If Stars Dropped Out of Heaven

With the launch of my most recent novel, Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit, this blog has gained some new followers. I thank you for choosing to connect with me and my muse, and I offer a heartfelt welcome.

Perhaps you don’t know of my other publications – two novels set in 17th century Genoa and England, and three kindle short stories set in the late 19th century, and 1920s and 1930s Chicago. You can find all on my amazon author page and on my Goodreads profile. And, of course, this blog has more information on them, as does my website: dmdenton-author-artist.com.

Because it’s officially summer, the time when one of the most precious, playful, graceful, healing, and resilient gifts this earth gives us is in abundance, this post highlights the illustrated journal I published in 2014 that was originally created by hand while I was living in Oxfordshire, England in the 1980s.

A young Christina Rossetti, by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

 

If stars dropped out of heaven,
And if flowers took their place,
The sky would still look very fair,
And fair earth’s face.
Winged angels might fly down to us
To pluck the stars …

~ Christina Rossetti
(subject of my next novel in progress)

 

 

 

I thought of doing this post when I fell in love all over again with one of my favorite flowers, currently in full fairy-ish bloom in my garden.

 

Foxglove, genus Digitalis

The name “foxglove” was first recorded in the year 1542 by Leonhard Fuchs, whose family name, Fuchs, is a Germanic word meaning “fox” (the plant genus Fuchsia is also named for him). The genus digitalis is from the Latin digitus (finger), perhaps referencing the shape of the flowers, which accommodate a finger when fully formed.

Thus the name is recorded in Old English as foxes glofe/glofa or fox’s glove. Over time, folk myths obscured the literal origins of the name, insinuating that foxes wore the flowers on their paws to silence their movements as they stealthily hunted their prey. The woody hillsides where the foxes made their dens were often covered with the toxic flowers. Some of the more menacing names, such as “witch’s glove,” reference the toxicity of the plant.

Henry Fox Talbot (1847) proposed folks’ glove, where folk means fairy. Similarly, R. C. A. Prior (1863) suggested an etymology of foxes-glew, meaning ‘fairy music’. However, neither of these suggestions account for the Old English form foxes glofa.
~ Wikipedia

The foxglove is featured in A Friendship with Flowers, each page dedicated—illustrated with poetry—to a specific flower following a sequence from the beginning to the end of the year.

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton, A Friendship with Flowers

 

A Friendship with Flowers is available in print and for kindle devices and app.

It would make a lovely gift for a gardener or wild flower lover, including yourself.

 

This gorgeous book contains the author’s own exquisite illustrations of a variety of flowers from hedgerow and garden, all accompanied by mellow poetic verses in her own inimitable style.
~ Deborah Bennison, Bennison Books

A Friendship with Flowers (Book Trailer) from Diane M Denton on Vimeo.

Hope your summer has gotten off to a happy and blessed start!

©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.

The Moon and June … in May … on Mother’s Day

Today Mother’s Day (in the US) falls on May 13th as it did in 2012 when I first posted as follows (with a few updates) …

... once again with deep love and devoted admiration for my mom who, at 89 and despite a number of tough months in and out of the hospital and rehab, now home requiring a lot of care, is as vibrant and beautiful as ever.

I would like to share from her journal:
“June’s Favorite Prose and Poems and Wit. Truth—Goodness—Beauty”, 1985.

Here is a poem she included in it, by one of her favorite poets (and mine too, so much so I am currently writing a novel about her)…

The days are clear
day after day
when April’s here
that leads to May,
and June
must follow soon.
Stay, June, Stay!
If we could stop
the moon and June.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

And some of the paintings my mom put in it …

And from the last page of her journal…

Once upon a time

I planned to be an artist

or celebrity.

A song I thought to write one day

and all the world with homage pay.

I longed to write a noble book,

but what I did–

was learn to cook.

For life with simple tasks is filled,

and I have done not what

I willed!

June M DiGiacomo

©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.

