Wisely Mingled Poetry and Prose

I’m a storyteller and a poet. Storytellers need someone to listen; poets need only whisper to themselves.

I wrote that over five years ago, when I was first setting up this blog. I continue to have this duality as a writer. I won’t call it a conflict, because there is no war of words in me, only an integration of their use lyrically and narratively.

Always be a poet, even in prose. ~ Charles Baudelaire

gustave_courbet_033

Charles Baudelaire by Claude Courbet, 1849

I have to confess that, whether reading or writing it, I become more engaged with prose that has the sensitivity, sound and cadence of poetry. No matter its subject or objective, be it fiction or non-fiction, light or dark, joyous or tragic, as it unfolds a character or events, describes a room or landscape or sunset, is active or contemplative or emotional, I need a sense of the exploration of language’s possibilities in what I read and write.

Verse is everywhere in language where there is rhythm, everywhere …in truth there is no prose: there is the alphabet, and then verses more or less tight, more or less diffuse.
~ Stéphane Mallarme, real name Étienne Mallarmé,
French symbolist poet

portrait_of_stephane_mallarme_manet

Stéphane Mallarme by Édouard Manet, 1876

As opposites attract, poetry and prose enjoy a special intimacy. Their union challenges the intellect, seduces the senses and imagination, and speaks between the lines. It appeals to the wanderer who is also a lingerer. It requires readers who prefer an unhurried, indirect route to those who just want to get from “A” to “B” in the fast lane.

In North Carolina driving from Asheville to Boone presents a choice. A driver can stick to the interstates or opt to take the Blue Ridge Parkway. The latter decision takes an extra hour or so, but along the way there are opportunities to stop at overlooks and enjoy scenes that are among the most magnificent in America. DM Denton’s writing presents a similar choice. It takes a little longer to read than most books of a similar page length, but along the way there are breathtaking moments which make the choice a wise one.
author Steve Lindahl from his review of my novel To A Strange Somewhere Fled

1-fryingpan-mountain-tower-trail-blue-ridge-parkway

Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.
~Edmund Burke

I can’t help myself. I have an insatiable appetite for the deliciousness of words: the order in which they’re added, how they’re blended to subtly flavor one another, their capacity to create a succession of complementary courses.

When you write in prose, you cook the rice. When you write poetry, you turn rice into rice wine. Cooked rice doesn’t change its shape, but rice wine changes both in quality and shape. Cooked rice makes one full so one can live out one’s life span . . . wine, on the other hand, makes one drunk, makes the sad happy, and the happy sad. Its effect is sublimely beyond explanation.
~ Wu Qiao, Chinese Master

qu-yuan

Cooked rice and rice wine may be enjoyed at the same time. Why not opt for a full and sublimely nourishing literary feast and satisfy the need for knowing and wondering?

srwine30

Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye. ~ Dorothy Parker

I love to write prose for the layered, rhythmic, aesthetic aspects of language, just as I do when writing verse, but neither comes easy for me. I’m an artist straddling detail and abstraction, who moves from lines and colors to the written word with the same concentration on each stroke in order to achieve whatever vision I have for the whole canvas. Poetry can illustrate prose, draw its breath more vividly, and give its words individual lives in the crowds of thousands.

Creative writing is an art beyond the ability to communicate correctly and clearly; it’s about resisting what is safe, even defying what is safe, going out on a limb, even, for the bravest or craziest, out further than that limb has ever been tested.

Just as the virtuoso musician knows that perfect technique is no substitute for imperfect expression …

The author’s style takes the conventional and then begins the deconstruction, the rearrangements … This deconstruction and rearranging is what an artist does. Rather than imitate reality, he selects what is important to him, and abstracts what is essential to achieve a new reality. People, relationships, emotions and ideas are put through this process of reordering. The artist abstracts what is vital and compelling, and releases it as a living thing. From the moment of inspiration until the intuitive flow has ceased, expression is more important than communication.
~ author Mary Clark from her review of my novel A House Near Luccoli

Wisely mingled poetry and prose, to quote Louisa May Alcott, takes years to achieve, which is probably why, although writing since my childhood, I was in my fifties before my work was “ready” to be published.

