Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanatopsis (William Cullen Bryant, 1794-1878)

Image adapted from a painting by Hans Baldung-Grie, circa 1484-1545
To him who, in the love of Nature, holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language: for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty; and she glides
Into his darker musings with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart--
Go forth under the open sky, and list
To Nature's teachings, while from all around--
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air--
Comes a still voice:--Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again;
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go
To mix forever with the elements;
To be a brother to the insensible rock,
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mold.
Yet not to thy eternal resting place
Shalt thou retire alone--nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world--with kings,
The powerful of the earth--the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulcher. The hills,
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun; the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods; rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks,
That make the meadows green, and, poured round all,
Old ocean's grey and melancholy waste--
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man! The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.--Take the wings
Of morning--pierce the Barcan wilerness,
Or lost thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,
Save his own dashings--yet the dead are there!
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep--the dead reign there alone!
So shalt thou rest; and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one, as before, will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glides away, the sons of men--
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron, and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man--
Shall, one by one, be gathered to thy side,
By those who in their turn shall follow them.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

There Was a Crooked Man (Anonymous)

There was a crooked man,
and he went a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence
against a crooked stile:
He bought a crooked cat,
which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together
in a little crooked house.

Forum Thread: In 2111, What 2011 Poets Will Our Academic Descendants be Reading and Assigning?


This post originally appeared on this site on April 9, 2008, when was still very young. I believe this question is worthy of another look.

As Bugzita on Foetry (Reply #34, November 28, 2006), I posted the following:

Quite frankly, most poetry published today would not pass "The Uncle Lyle Test." My Uncle Lyle is an ordinary Joe who likes to read, which I did not know until he read my first book (which sort of passed the test, but not entirely--oh, well).

Say what you will about bestsellers, but they are bestsellers because they pass the test imposed by the Uncle Lyles of the reading world. Now if your work is so rarified that it leaves most readers scratching their heads, that's fine, and there's something to be said for creating work that excludes all but a few insiders--academia does it all the time. That's a choice, and I respect that.

But I have a problem when these rarified poets start whining and moaning because no one wants read or buy their books. So some of them resort to dishonest methods to drum up bogus awards, which, from what I can see, are based less on quality of work and more on how well-connected they are. So everyone sets up a "press," and poets publish each other's poetry, no matter the quality: "Wink, Wink." To those not in the know, it all looks very respectable.

The problem is: the published work itself becomes insular and not all that interesting to the average reader. And because most readers are average in terms of intellect and tastes, the rarified poets' books sell, perhaps, one or two hundred copies, sold to other poets. Of course there are always exceptions, but, unfortunately, this insularity seems to be the norm.

And you wonder why poetry no longer matters? :?:


So, then, in 2008 (2011), as Jennifer, I pose the following questions for your consideration and opinion:

In 2111, what 2011 poets will be considered as literary representatives of our era, their works published in The Norton Anthology (2111 edition) and assigned by our academic descendants to school children and college students? If you wish, support your supposition with details.

Conversely, what 2011 poets will slide into obscurity? If you wish, support your supposition with details.

Related thread: "Is Poetry Dead?"

Forum Thread: Is Poetry Dead? (Discussion)

From time to time, I will move up threads that seem to be relevant in the moment. New users jump onto every day, and, perhaps, have missed some of the earlier threads.

This thread was originally posted on March 31, at 9:50 PM, when was just a week old.

Dana Gioia, in the May 1991 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, wrote the still-controversial essay "Can Poetry Matter?"

Some relevant excerpts from Gioia's essay:


American poetry now belongs to a subculture. No longer part of the mainstream of artistic and intellectual life, it has become the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group. Little of the frenetic activity it generates ever reaches outside that closed group. As a class poets are not without cultural status. Like priests in a town of agnostics, they still command a certain residual prestige. But as individual artists they are almost invisible.


Why, for example, does poetry mix so seldom with music, dance, or theater? At most readings the program consists of verse only—and usually only verse by that night's author. Forty years ago, when Dylan Thomas read, he spent half the program reciting other poets' work. Hardly a self-effacing man, he was nevertheless humble before his art. Today most readings are celebrations less of poetry than of the author's ego. No wonder the audience for such events usually consists entirely of poets, would-be poets, and friends of the author.


A clubby feeling also typifies most recent anthologies of contemporary poetry. Although these collections represent themselves as trustworthy guides to the best new poetry, they are not compiled for readers outside the academy.


Once poets began moving into universities, they abandoned the working-class heterogeneity of Greenwich Village and North Beach for the professional homogeneity of academia.