The Poetry of May

Illustration © 2018 by DM Denton

There is but one May in the year,
And sometimes May is wet and cold;
There is but one May in the year
Before the year grows old.
Yet though it be the chilliest May,
With least of sun and most of showers,
Its wind and dew, its night and day,
Bring up the flowers.
~ Christina Rossetti (1830-1894, English poet of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems)

 

 

But I must gather knots of flowers,
And buds and garlands gay,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother,
I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
~ Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892, Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria’s reign)

 

 

 

Oh! that we two were Maying
Down the stream of the soft spring breeze;
Like children with violets playing,
In the shade of the whispering trees.
~ Charles Kingsley (1819-1875, social reformer, historian and novelist)

 

Wreaths for the May! for happy Spring
Today shall all her dowry bring
The love of kind, the joy, the grace,
Hymen of element and race,
Knowing well to celebrate
With song and hue and star and state,
With tender light and youthful cheer,
The spousals of the new-born year.
Lo love’s inundation poured
Over space and race abroad
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882, American essayist, lecturer, philosopher and poet)

 

A delicate fabric of bird song
Floats in the air,
The smell of wet wild earth
Is everywhere.
Red small leaves of the maple
Are clenched like a hand,
Like girls at their first communion
The pear trees stand.
Oh I must pass nothing by
Without loving it much,
The raindrop try with my lips,
The grass with my touch;
For how can I be sure
I shall see again
The world on the first of May
Shining after the rain?
~ Sara Teasdale (American poet, 1884 – 1933)

 

Illustration © 2018 by DM Denton

Now the bright morning-star, Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire!
Woods and groves are of thy dressing;
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.
~ John Milton (1608-1674, English poet, polemicist, man of letters, and civil servant)

 

 

Illustration © 2018 by DM Denton

 

Winds of May, that dance on the sea,
Dancing a ring-around in glee
From furrow to furrow, while overhead
The foam flies up to be garlanded,
In silvery arches spanning the air,
Saw you my true love anywhere?
Welladay! Welladay!
For the winds of May!
Love is unhappy when love is away!
~ James Joyce (1882-1941, Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet)

 

Illustration © 2018 by DM Denton

 

Yes, I will spend the livelong day
With Nature in this month of May;
And sit beneath the trees, and share
My bread with birds whose homes are there;
While cows lie down to eat, and sheep
Stand to their necks in grass so deep;
While birds do sing with all their might,
As though they felt the earth in flight.
~ William Henry Davies (1871-1940, Welsh poet and writer)

 

Illustration © 2018 by DM Denton

Queer things happen in the garden in May. Little faces forgotten appear, and plants thought to be dead suddenly wave a green hand to confound you.
~ W. E . Johns (1893-1968, English First World War pilot, and writer of adventure stories)

 

The fair maid who, the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be.
~ Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme

 

Illustration © 2018 by DM Denton

 

When April steps aside for May,
Like diamonds all the rain-drops glisten;
Fresh violets open every day:
To some new bird each hour we listen.
~ Lucy Larcom (1824-1893, American teacher, poet, and author)

 

 

 

Illustration © 2018 by DM Denton

 

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.
~ Robert Frost (1874-1963, American poet)

 

 

 

 

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.
~ William Shakespeare

Illustration © 2018 by DM Denton

I cannot tell you how it was,
But this I know: it came to pass
Upon a bright and sunny day
When May was young; ah, pleasant May!
As yet the poppies were not born
Between the blades of tender corn;
The last egg had not hatched as yet,
Nor any bird foregone its mate.

I cannot tell you what it was,
But this I know: it did but pass.
It passed away with sunny May,
Like all sweet things it passed away,
And left me old, and cold, and gray.
~ Christina Rossetti (1830-1894, English poet of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems)

Simply speaking … it’s May! It’s Daisy May!

Illustration © 2018 by DM Denton

In forgotten places
there are daisies
to love
whether I am
or not
call them dogged or
ox-eyed or
Marguerite
by any name
they are still
a treat.

~ DM Denton
from A Friendship with Flowers

 

©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.

Poetry for Disappearing Into

March 21st is/was World Poetry Day.

Why would she write novels if only age, love, and death changed her? Poetry would be enough, a more natural and satisfying means of expression. It suited her pensiveness and piety, could be composed in isolated moments and reflect without analyzing. Poetry was a solitary art; even when read by others, its author could go unnoticed. It was perfect for disappearing into.
~ from Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit

That I might simply fancy there
One little flower — a primrose fair,
Just opening into sight;
As in the days of infancy,
An opening primrose seemed to me
A source of strange delight.

Sweet Memory! ever smile on me;
Nature’s chief beauties spring from thee,
Oh, still thy tribute bring!
Still make the golden crocus shine
Among the flowers the most divine,
The glory of the spring.

