POEtry Wednesday*

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
—“Alone,” by Edgar Allen Poe

What can I say about Edgar Allen Poe that hasn’t been said before? What can anyone say about a man who achieved fame and fortune after death largely because a fellow writer** he insulted in life tried to ruin him with lies that made him immortal?

Imitation
(Edgar Allen Poe)

A dark unfathomed tide
Of interminable pride –
A mystery, and a dream,
Should my early life seem;
I say that dream was fraught
With a wild and waking thought
Of beings that have been,
Which my spirit hath not seen,
Had I let them pass me by,
With a dreaming eye!
Let none of earth inherit
That vision of my spirit;
Those thoughts I would control,
As a spell upon his soul:
For that bright hope at last
And that light time have past,
And my worldly rest hath gone
With a sigh as it passed on:
I care not though it perish
With a thought I then did cherish

What do you say about a man who wrote about Ravens and invented detective fiction and did Gothic Horror like whoa and fell in love with a fourteen-year old girl and married her, and made her happy until her death?

Eulalie
(Edgar Allen Poe)

I dwelt alone
In a world of moan,
And my soul was a stagnant tide,
Till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride-
Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my smiling bride.

Ah, less- less bright
The stars of the night
Than the eyes of the radiant girl!
That the vapor can make
With the moon-tints of purple and pearl,
Can vie with the modest Eulalie’s most unregarded curl-
Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie’s most humble and careless curl.

Now Doubt- now Pain
Come never again,
For her soul gives me sigh for sigh,
And all day long
Shines, bright and strong,
Astarte within the sky,
While ever to her dear Eulalie upturns her matron eye-
While ever to her young Eulalie upturns her violet eye.

What’s left to say about this man who died under mysterious circumstances that, as it seems now, had nothing to do with alcoholism or drugs or psychosis, or even heartbreak?*** Who inspired such affection that a secret admirer left roses and cognac on his grave on his birthday for decades until his centennial?

Well . . .

You could say that he wrote some damn fine poems, some of which^ move from bright to dark and straight to skewed like a lively song played by a violinist suffering from a slow-acting poison, until the bow drags down on the strings and mocks the melody:

Bridal Ballad
(Edgar Allen Poe)

The ring is on my hand,
And the wreath is on my brow;
Satin and jewels grand
Are all at my command,
And I am happy now.

And my lord he loves me well;
But, when first he breathed his vow,
I felt my bosom swell-
For the words rang as a knell,
And the voice seemed his who fell
In the battle down the dell,
And who is happy now.

But he spoke to re-assure me,
And he kissed my pallid brow,
While a reverie came o’er me,
And to the church-yard bore me,
And I sighed to him before me,
Thinking him dead D’Elormie,
“Oh, I am happy now!”

And thus the words were spoken,
And this the plighted vow,
And, though my faith be broken,
And, though my heart be broken,
Here is a ring, as token
That I am happy now!

Would God I could awaken!
For I dream I know not how!
And my soul is sorely shaken
Lest an evil step be taken,-
Lest the dead who is forsaken
May not be happy now.

You might also say he’s the perfect poet—the perfect writer—for a Halloween post, and you would be right.^^
But that’s not all that he is, or was.

When you get beyond the Tell-Tale Hearts and Nevermore, you find a clever, talented man—not necessarily a cheerful one, granted—who wanted to make a living as a writer and did everything he could to make it work.

And a man who, despite all this, was anything but self-delusioned:

The Happiest Day, the Happiest Hour
(Edgar Allen Poe)

The happiest day- the happiest hour
My sear’d and blighted heart hath known,
The highest hope of pride and power,
I feel hath flown.

Of power! said I? yes! such I ween;
But they have vanish’d long, alas!
The visions of my youth have been-
But let them pass.

And, pride, what have I now with thee?
Another brow may even inherit
The venom thou hast pour’d on me
Be still, my spirit!

The happiest day- the happiest hour
Mine eyes shall see- have ever seen,
The brightest glance of pride and power,
I feel- have been:

But were that hope of pride and power
Now offer’d with the pain
Even then I felt- that brightest hour
I would not live again:

For on its wing was dark alloy,
And, as it flutter’d- fell
An essence- powerful to destroy
A soul that knew it well.

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*I’d apologize, but you know I wouldn’t mean it.

**One Rufus Griswold, whose revenge backfired so badly his only remembered literary achievement is his enemy’s biography.

***It actually might have been politics—he went missing and was found delirious in a polling place, possibly shanghaied there to vote more than once.

^Though not all:

I’ll tell you a plan for gaining wealth,
Better than banking, trade or leases —
Take a bank note and fold it up,
And then you will find your money in creases!
This wonderful plan, without danger or loss,
Keeps your cash in your hands, where nothing can trouble it;
And every time that you fold it across,
‘Tis as plain as the light of the day that you double it!
—“Epigram for Wall Street”

^^But Christina Rossetti is a close second. Maybe next year.