In 1940, with the notable exception of Robert Frost, few poets were working in colleges unless, like Mark Van Doren and Yvor Winters, they taught traditional academic subjects. The only creative-writing program was an experiment begun a few years earlier at the University of Iowa.


Reviewers fifty years ago were by today's standards extraordinarily tough. They said exactly what they thought, even about their most influential contemporaries. Listen, for example, to Randall Jarrell's description of a book by the famous anthologist Oscar Williams: it "gave the impression of having been written on a typewriter by a typewriter."...[Reviewers'] praise mattered, because readers knew it did not come lightly.

... art faces more towering obstacles than poetry. Given the decline of literacy, the proliferation of other media, the crisis in humanities education, the collapse of critical standards, and the sheer weight of past failures, how can poets possibly succeed in being heard?


[Closing paragraph:]

It is time to experiment, time to leave the well-ordered but stuffy classroom, time to restore a vulgar vitality to poetry and unleash the energy now trapped in the subculture. There is nothing to lose. Society has already told us that poetry is dead. Let's build a funeral pyre out of the desiccated conventions piled around us and watch the ancient, spangle-feathered, unkillable phoenix rise from the ashes.


I have posted some highly relevant passages from Gioia's article, but this essay is well worth reading in its entirety.

Gioia also offers "six modest proposals" for how "poetry could again become a part of American public culture," good advice for 2011, but you can read that for yourself (link below).

From Can Poetry Matter?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Announcement--Reviving Some Forum Threads

Readers may have noticed the General Forum Threads and Book Review Threads at the top of this page; for the time being, I have decided to revive some old blogger threads.

I'll be the first to admit that a Blogger forum does not offer an ideal platform for spontaneity; it has its technical limitations--for example, if you want to edit or delete your comments, you cannot, and you cannot start threads or post articles, unless you have been invited and been accepted as a member of this blog.

However, after my experience on the last version of the forum, I have become somewhat skittish about reviving it on a standard forum platform. As some readers may know, it was a nightmare, one that I do not wish to repeat (trolls, creeps, spammers, porners, etc.), so I thought I would try using Blogger again, which now offers a lot of cool widgets and templates. And as I have become much more adept with the Blogger format, the threads should be be fairly easy to navigate.

Admin is still very much dedicated to freedom of expression in the literary arts, believing that opposing views ought to be heard; however, in the end, as admin/owner, I decide what is appropriate for posting.

Having said this, I tend not to have a twitchy finger when it comes to the delete button. I don't mind controversy and disagreement among commentators, but I do expect two things: basically staying on topic and being respectful of others.

What will be deleted from this site:
--Comments with outside links.
Sorry, but I have no way of knowing where that link will take readers.
--Off topic comments

--Advertising and general spam

--Hate speech

--Name calling

--Bad language

--Accusations (false and/or unproven)

One final item:
You must be signed into your blogger/gmail account in order to post a comment on this blog.
Happy commenting!

Forum Thread: "My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went" (Anonymous Folk Poetry)

[Note: this thread was originally posted in April 2008, but I thought it was worth a bump up to 2011.]
I'm going to crawl out on a limb here and make a case for why most modern academic poetry will not endure beyond this generation.

This morning, a traditional folk poem was published in our morning paper (York Daily Record, 10 April 2008, 6A) as part of "Save Those Clippings," by Richard Bowers, a column on aging and how older people seem to collect clippings and other stuff throughout their lives; the author even mentioned Emily Dickinson's penchant for collecting things: "After her death they found volumes of scraps with thoughts (her own and others) that were like seeds from which grew her marvelous poems."

Bowers suggested that his readership pour themselves a cup of coffee, sit back, relax, and read the following traditional/folk poem on aging:
How do I know my youth is all spent?

Well, my Get-up-go has Got-up-and-went.

But in spite of it all, I'm able to grin,

When I think of where my "Get Up" has been.

Old age is golden, I think I've heard it said.

But sometimes I wonder as I crawl into bed,

With my ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup,

And my eyes on the table until I wake up,

'Ere' sleep dims my vision, I say to myself,

"Is there anything else I should lay on the shelf?"

And I'm happy to say, as I close my door--

"My friends are the same, perhaps even more."

But nations are warring and business is vexed

So I'll stick around to see what happens next.

When I was young, my slippers were red,

I could kick up my heels right over my head.

When I grew older, my slippers were blue,

But still I could dance the whole [night] day through.

But I am old, my slippers are black,

I walk [huff] to the store and [I] puff my way back.

