a day in the life of a poetry-hiring professional
The apple tree and me. The two of us: me, beneath the tree but not in the shade; the tree, beneath the sun but not in the light. Clouds over me and the apple tree, which makes three: the clouds, the apple tree, and … Continue reading Double-shade
I do not usually write nonsense, but when I do, I don’t. -M.M.
The Empathy Amphitheater
Welcome to the Empathy Amphitheatre.
Really, we know how you feel.
You feel like the door greeter-meeter,
Who’s waiting for cherries to peel.
Just Joking. No Nonsense.
I hear from the heart,
And speak from the ear,
And see all and part.
If you are cold, I’ll give you a coat.
If you are hot, that’s too bad.
If you’re unsure I’ll share a bad coat,
Of the fuzziest leather I had.
Sharing is caring, but staring works too,
But glaring, we deem with disgust,
Is a gesture best left for the taxes collector,
Best to be banished to rust.
Hear the heat from the fire that scorches the sky,
The stars that stick to the black,
Up overhead in their upside-down bed.
Do you feel them staring back?
If you don’t, well, I quite understand.
If you do, I knew that you would.
My empathy true, and sympathy too,
Feel just the way that you should.
Sit down. Have a seat.
Or stay where you stand.
To stand is to understand me.
Emphatically I implore you to explore,
Expressions which you share with me.
For I am not you, and you are not me,
And neither of us can agree,
Or then pretend to full comprehend,
Each other to any degree.
So Empathy really, cannot exist,
For imperfect people as we,
So let’s sit downs with smiles or frowns,
‘Cross a cup of some sweet sympathy.
All was naught. Then, in a gasp,
Life came bursting back.
Solemnon opened up his eyes,
A barest, tiny crack.
He felt himself upon a bed,
And slowly looked around,
Tapestried and simple walls,
And tiles for the ground.
He sat up slow. Oh how weak!
He felt himself to be.
Where was his sword, his armored shield?
And then the memory-
The memory of all before,
The storming River Quirth,
The Traitor Carver and the ship,
Then water. Cold. Then Dearth.
A moment he lamented,
His sword and shield lost,
Amongst the stormy, greedy waves,
They had nearly crossed.
What of Thump? Of Everett?
Of the sorrowed King?
Of the Quest? And the rest?
What of anything?
His bare feet found the chilly floor.
He stood though faint and weak.
He padded careful ‘cross the floor.
His answers he would seek.
In his simple tunic,
Solemnon wandered free,
Down spiral stairs, trough corridors,
In silence eerily.
Profundity is easily ensconced within confundity.
Generally the Truth is undercooked.
Though insane facades and sane veneers
Can reappear when disappeared,
They leave a simple something overlooked.
The Library d’Seave
Molly and Eric looked both ways before crossing the deserted street. Before them the Library d’Seave stood, stately and stoic, its greying stone pillars supporting its massive slab of a roof. They dashed up the steps, flung open the doors, and rushed inside nearly toppling a stack of dusty volumes. A small, old lady with huge watery eyes and golden-rimmed glasses peered around the tower of books. Molly and Eric paused, blinking in the musty dimness as the door shut with a soft swoosh behind them.
“Welcome to the Library d’Seave,” said the old lady, slowly and deliberately. “Can I help you?”
Molly grabbed Eric’s arm, skirting around the old woman’s stack. “No, um, we’ll be fine. C’mon Eric.”
“If you need anything, I can help.”
Eric managed a short, “Thanks,” as the two kids quickly backed away. They darted down a dingy isle of books and rounded a corner, trying to distance themselves from the old woman.
“This place gives me the creeps,” Eric whispered to Molly.
“Yeah, let’s find that story as quickly as possible. What was it called?”
Eric pulled a crumpled slip of paper out of his jean pocket. “Mrs. Readings said it was called “The Purloined Letter” by some guy named ‘Poe’.”
“Let’s find it and get out of here. I need to get home soon. It’s getting dark outside.” Eric shoved the slip back in his pocket and looked up. Molly’s blonde braid was already bobbing away down another row of books.
“Hey! Wait up!” he called, trying to keep his voice down.