[Insert Witty Post Here]

I don’t know if I’m up for witty and thought provoking today.

My mind is full of stuff that needs doing:  packing for Jane’s Concordia trip; calling my eye doctor for a well-overdue appointment; doing laundry so Jane can take clothes with her on her Concordia trip; calling the billing office of our pediatrician, now that our insurance company has finally accepted that our five-year old isn’t insured through her workplace; printing off the list of Concordia contraband and frisking Janie for said items the morning of the trip; figuring out which plot idea I’m doing for Nano, because the last thing I need is to put fingers to keyboard and go blank; placing travel money in specifically-labeled envelopes so my darling older daughter doesn’t use all of her meal funds for tee-shirts and candy; figuring out how to personalize my query letters so I don’t sound like a stalker; consoling Sunny because kindergarteners can’t go to Concordia; making an extremely overdue appointment with the dentist; for the love of all that is holy buying kitty litter before the city’s Hazmat team comes after us or the cat takes things into his own paws; and keeping the rest of the family from throwing Janie out the window because she’s gone into complete Vacation Mode and doesn’t see why she has to do homework, turn down the volume on the television or herself, or be decently civil to people.

More importantly, I haven’t heard (or heard back) from three people* I know on the East Coast and while I realize their priority at the moment isn’t to drop me a reassuring line, I’m worried that they don’t have the power—pick your meaning—to do so.

So if you know or suspect that we have mutual friends, acquaintances, or family in Sandy’s path or wake and you know they’re okay (or not, because knowing is better than not knowing) or you are a friend, an acquaintance, or family and you’re able to do so,**   please get in touch with me somehow, as soon as you can?

Thanks.

I’ll be over here distracting myself with the rest of the list . . .

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*I’ve heard from the rest of them/you, or at least know that they’re/you’re well from their your e-mails and comments and Facebook statuses (statusi?).  Whew!!

**Or even if you have no idea  whom I know but you want to share news about your own friends, acquaintances, and family

NanoWHYmo?

About seven years ago near the end of April, the librarian in charge of selecting for the 800s handed me a writing book and said, “You write, right?  I’m not sure about this one—could you take a look and see if it’s legit?”

One look at the cover, and I understood her misgivings.

No Plot?  No Problem! by Chris Baty

A whole novel?  In 30 days? Without a plot?

Right.

But I’m not one to judge a book by its cover,* so I took it home and read it.  Then I bought my own copy, recommended that my co-worker buy two more for our branches, and e-mailed our assistant director about a potential programming bonanza, come November.

It turns out that Chris Baty isn’t a scam artist or delusional—he’s the founder of National Novel Writing Month and his book is full of tricks, tips, and strategies to help you meet the Nanowrimo challenge.

For those of you who haven’t heard of any of this,** Nanowrimo is an annual event in which people all over the world pledge to write a 50,000 word ‘novel’ in one month.

Pens or pixels up the first second of November first, pens or pixels down the last second of November 30th.

There aren’t many rules.  You can prep, or not.  You can set a strict regimen of 1,667 words a day, or not.  You can join a local group for support, or go it alone.  You can use any medium to write, you can write about anything, and most importantly, you never have to show your work to anybody. 

Ever.

Seven late Aprils ago, I’d never finished a long piece of fiction—sure 50,000 words was more of a novella, but it was longer than anything I’d managed to write without losing interesting or momentum.   Nanowrimo sounded like a good deal, but I wanted to get started now.

And I remember looking at the calendar and thinking, “Wait.  May has thirty-one days.”

Two days later, I was off and writing.  Thirty-one days after that, I was exhausted, but victorious.

My imagination hurt, my eyes hurt, and my kidneys wanted to have a quiet word about my caffeine consumption, but I’d finished a long piece of fiction.

It wasn’t a good long piece of fiction^ but that wasn’t the point.  Or maybe it was—I’d powered past my inner editor like a marathoner breaking through a wall, which meant it could be done.

And what’s more, I’d found the time, despite a two-year old, a husband, three cats, and a full-time job, none of which seemed like the (loving, essential, first-prioritied, ahem) obstacles they had before I’d tried.

So . . .

I’m going to try it again this year, without that extra day’s grace and two of the cats and with a second kid, a MIL, a Watson . . . and a blog.

I’m not going in completely blind this time—I’ve been following Alex Sokoloff’s suggestions for Nano prep, just to see if they make a difference^^ and I have a pretty good idea of the general plot.^^^

But starting Thursday, my posts aren’t going to be as long (I can hear you cheering, you know) and might not be as frequent (stop it).

