Archive for February, 2011

Happy Birthday Henry Wadsworth Longfellow!

Posted in Inspiring poetry, POETS BIRTHDAYS with tags , , , on February 27, 2011 by echostains

Today is the birthday of American  poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow born 1807 Portland, Maine USA.  Longfellow’s roots lie originally in Yorkshire England.  The Longfellow’s arrived in America in 1676.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a scholar and linguist, he travelled  through many countries to learn about its people.  He was a professor of Bowdoin,  contributed travel sketches to the New England magazine and translated Old World literature.  In 1822 he became a college professor and in 1834 was appointed a professorship in Harvard.  The journey through Europe ended with his wife’s death and Longfellow arrived alone at Cambridge England  to take up his new professorship.  He stayed at Craigie House.   The house was to become important to him, as he married the owner’s relative and the house was eventually bequeathed to them.  Although the poet’s marriages were happy, both wives died tragically.  Longfellow immersed himself in his work translating Dante into English.

In 1854 the poet resigned from teaching at Harvard and began his most famous poem ‘The Song of Hiawatha’, which he researched by meeting with an Ojibway chief who provided the background to the poem.  The poem starts with Hiawatha’s birth (by the shores of Gitche Gumee and the Big White Spirit Gitche Matino telling his people to live in peace.  The story ends with the arrival of the white man and the death of Hiawatha.

The graceful way that Longfellow uses his poetry and the sing song effect, almost mimic the way in which birds sing, made the poet and his poetry very popular.  He was also one of the first poets to write poetry about the Native Americans. 

hiawatha illustrated by Kiddell Monroe

The poem caused a lot of excitement and drew attention to indian themes as a source of  inspiration and imagination.

The song on the video is from Mike Oldfield’s Incantations (1978).  The beautiful voice singing the poem belongs to Maddy Prior

An except from the Song of Hiawatha;-

 By the shore of Gitchie Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited.
All the air was full of freshness,
All the earth was bright and joyous,
And before him through the sunshine,
Westward toward the neighboring forest
Passed in golden swarms the Ahmo,
Passed the bees, the honey-makers,
Burning, singing in the sunshine.
Bright above him shown the heavens,
Level spread the lake before him;
From its bosom leaped the sturgeon,
Aparkling, flashing in the sunshine;
On its margin the great forest
Stood reflected in the water,
Every tree-top had its shadow,
Motionless beneath the water.
From the brow of Hiawatha
Gone was every trace of sorrow,
As the fog from off the water,
And the mist from off the meadow.
With a smile of joy and triumph,
With a look of exultation,
As of one who in a vision
Sees what is to be, but is not,
Stood and waited Hiawatha….

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Video from  

Music from Mike Oldfield’s Incantations, 1978 sang by Maddy Prior

Everything you could wish to know about The Song of Hiawatha here

Native American words from the languages can be found here

Lots of interesting information, outlining the poets life  here

Book image from here

Hiawatha illustration here

Poem except here

Dear Reader I Read it Book Review ‘Branwell Bronte’s Barber’s tale’ by Chris Firth’

Posted in BRONTE, Dear Reader I read it! Book reviews with tags , , , on February 23, 2011 by echostains

Well I have just finished Branwell Bronte”s Barbers Tale by Chris Firth.  It has taken me ages too.  It’s not a particularly thick book but I have been reading it before I go to sleep and eking it out.  I really enjoyed this tale of intrigue, mystery and supposition.  The authors description of the barbers habitat and the area sets the period in context.  This was of particular interest to me because of an ancestor who was a Master barber. He born in that time period (but not in the place, which was abroad though he worked in Liverpool).  The detailed descriptions of the shop, the neighbourhood and the public houses are delightful – you can almost smell the place!


The story itself is very well researched and the character of MacCraw, well rounded –    pathetic and brave by turn.  Crippled by the sudden death (murder) of his young wife the fellow ‘Rhymer’ can not come to terms with his loss which  ages him rapidly as he spiralls downwards onto the slippery slope of the drinking dens of his youth.  Reliving his love and the comradeship of the Rhymers (which of course include Branwell), the barber becomes intent in proving to the world that Branwell was the true author of Wuthering Heights‘.

In this book Branwell comes across as loud, garrulous and extremely talented (as he was, so it’s probably a good sketch of him).  He is a very boisterous character, highly strung and imaginative.  He is scared stiff of his sisters though – particularly Charlotte.  Whether this was true in real life we will never know – but it is indeed fun speculating.  And this is what this book does very well – speculates.  I have often speculated myself about the possibility of Branwell being the real author of ‘Wuthering Heights’.   I think that it would have to be chisseled into stone before it would be accepted even if true,  plus where would this leave Emily?  The lone mysterious mystic who roamed the moors….   Well, we would still have her beautiful poetry.

Perhaps inadvertently, Gaskell gave this theory strength by her condemnation of Branwell by his sisters.  By painting Branwell black to show, this served to show just how much his poor sisters had to put up with. Coupled with Charlotte’s impatience with her brother it may well have been advisable to leave him out of things.  But on the other hand – wouldn’t the sisters be pleased if Branwell was saved by success? wouldn’t it be just the thing he needed to drag him out of his apathy?  They obviously weren’t pleased to see his talents dissapated, so why not give him a lift?. Then again, perhaps they may have thought that fame may have gone to his head and made his vices worse….  So many questions and no easy answers. 