But never you laugh, I don't mind at all

I'd rather be huffing than not puff at all

The reason I know my youth is all spent,

"My Get Up and Go has Got Up and Went."

But I really don't mind when I think with a grin

Of all the grand places my "Get Up" has been.

Since I have retired from life's competition,

I accommodate myself with complete submission.

So, I get up each morning and dust off my wits,

Open the paper and read the obits,

If my name is missing, I know I'm not dead,

And I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed.
[Bracketed words were added by Pete Seeger for a song of the same title.]

This poem, published in a market of about 350,000 people, probably received more views on one day than any published modern chapbook in its entire life cycle.

Now why is that?

"My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went" is certainly not "great" poetry; it doesn't play with language, doesn't stun with great metaphors and imagery, doesn't pretend to be the unknown poet's grand opus.

It's just a poem that focuses on the human condition and in a way that the Uncle Lyles of middle America can understand and enjoy. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" does the same thing, but in a way that does not reach everyone.

Now I love Prufrock, but I must admit it has taken me several readings to get there, and I still don't understand everything in that poem. But I'm an academic, and I'm expected to engage in a poetic struggle with Prufrock and his problems. But the average poetry aficionado can just get up and leave. And does. And will continue to do so. Now T.S. Eliot's work will endure, simply because the academy says it will by continuing to publish his poems in anthologies and imposing it on college freshmen. Perhaps Eliot's work endures because he was the first to wrestle with language in that long meandering manner, with vivid metaphors and similes, so he gets a pass for getting there first, just as e.e. cummings has been forgiven for all the imitative lower case "i" poems that have dogged his work.

But here's the deal: once my students move on from Prufrock, most of them will forget him or only remember him as that strange old guy with the thinning hair, talking of bugs struggling on pins, yellow fog rubbing its back, crabs, peaches, women coming and going and speaking of Michelangelo.

Now back to "My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went." I remember this poem from my childhood. Being raised by grandparents, I was privy to aging issues from a very young age. For amusement, my grandmother often dragged me to funerals of distant acquaintances and even strangers just because they were "from the parish." My grandmother loved this poem and knew it practically by heart. Of course, I'd roll my eyes and wished I could hang with younger people, but guess what? In an odd way, this poem has stuck with me. When I read it in this morning's paper, it struck a chord and brought back a past that no longer exists.

I can read a New Yorker poem by a famous poet, and five minutes later, it's gone. No footprint at all. And it doesn't even matter if the poem is a linguistic masterpiece or just an exercise by a tired well-known poet. Something always seems to be missing.

So, today, on the way to a conference, I tried to figured out why most people feel so removed and even alienated from modern poetry, which is often well crafted and even deeply personal.

I decided that "My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went" would be a good poem to deconstruct, to figure out why this simple poem has endured among the masses, even touching folk singer Pete Seeger enough to write a melody for it. I came up with these reasons:

1. The poem rhymes. Readers love to read and listen to rhyme. Back in the day when most people couldn't read, rhymed poems were easy to memorize and pass down to the next generation. Also, there is something about poetic patterns that is appealing and comforting.

2. The theme is universal, easily accessible to all readers. Even as a kid, when I was rolling my eyes, I understood, at least on one level, what aging meant to my grandparents, and this poem "explained" it in a way that I could understand. Modern poetry tends to be so overly personal, almost to the point of being obtuse to most readers except for the poet's inner circle. This navel-gazing trend became popular with Sylvia Plath's works ("Daddy," "Edge," and "Ariel"); her poetry (which I love, by the way) practically requires an accompanying compendium of her life. But "My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went" requires no bio, cultural, or historical background.

3. The poem offers humor. Readers love to laugh and tend to shy away from works that are too dark. Modern poetry tends to offer too little humor, not even dark humor.

4. It's sentimental and smarmy. People love poems that make them cry and remember back when--nothing like a good tear jerker to get your day started. I really noticed this in Macedonia, at parties where the rakjia flowed, the hankies and guitars came out, and the sad songs about lost love and lost nations were sung and wailed. These people were intellectuals, too, but they weren't ashamed of their beloved folk songs and poems.

5. The poem is predictable in its rhyme, diction, structure, and, yes, cliches. Poetry that allows the reader to remain in his/her comfort zone is going to stick with him/her emotionally, even intellectuals.

6. The poem tells a story, the narrative about the slippers (red, blue, and black) ties the story together and actually depicts the aging process, using the slippers as a sort of extended metaphor.

