Tag Archives: Poetry

Summertime approaches

Everyone,

This blog will be taking its annual vacation until the end of August. This means that unless there is something pressing, there won’t be much activity here. Except for my book reviews, because I will be spending my time relaxing…and enjoying lots of books.

I wish you all a great summer, and look forward to seeing you all in September. Exciting things are going to be happening around here. I will be publishing some short stories and poems this fall. And my second novel FAMILY SPLINTERS is due to come out next spring. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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WHITE OLEANDER by Janet Fitch

WHITE OLEANDER is the kind of novel that agents still talk about, over ten years after it was published in 1999. As I was curious to see what they were talking about, I recently read it.

The agents were right. This is an amazing novel, not just for the outrageous but believable character of Ingrid Magnusson and her daughter Astrid, not just for the amazing plot twists and turns, but for the amazing prose style.

 

 “What was the best day of your life?” she asked me one afternoon as we lay on the free-form couch, her head on one armrest, min on the other. Judy Garland sang on the stereo, “My Funny Valentine.”

“Today,” I said.

“No.” She laughed, throwing her napkin at me. “From before.”

I tried to remember, but it was like looking for buried coins in the sand. I kept turning things over, cutting myself on rusty cans, broken beer bottles hidden there, but eventually I found an old coin, brushed it off. I could read the date, the country of origin.

It was when we were living in Amsterdam.”

 

What a great use of metaphor and simile. Here is another example.

 

And now it was too late. I looked at Sergei across the table in Rena’s kitchen. He could care less about my boyfriend in New York. He didn’t even care about his girlfriend in the next room. He was just like one of Rena’s white cats – eat, sleep, and fornicate. Since the night I’d seen them together on the couch, he was always watching me with his hint of a grin, as if there were some secret we shared.

“So how is your boyfriend?” he asked. “Big? Is he big?”

Niki laughed. “He’s huge, Sergei. Haven’t you heard of him? Moby Dick.”

Olivia had told me all about men like Sergei. Hard men with blue veins in their sculpted white arms, heavy-lidded blue eyes and narrow waists. You could make a deal with a man like that. A man who knew what he wanted. I kept my eyes on the broccoli and cheese.

“You get tired of waiting,” he said. “You come see me.”

“What if you’re no good?” I said, making the other girls laugh.

“Only worry you fall in love Sergei,” he said, his voice like a hand between my legs.

 

What’s not to like about this book? The ending. I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like being left with two choices, two ways that this heartbreaking story might go. I thought that the author should have done that hard work for me. Four stars.

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THE RELUCTANT EMPRESS by Brigitte Hamann

It is heartbreaking to read about the destruction of an attractive and lively personality. Yet that is what Brigitte Hamann’s biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria does. Titled THE RELUCTANT EMPRESS, Ms. Hamann’s book charts the downfall of Elisabeth (more commonly known by her nickname “Sisi”) from a carefree 15-year-old who caught the heart of the Emperor Franz-Joseph, to a teenager whose children were taken from her by her jealous mother-in-law, to a twenty-two year old who fled the Viennese court and her marriage because after six years of marriage, she became so ill, that people feared for her life.

Unable to live with a husband who was dominated by his mother, and kowtowed to a stifling regimented Spanish etiquette, Sisi tried to find something to do with her life.

In the 1860s, she agitated for the parity of the Hungarian crown with the Austrian. In 1867, her efforts were crowned with a coronation ceremony in Budapest.

In the 1870s, she dropped politics and moved onto horse-racing, becoming one of the most outstanding equestrians in the world.

In the 1880s, she focused on poetry, writing several hundred poems, most of which were not published until after her death (they were too subversive). She stopped writing poetry when her only son, the Archduke Rudolf, committed suicide in 1889.

In 1890, her youngest child married, giving her even less reason to stay in Vienna. And so she wandered, from place to place, never finding a home of her own.

For those of us who remember the trials and tribulations of Princess Diana this makes chilling reading. Like Diana, Elisabeth suffered from anorexia. Like Diana, she was a perfectionist who cultivated a cult based on her own extraordinary beauty. LIke Diana, she became an unhappy woman who never seemed to find her footing in the world. So when Elisabeth was assassinated in 1898, her death was a relief.  Birgitte Hamann writes:

“This sensational act of violence in Geneva was a deliverance for a deeply unhappy, emotionally disturbed and physically debilitated woman whose parting hardly left a gap.”

What a tragedy for such a deeply gifted, and sensitive personality. Five stars.

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Indie Presses

For those of you who would like to have the pleasure of hefting your novel in your hand as a codex of weight, extension and form, but don’t want to get sucked into the clanking machinery of big publishing conglomerates, Indies presses are the way to go. You might be surprised by how many of them there are. Because of the nature of the business, Indie presses tend to be niche enterprises. Some only publish poetry. Some want short stories or novellas. But there are some that do novels.

