“To hell, to hell with balance! I break glasses; I want to burn, even if I break myself. I want to live only for ecstasy . . . I’m neurotic, perverted, destructive, fiery, dangerous—lava, inflammable, unrestrained.” ~ Anaïs Nin, from a 1933 diary entry

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“Turn on the dream you lived
through the unwavering gaze.
It is as you thought: the living burn.
In the floating days
may you discover grace.” ~ Galway Kinnell, from “Easter”

Wednesday afternoon, overcast, 52 degrees.

It’s not a wordless Wednesday; actually, it’s a Wednesday full of words. I usually check my birthday sites before beginning a post to see if I want to include something about a particular writer or just mention a birthday worth nothing. But as February is almost over—a fact that I’m having a real problem wrapping my head around—and as the month happens to include birthdays of so many authors/poets/essayists whose work I love and admire (for whatever reason), I thought that I’d share a brief list. Each name is linked to a bio for that person. I’ve also included just a few of my favorite quotes and/or selections from works.

So, yeah. Lots of words for what is usually a wordless day . . . Enjoy.


  • Galway Kinnell, Rhode Island-born poet and 1983 Pulitzer prize winner  (February 1, 1927-October 28, 2014). Aside: favorite poem by him is “The Olive Wood Fire”
  • Langston Hugues, African-American poet and translator, leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance (February 1, 1902-May 22, 1967):

“Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
Bare.” ~ Langston Hughes, from “Mother to Son”

  • James Joyce, Irish novelist, poet, and stream-of-consciousness pioneer, author of Ulysses (1922), which was banned in the U.S until 1933 (February 2, 1882-January 13, 1941)
  • Christopher Marlowe, English poet and dramatist (February 6, 1564-May 30, 1593)
  • Charles Dickens, English novelist (February 7, 1812-June 9, 1870)
  • Elizabeth Bishop, Massachusetts-born poet, 1956 Pulitzer Prize winner (February 8, 1911-October 6, 1979):

“It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn” ~ Elizabeth Bishop, from “At the Fishhouses”

  • Kate Chopin, St. Louis, Missouri-born writer of The Awakening and numerous short stories (February 8, 1850-August 22, 1904)
  • Alice Walker, Georgia-born novelist, poet, and political activist who won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for The Color Purple (February 9, 1944)
  • Boris Pasternak, Russian-born poet and author of Doctor Zhivago; he won the Nobel Prize in literature (1958) but was forced by the Soviet government to decline (February 10, 1890-May 30, 1960)
  • Toni Morrison, Ohio-born African American novelist, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1987 and the first African American woman to be selected for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 (February 18, 1931-August 5, 2019):

“And I am all the things I have ever loved:

scuppernong wine, cool baptisms in silent water,
dream books and number playing. I am the sound of
my own voice singing . . .

I am not complete here; there is much more,

but there is no more time and no more space . . . and I
have journeys to take, ships to name and crews.” ~ Toni Morrison, from the jacket of The Black Book

  • Anaïs Nin, novelist and diarist, ground-breaking The Diary of Anaïs Nin published in 1966 (February 21-1903-January 14, 1977)
  • W. H.  Auden, U.S. poet, winner of 1948 Pulitzer (February 21, 1907-September 28, 1973)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay, Maine poet and playwright, 1923 Pulitzer prize winner for The Ballad of the Harp Weaver (February 22, 1892-October 19, 1950)
  • Samuel PepysEnglish diarist (February 23, 1633-May 26, 1703)
  • Anthony Burgess, English essayist, novelist, and musician, author of 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange (February 25, 1917-November 22, 1993)
  • John Steinbeck, American novelist and Pulitzer prize winner in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, an award that few, including the author, believed he deserved (February 27, 1902-December 20, 1968):

“As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.” ~ John Steinbeck, from Of Mice and Men

Personally, I always liked Steinbeck more than Faulkner, and Fitzgerald more than both, and Carson McCullers more than all of them.

More later. Peace.


