writing


I don’t usually share my own writing (other than blog posts, obviously). This has to do with the label “non-writer” which I gave myself many moons ago. And I dubbed myself a non-writer simply because I knew I could never compare to those writers I admire so much. But, since I’m now about to be published for the third time, I suppose it’s time to admit that I am a writer….at least sometimes. And with that part time admission, I’d like to share the story which is being published in the very near future…don’t worry, it’s a short story! Really short….shorter than most short stories. 😉 And now I’ll stop prattling….my almost published, shorter than a short story, story:

 

Pomegranate Seeds  whole-and-cut-pomegranate

The sun bounced off the waves, throwing shards of shimmer over the water, like a disco ball at a high school prom. The day was fine, all light and warmth, as the boat with its two passengers slid across the rippled river, silently…stealthily. The warm breeze touched the young girl’s face, and gently mussed her hair, like a mother’s soft embrace. Mother. She sadly sighed.

Yes, the day was fine as she sat in the boat, watching the boatman steadily row. But despite the sun and breeze, she knew the darkness was coming. It was looming up behind her. Its sharp, cold teeth were bared. It was ready to pounce. She felt it growing in the distance, but she would not look back. She couldn’t bear the pain of her own creation.

As they travelled, the waves began to rise, lapping at the sides of the boat. The treetops stretched now bony fingers toward the sky, and seemed to scrape and claw at the abundance of dark clouds as the wind howled through their limbs. She felt the gale build, as it grabbed at her with its rimy tentacles. I AM HERE!!LOOK AT ME!!! it screamed, pulling at her hair and scraping her face with icy talons. I’m sorry, she whispered. I’m so sorry… She hugged herself to keep out the bitter wind, which shrieked around her, but it was only a matter of time. The darkness was poised to overtake them. She was helpless to stop what she had so foolishly started.

And then she saw it. She felt her panic rise up as their destination rose up into view. Entering that cave would be like death for her, and all that surrounded her would die with her. It was as if the very earth was mourning her loss. Cold and bitter barrenness would prevail. For her and for the world. As they were about to enter the mouth of the cave, she noticed one small rebellion. A lone woman stood, holding a sign, which read “Freedom For Persephone!” Freedom…she sighed, and she closed her eyes. A tear slid down her cold cheek as the darkness enveloped them, leaving the rebel alone to brave the benumbing cold and snow which suddenly surrounded her. All was dead. All was barren. All was lost.

