Tuesday, May 30, 2017

 

We All Make Mistakes

By Donovan Baldwin

We all make mistakes.

You, me, the smartest people on Earth. Nobody's perfect.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is expecting anyone, myself, yourself, your best loved human, or the idiot across the street, to be perfect. Sometimes we err out of stupidity, sometimes out of kindness, sometimes out of desire, fear, sadness, whatever.

Anything can make us do dumb things. Even really wanting to do the RIGHT thing can make us do the wrong thing. The RIGHT thing, of course, is NOT to do the wrong thing. But then, we wouldn't be human would we? Forgive others when they make mistakes. I don't mean when they really try to hurt you, or someone else, but, when they simply screw up.

We all do it, and we all want, need, to be forgiven. I do. I bet you do. You don't have to give them the keys to your heart, just forgive them for being human.

So, let's just do that.

Forgive the mistake.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

 

Poem: A Passion Cold

By Donovan Baldwin

When people speak of passion,
They use words like
"Hot", "Fiery", "Burning",
As if passion were always heat.

Heat for me evokes
A clearing in a jungle
Or a beach in sunlight,
A summer day spent driving nails,
And carrying iron rods
Made burning hot by the Sun...

Or hard hot times when I wore,
A helmet, a web belt loaded down,
With ammunition, water, and more,
And carried an M-16.

My passions are never near the surface,
And so,
Do not know, or show, "heat".

They are cold as the color of moonlight,
As it showed me your face,
And your body,
In that moment when we took
All each of us could give.

My passions are cold,
But they are true,
And they always lead me back...
To you.

09/18/09

More original poetry by Donovan Baldwin at http://ravensong.4t.com.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

 

Poem: Instead Of In My Arms

By Donovan Baldwin

Of course, if I could
I would choose to hold you
In my arms.

But, we are too far apart,
Not just in miles, but
In so many other ways.

We can never be together,
Yet...

Each night I can hold you,
In my dreams.

Each day I can hold you,
In my heart.

Every day,
In almost every way,
I can hold you,
In dreams in my heart,
Instead of in my arms.

This is what I have,
This is what I regret,
But,
This is what I will hold
Until I can hold nothing more.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

 

4 Tips For Writers On How To Create Some Creativity

By Donovan Baldwin

Many people watching a writer at work probably wouldn't even realize that he or she was actually working. While the physical act of putting words on paper or into a computer is easy to recognize as "work" one of the hardest parts of any writer's task is not always coming up with the words to express an idea. For many of us, the most difficult part is coming up with an idea to write about!

While creativity is generally believed to be something that someone is born with, and maybe it is, everybody has some sort of creative streak within...no matter how well hidden. The trick is to find ways to tickle that creativity so that it produces at least the germ of an idea. Once many writers, and other artists, have that germ of an idea, the article, or statue, or poem, or painting will almost produce itself.

Below are 4 tips on how to wake up the sleeping giant of creativity within and put it to work.

1. Yoga and Meditation - Alternative Routes to Creativity

Most people want to attack a problem head on. For the artist or writer, however, that approach often just creates another problem. Do the words, "writer's block" mean anything to you? Hmmm? It seems that the harder we try to attack the creativity problem the harder and thicker the wall becomes between the conscious mind and the ideas that may be lurking just on the other side.

Yoga, meditation, long walks and other such physically relaxing and sometimes demanding activities actually tend to dissolve the barriers and allow us to access the ideas that have been hiding behind them. To express it another way, think of ideas becoming frightened and curling up like porcupines when they know we are looking for them. When we appear to be ignoring them, they uncurl and expose themselves to our subconscious which in turn puts them on a fast elevator up to the conscious mind where they seem to appear out of nowhere.

2. Creativity Is Your Job - So Show Up For Work

Back in school, we were given study tips that often included this one; study at the same time and in the same place. That sounds a little like "showing up for work". Freelance writers in particular often fall prey to not having a place to go to and a time to be there. Obviously, if the idea comes at half past midnight, in the middle of your morning shower, or while having sex, that's when you should get it down. Okay, delay that last one a little bit.

On the whole, however, to produce a somewhat steady stream of creativity, not to mention the output which should result there from, it is important to prepare an "office", even if it is a table on your patio. That's where you show up and expect your creative muse to meet you. Dock its pay if it is late.

3. Ideas Are Everywhere - Be Prepared For Them

In this crazy business of writing, or painting, or sculpting, ideas are all around. The trick is to catch them and keep them. The chance comment of a friend, a sound bite on a TV news show, an obituary, the neighbor's new car, the local high school football team, your spouse's opinion on the TV sound bite, a paragraph in a chapter in a second hand book you bought for $2.99. These can all hold the germ of the idea that later becomes the article, the poem, the short story, or the book.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that once you catch on to this, you will find yourself with more ideas than you can remember or develop at any given moment. That's why you want to have a notebook, diary, or journal to jot down the basic idea and a quick development if that's available. You might also want to invest in a small recorder so that you can dictate ideas while driving or at other times that writing might be difficult. This is a great suggestion if you have ever awoken with a great idea in the middle of the night and found that you have completely forgotten it when you wake up in the morning.

