Tag Archives: Poetry

In Flanders’ Fields, by John McCrae #MemorialDay

Here in the US, we are celebrating Memorial Day. Originally known as Decoration Day, it’s a federal holiday dedicated to honoring those who died while serving in the US military. It used to be observed on May 30 regardless of the day of the week but in 1970 it was moved to the last Monday in May.

The beautiful image of poppies that graces this post is by Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders and was found on Wikimedia commons. The beauty and serenity of the poppies, rising from the fields where such terrible conflict once happened, is a fitting accompaniment for the poem, In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae, the text of which follows the picture.

From Wikipedia:  “In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. In Flanders Fields was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

In Flanders Fields and Other Poems, a 1919 collection of McCrae’s works, contains two versions of the poem: a printed text as below and a handwritten copy where the first line ends with “grow” instead of “blow.” (…)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

While bed-ridden and recovering in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Vancouver, Washington, after World War II, my father had little to do but read or crochet. To keep busy, he and the other recovering soldiers in his ward made endless numbers of Remembrance Poppies to commemorate fallen American soldiers. Dad always wore his poppy on his left lapel, as it was close to his heart.

Memorial Day is more than just the official launch of Summer here in the US, more than just an Indy car race. Families have always cared for their family graves, but it became a designated day after the American Civil War in 1868, established  as “Decoration Day.” It was a specific time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Every family had soldiers who served and gave their lives in the never-ending wars, as we do today.

Officially, Memorial Day is a 3-day holiday weekend. Banks are closed on Monday, and the US Postal Service is also closed. The American flag is traditionally set at half-staff until noon to honor all those whose lives have been given in the service of our country. At noon, it is raised to the top of the staff, signifying that we, as a nation, will rise again.

My paternal grandmother never failed to keep our family’s graves neat and tidy, bringing flowers every week for my uncle, who had died while serving in the Korean War. As she got older, this tradition aggravated my father, who just wanted to listen to the Indianapolis 500 car race on the radio. He couldn’t bear dwelling on the loss of his brother, or the friends he had lost in France in WWII.

But he took her to the cemetery, anyway.

After each great and terrible war of the last two centuries, the hope was always that we had fought a “war to end all wars.” World War I, also known as The Great War, was spoken of in literature as just that: a war to end all wars.

With each conflict we still hope, but we are less able to believe it, today less than ever.


Sources and Attributions

In Flanders Fields, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, PD|75 years

John McCrae died of pneumonia January 28, 1918, near the end of the Great War. In Flanders’ Fields is a staple poem for Memorial Day services.

Wikipedia contributors. “In Flanders Fields.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 May. 2018. Web. 24 May. 2018

Poppies Field in Flanders, image By Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders #Belgium. File:Poppies Field in Flanders.jpg. (2018, January 13). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 15:55, May 24, 2018.

Comments Off on In Flanders’ Fields, by John McCrae #MemorialDay

Filed under #FineArtFriday, #FlashFictionFriday, Poetry

Exploring theme part 3: learning from poetry #amwriting

Poems are stories told in a highly structured fashion. They are stories about the feelings one has for a place or a person, the emotions one feels when faced with shattering circumstances. Poems can be heroic and epic or tightly constrained to one moment, one person’s thoughts.

2WritingCraft_themePoets understand how central a theme is to the story. A poet takes the theme and builds the words around it. Emily Dickinson’s poems featured the themes of spirituality, love of nature, and death, which is why she appealed so strongly to me during my angsty young-adult life.

Via Wikipedia:

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet. Little-known during her life, she has since been regarded as one of the most influential figures in American poetry.

Evidence suggests that Dickinson lived much of her life in isolation. Considered an eccentric by locals, she developed a penchant for white clothing and was known for her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, to even leave her bedroom. Dickinson never married, and most friendships between her and others depended entirely upon correspondence.

While Dickinson was a prolific writer, her only publications during her lifetime were 10 of her nearly 1,800 poems, and one letter. The poems published then were usually edited significantly to fit conventional poetic rules. Her poems were unique for her era. They contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends, and also explore aesthetics, society, nature and spirituality.

