Historical and Literary Fiction / Essays / Poetry / Reviews /Book Cover and Interior Illustrations / Pet Portraits and Other Commissioned Artwork … "Prose may be the lowest order of the rhythmic composition, but we know it is capable of such purity, sweetness, strength, elasticity, as entitle it to a place as a sister art with poetry." Thomas Hall Caine (1853 -1931) from his firsthand "Reflections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti"
On this New Year’s Day 2021, I was reminder by the first two stanzas of this poem by Christina Rossetti (Old and New Year Ditties) of why I was and continue to be compelled to write my current work-in-progress novel about her, and how in sync I am with her melancholic hope and sensibilities:
New Year met me somewhat sad: Old Year leaves me tired, Stripped of favourite things I had Baulked of much desired: Yet farther on my road to-day God willing, farther on my way.
New Year coming on apace What have you to give me? Bring you scathe, or bring you grace, Face me with an honest face; You shall not deceive me: Be it good or ill, be it what you will, It needs shall help me on my road, My rugged way to heaven, please God.
Here is the rest of the poem, no doubt more overtly religious than I am, but full of rich spiritual contemplation I cannot help but relate to:
Watch with me, men, women, and children dear, You whom I love, for whom I hope and fear, Watch with me this last vigil of the year. Some hug their business, some their pleasure-scheme; Some seize the vacant hour to sleep or dream; Heart locked in heart some kneel and watch apart.
Watch with me blessed spirits, who delight All through the holy night to walk in white, Or take your ease after the long-drawn fight. I know not if they watch with me: I know They count this eve of resurrection slow, And cry, ‘How long?’ with urgent utterance strong.
Watch with me Jesus, in my loneliness: Though others say me nay, yet say Thou yes; Though others pass me by, stop Thou to bless. Yea, Thou dost stop with me this vigil night; To-night of pain, to-morrow of delight: I, Love, am Thine; Thou, Lord my God, art mine.
Passing away, saith the World, passing away: Chances, beauty and youth sapped day by day: Thy life never continueth in one stay. Is the eye waxen dim, is the dark hair changing to grey That hath won neither laurel nor bay? I shall clothe myself in Spring and bud in May: Thou, root-stricken, shalt not rebuild thy decay On my bosom for aye. Then I answered: Yea.
Passing away, saith my Soul, passing away: With its burden of fear and hope, of labour and play; Hearken what the past doth witness and say: Rust in thy gold, a moth is in thine array, A canker is in thy bud, thy leaf must decay. At midnight, at cockcrow, at morning, one certain day Lo, the Bridegroom shall come and shall not delay: Watch thou and pray. Then I answered: Yea.
Passing away, saith my God, passing away: Winter passeth after the long delay: New grapes on the vine, new figs on the tender spray, Turtle calleth turtle in Heaven’s May. Though I tarry wait for Me, trust Me, watch and pray: Arise, come away, night is past and lo it is day, My love, My sister, My spouse, thou shalt hear Me say. Then I answered: Yea.
Wishing you health, fulfillment, love, and peace for 2021 and beyond.
There was music on your breath
but not stilled by death;
the bright greeting of your eyes
lost, but for
the quick smile that found each one,
a star with
the warmth of the sun;
a playfulness in your hands
songs from foreign lands.
You moved many through the fairs
and left them
mourning you in prayers;
those times past and present too,
with all your
audience to woo;
mine a quiet memory
not to let
fade and thus bury—
when neither too sweetly soon
nor too late
you sang for the moon.
The sketch is of Owain Phyfe, a loved if often distant friend, who was a vocalist, instrumentalist, and founder of Nightwatch Recording which concentrated on Renaissance and Medieval music. He died from pancreatic cancer on September 5, at the age of 63, after only being diagnosed in July. I did the drawing many…
“Everything that astonished me when I was young astonishes me even more today. The time will never come for me when there are no more discoveries to make. Every morning the world is as new again and I will not cease to flower except through death.”
Colette is most famous for her novella Gigi, (1944), but to fully appreciate her talent, personality, heart, and spirit, you must be adventurous and delve further into her repertoire to truly discover the delicacy, humor, and wisdom of her narrative and poetic voice, which, besides being “largely concerned with the pains and pleasures of love, [is] remarkable for [its] command of sensual description.” To quote further from the online Encyclopedia Britannica entry by Kathleen Kuiper: “Her greatest strength as a writer is an exact sensory evocation of sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and colours of her world.”
I actually got the idea for the illustration included in my kindle short The Library Next Door from this photograph of Colette as a young woman.