4. Your Brain Is Already Full Of Ideas - Put Your Built-In Search Engine To Work

Your subconscious is a brown-noser. It just can't wait to show you what it's done for you while you were sleeping or busy with another problem. As you lay in bed at night waiting to fall asleep, tell it forcefully and directly to come up with some ideas while you're asleep. This is not 100% perfect, but it will produce fruit from time to time. Unfortunately, the ideas often appear in the middle of the night (see tip #3) although you will often awaken with a great idea.

By the way. Have you ever heard about great discoveries being made while people sleep? Many of these stories are true.

It often happens that concentrating on a problem and then letting go of it to work on other things often produces the same effect as "sleeping on it". More than one cognitive flash has come about after the thinker let go of the problem. During sleep, your brain is at work replenishing neurotransmitters that organize neural networks essential to remembering, learning, performance and problem solving, and this activity includes tracking down and organizing seemingly random pieces of data into ideas!

There you are! Four tips just like I promised.

Oh! Where did I get the idea for this article?

Well, I was reading some notes I had made about a year ago, and....

Donovan Baldwin is a Texas writer and a University of West Florida alumnus. He is a member of Mensa and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service. In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory positions. However, his main pleasures have long been writing, nature, and fitness. In the last few years, he has been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on subjects such as yoga, writing, nature, animals, the environment, global warming, happiness, self improvement, health, fitness, and weight loss. He has collected several of his articles on health and weight loss at http://nodiet4me.com/articledirectory.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?4-Tips-For-Writers-On-How-To-Create-Some-Creativity&id=520028

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

 

Authenticity

By Neetu Malik

I see him
outlined against the window
in a busy café --
his wool hat on the table
beside a muffin and a cup of tea--
a portrait from a bygone era
and a study in longevity.

He barely moves except to
sip his tea.

I walk up to say hello--
he looks up and smiles, his teeth
a shining white;
they might be false
but who cares?

I catch
the morning sun’s rays in
his eyes;
they cannot lie
nor fake their light.

We talk--
it is so easy to converse,
to steep in his cup,

a rich brew he stirs slowly
and thoughtfully--
I wait
in no hurry to leave.

©Neetu M. 2017 All Rights Reserved.

About the Author

For Neetu, poetry is an expression of the rhythms of life and the human spirit, which strike different beats depending on the sounds and silences generated by experiences. She shares her writing on a few different platforms and is a frequent guest contributor to the Australia Times Poetry Magazine. She has also been published twice in The Poetic Bond Anthology, edited by Trevor Maynard, UK and published by Willowdown Books.

Neetu lives in Pennsylvania, USA.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

 

Them Yankee School Teachers Shore Talked Funny

By Donovan Baldwin

A relative of my wife learned that we were moving to Atlanta, Georgia, to help my mom out a few years back.

She is a sweet lady, as are all the family I inherited. In fact, one of the things I treasure about being married to my Arizona wife is the family of Arizona Sicilians I acquired in the process. However, certain members of the family, like the dear lady I am talking about, have never traveled much to the east of Arizona.

A few days after she learned of our decision, she sent my wife an email in which she seemed to indicate that she was under the impression that folks were poor and not very well educated in the South.

I had thought that we had put that idea out to pasture (that's what we do with things in the South), back in the days of the Yankee school teachers.

You see, I grew up in Pensacola, Florida, attending Catholic schools from first grade through my graduation from Pensacola Catholic High in 1963. Along the way, in addition to the bevy of nuns who tried, with varying degrees of success, to drum knowledge into my thick skull, there was a small cadre of earnest young ladies from up North who filled in when enough nuns were not available.

Now, they were sweet young ladies from exotic places such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, and they did a good job. However, they sure talked funny!

It seems they had some strange ideas, too.

My mother taught third grade at St. Thomas More parish in Warrington for thirty years and many of these young ladies wound up there. Mom got to know many of them very well. One day, one of these young teachers confided a secret to her about the recruiting process.

When the recruiters were searching up above the Mason-Dixon line for suitable young ladies to teach "down South", they painted a picture of poverty and destitution. After all, we HAD lost the war, and, at least to hear them tell it, had never recovered.

Many of the young teaching school graduates already had some sort of mental picture of life down South, and the recruiters' descriptions simply served to accent what they thought they already knew from the history they had learned up North.

My mother's young friend confided that she had been genuinely surprised to learn that she could actually take an airplane into a real airport in Pensacola, after changing planes in Atlanta, of course! She had arrived expecting to live in a hovel, live on corn pone, and share an outdoor privy. She was quite amazed that, except for the accent, and the slower pace, and the fact that everything was fried, and the southern hospitality, living in Pensacola was pretty much like living in whatever Northern state they had left behind!

Of all the minor differences, however, the accent was probably the most major obstacle the young Yankee girls had to surmount. After all, they didn't know how to speak English very well.

I remember one day at Catholic High, in Algebra class, when a lovely young lady from New Jersey introduced herself as our new teacher.

Johnny, one of our classmates, a died-in-the-wool down-home southern boy, stood up and asked a question about homework, if I remember correctly.

The young lady, stared at him for a second, and then cheerfully and politely asked him to repeat his question, which he cheerfully and politely did.

Even at that tender age, the look that began to appear on her face tipped me to what was going through her mind.

The cheerful smile became a bit more brittle and the eyes just a little wider, kind of like a frightened animal, as she faced one of her first real challenges as a teacher in the South.

Again, and with a slight nervousness in her voice, she asked Johnny to repeat his question.

