Picking Flowers off Wallpaper

The photo is torn,

repaired with a trace of damage,

not enough to spoil

My Grandmother Marion Allers a complexion as satiny as ribbon-roses

adorning the effortless styling of

ringleted hair.

Playfulness in a profiled pose

and a smile that seems to be thinking

of something more than

light layers of hand-sewn chiffon

girlishly high-waisted.

The artistic bend of an arm

pointing to possibilities at hand,

a picture of loveliness

even as petals drop

before their time.

I’m marking my 62nd birthday (July 6) by remembering my beautiful and talented maternal grandmother, Marion Allers DiCesare, a recent interview question prompting me to consider – once again – her promising but frustrated and abbreviated ‘story’. She died long before I was born, but has always been a strong presence in my life, especially my sensory and creative life, through the memories of my mom who absolutely adored her – and as you’ll ‘see’ as you read on, she wasn’t the only one who did.

Her family was long established in Oak Park, Illinois, a village on the west side of Chicago that was the haunt of Earnest Hemingway’s family (my mom having babysat for his sister Sunny’s little boy – but that is a tale for another time). From a family history prepared in 1978 by my grandmother’s older ‘old-maid’ sister Maud (who inspired my story The Snow White Gift), it is confirmed that my grandmother’s grandfather William Allers, a cabinet maker, came to the US with his wife and four children from Budby, Nottinghamshire, England in 1848; two more children including my great-grandfather Henry were born in the US. Henry married Ida Shreffler, and my grandmother Marion, their sixth child, was born March 24, 1893. She was only about 4 years old when her mother died in childbirth.

Marion Allers Age 5 resized

My grandmother (with a cousin) is on the right

My grandmother (with a cousin) is on the right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My grandmother showed musical promise, specifically as a pianist, at an early age.

Marion Allers Age 18 or so resized

She received her entire musical education at the Illinois College of Music, which was established in 1900, graduating when she was eighteen but continuing there as a teacher.

Illinois College of Music Ad-page0001_pe

My mom managed to rescue the 1924 faculty booklet from family records in danger of being discarded as clutter. It states that Miss Allers’ pupils idolized her, “she made an extensive study of Expression (voice training, breathing, recitation, dramatic training, impersonating, dialect, etc.) and was very “clever” as “Pianist-reader and Monologue entertainer” who “became known throughout the city (Chicago)”, and was “original and versatile.” Her repertoire as a concert pianist included Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky (which I can verify from the sheet music that has come down from her). My mom also recalls her mother playing and singing popular songs from the twenties and thirties, and watching her entertaining, even comical, skits.

Marion Allers Illinois College of Music 2a

The story becomes most fascinating and fateful when my grandmother was approached by the American impressario Florenz Ziegfeld, who was from Chicago, to take part in a European tour with the Ziegfeld Follies.

ziegsplash

Her family wouldn’t allow her to go as “good girls didn’t travel alone or do things like that”.

Ziegfeld Sheet Music - Ziegfeld Follies of 1917 (I'll Be Somewhere in France)

Who knows what career opportunities were missed and whether the disappointment contributed to her suffering a nervous breakdown. There is a scene in To A Strange Somewhere Fled that was inspired by her attempting to pick the flowers off the wallpaper in her bedroom during her mental and emotional collapse.

Marion Allers in 20s resized

She had several offers of marriage she turned down. Then, in her thirties, my Italian blue-eyed grandfather Pierino, who was attractive, cultured, charismatic, and a bit of a scoundrel—not unlike Alessandro Stradella—came on the scene when mutual friends took him to see her perform at the Chicago Civic Opera House.

lyric-opera-of-chicago

In 1995 the Lyric Opera of Chicago began a complex renovation of its home, the Civic Opera House.

 

 

Chicago Civic Opera House front

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time she defied her family to marry him—unaware he was still married to a woman in New York City—finding excitement but also hardship in her decision to do so, because, besides being a bigamist, my grandfather was an unreliable provider and often absent, engaging in dodgy real estate deals with the gangster element in 1930’s Chicago. He was very interested in aviation (my mom remembers going up in one of his very small scary airplanes), took out at patent on a new propeller blade, and became Vice President of a propeller company. You can see the photos of the propellers and factory here.

