I have been a football fan since I was a kid, and right now I’m watching the College National Championship, thinking about risk, and writing a sonnet. I’ve always been a fan of the sonnet, although it doesn’t really seem to be in fashion these days. For those who don’t know, a sonnet generally has 14 lines, 10 syllables each line. There are three stanzas of four lines, and one of two lines. The stanzas of four lines have alternate rhyming and the last two lines also rhyme. The last two lines solve a problem or come to a conclusion. Below is my football sonnet, called Fourth and One.
FOURTH AND ONE–A FOOTBALL SONNET
The Bears and Rockets struggle on the field Five minutes left, the star receiver’s out The Rockets try to pass; the Bears won’t yield It’s fourth and one; defenders range about
Should they punt or should they try to go? The safest bet is punt and try again To go for one’s a risk, as they all know But safe won’t always win it in the end.
The Rockets walk determined to the line Their jaws are set, their hands upon the ground They lunge ahead; the measurement is fine But in the end they garner four more downs.
The Rockets put six points up on the board The greatest joy of risk is the reward.
Here is the mountain view from my future retirement house in Bryson City, NC. My grandfather bought this land in the 1930s and passed it to his children. I bought my Mom’s house in 2009 and will get to retire here in a couple years. I got to thinking about families who have been on their land for a long time and how you can just feel their presence. So that inspired the story poem below. At the bottom of the page are more shots of our property. All photos by Doug DeMoss.
Welcome Home, Rosalie
I was born here In a rough cabin knocked together Cold wind screeching through
But my mother kept me warm and safe In these mountains all her days
My children ran through these hills We sweated the fields and hunted the ridges. We struggled but we thrived
When my end came they gathered round to say goodbye And my soul rushed away, content.
I came back to visit often Watching over them as they laughed and cried Until they joined me, one by one Now there are no tears.
The cabins are fancy now The mules gave way to “cars” The way of life changed as I watched And before long my great-grandchildren met me.
Now another Rosalie has arrived Named after me, my daughter, and many other kin She walks through these hills, not exactly knowing But feeling all of us as we walk beside her
She can sense but not see Our hands on her shoulders as we welcome her home
Merry Christmas from Harold, Holly, and Hermann! Here’s a little poem. I don’t know how to describe it, but maybe rhyming free verse? For my next few posts after this one, I’ll sharing books our readers have nominated as their favorites of the year.
The presents have been given The food is put away Time to sit back and celebrate the day
The week to come Will end the year for all A season over, a new year calls
Our hearts are open And God will hear Our precious prayers for the coming year
Thanks so much everyone, for reading my blog, and for your friendship and support. This year has been a blast.
Self-Published Saturday is my effort to help Indie and Self-Published authors with one of the many tasks they are responsible for–marketing. If I can help in even a small way with the daunting task of marketing, I’m happy to do it. I missed putting the post up yesterday because of a very busy schedule, but as always, SP Saturday will still go up, even if it’s not Saturday anymore. Today we have a really cute kid’s book of rhymes/story poems accompanied by illustrations. Check out the review below.
This is a really cute collection of fun and whimsical poems that children and adults will love. They each tell a story that will have you laughing. The accompanying illustrations add to the joy of reading this book.
Each poem tells a story in delightful rhyme. The book reminds me a tiny bit of Dr. Seuss, with the author’s own unique touches, of course. My favorite poems are “Jeremy Myer is Such a Liar,” “Monster Under The Bed,” and “I Want The Very Best Birthday Party.” Parents and kids will have a great time reading these poems together.
I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley. I also downloaded it on Kindle Unlimited, where subscribers can read it for free. My review is voluntary.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When he is not doodling on donkeys or writing silly poems on bathroom walls, Tony Philips is trying to answer the pressing questions that confound experts the world over, like who left the toilet seat up? He grew up in a suburb in Pennsylvania near a turkey farm. Every so often, frantic turkeys, escaped from the farm, would show up in his back yard, and he and his siblings would try to hide them. Have you ever tried to usher a crazed turkey behind a bush? It’s not easy. He attended art classes at the Baum School of Art and got a degree in Creative Writing from Haverford College. He tried writing for television, but found nobody wanted to hear his stories about freaked out turkeys. Or about how an unhinged turkey once bit his younger brother on the toe. It’s true, really. Tony lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter. He can be found online at TonyPhilips.com.