His face began to turn red, and this time, there was little politeness, and even less cheerfulness in his voice.

By now, there was no mistaking the look of bewilderment and consternation on the teacher's face. Desperately, she searched the faces of the other students, some of whom were beginning to snicker, and exchange knowing glances, and then asked, with an uncertain and bemused smile, "Is he speaking English?"

Johnny was just about ready to restart the War Between the States, but Tommy, his good friend, whose accent was almost as thick as Johnny's, stood up, grabbed him by the shoulders, and said plainly enough for the teacher to grasp, "Naw, Ma'am! He's jist tryin' to ask about homework. You jist ain't understandin' the way we talk down here yet."

Now, until that moment, I had never really realized that my friends and I talked with a Southern accent! We had been bathed in its sounds and syllables since birth. There were minor differences among us, but for all my life that soft Southern drawl had been to me, at least, the way people talked.

Everybody else talked funny!

Even my aunts, uncles, and cousins in Atlanta talked different, but we, the lucky few who lived along the Gulf Coast spoke proper English.

Eventually, the young teacher, and many others like her, learned to understand our...ahem...language, and perhaps even our lives. Maybe they even returned up North and took back some true facts about the South. However, my story happened in the 1960's and my wife's relative made her comments in 2009. I guess not everyone got the word...with or without a Southern drawl.

Donovan Baldwin is a freelance SEO copywriter currently living in Central Texas but due to move to Georgia soon. A University Of West Florida alumnus (1973) with a BA in accounting, he is a member of Mensa and has held several managerial positions. After retiring from the U. S. Army in 1995, he became interested in internet marketing and developed various online businesses. He has been writing poetry, articles, and essays for over 40 years, and now frequently publishes articles on his own websites and for use by other webmasters. He has a poetry website at http://ravensong.4t.com, where he publishes many of his poems and articles.

Article Source: Those Yankee School Teachers Sure Talked Funny

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

 

I Miss The Day

By Donovan Baldwin

I miss the day which saunters by so casually upon its way
To all the calm amusements which will fill its time.

We eye each other warily if perhaps we pass as I
Go about my missions, toils, and tasks.

I used to know him well in younger days
With far reduced responsibilities, but now
He's gone the way of gods and I've grown up,
Down to the level of each man's daily life.

Each morning he rises, putting on
The vestments he has chosen, and, calling to him
The flying, feathered finery which will announce
His measured entrance on the scene, and,
Accompany him through the waking hours and discuss
His actions with occasional loud altercations
And whispered disputation
When the world has returned to night.

As he comes on some Spring mornings, he gradually
Removes the blanket of rejuvenating mist and dew
Which was laid upon the Earth that it
Might sleep more soundly.

Oh, the smells that softly ride the air, and
Bring me back to days which happened
Forty years or more ago,
When each morning I could watch the coming of the day
Learning lessons then on how to live
With the wide-eyed wisdom of a child
Which the man who's learned to live with life
Has long forgotten.

I miss the day.

For every time we pass each other by,
Stealing a stranger's glance,
Each of us at the other,
I am again surprised to discover
We've forgotten almost all we knew about each other.
But, sometimes, for just a moment
A dim light of memory flickers in his eyes
Quickly dying as he tries, but, fails,
To recognize his one time friend.

Yes, I miss the day I used to know so well,
Who now hurries by with no time for me,
Or me for him.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

 

Your Face In The Night

By Donovan Baldwin

Each night in darkness your face shines before me,
I reach for you, longing just to touch your cheek.

Then, lost to building lust, I desire to see you,
See more of you, touch you, hold you in my arms,
The pressure of your woman's form against my hard,
Unyielding manhood.

I would dream the words my poet's fingers weave reaching within your heart,
Starting it beating faster as poetic threads of loving warmth,
Move freely to the most sheltered and hidden places
Of your soul and body...

I would share the passion of my dreams and dares with you alone.
If only you could see with my eyes, your own beauty,
Feel the truth of my desire, and begin also to know
Such love as I live with daily,

Before you would be stars and galaxies ablaze with fire.
The sweetest symphonies would fill your very veins with music,
Igniting fires of passion which have been merely embers.

Within your corporeal being would flow a hot and burning fluid,
Fired by love, dreams, fantasies, and desires,
Until...

Bursting forth in glory and in ecstasy then,
As the warmth within your belly, and your soul,
Finds its way to the surface of the woman you are,
Exploding in fantastic, all-consuming,
And, yes, orgasmic crescendo.

Leaving you, with soft doe-like eyes,
And the peaceful afterglow of love,
Safe and secure in the arms of your lover.
Each night in darkness your face fades before me,
I reach for you, longing just to touch your cheek,

But...

You are not there.

---------

Read more of my poetry at http://ravensong.4t.com.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

 

Thoughts On Writing Poetry In The 21st Century

By Donovan Baldwin

Years ago, while I was a student at Pensacola Catholic High, the nuns, and Sister Mary Fides, in particular, tried to make sure that I, and my fellow students, understood how to write, and speak, "proper English". Simultaneously, they offered us several works of literature by a wide range of the "best" authors, at least as the literati of the period believed them to be.