If you have written a novel that is set in a particular geographic region, you might want to consider contacting an Indie press in that region, because Indie presses like to cultivate local authors. For example, when I mentioned that my second novel HE MUST BE SOMEONE is set in Georgetown, Washington D. C., Ed Perlman, the owner of Entasis Press which is based in Washington D. C., visibly brightened.

You might wonder what is going to happen to Indie presses in light of recent turmoil in the publishing industry. I mean, aren’t books going the way of the dodo? And doesn’t that mean that their days are numbered? Not according to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) whose annual conference I attended at the beginning of February. Several small presses showed interest in digital apps such as Ampersand that display poetry on digital readers with the correct line breaks.

To read more, click here.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Writers Conferences

Writing conferences are important, not only because you have a chance to network and meet people, but also because you may learn interesting things. When I think about going to a conference, I first check the faculty or the list of speakers.  What is each person’s bio, what have they written, would they be the kind of writer who might understand my WIP? Then I look at the sessions. Is there anything that I particularly need to learn, or do I know it already? Is there going to be time to talk to the speaker? Are there special sessions where you can meet an agent or an editor? Lastly, I look at practical things like travel, accommodation and date.

Where can you find out about writing conferences?  Check out the Shaw Guide to Writers Conferences, Poets and Writers, and Writers Digest.

If you have been to any interesting conferences, feel free to comment below.

Image: aliceosborn.com

Next: I participate in my first webinar

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Filed under About Cynthia, Conferences, How to Publish Your Novel, Promoting Yourself

Poem: Moonrise

Moonrise moonrise1

Sunset

Day-part

Weekend

Day-clear

Starlight

Day-clean

Sunrise

Leaf-fall

Candle-mass

Mayday

Rainfall

Moonset

Windfall

–Cynthia Haggard writes poetry, novels and short pieces.  During the day, she is a medical writer.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.   (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Poem: The Appassionata Sonata

The music curled out of the half-open door of the music shop.  It fell gently down and then rose quietly.
“That’s the Appassionata sonata,” remarked my mother.
The quiet opening closed and exploded in jazzy syncopated chords.  Suddenly it became quiet with a running note underneath like an underground stream.
It forced me to stop and listen to every note.
I felt caught, transported by emotion.
The music was pure. Grand. Magnificent. Rocky.
It took me out of my daily life.
It took me above myself.
It took me and held me.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Poem: Moods

His conversation
Rambles
Down a path
Between the trees
Into a sunny glade
Where it spreads its fingers…

His conversation
Rumbles
Down a path
Between bare rock
DSCF1475.JPGInto the boulder field
Where lightning sparks icy trails.

His conversation
Turns
And spins out of control
Or
Turns and spins
Through various
And many
Before coming to a
Stop.
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Poetry: Clouds Like Colophons…

The clouds were colophons above Longs Peak.
White and fluffy, they made clear emblems,
Signs that stood out against a background of deepest azure.

Two of them stood together,
Hanging in the still air above the mountain
The morning was fresh and bright
No harbinger of things to come.

That was at nine in the morning.
By twelve, the clouds moved in.151
By one, the storm rolled off the mountain
Striking sparks of lightening upon the unwary,
Who, enjoying their climb, went above the timberline
To the boulder field to the Diamond face.

No! No! Don’t go there.
Said the hikers as they scampered down the mountainside.
There’s lightning there. It’s dangerous.  You could get hit!
They ran down the hill for the cover of trees.

So my husband and I turned reluctantly,
Away from the beauties of Alpine plants, high air,
A platform view of the surrounding mountains.
We trudged downhill as the hail struck
Fierce pellets of ice hit us hard
After twenty minutes it turned to rain
The dusty track became viscous and squishy
Churning mud onto legs and trouser bottoms.
At length we arrived at the Ranger’s hut
That was the worst hike I’ve experienced
Said my husband,
Ever.
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and has recently opened her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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Poem: And Half a hedge…

“I’ve been really busy cleaning up,”
Said she in response to my question.
“I use the summer as time to gain control …”

The other nine months
Melanie teaches piano
To seven, eight, or nine year-olds.
She gets “playground recommendations”.

Melanie lives in a house that is a hundred.
Near the seaside, she watches storms roll in, scattering birds high above,
And inhales the salty breeze.

The front lawn belongs to the cat,
Who defends her turf with determination.
Early mornings are a time for indignant squawks
As Pixie fights it out with the Toms next door.

Melanie tends the large back garden182
With its patio, terrace, koi carp pond.
A haven for wildlife,
With shrubs and trees that she allows to get comfortable.

But sometimes the plants get too comfortable,
And then it is time to clean up.
“I took my car to the dump,” said she.
In response to a recent question,
“I had:
A large assortment of grass clippings,
A pile of dead leaves,
Nick’s TV that’d blown up
Two dead computers
And half a hedge…”
I laughed.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and has recently opened her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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