*If you read the book, please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books. Some people feel very daunted by writing a review. Don’t worry. You do not have to write a masterpiece. Just a couple of lines about how the book made you feel will make the author’s day and help the book succeed. The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon will promote it.
*Please click on the “share” buttons below and share these books with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published authors go a long way!
Winter Solstice is a beautiful and heartbreaking poetic account of the end of life journey of the author’s mother, who was losing her memory. This made my heart ache because I went through this with my Dad as well, and watched him eventually forget us due to Dementia. It is a tough thing to experience, but Diana Howard writes about this sad journey with honesty, truth, and compassion.
Some of the poems in this collection compare this condition to nature and the winter season, and some are very matter-of-fact accounts of the effects of this disease. All of them will speak to somebody who has been affected by this in one way or another.
Anyone who has lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s or Dementia will identify with this heartfelt and very candid poetic account of a long and agonizing loss of a parent.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.
Q&A WITH DIANA HOWARD (With a bonus poem from the author!)
Winter Solstice was of course inspired by your Mother’s battle with dementia. I also lost a parent and grandparent to dementia and I want to express my deepest condolences. Was it difficult to write about or did writing help you process it all?
I think what was difficult was watching and experiencing my mother’s decline yet having very little understanding (especially early on) of what was happening to her and what she could and could not comprehend. Of course, every day was different, but I felt desperately sad for her and powerless to help her. Writing about it was comforting for me and it helped me personalize it in a way that gave her as much dignity and peace as was possible.
In some of your poems in this book, such as Winter Solstice, Taking Refuge, and Losing Memory, you related your mother’s dementia to nature, specifically the winter season. It is actually a perfect analogy. How were you first inspired to relate your mother’s passing to nature in this way?
Growing up, nature was a large part of my experiences with my parents. Hunting for morel mushrooms every spring with my dad, and looking for bittersweet in the woods with my mom in the fall. We went camping every summer and played outdoors always. I grew to love the sound of birds and also the wisdom they presented through a pair of binoculars. By the time I started writing seriously, in my late 30’s, nature seemed the perfect metaphor for so many things.
Were you writing these poems as everything was happening in real time or from memory later?
The answer to this question is both. “Departure” for example was written on a plane flying home from seeing my mom a year before she died. (I lived 10 hours away) “Taking Refuge” was written when I traveled to see my mom when she still lived in her own home but was hospitalized with abdominal issues. I could see while she was in the hospital and out of her normal familiar setting, that she was struggling more than I realized. It was still another year before we actually moved her into assisted care.
Let’s talk about the grief process. For myself, I found I was already grieving my Dad when he began to forget me. I realized after his death I was already very far along in the grief process. How has the process evolved for you?
Pretty much as you describe. I was the oldest daughter, the one designated to care for her. Even though I couldn’t do that physically because i was so far away, i definitely did it emotionally, until she could no longer comprehend, and then I still did it anyway. My two brothers and sister were also wonderful with her. I was lucky in that regard that they did what they could as well.
Many of the poems came out of the grief i was feeling and from the lonely powerless feeling that engulfed me so often. (Did I mention guilt??? I always left her. struggling to remind myself that I am doing the best I can and also what was right for me.
I love that you spoke of the realities of having dementia in such a forthright way. Those of us who have experienced this with loved ones will identify immediately with your words. I also think that those who are about to go through this with their loved ones will be helped by your candid description of the realities of this harsh disease. When you wrote Winter Solstice, did you realize the extent to which it could be of great help to others?
I didn’t realize it while I was going through it, but after she died I looked over volumes of pages of writing that I did and thought to myself, maybe I could help someone not feel so alone as they spend years saying goodbye to a loved one. Maybe I could help them with their sadness, their anger and frustration, their coping with the real challenges that occur.
What is the most important thing you want others to take away from your book?