I was often confused by the fact that these "best" authors they recommended seemed to ignore, somewhat indiscriminately, the rules of grammar and usage which were being drilled into my head.
The fact that I was an aficionado of poetry, science fiction, westerns, and mystery stories, in addition to a coerced reader of classics, simply made my personal understanding of what and how one "should" write even more muddled. Oddly, however, the writers who seemed to be best at ignoring the rules were often the most interesting, enjoyable, and easiest to read.

My own early attempts at writing were feeble and secret, mainly because I knew that I would be laughed at, or drummed out of English class, for my intemperate, and amateurish attempts to stay within the confines of what the nuns would consider to be "proper English composition". In fact, on at least one occasion, I was lectured by the redoubtable Sister Mary Fides because I had attempted to write a paper in a style imitative of one of my favorite mystery/adventure story writers.

Over the years, I have come to understand the differences that exist between knowing the textbook way of doing things and the way they are actually done.

I have also come to realize that writing for oneself, the intellectuals, and the masses, requires the ability to adapt to the situation.

Obviously, if you wish your work to be praised by the intellectuals, or those who consider themselves to be "experts" on a style of writing, you may have to write at a different level, and in a different manner, than if you want to write for the masses. By the way, if you only wish to please yourself, write as you damn well want to!

A hundred or so years ago, the "masses" and the "intellectuals" were much different from each other in terms of society, but, in terms of readership, not much different. You almost had to be somewhat of an intellectual to enjoy reading, and somewhat of an intellectual to enjoy, and practice, writing. Today, modern marketing and publishing activities, combined with a much larger group of "writers" seems to me to have created wider gaps between the groups with large numbers of people spilling into the gaps from either side.

Poetry was, and still is, somewhat different from most other writing, but even it has become more the interest of the "common" man or woman...both as reader or writer.

It is no longer necessary to rhythmically and logically bind your passages together in what many would consider to be the style of a toothpaste jingle writer. Nor, is it de rigueur to spout stream of consciousness prose to the beat of a bongo drum to be considered a poet...and a good one at that!

In fact, almost any style, any subject, and any approach can find its leaders and followers in today's poetry world. However, despite the appearance of lawlessness in the land of poesy, some absolutes still remain.

Good poetry should be real, not artificially connived and contrived to appear to be...well...good poetry. A computer can create things that rhyme and scan...even a poem, but only the human heart can create poetry. The bar of soap in your bathroom can evoke more than just a sales jingle, but what it evokes will depend on your beliefs, feelings, dreams, hopes, and expectations; most of which should go beyond simply getting your hands clean.

Writing good poetry in the 21st century is almost certainly an easier task than it was two hundred years ago, but, by the same token, it presents the poet with more competitors for the eye and ear of the reader or listener. For this reason, many poets go to extreme lengths, just as the marketers of many other products, to make their poem stand out in the sea of material which the poetry fan of today can choose.

However, in the end, most of the best poems will be those written by those who are driven to write them.

I hope you will check out some more of my poetry, and other writing, at http://ravensong.4t.com.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

 

Poem: I Know This Wind

By: Donovan Baldwin

I read a poem about the wind today,
I heard the song of a wind of yesterday,
In the words the poet wrote.

As I read the words and listened,
I thought, I know this wind.
This old friend from my childhood.

I remember leaning on the wind,
As it came across the bay,
And held me in its arms.

Its voice sang constantly in my ears,
Telling tales of faraway lands,
And, adventures unimaginable.

The wind showed its strength,
Shaking the trees and
Pushing clouds around the sky.

At night, as I lay in sweat-soaked bed,
It came through the window,
Cooling me and singing me to sleep.

Yes, I know this wind,
This dear old friend,
Of which the poet wrote.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

 

Dream Lover In The Night

By Donovan Baldwin


In quiet of her bed she lay
At end of yet another day.
Love once more had passed her by,
Alone, a tear crept from her eye.

She saw the face of her dream man
And dreamed the touch of gentle hand,
This lover lay down at her side,
Took her hand, began to guide...

Their fingers moving here and there,
Together touching everywhere,
With each movement of her hand,
She felt the touch of her dream man.

Caressing taut buds on her breasts,
As their hands moved o'er her chest,
And downward slid towards secret place
Her woman's heart began to race.

Faster went the hands of lovers,
As she lay upon the covers,
She moaned as ecstasy grew near,
A song for just a lover's ear.

Her breath grew ragged, shallow, fast,
Until the moment came at last...
In quiet of her bed she lay
Weeping, as he went away.

Read This Poem on LinkedIn

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

 

Poem: Blackie And The Bear

By: Donovan Baldwin

The nurse said, "Mr. Owens,
It's time you were in bed."
The old man gave a gentle smile
And gravely bowed his head.

As she helped him from the wheelchair,
She thought she heard him say,
"Tonight I'll ride with Blackie,
And watch Bear as he plays."

It was sad to see the weak old thing
Lose the little sense he'd kept.
So, as she put his things away,
The young girl quietly wept.

Then she found the crumpled paper,
Almost tossed it in the trash.
Except for "Corporal Owens",
That her eyes caught in a flash.

As she read the yellowed pages
The walls moved out and back.
She saw a Mountie on a killer's trail
Out on a Yukon track.

It was the tale of Corporal Owens
Upon the page she read,
A hero of the Yukon,
Dressed in Mountie red.

She began to wonder of the sights
The dim old eyes could see...
The mountains and the meadows,
Rivers wild and free.