Music by Martin Harley and Daniel Kimbro, “Goodnight Irene”

” . . . never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion; against injustice, lying and greed. If you . . . will do this, not as a class or classes, but as individuals, men and women, you will change the earth.” ~ William Faulkner, from a commencement speech (1952)

From the play The Cocktail Party

Thursday thoughts . . .

When everything around me begins to fall apart, I often find comfort in the words of others. Bukowski’s poem below seems especially relevant at the moment:

Aside: I’m really impressed by the YouTuber who makes these poem companion videos.


Happy Birthday to T. S. Eliot (September 26, 1888-January 4, 1965), poet, literary critic, essayist, and publisher (“The Waste Land”)

Belated Happy Birthday to WILLIAM FAULKNER (September 25, 1897-July 6, 1962), Nobel Prize Laureate and author whose work I always have to read at least twice to really understand (The sound and the fury).

“For echo is the soul of the voice exciting itself in hollow places.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The English Patient

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Two for Tuesday: Michael Ondaatje

Tuesday afternoon, partly cloudy, 83 degrees.

I missed the birthday of one of my favorite writers: Michael Ondaatje (September 12, 1943). One of my best friends from the museum, Becky Anthony, introduced me to Ondaatje and his masterful novel, The English Patient, which was adapted into an equally beautiful movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas. The Poetry Foundation has a nice bio of the author.

For today’s Two for Tuesday, I thought that I’d share some of my favorite quotes from the novel, a few more than two, I suppose. I’m also including a video with some of the movie’s soundtrack. I love movie soundtracks, and this is one that I listen to when I’m feeling very out of sorts. It is as hauntingly beautiful as the movie and novel. Enjoy.

“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.”
In the desert the most loved waters, like a lover’s name, are carried blue in your hands, enter your throat. One swallows absence.
A man in a desert can hold absence in his cupped hands knowing it is something that feeds him more than water. There is a plant he knows of near El Taj, whose heart, if one cuts it out, is replaced with a fluid containing herbal goodness. Every morning one can drink the liquid the amount of a missing heart.
He walks with her through the indigo markets that lie between South Cairo and her home. The beautiful songs of faith enter the air like arrows, one minaret answering another, as if passing on a rumor of the two of them as they walk through the cold morning air, the smell of charcoal and hemp already making the air profound. Sinners in a holy city.
And all the names of the tribes, the nomads of faith who walked in the monotone of the desert and saw brightness and faith and colour. The way a stone or found metal box or bone can become loved and turn eternal in a prayer. Such glory of this country she enters now and becomes a part of. We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all of this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography—to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.

More later. Peace.

Also, Happy Birthday to William Carlos Williams (“The Red Wheelbarrow) and Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)


The Cinnamon Peeler

If I were a cinnamon peeler

I would ride your bed
And leave the yellow bark dust
On your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
You could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to you hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler’s wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
–your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers…

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
you climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter’s wife, the lime burner’s daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

and knew

what good is it
to be the lime burner’s daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
Peeler’s wife. Smell me.

~ Michael Ondaatje

 

“At every moment of our lives we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss.” ~ Paul Coelho, from Eleven Minutes

Image result for “We are travelers on a cosmic journey,stardust,swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a m


Today is the birthday of author Paul Coelho (1947), Stephen Fry (1957) author, actor, and comedian, John Green (1977) author, and one of my favorite gingers, Rupert Grint (1988).

From John Green’s Looking for Alaska:

. . . we had to forgive to survive in the labyrinth. There were so many of us who would have to live with things done and things left undone that day. Things that did not go right, things that seemed okay at the time because we could not see the future. If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless. . . .

Before I got here, I thought for a long time that the way out of the labyrinth was to pretend that it did not exist, to build a small, self-sufficient world in a back corner of the endless maze and to pretend that I was not lost but home. But that only led to a lonely life accompanied only by the last words of the already-dead, so I came here looking for a Great Perhaps . . .

“The knack is this, to fasten and not let go.” ~ Donald Justice, from “Women in Love”

Acclaimed American Poet Donald Justice

Two for Tuesday: Donald Justice

Tuesday afternoon, cloudy and less humid after the earlier showers, 84 degrees.

