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A Trip Down Memory Lane

It’s almost supper time and I’m hungry, which got me thinking about my father and his ability to pick restaurants.

 Out to Lunch

One of the things about my father that always impressed me was his ability to pick out good restaurants on the fly. He would look around, sniff a few times, take a look at the menu and make a decision. I don’t ever remember having a bad meal when we ate together.

We lived in Manhattan and though we ate out quite a lot on Sunday nights it was always at the same few restaurants. One of them was Tony’s Italian Kitchen on West 79th street. It was owned by the chef and the maitre d’, I learned later, and according to my father this was one of the secrets of its success. In any case, they had one of the best antipastos I have ever eaten in any Italian restaurant. It had marinated peppers, mushrooms, olives, Italian salami and provolone and much more. I was floored when, after coming to Boston for the first time, I ordered antipasto and was served what was basically a large salad.

It was on a summer trip through England and France, however, when this ability came to the fore. We never had a bad meal even in London, which at the time had a reputation for dull food.

But it was in France that he impressed us most. We were in Paris and were walking around Montmartre when supper time rolled around. As we strolled down the hill, my father pointed to a restaurant close to the top of the hill, La Mere Catherine.

“Let’s try that one,” he suggested. I never did find out why he picked it.

I had coq au vin for supper. It is now many, many years later and I still remember the meal and the savory flavor of the chicken in red wine. I later looked the restaurant up in the famous Guide Michelin and discovered that it had an impressive one star. Trust me, one star is an amazing achievement. The thing is, though, that my father picked it out without consulting the guide book

Later that same trip I stumbled across what I remember as one of my first experiences of culture shock. We were in a restaurant in the French countryside ordering lunch, in French, which we all spoke. I was ordering a croque monsieur, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The conversation, which for convenience I’ll render mostly in English, went something like this:

“And what kind of cheese would you like?” the waitress asked.

“Fromage Suisse” (Swiss cheese) I replied.

“And what kind of Swiss cheese?” she responded.

I was floored. I never knew there was more than one. Ever on the ball, however, I came back with “what kinds do you have?” They had emmental and gruyere. I picked gruyere, mostly because it sounded familiar.

In case you ever face this dilemma, however, I’ll add that our imported Swiss cheese is in fact emmental. Gruyere is more like domestic Swiss.

Though I never figured out all of how my father did it, I did learn at least one of his secrets one day when I met him for dinner. He had spent the day at the courthouse in lower Manhattan, so we decided to go to Chinatown for dinner.

We were standing in line at the place he picked out when I asked rather plaintively, “Why not that place over there? There’s no line.”

Exactly,” he replied.

Dinner was delicious.

 

More on Rob’s Rebellion, and a poem from the book

Robs Rebellion 333x500Rob’s Rebellion makes the list:
The Frivolist: Reading Rainbows: 9 LGBT Books To Bide Your Time Until Summer
by Mikey Rox

http://www.pridesource.com/article.html?article=75681

How it got there:

I have been on the Haro mailing (Help a reporter out) list for several years. I don’t always look over the requests, but a while back I was reading through the requests when I noticed a request for information about GLBT themed recent novels, so I sent in the information.

And now, for your enjoyment, is a poem from the novel:

Ballad of Barad and Garan

Barad strode out one two-moon night
upon dark desert sand.
He kissed Garan upon the lips,
then listened to his demand:

“The time has come for us to part.
I’m going off to fight
Let us exchange a pledge of love
before we part tonight.”

Barad replied, “I cannot pledge
although I love you true.
I fear the consequences when
I swear my love to you.”

“Barad, your fear,” his lover said,
“is all that holds you back.
I hope one day you’ll seek within
the courage which you lack.

“I will march off to war tonight
while you remain behind.
The spirits will find fault with you
for love you have declined.”

Barad beheld the moonlit sand
as Garan strode away,
while praying spirits keep him safe
amid the coming fray.

The battle raged in dark of night.
Garan reached for his blade.
Too late, his blood dripped down his breast.
He felt his life-force fade.