It saddened her that this fine man
Raved like a madman there
In his mind gone out to play
With Blackie and some bear.

"He's reverted to his childhood,
Or made up a place to play."
Then she saw the picture
As she began to turn away.

It was a tall young Mountie
On a horse as dark as dark,
And beside them sat a huskie,
As if about to bark.

On the back she saw the writing,
"Rick, his dog and horse."
Then in the dark of that quiet room,
Things went from bad to worse.

The breathing of the old man
Rasped out in the night,
And the nurse reached for the button,
In momentary fright.

She then pulled back her hand,
As the man began to smile.
She knew that he had saddled up,
To ride a last long mile.

Yes, tonight there'll be a rider
In the freezing Yukon air,
On a horse that he calls Blackie,
Beside the huskie he named Bear.

More poetry by Donovan Baldwin at http://ravensong.4t.com.

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Monday, May 08, 2017

 

Poem: If I Could Use My Words...

By: Donovan Baldwin

If I could use my words
I would use them to:


Tease you, tantalize you, tempt you,
Cajole, caress, and comfort you.
Take you, wrapped in love's embrace
To the heights of ecstasy,
And further still...

Until...

Gasping with the pleasure of the ride,
You collapsed with me once more,
Upon the breast of Earth.

I would use my words to:
Bring you to your knees,
Pledging undying love,
And a willingness to
Do my bidding in all ways
So that I could have the joy
Of freeing you from that pledge.

If I could use my words so well,
I would use them
To make you speak the truth
About the deepest secrets and desires
Within your heart.

And, with my words, I would assure
That you never doubted
Your secrets would be kept.
But, never could I use my words
To hurt, harm, or disrespect
The pure, sweet soul
Within your breast.

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Sunday, May 07, 2017

 

"Because I Could Not Stop For Death" - A Discussion of the Poem by Emily Dickinson

By Garry Gamber

Because I could not stop for Death -
He kindly stopped for me -
The Carriage held but just Ourselves -
And Immortality.

We slowly drove - He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility -

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess - in the Ring -
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain -
We passed the Setting Sun -

Or rather - He passed us -
The Dews drew quivering and chill -
For only Gossamer, my Gown -
My Tippet - only Tulle -

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground -
The Roof was scarcely visible -
The Cornice - in the Ground -

Since then - 'tis Centuries - and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity -

Emily Dickinson was an innovative and talented American poet who wrote nearly 1800 poems during her brief lifetime from 1830 to 1886. Dickinson became publicly well known as a poet only after her death because she chose to publish only a very small number of her poems, somewhere between seven and twelve, during her lifetime.

Emily Dickinson's Life

Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a well known family. Her grandfather helped to found Amherst College and her father, a lawyer, served for numerous years in the Massachusetts legislature and in the United States Congress. Dickinson had a one year older brother and a three years younger sister.

As a young girl and teenager Dickinson acquired many friends, some lasting a lifetime, received approval and attention from her father, and behaved fittingly for a girl during the Victorian era. She received a classical education from the Amherst Academy and was required by her father to read the Bible. Though she attended church regularly only for a few years, her Christian foundation remained strong throughout her life.

Dickinson attended nearby Mount Holyoke College for only one year, due to numerous reasons, and then was brought back home by her brother, Austin. The Dickinson family lived in a home overlooking the town's cemetery, where she is buried, for a few years before moving into the home her grandfather had built, called "The Homestead."

At home in Amherst, Dickinson became a capable housekeeper, cook, and gardener. She attended local events, became friends with some of her fathers' acquaintances, and read a number of books given to her by her friends and her brother. Most books had to be smuggled into the home for fear that her father would disapprove of them.

Emily Dickinson enjoyed the writings of an impressive list of contemporaries such as Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Whittier, Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. She also read from the Victorians, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Thomas Carlyle, and George Eliot, and the Romantic poet Lord Byron. She also loved "David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens. When she discovered Shakespeare she asked, "Why is any other book needed?" In her home she hung portraits of Eliot, Browning, and Carlyle.

Dickinson grew more reclusive into the 1850's. She began writing poems and received favorable response from her friends. Throughout the rest of her life she adopted the friendly practice of giving poems to her friends and bouquets of flowers from her garden. Her garden was so varied and well-cared that she was better known as a gardener than a poet.

During the Civil War years of the early 1860's, Emily Dickinson wrote more than 800 poems, the most prolific writing period of her life. During this period Dickinson saw the death of several friends, a teacher, and the declining health of her mother who she had to tend closely. These unhappy events saddened Dickinson and led her to treat the subject of death in many of her poems.

Following the Civil War and for the remaining 20 years of her life, Dickinson rarely left the property limits of The Homestead. Her father, mother, and sister Lavinia all lived with her at home, and her brother lived next door at The Evergreens with his wife, Susan, a longtime friend to Emily, and their children. She enjoyed the company of her family and wrote often to her friends, but residents of Amherst only knew her as the "woman in white" when they infrequently saw her greeting visitors.

After several friends, a nephew, and her parents died, Dickinson wrote fewer and fewer poems and stopped organizing them, as she had been doing for many years. She wrote that, "the dyings have been too deep for me." Dickinson developed a kidney disease which she suffered from for the remaining two years of her life. The final short letter that she wrote to her cousins read, "Little Cousins, Called Back. Emily."