If one only knew that she had been agoraphobic and never left her room in an era where the internet didn’t exist, one would think she knew nothing of the world and had nothing to say that would be worth reading.

dickinsons poemsBut that would be wrong. Poets write words that range far more widely than their physical surroundings. Some poets are constrained by unrewarding jobs, others may be “on the spectrum,” as they now say, and still others are constrained by physical limitations.

Poetry is a craft that uses words to explore the interior life of a moment, a place, or an idea. Fleshing out and exploring every nuance of a theme is a core function of poetry.

A theme that Emily Dickinson often wrote about is “the undiscovered continent.” Literary scholars consider that Dickinson saw the mind and spirit as tangible visitable places she inhabited for much of her life.

As solitary as her life was, this interpretation of the undiscovered continent makes sense. It is the “landscape of the spirit,” embellished with nature imagery. It is imagery meant to convey a dwelling place of “oneself” where one resides with one’s other selves. It is an expansive, liberating force.

For example, in “They shut me up in Prose –,” she sets out the idea that society enforces limits upon the speaker, confining her to the acceptable female roles, concealing her to prevent her from expressing herself. But her prose is a product of her mind and refuses to be constrained.

Those constraints inspire her, fuel her drive to write. Society cannot limit her mind, no matter how they try. In the poem “I dwell in Possibility –”she shows us that limits are an illusion to one who dwells in possibilities.

Quote from GradeSaver:

“I dwell in Possibility –”is deeply interested in the power gained by a poet through their poetry. In the first stanza, the poem seems to just be about poetry as a vocation as opposed to prose and is explicit in comparing the two. The metaphors and similes used make it so that poetry is possibility, poetry is more beautiful, poetry has more doors and windows open for access, for different perspectives and interpretations, while prose by default, then, is more closed and limited and homely. [1]

Dickinson showed us how important employing themes can be when finding words to express our intent. Her work demonstrates that themes can be as common and ordinary as the juxtaposition of chaos and stability (or order), the fear of death, love of nature, or the expression of faith in God.

The 19th-century songwriter Stephen Foster employed the theme of rural poverty, using the term hard times to turn his simple songs into anthems that people embraced and are still singing. Tommy Fleming’s version can be heard here. The crowd embraces that song today as much as they did when it was written. Its popularity is due to the way Foster employed his theme, the way he presented it with words and melody.

‘Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
‘Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
‘Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh! Hard times come again no more. [2]

But what of writers who don’t write poetry? How do we who write novels and short stories use themes in our work?

The possibilities are limitless.

An aspect of a setting can become a theme. These can be as solid and physical as a particular rock or tree that acquires an emotional meaning to the characters in the narrative. These physical objects gain a sense of presence that recurs throughout the story.

Or they can be as complex and intangible as a mental landscape that allows a prisoner to roam freely.

Poets have a lot to teach those of us who write narrative prose.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss 2nd coverFantasy author Patrick Rothfuss knows how to make use of a strong theme. He uses the theme of silence to create a powerful opening to his novel, The Name of the Wind. The opening paragraphs of that novel hooked me.

To wind up this dip into poetry, themes are the unifying threads woven through our work, connecting the dots and holding the plot together. The words we choose and other elements of the story, such as the setting, are how we present our themes. Themes, in turn, color our words and setting and steer the plot.


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Cullina, Alice. Chainani, Soman ed. “Emily Dickinson’s Collected Poems “I dwell in Possibility –” Summary and Analysis.” GradeSaver, 26 July 2009 Web. 20 March 2022.

[2] “Hard Times Come Again No More” (sometimes, “Hard Times“) PD|100. Written by Stephen Foster. Published in New York by Firth, Pond & Co. in 1854.

10 Comments

Filed under writing

On Poetry: Interview with Maria V A Johnson @amwriting

One week ago, I asked three good friends who write both novels and poetry, Stephen Swartz, Shaun Allan, and Maria V.A. Johnson to each answer the same 5 questions about how they approach writing both poetry and novels. (Which is why my questions might seem familiar.) It’s amazing how differently they have answered.

Each author has shared a different aspect of how they tap into their inner poet.

