Archive for the ‘#poetry’ Tag

Snapshots in Verse   7 comments

Or maybe it would be easier to say my favorite poet. Actually, I like a lot of poets. As you might guess from my last name, I am distantly related to Edwin Markham, who my grandmother met in her parents’ home when she was about 15. Supposedly, she’d met him as a younger child too, but she had no memory of it. By the time she was 15, he’d attained some measure of fame and that made meeting him all the more weighty, she said.

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Image result for image of stopping by the woods on a snowy eveningSo, I grew up with his poetry. I also grew up with the poetry of Robert Service and Omar Khayyam. Robert Service, of course, is the unofficial poet laureate of the frozen northlands, so I actually have several of his poems memorized from my days working in the visitor industry. I worked with the grandson of Langston Hughes and memorized one of his poems to surprise Cory once.
I admire poets quite a lot. What they do is similar to what I do, but it’s a special skill that evokes pictures and emotions in quick snapshots that I find difficult to do well.
But my favorite poet is Robert Frost. Down-home, rural, painting pictures with words, not horribly preachy, but making some salient points. I don’t know of any Frost poems I don’t like, and the one I selected as my favorite has close competition from about four or five others.
This one, however, actually inspired a scene in Book 5 of Transformation Project. When the book comes out, you’ll have to read it to see what I mean by that since Robert Frost’s poems are just not that apocalyptic.
Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   
My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   
He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
You can just see a man in a sleigh or wagon, standing next to a dark wood with a lake nearby, his horse quietly bobbing his neck, wondering how come they’ve stopped. The snow drifting down in big snow globe flakes, some slight drifting out on the ice. No stars or moon to diminish the snow’s featured role, just the stark trees against the white sky and the slight tinkle of harness bells.
Way back in highschool, a teacher suggested the last stanza is a reference to suicide. Having read a lot of Frost even by then, I doubted it and still do. I think he was tempted to go for a walk in the beautiful deep snow, maybe make a snowman. But he had other commitments and he was a long way from his bed. He had a horse to put up and probably fires to mend. He didn’t have time for more than this snapshot of beauty on a snowy night. It was time to go.

Interview with David Ellis   7 comments

Today’s interview is with David Ellis. We are Twitter acquaintances. Welcome to the blog, David.

Thank you for having me here, Lela, very kind of you and a pleasure to be here.

 

Tell us something about yourself.

d-ellisI’m a poet and fiction writer who lives in a sleepy town in the South East of Kent in the United Kingdom. I used to work in Financial Services as a software salesman but now I am currently re-evaluating my whole career to focus more heavily on writing and exploring my true passions as a champion of both artists and the arts themselves.

I adore cats, dogs and other cute animals, sharing tons of pictures of them on my Facebook page. I also really enjoy foreign cuisine – Spanish, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Indian, it’s all delicious. I’m a very romantic and passionate man, who loves the creativity in people and inspiring others whenever I possibly can.

Passion is something that I believe directly comes across in my writing too.

 

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

For quite some time now I have known that this is my calling. When I was in school, English Language and Literature were the only two subjects that held my attention. Nearly twenty years ago, I started writing song lyrics in my twenties (I’m nearly forty now but somehow it still seems like it was not all that long ago, almost like it was yesterday).

I became fascinated with the catchy, rhyming nature of popular songs and would often try to write alternate versions of them with different lyrics and then I would attempt to write songs myself. I even ended up making a couple of music albums full of rock, pop, rap and electro songs, which I built from samples (like a demented architect with music as my Lego blocks!)

When I was writing song lyrics, I had an abundance of words that were literally bursting at the seams when it came to trying to fit them into musical beats. This eventually led to me writing poetry. I look back fondly on those early formative years as a training ground for myself. I have never lost the urge to make music either.

I began writing short stories about four years ago when I first created my blog/website back in 2012. I enjoy the medium of short stories/flash fiction because you have to cram as much as you can into tight spaces and deliver clear, concise messages that pack a punch. I often find that this is an excellent vehicle for humour, which relies on heavily edited zinging dialogue and fast paced narrative.