Characteristics of Dickinson's Poetry

Emily Dickinson's sister, Lavinia, gathered Emily's poems and published them in 1890. Editors changed some of her words, punctuations, and capitalizations to make them conform to a certain standard. Later editions restored Dickinson's unique style and organized them in a roughly chronological order.

Emily Dickinson's poems have many identifiable features. Her poems have been memorized, enjoyed, and discussed since their first publication. Many critics consider her to have been extraordinarily gifted in her abilities to create concise, meaningful, and memorable poems.

The major themes in her poetry include Friends, Nature, Love, and Death. Not surprisingly, she also refers to flowers often in her poems. Many of her poems' allusions come from her education in the Bible, classical mythology, and Shakespeare.

Dickinson did not give titles to her poems, an unusual feature. Others have given titles to some of her poems, and often the first line of the poem is used as a title.

She wrote short lines, preferring to be concise in her images and references. A study of her letters to friends and mentors shows that her prose style was composed of short iambic phrases, making her prose very similar to her poetry.

Dickinson's poems are generally short in length, rarely consisting of more than six stanzas, as in "Because I Could Not Stop for Death." Many of her poems are only one or two stanzas in length. The stanzas are quatrains of four lines. Some poems have stanzas of three or two lines.

The rhythm in many of her poems is called common meter or ballad meter. Both types of meter consist of a quatrain with the first and third lines having four iambic feet and the second and fourth lines having three iambic feet. The iambic foot is a unit of two syllables with the first syllable unstressed and the second syllable stressed.

In her quatrains the rhyme scheme is most often abcb, where only the second and fourth lines rhyme. Such a rhyme scheme is typical of a ballad meter.

Many other poems are written in a meter that is typical of English hymns. This rhythm pattern is characterized by quatrains where lines one, two, and four are written in iambic trimeter and the third line is written in iambic tetrameter.

Often her rhymes are near rhymes or slant rhymes. A near rhyme means that the two rhyming words do not rhyme exactly. They only make a near match.

In Dickinson's poems, capitalizations and punctuations are unorthodox. She regularly capitalized the nouns but sometimes she was inconsistent and a few nouns were not capitalized. For punctuation, she frequently used a dash instead of a comma or a period, and sometimes she used a dash to separate phrases within a line. Some editions of her poems have attempted to correct the punctuation of her poems.

A dozen or more composers have set Dickinson's poems to music, including Aaron Copland who produced "Twelve Songs on Poems of Emily Dickinson" in 1951. 0ne of the interesting ways to treat some of Dickinson's most famous poems, often learned in school, is to sing them to the tune of "Amazing Grace," or "The Yellow Rose of Texas, or most humorously, the theme to "Gilligan's Island."

Because I Could Not Stop for Death

"Because I Could Not Stop for Death" is a brilliant poem, well constructed, easily understood, and filled with many poetic conventions. The first stanza is often quoted alone and represents one of the most inspired quatrains in American poetry.

In the first stanza Dickinson has created a wonderful metaphor that is carried throughout the poem. She has personified death, giving him a name, a conveyance, and a companion. The presence of Immortality in the carriage softens the idea of the arrival of Death. And the fact that He kindly stopped is both a reassurance that his arrival was not unpleasant and an expression of the poet's wit. It is ironic in a humorous way to imagine Death being kind. The speaker in the poem is speaking of an event that happened in the past, another reassurance that there is survival after death. Dickinson's Christian view of eternity and the immortality of life are evident in these stanzas.

The second stanza is about Death arriving slowly such as the result of a disease, which in fact Dickinson did succumb to at the end of her life. Again, there is an ironic reference to Death, this time to his civility, which rhymes with "immortality" from the first stanza and ties the two stanzas together. Notice that there are a couple of examples of alliteration, one in the first line with "knew no," and another in the third line with "labor" and "leisure."

The third stanza gives a picture of the journey. The children and the school in the first line refer to early life. The fields of ripening grain in the third line refer to life's middle stage. Finally, the setting sun in the fourth line refers to the final stage of life. Notice the use of anaphora to effectively tie all of the stages of life together. The repetition of the phrase, "we passed," at the beginning of the lines is known as anaphora. There is also a pleasant example of alliteration in the second line, "recess" and "ring."

The fourth stanza contains two more examples of effective alliteration and creates the image of a person who is not dressed appropriately for a funeral. In fact, the gossamer gown is more like a wedding dress, which represents a new beginning rather than an end. Notice also the near rhyme in this stanza as well as in several other stanzas. Oddly, this stanza was not included in early editions of Dickinson's poems; however it appears in all of the more recent editions.

The grave or tomb is described in the fifth stanza as a house. The description indicates that the poet feels at ease with the location. The last stanza indicates that centuries have passed, though ironically it seems shorter than the day. The "horses' heads" is a comfortable alliteration and ties the vision back to the first stanza. The final word, "eternity," which rhymes with "immortality" in the first stanza also brings all of the stanzas together and brings the poem to a calm close.

Garry Gamber is a public school teacher and entrepreneur. He writes articles about politics, real estate, health and nutrition, and internet dating services. He is the owner of The Dating Advisor.com and the National Director for Good Politics Radio.com.

Article Source: "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" - A Discussion of the Poem by Emily Dickinson

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Saturday, May 06, 2017

 

Thoughts on the Art of Art

By Donovan Baldwin


Okay, I know this is not perfect, but, I was trying to clarify my thoughts about the "meaning" of artistic expression and the making of "good" or "bad" art.

