouse door in her face.

“Harry,” said Lockhart, his large white teeth gleaming in the sunlight as he shook his head. “Harry, Harry, Harry.”

Completely nonplussed, Harry said nothing.

“When I heard – well, of course, it was all my fault. Could have kicked myself.”

Harry had no idea what he was talking about. He was about to say so when Lockhart went on, “Don’t know when I’ve been more shocked. Flying a car into Hogwarts! Well, of course, I knew at once why you’d done it. Stood out a mile. Harry, Harry, Harry.

It was remarkable how he could show every one of those brilliant teeth even when he wasn’t talking.

First, Verbs

In my high school, teachers teach us not to use the “to be” verbs. (is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been). They preach the eradication any of these supposedly “undesirable” verbs. Here, Rowling shows us that it is both practical and useful to use a mixture of exciting and boring verbs. The “to be” verbs fade into the background to allow other fun words to draw our interest. Take, for example, “There was a murmur of interest,” instead of ‘The students murmured in interest.’ The way she phrased it, the murmur has a greater presence in the sentence rather than the emphasis given to the students in the alternative phrasing. She employs a wide range of verbs – gleaming, dangling, doctor, and mingling –  while allowing verbs like ‘said’ to blend in quietly.

Second, Adjectives

Rowling places her adjectives very carefully. Most of the details and descriptions are derived from the verbs and nouns.  Each adjective has a purpose. Some tell how many or position. Others are more for the mental eye (brilliant, giant, umbrella-sized, exotic). She also chooses to use simple adjectives (heavy, large, several) to keep the flow. The easier something is to read, the happier those who read it will be. I believe this is one of the keys of her writing style.

 

Other Tips

Rowling uses words that flow well. “Distinctly disgruntled” is perhaps my favorite from this passage. Little things like alliteration can making reading more enjoyable. The ear likes to hear complementary sounds. Rowling also varies her sentence length. Sentences range from 5 words to 24 words. This keeps the reader from passing out from using up all their breath on a huge list of long sentences or hyperventilating from the overuse of short, choppy sentences. Of course, her creative character names draw our focus and add to the personality of her writing. The best aspect of her writing, in my humble opinion, is her ability to use only necessary words. The writing is crafted, through endless editing I’m sure, to speak for itself. And it does. And we love it.

I know that there are gobs more about J.K.  Rowling’s writing to learn, but that is all I have time for today.

Long live the Boy Who Lived.

Welcome!

This isn’t a blog.

It isn’t a bird. It’s not a plane, and it’s definitely not anything that flies.

Rather, this is a thinkspace.

A thinkspace is what it sounds like- a place to jot down thoughts. Imagine this blog as a hallway in a museum. On one wall might hang a hand-drawn mural, on another a patchwork quilt. Father down there is a small blue cup turned upside-down on a pedestal. At the end of the hall, there is a window from which the world can be explored from a different perspective. It may simply be an interesting collection of nick-nacks, do-hickies, and whirli-gigs, but I think it is more than that. It is a creative building ground.

This museum is a thinkspace, and I personally welcome you.

—–The Author -M.M.