“It is the image in the mind that links us to our lost treasures; but it is the loss that shapes the image, gathers the flowers, weaves the garland.”
~ Colette, My Mother’s House & Sido
Illustration for Kindle Short Story: The Library Next Door
“I went to collect the few personal belongings which…I held to be invaluable: my cat, my resolve to travel, and my solitude.”
“By associating with the cat, one only risks becoming richer.”
In my budding effort to open my blog to host others, today I am featuring Martin Shone, intuitive writer of poetry and prose, profound observationalist and thinker.
Martin lives in the UK and has three grown-up children and a four-year-old granddaughter. By day he works as a school cleaner where his mop and bucket are his tools, but in the evening he swaps those for his keyboard. He’s had various other jobs including Postman, Egg Packer, Security Guard, Soldier, Painter & Decorator, Retail Assistant, and General Dog’s Body, amongst other things. Fun fact: Considering he doesn’t own a TV or listen to the radio very often, he once applied to have a go at reading his poetry on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent. He didn’t get very far though, not even passing the first stage; nerves got the better of him and he fluffed his lines.
I’ve been following Martin’s blog, taken pleasure, been reassured and inspired by his poetry and reflections for many years. I keep his first two collections close by and often pick them up to randomly open and be guided by as I might my Little Zen Companion.
I expected Martin’s latest collection to be companionably soothing, sensory, and enlightening. And so it was, inhaling and exhaling poetry in caressing arrangements of words, light as a feather while defying gravity, rising out of Martin’s intuitive observations and perceptive reflections, as well as his experience, imagination, and belief that, as I wrote in my review of Silence Happens, “beauty, peace and love are always available”.
Just a few pages into After the Rain, I had to stop and take a deep breath before reading further—for the best of reasons. I realized I was witnessing a favorite poet’s maturing, strengthening, and deepening. He was still offering the music of his soul for me to “sing along”, but, also, a new complexity of rhythms, sounds and understanding. Without losing any of his writing’s freshness and delicacy, his lyrical musings had become more inspired and inspiring, confident and courageous, distinct and layered.
Martin’s poetry often reminds me of that of the Victorian poetess Christina Rossetti, because of its inclination to let nature—weather, birds, insects, flowers, trees—direct its metaphors and meaning. There are so many poems in this collection that stood out as favorites for me, but the one I return to more than any other is As Bluebells Distract My Mind (Page 57), too long to quote in full here, so I offer its last two lines:
How can I write anything to compare with this magic therefore I regard the distractions around me and put down my pen.
After the Rain offers a sublime invitation to live and breathe through all the senses, contemplation, conscience, the heart’s joys and sorrows, spiritual reflection, and, especially, magical distraction, which is, after all, the poet’s best muse and his audience’s best reason for attending to what he creates. Read my full review of After the Rain on Goodreads or on Amazon.
I’m thrilled that Martin took me up on participating in a little interview!
DMD: Why/when did you begin writing poetry? Was there something that made you feel you needed to express yourself in this way?
MS: I wish to start by saying thank you to Diane, for your continued support of my work over the years, for your help with getting my first book Silence Happens off the ground, and for choosing to interview me. It is an honour.
DMD: You’re so welcome! It’s my pleasure.
MS: I always have a poetry book on the go and nearly always fail to understand what it is I’m reading, although some poems hit the spot, hit that thing inside which then opens and breathes. Mostly, poetry for me is a thing I do not understand, something I can’t get to grips with when reading it. I don’t remember any from my school days or even if I was taught poetry, but school was a bit of a blank. August 2011 was when I began writing poetry in earnest, with maybe a few here and there beforehand. I created my WordPress blog and out it came, pouring from me and most of it, to be honest, was not worth the digital ink it was written with. Slowly I began to see changes and the poetry began to attract more followers ’till at some point the poems became more than the poetry I’d written. Something changed inside me and these poems needed to come out as if it wasn’t me expressing myself but the poetry.
DMD: What has been the greatest influence on and/inspiration for your poetry? How would you describe your poetic voice?