The silence pressed in as the duo wound here and there scanning shelves and stacks of books, new and old, with only the occasional squeak of their sneakers on the dark tile to keep them company. After a few minutes of frantic scanning, Eric broke the silence. “Shouldn’t we try to figure out how these books are organized? That might speed this process up a bit.”
“I was just thinking that,” sighed Molly, “but look- the books aren’t in order by author.” She ran her finger along one row of dusty books and began listing the authors’ names. “Connell, London, Conan, Lee, Goldman- these names are definitely not in alphabetical order.”
“Are they arranged alphabetically by title?”
“Only if The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn comes after Falling Up and before The Witches.” Eric tried again. “How about the subject?”
Molly gave Eric a half-incredulous side glance. “Do you really think Frankenstein would be next to The Cat in the Hat and The Fellowship of the Ring?”
“Well then, how are they arranged? By color? By length? By height? This makes no sense. Maybe we should go back to that weird lady and ask.”
“No!” whispered Molly emphatically, “Mrs. Readings said we needed to do our own work.”
“I don’t think she was talking about finding our homework when she said that.”
“C’mon Molly. Please.”
“Let’s keep looking for a few more minutes. It has to be in here somewhere.”
Twelve minutes passed. Faintly, the town clock tolled the hour. Molly finally gave up. “Ok. Let’s find that creepy lady.”
“Which way?” Eric looked around, panic slowly rising in his chest.
“I thought you were. . .” Molly rubber her palms together. “This is not good. Not good at all. Let’s stop and think. How did we get here? That way right? Or was it down that row?”
“Looking for something?” Molly and Eric nearly jumped out of their sneakers. The tiny old lady appeared, like an unwelcome ghost, from around yet another stack of books.
Molly gulped and Eric took a deep breath. “We were, um, looking for this story.” He jammed his hand into his pocket and held out the crumpled sheet.
The woman adjusted her spectacles and held the paper close to her nose. “Ahhh. Poe. Yes, yes. That is a good one. Mrs. Reading sent you? She was a favorite visitor of mine a few years back.” On tip-toe, the woman reached and snagged the top book from a nearby shelf. “This is what you are looking for, yes?” She held the unassuming black book out to Molly.
“But this says The Book Thief. This can’t be the right-” The old woman raised her hand in silence.
“Do not judge by the outward appearance of the thing, for diamonds may be taken for pebbles if coated in mud.”
Molly flipped it open and to her astonishment, printed in bold letters along the top of the first page were the words, “The Purloined Letter by E. A. Poe”.
Then Eric stammered, “But how did-, but it says-” He trailed off as the old woman again raised her hand. “Long ago, I switched the covers of all the books in the library to introduce people to new literature they would never have discovered on their own. I always intended to switch them back, but you know,” she waved her hand in the air, “It was too much fun. Now I am the only one who knows where the stories actually are.”
Eric and Molly didn’t know what to think. Clearly, the old woman was a loony. Molly spoke next, “Thanks, Ms. um,” Molly faltered.
“Veda” The old woman finished for her. “Follow me, and I’ll get that book checked out for you.”
Soon enough, Molly and Eric were hurrying back down the steps of the Library d’Seave, heading home through the ever deepening dusk.
*Photo courtesy of http://aidsource.ning.com/page/resource-library
Free Verse is a tricky.
Many people think that free verse poetry is a collection of random phrases. You can write emotional sounding sentences and expect that others will feel that your free verse is genius. This is not the case. There must be some definitive, connecting element. Structure is a must. In the following poems I use alliteration to create my structure. Other ways to create structure include: syllable matching (think iambic pentameter), graphic design (using space and shaping words into pictures or designs), ending each line with a similar characteristic (a letter or punctuation), or even using italics or bold or various fonts and colors to separate elements. A near rhyme every once in a while won’t hurt anyone either.
I recommend using alliteration to further the imagery in your poetry. Show how slick, slippery, and slimy, something is with a repetitious sound. The “sl sl sl” combination makes the poetry come alive when it is read aloud.
And now for my own, simple poems.
