Writer in Residence – Lord Byron – Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Paul Andruss


Welcome to another article by Paul Andruss that explores the truth behind some of our literary legends. Lord Byron was had a short life but one that left its mark on the world…

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know… by Paul Andruss

Byron in Greek National Dress

No, not me… but I’m flattered you considered it, even for a moment.

‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know’ was how Lady Caroline Lamb described her lover Lord Byron after he dumped her. Caroline Lamb was as mad as a box of frogs. Even Byron couldn’t handle her, which, God knows, given his track-record should be proof enough.

Caro Lamb (Wikipedia)

During one vitriolic public spat with Byron, ‘Caro’ attempted suicide in the middle of a ball by slashing her wrists with a wineglass. Talk about hell has no fury; she then took it on herself to blacken his name with a public eager for any breath of scandal from this rock-star.

Hang on, rock star? Well famously, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll makes you a rock-star. All you gotta do is substitute poetry for rock-n-roll and….

What d’ya think the big appeal was for people like Keats? Consumption?

Considering we have a song for every occasion from weddings to funerals, with lyrics so personal they are meant only for us, is it really so hard to image getting the same chills from a poem?

In the days before I-pods, Discmans, Walkmans, transistor radios, dancettes, radiograms and even wind up gramophones (not though I’m implying any of you are that old) music was not personal, but public. After all, you can’t take a piano on a picnic. But you could a poetry book; to be read aloud or even in dreamy silence.

Ken Russell brought home the idea of poets as rock-stars, as only he could, in his film Gothic: about the summer Byron spent with fellow poet Shelley in the villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva. A holiday that saw the creation of Frankenstein and the first inklings of vampire fiction based on Byron’s remembered folktales from his travels in Greece. In the opening scene two prim young women sneak into the villa gardens, spot the poets, start screaming hysterically and throw their bloomers at them.

Mary and Percy Shelley; Byron and John Polidori (National Portrait Gallery)

Due to the huge volcanic explosion of Mount Tambora the year before, 1816 was called ‘the year without a summer’. Byron and Shelley, along with the Wollenscroft sisters, stayed in the Villa Diodati. Imprisoned in the house by the appalling weather they did what any self-respecting rock-stars would do: got drunk and off their heads on opium, and no doubt hashish from Ottoman Turkey.

George Byron was born in 1788 with a club foot, something that caused him acute embarrassment and violent fights at school. It also added to his allure an adult: sure proof he was the Devil. His deformity possibly gave him the idea of controlling his image when famous. He personally approved all portraits, only allowing himself to be presented in certain studied poses that gave rise to an ideal of a Byronic hero: mean, moody and magnificent.

Byron Portrait (From Britannica)

So, we know Byron was a poet, even though we can’t quote any lines of poetry (*see footnote); that he was devilishly handsome (remember he approved his portraits); and a thoroughly bad lot. But who was Byron and why did the very mention of his name make men, as well as women, want to lie down and reach for the smelling salts?

One of the first things you come across is Byron’s bisexuality. Although, I think that term is a bit post-Freudian. People are sexual, and of course opportunistic. In an all-boys school with hormones raging, then…

Byron confessed to ‘violent passions’ with school friends and had a protégé at university. In later life, he admitted believing ‘consciousness of sexual difference made England untenable’. In those days, homosexuality and sodomy was not just social ruin, but also hanging offences.

Byron also had women: lots of women. One was a distant cousin, Mary Chatsworth; another was his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. Rumours of incest abound. It was claimed he fathered a child on Augusta. His introduction to sex started at the age of 9, when a serving girl visited his bedroom to ‘play tricks on his person’: her way of ensuring he did not tell his mother of her drunken binges.

Underpainting sketch for portrait of Byron’s half-sister Augusta Leigh

During this time his widowed mother’s suitor Lord Grey De Ruthyn also made sexual advances on him. The first vampire story, and possible origination of the genre, was written by Byron’s physician John Polidori during that fateful summer at the Villa Diodati. The vampire, a suave nobleman based on his employer Lord Byron, is called Lord Ruthven, making one wonder what Bryon confided to his handsome, young doctor and under what circumstances.

At the age of 21, Byron headed off on a European Grand Tour as did most young noblemen. An influencing factor may have been a friend downing himself rather than risking public exposure of his sexuality. Byron later admitted sexual freedom was also a lure.

In 1809, with Napoleon rampaging through Europe and Wellington fighting the Peninsula War in Portugal, Byron headed to Italy and through the Ottoman Empire to Turkish Greece. (Greeks and Turks still hate each other.) Here he took up with a 14 year old boy and a 12 year old girl in Athens.

(Even writing this leaves me feeling contaminated – child abuse: one of the many unpalatable facets of history. The past is not just a foreign country; it’s your worst nightmare.)

On a brighter note the Pasha of Greece allegedly wanted to make Byron his catamite. Byron only managed to evade his advances because of his title.

Returning to England, Byron wrote of his travels in the first cantos of his ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ and became instantly famous. Of course despite mounting debts, Byron, being a gentleman, refused payment for his work, which must have made his publishers very happy indeed.

Annabella Milbanke

During this time came his scandalous affairs, mounting debts and unhappy marriage. His wife’s wealthy family were ‘trade’. They had the cash: he the title. Annabella Milbanke, a ‘blue-stocking’ (i.e. educated), their heiress was their pride and joy.

She was also Caro Lamb’s cousin, which couldn’t have gone down well with her deranged relative once she realised Byron had no intention of revisiting that pasture. Fervent, pure-minded and madly in love with Byron’s poetry, Annabella believed she could cure her husband’s excesses and thereby save his soul.

Hmmm… guess what!

Eventually Byron was forced to flee rather than face prosecution for sodomy with his wife. Society gasped to learn Annabella was prepared to face such public humiliation merely to punish her husband. They suspected Caro was behind it. A trifle hypocritical considering Byron had also indulged himself in that way with Caro before marriage and Caro rather enjoyed it, even dressing up as a young manservant to facilitate the illusion.

However, exile did allow Byron to escape his ruinous debts – so it wasn’t all bad.

While living in Venice in 1816, he learned Armenian, co-authoring an English-Armenian Grammar, and eloped with the young wife of an old count with whom he resided until he left for Greece 7 years later. During this time he wrote many important works including Don Juan. His friend Shelley died in a boating accident as did his illegitimate daughter to Mary Wollenscroft Shelley’s sister. Dead of fever at the age of 5, while under her father’s loving but negligent care.

Memorial to the drowned poet Shelley in Oxford

In 1823 Byron joined the Greek fight for Independence from the Ottoman Empire. While sailing to the Greek mainland from the island of Kefalonia, Byron’s ship, fleeing the Turkish navy, landed to Messalongi where Byron joined the rebels. The following spring he caught a chill which may have resulted in pneumonia. With unsterilized instruments the usual medical practice of bloodletting left him with blood poisoning. He died on the 23 April 1824 aged 36.

