Archive for the ‘Bookshelf’ Category

There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us Lands away

Nor any Coursers like a Page

Of prancing Poetry –

This Traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of Toll –

How frugal is the Chariot

That bears the Human Soul –


~ Emily Dickinson


"Lesendes Mädchen" by Franz Eybl, 1850

“Lesendes Mädchen” by Franz Eybl, 1850

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Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

   But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

   Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

   On his face.  If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

   That couldn’t be done, and he did it!


Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;

   At least no one ever has done it;”

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat

   And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,

   Without any doubting or quiddit,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

   That couldn’t be done, and he did it.


There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

   There are thousands to prophesy failure,

There are thousands to point out to you one by one,

   The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,

   Just take off your coat and go to it;

Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing

   That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.


                                 ~ Edgar Albert Guest


Posted in honor of my successful MFA thesis defense at Chapman University one year ago today and my new novel completion deadline of August 31, 2016.  I thought the thesis “couldn’t be done,” and I did it, so it’s time to “tackle the thing” again…


"The Matterhorn" by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)

“The Matterhorn” by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)

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In November

Outside the house the wind is howling

and the trees are creaking horribly.

This is an old story

with its old beginning,

as I lay me down to sleep.

But when I wake up, sunlight

has taken over the room.

You have already made the coffee

and the radio brings us music

from a confident age.  In the paper

bad news is set in distant places.

Whatever was bound to happen

in my story did not happen.

But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.

Perhaps a name was changed.

A small mistake.  Perhaps

a woman I do not know

is facing the day with the heavy heart

that, by all rights, should have been mine.


                                      ~ Lisel Mueller


Laurits Andersen Ring, 1898

Laurits Andersen Ring, 1898

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There is perhaps no branch of work amongst the arts so free at the present time as that of the writing of fiction.  There are no official prohibitions, no embarrassing or hampering limitations, no oppressive restraints.  Subject and method of treatment are both free.  A writer is under no special obligation, no preliminary guarantee; he may choose his own subject and treat it in his own way.  In fact, his duty to the public—to the State—appears to be nil.  What one might call the cosmic police do not trouble him at all.  Under these conditions, hitherto kept possible by the self-respect of authors, a branch of the art of authorship has arisen and gone on perfecting itself in mechanical excellence, until it has become an important factor of the life of the nation.  Today if the supply of fiction were to be suddenly withdrawn the effect would be felt almost as much as the failure of the supply of breadstuffs.


~ From “The Censorship of Fiction” by Bram Stoker, born on this day in 1847


Bram Stoker, circa 1906

Bram Stoker, circa 1906

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November for Beginners

Snow would be the easy

way out – that softening

sky like a sigh of relief

at finally being allowed

to yield.  No dice.

We stack twigs for burning

in glistening patches

but the rain won’t give.


So we wait, breeding

mood, making music

of decline.  We sit down

in the smell of the past

and rise in a light

that is already leaving.

We ache in secret,



a gloomy line

or two of German.

When spring comes

we promise to act

the fool.  Pour,

rain! Sail, wind,

with your cargo of zithers!


~ Rita Dove


Marcel Rieder (1862-1942)

Marcel Rieder (1862-1942)

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That Muse-Guy

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground.  He’s a basement guy.  You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in.  You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.  Do you think this is fair?  I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration.  It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic.  There’s stuff in there that can change your life.


~ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft


Ensio Ilmonen

Ensio Ilmonen


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Double, double, toil and trouble,

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake.

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.


Double, double, toil and trouble,

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.


~ From William Shakespeare’s Macbeth


"The Three Witches from Shakespeare's Macbeth" by Daniel Gardner, 1775

“The Three Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth” by Daniel Gardner, 1775

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