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When we were deciding on our themes for this year, I tossed out a poem in the style of George Gordon, Lord Byron's "She walks in beauty", which begins "She walks in beauty, like the night". You can read the original here. It's a short poem - three stanzas of six lines each - and was allegedly written after Byron attended a party and met his cousin there. She was, at the time, in mourning for her husband - hence "like the night". He made an awful lot of assumptions about her internal state based on her pulled-together, likely serene appearance.

My version addresses what might have been going on with her before and after the party:
She Walks on Eggshells
by Kelly Ramsdell


She walks on eggshells, tip-toeing
    her way through life, in hopes that none
will notice how she cannot bring
    herself to stand directly in the sun.
Her sole reward, a wedding ring
    that weighs her down so she can’t run.


One minute more in this black dress
    Is more, she thinks, than she can bear.
Her cousin’s smiles cause her distress—
    He is enough to make her swear,
Though not out loud, of course. Useless
    to be female, she’s well aware.


And now he’s published something new
    that raves about her peaceful mind,
her innocence. He has no clue
    that she is finally unconfined
by men: a widow, it is true,
    but one who cannot be divined.

You can find the poems by my poetry sisters at the following links:

Laura Purdie Salas with "She walks in glitter"
Sara Lewis Holmes with "Crede Byron"
Tanita Davis with "Daughters of Diogenese" &/or "Maat/Lady Justice"
Tricia Stohr-Hunt with an untitled poem about grief
Liz Garton Scanlon with "Mother Liberty"

Find the rest of the Poetry Friday posts by clicking the box below:

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Happy Independence Day!

Today, the first verse of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee", also known as "America" - written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831 and used as a de facto American national anthem until the "Star Spangled Banner" was formally adopted in 1931.

My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From ev'ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!

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Home again

My sweetheart and I got married in December. And we took our honeymoon at the end of May/beginning of June - three days in Venice, Italy, followed by a 7-night cruise in the Mediterranean. Our first stop was in Kotor, Montenegro. The next four were in Greece: Corfu/Kerkyra, Piraeus (with an excursion into Athens), Mykonos (where we took a ferry over to Delos as well), and Argostoli (on Kefalonia).

Here are a few photos.

Our afternoon trip to Burano, an island in Venezia that we got to by ferry. So pretty!

Me, in a selfie, as we were leaving Venice

Morris and me on the ramparts overlooking Kotor, Montenegro

Morris and me in front of the Parthenon, on the Acropolis of Athens

We have returned home slightly tanned, super happy, pretty tired, and with a penchant for Greek salad.

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An original golden shovel poem

For Poetry friday, my Poetry sisters and I are doing "golden shovel" poems, where you use lines or stanzas from an existing poem (grabbing a shovel full of gold from someone else). You use the words of a line (or lines) in the order given, as the end words of each line in your new poem.

We are all working from the wonderful "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The Hopkins poem is a curtal sonnet using sprung rhythm - you can read about both in this prior post, but here is the whole, lovely source poem for our golden shovels.

Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced— fold, fallow, and plough;
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
        Praise him.

My lines are as follows:

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

And here is my poem:

Oh love -- give me all
your heart! I do not want things--
not necklaces, not flowers for my counter-
tops. I much prefer the original
offer you made of kisses, of time to spare.
Keep singing me your strange,
familiar songs, whatever
may come. Our love is
bone-deep, bedrock, not fickle
or frivolous. Let me wake to freckled
shoulders, strong and sure. Who
would trade away a moment? Lord knows
we can fill them. Let me show you how.

I will add links and such a bit later, but please check the Poetry Friday lineup and find poems by Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Sara Lewis Holmes, Tanita Davis, Laura Purdie Salas, and Liz Garton Scanlon.

Laura wrote a gorgeous poem about a Syrian refugee.

Liz has written about a girl with a pony.

Tanita wrote TWO; one about lilies, the other about being made of star stuff (sort of). *swoon*

Tricia wrote a love poem for her anniversary.

Over at Guys Lit Wire

Today my review for Guys Lit Wire is up. This month, it's a review of the new graphic novel, SPILL ZONE, by Scott Westerfeld (yes, the same guy who wrote Uglies and Pretties).

Short version: It's great.
For the longer version, click here.

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This month, my poetry sisters and I were writing poems to a prompt offered by Laura Purdie Salas. We were asked to pick a month or season that we especially like and write a "things to do if" poem.

Here's mine:
Things to Do if You Are October

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.
from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Whisper in a cool voice
that sweeps between
the warmth of
September’s sunsets,
I am coming—
don’t forget.

Paint the leaves
outrageous hues
then fling them, flotsam,
you wayward Picasso,
so much crackling wreckage
to rake into piles.

Offer ripe apples and
plump orange pumpkins
for human consumption
in butters and pies,
your Baby Bears,
your Northern Spies.