On the left is Pierino DiCesare, Vice President of the Maynard-DiCesare Propellar Company,

My maternal grandfather Pierino DiCesare is on the left, probably around 47 years old at the time of this photograph, Vice President of the Maynard-DiCesare Propellar Company. Although he lived until I was around ten, I never met him. After my grandmother died, he remarried, then divorced, and fell on hard times, becoming a destitute alcoholic and dying from sclerosis of the liver in Philadelphia.

After my mom and her eldest sister were born, her parents split for a while, got back together and had two more daughters, but the marriage was a rollercoaster for my grandmother, causing financial and emotional hardship. She continued to give piano lessons, until  she became very sick with breast cancer which claimed her life far too soon at the age of forty-six, my mom ten, her youngest sister only four.

My grandmothers obituary

My mother was heartbroken, wouldn’t go to school for months, and to this day can’t speak of her mother without tears. What a joyful presence was lost from the mortal world, but, fortunately, I have felt and continue to feel her spirit around me.

My grandmother getting her hair washed by a cousin. In the twenties she sold her beautiful long auburn hair for $50 - her family was outraged!

My grandmother getting her hair washed by a cousin. In the twenties she sold her beautiful long auburn hair for $50 – her family was outraged!

“Well, wouldn’t you like to come inside and pick some (flowers) off the wallpaper?”
~ from the film, Harvey, based on the play by Mary Chase

 

 

donatellasmallest©All Artwork and writing on this site, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Summer Solstice – Nothing New Under the Sun

Summer Solstice resized

Enter summer

in ladies slippers

to walk through clover;

dressed in being

with tortoiseshell adornment

and sighing

all the fashion –






Scarlet Pimpernel Page 30its blush lasting

only as long as the day.


 

Some of you might remember – this is a re-post. Nothing new under the sun, except as everything is.

If this post drew you over here, please check out some of my previous ones.

Including the last one that offers a chance to win a copy of my new novel and sequel to A House Near Luccoli, To A Strange Somewhere Fled – all you need to do is go over to either of my guest posts at Unusual Historicals (Excerpt Thursday or today, Sunday’s Interview), leave a comment with your email address. What have you got to lose?

Here’s an Summer Solstice appropriate excerpt from To A Strange Somewhere Fled:

On the day of midsummer’s eve the Great Hall gleamed with polish and high sunlight, its woolen rugs taken up and flagstones scrubbed, regal-red upholstered chairs borrowed from Broughton Castle arranged in two short-rowed sections separated by an aisle not quite wide enough for layers of skirts. The fireplace was filled with a display of larkspur, lilies, gilliflowers, ferns, and branching honeysuckle picked and presented by Tobias, and arranged by Lidia under his fussy direction. Tobias also brought sweet peas from “his most successful crop ever” to make nosegays for the ladies while single blooms would suffice for the gentlemen and their buttonholes. The flowers were kept fresh by being kept cold along with the sorbet made possible because of the ice-house Roger had been experimenting with.

The dais at the north end was designated for the music of friends. Roger worried over the personalities that would perform, a program created that listed them in alphabetical order except Master Purcell was acknowledged first to perform last. The chairs and music stands were set up with the expectation they would be moved around to accommodate one complaint or other. Donatella tried to reassure Roger that musicians would always reconcile for the sake of the music, as she had seen Alessandro and Lonati do.

“This is a little madness, don’t you think?” Roger had been full of ideas for the concert, including a bonfire for the villagers behind the Abbey with a table set out on the terrace for sweetmeats and cider.

Happy Solstice
Summer or Winter!

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Be our Guest

I’m a guest at two separate sites in the blogosphere this week.

 

Illustration for Kindle Short Story: The Library Next Door

Illustration for Kindle Short Story: The Library Next Door

 

First is an interview I did with Marina Julia Neary, “America’s most Irish author to come out of Eastern Europe”. Certainly, and not surprisingly, her questions were out-of-the box and challenged me, so this interview is quite different from any I’ve done before. Here are Marina’s five questions:

What appeals to me about your work is your determination to draw attention to forgotten figures from the past. In his day, Alessandro Stradella, the heartthrob of your debut novel A House Near Luccoli, used to be something of a rock star in his day, a star that got prematurely extinguished.  How many people outside of the classical music circle know about him?