Now that I do it regularly I cannot imagine a life without it!

 

What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

d-ellis-life_sex__death___cover_for_kindleMy favourite genre to read is Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Crime Thriller/Action Adventure. I enjoy books that put me emotionally in the story and that explore themes of humour, heroism and have relatable plots and situations regardless of where they are set.

As for my favourite genre to write, I am drawn to writing inspirational poetry in the first instance. There is nothing more satisfying than crafting lines that you know are going to have an emotional impact on the reader that will give them a positive and uplifting experience.

With regard to my fiction writing, I’m now working on Sci-Fi/Fantasy because I like to play with ideas and notions of what will happen in the future, based on our own research of current trends. I find it tremendous fun playing with interpretations of what could become a reality for us and the only sad thing is that I won’t be alive long enough to see if my own predictions will come true!

 

What is something you cannot live without?

Biscuits.

 

British biscuits being more like what Americans call cookies, right?

I’m deadly serious. I get anxious if I go a couple of days without something to dip in my English Breakfast tea! I get separation anxiety from them. Also, I find that the sugar rush gives my brain the conducive buzz that sparks ideas too, so you could say that they are for medicinal purposes when it comes to kick-starting writing 😉

Actually, I should say I cannot live without tea too, in addition to drinking English Breakfast, I also drink many cups of Earl Grey tea every day as well. Tea is my elixir of life, you take that away from me and there will be trouble with a capital T 😉

 

Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?

Revisiting my words as a reader, I’m stunned at what I find. When we write, we are searching for answers ourselves. It is all about asking the right questions to put ourselves in a position as writers to write our way to the answers. I have been told in the past that I have the demeanour of a frustrated musician, who is still trying to figure out how and why the world works in the way that it does. This doesn’t mean that I have given up on the world, I just tend to embrace aspects of love, creativity and inspiration to help solve problems that I come across.

I think that I constantly revisit themes of inspirational advice to encourage myself because in doing so, I am then inspiring countless others in the process and it is a beautiful cycle to be a part of when I am successful in being an inspiration to others.

 

Do you write from an outline or are you a discovery writer? Why?

d-ellis-a_blend_of_tea_break_cover_for_kindleI like to experiment with both forms (plotting and pantsing). Usually I write from a prompt or theme and try to infuse that with a particular style of writing that I am trying out. Half the time, I let my mind wander and I use a combination of research and freestyle phrases, then I will edit the piece for flow and rhythmic resonance.

I feel like I am a very much a musical poet, in that I am laying out words to beats in my head. What I find interesting about playing with rigid lyrical structures that I find in specific forms of poetry with syllable counts, repetition, rhyming schemes, etc is how the limitations can actually drive my creativity into new and exciting areas, while maintaining a clear focus for the piece.

Restrictions can lead to repetition but only if you do not embrace your creativity to find ways of making your piece more original. Endless variations on a theme is my ultimate goal to give you more of what you enjoy, whilst keeping everything as unique as possible.

 

I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

OK, so I have to approach this question logically. With no internet (or TV/mobile phone games/Netflix, I would imagine), I would look first to having a supply of reading books and would also spend the rest of the time writing. I’d probably divide the time between the two pastimes fifty/fifty. I would need to listen to instrumental music too to keep me inspired on the writing side. I’m heavily into electronic and rock instrumental music, particularly ones with exotic/unique beats like Secret Chiefs 3 or Beats Antique (eclectic choices I know but great to enhance the mood).

With regard to which books I would take with me, anything by Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett – I adore these authors very much and am still trying to get through all of their works, which I have found to be the most uplifting and enlightening experience of my life.

 

Good authorial choices! Talk about your books individually.

So far, I have published three books.