Swing between
seasons—you don’t
need a reason—
one day offer winter
with snowflakes and frost,
the next day the glow
and heat of summer,
the glimmer of autumn,
when bright things are lost

The lengthening shadows
creep out from the living,
some say that the shades
of the dead come to call.
October is fall.

Here is where you can find the other poems:


The rest of today's Poetry Friday posts can be found at Jama's Alphabet Soup by clicking the box:

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Recent reads

Of late, I've been on a romance binge. I finally finished the Pink Carnation series, The Lure of the Moonflower. I put off reading the last novel for two reasons - one, I thought things had sort of gotten a bit silly in Miss Gwen's novel, almost as if the author's heart were no longer in it, and two, I nevertheless didn't want the series to end. I continue to believe that perhaps the author's heart was no longer in the series, and was only somewhat satisfied with the final novel, though I'm glad that folks got their happily-ever-afters. It wasn't as crisp and flushed-out as the earlier books were, character-wise. Alas. Nevertheless, the first few books remain among my favorite re-reads, along with Turnip's book.

I've also read quite a number of novels by Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Sarah Maclean, and Lisa Kleypas. This is what happens when you don't buy romance novels for a couple of years, and lots of yummy books come out and are just waiting for you to catch them up. Also, I never read the Bridgerton books by Julia Quinn in the first place, and there are quite a lot of them waiting for me.

Excellent writing, lovely period details, feisty heroines, reluctant and/or enthusiastic heroes . . . what's not to love?

I am also in the process of reading a biography of Charlotte Brontë, A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman, which is really well-done. And I'm reading Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis, which is a passion project by my friend Jeannine Atkins.

What are you reading?

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Today has started out rainy - it may end up warm and sunny. Such are the vagaries of April.

I thought I'd share an original poem today. In fact, it's the first poem in my chapbook, The Universe Comes Knocking, published by Maverick Duck Press in 2015. If you'd like, you can order it here. But I digress.

The poem is about Kismet, my sweet/not-so-sweet kitty. That's her on the right, in a box, as is her wont.

The Cat's Pajamas

are the footie kind –
white footies, to be exact,
with scratchy bits for traction.

Their crazy stripes –
entirely improbable –
are rendered in an impractical
thick, fuzzy fabric:
frighteningly hard to wash,
entirely inappropriate
on a hot summer's night.

The cat is not contrite.

Like a bedraggled buyer
at a discount superstore,
she goes everywhere
in her nightwear,
never caring what
neighbors think,
or if that pouchy bit
makes her look fat.

Sometimes it's good
to be the cat.

You can find the rest of the Poetry Friday roundup over at "The Opposite of Indifference" by clicking the box below.

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This month, my poetry sisters and I are responding to a poem selected by Sara Lewis Holmes - a lovely poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

You, darkness, of whom I am born---

I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.

But the dark embraces everything
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations---just as they are.

It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me

I believe in the night.

---Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Sara's "rules" were that we needed to respond to this poem in some way - echoes or talk back or whatever. Here is what I came up with, after pondering Rilke's poem. As you will see, it borrows from several sources, from Adlai Stevenson to Robert Frost to Harry Dixon Loes.

Better to light a candle?
Or to wrap the darkness
like a blanket--
covering, dampening,

No, the dark is too oppressive
without pinprick stars, blinks
of fireflies, glowing coals,
however dim.

I have been one acquainted with the night,
and I reject it as a place of darkness.

I choose to let it shine.

Here's where you can find the poems by my poetry sisters, responding to Rilke:


And here's where you can find the Poetry Friday roundup:

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Self-care 101: Comfort reading

When the going gets tough, the tough . . . read. At least that's my experience, and it appears true for many of my friends and relatives, not all of whom are writers. Though now that I think of it, most of them are creatives. (Then again, aren't we all?)

Specifically, when the going gets tough, I reach for comfort reads. These fall into two camps for me: romance novels by writers I adore, whether I've read the specific novel before or not, and re-reads of novels that I love.

If you're curious about the romance novels, my favorite writers include Eloisa James, Sarah Maclean, Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, and Julie James. Comfort re-reads include books I loved as a teen, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, plus books I found as an adult, including all six of the finished novels by Jane Austen, but especially Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Sense & Sensibility and Persuasion (the other two have challenging characters for me that make them entertaining, but not necessarily comforting). I read children's books that I discovered as an adult, which would have been among my favorites as a tween/teen, including the Harry Potter series and the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett.

I also read books related to creativity that help to inspire me, including On Writing by Stephen King, Still Writing by Dani Shapiro, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and others.

Feeding the spirit with books that comfort and inspire is wonderful for self-care. It distracts from whatever is unpleasant at present, taking you into another space and mood. And if one is reading, one cannot be refreshing social media incessantly or staring at a news channel. And isn't filling the well and feeling a bit better a more beneficial use of time than generating stress and despair?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a novel to finish reading . . .

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