Let’s talk about the Anglo-Italian connections.  The English have always been fascinated by Italy.  Forester had set several of his novels in Italy – A Room with a View and Where Angels Fear to Tread. In your second novel, To a Strange Somewhere Fled, you actually have an Italian protagonist going to England.  On the surface it seems like the two cultures are diametrically opposite. When you think of England, you think of bland colorless boiled food and vitamin D deprived people.

Your maternal grandmother was a concert pianist in Chicago during the 1920s. What an exciting era to be in the performing arts, especially in a city like Chicago! Tell me a little bit about her repertoire. 1920s was a very turbulent time all over the world. Did the external environment affect your grandmother’s performance style?  

I am feeling uneasy about asking this question, but how much of yourself is there in Donatella?  I’m not implying that she is 100% autobiographical, but she is so well-rounded and so meticulously crafted, I sense she is your psychological child.  Perhaps, she’s not your spiritual twin, but rather a literary child.

You have a gift for illustration.  In fact, you’ve illustrated some of your own literary works.  Tell me how your brain processes the multi-media.  Do you envision an image first, and then describe it with words, or do you start off with words and then translate them into images?

To read my answers to the above
– I hope you do! –
CLICK HERE

CT Commie Tiger Blog Image-page0001 (2) resized

Also, this week and weekend I’m being hosted at Unusual Historicals: “a handful of historical authors (who) brave the wilds of unusual settings and times to create distinctive, exciting novels just outside of the mainstream.”

Here is a chance to win a copy of To A Strange Somewhere Fled.


To enter to win, you MUST comment
and leave your email address
on my ‘Excerpt Thursday’ post at Unusual Historicals
OR
on my interview this coming Sunday 6/21 at Unusual Historicals


Commenting on this bardessdmdenton post will not make you eligible,
BUT, of course, your thoughts are very welcome here
(in fact I’m feeling comment deprived of late)
 

For Except Thursday, featuring an excerpt from Chapter Three of To A Strange Somewhere Fled.

On Sunday, more details about the story behind the story will be offered in an interview.  Here are the questions I will be answering:

How would you describe your writing style?

Who designed the covers of your books?

Is there an underrepresented group or idea that is featured in your books?

How do you approach developing the world of a historical novel fully in your mind?

Did your research for both or either of your novels yield any surprises in terms of historical events or illuminate a character in a particular way?

Why did you decide to write a sequel to A House Near Luccoli, why did you set it in England, and does To A Strange Somewhere Fled end the ‘series’?

What writing projects are you presently working on?

Unusual Historicals Blog Image resized

 

Thank you to all who visit here

and support my efforts

at writing and illustrating!

 

 

Copyright 2015 by DM Denton & JM DiGiacomo

Copyright 2015 by DM Denton & JM DiGiacomo

Returning to a First View of Wroxton

Excerpt from Historical Perspectives of To A Strange Somewhere Fled

The Setting

Old Photo Village of Wroxton

Old photo of the Main Street and duck pond of Wroxton village

I hardly expected my 17th century Genoese journey through the writing of A House Near Luccoli to direct me back to Oxfordshire, England where I lived from 1974 to 1990. Then I began to consider a sequel that would require a destination for Donatella beyond Genoa. Her flight from grief returned me to a first view of “Wroces Stan” – old English meaning buzzards’ stone – a village mentioned in the Doomsday book grown out of ancient crossroads, valley slopes, ochre stone, straw thatch, Augustinian principals, and aristocratic privilege.

Where is Wroxton? Click here!

It was a place small enough to comfort and stately enough to unsettle, reclusive and inviting, its character formed as much by its lower as upper class  – as is seen in the character of demon-obsessed Tobias, who is based on a real village resident I had known – a world as wild as it was well-designed, its seasons defined by flowers, fungi, berries, and trees, ever increasing clouds, fog and frost, rain and more rain so sunny banks and deep shadows were always noticed.

Image corrected to original work. Colour space is Adobe RGB (1998) Gamma is Windows 2.2

Porch, Wroxton Abbey – early 17th century

Wroxton Abbey, situated in a secluded parkland to the southeast of the village, was documented as a manor in the 11th century. One hundred and twenty-eight years later, a tenant, Guy de Reinbeudcurt, founded an Augustinian priory there. Due to the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, much of it was destroyed. What was left of its buildings and demesne was leased to the treasurer of Henry’s Court of Augmentations, responsible for the dissolved monasteries, Sir Thomas Pope, who was the founder of Trinity College, Oxford. In 1551 Sir Thomas granted his brother, John, a ninety-nine year tenancy, and in 1556 endowed the manor and lands to Trinity College that subsequently renewed the lease for John’s heirs.