He left instructions in his will for all his personal papers to be destroyed. His executors carried out his last request: making him even more of an enigma and ensuring the myth of the Byronic hero influenced generations of poets, writers and bohemians. Although lauded by the Greeks and an object of endless fascination to the British public, the establishment never really forgave him.

Byron Memorial Messalongi Greece

Byron had a daughter with his wife Annabella: the famous ‘blue stocking’. No surprise Ada turned out to be a brilliant mathematician, developing computer programmes for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine (1837): the first general purpose programmable digital mechanical computer of the modern age. The size of a small palace it was worked by gears and handles. Due to its size and complexity Babbage only completed a small part of the Analytical Engine, before his death. But all this of course is another story.

Ada Lovelace (nee Byron)

*Footnote: Opening lines of ‘She Walks in Beauty’ by Byron
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes;

©Paul Andruss 2017

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul Andruss is the author of 2 contrasting fantasy novels

Thomas the Rhymer – a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen

Thomas the RhymerFinn Mac Cool – rude, crude and funny, explicitly sexual and disturbingly violent, Finn Mac Cool is strictly for adults only

Finn Mac Cool

Connect to Paul on social media.

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

You can find all of Paul’s posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/writer-in-residence-writer-paul-andruss/

Thank you for dropping by today and please feel free to share the post on your own blog and networks.

Smorgasbord Poetry – Self- Portrait by Carmen Stefanescu


I am delighted to share Self-Portrait by Carmen Stefanescu as part of the new poetry series. If you would like to share your poem here then please contact me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and we can talk about what I need to showcase you and your other work.

SELF- PORTRAIT

I am the seagull
whose wings have been broken.
I am the frail leaf
snatched by the gust.
I am the hour
that’s already wasted,
I am a dream
that belongs to the past.

I am the foreseer
that people mock at,
Or the guitar
that has no more strings,
I’m the dried well
that won’t quench the thirst,
I am the jester
scorned by the kings.

I’m not the bright rainbow
that shines after storms,
Or the swift eagle
high up in the sky.
I am not the oak tree
defying the time.
I am just a drifter
reluctant to die !

©Carmen Stefanescu 2017

Carmen Stefanescu was born in Romania, the native country of the infamous vampire Count Dracula, but where, for about 50 years of communist dictatorship, just speaking about God, faith, reincarnation or paranormal phenomena could have led someone to great trouble – the psychiatric hospital if not to prison.

Teacher of English and German in her native country and mother of two daughters, Carmen Stefanescu survived the grim years of oppression, by escaping in a parallel world, that of the books.

She has dreamed all her life to become a writer, but many of the things she wrote during those years remained just drawer projects. The fall of the Ceausescu’s regime in 1989 and the opening of the country to the world meant a new beginning for her. She started publishing. Poems first, and then prose. Both in English.

Books by Carmen Stefanescu

Read the reviews so far and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Draculas-Prodigy-Mistress-Book-ebook/dp/B071KVQ48W

Buy Dracula’s Mistress: https://www.amazon.com/Draculas-Mistress-Carmen-Stefanescu-ebook/dp/B06XNW7RXD

Connect to Carmen

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6624397.Carmen_Stefanescu
Blog: http://shadowspastmystery.blogspot.ro/
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Carmen_Books
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/carmens007/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carmen-Stefanescu-Books/499245716760283
Google: https://plus.google.com/117216040843648957646/posts

If you would like to share your poetry and also your other written work then please contact me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Writer in Residence – William Blake A Man Born Before his Time by Paul Andruss

Status


This week Paul Andruss shares an exclusive post written for Smorgasbord. I am guilty of not looking beneath some of the books and poems that I have read. William Blake was required reading at school but I now realise how sanitised those lessons were. We never got to hear the cool bits.. or the events and writings that were frowned upon. And that lack of telling the story of the men and women behind the classics of the day meant that many of us did not revisit them in adulthood. As it was with Blake and for me… However, in his usual well researched and well crafted article, Paul Andruss does what my teacher was not permitted to do and ignited my imagination and desire to know more.

Ancient of Days (Frontispiece from Europe a prophecy- Blake)

William Blake 1757 –1827 is best remembered for lines from a handful of poems.

Jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green?

The Tyger

Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
 In the forests of the night;

Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palms of your hand
and eternity in an hour.
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all of heaven in a rage

The Sick Rose –   

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm…
  Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy

William Blake 1757 –1827

William Blake was born in 1757 to English Dissenters who had separated from the Church of England over State interference in religious matters. At the age of 10, he had his first brush with the spiritual and mystic realm that came to dominate his life, experiencing a vision of a tree full of angels on Peckham Rye Common. Blake continued to have visions throughout his life.

Around this time his parents sent him to drawing classes. When the young Blake developed a preference for engraving, his father apprenticed him at 14 to a print-maker. As a printer and engraver Blake was able to print his own poetry books illustrated with hand-painted watercolours.

Dismissed as idiosyncratic, his genius was ignored during his lifetime. An exhibition of his paintings was poorly attended and the only review hostile. In his twilight years Blake gathered a small group of disciples who kept his flame flickering until his biography in 1865 introduced him to the poet Swineburne, luminaries in the Arts and Crafts movement and the Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

The Pre-Raphaelite revival during the hippy era ensured Blake’s rediscovery. His unique artistic style and mystical poems struck a chord with a generation yearning for spirituality. Today he is chiefly remembered for his hand-tinted etchings and two collections of illustrated poems: Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794).

A large part of his work languishes unknown. These are his visionary books, a series of almost incomprehensible interrelated illustrated poems. Described by Blake as prophetic and apocalyptic, they show him to be a revolutionist.

A prophet is not a fortune teller but someone God uses as a mouthpiece. For Blake, God was the embodiment of natural truth and justice, while the church was no better than the Biblical Great Whore.

Babylon the Whore mounted on the Great Beast from Revelation (Blake)

In the Greek, Apocalyptic means to uncover or reveal; accounting for the Apocalypse of St John’s other name: the Book of Revelation. Having said that in Blake’s day the word meant the same thing we understand today: the end times. Yet in Revelation, when the old world is swept away, the righteous inherit New Jerusalem. Rather than the penalty of sin, it is the harbinger of heaven on earth.

Blake may have deliberately sheathed his work in allegory because his radical political views were considered treasonable. He was tried for sedition in 1803 after an altercation with a soldier where the old man was supposed to have cried out: ‘Down with the King!’ He was acquitted.

Blake was an advocate of the Free Love Movement, which wasn’t about throwing your car keys into a fruit bowl – I’m pretty sure Mrs Blake would have had something to say about that. Rather it espoused the political equality, and social and sexual freedom of women. It also advocated the removal of all laws against adultery, homosexuality and prostitution. And was the director ancestor of the Suffragettes and Family Planning.