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Louisa May Alcott

Of course, some aspects of poetry, like rhyme, can seem out of place in prose. Alliteration has to be used sparingly; sometimes it organically creeps in and is allowed to stay, other times it’s too consciously clever and must be sent regretfully but appropriately away. Repetition can have a place here and there for necessary emphasis. Metaphor and simile can be either form’s friend or foe. Of course, grammar is more autocratic in prose; the rules are there, but …

I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. ~ Elmore Leonard, American novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter

calling-grammar-police_pe

It could be argued that poetic prose is overly descriptive (or flowery, as detractors like to address it), producing writing that is verbose and lengthy. From what I’ve seen, the opposite is true. Straight narratives often result in many more pages than those focusing on the shape, sound, and implication of almost every word. Poetry tends to be concise, needs organization and carefulness in crafting, and, therefore, doesn’t lend itself to four hundred page novels. Well, not to be achieved in a year or two, anyway.

“I suppose that’s how it looks in prose. But it’s very different if you look at it through poetry … and I think it’s nicer,” Anne recovered herself and her eyes shone and her cheeks flushed, “to look at it through poetry.”
~ Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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Lucy Maud Montgomery

My writing drips rather than gushes onto the page. Where other writers set and achieve goals of getting down a few thousand words at a sitting, I’m grateful to my muse – and my stamina – if I accomplish five hundred or so. Sometimes it’s frustrating, mostly it’s about having patience and persevering, finally it’s an accomplishment that has listened to the (begging) storyteller and (whispering) poet in me.

Young Diane at Typewriter

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.

Nothing Grows with Sun Alone

So the rain never left us, just hesitated to refresh us, while hoping to remind us

that nothing grows with sun alone; thirst is one moment closer to hunger, and heat can wear out its welcome

for those who look for the willowherb to rise in sight of water, and the lily pad to float and blossom further out of its depths.

 

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

I originally posted this the summer of 2012, when, like this year, Western New York experienced a pretty severe drought. 

Now, after almost two and a half months of extreme heat and humidity, as September begins and summer winds down, some rain has come, enough to relieve and refresh. Today is most splendid: mid-70s F with bright sunshine, vivid colors, deep shadows, and a fresh breeze. Loving it! Did some gardening without sweating and windows are open! A day to be peaceful and content and, hopefully, productively creative.

Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.
~ John Updike


©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.

For International Cat Day: Portrait of Mischief and Love

August 8th is International Cat Day!

They also made themselves at home on the softness of Donatella’s bed, passively fighting over the mountain of pillows. When their mistress finally got in, they settled across her chest and legs, Caprice playing with her toes while Bianchi enjoyed a stroke up to the skin behind her ears so her eyes narrowed and her purring came from nowhere.
~ From To A Strange Somewhere Fled by DM Denton

Here’s a repost to mark the occasion.

Where was my heart when my hand captured time
in a portrait of mischief and love?

Boots, Sadie and Francie 2 cropped colored

Copyright 2013 by DM Denton

Cats Between the Lines

Cats must be there. Even as I wander long ago and faraway, they follow me, rub my legs, curl on my bed and beg my attention without disturbing it. Their purring is my mantra too, so natural and deliberate at the same time, encouraging the perfect rhythm of my heart. They are soft to the touch yet strong enough in their will. One swipes at my pen to remind me not to take it all so seriously; another paws my arm, eyes green with envy for the obsession that seems to leave him out. Oh, no. How can I tell him? With a turn and a bow and a stroke he’s reassured; with an Eskimo kiss he’s a distraction but—as one of my favorite writers, Colette, once noted—never a waste of time. Yet another stretches, slithers and yawns like a serpent enticing me to a nap. And then I realize I’m being watched, by that scamp who only sleeps to run and jump and wrestle when he’s awake, small and smart and certain I can’t grab him before he runs away again.

Cats know more than they ever say, probably for the best if progress is ever to be made. A leonine length with legs neatly crossed and head shaped for stillness sets me wondering if any activity could be better than none. Oh, I know. I must make a living, eat and drink and pretend to hunt. So I do so with their goal in mind, eyes squeezed closed and whiskers and paws and tail twitching, to savor sleep as much as success—for the dream of the mouse even more than its taste. 