~ from the poem, Memory, by Anne Brontë

Copyright 2018 by DM Denton

I have just begun my next writing project: a novel portrait of the Victorian poetess Christina Rossetti. Here is her exquisite poem, Spring, describing the burgeoning of the season, but, also, its transience.

Frost-locked all the winter,
Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,
What shall make their sap ascend
That they may put forth shoots?

Copyright 2018 by DM Denton

Tips of tender green,
Leaf, or blade, or sheath;
Telling of the hidden life
That breaks forth underneath,
Life nursed in its grave by Death.

Blows the thaw-wind pleasantly,
Drips the soaking rain,
By fits looks down the waking sun:
Young grass springs on the plain;
Young leaves clothe early hedgerow trees;
Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,
Swollen with sap put forth their shoots;
Curled-headed ferns sprout in the lane;
Birds sing and pair again.

There is no time like Spring,

Copyright 2018 by DM Denton

When life’s alive in everything,
Before new nestlings sing,
Before cleft swallows speed their journey back
Along the trackless track –
God guides their wing,
He spreads their table that they nothing lack, –

Before the daisy grows a common flower
Before the sun has power
To scorch the world up in his noontide hour.

There is no time like Spring,

Copyright 2018 by DM Denton

Like Spring that passes by;
There is no life like Spring-life born to die, –
Piercing the sod,

Clothing the uncouth clod,
Hatched in the nest,
Fledged on the windy bough,
Strong on the wing:
There is no time like Spring that passes by,
Now newly born, and now
Hastening to die.
~ Christina Georgina Rossetti

I also hope to write about one of my favorite writers, early 20th century novelist and poet Mary Webb.

Copyright 2018 by DM Denton

There bloom immortal crocuses, beside
A live-rose hedge, and irises that grow
Along a far green inlet–circling wide
Anemone fields where none but stars may go.
The ardours of a thousand springs are there;
Through infinite deeps they quicken, bright and tender:
In that sequestered garden of the air …
~ from Winter Sunrise by Mary Webb

 

 

 

Welcome Spring!

May the snow subside, the sun brighten and the rain cleanse!

 

Copyright 2018 by DM Denton

 

©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.

Perseverance, Purpose, and Mathematics

From a letter Charlotte Brontë wrote to Hartley Coleridge, June 16, 1847:

Bronte_poems2

Sir,

My relatives Ellis and Acton Bell and myself, heedless of the repeated warnings of various respectable publishers, have committed the rash act of printing a volume of poems.

The consequences predicted have, of course, overtaken us; our book is found to be a drug; no man needs it or heeds it. In the space of a year our publisher has disposed but of two copies and by what painful efforts, he succeeded in getting rid of those two himself only knows.

Before transferring the edition to the Trunk-makers, we have decided on distributing as presents, a few copies of what we cannot sell.

Besides demonstrating Charlotte’s wry humor, which, I have no doubt, masked her disappointment and frustration, her letter also reveals an important choice she made in order to move past this discouraging experience of presenting the Brontë sisters’ writing to the public. I might add that the poetry collection, which they paid to have published, did inspire a few positive reviews from newspaper critics.

I feel very grateful that Charlotte wrote that letter. Of course, she had no idea it would be preserved to reach out and beyond its original purpose and, for all those writers who would come after her, set a sagacious example of how to deal with setbacks, even failures, by acknowledging them, feeling the irony in them, confronting their implications without relinquishing future progress and possibilities to them.

Yellow Rose DM Denton 3 with text

Illustration Copyright 2016 by DM Denton

 

fritz-eichenberg-jane-eyre-cover

My mother’s Jane Eyre, 1941 Edition with woodcuts by Fritz Eichenberg

In a letter to her friend Ellen Nussey in October, 1844, Charlotte expressed a similar resilience in the face of defeat when “the enterprise of keeping a school”, which she and her sisters had devised to the point of sending out flyers/”cards of terms” and even thinking about alterations to the parsonage in order to accommodate it, didn’t materialize.

We have no present intention of breaking our hearts on the subject—still less of feeling mortified at defeat—The effort must be beneficial whatever the result may be—because it teaches us experience and an additional knowledge of the world.

 

In the autumn of 1845, Charlotte rather stealthily came upon Emily’s poems. Emily was furious at such an invasion of her privacy and insisted she didn’t write with any thought of publication—perhaps, afraid she might make an enemy of the constant companion writing was to her.

When weary with the long day’s care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost, and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again:
Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
While then canst speak with such a tone!