Around a world went ringing out
Garan’s last, dying cry.
His lover’s name was upon lips,
Garan let out a sigh.

“You failed to promise me your love.
I lost the will to live.
Your selfish pride, inconstancy,
spirits will not forgive.”

Barad stood tall beside a rock,
the wind blew on his brow.
He said, “Perhaps it’s not too late.
Oh spirits, hear my vow:

“While I may wander through this life,
if love should come to me,
I will not turn my face away,
however hard it be.”

Barad meandered far and wide.
He fought for many years.
And every night he hungered more
for love he’d lost to fears.

One day he met a giant brute
who tried to block his way.
Barad took out his long, sharp sword.
He fought for many a day.

The giant had a longer reach,
Barad was much more quick.
He wore the mighty giant down
The brute was tired and sick.

The giant heaved a mighty sigh,
and said, “Let’s call a truce.
I vowed to stop the fighting when
I found a good excuse.”

Barad continued on his way
up to a heap of stone.
He sat and sobbed, “Deprived of love.
I’ve spent my life alone.”

He rose and wandered to a town
to find something to eat.
But in the town he found the man
he’d feared he’d never meet.

Barad gazed at the other’s face.
The stranger stared right back.
Barad heard spirits call to him,
“Here is the love you lack.

“We spirits bless you with this chance,
and you must see it through.
You must now kiss the stranger twice,
tell him you love him true.”

“I vowed I would not turn away
if love should come to me.
I’ll kiss this stranger with the wish
our love is meant to be.

“I’ve never met this man before
How will he now react?
I’ll take a risk and hope, at least,
I will not be attacked.”

Barad then kissed the stranger twice,
both times with mighty smack,
and said, “Oh, sir, I love you true,
Oh, will you love me back?”

With a smile the other replied,
“I’ve waited many years
in hopes my love would come to me,
for love to conquer fears.

I’ll love you true forever more.
You need not be afraid.
I bless the spirits for their gift,
the love for which I prayed.”

A Few Poems from November

A few weeks ago, I finished up writing the thirty poems I had planned to write in November. As usual when otherwise out of ideas, I resorted to rhyme.dots

Not Calm, but a Clamor

Conductor lifts his baton
as the speakers squeak on
and the trumpets ring out,
with a scream and a shout

Next, woodwinds take turn
as agitated notes churn
in  a flutter from the flute
sounding more like a hoot

Scratchy sounds from the strings,
basses, violin pings,
all together blast out,
whirl and clatter about

agitated notes bellow
from the bass and the cello
Big drums boom, blare, and thunder
makes the audience wonder

If there was some kind of error.
They cower, in terror.
With hands over their ears
all erupt in loud jeers

MusicalNotes

And here’s another:

An Open Letter

An open letter on the table,
left for any who are able
to make out the scrawled out scribble,
words that appear to dribble
down the torn and tattered paper
so they almost seem to caper
to the bottom of the page
Read the words. You see the writer
was most surely in a rage

But although you squint and wiggle
your reading glasses, and you jiggle
the torn paper, you’re not able
to make out the clever fable
scribbled down by clever writer,
so you curse the blank-blank blighter
and go off to try and find him,
track him down and try to bind him
long enough to tell his tale

to you. Alas, you fail.
He grabs the piece of paper,
while you gape, enraged, and caper
round and round, it’s torn asunder
You are doomed, forever wonder
what the stupid blighter wrote
on the three times cursed note

 

Beginnings

Greetings from the Poetic Muselings, and welcome to 2015. We have decided to blog once a week this month, and I have drawn the first week.

darksky3

We Muselings met online in October of 2008 when we all signed up for a workshop at the Muse Online Writers Conference.  The four of us were signed up for Magdelena Ball’s Create a Chap Book workshop and Lisa Gentile’s Creative Block Busters. However, due to a power outage, Lisa was unable to connect for the final online chat session, so moderator Michele Graf (see, even then she was our leader), took over, and we all shared how our week had gone. Afterward, a group of us started to meet online and share our poetry. Lifelines, and the Poetic Muselings, came from that.