 

“Life, Sex & Death – A Poetry Collection” is my debut collection of poetry that I wrote over a period of three years. The book won an award in October 2016 in the Inspirational Category of the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. There are many philosophical and romantic poems in this collection too, it is pretty diverse. I have been told that I am very good at emotionally expressing themes, ideas and moods through poetry and that I have a knack for writing in ways that greatly move or inspire the reader.

 

“A Little Bit of What You Fancy” is a collection of short stories that I have personally authored. Most of them are humorous, with the odd horror story or sad tale thrown into the mix. About half of the material is flash fiction and the other half of the book are longer short stories that were previously printed in Kindle Anthologies and local newspapers. I enjoy the medium because you have to be focused with where the story is going, since the word count is limited. Every sentence has to be heavily edited and pared to the bone. It is another writing discipline that I enjoy very much, along with being one that keeps your writing both tight and focused.

 

“A Blend of Tea Break Tales” is also a collection of short stories from a band of authors that belong to my local Writers’ Circle. I donated one of my stories (which crops up in “A Little Bit of What You Fancy”) for the collection and I collated all of the stories from the authors. There is a lot of diversity in the tales of this particular book, they are mostly all contemporary modern day fables laced with humour, romance and poignancy, with a couple of historical pieces also thrown into the mix.

 

What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

I would like readers to take a chance on my books. I’ve found that when people read them they end up surprising themselves and telling me that they enjoy reading my poetry, even if they are not specifically a fan of poetry, which in my mind is one of the highest compliments you can pay someone!

Personally, I would like people to feel inspired in some way, to continue to believe in themselves and to never give up on their dreams. If anything my words are all about making goals and being determined to reach them no matter how long it takes. Be they in love, relationships, creative endeavour or whatever you own personal missions are in life, I want to be the catalyst to help you to succeed.

 

What influenced your decision to self-publish?

I used Amazon Kindle and Createspace to help produce an electronic and paperback poetry collection for a friend in the past and I edited her poetry collection too. This in turn gave me the knowledge and skills to be able to self-publish my own works, some of which had been previously published on my own blog.

To be honest, I have always considered the option of approaching traditional publishers but had felt that this option was closed off to me at the time I self-published my books, particularly since I have focused on the genres of poetry and short story collections, which generally tend not to attract the big and medium sized publishing houses (most poetry is published by Small Press publishers now).

However, now that I am branching out into full length novels, I am more open to considering traditional publishing methods for more lengthier projects, particularly in light of the accolade that I have gained for my poetry. I will never stop self-publishing though, as I thoroughly enjoy seeing the entire process all the way through to fruition.

 

What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

The greatest advantage in my opinion of self-publishing is not having to wait enormous amounts of time when submitting to a traditional publisher to see if they will take your manuscript. You are free to write whatever you want and can get it in the hands of the reader very quickly (providing that you pay to get it edited though, which I touch upon later). I think that it is also exciting to be able to handle all of the marketing, promotional and creative aspects yourself, which you would have to delegate if you used a traditional publisher. Self-publishing is not for everyone though, I think you have to be a passionate entrepreneur willing to work extremely hard to promote yourself, if you want to succeed with all of the aspects involved.

 

Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

Self-published authors miss out on some of the marketing clout provided by traditional publishers. Many reviewing publications tend to look more favourably on traditionally published works over self-published, which is why I would encourage people to submit their work into competitions and try to obtain awards to help their books stand out from the crowds and be more appreciated by the reading communities.

 

With the number of self-published books increasing by such a huge rate, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?

You have to participate in as many interviews as you can to get your name out there. I think that in every interview, you should try to bring new interpretations of your work to the table to make them interesting for people to read and discover different facets of your work.

I would in particular encourage poets to submit to literary magazines and competitions because if you win a prize or are included in a publication, this can be used as a hook to get people to review your work. I would strongly encourage doing research on every review outlet or blog that is suitable for your work and applying to get your book reviewed. Expect to receive many rejections but keep trying and try to get an electronic copy of your book reviewed in the first instance, as providing paperbacks will put you out of pocket, unless the review is guaranteed.