7. The poem is generally upbeat in tone and actually has a warped happy ending: I'm not listed in the obits today, so all is well with the world. Wow! Why not go out and celebrate with breakfast at Denny's? It's a glorious day to be alive and not a good day to die! What's not to like about that?

8. The poem is timeless, no tedious references to popular culture that will fade within a few years and require extensive footnoting. Its meaning will be as accessible in 2108 as it is today.

9. The poem is slightly ribald ("Of all the grand places my 'Get Up' has been"), but not so much that grandpa couldn't read the poem to his granddaughter. The double entendre allows the elders a "wink, wink" moment as the kiddies have fun with the rhyme and wordplay. Hell, you could read this poem in church.

10. The poem is simple--one does not need pages of literary criticism to decode meaning--it's all right there on the surface. Yet the poem doesn't speak down to the readers; its language is simple, yet descriptive enough to paint a glad-to-be-alive moment in the speaker's life.

It would be so easy to sneer at a poem like "My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went," but in an odd way, this poem has and will continue to endure because it deals with a very common aspect of the human condition: aging. Anyone who is fortunate enough to get older will face the very issues the poem covers. For more of intellectual exercise, one might read Stanley Kunitz's "Touch Me," which covers some of the same themes, albeit on a higher level--although with some multiple readings this is still an accessible poem.

"My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went" will continue to appear on the pages of daily newspapers (whether it's a print version delivered at one's door or appears on a computer screen), whereas most modern poems with all their sophisticated LangPo techniques will fall into obscurity, buried in old dusty and unread books.

One last note: Robert Frost's work endures and will continue to endure because of its layered nuances. We all know that "The Mending Wall" is not just about a fence between two neighbors, nor is "The Road Not Taken" just about a walk in the woods and trying to figure what literal direction to take. Yet a young or less astute reader may very well enjoy those poems on a surface level.

Thus, Frost offers the best that a poet can offer: popular enjoyment and intellectual appeal.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Prospice (Robert Browning, 1812-1889)

Fear death? -- to feel the fog in my throat,
The mist in my face,
When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
I am nearing the place,
The power of the night, the press of the storm,
The post of the foe;
Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
Yet the strong man must go:
For the journey is done and the summit attained,
And the barriers fall,
Though a battle's to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so -- one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
The black minute's at end,
And the elements' rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,
Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
And with God be the rest!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Folktales: The Story of the Three Little Pigs, the Adult Version (England)

Once upon a time when pigs spoke rhyme
And monkeys chewed tobacco,
And hens took snuff to make them tough,
And ducks went quack, quack, quack, O!
There was an old sow with three little pigs, and as she had not enough to keep them, she sent them out to seek their fortune. The first that went off met a man with a bundle of straw, and said to him, "Please, man, give me that straw to build me a house." Which the man did, and the little pig built a house with it.

Presently came along a wolf, and knocked at the door, and said, "Little pig, little pig, let me come in."

To which the pig answered, "No, no, by the hair of my chinny chin chin."

The wolf then answered to that, "Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in." So he huffed, and he puffed, and he blew his house in, and ate up the little pig.

The second little pig met a man with a bundle of furze [sticks], and said, "Please, man, give me that furze to build a house." Which the man did, and the pig built his house.

Then along came the wolf, and said, "Little pig, little pig, let me come in."

"No, no, by the hair of my chinny chin chin."

"Then I'll puff, and I'll huff, and I'll blow your house in." So he huffed, and he puffed, and he puffed, and he huffed, and at last he blew the house down, and he ate up the little pig.

The third little pig met a man with a load of bricks, and said, "Please, man, give me those bricks to build a house with." So the man gave him the bricks, and he built his house with them.

So the wolf came, as he did to the other little pigs, and said, "Little pig, little pig, let me come in."

"No, no, by the hair of my chinny chin chin."

"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in."

Well, he huffed, and he puffed, and he huffed and he puffed, and he puffed and huffed; but he could not get the house down. When he found that he could not, with all his huffing and puffing, blow the house down, he said, "Little pig, I know where there is a nice field of turnips."

"Where?" said the little pig.

"Oh, in Mr. Smith's home field, and if you will be ready tomorrow morning I will call for you, and we will go together and get some for dinner."

"Very well," said the little pig, "I will be ready. What time do you mean to go?"

"Oh, at six o'clock."

Well, the little pig got up at five, and got the turnips before the wolf came (which he did about six) and who said, "Little pig, are you ready?"

The little pig said, "Ready! I have been and come back again, and got a nice potful for dinner."

The wolf felt very angry at this, but thought that he would be up to the little pig somehow or other, so he said, "Little pig, I know where there is a nice apple tree."