~Heather Sarsfield 2014

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It is unfortunate, but I’m not always well versed in self esteem. In fact, I tend to second guess myself far too often, only seeing the negative aspects of what I have done or said and completely ignoring the fact that I might have said or done something quite brilliant….which, from time to time, I do actually do or say. Seriously. I really do. I know…..I’m surprised to hear it, too, and I’m the one saying it. See? Self esteem and I are not really on complete speaking terms. I know….don’t even ask what my point is, because you know I have one. I always do.
Today, I spoke to my favorite professor at school. I’ve had her for three classes, so far, and her insights as well as her guidance are just amazing when it comes to literature. I can’t exalt her literary insights enough. When I went back to school in the Spring of 2010, it was her lit class that I took, and I learned SO much in that class…about literature, but also about myself. Which kind of leads me even closer to my point…
As I said, that American Writers class taught me way more than I thought it would (especially since I was so intimidated by the fact that it was an upper division course, and not only was I a Freshman, I also had been out of school for over 20 years). I knew I’d learn more about various American writers…that was a given. And since I was more steeped in British writings, I knew there was quite a bit to learn. The styles between the two are so completely different, that it was really strange to delve into the American after being a self-proclaimed British writing enthusiast for so long (and thereby avoiding American writers). But, along with learning about the technical differences about the two types, as well as genres, I learned a lot about ME. I learned that I am really, REALLY good at literature; at reading and comprehending it, as well as pulling it apart and analysing what the author meant when they wrote what they wrote. And, I learned that I love it, even more than I thought I loved it. If I had to do this for the rest of my life, I would be absolutely contented. Reading and analysing….there is something absolutely sublime in the sheer concept, at least to me.
But this is about self esteem…primarily MY self esteem. My reasoning for meeting with my professor (and advisor) was to get my final papers from her, from the Spring 2011 semester (I had her for two classes last semester, which was hard since she requires SO much reading, but hard in a good way). I am always very interested in how I end up doing on my final papers in my Lit courses, because I learn a lot from the grades I receive on those papers. In this case, I did perfectly on my upper division (a 200 out of 200) and I was ten points shy of a perfect score on my 200 level course (240 out of 250 points). She discussed the reasoning behind the ten points off on the latter paper, and I understood as well as agreed with her reasoning. I made silly mistakes….I knew everything she was telling me, and I even knew these things when I wrote the paper, but for whatever reason, I focused in on the wrong areas. Not that I was wrong…I just wasn’t complete. And this is why I ask for my final papers back; I learned quite a bit when she and I discussed that paper, and it will absolutely help me to become a better literary scholar.
In the course of our discussion, we were talking about things related to literature, and I confessed that I knew I’m damn good at what I do. I GET literature, and I know how to write about it. My writing proves that I get it, because I know I get flashes of brilliance in what I write. I know this sounds haughty and quite egotistical, but it’s true. I do have moments of brilliance. I also have moments of complete ridiculousness where I completely miss the point, but that’s really part of life. It’s those moments of brilliance that prove to me that I am truly good at what I do. And it’s why I do it….I love to pick up and book, read through it, and see the little clues the author has left for the reader to convey the reason why they wrote the book (books aren’t always meant to just entertain…just to let you know that. Read Dickens and tell me that his stories were meant merely to entertain…). These clues are like little presents, left for the reader to open and discover. I live for those presents. Call me a geek or a nerd, but I honestly do.
The really cool thing was that when I did say that I’m damn good at what I do, my professor agreed with me. This is someone I look up to….a mentor of sorts….and she basically told me I rock. For someone like me, who really has a hard time really admitting that I’m good at what I do, that was an amazing moment.
When I got home, I pulled out my papers and read through them. I hadn’t even thought about the topics of these papers since I’d written them, so the content was somewhat forgotten. And had I not known that they were written by me, I think I might have thought them to be pretty flipping awesome. They really were that good. As I went through them, even the one where I sidestepped the main point, I was shocked at how well written they were, in both content as well as mechanics. The person who wrote those papers knows what she’s doing. She really is amazing. I am amazing.
I know….a lot of people will think this is a silly posting. And in a way, it is. But I needed to say it. I am far too hard on myself when it comes to my work, and I underestimate myself on a regular basis. I focus in on where I am lacking, rather than admitting that where I am great far outweighs the parts that are sub-standard (and even sub-standard is a harsh way to put it, since it’s hardly sub-standard….it’s just not at the perfection I feel it should be. I have very high expectations, which means it’s too easy to beat myself up when I don’t hit the level I feel I should). But those papers were great, awesome, fan-effing-tastic. They really were. And my professor agreed with me, which means it must be true 😉
It really is hard for me to admit to these things. I do beat myself up far too often, and never give myself the credit I deserve. It’s time to reverse that to a certain extent, and admit the fact that I rock….most of the time 😉 Now to start believing that on a consistent basis. That will be the hard part.

First off, what does “Literary Grave Sites” mean? No, I’m not talking about grave-sites that you find in literature…I’m talking about grave sites of literary people; poets, authors, and the like. You know, the people who write, not those that are written about, unless it’s biographical. These are the grave sites…from a literary standpoint…that I want someday to visit.

Next, I know that writing about my the top 5 graves that I want to visit seems rather morbid, and many of you more than likely don’t understand why I’d want to visit these grave sites, but rest assured I’m not too terribly mad. “Pilgrimages” of a sort are very common in this way…you go to a person’s gravesite to pay your respects and, in my case, homage. Each of the people I have listed here hold a very special place in my heart…literarily speaking. It is my hope that I am able to visit these gravesites before I am finally living in my own. So here we go…Izzy’s list of 5 literary gravesites that I want to someday see, in descending order.