 

As to my own, creative beginnings,  I told myself stories as far back as I can remember, stories in my head. Somehow I wasn’t all that oriented in the real world, instead inhabiting the world of my imagination. A blue fairy would appear and comfort me. The back of my closet would open and become the entrance to a new world. The door into the hall would open into someplace new and strange. But it was years before it occurred to me to write anything down.

 

I started writing poetry early, but never took myself seriously as a poet. When I become involved with my spouse, I started writing some for her. I wrote poems into spiral notebooks which I stored in the attic. When things got tense between us, I wrote angst-filled poems, again in spiral notebooks. A few were published in a small newsletter.

 

At one point I wrote a poem I wanted to keep, and that’s when I tumbled into my life as a writer. Searching for a place to store my poem online, I found a couple of communities and started to participate. I became a finalist in a poetry contest. A couple of poems were published in a print journal, a few more in an online journal. I found the Muse Online Writers Conference and connected with others. In short, I got hooked.

Holiday Poetry Prompt

snow1 2Here’s a holiday poetry prompt. My response to this is below. Yes, it really is possible to construct a poem from this nonsense.

 

Ten Characters:
1. Old Saint Nick
2. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
3. Frosty the Snowman
4. The Grynch
5. Good King Wencheslas
6. Little Red Riding Hood
7. The Big Bad Wolf
8. Sleeping Beauty
9. Glinda the Good Witch
10. The Wizard of Oz

Ten Locations:
1. The North Pole
2. An enchanted forest
3. A frozen lake
4. Antarctica
5. Rockefeller Center
6. Central Park
7. The Eiffel Tower
8. The Louvre
9. Tokyo
10. The New York Subway

Ten Objects:
1. A Candle
2. A Snow Shovel
3. An Ax
4. A red light bulb
5. Ice Melt
6. A sled
7. A wine glass
8. Needle and Thread
9. A dozen red roses
10. An Apple

Ten Incidents:
1. A Scream
2. An enchantment
3. A package delivery
4. A fire
5. A birthday party
6. A visit to a department store Santa
7. A visit to the post office
8. Raking leaves
9. Shoveling Snow
10. Loading Santa’s Sleigh

Ten first or last lines (or titles)
1. Thanks for all the Apples
2. Eat the whole thing
3. I’m allergic to fish
4. I’d rather be in Florida
5. I want a dog
6. I’d rather be ice skating
7. See you next year
8. A roll of stamps, please
9. This is impossible
10. You’ve got to try harder

Pick two characters and one from each of the other categories

 

Thanks for All the Apples

The cake has appeared
the candles are lit
the Tokyo skyline
is beautifully lit

The boy takes a breath
all ready to blow
all set with his wishes.
What? Soon we’ll all know.

With a whoosh and a swish
the candles are extinguished
then from down the chimney
who should we distinguish?

It’s Frosty the Snowman,
but oh, he is melting,
and behind him a Big Bad Wolf
is silently pelting

“My God, boy, my heavens,
oh, what were you thinking?
That wolf has a foul smell.
The whole room will be stinking.”

By this time poor Frosty
was reduced to a puddle
The wolf lapped him up.
Birthday boy’s in a muddle.
 
“Now look what you’ve done.
Frosty is gone for good.
And the wolf,” said his mom,
“is now loose in the Hood.”
 
What should you extract
from this terrible tale?
Better wish for some apples,
’cause the wolf’s sure to bail.

Character Revolt

BrokenBondsCover

NOTE:

This post previously appeared on my blog, http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/

This month’s blog round robin is about character revolt: did you ever have a secondary character threaten to take over a novel?

Boy, did I ever. And what’s more, he succeeded.

It went like this: After I wrote Relocated I was haunted by a question that I asked myself during the writing of the book: what happened to  the partners of one of my characters, Ardaval, who is living alone in a large house in the novel. While contemplating this question, as well as the question about the future progress of my main character, Keth’s, romance with Orodi, I started another novel which I had taking place four years after the first one. I meant this novel to answer both questions.