Old Photo Great Hall Wroxton Abbey

Thanks to Fairleigh Dickinson University Wroxton College for this old photo of the Great Hall, including minstrel’s gallery. I can hear the 17th century violinist Nicola Matteis playing in the minstrel’s gallery – as Roger North put it “the staccatos, tremolos, divisions … every stroke delicious.”(Matteis is credited with changing the English taste for violin playing from the French style to the ‘newer’ Italian one)

Construction on the manor surviving as the central portion of its present structure was begun around the turn of the 17th century by John Pope’s son, William, the 3rd Earl of Downe. A lack of male descendants eventually passed the leasehold to the 3rd Earl’s daughters, and one of them, Frances, married Sir Francis North, the lawyer involved with the settlement of the Pope estate. Sir Francis was succeeded as 2nd baron by his son Francis; his great-grandson Frederick, the most famous North, 2nd Earl of Guilford, titled Lord, and serving as Prime Minister to George III, made extensive alterations to the grounds and some to the house. A library and chapel were most likely added by the famous architect and landscape designer Sanderson Miller in the mid 18th century, but a shortage of funds limited further enhancements. The current interior decoration and windows owe much to Prime Minister North’s granddaughter Baroness Susan, who also oversaw the completion of a south wing that finally gave the house symmetry as viewed from its west-facing front and fulfilled the North family motto: Animo et Fide Perage. Carry through to completion in courage and faith.

Cover Artwork cropped resized_pe cropped

Wroxton Abbey in the 1680’s by DM Denton

Baroness Susan’s Irish husband took her surname, and their son, William, managed the estate until his death in 1932 at the age of ninety-six, marking the end of over 250 years of the Norths’ occupancy. All the family’s effects were sold off and the Abbey was turned into a warehouse during WWII. In 1948, Trinity College of Oxford leased it to Lady Pearson, who rented out large portions, which caused extensive damage. Fairleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey purchased it in 1963 and undertook an enormous effort to repair and modernize the building as well as restore and enhance the gardens and pleasure grounds, creating the splendid campus celebrating its fifty year anniversary in 2015.

Visit and like Fairleigh Dickinson University Wroxton College Facebook Page.

Antique Print of Wroxton Abbey

Antique Print of Wroxton Abbey

I was a junior in college, accepted into the program at Wroxton Abbey to study English history, literature, and theater, when my life-changing connection to Wroxton Abbey and village was initiated. A three month semester spanning the last chilly damp weeks of an Oxfordshire winter and the muddy beginnings and eventual warming and burgeoning of its spring turned into sixteen simple and complicated years of my calling Wroxton home.

Spring flowers in woods

Spring Flowers by DM Denton imposed on real photo of Wroxton Abbey woods

As I began writing To A Strange Somewhere Fled, what I thought would come out of my memories and feared would be limited by my experience and prejudice slowly emerged from a more informed and imaginative perspective, a past long before mine that not only furthered Donatella’s exploration into life and love, but made me more understanding and appreciative of the unique opportunity I’d had once and then again: to linger and live in Wroxton and even the Abbey itself, and make a little private history of my own there.

That's me in 1974 - 2nd row from front, 4th from right

That’s me in 1974 – 2nd row from front, 4th from right

To A Strange Somewhere front cover

 

 

To A Strange Somewhere Fled – “Irrevocable in its magic & intrepid in its storytelling”

The reviews have been coming in for To A Strange Somewhere Fled, sequel to A House Near Luccoli! See many of them here.

Thank you to all who have read and are planning to read it. If you have not yet purchased it, I hope the very favorable reviews will be an enticement for you to do so.

Thank you to Casee Marie of Literary Inklings for this BEAUTIFULLY expressed, generous, in-depth, and insightful response to the novel. I feel like she has looked into and validated my soul. You can read the review below, but I strongly urge you to follow the link to Literary Inklings, a showcase for the grace and excellence Casee puts into everything she does, and her dedication and contribution to the promotion of authors and their work, even mostly unknown ones like me!