Below, Beyond, Beneath the Cloud,
A glow, a glimmer, a glimpse of warmth.
Mighty, Majestic, Merging Mountains,
Underline the Unborn Sky.
Slowly, swelling, steadily,
The warmth takes on visible form.
Soon a circle shall be seen.
At dawn- the day reborn.
(Photo from an early morning hike I went on.)
On Spindly Spokes
Time turns slowly on spindly spokes
Laced in gossamer threads.
Rocking chairs on porches sway in ticking time.
Creaking on the stairwell
– hush –
Thickness in the shadows.
Dust obscures the air.
The dirges of the midnight hour
Summoned of nowhere.
In reading the first quarter of Pride and Prejudice this week, I came across a myriad of rich words. Some are old friends long forgotten, others are new friends not to be discarded. I have attempted to properly incorporate a majority of the following words into a mini story, which can found towards the bottom of this post. How many of these words do you know off the top of your head?
caprice- a sudden, unpredictable change, as of one’s mind or the weather
ostentation- pretentious or conspicuous show, as of wealth or importance; display intended to impress others
candor- the state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or expression
supercilious- haughtily disdainful or contemptuous, as a person or a facial expression
piqued- to affect with sharp irritation and resentment, especially some wound to pride
insipidity- without distinctive, interesting, or stimulating qualities; vapid
effusion- the act or effusing or pouring forth
tete-a-tete- a private conversation or interview, usually between two people
indolent- having or showing a disposition to avoid exertion; slothful
witticism- a witty remark or sentence
piquet- a card game played by two persons with a pack of 32 cards, the cards from deuces to sixes being excluded.
panegyric- a lofty oration or writing in praise of a person or thing; eulogy
celerity- swiftness; speed
expostulation- remonstrance; earnest and kind protest
alacrity- cheerful readiness, promptness, or willingness
approbation- approval; commendation
propitious- presenting favorable conditions; favorable
laconic- using few words; expressing much in few words; concise
filial- of, pertaining to, or befitting a son or daughter
obsequiousness- characterized by or showing servile complaisance or deference; fawning
Blame it on the Cats
Mrs. Harmon was just dusting off an old grandfather clock in the hall which read one o’clock when she heard a rap on the front door. Mrs. Calder, a life-long friend of Mrs. Harmon’s, had arrived on the doorstep of number 8, Ashwood Park, dressed in a multicolored, light cotton dresses. Though prone to occasional effusions of thought, Mrs. Calder was generally an amiable woman whose general insipidity allowed her to fade into the humdrum background of life. At least that was what most people who knew her thought. Not Mrs. Harmon. Mrs. Harmon knew that Mrs. Calder secretly led a very interesting life.
Mrs. Harmon invited Mrs. Calder inside and led her to the backyard where a table with a yellow, striped umbrella was set for four. Would she like some lemonade? Of course she would- lemonade was a favorite. Why must she even think of asking? How was her health? Same as ever- healthy and uneventful. The tete-a-tete continued until Mrs. Harmon nearly choked on her glass of lemonade.
“You can’t be serious.”
“Oh! but I am,” replied Mrs. Calder knowingly, taking a slow sip from her glass, “and it’s all my fault.”
“Mr. Bronston! In the hospital of all places! By your actions! I always considered him with general approbation. He seemed such a fine, healthy salesman. What can have happened?”
“That is precisely what I hoped you would ask.” Mrs. Calder’s chair creaked as she leaned back and began her story.
“As you know well, I have had the propitious privilege of taking care of my mother’s seven cats this past week. She has a filial bond with them, and the cats respond with alacrity to any whim of my mother’s. However, I have observed that they have no such love of me. They are full of caprice. They stalk my home indolently; I have never observed a more supercilious display of ostentation in my life. They lounge wherever they choose- on the sofa, on the table, in the closet- and glare at me as I walk by.”
“After breakfast today, I decided to try to make amends with the little scoundrels. I procured seven leashes, left by my mother for the sole purpose of walking the cats, a notion I found utterly ridiculous. I told my mother so when she gave them to me, but she started in on one of her panegyric lectures, extolling the health benefits of ‘cat-walking’.”