Part 1, Stephen Swartz can be found if you click on this link.

Part 2, Shaun Allan can be found if you click on this link.

I first met Maria when she joined Myrddin Publishing Group, the indie publishing cooperative I have been involved with since 2012. Maria is a meticulous editor and is easy to work with, and her poems are moving and inspirational.


CJJ:  When did you begin to write poetry?

MVAJ: I first started writing poetry when I was 16. My Nan died and I wanted to write something for the funeral. It drew heavily on inspiration found online, but I discovered I enjoyed it and haven’t looked back since.

CJJ: What is your favorite form, rhyming or free?

MVAJ: When it comes to forms, I’m a very modern girl and prefer free, though I did experiment a lot while at University.

CJJ: For me, poetry becomes an emotional catharsis. Where do you find the emotional strength to write and publish something as deeply personal as poetry?

MVAJ: I like to think that I’m not unique and others are in the same place as me. If my poetry can help them in some way, then I believe it is worth the emotional upheaval of sharing this part of myself. On the plus side, having a form of Autism (known as Aspergers) means that I struggle to connect with my emotions. While I can do it, my natural state is slightly distanced which lessens the pain of sharing. It does have a downside though – when I do connect to write, it can be quite overwhelming.

CJJ: We all write what we are in the mood for. Which literary form, novel or poetry is easiest for you today?

MVAJ: I’ve discovered that the best form for my poetry is modern free. This type is more focused on imagery than anything else, and I find that this works best with the hyperfocus that is part of being autistic.

CJJ: What are you currently working on?

MVAJ: At the moment I’m not working on anything. All my projects have been on hold since I bought a puppy in January. She was just reaching the stage where I could get back to work when the Covid-19 Lockdown took effect and I haven’t been in the right frame of mind to do anything, so I’ve been making greeting cards instead. However, I have a couple of projects to return to when I can. One is a poetry collection about disabilities, and one is a short novel about a damaged girl post-coma. I tend to flit between the two as the muse moves me.


Thank you, Maria, for giving us a glimpse of your writing world. I think many authors are finding it difficult to be creative right now.

On Wednesday, for the final post in this interview series, I have the good fortune of featuring Alan Shue. He is a poet and the author of three hilarious children’s books. Alan lives in my area and is active in local writing groups where we have mutual friends—so I prevailed on a member of my writing group to connect us via email.

(That was bold, I know, but nothing ventured, nothing gained!)

I can’t wait to share Alan’s interview with you. I’ve changed up the questions and he’s been a good sport about it.


About Maria V A Johnson:

Maria V A Johnson is a voracious reader, professional editor, and published author and poet with a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing. She loves the challenge of taking a raw manuscript and turning it into a polished novel. She specialises in Fantasy, however she can edit any genre. She first started writing seriously, when at sixteen she wrote a poem for her grandmother’s funeral and she grew to love poetry and writing from there.

She has collaborated in several anthologies which raise money for Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford, Essex. She also has a poetry collection called Hearts and Minds released November 2012 and has been published in several anthologies since. Her first novel is currently in editing and she is working on her second as well as another poetry collection.

She has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, though she doesn’t consider it a disability, but rather a different way of looking at the world. If you want to know more about it, visit the National Autistic Society page at: https://www.autism.org.uk/

Maria’s book of poetry, Hearts and Minds, is available at Amazon.

You can find her at: https://maria7627.wordpress.com/

3 Comments

Filed under writing

Poetry: Shape and form #amwriting

Poetry comes in many forms. In fact, Writer’s Digest University lists 100 of them: List of 100 Poetic Forms for Poets.

However enticing that rabbit trail may be, today’s post will cover only a few of the most common and well-known forms. The rhyming scheme of poetry is traditionally shown by using the first letters of the alphabet, such as: AABB

Another word to know is what we call a stanza, or how we divide our poem. Literary Devices says: In poetry, a stanza is a division of four or more lines having a fixed length, meter, or rhyming scheme.

A few of the most common poetic forms are:

Elegy  – a poem or song written to honor the life of someone deceased, such as W. H. Auden’s In Memory of W. B. Yeats, the opening lines which follow:

He disappeared in the dead of winter:

The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,

And snow disfigured the public statues;

The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day,

What instruments we have agree

The day of his death was a cold dark day.