 

d-ellis-a_little_bit_of_what_cover_for_kindleWho designed your book cover/s? I really like the one to the right. The different typography is eye-catching.

I designed all three of my book covers out of necessity, as I had the books ready to publish but problems with the original covers that I had arranged for the projects. The process was fun and immensely satisfying to try out myself and I’m very pleased with the results. The trickiest part I found was finding royalty-free images of the highest quality and integrating them into the covers.

However, I am keen to incorporate the work of others for future publications (especially for fiction work), as I am not an artist myself and appreciate the collaborative nature of the process with designers and artists. I’ve noticed that since there are only a finite number of templates to play with, the only way to ensure that you get a beautiful, unique and original cover is to work with a designer and many of them out there offer stunning work for great prices. It is a worthwhile investment for your book babies in the long run.

 

Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

High quality is extremely important when it comes to pitting self-published books against traditionally published books. I would strongly advocate paying for professional editing without hesitation for novels and novellas (poetry and short story collections are much smaller beasts and far easier to edit yourself). You are going to be attacked mercilessly in the reviews of your novels for bad spelling and grammar, something that could easily be corrected by having another pair of independent eyes look over it. Reputable editors tend to charge very reasonable rates.

Another thing I would use is the computer program ‘Grammarly’ and work hard to brush up on grammar rules yourself, so that when you go to submit your work to an editor, it will be of reasonable quality to begin with and they can then weed out any inconsistencies or other problems with your writing. You want to polish your writing so bright that it can escape any of the stigma associated with self-publishing and sit on the shelf as a professional work to be proud of.

I’ve also seen many beautiful covers produced by talented people for reasonable prices and I think that this should also be a priority if you are not a professional designer yourself. This is a worthwhile investment for the future as a beautiful and engaging cover will attract many readers to your worlds and words.

Finally, if you are uncomfortable uploading your manuscripts into Amazon Kindle/Smashwords/Createspace or any other self-publishing platforms of choice and are making a mess of it then I would get someone to help you to do it (someone who knows what they are doing of course!) or pay to have it done professionally because a poorly formatted book is going to win you very few fans or sales in the long run!

Thank you for having me Lela and good luck with all of your future creative endeavours.

 

Where can readers find you and your books?

Amazon

Website www.toofulltowrite.com
Facebook:- https://www.facebook.com/TooFullToWrite
Goodreads:- http://www.goodreads.com/TooFullToWrite
LinkedIn:- https://uk.linkedin.com/in/davidellisauthorpoetwriter
Twitter:- https://twitter.com/TooFullToWrite

Anti War Hero   2 comments

When you hear the term war hero you usually picture battlefield bravery — charging enemy lines in the face of incoming fire, risking one’s life to save the lives of friends, enduring painful injuries without complaint — but I’m not that enamored with those who go to war, so I sought a war hero who stuck his neck out to oppose the very war in which he fought.

If we more readily associated heroism in war with the courageous resistance to our government’s aggression, the world’s nations might shed far less innocent blood.

Siegfried Sassoon was both a war hero and anti-war hero.

Sassoon was the son of an English Catholic mother and a Jewish father from Baghdad. From an early age, he showed both literary and artistic talent. His last name means “joy” in Hebrew. His mother named him “Siegfried” because of her love of Richard Wagner’s operas. Otherwise, Siegfried’s only connection to Germany was his service to Britain in the tragically misnamed “war to end all wars”, the one that laughably made the world “safe for democracy.”

Most of us have very little understanding of World War I. We take history courses that fail to explain why there was so much unimaginable slaughter and devastation. Truthfully, few adventures in history were more absurd in origin, outrageous in duration and counterproductive in their outcomes as World War I.

When the world stumbled into war, Sassoon was a 27-year-old carefree novelist and avid cricket player. Not waiting to be drafted, he patriotically joined the British Army and was already in service with the Sussex Imperial Yeomanry on August 4 when the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. He was commissioned with the Royal Welch Fusiliers as a second lieutenant in May 1915. November of 1915 Sassoon’s brother was killed in the Gallipoli disaster, and, days later, Siegfried himself was sent to the front lines in France.

