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Ocean of Fire by T. Neill Anderson

Ocean of Fire: The Burning of Columbia, 1865 by T. Neill Anderson.

If you’re a Civil War buff, even a little inclined in that direction, you must read this somewhat fictionalized story of General Sherman’s capture of the city of Columbia, South Carolina during his “March to the Sea” and the subsequent conflagration that burned the city to the ground. I say “fictionalized” because the author has filled in dialogue and even thoughts that he could not be privy to but could reasonably assume from the available sources. However, the events and characters in the book are real, and their actions are as verified as possible.

Mr. Anderson says that he “relied heavily on the moving, haunting, and tragic first-person accounts of Emma LeConte, Joseph Le Conte, and the Reverend Anthony Toomer Porter.” Indeed, the book basically focuses on the stories of Emma, her father Joseph, and the Rev. Porter. And their stories were moving, haunting, and tragic. I kept picturing the burning of Atlanta in Gone with the Wind as I read about how Columbia burned in much the same way as her Georgia counterpart.

General Sherman, who famously said “war is hell” and who determined to make sure it truly was for the areas of the South that he conquered, has a lot to answer for in the hereafter. He and General Ulysses S. Grant “believed that the Civil War would end only if the Confederacy’s strategic, economic, and psychological capacity for warfare were decisively broken.” (Wikipedia, Sherman’s March to the Sea) Perhaps they were right. The girl, Emma, is pictured in this book as harboring a “white-hot hatred” for the Yankees,and none of the Southerners whose stories are featured are ready to surrender, either before or after the burning of their city which they, of course, blame on the drunken Yankee army. There is some possibility that the Confederates themselves were responsible for starting the fire. No one really knows, and the book doesn’t settle the question.

Another mystery is left unsettled, and I would really like to know the answer: who was the mysterious soldier named Charles Davis? Was he possibly a Confederate spy or did he work for the Yankees? After the city’s collapse he seems to have mysteriously disappeared. Where did he go?

Ocean of Fire is T. Neill Anderson’s second book of his Horrors of History series. The first book in the series, which I have not read but should, is City of the Dead: Galveston Hurricane, 1900.

Poetry Friday: Hosie’s Aviary by Tobias and Leonard Baskin

Hosie’s Aviary is a book of bird poems and drawings. It’s a lovely collection, a family project, and a delight to the ear and the eye. For example, the poem “EGRET”:

Long hair
and pencil bill,
does this egret write poems?

Leonard Baskin was planning and studying to become an Orthodox rabbi like his father until at age 14 he saw a sculpture demonstration in Macy’s department store, and he began studying art instead. Baskin became a famous sculptor and also illustrated many children’s books; however, it was for Hosie’s Alphabet (Viking), text written by his children Hosea and Tobias and by Lisa, his second wife, that he received a Caldecott Honor in 1973. In 1979, Mr. Baskin illustrated and published Hosie’s Aviary, also published by Viking Press and also written by his children Tobias, Lucretia, and Hosea, and by Lisa Baskin.

Leonard Baskin, who died in 2000, seems to have been a fascinating man. He was a friend of Ted Hughes, for whom he illustrated the poetry collection, Crow. The first Crow poems were written in response to a request by Baskin, who had at the time produced several pen and ink drawings of crows. Hughes’ wife, Sylvia Plath, dedicated one of her poems, “Sculptor”, to Leonard Baskin. Mr. Baskin was the sculptor for one section of the memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Washington, D.C.

Tobias Baskin, who just happens to have been born the same year I was, became a “self-directed learner” much like his father. He is now a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In the following video, he gives an acceptance speech to a homeschool group called North Star in Massachusetts which gave him an award for self-directed learning, or as he says, for dropping out of high school:

Tobias Baskin, 2010 from North Star on Vimeo.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Have I mentioned before on this blog that I don’t really care for verse novels? Yeah, I’ve said it several times.

Anyway, if you do like stories in verse form, or if you don’t, but you really, really like basketball, you might want to check out Kwame Alexander’s basketball slam/rap/verse novel, The Crossover. Josh Bell and his twin brother, Jordan, are both basketball phenoms. Josh, the narrator of our story and author of all the poems in the book, is particularly talented, and he even has a nickname that supposedly indicates just how good he is on the court: everyone calls him “Filthy McNasty” because his “game’s acclaimed/so downright dirty, it’ll put you to shame.”