To a Strange Somewhere Fled by D.M. Denton

Review © Casee Marie, originally published on LiteraryInklings.com.

Forbidden

Your Love
was not for kisses
except for those near misses
that left it lost in time

Such hopes
were not for holding
in no way emboldening
my heart to make you mine

Your voice
was not for ever
despite its best endeavor
to echo in my dreams

The truth
cannot be spoken
forbidden not forgotten
if all is as it seems

I wish upon a star

And write of love unknown
much as ghosts are

 

When I find a windflower, I find my heart can love no other

 

I have been putting most of my poetic thoughts into my prose these days. So, just a simple one, nothing like the beautiful intricate poetry that my very talented friends are writing. This one just came and, for what it’s worth, I share.

 

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Turning the Pages Back to Look Forward – Mother’s Day 2015

As I embark upon a new major writing project, and with Mother’s Day (in the US and Canada) this Sunday, I am re-posting the prose/poem below (from 2013); for it is my mother, June, who sparked my over fifty year passion for reading and writing with these evocative editions of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre by Ellis Bell and  Currer Bell (Emily and Charlotte Brontë) respectively, illustrated with woodcuts by Fritz Eichenberg.

Wuthering_Cover1 Fritz-Eichenberg-Jane-Eyre-Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, there was another Brontë sister and author – Acton Bell. Which brings me to the subject of the fiction I’m working on now, the first novelette in a series of three featuring obscure/undervalued women writers (or, at least, that is the plan) …

“She, however, attentively watched my looks, and her artist’s pride was gratified, no doubt, to read my heartfelt admiration in my eyes.”
Anne Brontë, from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Haworth Parsonage

Bronte Parsonage, Haworth, West Yorkshire, England. Painted in the 1970’s. Copyright 2013 by DM Denton

 

Oh, those early years when all my shyness wanted was to go home to you. You trusted me on sick days and walked miles on your lunch hour to bring me paper dolls and make sure I was safe.

I was the child you wanted me to be.

Copyright 2012 by JM DiGiacomo

Copyright 2012 by Diane’s mom, June

You gave me many gifts, like the gods and goddesses gave Pandora: a sense of beauty, charm, music, curiosity and persuasion. In particular there was a book, large and beautifully bound, its writing in columns and essence carved in wood.

You were as naïve as I was.

For it was also a box of unknowns, like Pandora’s, that unleashed more than either of us bargained for. I preferred the version of the myth that claimed good things were allowed to escape. All except for one.

We never lost hope.

You put the faraway in my hands, so how could I not want to go there? Of course, you meant for me to travel pages not miles.

You said you would never forgive me.

How many months we didn’t speak; how many years we paid dearly for conversations in such different time zones, trying to being ordinary when it was all so impossible.

We were both alone with our mistakes.

I never thought it would be that difficult to be away from you. My youth was lost, not to romantic discontent but missing what was true.  

How could you ever forgive me?

Perhaps you did a little. When you traveled as I did, because I did: over the sea, to another country, to places you had and hadn’t visited. You walked up the hill, heard your heels on the cobblestones and voices of the dead, inhaled the mist, saw the parsonage, the windswept trees and moors, and turned the pages back.

I didn’t see if your eyes sparkled, but I like to believe they did.

Drawing of Anne Brontë by Charlotte Brontë

Drawing of Anne Brontë by Charlotte Brontë

“There is such a thing as looking through a person’s eyes into the heart, and learning more of the height, and breadth, and depth of another’s soul in one hour than it might take you a lifetime to discover, if he or she were not disposed to reveal it, or if you had not the sense to understand it.”
Anne Brontë, from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

It’s very early days, but here’s a little teaser from my WIP, tentatively titled Without the Veil Between:

Anne was once again in Scarborough, as comfortable as the Robinsons on St. Nicholas Cliff and the Spa side of town, easily settled in lodgings she valued, not because of their elegance and prestige, connection to the Assembly Rooms hosting concerts and balls, or proximity to an excellent library and pleasant walkways, but for the magnificent view of the shimmering shifting South Bay. She especially loved the outlook to her right: in the opposite direction from the harbor and arcades, down along a stretch of sand little disturbed except by the tides and beyond a beautifully barren headland where the sea met the sky and she might unleash her nature unselfconsciously like Emily looking out on the moors where the world waited for her to leave it.

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.