Epitaphs – poetic writings on tombstones, such as William Butler Yeats’ epitaph, taken from his poem, Under Ben Bulben:

Cast a cold Eye

On Life, on Death.

Horseman, pass by!

Haiku – short Japanese poem, 5 syllables, then seven syllables, then 5 syllables.

I write one Haiku

Five over seven and five

Five Seven Five done.

Limericks have 5 lines, with lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyming with each other, and lines 3 and 4 rhyming with each other. The cadence ends with a stressed syllable. Limericks have strong rhymes, and a recognizable rolling verse:

The limerick packs laughs anatomical

Into space that is quite economical.

But the good ones I’ve seen

So seldom are clean

And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

Odes are poetry that praise a person or an ideal, such as this excerpt from Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality:

Turn wheresoe’er I may,

By night or day,

The things which I have seen I now can see no more…

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home…

Prose poetry is written in prose form instead of verse form without the line breaks associated with poetry. However, it contains the imagery and makes use of rhyme, repetition, fragmentation (short sentences), and most other poetic devices.

Quatrain. A complete poem consisting of four lines. There are fifteen possible rhyme patterns, but the most traditional and common are: AAAA, ABAB, and ABBA. Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is ABAB:

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,

The plowman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Rondel -13 or 14 lines in 3 stanzas. Wikipedia says:

“There are several variations of the rondel, and some inconsistencies. For example, sometimes only the first line of the poem is repeated at the end, or the second refrain may return at the end of the last stanza.  Henry Austin Dobson provides the following example of a rondel:

    Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,

      The old, old Love that we knew of yore!

      We see him stand by the open door,

    With his great eyes sad, and his bosom swelling.

 

    He makes as though in our arms repelling

      He fain would lie as he lay before;

    Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,

      The old, old Love that we knew of yore!

 

    Ah! who shall help us from over-spelling

      That sweet, forgotten, forbidden lore?

      E’en as we doubt, in our hearts once more,

    With a rush of tears to our eyelids welling,

    Love comes back to his vacant dwelling.

The last form I’m going to show you is the Sonnet, which was a favorite medium for William Shakespeare.

Wikipedia says: The Petrarchan sonnet is a sonnet form not developed by Petrarch himself, but rather by a string of Renaissance poets. Because of the structure of Italian, the rhyme scheme of the Petrarchan sonnet is more easily fulfilled in that language than in English. The original Italian sonnet form divides the poem’s fourteen lines into two parts, the first part being an octave and the second being a sestet.

On His Blindness by the English poet Milton, gives a sense of the Petrarchan rhyme scheme:

When I consider how my light is spent (A)

 Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, (B)

 And that one talent which is death to hide, (B)

 Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent (A)

To serve therewith my Maker, and present (A)

 My true account, lest he returning chide; (B)

 “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?” (B)

 I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent (A)

That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need (C)

 Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best (D)

 Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state (E)

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed (C)

 And post o’er land and ocean without rest; (D)

 They also serve who only stand and wait.” (E)

I have experimented with writing in all of these forms, but I tend to lean most toward a kind of free verse or prose poem. On Wednesday, I will feature an interview with my good friend, Stephen Swartz. He writes novels and short stories in a wide variety of genres and often leaves comments for me in the form of silly rhymes.

Silliness aside, Stephen has been known to produce some beautiful prose poems and is always willing to talk about the craft.


Sources and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Rondel (poem),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rondel_(poem)&oldid=925869026 (accessed May 17, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Sonnet,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sonnet&oldid=951762201 (accessed May 17, 2020).

7 Comments

Filed under writing

Thoughts on Poetry and the Evolution of Language #amwriting

I think of poetry and language as coming into existence as conjoined twins. I can remember anything I can set to a rhyme or make into a song.

Yet, much of the time, modern songs and poetry don’t rhyme. Even so, they have tempo and rhythm.

If it doesn’t rhyme, what makes poetry “poetic?” And where does it fit into modern narrative prose?

