Saturday, April 21, 2018

S is for Edna St. Vincent Millay: Sincere and Direct

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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When I first encountered the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, I dismissed it without reading much of it. Because it was direct, sincere, and easy to understand, I thought it simplistic and less meaningful than the complex and cynical work I admired at the time. 

I probably inherited a bit of this attitude from the literary scene. She wasn't one of the poets people mentioned as an influence, and some poets were downright dismissive of her work. I can remember one conversation when someone called her work "greeting card drivel."

She had once been so popular and admired a poet, but by the time I was studying poetry, no one was talking about her work.

But more recently, her poems have come across my radar from time to time and I found them beautiful and moving. I am older now, which may have something to do with it, and my views have changed about those complex and cynical works I once admired. A lot of it seems contrived and pretentious to me, and sincerity and honesty is exactly what I'm looking for. She feels like a breath of fresh air to me in that way.

She's better technically than I ever gave her credit for, too. Her formal sonnets have all the right beats and rhyme schemes, yet feel as fresh and natural as free verse. That's quite a feat!


I feel I owe her an apology for judging her when I was younger based on reputation alone instead of reading for myself. Luckily, it's never too late to read her work and admire it.



Friday, April 20, 2018

R is for Robert Browning: Dramatic Monologue

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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I love dramatic monologues. They bridge the space between poetry and theater, allowing the poet to take on a character completely separate from themselves and put words in their mouth. Like Shakespearean soliloquies, they can give real insight into a character while wowing you with gorgeous language and metaphor.

One of my favorite dramatic monologues ever was written by Robert Browning: My Last Duchess. It's a creepy thing, a slow reveal. At first it seems to be merely an art collector showing off his collection. But there are all these small red flags that creep up, until you find yourself wondering if the Duke in question killed his wife.

"That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive."

It's there even in the opening lines. The ominous feeling. The next few lines have the Duke insisting strongly that the listener sit and examine the portrait, that he notice the look of warmth in her eyes.

"Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek"

Jealousy reared its ugly head. 

"She had
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere."

Yikes. Dangerous jealousy. I start to wonder if I misread and this is actually by Edgar Allan Poe. 

"Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive."
 Shudder. 

This poem amazes me for all it says by not saying, for all that is suggested, threatened, or implied. When he finishes and it is revealed that the visitor is there to discuss the Duke's intentions to marry again, a Count's daughter, I find myself hoping the emissary has the wit to refuse the match, lest this turn into Bluebeard's castle. Masterful work.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Q is for Nizar Qabbani: Dramatic Declarations of Love

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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Confession time. I didn't have a poet I love for the letter Q. At least in English (which is the language I read best) there aren't that many names that start with Q, let alone names that were given to people who became poets and whose work I love. 

So I had to go searching. 

I found a Syrian poet, Nizar Qabbani. A lot of his work is available in translation.

As I clicked on poem after poem, I found short, tight little love poems, full of sweeping passion and glamorous hyperbole. His work made me think of the part from Dead Poet's Society about what poetry is for: 


There was something really refreshing about such direct and flirtatious words. Sometimes the cynicism we live in wears me out and I just want to pick up the beautiful parts of a fairy tale and live there. Qabbani would be the court poet.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

P is for Edgar Allan Poe: Macabre Magic

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.
This will be my 5th year participating.
In 2014, I wrote about evocative words.
In 2015, I wrote about my publication journey and the release of my first novel.
In 2016, I wrote about my favorite superheroes.
In 2017, I wrote about the places of my heart.

My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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I'm not sure how old I was when I found Edgar Allan Poe. I'm pretty sure I was still in elementary school. I can remember coming home from school and telling my mom about "The Raven."

I was a bit of a macabre little thing, with a fascination with ghosts, witchcraft, demons, and other spooky things. That poem had me at Hello, or in this case, at "Once upon a midnight dreary."

If you are going to grow up a bookworm, it helps if someone near and dear to you shares your addiction and my mom was and is a total bookworm, too.


When I told her about "The Raven," she told me about his short stories and took me to the library to borrow a collection. I stayed up late into the night scaring myself silly (and occasionally pulling out my dictionary to find out what some of his fabulous words meant).

Sadly, this led to a long period of me writing terrible poems with overwrought vocabulary and lots of exclamation points. I'm sure my parents must have bitten the insides of their cheeks raw trying not to laugh at some of my efforts.

Happily, this led to my lifetime love affair with language, with words like languid, quaint, sepulchre, lattice, and tintinnabulation. That man had a vocabulary and could weave it like magic, casting a spell over a reader that lasts a lifetime.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

O is for Mary Oliver: Soul Salve

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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Are there any poetry readers who don't love Mary Oliver? Heck, even people who don't read poetry read Mary Oliver. There's this acceptance in her work, this reassurance.

Her words comfort me like Judy Blume's did when I was a kid.

She feels like that rock-steady friend that you know you can't shock and who won't think less of you no matter what you're thinking or feeling.


How many times have I turned to Wild Geese in times of trouble?

So many of her poems are calm contemplations in the face of nature, small epiphanies that bring peace and understanding. 

Dang. I think I want to be Mary Oliver when I grow up. 


Monday, April 16, 2018

N is for Pablo Neruda: Love in Small Things

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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Pablo Neruda came across my radar in a Spanish textbook. Oda al tomate (Ode to the Tomato) was selected probably because the verbs are mostly in present tense, making it more possible for a beginning Spanish student to be able to parse the poem, but I didn't care about that. I was drawn in by the absurd imagery and the humor.



I began to seek out Neruda's other odes. Ode to my Socks brought such joy to my heart, with its celebration of the commonest of comforts in life: a good pair of socks given in love. Ode to Broken Things full of domestic remembrance and familial love.

Neruda did not only write odes, though. He wrote lyrically of sadness and loss. What I always feel in all his lines is the love.

Some favorites:

Here I Love You. 
Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines.
His sonnet: I Do Not Love You.

He's good in translation and a reason to learn to read Spanish!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

M is for Michelle Boisseau:

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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Michelle Boisseau was my teacher once. She and George Eklund were the two poets on the teaching staff at Morehead State University during my tenure there. 

Michelle lost to lung cancer last year, so can now only teach me through the words she left behind now. 

 Counting was the first of her poems I loved. "After a while, remembering the men you loved/is like counting stars." I think it might have been the line about the lover whose skin still smelled of milk that got me, back then. 

She was always so good at that striking and powerful first line. 

Another one, Eurydice, is my favorite retelling of that particular myth. "It isn't you he wants, but the getting you out." This poem might be why I've become such a lover of back and side door stories, that reinterpret stories I already know and love. 

Michelle was the person who turned me on to Louise Glück, who remains one of my favorite poets. 

The Fury that Breaks with that lovely structure, where the object one line becomes the subject of the next. 


This poem sent me off to explore the work of César Vallejo, for whom the poem bears a dedication. So, even there on the other side of the veil, Michelle is still telling me who to read, knowing just who will speak to me. And she's right, too. I'll miss her.