Blake believed marriage was slavery. This was a time when marriages were often arranged. A woman was required to be obedient and subservient to her husband. Her wealth became her spouse’s on marriage. More or less considered her husband’s property, she was obliged to fulfil his needs and condemned to perpetual pregnancy.

It wasn’t until over a century later, Margaret Sanger opened the first birth Control Clinic in New York City in 1921. The police closed it down. A year later, Marie Stopes – scientist, academician, campaigner and author of the best-selling female sexual health manual, Married Love – opened a Birth Control Clinic in West London that fared better.

Blake was an admirer of the radical English philosopher Thomas Payne whose work ‘The Rights of Man’ played a significant role in the American Revolution and provided the blueprint for The American Constitution and The Bill of Rights. He also admired the French Philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, who most famously said: Man is born free and is everywhere in chains. He may have even met Rousseau during his exile in London during the 1760s.

England was the birthplace of revolution. In 1215 King John capitulated to the barons in the Magna Carta. In the 1649, Parliament executed King Charles who believed he was directly appointed by God. In 1688, the Glorious Revolution saw Parliament overthrow of the Catholic sympathiser James II in favour of a restricted monarchy by his daughter and her husband: William and Mary.

Yet, the American Revolution was viewed as a unique and radical event in that it enshrined the rights of citizens and created an egalitarian society. Although women were not in actuality much better off, the ethos of Revolutionary Motherhood gave women a say in rearing their children and eroded the patriarchal rights of paterfamilias. Marriage focused on love and affection rather than wifely obedience; allowing the next generation to choose their spouses and use birth control.

Educated in the newly translated Greek classics, and struggling to shake off the last shackles of absolutism in religion and politics, Europeans looked on the American Revolution as a renaissance of (in their idealised view) ancient Athens: the birthplace of democracy (rule of the common people). That was in fact a slave owning society that denied rights to women.

America a Prophecy Frontispiece (Blake)

In ‘America a Prophecy’ Blake lauds America for overthrowing tyranny, considering it a beacon of liberty and equality. In ‘Visions of the Daughters of Albion’, he has the women of England look to America, where he believes all discrimination one day will end and where they will receive equal rights.

From the Visions of the Daughters of Albion (Blake)

Blake created a whole mythology around his romanticised version of England. He renamed the country Albion, after a giant who settled here island and whose sons and daughters inhabited it for a thousand years until Brutus came from Troy… the story which begins Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘History of the British Kings’.

Blake was very much in tune with contemporary historical ideas when he created his mythology, borrowing heavily from the Bible, including the newly translated excluded books, fragments of classical myth and medieval works such as Geoffrey of Monmouth and the ancient Welsh Black Book of Carmarthen and Red Book of Hergest.

As with all his work, at the heart of his mythology is a lament for the loss of the traditional rural past and a condemnation of the industrialisation and urbanisation ruining England’s once green and pleasant land. Blake’s poem Jerusalem (in full below) is a plea to end the madness of modernity and return to Eden, where Adam and Eve were equal.

It references the medieval story of Jesus visiting Glastonbury in England with his uncle Joseph of Arimathea. Christ’s presence made England a holy land; a New Jerusalem. Where, in the words of John Ball’s sermon preached 400 years earlier during the Peasant’s Revolt…

‘When Adam delved and Eve span who was then the gentleman? From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men… I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty’

During his life Blake saw the agricultural villages and cottage industries that characterised Britain since the Middle-Ages, being overturned by farming machinery and more efficient practices requiring fewer workers. Common land was enclosed by landowners – preventing tenant farmers and smallholders the right to graze animals on common ground – denying an important source of additional income and effectively reducing them to servitude.

Abandoning the traditional way of life, the rural poor flocked to the newly expanding squalid overcrowded cities. Here they were forced to work long hours for little money and less consideration, as unskilled labour in the new steam powered manufactories – giving us the modern word factory.

Is it any wonder the French industrial poor threw wooden clogs into the machines that destroyed their livelihoods? The wooden clog or sabot gave rise to the name Saboteur.

Some analysts equate the ‘dark Satanic mills’ of Blake’s Jerusalem not with the new manufactories but the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford – spewing out the new-age men of science and engineering, and the clergy who enslaved Christ’s own Englishmen for the greedy landowner and fell industrialist.

Others, less given to allegory, point out he could be referring to Albion Flour Mills the first big factory in London, situated close to Blake’s house. When it burned down, possibly due to arson, a contemporary illustration showed the devil squatting over the burning building.

In 1776, France had helped the American Revolutionaries. This was more to piss off the English than for any genuine fellow feeling. The French Monarchy was far more totalitarian.

Thirteen years later it seemed only fair the Americans should in turn help the French Revolutionaries … despite their actions not displaying much gratitude to the French king. (In thanks, the French Republic later gifted America with the Statue of Liberty. Constructed by Gustav Eiffel, a copy gifted by America to France, stands in Paris not far from Eiffel’s Tower.)

With the French Revolution came another prophetic book ‘Europe a prophecy’, where Blake praised the French, as he had the Americans, for having the courage to do what the English would not: embrace liberty, fraternity and equality. This has led some to consider ‘The Tyger’ (in full below) a paean to the French Revolution.

Blake’s fervour is evident in lines like

What the hand, dare seize the fire?

A reference to Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods, putting man above the rest of creation; which begs the question: if man is the pinnacle of creation why are some less than others?

And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand & what dread feet

The French Revolution began among the poor and disenfranchised – the labourer working with his hands to produce a wealth he does not share. His tools, used to make profit for others, will now smash his chains. Its revolutionary anthem was the marching song ‘La Marseillaise’’ calling volunteers from Marseilles to fight tyranny-

“To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let’s march, let’s march!
Let an impure blood
Soak our fields!”

The Tyger’s concluding lines can be simultaneously read in two contradicting ways.

Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Is Blake parodying his earlier poem ‘The Lamb’ (from Songs of Innocence) with a jab at the complacent and long-suffering English working class; unfavourably compared to their French brothers?

In his complex mythology Blake thought Christ visited England. If Christ is the Good Shepherd; we are his flock. Unlike the tigers of France, Englishmen are content to be sheep and so he wonders: Is the god of universal justice, pleased to see his chosen people bought off by boiled beef and carrots?

By the time the poem was published in 1794, the ideals of the Revolution were lost to the Reign of Terror. Aristocrats and citizens alike where daily denounced and guillotined to the clack of les tricoteuses’ knitting needles. Worse the Terror played into the hands of the English Establishment who had always belittled the Revolution. The English press jocularly compared English Slavery to French Liberty in contemporary cartoons.