Cats can be characters, as many as I’ve had there’s no end to the possibilities. I can dress them up and use them in stories that otherwise might not welcome them. I suspect they would be flattered if they knew or be nonchalant: they expect me to take them everywhere I go and include them in everything I do. Saying that, they realize being ignored is freedom from expectation, especially if turned into a choice. And vanishing is just another way of being found.
(Note: ‘Cats Between the Lines’ was originally posted September 3, 2011. The image – the first time I have posted it –  is one I did in the mid 90’s of my then kitty family – Boots, the mother, and her two calico children, Francie and Sadie.)

More Cat posts I’ve done over the years:

Wrestling with Love

A Home for Oscar

Feline Understanding

Too Many Tales

Playing with Ambition

Oscar and Blake 2Gabey_pe resized 2

Darcy and Oscar

Dante and Blake 1

Gabey, Darcy, Dante and Blake 1Dante on Rocking Chair

Gabby and Blake on Windowsill_pe

Butch in Garden

 

Later Donatella sank into English melancholy and the high backed chair, her cats purring basso continuo at her feet …
~ From A House Near Luccoli by DM Denton


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.

We’re crowdsourcing: submit your poem!

Poets! Here’s a chance to see your poetry published in a beautiful anthology (Bennison Books publications are always first class) AND contribute to The Book Bus, a very worth charity. Follow the link to learn more and how to submit!

Bennison Books

2blue-logoBennison Books is crowdsourcing poetry! No, we don’t want your money: we want your words.

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Journeying to Ireland – Repost

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

♣ A spring Sunday in Dublin, Christ’s little brides happy to celebrate with a meal at McDonalds
♣ From coast to coast, covered in cowslips and folksongs
♣ Not a limerick heard, not even in its place where we stayed entertained by a harp’s angel
♣ Bumping along in coaches with windows steamed and destinations , like the weather, constantly changing
♣ The mystery of alpine flowers on the Burren’s stony paradise
♣ Orchids not for picking
♣ Layers of streets, a lunch of mussels and beer, and buying old postcards in Galway
♣ Thoughts swept away by the cliffs of Moher
♣ Secluded coves with sandy beaches
♣ The mile long dream of Dingle, being Ryan’s daughter, tea with Peggy and tales of Gregory Peck
♣ Shrine at Slea head, the edge of the world
♣ A ring in Kerry that never broke its promise
♣ Starlings descending on Killarney
♣ Muckross magic in mossy woods, botanical gardens, mist shrouded mountains and mirror-clear lakes
♣ Rhododendrons and fuchsias wilder than anywhere else would allow
♣ The meeting of the waters and differing reasons for being there
♣ Miles and miles of freedom on a bicycle
♣ Airy woods of oak and ash and silver birch, feathery fern, lichen dripping and moss imagining a smaller world
♣ Fields of gorse and heather blending yellow and purple
♣ Sunshine and rain breezing in and out, taking turns to create the artist’s view
♣ Water, water everywhere, all around and in-between
♣ Sudden cascades and corners of serenity
♣ Train station benches turned for looking the other way
♣ A cottage for a week, stray cats at the door, peat burning slowly and sweetly, wild mushrooms and blackberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

♣ A thousand welcomes from new friends who would never be old
♣ Not a day or night without a smile and a song
♣ So much more to remember than forget

And so I return, again and again.

I traveled there a woman
and came back a child
with my eyes full of the clouds
coming over the mountains
so I could never tell
how high they were;
the rivers going on
forever,
the irises
floating down to the sea,
the fuchsias so wild,
but not really.
All along the way
cowslips lived
where meadows survived
and milkmaids didn’t mind
the rain
so sudden
as suddenly gone.
The fields were greener than any
in France
through the glass of our visit
going down to the sea,
everywhere surrounding,
only my heart brave enough
to go on
into the waves,
a lonesome boatman calling me
to come live with him
forever.
DM Denton 1983

Diane on Dingle Beach 1983

Diane on Dingle Beach 1983

©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.