If anyone would like to support me in my endeavors by offering a guest post, or by sharing a favorite poem or two—original stuff would be awesome—on a Wednesday, please e-mail me.°  Soon.

Anyone else want to throw caution to the winds and join me?

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*I’ll judge covers plenty all by themselves, though, especially over at SMTB, because holy cow.

**You probably have, but humor me—I need a blog post, here.

***Did I get that right?  I think I did.

^Not even after several drafts, though I recently brought the last incarnation out of the drawer to take another look, because you never forget your first, even when you should . . .

^^They’re going to make a difference to my next book, I can tell you that.

^^^Or plots, because it’s tempting to try to jump-start my next book but it might be fun to run  with something completely different.  I do know that the working title will be Pirate Ninja Nuns from Mars because why not?

° The poetry posts can be anonymous and/or commentary-free, if you like.  If  you want to share someone else’s poem, it has to be in the public domain or we’ll need permission to post the whole thing—but we can always share a few lines and link to it if it isn’t and we don’t, so just send ’em!

Six Sentence Sunday: Full Metal Librarian XLVI (Degrees of Separation)

Six Sentence Sunday is open to all writers. Just pick a six sentence passage from anything you’ve written—published, unpublished, whatever—and post it on your blog on Sunday.

Registration for the upcoming Sunday list opens the previous Tuesday evening at 5pm CST. More information is here.

Check out all the talent!

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The Pressman’s murdered wife and Clyota’s murderous mother share a posthumous connection:

“She was the best of the best—we were the best of the best, together.  We won awards for our scoops, shared bylines, but she won investigative awards on her own as well.

“When the population of MoonShot was allegedly murdered,” he went on, ignoring my flinch, or simply not seeing it, which struck me as worse, “Jessica was offered exclusive coverage of the forensics team by Gladstone-Klein, the major financial partner for the base.”

I knew about Gladstone-Klein—my mother had been on the Oversight Committee.  She’d complained more than once that the corporate liaison was going to drive her insa—I grimaced.

“It was the story of a lifetime,” the Pressman was saying, “and she signed immediately.”

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 Previous Installments:

First ♦ Second ♦ Third ♦ Fourth ♦ Fifth ♦ Sixth
Seventh ♦ Eighth ♦ Ninth ♦ Tenth ♦ Eleventh ♦ Twelfth  ♦ Thirteenth
Fourteenth ♦ Fifteenth ♦ Sixteenth ♦ Seventeenth
Eighteenth ♦ Nineteenth ♦ Twentieth ♦ Twenty-first ♦ Twenty-second
Twenty-third ♦ Twenty-fourth ♦ Twenty-fifth ♦ Twenty-sixth
Twenty-seventh ♦ Twenty-eighth ♦ Twenty-ninth ♦ Thirtieth
Thirty-first ♦ Thirty-second ♦ Thirty-third ♦ Thirty-fourth  ♦ Thirty-fifth
Thirty-sixth ♦Thirty-seventh ♦ Thirty-eighth ♦ Thirty-ninth
Fortieth ♦ Forty-first ♦  Forty-second ♦ Forty-third
Forty-fourth ♦ Forty-fifth

Something the Matter

Jordan Matter, that is.

Mr. Matter is a photographer who recently released a book, Dancers Among Us.

The trailer, which I first saw on Janet Reid’s blog a few days ago,* blew me away:

So I investigated.**  And found several more videos revealing how some of the photos in the book came to be taken.  This one in particular involved some foreshadowing:

He blogs about this one here.  In fact, if his book is only a fraction as fascinating as his blog, I need to buy one for everyone on my holiday lists and two for me.  I lost an hour and a half going through his archives yesterday, and regret nothing.

His Vimeo channel*** also features a terrific—and slightly longer—video about a shoot he did for the Paul Taylor Dance Company’s 2012 Moving! campaign. It’s amazing and weird in the best way and Mr. Matter’s enthusiasm and powers of persuasion are undeniable—as you can see from this look at how he set up one of the shots for Dancers Among Us:

I don’t know if my awe for Mr. Matter’s work  is in part because I’m personally incapable of taking a reliably focused image of anything but my own thumbs, but I’m pretty sure most of it is about his talent and skill and sheer, obvious joy in his art.

What an inspiration!

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*And if you didn’t, why aren’t you reading her blog?

**Okay, investigate implies that I had enough brain function at the time to do much more than click through to another pretty video and stare at it over endless mugs of hot tea and wads of truly disgusting tissues before hitting the button for another one, like a particularly contagious lab rat craving alfalfa pellets.  But I did manage to bookmark most of it and, I think, thank Ms. Reid for solving two problems on my Christmas Impossible list.

***He has a Youtube Channel, too—check out the shoot at Grand Central Station and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.