MS: Inspiration comes when the mind is empty of requests for inspiration. Having said that I know nature inspires me, humanity inspires me, death, silence, candle flame, and any number of things, ordinary daily things, conversations, off the cuff comments, life, spirituality and our ongoing quests to find answers to things already here within us. Sometimes I get asked to write a poem there and then, but I say it doesn’t work like that, not for me anyhow, and, yet, on the odd occasion I can. Generally, the poems turn up at my door needing to be watered. I don’t have a single main thing which inspires me to write and, as for an influence, I’m not really sure unless it’s those demons inside. As for my poetic voice? It took me a long time to accept what others were telling me. I was asking myself: how can I be a poet when I don’t particularly like poetry and my grasp of English grammar and punctuation is, to say the least, pretty bad? I refused to accept it. I wrote poems about how I wasn’t a poet—how could I be when I wasn’t the one “writing” them? It was difficult to understand and, at one point, I stopped and closed the site, but with encouragement I started again and out they came: ants from a nest. I don’t know what my poetic voice is and, besides, I don’t think it’s up to me to say or think about.
DMD: In my review of After the Rain I state that, because of its romantic melancholy and its inclination to let nature direct its metaphors and meaning, your poetry reminds me of that of the Victorian poetess Christina Rossetti. It is said that Christina didn’t do a lot of revision to her poetry. Do you do much with yours?
MS: I forget, that’s my problem, I forget. I have a form of Aphantasia, which means my mind’s eye doesn’t see, or in my case doesn’t quite see. I have, what I called in some of my poems, before I knew or even heard of Aphantasia, my darkness, because I can’t see, in my mind, the words I type. I can’t visualize the scenes, the poetry, any colours or voices etc., but occasionally I “see” shadows or glimpses of silvery images and less occasionally a video busts upon me so colourful and violent it makes me shudder. When I’m writing I don’t have the poem just a vagueness of something, sometimes it sits in my stomach—a feeling, a warmth—and so I write and when the poem is finished I have forgotten how it started, so I have to go back and read it. Sometimes I’m shocked at how the ending seems to fit with the theme or the balance of the poem. They still need a bit of editing and revising, and my thesaurus and OED are always at hand. They don’t always appear like this, sometimes I have to stop because the meaning is there but I don’t have the word in me (as I say, school was a blank). And, you know, a poem is never finished; there’s always something in it which needs a change.
DMD: How do you find/make time for writing? Can you write anywhere or do you need a certain space and quietude to do it?
MS: In the weekdays, I write in the evenings if I’m not too tired from work, but falling asleep, reading, or a lack of motivation sometimes gets in the way. I guess I can write anywhere within reason. My laptop is the main place and on the village green at the weekends with my notebook is a favourite, with a coffee, but I’ve written on trains and planes, too. On the whole, I write in silence but sometimes I need a distraction, something loud. I remember writing a spiritual poem a few years ago while listening to a quite loud thrashing piece of heavy metal type stuff—I guess I needed to blank everything else out.
DMD: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
MS: I’m happy when I’m in the flow; I can’t say I’m energized by it, just happy. Occasionally, when something comes to me, I could be writing it and the world is not here; nothing is here but the poem and when it’s finished doing its thing it feels like I’ve been unplugged from whatever or whoever is controlling the poem and I’m exhausted. I need water and silence.
DMD: Do you write anything other than poetry? What writing projects, poetry, and otherwise, are you working on now.
MS: Apart from poetry and the second collection which I’m working on now, I write short stories, not many though. I’ve written a short Young Adult novel of 30,000 words about bullying in school and how the two main characters go about their days with chess as their friend. One is the bully and a genius level chess player, the other is the bullied and thoroughly loves chess. The school tournament is where they find themselves. I have a couple of starts of other novels, one is a fantasy story where I’ve written about 3,000 words and has not been touched for a few years. Amongst other things, it involves an otter who finds an egg and this is no ordinary egg for what comes out of it will change the world. The other novel or maybe novella is a kind of elemental spiritual love story and I have no idea where the words came from; they appeared while watching a spider as I was drinking coffee outside my local café. They came as 12 separate paragraphs, which I originally assumed were going to be the beginnings of 12 chapters but they have since sort of melded into one thing. I think I’ve written about 6,000 words of this and again not touched it for over a year or so and I seem to have lost the thread. I am an idle writer; the times I look at the pile of poems for my next book and turn away!
DMD: What, besides writing, do you do that taps into your creativity and helps you to relax and enjoy yourself?
MS: I’ve dabbled with painting but that came upon me in a burst too, just like the poetry; then it went away and I can’t seem to find it again. I enjoy walking through nature, along the towpaths, forest tracks etc. Photography is another thing that takes me away from stuff and reading too, I always have a couple of books on the go. I enjoy silence, chess, and, I reckon. I’m a bit of a solitary creature by habit. Maybe I should be a monk! I have a nice collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with books by and about him and his creations, which pleases me. I’ve been collecting him for over 30 years now. I must say though, I don’t think I’m all that creative especially with the poetry. I just write the things and I like the things I write.