I would hope that they would feel less alone knowing that others are going through the same thing. Even though everyone’s journey is a bit different, the key symptoms of the disease are the same. Here is a poem that is not in the book. I actually wrote it this past summer thinking that I might use it when giving a talk about my book – I’m sure it will resonate with you as it does with me.
I want to tell you what not to do how not to respond where not to go.
I learned the hard way.
I want to say it doesn’t get easier. It will take vicious turns be unforgiving break your heart.
I learned the hard way.
I want to explain how it steals personality taunts intellect preys on a sinking lucidity,
that any thought of rescue or reasoning will fail miserably punishing you in your dreams.
In closing, I just wanted to say that your poem Losing Memory really spoke to me because it’s such a great analogy comparing the loss of memory to a blizzard, and I can sadly imagine my loved one wandering, trying to find those memories again, only to have them wiped away by bitter winds. It actually made me realize I still feel the sting of those bitter winds sometimes, almost three years after my Dad passed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this terrible disease with the world.
Thanks so much, Bonnie!
COMMENT FROM BONNIE
*When I did the original QA questions, I didn’t know about the extra poem the author would be so gracious to send. I wanted to comment on it. It’s absolutely true. There is no way to reason with someone with dementia/Alzheimer’s, and no way to permanently rescue them. This condition and its effects will break your heart more than once .
Again, thank you Diana, for your wonderful answers and the new poem!
MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diana Howard is a poet and children’s author living in southeastern South Dakota. She began writing for children ten years ago. Her love of nature and animals influences her storytelling as she gives both voice and character to her subject matter.
We’re so blessed to have this view from our future retirement home in Bryson City, NC. I always love when the fall colors come out and had to share it with you. Below is an Autumn Tanka I wrote this morning for you to enjoy along with the picture.
Harvest is over Creatures have gathered their stores Time for rest has come.
The trees put on their loungewear Of glorious reds and golds
I hope you are all enjoying the Fall season! It’s my favorite time of year.
Self-Published Saturday is my attempt to showcase works by self-published authors. Saturdays are dedicated solely to self-published/indie authors and their works. These authors have to do it all, from editing to cover design to marketing. Self-published Saturday (or SPS) is my effort to try and help with the marketing side of things as much as I can. I also need your help in the form of sharing this post with your social media followers to give these authors more exposure. Today I want to bring your attention to a wonderful book of poems by Elizabeth Gaffreau. Written in Tanka style, they are a tribute to her departed family members. Liz also agreed to answer some questions for us, so don’t miss the Q&A below!
Grief Songs is a beautiful collection of Tanka poems, accompanied by family photographs. Each poem pays tribute to a family member and often goes behind the scenes, telling us what is happening “beyond the frame.” It is a wonderful and unique look at a family, both good times and bad.
To anyone who is unfamiliar with tanka poems, here is a quick definition: Tanka poems are Japanese in origin. They are very specifically 31 syllables, 5 lines. The first line has five syllables, the second 7, the third 5, and the last two lines have 7. The first three lines are supposed to evoke an image, and the last two describe an action or emotion based on that image.
In Grief Songs, Gauffreau gives heartfelt tributes to her mother, father, and brother George. Some will make you laugh, and some will draw a tear. My absolute favorite is Angelic, which is aptly named. It is accompanied by the most adorable, and yes, angelic, portrait of two children I have ever seen. Liz and her brother George look like the most beautiful, well-behaved kids ever to sit for a portrait in the history of time. However, the the last two lines of the accompanying tanka read: “George had cried piteous tears/while I railed against my bangs.” This made me laugh out loud–maybe not so angelic! The bangs in question remind me of a lot of pictures in my own family album of home haircuts where the bangs ended up a little too short, usually right before a school picture. This is just one example of the way Gauffreau brings the photos to life with her poetry.
Gauffreau’s ability to weave poems, even poems with strict guidelines, into very descriptive stories is quite evident in this book. A Goodwill Love Story is a great example of that. She describes her parents’ meeting, courtship, and marriage in 5 lines, 31 syllables, and we see pictures in our minds that go far beyond the accompanying photo.