Thus I was concerned with what would become two four-way relationships, the one between Keth, Orodi, Darus, and Jozi, and the one between Ardaval, Brad Reynolds, another character from the first novel, and Ardaval’s two remaining former partners, Nidrani and Imarin.  And I had to pick a main character and a romance to concentrate on.

I’d just finished writing a young adult novel, so I picked Keth as the main character and proceeded to write the novel in the first person, concentrating on his romance. Along the way, I signed up for a writing course that required me to write 1000 words a day for about five weeks, and produced a messy, multi-point-of-view incomplete draft concentrating on the romance between the adults. This consisted of a lot of the YA version rewritten into third person as well as some new material.

I completed the draft of the YA version, which  I called  New Aleyne Novel, revised it, and passed it by a beta reader. She pointed out some weaknesses in the novel structure and wondered if a version concentrating on the adults might result in a stronger story.

So what did I do? A short while contemplating her remarks convinced me she was right, and moreover, I needed to scrap BOTH version and start over. This time I made Brad Reynolds the main character and concentrated on the adult romance. I set out to pick my point-of-view characters and to lay out the arc of the revised story.

I’d never, outside of the messy draft for the online course, written a multi-pov novel,  but I had to pick my point of view characters. Although I loved both story lines, I needed to keep the number of point-of-view characters to a reasonable number.  I picked the four characters in the adult romance: Brad, Ardaval, Nidrani, and Imarin, and in addition, the antagonist, Senator Hank Manning. I rewrote the entire novel from scratch. It became Broken Bonds.

I also needed major help managing the multiple POV’s , but that’s another story.

Here’s to Character Revolt — long may it wave.

 

Blurb:

When Major Brad Reynolds is assigned to head the Terran Federation base on planet Aleyne, the last thing he expects to find is love, and certainly not with one of the alien Aleyni. How can he keep his lover, in the face of political maneuvering and of Ardaval’s feelings for his former partners— and theirs for him?

 

 

Facing Mortality

NOTE: This post previously appeared on my blog, http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/

sky

It happened many years ago. We had just learned  I was pregnant with our second son when I got a call from my mother, with the words no daughter wants to hear: It’s cancer. My mother had cancer of the colon.  She

had had a sigmoidoscopy instead of a colonoscopy. The lesion was fairly high up in the colon, and the procedure had missed it. Hthen-doctor, not the brilliant diagnostician his dead partner, my mother’s former doctor, had been, had been slow to put together the symptoms. By the time he did, the cancer had spread to the liver. It was October, and by June she was dead.

At about the same time, I was offered some freelance work that would have brought in a significant amount of money, money we could have used. But I had a full-time job, a small son, a pregnancy, and a sick mother. I turned the work down, instead passing on the name of a friend — he later joked that I’d payed for the addition on his house. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Instead of spending my weekends working, I spent them traveling back and forth from Boston to New York.

Here is a poem inspired by this experience:

 

Mother’s Day, Margaret Fieland

He died
the white-haired doctor
with smiling eyes,

leaving you
to the quick-voiced young one,
who called your cramps indigestion.

Your hair became
sparse as grass during a dry August,

your walk
creaky as the old pasture gate,

your frame as thin
and brittle as the bare branches
of the old oak.

until finally
you lay in bed, smelling
of old guts, too weak
to lift your head.

We named
the baby
after you

You cam find it and other poems in the collection Lifelines.

 

 

 

Journey

Here’s a companion poem to the one I posted yesterday:

Journey

Wanderer, wanderer where do you go,
all alone on the road when the wild winds blow?
Where did you come from and why did you leave,
who are the loved ones you left home to grieve?sky

Hunched in your cloak with your pack on your back,
bent almost double by the weather’s attack,
you pass by my hovel. I stare out at you.
When will I ever bid loved ones adieu?

Held to a life of hard labor and toil,
grubbing for greens as I turn over soil,
I dream of far shores and adventures galore,
yet never will I set a foot out my door.