A Home Where Heart and Soul May Rest

My mom turns 87 this week. She has been widowed for 30 years, at first struggling to come to terms with this sudden circumstance, but eventually tapping into her strength, talents, and capacity for independence and growth.

We have lived together since my return from England in 1990 after we had been apart, except for a few visits one way or other, for 16 years. It’s difficult to remember when we were so estranged from the everyday of each other’s life. Perhaps, even as we acted as though this was meant to be, we knew, in our hearts, it wasn’t.  That is my emotional memory of those times. As the French Philosopher Simone Weil wrote: “When friends are far apart there is no separation.”  

Yes, we are mother and daughter, but I think, what has been more affecting in my life is our friendship: the best I have known because it has been honest and difficult and, yet, supportive and enduring, especially as it has tested our ability to remain friends, loving friends. As with any close relationship, there have been tricky moments (and still are), and it has evolved and required adjustments and a fuller appreciation that giving and receiving love is not for making us feel better but BE better.

I first posted the piece below for Mother’s Day a few years ago, when I had no idea I would return in more depth to what she wanted us to have in common, obliging then through my reading and now through my writing (a novel about Anne Brontë).

Happy Birthday, Mom …

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.

Wuthering Heights

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.  

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 you eyes sparkled, but I like to believe they did.

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

Though solitude, endured too long,
Bids youthful joys too soon decay,
Makes mirth a stranger to my tongue,
And overclouds my noon of day;

When kindly thoughts that would have way,
Flow back discouraged to my breast;
I know there is, though far away,
A home where heart and soul may rest.

Warm hands are there, that, clasped in mine,
The warmer heart will not belie;
While mirth, and truth, and friendship shine
In smiling lip and earnest eye.

The ice that gathers round my heart
May there be thawed; and sweetly, then,
The joys of youth, that now depart,
Will come to cheer my soul again. 
~ Anne Brontë, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell

 


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.

Journeying to Ireland (repost)

Previously, I’ve shared how I went there a woman and came back a child with my eyes full of the clouds coming over the mountains.

Going through letters from England, now to myself, I found some further thoughts on my three journeys to Ireland that took me halfway home but all the way to where I needed to be.

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

♣ A spring Sunday in Dublin, Christ’s little brides happy to celebrate with a meal at McDonalds
♣ From coast to coast, covered in cowslips and folksongs
♣ Not a limerick heard, not even in its place where we stayed to hear a harp’s angel
♣ Bumping along in coaches with windows steamed and destinations , like the weather, constantly changing
♣ The mystery of alpine flowers on the Burren’s stony paradise
♣ Orchids not for picking
♣ Layers of streets, a lunch of mussels and beer, and buying old postcards in Galway
♣ Thoughts swept away by the cliffs of Moher
♣ Secluded coves with sandy beaches
♣ The mile long dream of Dingle, being Ryan’s daughter, tea with Peggy and tales of Gregory Peck
♣ Shrine at Slea head, the edge of the world
♣ A ring in Kerry that never broke its promise
♣ Starlings descending on Killarney
♣ Muckross magic in mossy woods, botanical gardens, mist shrouded mountains and mirror-clear lakes
♣ Rhododendrons and fuchsias wilder than anywhere else would allow
♣ The meeting of the waters and differing reasons for being there
♣ Miles and miles of freedom on a bicycle
♣ Airy woods of oak and ash and silver birch, feathery fern, lichen dripping and moss imagining a smaller world
♣ Fields of gorse and heather blending yellow and purple
♣ Sunshine and rain breezing in and out, taking turns to create the artist’s view
♣ Water, water everywhere, all around and in-between
♣ Sudden cascades and corners of serenity
♣ Train station benches turned for looking the other way
♣ A cottage for a week, stray cats at the door, peat burning slowly and sweetly, wild mushrooms and blackberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

♣ A thousand welcomes from new friends who would never be old
♣ Not a day or night without a smile and a song
♣ So much more to remember than forget

And so I return, again and again.

And as a bonus, from St. Patrick’s ‘Breastplate’ Prayer:

I bind unto myself today

The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Diane on Dingle Beach 1983

Diane on Dingle Beach 1983

©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.