Between the basketball jargon and the rap feel to some of the poems and the high school and jazz slang, I got a little lost. But I’m not the intended audience for this book. I did like the family values and the picture of forgiveness and reconciliation that is featured. I didn’t like wandering through the verse, trying to translate it into a story.

Here’s a sample, and you can see for yourself whether The Crossover would suit you:

Basketball Rule #1

In this game of life
your family is the court
and the ball is your heart.
No matter how good you are,
no matter how down you get,
always leave
your heart
on the court.

Showoff

UP by sixteen
with six seconds
showing, JB smiles,
then STRUTS
side
steps
stutters
Spins, and
S
I
N
K
S

a sick SLICK SLIDING
SWEEEEEET
SEVEN-foot shot.

What a show-off.

L is for Lyrics

“Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you.” ~Winnie the Pooh

Lyrics: a set of words that make up a song, usually consisting of verses and choruses. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist.

'Moonrise beside Mt. Diablo' photo (c) 2013, David McSpadden - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

America by Paul Simon

Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together
I’ve got some real estate here in my bag.
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies
And walked off to look for America.

“Kathy,” I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
“Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitch-hike from Saginaw.
I’ve come to look for America.”

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, “Be careful, his bow tie is really a camera.”

“Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat.”
“We smoked the last one an hour ago.”
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field.

“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, though I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.”
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America

© 1968 Words and Music by Paul Simon

The Top One Hundred Song Lyrics that Work as Poetry

K is for Kyrielle

“[P]oetry can do something that philosophy cannot, for poetry is arbitrary and has already turned the formulae of belief into an operation of faith.” ~Charles Williams

kyrielle: derives from the Kýrie, which is part of many Christian liturgies. A kyrielle is written in rhyming couplets or quatrains. It may use the phrase “Lord, have mercy”, or a variant on it, as a refrain as the second line of the couplet or last line of the quatrain. In less strict usage, other phrases, and sometimes single words, are used as the refrain. Each line within the poem consists of only eight syllables.

This poetic form, with its repetition of the “kyrie”, seems appropriate for this Good Friday when we remember the Lord Jesus in his suffering and death.

'Crucifixion by Mia Tavonatti' photo (c) 2011, Rachel Kramer - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/A Lenten Hymn by Thomas Campion

With broken heart and contrite sigh,
A trembling sinner, Lord, I cry:
Thy pard’ning grace is rich and free:
O God, be merciful to me.

I smite upon my troubled breast,
With deep and conscious guilt oppress,
Christ and His cross my only plea:
O God, be merciful to me.

Far off I stand with tearful eyes,
Nor dare uplift them to the skies;
But Thou dost all my anguish see:
O God, be merciful to me.

Nor alms, nor deeds that I have done,
Can for a single sin atone;
To Calvary alone I flee:
O God, be merciful to me.

And when, redeemed from sin and hell,
With all the ransomed throng I dwell,
My raptured song shall ever be,
God has been merciful to me.

Robyn Hood Black is hosting Poetry Friday at Life on the Deckle Edge on this Good Friday.

J is Just for Fun

“I shake the poems like doormats. Phrases tumble. Some are swept past the margins and stay there. A few find places in other poems. Some spots need a bit more mystery, and I nudge them around corners, away from the bright light, to let shadows do their work.” ~Jeannine Atkins

Ogden Nash is one of my favorite poets. I have a theory that making us laugh at ourselves and at the world we live in is one of the important functions of poetry. Mr. Nash certainly makes the laughter and the fun of poetry evident.

For instance, there’s this poem in which Mr. Nash volunteers his definition of marriage: humorous, insightful, and eminently debatable.

For pure fun, Custard has always been one of my favorites.

And here I posted about Mr. Nash’s poem, Very Like a Whale, in which he makes fun of Byron’s similes.

Now, here’s another Ogden Nash poem, just for fun during Poetry Month:

Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man by Ogden Nash

It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important,
And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of omission
and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people, from
Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as,
in a way, against each other we are pitting them,
And that is, don’t bother your head about the sins of commission because
however sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn’t be
committing them.
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you really get painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven’t taken out and the checks you haven’t added up
the stubs of and the appointments you haven’t kept and the bills you
haven’t paid and the letters you haven’t written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn’t as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every
time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn’t get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forget to pay a bill;
You didn’t slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let’s all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this round
of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of things you haven’t done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn’t do give you a lot more trouble than the
unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind of
sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.

Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. ~Martin Luther

Poetry Friday: I is for Imagery

The Destruction of Sennacherib
by Lord Byron (George Gordon)

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Or if you don’t care for Byron’s use of simile and metaphor, try Ogden Nash’s send-up of Byron, Very Like a Whale.

Michelle H. Barnes has the Poetry Friday Round-up today at Today’s Little Ditty.

H is for Haiku

“When poets put away childish things, they will put away poetry.”
“The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”
~Gilbert K. Chesterton

haiku: a Japanese verse form of three unrhyming lines in five, seven, and five syllables. Haiku usually aims at creating a single, memorable image.

'Rosemary Apple Butter Grilled Cheese Sandwich' photo (c) 2012, Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/If Not for the Cat
by Jack Prelutsky

If not for the cat,
And the scarcity of cheese,
I could be content.

More cheesy haiku.

Grilled Cheese Haiku
by Matt at Mental Floss

golden delicious
warm cheese melts me to my soul
i’ll have another

Did you know that April is National Grilled Cheese Month? What do you put on your grilled cheese sandwich (besides cheese)?

G is for Glosa

“Poets help us by discovering and uncovering the world-its history, culture, artifacts, and ecology, as well as our identities and relationships.” ~Wallace Stevens

Glosa: an early Renaissance form that was developed by poets of the Spanish court in the 14th and 15th centuries. In a glosa, tribute is paid to another poet. The opening lines, called a cabeza, is by another poet, and each of the cabeza lines are embedded elsewhere in the glosa.

This poem takes me back to my days of studying and reading in Spanish. I’m a little rusty, but I enjoyed trying to understand this Spanish poem, Glosa de el mismo (Poem of myself) by San Juan de la Cruz.

'fire' photo (c) 2005, baronsquirrel - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Sin arrimo y con arrimo,
sin luz y a oscuras viviendo
todo me voy consumiendo.

I
Mi alma está desasida
de toda cosa criada
y sobre sí levantada
y en una sabrosa vida
sólo en su Dios arrimada.

II
Por eso ya se dirá
la cosa que más estimo
que mi alma se ve ya
sin arrimo y con arrimo.

III
Y aunque tinieblas padezco
en esta vida mortal
no es tan crecido mi mal
porque si de luz carezco
tengo vida celestial
porque el amor da tal vida
cuando más ciego va siendo
que tiene al ama rendida
sin luz y a oscuras viviendo.

IV
Hace tal obra el amor
después que le conocí
que si hay bien o mal en mí
todo lo hace de un sabor
y al alma transforma en sí
y así en su llama sabrosa
la cual en mí estoy sintiendo
apriesa sin quedar cosa,
todo me voy consumiendo.

I found this translation:

'Replica of St John's Cross outside Iona Abbey' photo (c) 2012, Andrew Bowden - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Without support yet with support,
living without light, in darkness,
I am wholly being consumed.

I
My soul is disentangled
from every created thing
and lifted above itself
in a life of gladness
supported only in God.

II

So now it can be said
that I most value this:
My soul now sees itself
without support yet with support.

III

And though I suffer darknesses
in this mortal life,
that is not so hard a thing;
for even if I have no light
I have the life of heaven.
For the blinder love is
the more it gives such life,
holding the soul surrendered,
living without light in darkness.

IV

After I have known it
love works so in me
that whether things go well or badly
love turns them to one sweetness
transforming the soul in itself.
And so in its delighting flame
which I am feeling within me,
swiftly, with nothing spared,
I am wholly being consumed.

Here’s another translation I found at First Things, by Rhina P. Espaillat.

F is for Found Poem

There is poetry in a porkchop to a hungry man.” ~ Philip Gibbs (NYT, 1951)

Found Poem: “Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.” Found Poems at Poets.org

Book spine poems are a kind of found poem, and Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes is collecting submissions from readers for National Poetry Month.

I tried to make a poem of all of the T-shirt slogans I read at the mall one day, but I lost my scribbled notes of what I found.

So I thought I’d check my twitter feed for a found poem:

Don’t Look Back
Live Through This
God’s Not Dead
Recognizing Truth.

Have you found any poems lately?