Beauty will save the world. --Solzhenitsyn

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Friday, February 15, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Be mine, Valentine--

Happy St. Valentine's Day

Here's a lovely toy theatre with candy and hearts from Clive Hicks-Jenkins, produced by the famous Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop. (Just watch out for the witch!) 

Rollipoke subscribers will get a special Valentine from me with secret Clive art today. Subscribers, enjoy! If you want to be a Rollipoker, go here:

And go here to get your own Clivean theatre:…/hansel-gretel-to…/

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Sundry on Wednesday

Cooperstown arts news:
Ashley Norwood Cooper's solo show is still up.
New York City friends, please go...

The Likes of Us
at First Street Gallery
through 23 February 2019
526 West 26th Street, Suite 209
New York, NY 10001
Tel: 646-336-8053

What a rugged two weeks it has been! The weather was a little too focused on snow and ice. The sweet, tiny Puffcat died. The long author questionnaire was sent in. The novel manuscript was turned in at three in the morning. Many other things were accomplished that chewed up time. And now I must deal with my neglected house, for I have been giving most of my home attention to words and cat.

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Tomorrow, out pops the Valentine edition of The Rollipoke, which you (naturally) won't want to miss. Advance peek at the next book, available only to Rollipokers... Click on the link to Be Mine: that is, to be a Rollipoker. 

Nobody loves you? Nobody sends you a Valentine? Weep not! Have a Rollipoke Valentine!

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If you're at all interested in a sharp-edged critique of the state of the humanities (particularly English studies) on our campuses, I think this article by Gilbert T. Sewall is a must read--hat tip to the Prufrock newsletter. Thank God that I dropped out of academia after getting tenure because that preserved the freedom of my mind for my books. I might have been weak-willed. Who knows? Leaving the academic world protected me from rampant ideologies, which are the ruination of art.

After reading it, I was thinking about teaching Huckleberry Finn, talking with my students about that crucial, deep-down beautiful scene where Huck says, "All right, then, I'll go to hell." With no understanding of our Christian heritage and how it has been the underpinning of Western history, how can a reader even understand the huge thing that Huck is willing to give up out of love for his friend, a slave? Can a reader even feel the depths of sacrifice in that love? How can a reader see and understand that Huck is turning away from a false morality and a false vision of God and toward a true one, even though he does not know it? How can a reader have the slightest understanding of how huge the scene is, a turning point in our literary history, walking us into an American literature where the growth of the individual soul and the rule of the individual mind is central? 

Also, I was remembering what sheer fun it was to teach Chaucer in a survey course, and how much laughter and joy there was in the classroom as students had a brief lesson in pronunciation and then read aloud. To feel the words in the mouth, to have a sense of another time, another world--yet so strangely close to our own!--how precious that was. And now an English major might not encounter Chaucer at all.

There are a million things to say in response to that article, but one that has bothered me for a long time is the way that we are depriving our young writers of the best that has been thought and written. As makers, we want to stand on giants, not on little hobbits. We want enduring stone, not fragile papier-mâché novelty. We want vellum, not foolscap. To discard, to encourage young writers to assume that Chaucer and Milton and Shakespeare and the King James Bible (all those writers and translators, so dead! so white! so long ago!) are of no literary account and have nothing to say to us today is to harm young writers in the West. It is to plant their feet on sand. Yes, we want to know the writing of our own times. Sure, we want to read new voices of all sorts. We want to praise and support worthy voices of our era. But we also want to pay the obeisance owed to the glories of the past. To move forward, we dive through the past. It saddens me that such things need to be said.

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Snow is falling (I know, I know--it's the Cooperstown usual for February.) But these are lovely whirls of snowflakes as big as feathers, crisscrossing on wayward currents. And the bird feeders are busy with juncos and chickadees and pine siskins. Best of all, I finally have a squirrel-defeating feeder, so I am watching a morbidly obese squirrel (no doubt fattened on our seeds) climb up and then slide down. I've always disliked the word chuckle except when it describes something other than a laugh, but maybe this is the right place for one. Keep cosy...

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Happy St. Valentine's Day, y'all!

Rock doves by photographer Juha Soininen of Finland at

Saturday, February 09, 2019

A merchant, a stylite, and a maiden walk into a bar--

Two of my new poems are up at Mezzo Cammin here. Snips with title and first two lines:

     The Merchant and the Stylite

     Whether he was comely, I cannot say,
     But he was born in Sis, Cilicia;

     The Maiden-saint of France

     While still a child I was a thing men fear,
     The fire-struck one who has the ears to hear

I'm looking forward to reading the issue after I finish bushwhacking my way through an author questionnaire... See editor Kim Bridgford's facebook announcement below for a complete list of contributors. There's also a list with biographical sketches and pictures here.