Poetry is a primal form of communication in the human species, the literary invention that emerged as soon as we had words. It presents thoughts and feelings as abstractions and allusions rather than the concrete.

Poets select words for the impact they deliver. An entire story must be conveyed using the least number of words possible. For that reason, choices are made for symbolism, power, and syllabic cadence, even if there is no rhyme involved.

Narrative prose is broader, looser, more all-encompassing, with no limit on how long it takes for the story to unfold.

Modern humans deliver highly detailed concepts and ideas with packets of noise formed into individual words. We learn the meanings of these sound-packets as infants. By stringing these meaningful sound-packets together, we can share information with others of our species.

I suspect using rhyme as a mnemonic is fundamental to human nature. Research with modern primates in the wild proves that, while we were still in Africa before the great diaspora, humans developed complex languages within our tribal communities.

By observing primates in the wild, we see that our earliest ancestors had the ability to describe the wider world to their children. With that, we could teach them skills and the best ways to acquire food.

We understood and were able to see the motives of another person.

We developed compassion and burial rites.

Early humans relied on the cadence of repetition and rhyme. They could explain the how and why of a great flood or any other natural disaster, passing it forward across many generations.

The availability of food is central to the prosperity of all life, not just humans. Our ancestors saw the divine in every aspect of life, especially around the abundance or scarcity of food. They developed mythologies combining all of these concepts to explain the world around us and our place in it.

With the ability to pass on knowledge of toolmaking, we had leisure to contemplate the world. We discussed these things while eating and sharing food with each other.

We now know that other primates also deliver information by using sound-packets. Gorillas have been observed singing during their meals. Humans have always sung.

Chimpanzees and Bonobos have been observed chatting during leisurely meals.

We humans love to sit around the table and chat.

The larynx and vocal cords of each primate species are formed differently, which affects how they communicate. They understand each other perfectly, but because they are so different from us, our human ears can’t differentiate the meanings of the individual sound-packets that make up their calls.

To us, their communications are just mindless screeching, and so we have always assumed they must not be self-aware.

I suspect that in years to come we will find that we have been wrong. We may be the only species we reliably converse with, but we are not the only self-aware species who communicate through vocalizations.

For many humans, dogs and cats are their beloved family members, self-aware people who love and accept them like no one else does.

This brings me to another point – if we can’t figure out and understand the languages of the other intelligent creatures in this world, i.e., Elephants, Cetaceans, and other Primates, then how can we ever expect to communicate with an alien extraterrestrial being?

And if we can’t recognize, value, and protect the individual self-awareness and personhood of beings like Elephants, Cetaceans, and other Primates, how will we recognize an extraterrestrial life-form? How will we behave toward them? After all, to us, these fellow creatures of earth have been nothing but resources for us to exploit.

Like modern Great Apes, proto humans used rhyme and cadence to memorize and pass on ideas as abstract as legends or sagas to their children and to others they might meet in friendly circumstances. By handing down those stories through the generations, we learned lessons from the mistakes and heroism of our ancestors.

Rhyme and cadence were fundamental to our ability to make tools out of stone and bone. The capacity to learn, remember, and reliably pass on knowledge was why the three human genomes we call Homo Sapiens, Neanderthal, and Denisovan could master fire. This is why they could develop the tools that made them the apex predators we became. We could reliably feed our young, rear them to adulthood, and still have time to create art on the walls of caves.

Every tribe, every culture that ever arose in our world, had a tradition of passing down stories and legends using rhyme and meter. Rhyme, combined with repetition and rhythmic simplicity, enabled us to remember and pass on our histories and knowledge to our children.

In times gone by, writers used words for their beauty, employing them the way they decorated their homes. Authors labored over their sentences, ensuring each word was placed in such a way as to be artistic as well as impactful.

In writing poetry, we are forced to think on an abstract level. We must choose words based on their power. The emotions these words evoke, and the way they show the environment around us is why I gravitate to narratives written by authors who are also poets—the creative use of words elevates what could be mundane to a higher level of expression. When it’s done subtly, the reader doesn’t consciously notice poetic derivations in prose, but they are moved by them.