Thanks so much to Martin
for such an open and honest and fascinating interview.
And I beg to differ: he certainly is “all that creative”!
I encourage you to treat yourself to all of Martin’s publications.
And they make beautiful, heartwarming, soul enriching gifts!
The sea lies behind the poet and a range of hills ahead. She is walking “all carelessly” along a sunny lane. She laughs and talks with “those around” – presumably her pupils – and does not feel as harassed as usual. The sudden sight of a blue harebell on the bank by the road recalls her own childhood. She had then been dwelling ‘with kindred hearts’ and did not have to spend her life looking after others, as she now had to.
The Blue Bell by Anne Brontë
A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.
Yet I recall not long ago
A bright and sunny day,
‘Twas when I led a toilsome life
So many leagues away;
That day along a sunny road
All carelessly I strayed,
Between two banks where smiling flowers
Their varied hues displayed.
Before me rose a lofty hill,
Behind me lay the sea,
My heart was not so heavy then
As it was wont to be.
Less harassed than at other times
I saw the scene was fair,
And spoke and laughed to those around,
As if I knew no care.
But when I looked upon the bank
My wandering glances fell
Upon a little trembling flower,
A single sweet bluebell.
Whence came that rising in my throat,
That dimness in my eye?
Why did those burning drops distil —
Those bitter feelings rise?
O, that lone flower recalled to me
My happy childhood’s hours
When bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers,
Those sunny days of merriment
When heart and soul were free,
And when I dwelt with kindred hearts
That loved and cared for me.
I had not then mid heartless crowds
To spend a thankless life
In seeking after others’ weal
With anxious toil and strife.
‘Sad wanderer, weep those blissful times
That never may return!’
The lovely floweret seemed to say,
And thus it made me mourn.
In 2012, I also reflected poetically on the delight and memories that the “lovely floweret” brought to me.
Copyright 2012 by DM Denton
Clearing for Bluebells by DM Denton
I am long gone
from that small coppice
where one man’s purpose
was all I had.
His saw, his scythe
cut through the clutter
to shed some light where
the ground was soft.
Fires were set
to burn away brash
and warm us at last
on such cold days.
We’d stop for lunch
and speak of nothing
except the birdsong
He loved my hair
and constant silence
and woman’s promise
to stay for hope.
My hands, my heart
wanted to be his
working with nature’s
way of growing.
Clearing the way
for sunshine and rain
growing love not blame
from what was past.
in sight and fragrance
I have come back since
just as he thought
In folklore, some believed that wearing a wreath of bluebell flowers made you tell the truth. Anne Brontë, would have approved, having written:
“I wished to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it.” ~ The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
This is the most beautiful novel about Anne Brontë and her sisters that I’ve read in a very long time. Read entire review by Kimberly Eve, Victorian Musings
Here’s a post just because it’s February and, for a day or two, spring-like. Also, because a sanguine view of life is much needed and who better than Anne Brontë’s eyes to see it through.
Illustration Copyright 2018 by DM Denton
In Memory of a Happy Day in February
Blessed be Thou for all the joy
My soul has felt today!
O let its memory stay with me
And never pass away!
I was alone, for those I loved
Were far away from me,
The sun shone on the withered grass,
The wind blew fresh and free.
Was it the smile of early spring
That made my bosom glow?
‘Twas sweet, but neither sun nor wind
Could raise my spirit so.
Was it some feeling of delight,
All vague and undefined?
No, ’twas a rapture deep and strong,
Expanding in the mind!
Was it a sanguine view of life
And all its transient bliss-
A hope of bright prosperity?
O no, it was not this!
It was a glimpse of truth divine
Unto my spirit given
Illumined by a ray of light
That shone direct from heaven!
I felt there was a God on high
By whom all things were made.
I saw His wisdom and his power
In all his works displayed.
But most throughout the moral world
I saw his glory shine;
I saw His wisdom infinite,
His mercy all divine.
Deep secrets of his providence
In darkness long concealed
Were brought to my delighted eyes
And graciously revealed.
But while I wondered and adored
His wisdom so divine,
I did not tremble at his power,
I felt that God was mine.
I knew that my Redeemer lived,
I did not fear to die;
Full sure that I should rise again
Watching the birds on my nutty suet feeder the last few days, I decided to share this one for the third time. (Those of you who have my 2014 Calendar will recognize it, too.)
Following on my previous post, I’m still in the process of re-imagining this blog. I have, however, taken the first step, an important one for me at this time, and disabled the LIKE button. Whatever I post going forward is for anyone who comes upon it, enjoys it and/or finds it informative and interesting. Comments will still be much appreciated, but so will every anonymous coming and going.