Almost immediately, he inspired the deepest confidence of the men serving under him. On bombing patrols and night raids, he demonstrated stunning efficiency as a company commander. He single-handedly stormed an enemy trench and scattered 60 German soldiers. Nicknamed Mad Jack by his men for his near-suicidal courage, he was awarded the Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry…. He remained for 1½ hours under rifle and bomb fire collecting and bringing in our wounded. Owing to his courage and determination all of the killed and wounded were brought in.”

One of every eight British men who served on the western front in World War I died in the trenches or in the ghastly death zones that separated them. Casualties, which included the wounded and the killed, totaled a staggering 56%.

The reality of machine gun warfare in the endless gridlock of trench warfare makes it impossible for us to truly grasp it, but Sassoon, having witnessed it first hand, made an attempt to describe it in vivid poetry.

A supreme irony of the Great War’s carnage was the emergence of magnificent British war poetry, of which Sassoon was one of the best. These were warriors who had come face-to-face with their own mortality, had their innocence obliterated, seen life squandered, witnessed the death of close friends, the failure of modernity, and the nightmarish inferno of combat. The more he experienced the agonies of those around him, the more he questioned the purpose and sanity of the enterprise. Agog at the astonishing rate of servicemen taking their own lives, Sassoon wrote “Suicide in the Trenches,” one of his many poems focusing on the conflict:

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

 

Three years into the war, Sassoon had had enough. “In war-time,” he wrote, “the word patriotism means suppression of truth.” After a period of convalescence from war wounds, he declined to return to duty and threw his Military Cross medal into the river Mersey. His conscience compelled him to write this letter to his commanding officer in July 1917:

I am making this statement as an act of willful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defense and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them and that had this been done the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

“I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.”

I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now, I make this protest against the deception which is being practiced upon them; also I believe it may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share and which they have not enough imagination to realize.  — Siegfried Sassoon

Before the month was out, Sassoon’s letter became a sensation across Britain. A sympathetic member of the House of Commons read it aloud and The London Times printed it the next day.

The country’s military and political hierarchy debated how to respond. Sassoon might have been court-martialed and executed, but his reputation both in print and on the battlefield pushed the authorities to decide he was mentally ill, deranged “shell shock”. They sent him for treatment to Craiglockhart Hospital near Edinburgh, Scotland.

At Craiglockhart, W.H.R. Rivers, the psychiatrist and officer attending to Sassoon, was quickly convinced that this principled young man was in full possession of his faculties. While hospitalized, Sassoon befriended Wilfred Owen, another war poet also remanded to Craiglockhart for “shell shock”. Upon his return to the battlefield a few months later, Owen would be killed on the eve of the war’s end.

Unable to prove that anything was physically or mentally wrong with Sassoon, the British military underwent a change of heart. They released him from Craiglockhart and even promoted him to lieutenant. In July 1918, in spite of all that he had endured, Sassoon volunteered to return to the Western front. He hadn’t changed his mind about the war; he simply couldn’t stand the thought of not being of assistance to the men in the trenches.

Within days of returning to battle, Sassoon was wounded in the head by a fellow British soldier who mistook him for the enemy. He recovered, but it was that “friendly fire” that took him permanently off the front. The war itself finally ground to bloody halt four months later with a death toll of more than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians.

Siegfried Sassoon lived another half century, earning his living as a poet, editor, novelist, and public lecturer. He married and fathered a son. His politics tended toward the left, but that’s not, fortunately, what he’s best remembered for. When war with Hitler came in 1939, he lamented but supported it, believing it a necessity brought on by the folly of the previous war.

It’s not uncommon for great issues to elicit an alteration of perspective from even the best man or woman. In time, he expressed some doubt about his stance in 1917 but his deeds and words during the Great War would forever define his legacy. I personally prefer to see him in those years as courageous and principled when under fire, no matter what form the fire took.

 

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