We have no need to memorize our cultural knowledge anymore, just as we no longer need the ability to accurately tally long strings of numbers in our heads. Readers seek out books with straightforward prose and few descriptors. Words for the sake of words is no longer desirable to the modern reader.

Modern poetry has evolved too. The love of poetry continues, and new generations seek out the poems of the past while creating powerful poetry of their own.

Modern authors, such as Patrick Rothfuss in his novel, The Name of the Wind craft narratives packed with powerful, evocative prose. We eagerly read their work because it is both straightforward and poetic. Most readers are unaware that they are drawn to the subtle poetry of his work as much as to the story that unfolds within the narrative.

I write poetry, some that follow traditional rhyming, and much that does not. Regardless of the structure, the cadence of syllables and the words I choose are recognizably mine. The emotions they evoke and the way they portray the environment I imagine is what lends my voice to my work.

Authors like me who read and sometimes write speculative fiction can enjoy our modern stripped-down narratives, guilt free.

That said, we who love the rhythm and cadence of words can still appreciate beauty combined with impact when it comes to our prose. And, if you love dark, heroic speculative fiction and haven’t yet read The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, I highly recommend it.


Credits and Attributions:

Admiring the Galaxy |CCA 4.0 ESO/A. Fitzsimmons

12 Comments

Filed under writing

#FineArtFriday: Irene (poem)and The Coffee House, by Rita Greer 2008

The Coffee House

 

Portions of this post first appeared on Life in the Realm of Fantasy in 2015, as Flash Fiction Friday offering. The poem that follows, Irene, was written for a writer friend, a woman who moved to my Northwest town from Texas.

She participated in NaNoWriMo 2012, and we discovered we lived only a mile apart. Over the years she  became like a sister to me. Now, in 2020, one of her grandchildren has been hit with cancer, and she is temporarily relocating back to Texas to help care for him.

Believe me, she will be missed, as a neighbor, a dear friend, and as the heart and soul of my writing posse. My forthcoming novel, Julian Lackland, would still be languishing in limbo without her determined efforts over the last six years.

She and her husband quickly became members of our family, and no holiday will be the same with out them.

 

About this painting (quoted from Wikimedia Commons)

The original is an oil painting on board by Rita Greer, history painter, 2008. This was digitized by Rita and sent via email to the Department of Engineering Science, Oxford University, where it was subsequently uploaded to Wikimedia.

Coffee Houses played an important part in the social life of Robert Hooke. Only coffee and chocolate were served (no alcohol). Here news could be had, conversation, arguments, meetings, card games, wagers made, workmen could be paid, etc. (Hooke would sometimes carry out a scientific experiment in front of a coffee house audience as witnesses.) Hooke is shown writing (bottom left) at a table with people waiting to talk to him.

About the artist:

Rita Greer is a history artist, goldsmith, graphic designer, food scientist and author/writer. On retirement in 2003 Rita began the Robert Hooke project, “to put him back into history.”

According to Wikipedia: Much has been written about the unpleasant side of Hooke’s personality, starting with comments by his first biographer, Richard Waller, that Hooke was “in person, but despicable” and “melancholy, mistrustful, and jealous.” Waller’s comments influenced other writers for well over two centuries, so that a picture of Hooke as a disgruntled, selfish, anti-social curmudgeon dominates many older books and articles. For example, Arthur Berry said that Hooke “claimed credit for most of the scientific discoveries of the time.” Sullivan wrote that Hooke was “positively unscrupulous” and possessing an “uneasy apprehensive vanity” in dealings with Newton. Manuel used the phrase “cantankerous, envious, vengeful” in his description. More described Hooke having both a “cynical temperament” and a “caustic tongue.” Andrade was more sympathetic, but still used the adjectives “difficult”, “suspicious”, and “irritable” in describing Hooke.

Back-biting and jostling for position was a hobby among the divas of 17th century science, apparently. Little has changed in the world of academics, it seems.

I spend a large portion of my life in coffee houses too, writing and meeting with other writers, and artists. The friend who inspired the poem today was introduced to me in a coffee house in Olympia, on a dark November night in 2012. It was the kick-off meeting for NaNoWriMo that year.