French Liberty and English Slavery (a satirical cartoon)

Because the Tyger is a savage beast who knows only how to destroy and devour, do we, in Blake’s last lines, hear his despair that man, by his very nature, is incapable of embracing the universal justice of brotherhood, equality and freedom?

End-piece to Jerusalem (Blake)

JERUSALEM

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

THE TYGER
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

©Paul Andruss 2017

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Finn Mac Cool

Paul has written four novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download

Connect to Paul on social media.

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

You can find all of Paul’s posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/writer-in-residence-writer-paul-andruss/

Thank you for dropping by today and please feel free to share the post on your own blog and networks.

Smorgasbord book promotion – Air Your Reviews – Robbie and Michael Cheadle and Agnes Mae Graham


Welcome to the first of the review posts this week where authors can share their latest recommendations from readers. Check out your Amazon and Goodreads and see if there is a recent one you would like to contribute to be featured in these twice weekly posts.. It will only take a few minutes.  Email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

The first review today is my own for Sir Chocolate and the Sugar Dough Bees story and cookbook by Robbie and Michael Cheadle.

About the book

A greedy snail damages the flower fields and the fondant bees are in danger of starving. Join Sir Chocolate on an adventure to find the fruit drop fairies who have magic healing powers and discover how to make some of his favourite foods on the way.

My review for Sir Chocolate and the Sugar Dough Bees story and cookbook.

This book will be a delightful read for a child, and their adult companions for that matter. A brightly coloured cast of characters, with Sir Chocolate himself created from one of the most favourite treats of all time.  Ten year old Michael Cheadle came up with the idea of this charasmatic character and also his lovely Lady Sweet. Robbie not only creates these characters from fondant icing, but composes the story in verse that takes us on this current adventure.

From a conservation perspective it is wonderful to see a children’s story that gently introduces the subject of creatures who are at risk, and whilst the villain of this piece is a greedy snail, there are parallels with our own encroachment into nature. However, the colourful fondant snail with long fangs is monster enough for this fairy story.  The other characters include sweet pink and apricot sugar mice, a cluster of endearing yellow and black sugar dough bees and very elegant fruit drop fairies.

In between the verses and illustrations are other gems in the form of recipes which are easy for both children (and some of us less proficient bakers) to make. Terrific Cheese Bread, Delightful Butter Biscuits, Jammy Scones, Rainbow Cupcakes, and one that will be made very shortly Bold Banana Bread.

This book may do little to reduce your waistline, but for children it will stimulate their imaginations and lead to some wonderful baking sessions with parents and grandparents.

I recommend that you head over and buy for your younger family members so you can enjoy too: https://www.amazon.com/Chocolate-Sugar-Dough-Story-Cookbook/dp/1911070649

You will find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34680604-sir-chocolate-and-the-sugar-dough-bees-story-and-cookbook

Also by Robbie and Michael Cheadle.

Read the reviews and buy all the books: https://www.amazon.com/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ

Read more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15584446.Robbie_Cheadle

Another poetry book that has received a recent wonderful review is My Vibrating Vertebrae by Agnes Mae Graham. The book was published by Christopher Graham and his sister after their mother’s death and Tina Frisco has written a wonderful review on Goodreads.

About the book

We all have dreams, loves and hopes; but what if you are a girl growing up in 20th century Northern Ireland before, during and after the ‘Troubles’?
From the poetic thoughts of our Mother, we get a sense of what it was like, ranging from humour, sadness, wistful thinking and sometimes just downright nonsensical, these are the words of one such girl.

Tina Frisco’s review on Goodreads

My Vibrating Vertebrae is a delightful book of poetry, comprising the works of Agnes Mae Graham and gathered and published by her two children posthumously.

As stated in the dedication, the poems span decades of Agnes’ life in 20th Century Northern Ireland, offering a flavor of Irish dialect as she puts to paper her loves, hopes, and dreams.

Two of my favorites are Nonsense Rhyme and The Women’s Rural. I can well imagine Nonsense Rhyme being read to a child who, perhaps not understanding all the words, would burst into giggles at the ending. And as I read The Women’s Rural, I delighted in the feeling of sisterhood and community it conveyed, a sorely needed phenomenon in our contemporary western society.

How Agnes must have been dearly loved by her children, Lorna and Chris, for them not only to have kept her poetry, but then to have braved the waves of indie publishing to make sure their mother had a voice in the world.

More than reading Agnes’ spirited words, I was deeply touched by the love shared between a mother and her children. I am grateful that Chris and Lorna chose to share Agnes Mae Graham with the world.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Agnes-Mae-Graham/e/B01HAJF4JK

Read more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/15428253.Agnes_Mae_Graham

Thank you for dropping by today.  Don’t forget keeping your great reviews to yourself is a shame.. share them and contact me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Smorgasbord Poetry – Rebellion in Frome by Sally Cronin


As I delve back into my archive of poems written from my teens onwards it amuses me to see what emotional turmoil I put myself through… and others.

This poem was written when I was sixteen following a trip to the West Country with my sister Diana.. as you can see I was the cat.. and I was away!

Rebellion in Frome by Sally Cronin

My mother said no, that while I was home
That my ears should stay pristine
But away from her, in far distant Frome
I laughed at being sixteen

The hardware store said they’d do it for free
As long as I bought the gold.
I sat there frightened but still as could be
Feeling incredibly bold

Out came the needle, the cork and the flame
A hand reached out for my ear
I closed my eyes tight as nearer he came
And moved away from my fear.

At home again under parental care
My bravado left behind
My secrets stayed hidden under my hair
Waiting for a moment more kind.

Then one day as I leant over my book
She gently tucked back my hair
A shake of the head and a knowing look
Filled with her love and her care

Acceptance was slow and came with my tears
As we both relived my act
But she understood the worst of her fears
Were now more fiction than fact

The girl child in me had stayed back in Frome
A woman taken her place
But, it’s good to know you can still come home
rebellion packed in your case.

©sallycronin2017

If you have a poem that you would like to share… along with your links of course, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com… Otherwise you may be stuck with mine every week!!

Thanks for dropping by and comments are always welcome. Sally

Smorgasbord Poetry – Requiem for a Grandfather by Sally Cronin

Status


I wrote verses from a very early age and filled books with them. Then I moved onto short stories; only rarely written anything but the occasional haiku. However, I am revisiting my scribbles and reworking some that go back nearly 50 years.

This one is a little more recent and is the poem that I wrote following my first visit to my grandfather’s grave in Northern France in 1998.

My mother was thirteen months old when her father was killed on November 2nd 1918. He was 31 years old and had been home for her birth following his third wound of the war since joining up in 1914. He had received this latest one when rescuing one of his officers from the front line. He received the Military Medal for his bravery.