5) In Arbor Hill Cemetery, in Dublin, there is a gravesite devoted to the revolutionaries of the 1916 Easter Uprising. Now, why, you might ask, would I include this in my top 5? What does it have to do with the literary world? First, if you look at my Poetry links in my blogroll, you will notice the name Joseph Mary Plunkett. His poetry is absolutely beautiful, and some of my favourites. He is buried here, along with 13 other brave men that willingly were executed in their attempt to gain freedom from the Crown.

Gravesite of the 1916 Revolutionaries

And since this is Literary grave sites, I probably should include poetry or something written by each person, right? Here is a poem that Joseph Mary Plunkett wrote for the love of his life, Grace Gifford. He wrote it on the morning of her Baptism, April 7th, 1916. And a bit more background…Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Gifford were wed on May 4th, 1916…only 2 hours before Joseph was executed by British forces for his role in the Easter Uprising. It is truly one of the most beautiful love stories ever…and the best part is that it’s true.

The powerful words that from my heart
Alive and throbbing leap and sing
Shall bind the dragon’s jaws apart
Or bring you back a vanished spring;
They shall unseal and seal again
The fount of wisdom’s awful flow,
So this one guerdon they shall gain
That your wild beauty still they show.

The joy of Spring leaps from your eyes,
The strength of dragons in your hair,
In your young soul we still surprise
The secret wisdom flowing there;
But never word shall speak or sing
Inadequate music where above
Your burning heart now spreads its wing
In the wild beauty of your Love.

4) In the same gravesite as Joseph Mary Plunkett, you will find Pádraic Pearse…a poet in his own right, and a wonderful one at that. Here is his poem Christmas 1915…the Christmas before the Easter Uprising. Very short, but very wonderful:

O King that was born
To set bondsmen free,

In the coming battle,
Help thy Gael!

As I stated previously, he was also buried in the gravesite that Joseph Mary Plunkett was buried, but here is his name I am assuming on the site itself (found at www.findagrave.com…and I am assuming it’s on the actual site because I have never been there, hence this post):

Pádraic Pearse’s grave marker

3) One of my literary heroines…Jane Austen. Her writings were what forged my love of English Literature. I know I’ve said it before, but I want to be Jane Austen when I grow up. Jane Austen died on July 18, 1817 at the age of 41. Two days later she was buried in Winchester Cathedral at Winchester in Hampshire, England.

Jane Austen’s gravestone

Most people know of Jane Austen’s literary works, which typically comprise of novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, but many of these same people were unaware that she was also a poet. Here is an example of her poetry, written because her friend, Martha Lloyd, could not come to visit because Mr. Best would not take her. It shows a side that wasn’t always as prevalent in her writings…her wit:

Oh! Mr. Best, you’re very bad
And all the world shall know it;
Your base behaviour shall be sung
By me, a tunefull Poet.–

You used to go to Harrowgate
Each summer as it came,
And why I pray should you refuse
To go this year the same?–

The way’s as plain, the road’s as smooth,
The Posting not increased;
You’re scarcely stouter than you were,
Not younger Sir at least.–

If e’er the waters were of use
Why now their use forego?
You may not live another year,
All’s mortal here below.–

It is your duty Mr Best
To give your health repair.
Vain else your Richard’s pills will be,
And vain your Consort’s care.

But yet a nobler Duty calls
You now towards the North.
Arise ennobled–as Escort
Of Martha Lloyd stand forth.

She wants your aid–she honours you
With a distinguished call.
Stand forth to be the friend of her
Who is the friend of all.–

Take her, and wonder at your luck,
In having such a Trust.
Her converse sensible and sweet
Will banish heat and dust.–

So short she’ll make the journey seem
You’ll bid the Chaise stand still.
T’will be like driving at full speed
From Newb’ry to Speen hill.–

Convey her safe to Morton’s wife
And I’ll forget the past,
And write some verses in your praise
As finely and as fast.