"Where?" said the pig.

"Down at Merry Garden," replied the wolf, "and if you will not deceive me I will come for you, at five o'clock tomorrow and get some apples."

Well, the little pig bustled up the next morning at four o'clock, and went off for the apples, hoping to get back before the wolf came; but he had further to go, and had to climb the tree, so that just as he was coming down from it, he saw the wolf coming, which, as you may suppose, frightened him very much.

When the wolf came up he said, "Little pig, what! Are you here before me? Are they nice apples?"

"Yes, very," said the little pig. "I will throw you down one." And he threw it so far, that, while the wolf was gone to pick it up, the little pig jumped down and ran home.

The next day the wolf came again, and said to the little pig, "Little pig, there is a fair at Shanklin this afternoon. Will you go?"

"Oh yes," said the pig, "I will go. What time shall you be ready?"

"At three," said the wolf. So the little pig went off before the time as usual, and got to the fair, and bought a butter churn, which he was going home with, when he saw the wolf coming. Then he could not tell what to do. So he got into the churn to hide, and by so doing turned it around, and it rolled down the hill with the pig in it, which frightened the wolf so much, that he ran home without going to the fair. He went to the pig's house, and told him how frightened he had been by a great round thing which came down the hill past him.

Then the little pig said, "Ha, I frightened you, then. I had been to the fair and bought a butter churn, and when I saw you, I got into it, and rolled down the hill."

Then the wolf was very angry indeed, and declared he would eat up the little pig, and that he would get down the chimney after him. When the little pig saw what he was about, he hung on the pot full of water, and made up a blazing fire, and, just as the wolf was coming down, took off the cover, and in fell the wolf; so the little pig put on the cover again in an instant, boiled him up, and ate him for supper, and lived happily ever afterwards.


James Orchard Halliwell (also known as James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps), The Nursery Rhymes of England (London and New York: Frederick Warne and Company, 1886), 37-41.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Requiem (Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894)

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
"Requiem," An Anthology of Modern Verse. Ed. A. Methuen. London: Methuen & Co., 1921.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dulce et Decorum Est (Wilfred Owen, 1893-1918)

*Harley David Semple, Age 17 (WWI, 1918)_____________________________________________
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: **Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Harley D. Semple (right) and his life-long friend Gene Smith (France, WWI)

*No, Harley "Dee Dee" Semple and his friend Gene Smith did not perish in the war.
As 17 year olds, he and his friend enlisted (illegally) in the army. According to my uncle, C. Richard Semple, both were sent home after officials found out that they were minors.

However, I always had a sense that the "Great War" had affected him in profound ways, although it is likely he never saw combat.

He went on to marry my grandmother Katherine Olivet Quirk Semple; they bore and raised four children and took in (and adopted) one granddaughter (me).

Harley died on March 16, 1974, age 73.
**It is sweet and proper to die for one's country.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Announcement: Ban My Book --

What better way to get your book noticed than to ask your audience to ban it?

Nothing is more delicious than a well-publicized banned book, particularly to "reluctant readers" of all ages.

When you hear that a book is too controversial for school libraries, what is your first reaction?

Quite likely, you want to find out what the all the hubbub is about--at least that is what I suspect.

So I have set up Ban My Book, a site dedicated to giving voice to under-represented writers (translation: writers out of the traditional publishing loop, those of us who refuse to kiss connected/corporate/foet A$$).

Books can be "banned" in many ways, which I explain on Has Your Book been "Banned"?

As under-represented writers, we need our voice out there as well, which is why I have established Ban My Book.

Ban My Book may also develop into a publishing company; I'm still looking into the intricacies of e-book/POD publishing. For this to work, Ban My Book would need to adopt a low-cost method of getting books out there, and the new website, with its jarring title and domain name, is the first step.

There can be much irony in the words "ban my book": a powerful in-your-face statement and a call-to-action declaration, an implicit "I dare you to silence my voice."

At the very least, Ban My Book will offer a public space for promoting well-written, under-represented books that have been self-published and/or have been effectively silenced by the traditional publishing industry and distribution channels.

Right now, my own under-represented book is featured on the home page, but once the site is fully functional and other writers come on board, I plan to feature other books.

For more info, email Jennifer [at]

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Children’s Hour, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

This drawing has been adapted from a real child's drawing.
To see the original, see

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

First published in The Atlantic Monthly, September 1860.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Snow Storm (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882)

In honor of the Autumn snow storm of October 29, 2011:
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hill and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
Come see the north wind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and at the gate
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.
1835, 1841

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