Charlotte, who managed to convince Emily to publish her poems under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, would not believe “a mind like (Emily’s) could not be without some latent spark of honorable ambition”.

sketch-of-emily-bronte-and-keeper-from-emilys-diary-image-via-the-bookman-1898

Sketch by Emily Brontë

George Eliot also had her thoughts on how to approach any endeavor, likely with the activity of writing in mind:

Failure after long perseverance is much grander than to never have a striving good enough to be called failure.

Dedication-page0001 (2)

A year ago this week, my second novel (historical fiction), To A Strange Somewhere Fled (dedication above), was published. As with my first, A House Near LuccoliI was optimistic on its release and for its subsequent reception.

“What a fool you must be,” said my head to my heart, or my sterner to my softer self.
~ Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey

I don’t think I ever have or will fool myself into thinking my writing lends itself to mainstream appeal. However, I do still believe it can and should be read by many more than have already. I’m very grateful to every buyer, reader, and reviewer. But, if I’m honest, I have to admit I’ve had moments of feeling very frustrated, defeated, even of breaking my heart because I find myself questioning my lifelong calling to write.

Looking to those who have come before also helps, although there are contradicting philosophies …

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~ Sylvia Plath
or
The writer who loses his self-doubt, who gives way as he grows old to a sudden euphoria, to prolixity, should stop writing immediately: the time has come for him to lay aside his pen. ~ Colette

My wish to survive and write more and feel “the effort must be beneficial whatever the result may be“, inclines me towards the latter advice. Sylvia Plath had hardly begun to explore her potential when she took her own life at the age of 31. In contrast and, in no way meaning to demean Plath’s ongoing struggle with depression, Colette lived out the natural span of her life to the age of 81, experiencing marital abuse and other difficulties and setbacks, taking detours on unexpected roads, often expressing philosophical optimism. “You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” “Hope costs nothing.” “Be happy. It’s one way of being wise.”

I believe what made Colette a survivor was her ability to create out of the dark as well as the light: “Look for a long time at what pleases you, and longer still at what pains you…”

1312496-Colette

Colette in old age with one of her cats

So now, whenever I despair, I no longer expect my end, but some bit of luck, some commonplace little miracle which, like a glittering link, will mend again the necklace of my days.
~ Colette, The Vagabond

So what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or, to paraphrase: what doesn’t stop you writing makes you more determined to do it.

In the past year, I have contributed three short biographies to The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life: Mary Webb, Christina Rossetti, and, just this week, Jean Rhys (click each name to read them). In different ways, all three overcame discouragement to continue writing. Mary Webb attained some positive critical attention and even won the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse, but her books didn’t actually become commercially successful until shortly after her death in 1927 when Britain’s Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin publicly praised her writing (you can see an actual letter he wrote her here) and called her a neglected genius (Hmm … he couldn’t have said so a little sooner?).

bluebell-collage2 with text and border

Illustration Copyright 2016 by DM Denton

Yes, writers struggle with their own doubts, but also from others’ perceptions and avoidance, especially those close to them.  They can’t help wondering if praise from those quarters is patronizing and, on the other hand, find it hard to deal with their work being dismissed or even ignored by those who “should” be the first to encourage and help to promote their work. Christina Rossetti’s own brother pronounced her too pious to care if her writing achieved any success, an unfounded assessment in view of her passion for and lifetime pursuit of poetic expression.

There is always another side, always. ~ Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys’ last novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, published when she was 76, finally brought her popular success and financial reward, but she wasn’t impressed, saying it had come “too late”. Yet, like Colette, in spite of a life resembling a roller-coaster ride of experiences, relationships, and sometimes crossed-purposes, and while rebelling against how “her obsession (to write) gripped her”, she also understood that writing got rid of obsessions and produced “clarification”, that even if she didn’t want to write, she had to since “life has no shape, art is necessary, it provides some shape, at least to hold on to”.

beatprofile-1

Jean Rhys

“All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. And then there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.”  ~ Jean Rhys

When I was young, writing was about dreaming up and playing with stories until I grew tired of them.

Young Diane at Typewriter

Now, chosen by them, I honor them as they do me by giving them the best expression I can and persevering patiently when they are troubling because I know they will be ultimately rewarding to my sense of accomplishment and completeness—no matter the mathematical odds against them bringing me fame and fortune.