Yesterday was the birthday of American poet Donald Justice (August 12, 1925-August 6, 2004), who wrote one of my all-time favorite poems, “Men at Forty.” I would always try to include this one on the syllabus of any American Literature classes that I taught, and it was always the older students who liked it best. I suppose that it’s the kind of poem that is like fine wine, best savored with some years added. I realize that I’ve featured this poem before, several years ago (April 2011), but that’s the great things about controlling my content: I can repeat things that I love.

Justice’s poems have been called elegaic and controlled. What I like best about his poems are the powerful single lines, such as the one that I chose for the heading, or this closing line from his poem “About My Poems”:

—Now the long silence. Now the beginning again.

Or these beautiful closing lines from “Invitation to a Ghost,” an elegy that Justice wrote for his friend Henri Coulette:

Come back now and help me with these verses.
Whisper to me some beautiful secret that you remember from life.

You may not be as familiar with the Pulitzer Prize winning Justice as his writing was not flashy, like, say Bukowski, but he was incredibly influential to the genre, helping to shape the work of a generation of poets such as Rita Dove, Mark Strand, and Charles Wright via his association with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. You can find a more in-depth biography on Justice here at the Poetry Foundation or here at the Academy of American Poets.


Men at Forty

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it
Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices trying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

[This poem is not addressed to you]

This poem is not addressed to you.
You may come into it briefly,
But no one will find you here, no one.
You will have changed before the poem will.

Even while you sit there, unmovable,
You have begun to vanish. And it does not matter.
The poem will go on without you.
It has the spurious glamor of certain voids.

It is not sad, really, only empty.
Once perhaps it was sad, no one knows why.
It prefers to remember nothing.
Nostalgias were peeled from it long ago.

Your type of beauty has no place here.
Night is the sky over this poem.
It is too black for stars.
And do not look for any illumination.

You neither can nor should understand what it means.
Listen, it comes without guitar,
Neither in rags nor any purple fashion.
And there is nothing in it to comfort you.

Close your eyes, yawn. It will be over soon.
You will forget the poem, but not before
It has forgotten you. And it does not matter.
It has been most beautiful in its erasures.

O bleached mirrors! Oceans of the drowned!
Nor is one silence equal to another.
And it does not matter what you think.
This poem is not addressed to you.


Music by Lana Del Rey, “Old Money”

Thursday thoughts . . .

Image result for I dream too much, work too little. — Sylvia Plath


Today is the birthday of American poet Sara Teasdale (August 8, 1884- January 29, 1933)

“Books are the plane, the train, and the road. They are the destination and the journey. They are home.” ~ Anna Quindlen

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“. . . I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them—with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself.” ~ Eudora Welty, from “One Writer’s Beginnings”

Monday afternoon, sunny and mild, 82 degrees.

I thought that today I’d complete a survey that I found. I enjoy doing these once in a while. This one is perfect for me as it’s about books and reading. By the way, if you don’t know it, you can find great copies of hardback books from all genres at Ollie’s. I know, a surprise right? Usually the books are $3.99 or less. Whenever we go there, I look for copies of books that I lost with the storage unit.

Another great place to find books is in thrift stores. There were two in Norfolk that I loved to peruse; one of them used to have a bag of books option: as many books as you could fit in a bag for $5. They were very generous in not limiting bag sizes. I really miss that place.

That all for now. More later. Peace.