I have always been ot the opinion that technical "goodness" or "badness" of a piece of art, a painting, a poem, whatever, is not the key issue in evaluating something as "art". Sure, it plays a role in assessing the artistic endeavor, just as height, weight, eye color, and so on are part of a human being, but, the humanity is more than just the technical attributes.

FOR ME, there had to be something of value in what the artist/writer had intended and how well they conveyed the idea, the dream, the image, the emotion, the message. That's one reason I like to read poetry written in English by people for whom English is NOT their native language. Quite often they convey, in incorrect English, not only an emotion or meaning, but, they often do it in ways that show novel uses or interpretations for the words they use.

In my thoughts, it's what the artist puts into the work, and what can be gotten from it, that matters, not the technical ability to perform the poetic or artistic act.

Kind of like making love to someone you really love. There may be people more skilled in the arts of love, but, being with this person, doing what you, and they, can do for one another can make it great sex.

But, I was still searching for an image or a story to explain how I felt.
Well, after coffee this morning, while looking out the window, it came to me as a story. A fable-like story, but, one that captured for me what I was thinking and wanting to say:

Death of An Artist

Artists and writers have often been involved in socially reforming movements. Many have used their skills to advance and enhance these movements, and many have died in the process.

I imagined an artist, a painter, who was trying to use his skills and vision to assist in the overthrow of a vicious and tyrannical government.

He is in his studio, prepared to paint a portrait which will arouse the people to the cause, but, before he can begin, troops of the state break in. He is warned not to touch anything, but, knowing he is going to be left with a blank canvas, he grabs a brush and begins painting rapidly.
The troops fire, and the painter falls dead, his brush leaving a bloody red trail down the canvas.

After his body is carried away, his compatriots enter his studio and see the white canvas with the few slashing marks of color, and the blood-red streak left as he fell to the floor.

They take the canvas, and it becomes a symbol of defiance and resistance which helps push the populace to overthrow the oppressive regime.

Technically, the "painting" is not a painting at all. However, to me, it IS a work of art, a work of an artist. His message is boldly and obviously visible for those who can see beyond the technicalities and into the soul of the work and its creator.

I don't know if this clarifies anything for you, but, it does for me. If you stayed with me this long, thanks for reading.

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Friday, May 05, 2017

 

I Return to Reading Essays

By: Donovan Baldwin

I love reading essays of all kinds.

Most of what passes for the essay today is generally in the form of magazine articles, and may have more to do with weight loss, or sex than the human condition.

However, it has been my pleasure for many years to read, not only current authors, but giants of literature such as Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt, Thomas De Quincy, Thoreau, Santayana, and so on.

I read for both enlightenment and amusement, and have enjoyed the insight and humor of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Washington Irving, Mark Twain, James Thurber, and Richard Armour, to name just a few.

Over the last few years, life has forced me, or I have let it force me, to concern myself with more practical matters, and my enjoyment of a few minutes with a great mind has suffered for it. I have, in the past, read and written poetry, and this too has been superseded by other activities.

But, I have come to a time in my life when downsizing and downshifting are taking precedence. Therefore, it was not surprising when recently, while going through a box of books, most of which were destined to be sold at Half-Price Books, I uncovered a hardbound copy of "A Treasury of the Essay From Montaigne to E. B. White", edited by Homer C. Combs. It wound up in the "to be sold" box, but later the same day, I recovered it and placed it on my desk.

It was a few days later that, while running a tub of hot water in which to soak, and looking for a book to occupy my mind, I noticed this treasury waiting patiently, as good books will do.

I slid into the water and opened at random to an old friend, the aforementioned Dr. Johnson, and read the following words.

"I have often thought that there has rarely passed a life of which a judicious and faithful narrative would not be useful. For, not only every man has, in the mighty mass of the world, great numbers in the same condition with himself, to whom his mistakes and miscarriages, escapes and expedients, would be of immediate and apparent use; but there is such an uniformity in the state of man, considered apart from adventitious and separable decorations and disguises, that there is scarce any possibility of good or ill but is common to human kind. A great part of the time of those who are placed at the greatest distance by fortune, or by temper, must unavoidably pass in the same manner; and thought, when the claims of nature are satisfied, caprice and vanity and accident begin to produce discriminations and peculiarities, yet the eye is not very heedful or quick which cannot discover the same causes still terminating their influence in the eh same effects, though sometimes accelerated, sometimes retarded, or perplexed by multiplied combinations. We are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by danger, entangled by desire, and seduced by pleasure."

- Samuel Johnson, Biography

As with many essays, there was a great deal of common sense and insight in that paragraph which would have been given an "F" in many modern classes on how to write. It was a great example of why I love the essay so much, but it was also a great example of why so many today hesitate to read thoughtful pieces.

We expect the meaning of a piece of writing, or even of a movie, to be made clear to us immediately. The longer the work, the more the modern reader or viewer expects, perhaps even hopes, that all meanings will be made visible and understandable in an unfolding manner, much as is seen in a recent car commercial in which the actors comment on the big words floating around them and on the voice of the announcer.

compounding the difficulty are two facts:

1. Essays, at least those of intelligence and insight tend to be written in some form of scholarly jargon and directed at a special audience, not the average citizen. This was true of Samuel Johnson in his day, and is still quite common today.