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Kim Bridgford: It is with joy that I announce the latest issue of Mezzo Cammin, with featured visual artist Morgan O'Hara, featured poet Kathleen McClung,reviewer Alexandra Oliver, and poets Barbara Crooker, Alexandra Donovan, Jehanne Dubrow, Kathleen Goldbach, Colleen S. Harris, Brittany R Hill, Katie Hoerth, Lynne Knight, Jean L. Kreiling, Angie Macri, Carolyn Martin, Mary Mercier, Ann E. Michael, Leslie Schultz, Myrna Stone, Jean Syed, Ann Christine Tabaka, Sally Thomas, Doris Watts, Joyce P. Wilson, and Marly Youmans. With profound gratitude to Anna M. Evans for technical expertise and to Pete Duval for the cover image.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

The Disfiguration of Nature

My friend James Krueger has a new book, The Disfiguration of Nature--I have a copy but have not read it yet and will not read anything until I finish polishing my novel this week. Aiiee! But I want to give it a preliminary shout-out now.

The Disfiguration of Nature looks to have a strong thesis that readers will find challenging, whether they love or hate it. And I expect the book will find both responses, as it appears to bushwhack a new path, away from current ideas of right and left. I'm curious and looking forward to a read...when I turn in the novel!

Eric T. Freyfogle says that Krueger points back to "a much older, more respectful conservatism, one that holds high relationships, integrity, humility, and responsibility." Yet he calls what Krueger proposes a fresh cultural and moral vision. Interesting!

On Amazon, the hardcover is here. The kindle and paperback are here. On the hardcover page, you can use the "look inside" function and read some of the introduction by Freyfogle. And you can order from your local indie--the publisher is Wipf & Stock.

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"Beauty will save the world." -Solzhenitsyn

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Put on your scholar hats, please!

Anonymous portrait of a scholar or preacher
1529, public domain Wikimedia
Walters Art Museum


Working on a novel set some centuries ago, and I'm trying to figure out if I made these lines up in imitation of certain seventeenth-century poets (who? Butler?), or whether it is, indeed, a seventeenth-century couplet, maybe something like the tetrameter Hudibras:

To find if woman owns a soul
Requires a lens and puissant thole.*

I might have made it up. Quite possibly I did.

Or it might be Hudibras. But I don't have time to read the whole thing and find out. Because it might be something else. Or me.

But does it seem familiar to anybody?

Who knows? You would think that I would know, but I don't. Alas. I'm good at making up things but not always good at storage!

Picture: see caption. Wrong century, great hat...

*Ooops, I hate autocorrect! THOLE, autocorrect, THOLE!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Not lolling...

I'm not being a lagarag, to pilfer an old East Anglian word... Still working on a deadline, but I'll be back soon.

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Faulkner on writing, though the words apply to many other activities: "Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself."

Gerard Terborch 
Dutch Baroque era painter, 1617-1681 
Woman Writing a Letter, 1655 

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Epiphany card for passers-by--

"The Adoration of the Magi or The Epiphany is a triptych oil painting on wood panel by the Netherlandish artist Hieronymus Bosch, executed around 1485-1500.[1] It is housed in the Museo del Prado of MadridSpain." Public domain. Wikipedia files.

The Magi--Gentiles drawn by the call of light--offer their gifts. The gold, highest metal on the chain of being, suggests the baby's high kingship. Frankincense was burned on the Temple altar, rising like prayer toward God. Myrrh was linked to the anointing of Jewish priests and the Temple, and was used to embalm the dead. Just as we often see the baby Jesus of ancient icons lying in a manger that resembles a tiny sarcophagus, so myrrh invokes the sacrificial death to come.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Literary kickoff to 2019--

Christmas Eve tree with a weird blue haze--why?
Michael's camera mysteries....
On the very first day of the year,
on the eighth day of Christmas,
on the Feast of the Holy Name...

I am signing away a two-year option on my novel Catherwood to Toronto director Bill G. Taylor and producer Coral Aiken. As one does at the start of a new year...

Good luck to them. And now they have through the last day of 2020 to do what they must do.

Happy New Year to all! And a merry and mad medieval Feast of Fools to you.

As on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will have all five of us (plus the inimitable Campbell Higle, childhood camp friend of Rebecca) at home for a feast. Husband, sons, daughter, and friend. And that, my friends, is entirely sweet and meet and jolly.

Michael is hard at work on pies and ducks and many surprises. And I am doing a final read of a forthcoming novel while he labors with chef-genius in the kitchen.