But if you still refuse to go
I’ll never let your rest,
Buy haunt you with reproachful song
Oh! wicked Mr. Best!–

J.A
Clifton 1806

2) This is one of my absolute favourites…he’s in my top 2 poets and literary authors, second only to William Butler Yeats. Oscar Wilde. One day…and you can quote me on this…I am going to get to Paris, put on my very best bright red lipstick, and add my lip marks along side of other fanatical fans. Here is a poem he wrote for Keats…called “The Grave of Keats”. It seemed rather appropriate:

RID of the world’s injustice, and his pain,
He rests at last beneath God’s veil of blue:
Taken from life when life and love were new
The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
Fair as Sebastian, and as early slain.
No cypress shades his grave, no funeral yew,
But gentle violets weeping with the dew
Weave on his bones an ever-blossoming chain.
O proudest heart that broke for misery!
O sweetest lips since those of Mitylene!
O poet-painter of our English Land!
Thy name was writ in water——it shall stand:
And tears like mine will keep thy memory green,
As Isabella did her Basil-tree.

This picture is rather nice…I nicked it from a friend’s website of pictures. You see all those kiss marks? Uh huh….mine is going to be there. Just you wait.

Oscar Wilde’s gravesite

and last, but surely never least…

1) William Butler Yeats. His writings, by far, have to be my favourite of all time. His poetry is one of those things that inspire me to no end…whenever I’m feeling down, I just pick up a book of his writings, and lose myself for as long as the children will allow me to (which isn’t usually too long…). He is buried in Drumecliff, Co. Sligo, Ireland. I fully intend, when I do finally get to Ireland, to lay upon his grave in the hopes that some of his poetic talent will somehow magically float up to the surface and infuse itself into the creative portion of my brain.

W.B. Yeats’ gravesite

His epitaph comes from the last 3 lines of his poem, “Under Ben Bulben”…which means it’s only appropriate to quote that poem here:

I

Swear by what the sages spoke
Round the Mareotic Lake
That the Witch of Atlas knew,
Spoke and set the cocks a-crow.

Swear by those horsemen, by those women
Complexion and form prove superhuman,
That pale, long-visaged company
That air in immortality
Completeness of their passions won;
Now they ride the wintry dawn
Where Ben Bulben sets the scene.

Here’s the gist of what they mean.

II

Many times man lives and dies
Between his two eternities,
That of race and that of soul,
And ancient Ireland knew it all.
Whether man die in his bed
Or the rifle knocks him dead,
A brief parting from those dear
Is the worst man has to fear.
Though grave-diggers’ toil is long,
Sharp their spades, their muscles strong.
They but thrust their buried men
Back in the human mind again.

III

You that Mitchel’s prayer have heard,
‘Send war in our time, O Lord!’
Know that when all words are said
And a man is fighting mad,
Something drops from eyes long blind,
He completes his partial mind,
For an instant stands at ease,
Laughs aloud, his heart at peace.
Even the wisest man grows tense
With some sort of violence
Before he can accomplish fate,
Know his work or choose his mate.

IV

Poet and sculptor, do the work,
Nor let the modish painter shirk
What his great forefathers did.
Bring the soul of man to God,
Make him fill the cradles right.

Measurement began our might:
Forms a stark Egyptian thought,
Forms that gentler phidias wrought.
Michael Angelo left a proof
On the Sistine Chapel roof,
Where but half-awakened Adam
Can disturb globe-trotting Madam
Till her bowels are in heat,
proof that there’s a purpose set
Before the secret working mind:
Profane perfection of mankind.

Quattrocento put in paint
On backgrounds for a God or Saint
Gardens where a soul’s at ease;
Where everything that meets the eye,
Flowers and grass and cloudless sky,
Resemble forms that are or seem
When sleepers wake and yet still dream.
And when it’s vanished still declare,
With only bed and bedstead there,
That heavens had opened.
Gyres run on;
When that greater dream had gone
Calvert and Wilson, Blake and Claude,
Prepared a rest for the people of God,
Palmer’s phrase, but after that
Confusion fell upon our thought.

V

Irish poets, earn your trade,
Sing whatever is well made,
Scorn the sort now growing up
All out of shape from toe to top,
Their unremembering hearts and heads
Base-born products of base beds.
Sing the peasantry, and then
Hard-riding country gentlemen,
The holiness of monks, and after
Porter-drinkers’ randy laughter;
Sing the lords and ladies gay
That were beaten into the clay
Through seven heroic centuries;
Cast your mind on other days
That we in coming days may be
Still the indomitable Irishry.

