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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

An Excerpt from George: A Magpie Memoir by Frieda Hughes.

Illustration:Frieda Hughes

Six days after finding him the sheaths of George’s wing and tail feathers were almost all powdered off; he just had a couple of little bits left that Widget tried to nibble away. Dandruff was a daily feature of the kitchen floor; it gathered in heaps in the corners of the old, dark oak Victorian floorboards, and eddied and whirlpooled in the draught of opening and closing doors, prompting me to drag out the vacuum cleaner over and over again.

George seemed to enjoy affection, although maybe for him it was simply the need for food and warmth. But if he was out of the cage, he wanted to be close to me; my lap was his favorite place. This slowed me down terribly, as once he sat on my lap I was reluctant to move. But I had a sense that it wouldn’t be long before the chances to stroke this tiny magpie would evaporate as he developed independence.

Thinking I might never raise another magpie, I tried to keep a photographic record of me with this fascinating little bird, but it was hard to get a picture of us together, because I had to rely on the good nature of The Ex, who wasn’t the least bit interested. George, it seemed, was the competition.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

The Origin Of Dorothy Parker's Social Conscience

American writer and wicked wit, Dorothy Parker died on this day in 1967. In 1939 she wrote about her social conscience in an essay called "Not Enough." Here's the opening ... 

I think I knew first what side I was on when I was about five years old, at which time nobody was safe from buffaloes. It was in a brownstone house in New York, and there was a blizzard, and my rich aunt--a horrible woman then and now--had come to visit. I remember going to the window and seeing the street with the men shoveling snow; their hands were purple on their shovels, and their feet were wrapped with burlap. And my aunt, looking over her shoulder, said, "Now isn't this nice that there's this blizzard. Now all those men have work." And I knew then that it was not nice that men could work for their lives only in desperate weather, that there was no work for them in fair. That was when I became anti-fascist, at the silky tones of my rich and comfortable aunt.

Monday, June 05, 2023

How John Keats Wrote Poetry



Words of the Working Class

From fields to vegetable farms to steel mills, ordinary workers across China document everyday mundanities in extraordinary verse.

Planting Trees is a poem by Li Songshan, a 42 year old shepherd in Lilou Village in Henan province:

An early bout of meningitis left him disabled and Li dropped out of school in fourth grade.

Thanks Bruce!

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Monday Poem

( 3 Quarks Daily)

Helen Keller's Letter to Nazis

Nazis in pre-WWII Germany added Helen Keller's collection of essays, How I Became a Socialist, to a list of “degenerate” books to be burned on May 10, 1933. Here is her response:

(Open Culture)

Thursday, May 25, 2023

The Life Of Raymond Carver, a Documentary

Carver’s second wife, Tess Gallagher, and writers Jay McInerney and Richard Ford, his close friends, explore Carver’s artistic legacy: his stories and poems about the other side of the American Dream.


Grief - Raymond Carver

American poet and short story writer Raymond Clevie Carver Jr. was born on this day in 1938 in Clatskanie, Oregon. 

Florida school is trying to ban Amanda Gorman's poetry

An elementary school in the Miami-Dade area received a single complaint that youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman’s inspirational poem “The Hill We Climb,” which she read at Joe Biden's inauguration, contained “hate messages.”

The response: the school acted to limit access to the poem.

This is what they are objecting to:

Shame on them.

Read more: Literary Hub

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Dress Diary of Mrs. Anne Sykes

                            PHOTOGRAPH BY KATE STRASDIN.

In January 2016 fashion historian Kate Strasdin received a remarkable gift.

"This book, measuring some twelve and a half inches long by eight and a half inches across, contained pale blue pages, which were unlined and unmarked. As I carefully opened the front cover and looked at the first page, my breath caught: this was indeed a marvel. Carefully pasted in place were four pieces of fabric, three of them framed in decorative waxed borders—these were scraps of silk important enough to have been memorialized. Accompanying each piece of cloth was a small handwritten note inked in neat copperplate, including a name and a date: 1838."

The provenance of the book was unclear but Strasdin found that the work was done by just one woman and determined to find out who she was.

Read more: The Paris Review

From The Dress Diary: Secrets from a Victorian Woman’s Wardrobe, out from Pegasus Books this June.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Notes On An Execution

Ansel Packer sits on death row awaiting his imminent execution for the murders of three young girls and his wife. His story is revealed through the eyes of three women: his mother, his sister-in-law and a homicide detective who knew some of the victims. 
The murders are not committed on the page yet I had to read this book in small chunks because I found it so dark. Ansel is a serial killer but his story is nonetheless heartbreaking. I worked for thirteen years in the child protection field and, on occasion, rescued children from horrendous family situations while realizing that no intervention could undo the damage they had suffered. I felt a lot of pain while reading this book and had to put it down many times. The world presented here by Danya Kukafka is a bad and cruel one. Be warned that there are multiple passages that will disturb some readers. 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

On Mother's Day

‘In Memory of My Mother’
(Patrick Kavanagh)

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily
Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday
You meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle – ‘
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.
And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life –
And I see us meeting at the end of a town.
On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.
O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is a harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us – eternally.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023



Donna Dunlop is a Canadian writer, poet, singer-songwriter, author of "DEAR RAY: A Love Poem for Raymond Souster"

Solid Objects - Virginia Woolf

The only thing that moved upon the vast semicircle of the beach was one small black spot. As it came nearer to the ribs and spine of the stranded pilchard boat, it became apparent from a certain tenuity in its blackness that this spot possessed four legs; and moment by moment it became more unmistakable that it was composed of the persons of two young men. Even thus in outline against the sand there was an unmistakable vitality in them; an indescribable vigour in the approach and withdrawal of the bodies, slight though it was, which proclaimed some violent argument issuing from the tiny mouths of the little round heads. This was corroborated on closer view by the repeated lunging of a walking-stick on the right-hand side. “You mean to tell me . . . You actually believe. . .” thus the walking-stick on the right-hand side next the waves seemed to be asserting as it cut long straight stripes upon the sand.