From To A Strange Somewhere Fled

No one was there, except whom she mournfully invited and didn’t hope would appear. Until something was forming and even stirring, one line then two, black marks turning into graceful strokes, almost half-a-page filled before she knew it, pouring like blood from a deep wound. If only she could keep it flowing, instead of grief drying it up and making it hard and leaving a stain with no poetry about it.

Two Cassee Book Images with Gray Background with text 1

Ill-success failed to crush us: the mere effort to succeed had given a wonderful zest to existence; it must be pursued. ~ Charlotte Brontë

©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.

 

Highlighting The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life

This week I’m highlighting a wonderful website that celebrates …

… classic women authors who wrote in the English language. Here you’ll find their words of wisdom for readers and writers. Enjoy their life stories and quotations; learn more about their books; read their advice on the writing life; and enjoy contemporary voices on the writing process.
Source: The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life

Literary Ladies Web Page Header-page0001 (2)

The site owner, Nava Atlas, has also published a book of the same name:

book-cover

 

Nava was looking to add some more authors and has graciously allowed me to contribute overviews of a few of my favorites.

So far:

The English novelist and poet, Mary Webb (March 25, 1881 – October 8, 1927) whose writing reflected her strong ties to the countryside and people of her native Shropshire and who drew who drew on her pantheistic view of nature, fascination with folklore, innate sense of mysticism, consideration of the female experience, and empathy with the most vulnerable and stigmatized of earth’s creatures.
Read more …

Mary_webb

and, also,

The Anglo-Italian, Christina Rossetti – one of the most enduring of Victorian poets … the youngest of four artistic and literary siblings … the most famous being the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Her poetry and prose … used lyricism and symbolism to contemplate themes like earthly and divine love, nature, death, gender and sexuality, and drew inspiration from the Bible, folk stories and the lives of the saints.
Read more …

Christina_Rossetti_3

Drawing of Christina Rossetti by Dante Gabriel Rossetti


Both will be included in my upcoming collection of three novellas about lesser-known/oft-neglected women writers. The third is Anne Brontë. Read more about her at The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life.

Drawing of Anne Brontë by Charlotte Brontë

Drawing of Anne Brontë by Charlotte Brontë

This work-in-progress is in its infancy. I’ve begun with Anne Brontë, and here’s a little taste from Without the Veil Between 

She pulled out a drawing begun some months before, Little Ouseburn Church most picturesque viewed from the other side of Ouse Gill Beck, its chancel encased by shrubby trees, a grassy bank sloping towards the stream, the mausoleum just out of sight. The Robinsons’ carriage was commandeered every Sunday to transport the family the nearly two miles to the church, immediately afterwards waiting to take them back to the Hall for dinner by half-past noon. Anne was included in and yet irrelevant to the Sunday ritual, the latter demonstrated by no one questioning her leather folder tucked under her arm or even thinking to refuse, as the Inghams would have, her request to stay behind to draw a while before returning on foot.

“You may do what you please, Miss Brontë,” Mrs. Robinson was famous for saying, “and I will tell Cook to put your dinner aside.”

“Aren’t you afraid to walk back alone?” Mary might wonder before her mother insisted she get into the carriage.

Anne was relieved she didn’t have to answer, for any explanation of her need for bucolic solitude would have implied dissatisfaction with the confines of her room at Thorpe Green, the subdued light through one slanted window waking her very early but, by late afternoon or in the evening, providing inadequate illumination for reading, writing or artwork. She took whatever time she could to be on her own out-of-doors, freed from capricious children and their equally unpredictable parents, the dissatisfaction of servants and repetitive duties, and, especially, the dreariness back stairs and dark corridors made almost unendurable. In contrast it was easy to put up with feeling too warm in the sun and too cool in the shade, watch for rain, hold her paper from curling in the wind, wave away thirsty gnats, and be distracted by birdsong and any of the creatures she could hear but not see or see without seeing, like the fish making little whirlpools of bubbles in the stream between her and the church that months later, having to resort to memory and imagination, she hoped to finish her detailed impression of.
Copyright 2015 by DM Denton

ouseburn

Little Ouseburn Church – Anne Brontë’s sketch and a recent photograph by Mick Armitage http://www.mick-armitage.staff.shef.ac.uk/anne/bronte.html#main index

This collection is a long way from publication, but, if you enjoyed this sample and for those who may not know, I have two literary historical fictions available now – A House Near Luccoli and its sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled, as well as two kindle short stories, The Library Next Door and The Snow White Gift, all published by All Things That Matter Press.

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.

 

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