He returned to the front when Mollie was six months old.  Her mother told her stories about him and that is the only thing that she could pass on as the few photographs she had were lost. The location of his grave in a small village of Poix du Nord in Northern France was only discovered by my sister Diana in the early 1990s and she and her husband took my mother shortly afterwards.

We visited again with my mother in 1998 when we were living about 70 kilometres away in Brussels. Standing there 80 years after his death it felt very emotional to imagine that this young man, Herbert James Francis Walsh, had died  so young but had still managed to  pass on his genes to those of us standing by his graveside, and since then to two more generations.

REQUIEM FOR A GRANDFATHER By Sally Cronin

I know you through my mother’s words
Even though she was so small when you left.
Her mother told her of your life
And how your sacrifice left her bereft.

Born back in Victoria’s reign
An Irishman, black haired, tall smiling bright
You courted a builder’s daughter
It was love for both of you at first sight.

Came war and you were first in line
To stand and fight for your adopted land.
How proud you looked so tall and strong
As you marched to the docks, kit bag in hand.

A soldier and a hero too
You never once turned your back on duty.
But returned time and time again
Horror muted by a new born beauty.

When the remaining few came home
To parades, loved ones and welcoming arms.
You stayed behind to guard your men
As they lay amid the burnt out French farms.

Today you lie in foreign soil
Tended by strangers who honour your name.
But you also live here in hearts
And a young child’s face whose smile is the same.

Your brief life carries on in us
And on and on through generations strong.
So even far in the future
A child with your blue eyes will read this song.

©sallycronin1997

I hope to post a poem a week but you are very welcome to send either a link to your own poetry or share one here with the story that inspired it.. my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Poetry Reading and Interview – Judy E. Martin


Sally's Cafe and Bookstore

Delighted to welcome Judy E. Martin to the Cafe today for her poetry reading and interview. It has been a bitter sweet week for Judy as she has left her community nursing teams behind as she begins her three year nursing university course. Very exciting and all of us in her other community of writers wish her every success.

Time to introduce Judy to those of you who might not have met her before. From my experience Judy spreads light and sunshine with her witty and very funny Poetry and then draws you in with some pathos that makes you relate to issues in your own life. As you will see her heroines had the same ability and we all hope that despite this new and important project ahead, she will still have time to entertain us.

Don’t forget that this is an interactive interview and Judy would love to have your questions about her work and new venture.. Please leave in the comments.. thanks.

The official version

Judy E Martin is in her (very) early fifties and has just entered a new phase in her life. She has recently worked as an Associate Practitioner (Nursing) in the both hospital and community settings and loves it, finally finding her niche. She has just started on a new adventure as a ‘mature student’ deciding to take that final step and study for her Nursing Degree.

She has in the past, done everything from serving as a soldier in the Women’s Royal Army Corps, to helping manage a kebab shop!

Judy has been writing humorous poems since she was a little girl. She has always had a love of words and finds expressing herself through rhyme is so appealing. She enjoys the rhythm of the words as they dance to her tune.

She draws her inspiration from everyday events that most of us can relate to and puts her unique spin on it. Her large family is often her inspiration, as is the weather, the seasons, housework, even sex. No subject is safe from manipulation into verse!

Judy lives in the beautiful county of Kent with her long-suffering husband Bob, (Mr Grump), daughter Lucinda (Miss Hap), and not forgetting Roxy, the beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, all of whom have found their way into her poems.

About Rhymes of the Times

Are you one of those people that barge through life, trying to get through it as best as you can, swimming against the everyday worries and stresses of life? Well, I have found a way to make it much more enjoyable. Don’t you think everything sounds better when it rhymes? I certainly do. In fact, I have found that everything from doing the housework to growing older, can sound more positive and less daunting when made into a little ditty. This book is about finding the humour, or raising a smile from the everyday things that we can all relate to in life, and looking at them from a different perspective. Nothing escapes versification; there is even a subject on sex! After all, that is one subject where there is plenty of room for laughter, even if it may not be the right moment!

One of the reviews for the collection which sums up the tone of the book very well.

If you love rhyming poetry, and a bloody good laugh, this book is for you. Short at just 61 pages, you could get through it during a cuppa and I promise you will laugh the whole way through. Martin is a master at rhyme, and also with twists, there were a few poems with unexpected endings, one particular line caught my eye for its clever analogy:

“Then autumn comes a-calling
And it starts a slow striptease”

GENIUS!

The book has a variety of themed sections, my favourite being the women’s section which had some outrageous and utterly brilliant poems. My other fave was called Sexting, which made me spit my cuppa everywhere!  Brilliant, a must read for any poetry fan.

Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01CLXLPMU

Time to meet Judy in person and enjoy her poetry reading.

Thanks so much Sally for having me over to be interviewed for your ‘Book reading at the Café’ feature. I feel very privileged to be a part of this new and exciting venture.

Firstly, here is a poem from my book that I wrote on reaching the milestone of being 50 years old.

Today is the day I turn fifty
And I am not going to get all depressed
There are plenty of things to look forward to
And these are the ones I like best!
You are handy to have in a pub quiz
You know all the old movies and songs
Your trivia knowledge is awesome
Because you’ve been around for so long!
You are allowed to be quite eccentric
Nobody minds if you’re odd
They just think you are a bit quirky
Or perhaps just a silly old sod!
You don’t have to always look glamorous
Because nobody looks anymore
You don’t have to spend hours getting ready
Before you can step out the door.
So although I’ve reach that half century
I’ve see no need to be sad
For I still feel life is for living
And there’s lots more fun to be had!

I have selected the following questions to answer to give you more of an insight about who inspires me, and why I enjoy writing poetry.

If you are a poet, please tell us about others who have inspired you to write and give an example of their work.

Both of my biggest influences are from my childhood. Growing up in the 1970s, there were two women who were utterly outstanding, and every time I saw them on TV I would be riveted by their performance. The whole family would be laughing and that is something that I learned from an early age. Laughter brings everyone together, and it has stayed with me ever since.

The first of these women is Pam Ayres. What I love about her is the silliness of her poetry. She talks about anything and everything, but her delivery in a broad West Country accent brings a whole lot more to the poem. The fact that she often laughs whilst reciting her poems gets me laughing even more!

Here is an example of her work.  Oh I wish I’d looked after my teeth!

The other woman is the late Victoria Wood. This multi-talented woman is a comic, actress, poet and writer amongst many other things. I could name numerous things that she has done that I admire, but one of my favourites has to be this song. Whenever I hear it, I laugh from start to finish. Victoria also has the knack of making fun out of anything no matter what the subject.

What appeals to you about writing short stories?

I am not a very good storyteller in the conventional sense as I lack the imagination to be able to grip a reader in order for them to engage with the story. However, I find that truth is often stranger than fiction, and most people like to have a laugh. This is where I can combine my love of rhyme with my sense of the ridiculous, and recount anecdotes or observations in a verse or ditty. These are short and enable the reader to dip in and out of them at will.