VI

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.

No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:

Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!

So there you have it! Izzy’s Top 5: Literary Grave Sites. Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to chronicle when I do finally visit each of these places. But until then, I’ll just have to content myself with wishing…

One cold morning last winter, I was taking Mr Izz to school so I could have the car. He turned on the radio, and tuned in to NPR. I tend to like NPR (National Public Radio, for those that might be reading and are not from the US). Despite it’s more liberal leaning politics, I find them to be far less unbiased than say, Fox News, which I can’t even tolerate. Plus, they have tons of really cool shows on which aren’t in the least political. Our local NPR (North Country Public Radio) has local shows that are wonderful. Things like String Fever, The Folk Show, and Music for a Monday Afternoon are awesome to listen to. I also love that I can find out what’s going on culturally around the area (and believe me, there are too many to choose from up here in the frozen tundra). But these are just the local shows. NPR itself, which is broadcasted nationally, has quite a few really great shows as well. The Thistle and Shamrock is absolutely one of my favourites and Car Talk is always fun to listen to. A Prairie Home Companion is fun as well…but really only for the music. I don’t tend to like some of their skits, for they can bit a bit more risqué for my tastes.

But the one program that I really love on NPR is The Writer’s Almanac. It’s kind of like a “what happened today in the writing world” and then it features a new poem each day. So on that cold car ride to take Mr Izz to school on that very cold day last winter (you see? I didn’t forget what I was talking about!), he tuned in to NPR just in time for The Writer’s Almanac….much to my joy because even though I love it, I tend to forget when it’s on. I listened to the almanac portion, and then Mr Keillor went on to the poem of the day. That particular day, it was a poem entitled “Briefly it Enters, and Briefly Speaks” by Jane Kenyon. It was a beautiful poem to say the least, and one I’d like to share with you all here. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years. . . .

I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper. . . .

When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me. . . .

I am food on the prisoner’s plate. . . .

I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .

I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden. . . .

I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge. . . .

I am the heart contracted by joy. . .
the longest hair, white
before the rest. . . .

I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow. . . .

I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .

I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name. . .

Sometimes, I can write an entire piece in my head, even before I sit down to type it out. I love those days. My mind is filled with a flurry of words and ideas, bursting to be set free. They just seem to all come together without too much nudging from yours truly. On those days, I love to write. Who wouldn’t, if it didn’t take any work?

Other days, it takes more effort. I have to actually think. This is not something I’m fond of doing (thinking, that is), at least not when it feels like work. So I go about my day, trying to think of something I find interesting enough to write about. Usually, it doesn’t take long…one thing or another happens which piques my interest, and off I go. While the words don’t flow quite as quickly, it’s still not too painful to extract them from a mind that is at least somewhat cooperative.

Today, I fit into neither of these categories. Today, it’s as if the cold and snow-filled wind have permeated into the recesses of my mind, and frozen everything that might be useful in trying to find something to write about. There are no thoughts drifting lazily around, just hoping to be plucked up and expanded upon. Each thought that might be of use seems to be walled up behind an impenetrable barricade. This, of course, makes things difficult. Sure, I could decide not to write today. Fine, that works. But then there is this small (and very persuasive) voice that seems to come from the depths of my very being, willing me to go forward. Urging me to try. “But there is nothing to write about!” I tell the voice earnestly. My pleas are met with persistence, to the point that I just can’t ignore it anymore. This leads me to where I am now. Trying to write something that just isn’t there. My mind is weary with thoughts that just can’t come together, and ideas that tiptoe away just as I attempt to dwell upon them. Writer’s block? Perhaps…but I’d much rather call it “uninspired inspiration”. It just sounds nicer.

Now I am looking back…seeing all that I’ve written despite not being able to write it. I guess I’ve been inspired by my uninspired inspiration. Good thing too…I’d hate to think I went through all of that agonizing work for nothing.