Grief Songs will inspire you to pull out your own family album, remember your lost loved ones, and think about the stories behind the photos. It is a beautifully constructed book of memories full of joy, admiration, and pain.
I received a pdf from the author and also purchased the ebook. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.
Grief Songs will be released tomorrow, September 26, 2021.
Thanks so much Liz, for answering my questions today. I am so pleased to review your book, and I’ve become a big fan of your writing.
Thank you very much, Bonnie. I’m delighted to be here. I enjoy following your book review blog. You are a voracious reader!
Let’s go beyond the bio. Could you tell us a little more about yourself?. What are your hobbies and interests outside of writing?
I lived in Virginia for a number of years when my husband was in the Navy. While living there, he and I developed a keen interest in exploring historic sites and historic homes. The Colonial Parkway and Jamestown Island outside of Williamsburg were our favorite spots to visit.
We also enjoy being out in Nature and exploring the back roads of northern New Hampshire and Vermont. After being away for so long, I was very surprised to discover how many dirt roads still remain.
Grief Songs is a collection of Tanka poetry that delves into the grieving process. What was your inspiration for this book, and why did you decide on Tanka poetry?
I had no intention of writing a book of tanka until two things in my life converged. The first was reading Colleen Chesebro’s syllabic poetry blog and trying my hand at writing a tanka just out of curiosity to see if I could do it. Up until that point, I had resisted syllabic poetry as being too restrictive. I tried one poem and was pleased with the result.
Then, two months later, my mother died, leaving me the only person in my immediate family still alive. As I was going through our family photograph albums, poems started coming to me, and I soon had enough for a book. Writing the poems was a way to stay with my family just a little longer.
Tanka poems have a very specific set of rules. Did that inhibit in any way the message you wanted to convey in your book?
The confines of the tanka form were actually a saving grace because I had to focus at the line, word, and syllable level. I found those confines comforting, like an infant being swaddled.
Tell us a little about one or two of the poems that are your favorites.
One of my favorite poems in the collection is “In the Wilderness,” inspired by a photograph of my mother snowshoeing in a state park outside Presque Isle, Maine. When she initially mailed me the photo, my immediate thought was, “Kay in an Alien Universe,” because she looked so small. The other reason the poem is one of my favorites is that readers have told me it prompted fond memories of their own mothers.
I’ve been a fan of your work since I read your book “Telling Sonny.” You’ve also had many short stories published. Could you give the readers a description of “Telling Sonny” and your other work, including any current project you might be working on. Is another novel on the horizon?
Thank you, Bonnie! I’m so glad you enjoy my work. Telling Sonny began with an odd little note from my mother after she had asked me to write a biography of my dad for our extended family. The note, on a sheet of lined notebook paper, read, “Elliott I. committed suicide and had a sister Dorothy.” It seemed such an odd juxtaposition of facts, I had to write a poem about it: “My Father’s Side of the Family.”
However, the poem wasn’t enough to get that line out of my head. It rolled around in there for months, until the inciting incident for a novel came to me: Sonny’s mother put in the position of informing him of his father’s death because he had become an afterthought to his father’s family. The novel tells the story of how Sonny’s parents met and parted, all in the setting of small-time vaudeville.
Much of my short fiction is set in Enosburg Falls, Vermont, where I grew up. Right after I graduated from high school, I got it into my head that I could be the Sherwood Anderson of Enosburg because no other writer had given the village a voice. Then, many years later, I discovered writer Hildreth Wriston, who was born there. Well! She wrote children’s books, however, so I’m telling myself I can still be the Sherwood Anderson of Enosburg. Youthful illusions aside, I’m planning a short story collection titled Enosburg Stories.
In the meantime, I’ve begun work on a novel about the last poor house in Vermont, which wasn’t closed down until 1968. I expect it will take me awhile, as I need to do a fair chunk of research.
Your first book, “Telling Sonny,” was traditionally published. “Grief Songs” is a self-published work. Tell us a little bit about the differences you have experienced between the two. Do you prefer one over the other?