I have rabbited on a bit (as usual) so will now move on to answering the personal questions that Sally has asked me.

You were an associate nurse in the community and from your posts clearly enjoyed the role. What gave you the most satisfaction about the job?

There were many rewards associated with my job. One of the things that gave me satisfaction was seeing someone get better. We had a patient whose legs we had been dressing almost daily for the past year. A couple of weeks ago the left leg had finally healed and the right one was almost there. I was part of a wonderful team that worked together to do the very best for our patients.

Your poems take a slice of life and wrap it in humour. How important do you think laughter is to us from a health perspective?

We have all heard of the old saying that laughter is the best medicine, but in my opinion, there is a lot of truth there. Whenever I go to see a patient, I always try to be cheerful and jolly, and if appropriate, make little jokes with them. To see them smile or laugh makes me happy as well, so everyone benefits. It helps to lift their mood, and makes them feel included and valued as well.

We obviously enjoy your poetry on your blog and you no doubt have another collection in the works. Do you have any other writing plans, such as a novel in mind for the future?

I took part in NaNoWriMo(National Novel Writing Month) some time ago, and did actually finish it and write a novelette. It was based on truth so the story rather poured out of me as I remembered it, plus I embellished it a little. I have never done anything like that before so it was very rough and unpolished. I did edit it quite a bit but didn’t really know what I was doing! I had some very useful advice and tips from some very talented authors though, and maybe one day, it might end up published!

I will of course, still be bashing out my poems on a regular basis as they are something that I enjoy doing immensely.

Links to connect with Judy on social media.

Twitter https://twitter.com/Edwinasepisodes
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judy.martin.35110
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/judym1966/

My thanks to Judy for sharing her work and story and I am sure you join me in wishing her every success in her training to be a qualified nurse.

This is an interactive interview so please leave your questions in the comments section and Judy will answer over the next few days.  Thank you for joining us.  Sally

 

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves – Poetry – The Heart’s Journey Home by Natalie Ducey


Please give a warm welcome for the latest writer to be on the shelves of Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore. Natalie Ducey has been writing since 2104 and her first collection of poetry, The Heart’s Journey Home published in June 2015 has obviously struck a chord with her readers judging by the sentiments expressed in the reviews.

About The Heart’s Journey Home

Poetry for the soul. The Heart’s Journey Home is a collection of 23 poems that capture the essence of the fragility and the resiliency of our hearts – the brilliant beauty of life’s journey. We all love/loved deeply and most likely have been on both sides of goodbye. We know the immobilizing force of grief; we experienced hardships that have brought tears, revelations, and self-discoveries of strength unknown. These trials could easily dishearten us, but instead we choose to be more loving, compassionate, and kind. That is worth celebrating.

The Heart’s Journey Home is a celebration of our heart’s journey through life’s majestic beauty. The collection includes 23 poems titled: Reckless Words, Borrowed Angel, Nobody’s Fool, Silence of the Heart, Love’s Illusion, Fallen Angel, Let’s Dance, Where Does the Love Go, Young Love, Small Town Girl, Winter’s Gift, Destined to Fly, Eternal Love, The War Within, To my Sister on our 40th Birthday, Goodbye without Warning, Old Oak Tree, Names in the Sand, Can’t Let Go, Memories Linger, Caged Bird Sings, Surrender, and Heart’s Journey Home.

Two of the most recent reviews for the collection

The Heart’s Journey Home” is a beautiful book of poetry. I could feel the emotion written through the words. A few poems stood out to me for different reason. Winter’s Gift: “The snowflakes will melt, Join together again, Return to the heavens, Another journey begins…” I loved that idea and imagery. Caged Bird Sing: “You have seen the darkness, Yet, here you are…” made me feel hope for the future.

Heart’s Journey Home: “Believe in yourself and the beauty within, Embrace your future, Have faith, Your heart will guide you again…” was a wonderful message of hope. The Old Oak Tree was a beautiful story and my one of my favorites: “He is no longer a stranger, Every day you stop to say hello, Stories of life and love, Under the shade of the oak…”. If you like poetry with a lot of emotion you will enjoy this collection of poems. I know I did.

Nice poem collection  By Mary Schmidt on March 24, 2017

The potential of the human spirit has always amazed me. Through poetry, I try to capture the essence of the fragility and the resiliency of our hearts – the brilliant beauty of life’s journey.I believe we are connected by similar and relatable experiences. We all love/loved deeply and most likely have been on both sides of goodbye. We know the exquisite and profound beauty of love. We know the immobilizing force of grief and the anguish between letting go and holding on. We know the acute distinction between second chances and new beginnings.Life… It’s majestic and mystifying, and every day we are granted the opportunity to begin again.

Let’s enjoy the Journey!The collection includes 23 poems titled: Reckless Words, Borrowed Angel, Nobody’s Fool, Silence of the Heart, Love’s Illusion, Fallen Angel, Let’s Dance, Where Does the Love Go, Young Love, Small Town Girl, Winter’s Gift, Destined to Fly, Eternal Love, The War Within, To my Sister on our 40th Birthday, Goodbye without Warning, Old Oak Tree, Names in the Sand, Can’t Let Go, Memories Linger, Caged Bird Sings, Surrender, and Heart’s Journey Home.“I found this short collection of poems sentimental and meaningful. Ducey has a true talent for writing poems. Heads Up: When reading on my phone, I found two word errors and one error of two words together without a space, the second word with a capital first letter. However, when reading on my PC no errors are found.”

Read all the reviews and buy the collection: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZO1KJDI/

About Natalie Ducey

With a BA in Psychology, Natalie has had the privilege of working in the counselling field for approximately 15 years. Through her work and personal journey, she has witnessed the remarkable power of the human spirit. In her own words she explains, “The potential of the human spirit has always amazed me. Through poetry, I try to capture the essence of the fragility and the resiliency of our hearts – the brilliant beauty of life’s journey.

I believe we are connected by similar and relatable experiences. We all love/loved deeply and most likely have been on both sides of goodbye. We know the exquisite and profound beauty of love. We know the immobilizing force of grief and the anguish between letting go and holding on. We know the acute distinction between second chances and new beginnings.Life…It’s majestic and mystifying, and every day we are granted the opportunity to begin again. Let’s enjoy the Journey!Natalie was born and raised in Newfoundland, Canada, with her two brothers and twin sister.

She now resides in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, a Soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces, and their little dog, Bella. She enjoys kayaking and the freedom and serenity of being one with water. She is an avid reader, passionate writer, and seeker of tranquility along life’s mystifying journey.

Connect to Natalie.