2. Many essays which may be considered classics were written at a time when English sounded, and was written, much differently from today's forms. Once again, the quote from Johnson, above, illustrates this point.

Our schools do not teach, and society does not seem to see a need to learn, either the ability and patience to interpret any sort of difficult concepts or to understand thoughts and wisdom expressed in older forms of the language. That is left to scholars.

However, reading, as pointed out by the Abbe Ernest Dimnet in his great little book, The Art of Thinking, should always be active. That is, the reader should be willing to make an effort to understand what has been written. Also, a modern reader should understand that the knowledge or information contained in a work will probably not be understood on the first pass, or even, probably, the second.

Good writing often contains within the visible words merely a summation of the thoughts and ideas of the author. As a practice for myself, I wrote a paraphrase of the quote above.

"I have often thought that it has seldom occurred that someone has lived whose life and experiences could not be useful if presented in a judicious and thoughtful narrative.

You see, when you stop to consider the vast number of individuals in the world, there are going to be many in the same condition. Presenting to these people a story of HIS mistakes and miscarriages, HIS escapes and solutions could provide them with immediate insight into their own state, which could be of value in ordering their own lives.

While there are exceptions due to personal states, conditions, and actions; there are still areas in which all men live similar lives. In fact, there is hardly any sort of good or bad that cannot be considered, at least possibly, common to all men. Even the lives of those who could be considered the best or worst, the highest or the lowest of mankind, or those most greatly influenced by chance, personality, or accident, most of the time will be spent in the same manner as that which could be called the life of the "common man".

Once the basics of life, and even the special circumstances and events of these people, have been accomplished and observed, it is not hard for most to see that the same basic sets of events play out in much the same way as with anyone else, and end in the same manner.

We are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by danger, entangled by desire, and seduced by pleasure."

That would appear to give at least an overview of Dr. Johnson's intent, and I am happy with my "translation". However, even as I wrote the words, having read and "understood" the original paragraph, I made changes and adjustments. A couple of times, I deleted what I had written and rewrote it to better express my understanding of the message.

To be honest, however, were I to perform the same exercise tomorrow, I would probably find that I had written an entirely different piece which still, somehow, contained the essence of the author's original work but expressed in yet another manner.

Most thoughtful writing is actually written and rewritten several times in order to make the piece say what the author wants it to say. It is commonly necessary for the reader to read and reread several times in order to more fully understand the message broadcast over time by the author.

Essays can be particularly challenging because the author is generally challenged to insert so much meaning into such a small package. It can be equally challenging for the reader to extract all the meaning on the first try. While for me, one fun part of the essay is simply in the reading, following the ebb and flow of the wordsmith's art, another type of fun is working the puzzle the author has set before me. Often, in fact, the harder he has worked to make the subject easy to understand, the more meaning he has hidden within his work.

I have left the essay behind for many years, but now my Treasury of the Essay is either beside my bed or on the end table beside me. I will be visiting my friends much more often in the future.

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Thursday, May 04, 2017

 

Morning Musing: Breath of Life, That's Me

Morning Musings BC (Before Coffee):

I read something written by a friend yesterday that started my brain chugging. It played with the idea through the night, and, without caffeine, here's where I'm at.

I am old.

I don't do much for the Earth, or its people anymore.

However, I breathe.

When I breathe out, I, just like you, produce carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is, this layman says, what plants breathe in to stay alive.

So, I help give you grass, trees, flowers, and, especially, my favorite, roses...as well as other plants. These plants make the oxygen WE need to keep breathing. Many of these plants are edible, either by humans, or by other animals...which we eat, or enjoy in some other way.

Trees and bushes provide homes for many animals, and, butterflies and birds.

We NEED oxygen and food to live, but, I also would not like to consider life WITHOUT such things as butterflies, birds, and...of course...roses. Just dreaming out loud, in the morning, before coffee.

You're welcome.

Donovan Baldwin

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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

 

Poem: Earth Alive

By: Donovan Baldwin

Outside the window,
From the room where I sit,
A bit unwell, I watch
White herds of clouds,
Move casually across
The bright blue sky
As nearly gale-force winds,
Whip the limbs of mature trees,
As if they were saplings.

Tho' stuck inside today,
I am reminded that the Earth,
Is alive, always alive,
As I remember from my childhood,
When I roamed beach and woods,
Climbing trees to ride the winds,
Diving into the bay to explore,
Following the tracks of animals,
Listening to the calls or birds.

Yes, the Earth was alive,
And, still so much alive today,
But, it's reminding me that
My life is winding down.
I didn't used to be so still,
So sedentary, settled in my ways,
Existence controlled by pain,
As outside the window, the Earth
Reminds me that it is still alive.

Still, I remember the Earth as it was,
On other days when clouds galloped
Across leaden skies, ahead of storms,
As winds tore pieces of things apart,
And scattered them about,
Much more violently than today's winds.
The Earth doesn't remember me,
But, someday I will be part of the Earth,
And, perhaps if no one remembers me,
They will remember the Earth
I am a part of.

Who knows who I am watching
Play around outside the window?
I don't know who from the past
I am watching today, but,
I tip my hat as they blow past,
Remembering that the Earth is us,
And we are the Earth.
It is good to remember one another,
As I sit and watch out the window.

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