My welcome and gratefulness to all who take the time to visit here, remains the same.
What wouldn’t you give
for that peanutty feast –
something of your shyness
at the very least?
For you have valor,
obvious in your stance,
blue-gray caped crusader
eyes fixed in a glance.
Long-billed and short-tailed,
you observe from your perch,
impatient for my hand
to shorten your search.
While head over ‘heels’
you see nothing absurd
in making a descent
to reach what’s preferred.
And then there are times
you also move sideways
with strong toes and claws that
Your voice is distinct,
tiny horns on the wind,
red-breast hardly counting
your breaths out and in.
You have a technique
that seems topsy-turvy
but finds more delights than
others more nervy.
Tapping each crevice
you find grubs and insects
that many high climbers
routinely do miss.
Despite your short wings
you lift off with some pluck
to prove, after all, you
know which way is up.
“She came toward me with two day-lilies, which she put in a childlike way into my hand, saying softly, under her breath, ‘These are my introduction.'” – What literary critic and abolitionist, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, recalled of his unusual meeting with Emily Dickinson in 1870.
Mom’s Day Lilies – Copyright 2013
through day lilies
bright and brave
the perfect plan
for their existence.
Wanted to share another favorite painting of mine from my mom’s artistic hand and free spirit!
‘The daylily is often called “the perfect perennial,” due to its dazzlings colors, ability to tolerate drought, capability to thrive in many zones, and requiring very little care.’ from Wikipedia
The daylilies are absolutely beautiful this year in Western New York … in gardens, along roadsides and fields, it seems everywhere you look!
I would have disappeared but for the sound of your acquaintance that found me dressed in flowers and waiting for the wind in the trees.
I would not have imagined another encounter without the paradox of you, or found myself in a past that became my future in your absence.
My writing life might have been barren but for you. Even the waiting for you. And the letting go. Especially, the wanting to hold on.
Our story is now buried and visited by strangers. That is how it is told.
I “knew” Alessandro Stradella. I recognized his distinct voice, his swaying form, his infectious smile, and his wandering heart. I had witnessed the rise and fall of his talents, how his music had showered him with forgiveness if not fortune.
Before her was a gracious creature, especially his hands composing in mid-air and eyes shifting slowly in observation and expression. His hair was an admission of the recklessness that got him in trouble, the vagrancy of his genius making him too accessible. Without music’s influence he might not wander like a prince among his subjects, although who could think that was all there was to him? ~ From A House Near Luccoli
Lauren Scott is a talented poet who explores her observations, thoughts, emotions, sensuality and spirituality in a variety of forms and through beautiful word play, deep feeling, wit and even playfulness. She offers poetry from her moments and memories; its subjects range from her love for her parents, sisters, husband, children and beloved dog, to reflections on rainy days and Mondays, sunrises, aging, walking through nature and along beaches, and even coffee–and that doesn’t begin to cover it all! This is a collection of verse that is grateful, optimistic, romantic, nostalgic, inspirational, motivational and amusing, by a poet who writes from the heart and a sense of what is truly important in life. I have followed Lauren’s blog for some time now and this special book just confirms my suspicions: she is always writing poems and although ‘Inspiration has its own timing/and it’s not always perfectly aligning’, she rarely lets her muse slip away unexploited.
The “little thoughts of life, nature, peace, freedom and love” in this collection are like whispers in the ear, not from any human source but from the sensory and spiritual rhythms of nature and the Universe. The title is perfect, for this is as close as words can be to silence, happening as they will, without any intellectualizing or reaching for meaning. This is a miniature book of Zen that anyone can practice just by reading it through or opening it randomly to be calmed, connected to the intuition, and reminded that beauty, peace and love are always available. It offers a place in which to be safe and encouraged. The reflections in this book are hypnotic—even as one reads, like closing the eyes and breathing in their promptings to observe, experience, imagine and believe. Martin Shone is a poet who knows that …
“Poetry doesn’t have to be words
Poetry can be your dreams your memories your future
Poetry lives within your soul
Poetry is you”
Silence Happens is a lovely book to … treasure for its spontaneity, simplicity, sublimity and, not least, the quietness of its poetry.
If you are gift-giving this (or any) time of year, please consider books, whether poetry, fiction or non-fiction, in print or e-reader versions. They offer escape, adventure, knowledge, romance, inspiration, soul-and-heart-stirring. And, something I think is most essential: quiet time … certainly time well spent!