Blog: https://natalieducey.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NatalieDucey
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/myheartspoetry/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalie-ducey-nee-smith-76958b77
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/natalieducey/

Thank you for popping in today and please help share Natalie’s collection of poetry around the networks. Thanks Sally.

There are plenty of FREE promotional opportunities for bloggers and authors here on Smorgasbord.. Take a look..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-free-author-and-blogger-promotion-2017/

 

Smorgasbord Christmas Party – Stevie Smith – Still Waving (after all these years) by Paul Andruss


Smorgasbord Christmas Party

I am delighted to say that my guest today, Paul Andruss is going to be a regular contributor to the blog in the coming year.. Paul not only writes fiction (details of his books are in his bio), but also writes articles on a wide range of topics. I am sure that you will enjoy his piece today on the life and work of poet Stevie Smith.

Please give him a warm welcome.

Still Waving (after all these years) by Paul Andruss

stevie smith

I am a camera with its shutter open.’

So reads the opening line of Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 novel ‘Goodbye to Berlin’. If Isherwood thought he was detached, he was wrong. Memories are not concrete like photographs. If memories are anything, they are pixels subject to change, reorganisation and deletion in the Photoshop of the mind. Like blind men with an elephant we grasp a tail, a trunk, a leg, and believe we see the whole.

As readers we imagine the author’s work reflects the life. While some writers are biographical, Isherwood certainly was, many are not. Gore Vidal complained even his fellow literati believed his scandalous novel ‘The City and the Pillar’ was based on himself. He was identified with the protagonist so strongly, it almost destroyed his career. ‘I made him up, out of my head!’ Vidal protested. No one believed him.

As writers we know our work is imagination. Even autobiography is an act of selective re-creation. If our lives were as exciting as our words, we would all be Earnest Hemmingway. (I’ll never know how that man found the time to drink so much, never mind write so much).

Isherwood’s partly fictionalised memoir of Nazi Berlin gave rise to the phrase ‘Life is a cabaret’. Stevie Smith invented ‘A good time was had by all’ when she used it as the title of her first verse collection. In relation to both lives, neither seems particularly apposite.

Born Florence Margaret (1902 – 1971), she was nicknamed Stevie after a friend remarked she looked like a popular jockey. After her father abandoned them she moved to North London, at the age of 3, with her mother and older sister. Aunt Madge joined the family when Stevie’s mother fell ill. After she died, Madge reared the girls as if they were her own – spoiling them rotten.

Stevie lived the rest of her life with her aunt, spending her own later years caring for the ailing woman she affectionately referred to as the Lion Aunt, in tribute to her courage for the life she chose; the sacrifices she made. Stevie only lived three years after her beloved aunt passed away, dying of a brain tumour at the age of 69.

It is safe to say Stevie was an all-round paradox. Intensely nervous, sensitive and shy, she was a woman without fear. In her poem ‘A House of Mercy’, she writes of her upbringing:

It was a house of female habitation,
Two ladies fair inhabited the house,
And they were brave.
For although Fear knocked loud…
…They did not let him in.

Although she had at least one beau, she never married. She couldn’t suffer fools and later confessed to having no time for men. Famously adding she had no time for Hitler either. Perhaps her determined spinsterhood had a lot to do with the social constraints marriage forced on a respectable woman in those days. Perhaps it was the thought of losing a husband to the war. Or maybe she felt she could not abandon her aunt as her father had her mother. But now I’m speculating, whereas I should be like a camera, confined to impression, ignoring imagination. Click. Click. No interpretation.

Stevie worked her whole life as a publisher’s personal secretary, retreating each night to the seclusion offered by the net curtain draped world of suburbia. Yet she corresponded and socialised widely with fellow artists and writers. They variously described her as naive and selfish in some ways, and formidably intelligent in others. A spoiled child while, at the same time, a resolutely autonomous woman.

Her work contains all the contradictions of her personality. She wrote 3 obscure novels, one she considered an absolute failure, and some books of a poetry that was at once comic and serious. An excellent word-smith, she effortless wrapped the most unsettling observations in simple jokey verses resembling nursery rhymes, to which she often added quirky line drawings.

In comparison, her contemporaries Isherwood and Vidal had far more adventurous lives. They were not only men but also from privileged backgrounds. Stevie was bourgeois, with all the ticks and winces of her class – which she never ceased to mock, while at the same time bowing to their restrictions. In religion she variously described herself as ‘an Anglican agnostic’ or a ‘lapsed atheist’ acknowledging…

‘There is a God in whom I do not believe
Yet to this God my love stretches.’

images

In 1957 she published a poetry collection titled Not Waving but Drowning. It included her famous poem of the same name: observers seeing a swimming man mistakenly believe he is waving to them…

‘Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.’

Fame came late to Stevie. It was not until the early 1960s that she established a reputation as a bona fide British eccentric after making a number of broadcasts for the BBC. Fellow poet Sylvia Plath wrote to her in 1962 confessing to be‘a desperate Smith-addict’ and expressing an interest in meeting. They never did meet. Soon after writing Plath committed suicide.

Sylvia is easier than Stevie. Knowing the destination we examine her work for the chosen path, taking forensic snapshots along the way. As if her end was inevitable. Stevie leaves no trail of breadcrumbs. No clues, just speculation about what went on inside her head. Unless you really believe writers only tell the truth. Her life might be an open book, but it is not an easy read.

She stated the certainty of death was the reason suicide never appealed during her lifelong bouts of depression. She was fascinated by death, who she described as ‘the only god who must come when called’. It started at the age of 7 when she was confined to a sanatorium with a type of tuberculosis. When informed her mother’s end was so swift she ‘died in minute’, the 16 year old Stevie coolly asked, ‘How long is a minute?

Stevie claimed her life was one of quiet desperation. For this reason people often take ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ as significant. Yet unlike the man in the poem, Stevie never swam too far out. Her mind may have plumbed the dangerous currents of deep emotion, but life was lived in the shallows, even if they seem murky rather than sunlit.

If the poem is at all emblematic, perhaps it is of Stevie living her life waving not drowning. Something we should remember when life treats us harsh, as life invariable does. For even when things go well, somehow we manage to feel vaguely dissatisfied by it all.

At such times, we should count our blessings and celebrate our dullness and moments of brilliance, our contrariness and conformity; our innocence and guilty pleasures; the secret smiles (regardless if they were shared or solitary); the helpless laughter when tears ran down our faces and the tears that came when we weren’t laughing; the times we exceeded expectation and the times we failed to rise to the occasion; the fact that some people love us while others don’t; our disappointments and triumphs – no matter how small; our friends, and all the lion aunts.

And think, ‘You know what Stevie. I’m still waving too. Not drowning, but waving!