“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
  1. What are you currently reading? I’m rereading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
  2. How many books have you read this year? I’m behind in my goals, having only read 12.
  3. How have your reading tastes changed from when you were a child? I wouldn’t say they’ve changed as much as they’ve broadened. As a child, I loved pretty much anything I could find in the young section of the library. Now, I still love books from all categories—science fiction/fantasy, mysteries, in particular British mysteries, poetry, action/adventure, sweeping historical fiction, biographies, actual histories, and memoirs. I also like that category known as Young Adult, although I’m not sure why it’s called that.
  4. Physical book or e-book? Only paper for me. I love the way that books smell and feel. You cannot get that from an e-reader.
  5. Where do you love to read? I love to read outside; if I had a hammock again, that would be my preferred place. I did see one of those hanging egg chairs at Sam’s Club that I would give anything to have as that would be ideal.
  6. What is your ideal reading atmosphere? background noise or silent? alone or with others? I don’t want anything going on in the background if I’m reading, and I prefer to be alone. When I was a teen, I would watch TV with my boyfriend while reading. Don’t really know how I did that.
  7. Are you a writer? I like to think so.
  8. What was your very first baby book? The first book that I remember having was A Child’s Garden of Verses.
  9. What was the first book you read on your own? I’m fairly certain that the first things that I read on my own were Superman comics, but the first book was probably The House at Pooh Corner.
  10. How many books have you read in total? A conservative estimate would be about 2,000 books.
  11. What has been the longest gap between books? I went through a really bad depression in which I couldn’t concentrate enough to read. It was almost a year without books.
  12. What are your favorite genres? See number 3. My very favorite would probably be British mysteries. I’ve been reading those kinds of books the longest.
  13. What books make you happy? This is a weird question. Reading in general makes me happy. Books that make me smile tend to be things like comic compilations such as Calvin & Hobbes or The Far Side.
  14. What books have made you uncomfortable? Why? I don’t really like romances, mostly because they are so antithetical to real life, and the writing style tends to be formulaic.
  15. Can you read anywhere? Moving vehicle? Roller coaster? I used to be able to read anywhere, but I can no longer read in a moving vehicle without getting carsick.
  16. How do you bookmark books? I have a collection of bookmarks, but I rarely remember to use them. Usually I just use whatever piece of paper is closest to me.
  17. Policy on book-lending? I only lend books to close friends or family. My other mother and I used to exchange books all of the time.
  18. Do people know you’re a bookworm? If they know me, they do.
  19. How well do you take care of your books? I cherish my books, and I prefer to purchase hardbacks. I hate it if they become damaged.
  20. Can you read in other languages? I can read a bit in French.
  21. What is a total book turn-off for you? I hate books that contain errors in grammar and syntax, and I get really upset if a book has a bad ending.
  22. What is an essential element of a good book? For me, it needs to have good plot and character development, and it needs to be written well.
  23. Genres you rarely read? I don’t read self-help books. They get on my nerves.
  24. Do you read non-fiction? Yes, I like to read biographies, especially those of writers. I also like memoirs and collections of essays.
  25. Do you read reviews on a book before you read it? Not usually, but if I do read a review and it seems intriguing, I will probably order the book.
  26. Do you judge a book by the cover? I try not to. I learned when pursuing my publishing degree that the cover design is not always as closely married to the text as it should be.
  27. Do you read cover to cover or sometimes skim parts? I read cover to cover, and I often reread books I love, in particular series such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, both of which I have read multiple times.
  28. Do you always finish a book, even if it is dull? It’s hard for me to leave a book unfinished, and I can count on my hands the number of books that I’ve actually put down without finishing.
  29. How do you organize your books? I organize by last name within genres.
  30. Favorite book this year? This would have to be The Magicians trilogy. I really, really liked those books, and I wish that there were more in the series.

Music by Keane, “Somewhere Only We Know”


Burning of the Books

Typewriters wait at desks,
stories loiter outside hotels.
Far from the boiling pulp of Thunder Bay
starved spruces in wordless bogs
wait to be books.
You who leave the bookstore
will know how the snow waits
for the white fox to venture out
when hunger is spelled in his gut,
how his tracks end in a tuft of fur
and the asterisk of blood
which is the only color on this page;
the unwritten preface to your book.
It will speak to you in your study
like the claviforms on cavern walls
that have kept felling bison
for forty thousand years.

As you open the cover
an axe will strike in the north woods
and teams of draft horses will haul
great logs across the ice.
And if you read well when you read fire
the censor’s match will fail,
the heart of a pinecone will shine.
Incendiary slogans that sleep in libraries
will inspire arsons in the night.
Fireballs will crown the forests,
and in your book-walled room
the sweet smoke of a word’s entrails
will rise from ashes of the page.

~ George H Gurley Jr.