 

Taming the elusive Iamb

Note: In all of the following, I have indicated stressed syllables in bold.

Woods and Fields near my home

My woods and fields

An iamb is a two-syllable metrical foot where the stress is on the second syllable:

da dum

A trochee is a two-syllable metrical foot where the stress falls on the first syllable:

da dum

Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” is composed of iambs:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

For an example of dactyls check out Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s “Song of Hiawatha

Should you ask me, whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odors of the forest,
With the dew and damp of meadows,

And now Michele’s first stanza:

We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
   paths drag us into, not by accident,
   territory steep in our deep taboo.*

*Note: there are several ways to read this line — this is one.

So, lines one and two consist of nothing but iambs, but line 3 starts with two trochees.

One way to figure out the meter is just what I have done above: read the lines aloud, then underline or bold the stressed syllables, then see what you have. Another is to clap as you read: clap on all the stressed syllables while at the same time keeping track of whether this matches your pattern.

Another is to imitate a well-known rhyme or song. One of the only successful rhymed stories I wrote followed the rhythm of a nursery rhyme (unfortunately I’ve forgotten which one). Here are the first couple of stanzas. Can you help identify the song or nursery rhyme I tried to follow?

Old Tom Troll
had a hole by a bridge,
not far from the River Dee,

a lonely hole
not fit for a Troll,
and full of damp debris.

So Old Tom Troll
went out for a stroll
to find new holes to see.

Old Tom Troll
had a hole by a bridge,
not far from the River Dee,

a lonely hole
not fit for a Troll,
and full of damp debris.

So Old Tom Troll
went out for a stroll
to find new holes to see.

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Focus on Form: Villanelle

Welcome to Focus on Form. For the next three weeks, each of us Muselings will be writing a poem in the same form and sharing it here on the blog. 

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Form

A villanelle is a 19th century form was originally a song/dance sung by a troubadour. The modern form developed in the 19th century.

Rules

A Villanelle is a a nineteen line poem consisting of five tercets and a concluding quatrain. It contains only two rhymes. The first and third line of each of the tercets and the first and final two lines of the concluding quatrain form one, and the middle lines of the tercets and the second line of the quatrain form the second.  In addition, the first and third lines of the first tercet are refrains. Thus. let A1, B1 A2 be the first tercet, and a small a or b indicate a line that rhymes with either the A lines or the B line, the poem lays out as:

A1, B1, A2    a3, b2, A1    a4, b3,A2    a4,b4,A1   a5,b5,A3    ,b5,A1,A2

In addition to the rhymes and the refrain,  in a classic villanelle, the lines themselves should be in iambic pentameter and the repeated lines be repeated without variation.

Tip: pay careful attention to the first stanza, and especially to the end words, as you will need to find a goodly number of rhymes for them.

Examples

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


One Art
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Writeit!) like disaster.

My own try:

This poem comes from Robert Lee Brewer’s PAD challenge for April 18th: take a regional cuisine and make it the title of the poem

Southern Fried Chicken

A chicken fried in oil’s a wonderous thing
so spicy, crispy, crunchy with a golden crust
You’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

Add salt, paprika for that special zing.
A pinch of jalapeno is a must.
A chicken fried in oil’s a wonderous thing

The spicy pepper adds a bit of bling
to penetrate the chicken’s flesh.  I trust
you’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

The oil must be hot so you can bring
the crust to crispness. As we have discussed,
a chicken fried in oil’s a wonderous thing

Keep clear of boiling oil. It will sting.
If oil becomes too hot it may combust.
You’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

At last the chicken’s ready, and you spring
to action, find the flavor most robust.
A chicken fried in oil’s a wonderous thing
You’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

Your Turn

Now I open it up to you. I welcome any feedback on my poem, as long as it is constructive and not destructive. Let’s help each other improve.

I’d love to see your own attempts at the form as well. You can post them in the comments here, or on future posts, or link to your poem if it’s on a separate site.

 

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