*******

Stevie is a 1978 biographical film of the poet’s (un)remarkable life. If the redoubtable Glenda Jackson playing Stevie Smith isn’t appeal enough, then I can only assume you are not reading this. So, if you feel stuffed to the gills with Christmas turkeys and want to clean house for the New Year then put your soul through a wash and spin here:

Image courtesy of http://therumpus.net/2016/02/all-the-poems-by-stevie-smith/

BUY all of Stevie Smith’s Poetry: https://www.amazon.com/Stevie-Smith/e/B000APHOPY

fairies

About Paul Andruss in his own words…..

If I were a musician I would be Kate Bush or the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; but without the mental issues or dependency on prescription drugs. For Brian not Kate! I can talk about anything except myself, so let’s talk about my work.

Paul Andruss Mac Cool

I’ve written 4 novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download. Hint! Hint!

Thomas the Rhymer Paul Andruss

About Thomas the Rhymer.

11 year old British schoolboy, Jack Hughes, sees a fairy queen kidnap his brother. With friends Catherine & Ken, Jack embarks on a whirlwind adventure to return Thomas the Rhymer to fairyland & rescue his brother

What’s been said about … Thomas the Rhymer

‘Fans of Harry Potter & Narnia will love Thomas the Rhymer’

‘Thomas the Rhymer leaves you feeling like a child curled up in a comfy armchair on a wet & windy afternoon, lost in a good book’

‘Spellbinding! An ideal Christmas read for young & old alike!’

Download Free from Paul’s website: http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/

Find out more about Paul and connect to him.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

My thanks to Paul for a fascinating look at the life and work of this enigmatic poet Stevie Smith.  If you missed Paul’s Christmas story earlier in December here is the link.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/smorgasbord-christmas-party-guest-paul-andruss-with-a-christmas-tale-of-woe/

Your feedback is treasured.. do please leave a comment and always delighted if you add a link to your own blog so that people can head over and meet you in person. Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Christmas Party – Guest Judy E. Martin -‘Twas the Night Before Christmas


christmas party

We are very lucky to welcome Judy E. Martin to the party today with a special poem for Christmas. Judy published her collection earlier this year Rhymes of the Times which has enjoyed great reviews. A little more about that later…. first however… here is Judy’s gift for us today.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Judy E. Martin

‘Twas the night before Christmas, with presents to wrap
The turkey still thawing, no time for a nap!
The stocking was dragged out from last year
We’re hoping and praying St Nick will appear!

Miss Hap was all nestled snugly in bed
With iPhones and Converses going around in her head
Mr Grump, me and Roxy at last went to bed
To get ourselves rested for the big day ahead!

When out on the square there arose such a row
I awoke to see what was happening now!
I looked out the window and saw a large crowd
“Bugger off home!” I shouted aloud.

The moon was hidden by a cloudy grey sky
But I thought I saw something out the corner of me eye.
Eight lively reindeer so happy and bright
Were guiding a sleigh through the darkness of night

With a little old driver so chubby and cute
Who appeared to be wearing a red and white suit!
His reindeer were racing enjoying the game
He wanted attention so called them by name.

Now Dasher, now Dancer now Prancer and Vixen
On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen
Head for the roof! Head for the trees!
Now hurry up, hurry up, hurry up please!

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly
Are swirling around in the wintery sky
This little old man with his sleigh full of toys
Was ready to reward the good girls and boys

And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof
The clanking and banging of their bloody great hooves!
The next thing I knew, I heard a loud ‘BOOM’
And St Nicholas had landed in my front room!

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his toes
And I couldn’t help smiling at his odd-looking clothes
He had a large sack that was filled to the top
He looked like a man who had just robbed a shop!

His eyes how they twinkled in spite of his years
His nose was all rosy – and so were his ears!
His mouth was formed into a huge cheesy grin
He appeared as if he’d been hitting the gin!

The butt off a cig was clenched in his lips
And his belt was a little snug round his hips.
The size of his tummy was really quite shocking
And it swayed side to side as if it were rocking!

He was jolly and plump a right happy old thing
And I was excited to see what gift he would bring
He looked at his sack and gave me a smile
And added a parcel to Miss Hap’s huge pile!

He spoke not a word but kept filling her stocking
Then gave me a look that was kind of mocking
And then in an instant he was no longer there
He appeared to have vanished into the night air.

He sprang to his sleigh, as night became dawn
And then he was off, it was now Christmas Morn
But, I heard him call out as he opened a beer
“Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year!”

©JudyEMartin 2016

About Judy E. Martin

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Judy Martin has just turned fifty and has entered a new phase in her life. She recently started work as an Associate Nurse in the community and loves it, finally finding her niche. She has in the past, done everything from serving as a soldier in the Women’s Royal Army Corps, to helping manage a kebab shop!

Judy has been writing humorous poems since she was a little girl. She has always had a love of words, and expressing herself through rhyme is so appealing. She enjoys the rhythm of the words as they dance to her tune.

She draws her inspiration from everyday events that most of us can relate to and puts her unique spin on it. Her large family is often her inspiration, as is the weather, the seasons,housework, even sex. No subject is safe from manipulation into verse!

Judy lives in the beautiful county of Kent with her long-suffering husband Bob, (Mr. Grump), daughter Lucinda (Miss Hap), and not forgetting Roxy, the beautiful Cavalier King Charles spaniel

About Rhymes of the Times.

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Are you one of those people that barge through life, trying to get through it as best as you can, swimming against the everyday worries and stresses of life? Well, I have found a way to make it much more enjoyable. Don’t you think everything sounds better when it rhymes? I certainly do. In fact, I have found that everything from doing the housework to growing older, can sound more positive and less daunting when made into a little ditty.

This book is about finding the humour, or raising a smile from the everyday things that we can all relate to in life, and looking at them from a different perspective. Nothing escapes versification; there is even a subject on sex! After all, that is one subject where there is plenty of room for laughter, even if it may not be the right moment!

One of the recent reviews for the book.

If you love rhyming poetry, and a bloody good laugh, this book is for you. Short at just 61 pages, you could get through it during a cuppa and I promise you will laugh the whole way through. Martin is a master at rhyme, and also with twists, there were a few poems with unexpected endings, one particular line caught my eye for its clever analogy:

“Then autumn comes a-calling
And it starts a slow striptease”

GENIUS!

The book has a variety of themed sections, my favourite being the women’s section which had some outrageous and utterly brilliant poems. My other fave was called Sexting, which made me spit my cuppa everywhere!

Brilliant, a must read for any poetry fan.

Read the reviews and BUY the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judy-E-Martin/e/B01CPOB0M0

Links to connect with Judy on social media.

Blog: http://www.edwinasepisodes.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/Edwinasepisodes
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judy.martin.35110
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/judym1966/

Thank you to Judy for such a magificent piece of verse as her gift to the party and I hope that you have enjoyed.. please leave your applause in the comments section and spread the word.. thanks Sally