 

Irene

I met you in a coffee shop.

Knitters and authors vied for tables

In a dark, polished, coffee-scented room.

Texas wit met Northwest irreverence

And the world was never the same.

A sisterhood built on words

And books

And commonalities.

We met as old ladies, too wise to raise much hell.

We’d have been dangerous

Had Austin met Olympia in the young, wild days.

It must have been divine intent

That our lives converged in the quiet years.

Sisterhood binds and unites us

Because family is more

Than marriage or blood.

 


Irene © Connie J. Jasperson 2015, All Rights Reserved

Portions of this post first appeared here on Life in the Realm of Fantasy on December 12, 2015.

The Coffee House by Rita Greer, history painter, 2008. Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:10 The Coffee House.JPG,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:10_The_Coffee_House.JPG&oldid=304207824 (accessed January 16, 2020).

3 Comments

Filed under #FineArtFriday, writing

#poppies #poetry In Flanders’ Fields, by John McCrae

The beautiful image of poppies that graces this post is by Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders and was found on Wikimedia commons. The beauty and serenity of the poppies, rising from the fields where such terrible conflict once happened, is a fitting accompaniment for the poem, In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae, the text of which follows the picture.

From Wikipedia:  “In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. In Flanders Fields was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

In Flanders Fields and Other Poems, a 1919 collection of McCrae’s works, contains two versions of the poem: a printed text as below and a handwritten copy where the first line ends with “grow” instead of “blow.” (…)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

While bed-ridden and recovering in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Vancouver, Washington, after World War II, my father had little to do but read or crochet afghans. To keep busy, he and the other recovering soldiers in his ward made endless numbers of Remembrance Poppies to commemorate fallen American soldiers. Dad always wore his poppy on his left lapel, as it was close to his heart.

Memorial Day is more than just the official launch of Summer here in the US, more than just an Indy car race. Families have always cared for their family graves, but it became a designated day after the American Civil War in 1868, established  as “Decoration Day.” It was a specific time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Every family had soldiers who served and gave their lives in the never-ending wars, as we do today.

Officially, Memorial Day is the last Monday in May. In the US, it is a 3-day holiday weekend. Banks are closed on Monday, and the US Postal Service is also closed. The American flag is traditionally set at half-staff until noon to honor all those whose lives have been given in the service of our country. At noon, it is raised to the top of the staff, signifying that we, as a nation, will rise again.

My paternal grandmother never failed to keep our family’s graves neat and tidy, bringing flowers every week for my uncle, who had died while serving in the Korean War. As she got older, this tradition aggravated my father, who just wanted to listen to the Indianapolis 500 car race on the radio. He couldn’t bear dwelling on the loss of his brother, or the friends he had lost in France in WWII.

But he took her to the cemetery, anyway.

After each great and terrible war of the last two centuries, the hope was always that we had fought a “war to end all wars.” World War I, also known as The Great War, was spoken of in literature as just that: a war to end all wars.

With each conflict we still hope, but we are less able to believe it, today less than ever.


Sources and Attributions

In Flanders Fields, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, PD|75 years

John McCrae died of pneumonia January 28, 1918, near the end of the Great War. In Flanders’ Fields is a staple poem for Memorial Day services.

Wikipedia contributors. “In Flanders Fields.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 May. 2018. Web. 24 May. 2018

Poppies Field in Flanders, image By Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders #Belgium. File:Poppies Field in Flanders.jpg. (2018, January 13). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 15:55, May 24, 2018.

2 Comments

Filed under #FineArtFriday, #FlashFictionFriday, Poetry

The problem with hitchhikers…

A good poem for a Saturday, written by Sue Vincent!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

They’re lurking in there,
This I know,
I put them there
Some time ago;
The are the fish
The eye forgot…
And have I seen them?
I have not.

*

A barbelled snout
I just might see
If I am looking
Carefully,
But over head
And wormlike tail
Their reticence
Has drawn a veil.

*

I’m told they do
Come out to play,
Though not, apparently,
By day.
They do their foraging
At night
And keep their colours
Out of sight.