“Politics be damned!” issued clearly from the body on the left-hand side, and, as these words were uttered, the mouths, noses, chins, little moustaches, tweed caps, rough boots, shooting coats, and check stockings of the two speakers became clearer and clearer; the smoke of their pipes went up into the air; nothing was so solid, so living, so hard, red, hirsute and virile as these two bodies for miles and miles of sea and sandhill.

They flung themselves down by the six ribs and spine of the black pilchard boat. You know how the body seems to shake itself free from an argument, and to apologize for a mood of exaltation; flinging itself down and expressing in the looseness of its attitude a readiness to take up with something new—whatever it may be that comes next to hand. So Charles, whose stick had been slashing the beach for half a mile or so, began skimming flat pieces of slate over the water; and John, who had exclaimed “Politics be damned!” began burrowing his fingers down, down, into the sand. As his hand went further and further beyond the wrist, so that he had to hitch his sleeve a little higher, his eyes lost their intensity, or rather the background of thought and experience which gives an inscrutable depth to the eyes of grown people disappeared, leaving only the clear transparent surface, expressing nothing but wonder, which the eyes of young children display. No doubt the act of burrowing in the sand had something to do with it. He remembered that, after digging for a little, the water oozes round your finger-tips; the hole then becomes a moat; a well; a spring; a secret channel to the sea. As he was choosing which of these things to make it, still working his fingers in the water, they curled round something hard—a full drop of solid matter—and gradually dislodged a large irregular lump, and brought it to the surface. When the sand coating was wiped off, a green tint appeared. It was a lump of glass, so thick as to be almost opaque; the smoothing of the sea had completely worn off any edge or shape, so that it was impossible to say whether it had been bottle, tumbler, or window-pane; it was nothing but glass; it was almost a precious stone. You had only to enclose it in a rim of gold, or pierce it with a wire, and it became a jewel; part of a necklace, or a dull, green light upon a finger. Perhaps after all it was really a gem; something worn by a dark Princess trailing her finger in the water as she sat in the stern of the boat and listened to the slaves singing as they rowed her across the Bay. Or the oak sides of a sunk Elizabethan treasure-chest had split apart, and, rolled over and over, over and over, its emeralds had come at last to shore. John turned it in his hands; he held it to the light; he held it so that its irregular mass blotted out the body and extended right arm of his friend. The green thinned and thickened slightly as it was held against the sky or against the body. It pleased him; it puzzled him; it was so hard, so concentrated, so definite an object compared with the vague sea and the hazy shore.

Now a sigh disturbed him—profound, final, making him aware that his friend Charles had thrown all the flat stones within reach, or had come to the conclusion that it was not worth while to throw them. They ate their sandwiches side by side. When they had done, and were shaking themselves and rising to their feet, John took the lump of glass and looked at it in silence. Charles looked at it too. But he saw immediately that it was not flat, and filling his pipe he said with the energy that dismisses a foolish strain of thought:

“To return to what I was saying—”

He did not see, or if he had seen would hardly have noticed, that John, after looking at the lump for a moment, as if in hesitation, slipped it inside his pocket. That impulse, too, may have been the impulse which leads a child to pick up one pebble on a path strewn with them, promising it a life of warmth and security upon the nursery mantelpiece, delighting in the sense of power and benignity which such an action confers, and believing that the heart of the stone leaps with joy when it sees itself chosen from a million like it, to enjoy this bliss instead of a life of cold and wet upon the high road. “It might so easily have been any other of the millions of stones, but it was I, I, II”

Whether this thought or not was in John’s mind, the lump of glass had its place upon the mantelpiece, where it stood heavy upon a little pile of bills and letters, and served not only as an excellent paper-weight, but also as a natural stopping place for the young man’s eyes when they wandered from his book. Looked at again and again half consciously by a mind thinking of something else, any object mixes itself so profoundly with the stuff of thought that it loses its actual form and recomposes itself a little differently in an ideal shape which haunts the brain when we least expect it. So John found himself attracted to the windows of curiosity shops when he was out walking, merely because he saw something which reminded him of the lump of glass. Anything, so long as it was an object of some kind, more or less round, perhaps with a dying flame deep sunk in its mass, anything—china, glass, amber, rock, marble—even the smooth oval egg of a prehistoric bird would do. He took, also, to keeping his eyes upon the ground, especially in the neighborhood of waste land where the household refuse is thrown away. Such objects often occurred there—thrown away, of no use to anybody, shapeless, discarded. In a few months he had collected four or five specimens that took their place upon the mantelpiece. They were useful, too, for a man who is standing for Parliament upon the brink of a brilliant career has any number of papers to keep in order—addresses to constituents, declarations of policy, appeals for subscriptions, invitations to dinner, and so on.

Read more: Biblioklept

Monday, May 08, 2023

Author Clock

A modern clock that displays time through literary quotes every minute—this is time reimagined.