I would have to say that the experience of being traditionally published and the experience of self-publishing have both been an education at the School of Hard Knocks. I went through my undergraduate creative writing program, as well as my graduate program, at a time when the focus was on the craft of writing. The business of writing and self-promotion was not addressed in the curriculum and barely mentioned in passing by my professors.
As many other authors have noted, even when traditionally published, the lion’s share of marketing and promotion for the book falls on the author. That being the case, I prefer self-publishing because I am in control of each phase.
What advice would you give to new authors who are just starting their journey?
I will pass on the writing advice that my first writing professor gave us: Master your craft before seeking publication. I found that advice incredibly liberating because I was able to focus on what I enjoyed most without being distracted by rejection slips.
Thanks again, Liz! I so much appreciate you following my blog, and I am so happy I was introduced to your writing.
If you buy the book(s), please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books. This is very important to self-published authors.
Please click on the “share” buttons below and share these books with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published authors go a long way!
Here is the newest edition of Self-Published Saturday, where I highlight great self-published authors and introduce you to their books. As you know, self-published authors have to do it all, from editing to cover design to marketing. My hope for this feature is that it helps authors in their marketing efforts. This week I am pleased to announce that Louise Bélanger has published her second book of poems. Her first book, Your Words, has been featured here before. Now I am pleased to present Louise’s second book, Your Words, Your World. See my review below. As always, if you decide to buy the book, make sure and leave a review. Reviews are very important for self-published authors, and really all authors, as it helps spread that so important word-of-mouth that can make your book a success. Please also share this post on social media by using the Twitter and Facebook buttons below. Feel free to reblog this as well. We need our self-published authors to get as much attention as possible.
Your Words, Your World is a beautiful collection of poetry, photographs, and story poems about God and the world He created, and the second book of poems by Louise Bélanger. It helps the reader look at the world in a new way.
Among my favorite poems is Ordinary, about how God can take something ordinary, like a star or a body of water, and make it do extraordinary things. I also loved Dust, which reminds us that God created us all from something we don’t really like–dust. A War Erupted paints a beautiful and tumultuous picture of a thunderstorm. The Contest is a thought-provoking story poem about a conversation between flowers. Zoom to Heaven is probably my favorite of all, as it talks about what it would be like to have a Zoom conversation with a loved one in Heaven.
Your Words, Your World takes a unique look at God and the world He created, and it makes me appreciate Him and this world all the more.
The photographs of nature throughout the book are gorgeous and mesmerizing, and they make perfect companions to the poems.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
(In Her Own Words)
I am a Canadian poet and the author of Your Words and Your Words Your World. I started writing poetry in the spring of 2020. Pouring my emotions on paper, describing beautiful scenery and stories that came to life in my head was quite new to me. With the encouragement and help from many friends, my dream became a reality.
Photography and music are also dear to my heart. I am an avid reader and a big screen movie goer.
My relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is the most important relationship in my life. It’s the foundation for everything.
Quality time with loved ones is precious and essential.
Since I am going to be traveling and attending a funeral today and Saturday, I am putting up Self-Published Saturday a day early. Your Words is a delightful book of poetry and photographs by Louise Belanger. I’ve also added a link to Louise’s new website below. She is currently giving away prizes in random drawings for anyone who subscribes to her website. This first drawing is this Sunday, May 16th. Make sure you subscribe for a chance to win.
This poetry book is accompanied by beautiful photographs and primarily speaks to the author’s thoughts about the pandemic, struggles in life, and her relationship with God. There are also some lovely story poems about nature. I was most interested in the poems about nature and relationship with God. The author shares her feelings honestly and with emotion.
The poem Power in Life spoke to me. It asks the question: “How can life go on when I’ve just experienced this crushing loss?” Having lost my Mom in 2020 and my Dad in 2019 , I definitely can relate to that. I also enjoyed “A Life With You, Now and in Eternity.” This is about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins.
The photographs are well done and are a great companion to the poems.
The author’s style is warm and embracing, and she shares her faith in a loving way. I would read her poetry again.
I picked this book up on Kindle Unlimited, where members can get a digital copy for free. I also received a free copy of the print book from the author. My opinions are voluntary and are my own.