Here, Mrs. Harmon interjected. “That is ridiculous! I’ve heard of walking a dog, but walking a cat! The thought! Let alone seven of them!”
“Yes, I couldn’t agree more.” Mrs. Calder adjusted herself in the chair. “The leashes immediately piqued the cats’ interests. Before long, all seven of them were gathered around my legs, purring and rubbing against my ankles with obsequiousness. I harnessed each one, and as soon as I opened the front door, the cats bounded outside with such celerity that I nearly lost my grip. We zipped out onto Sheffield Street and rounded the corner onto Carrol Road.”
Mrs. Calder paused, squinting in the afternoon sun. “Would you be a darling and adjust the umbrella for me? Thank you, Helen.”
As Mrs. Harmon stood to adjust the umbrella Mrs. Calder continued. “The cats seemed to know exactly where they wanted to go. They made a bee-line for several ragged heaps of old blue carpet on the curb. The cats scratched and clawed and stretched and meowed all over the heap. I chided them with gentle expostulation, but the cats were obliviously blissful by that point. Since the carpets were clearly trash, I didn’t mind much.”
“Once the cats were done basking in the glory of those ratty carpets- a good fifteen minutes mind you- the cats seemed completely satisfied to follow me home, and they have been most kind to me ever since. As I locked the front door of my house I heard the distant siren of an ambulance, but thought nothing of it at the time.”
“And…” prompted Mrs. Harmon.
“And it was all my fault!” Mrs. Calder looked sheepish. “It turns out that Mr. Bronston is a very successful carpet salesman who happens to be deathly allergic to cats.”
Mrs. Harmon shook her head. “Poor Mr. Bronston. Will he be well soon?
“Of course he will. I called the hospital and they assured me that he is going to be fine and probably home, safe and sound, in an hour or two.”
“Are you going to tell him what happened?”
Mrs. Calder shrugged and answered with a final witicism. “I do not intend to, but if he does ask, well … I’ll blame it on the cats.”
*Photo courtesy of the WordPress Blog “Eco-Mentalism”
(painting by Richard C. Moore, The Clipper Ship)
The Pirate stood on the Black Fear’s deck,
A spyglass to his eye,
High above, Her sails billowed
Boisterous to the sky.
His boots clacked as he paced the deck,
His sword upon his hip,
He ordered the skull and crossbones flown,
But he never loosed his grip,
Upon the map he held so dear,
A treasure to his heart,
Oh how the captain dearly loved
That weathered wrinkled chart!
Soon enough the anchor dove
To seek a sandy hold,
This island was the place alright,
It smelled of richest gold.
Through the jungle, on they trekked,
Hacking through the lush,
Until the jungle swallowed them whole,
With hungry vines and brush.
Soon enough they reached the cave,
And with their torches bright,
Ventured on into the dark,
Their fiery pitch cast light.
And then ahead- It couldn’t be!
There sat an ancient chest,
Locked with chains all rusted o’er,
The cave’s own lonely guest.
The captain kneeled reverently
And then his hand stretched out
The secrets that reside within
He could only dream about.
He broke the chains quite easily
With a creaky, cracking crunch,
And. . .
Jimmy, please stop playing now,
Come down and eat your lunch.
I am beginning reading Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice this week. I plan on posting my commentary and thoughts about the book, as time and occasion permit. If you would like to join me in my reading adventure, I am reading chapters one through nineteen this week. Today, I have decided to focus on the novel’s opening line.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” (page 1, chapter 1)
The opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice is quite an attention grabber. It introduces the idea of marriage and the part money can play in the process of marriage. The reader knows from the start that the story will probably involve one or more women vying for the hand of a rich man. The speaker of the first sentence seems to have an underlying motive. The speaker is most likely a woman, eager to marry off her daughter to some rich gentleman. Thus, the speaker attempts to convey her words as “a truth universally acknowledged” to either motivate the man to seek a wife or to motivate the daughter to seek a rich husband. Either way, the first sentence introduces the reader to Austin’s witty style and also to a central idea of the novel.
What do you think of the opening line? Is it successful and meaningful?