*

Now given choice,
I might have bought
Some fishes
Of a different sort;
The type that might,
Occasionally,
Come out
That I might
Watch and see.

*

My loach had hitched
A ride with me,
Within a plant
He came for free.
But lonely loaches
Can’t be done,
It isn’t fair
To have just one,

*
And that is why
Within the water,
I have fish
I didn’t…

View original post 15 more words

3 Comments

Filed under Poetry, writing

#FlashFictionFriday: The Morning Crier by Shannon M. Blood

Every now and then I come across a poet whose work really strikes a chord in my soul.

Local Olympia area poet, Shannon M. Blood, produces work that is deep and lays bare the raw emotions we all keep hidden.

The Morning Crier appeared on her blog yesterday, and I found myself thinking about her prose and turns of phrase off and on all day.

When you get to the end of my reblogged sample, please click on the link to read the rest!


THE MORNING CRIER

It’s 4 a.m. and Robin Redbreast

scrapes nails over chalkboard

Sól lights her pine-fed torch

stabs bloody fingers deep in earth

 

I play possum to your prod

shun the unwashed kiss

oak floor groans with your retreat

a williwaw births new gooseflesh

 

(read the rest of the Morning Crier at Tidbits by Shannon)


Credits and Attributions:

The Morning Crier, © 2018 by Shannon M. Blood, All Rights Reserved

Book Illustration of a Robin and Wren By Plate printer Joseph M. Kornheim (1810-1896) published by Frederick Warne & Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

1 Comment

Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Poetry, writing

#FlashFictionFriday: Elegy for Hawking

Stephen Hawking, Star Child,

Entered the world in the Year of the Horse

While bombs fell over London.

Rebel,

Always went his own way

Even when his way was difficult.

Revolutionary,

Freed his mind to travel the cosmos.

Sat taller in his chair than giants stand.

Quantum thinker,

Body shrunken to a singularity,

Mind as expansive as the universe.

Dreamer,

Stephen Hawking

Left us in the Year of the Dog

While we baked Pi for Einstein

And marveled at what we had lost.

 


Stephen Hawking,

Born 8 Jan 1942; died 14 Mar 2018 at age 76.

Author, Motivational Speaker, English Theoretical Physicist.

Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a position once held by such notables as Charles Babbage and  Sir Isaac Newton. Afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS), Hawking was confined to a wheelchair and was unable to speak without the aid of a computer voice synthesizer. However, despite his challenges, he made remarkable contributions to the field of cosmology, which is the study of the universe. His principal areas of research were theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity.

Hawking also co-authored five children’s books with his daughter, Lucy.

Hawking’s book list can be found at Amazon: Stephen Hawking’s Author Page 

Popular books

  • A Brief History of Time (1988)
  • Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993)
  • The Universe in a Nutshell (2001)
  • On the Shoulders of Giants (2002)
  • God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History (2005)
  • The Dreams That Stuff Is Made of: The Most Astounding Papers of Quantum Physics and How They Shook the Scientific World (2011)
  • My Brief History (2013)

Co-authored

  • The Nature of Space and Time (with Roger Penrose) (1996)
  • The Large, the Small and the Human Mind (with Roger Penrose, Abner Shimony and Nancy Cartwright) (1997)
  • The Future of Spacetime (with Kip Thorne, Igor Novikov, Timothy Ferris and introduction by Alan Lightman, Richard H. Price) (2002)
  • A Briefer History of Time (with Leonard Mlodinow) (2005)
  • The Grand Design (with Leonard Mlodinow) (2010)

Forewords

  • Black Holes & Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy (Kip Thorne, and introduction by Frederick Seitz) (1994)

Children’s fiction

Co-written with his daughter Lucy

  • George’s Secret Key to the Universe (2007)
  • George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt (2009)
  • George and the Big Bang (2011)
  • George and the Unbreakable Code (2014)
  • George and the Blue Moon (2016)

Stephen Hawking, StarChild, Image By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia contributors, “Stephen Hawking,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stephen_Hawking&oldid=830584312 (accessed March 15, 2018).

Elegy for Hawking, by Connie J. Jasperson © 2018 All Rights Reserved

5 Comments

Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Poetry, writing