I recommend this well written book, authentic in style as a rip roaring tale of intrigue, speculation and detail of the world the Bronte’s inhabited.  A lovely extra is MacCraw’s recipes or remedies from his journal – which I found very interesting indeed and which again brought the story into it’s period context.

Please note: – This book was read last year, this review has only just been found amongst my drafts.

Watched ‘The Black Swan’

Posted in Watched it with tags , , , , , , , on February 21, 2011 by echostains

Directed by Darren Aronofsky’s and starring Natalie Portman the Black Swan is a kind of modern-day fairytale (more Brothers Grimm).  It is advisable to suspend all belief all who enter into the film and just sit back and enjoy.

Henpecked Nina, a delicate flower in a hothouse of casting couches and farfetched scenarios, pirouettes between fantasy, reality and surrealism.  Suspend belief when you watch this film and drift with the flow and you will really enjoy the experience.  The dancing itself is amazing – with Portman so lithe and graceful.  Nina’s spirit and sensibilities display their frailties when she lands the dual roles of Black and White swans Odile and Odette.  The twin roles test her endurance, sexuality, and duty towards her mother’s belief in her and her obsession to please her mentor and musical director Thomas.  Amidst a backdrop of beautiful music and swans the dance plays on whilst poor fragile Nina slowly unravels.

Reality versus unreality in this film and its hard to see the seams between whats real and what isn’t and that’s the strength of the film.  It is this that gives the film it’s fantasy edge which include skin shedding, drug taking, the exploration of sexuality and self-mutilation –  to name but a few ingredients.  This is however no mish mash nor are the scenes gratuitous, they all contribute to the beauty and darkness and pain of this unusual film – extremely out of the ordinary.

One of the first things I noticed about the film is how well Natalie Portman dances, but what I didn’t know until the night of the BAFTA’s (for which Portman won  leading Actress) was that Portman had practised ballet for this part for a whole year, Portman and co star Mila Kunis were coached by Georgina Parkinson, a former principal  ballerina from the Royal Ballet.  who sadly died during filming in 2009, aged 71.  A lot has been said about the ‘unhelpfulness’ of stereotyping  of the ballet scene and ballerina’s in general,  but I think that if you just enjoy the film for its fairytale qualities – then you will love it.  The dedication that Portman (and the other dancers) put into their roles and the wonderful music make this film quite nightmarishly thrilling! 


Read about and see the amazing make up here

See here for more details

Poetry Challenge ‘American Gothic’

Posted in ALL MY POETRY CHALLENGES with tags , , , , , on February 13, 2011 by echostains

‘It’s American Regionalist artist Grant Wood‘s birthday today and it’s being celebrated over on Echostains!  American Gothic is one of the most iconic painting in the USA.  Much has been written about this painting, but in some ways it remains an enigma.  To read about the artist Grant Wood please see my corresponding post on echostains

The American Gothic House - also known as the Dibble house



Wood  got the idea for the painting American Gothic from a cottage he saw which had been built in the Gothic revival style.  The cottage can be seen in the background with its gothic upper window.  Wood tried to imagine the sort of people who would live in such a house.  He decided upon this rather stern and prim looking couple (modelled upon his own sister and his dentist).  The man holds a pitchfork and stand besides his spinster sister – though some see these two as man and wife.  if you look closely, the pitchfork shape is echoed in the farmers overall, the shape of the window behind him and even the shape of the mans face..  The pitchfork represents hard work.  Nan (Wood’s sister) is the model for the farmers spinster sister.  She is dressed in a Colonial print apron which mimic 19th century Americana.  American Gothic has been parodied a great deal, but I thought it would be challenging (and fun) to write a poem about this picture.  The poem can be long, short, a Haiku or even a limerick.  How do you see this couple?  kind? threatening? secretive?  Make the poem as serious or humorous as you like.  You may use my American Button if you want to 🙂






Grant Wood

Usual rules apply;

The idea behind the challenges is to publicise Bookstains  –  as well as having creative fun, so it is imperative that the poet link to Bookstains to further the challenge so you MUST have a URL.. BUT, echostains is about communication – so this is a two-way street:

 In return for your poem  (which is always accredited to you) your poem is copied to the challenges particular page which is open indefinitely and the poets own website mentioned with a link and the poem critiqued on not only Bookstains but also on the poets own blog or website.  I shall give your poem a Tweet on Twitter to further promote it. I also update my Echostains blog frequently, regardless on what  the post is about –  I mention  if there is a new poem in the challenge. 

Please note – and I only mention because I have had some of these….. If you wouldn’t put the poem on your own blog, please don’t send it to mine and expect me to promote it.  This is a genuine challenge – so please play fair 😀

Images from here here and here

The first one is a Haiku by Jessica’s Japes – a great blog full of poetry and fiction which will make you think – and smile 🙂

Small town rhetoric

Defending dated dogma;

Progress bypasses

© Jessica D’Angelo 2011

Here’s a humorous one from Pamanner’s Blog by WordyWoman! Her blog is  about poetry, relationships, life, nature, and whatever else procreates on her computer screen.  Worth checking out 🙂

forget Mary and

your four kids

keep staring at her

perky milk jugs I

swear I’ll find a

new use for that



©Pamela A. Rossow

Well I stared and I stared at this painting for inspiration, and I looked into the couples faces hoping that they would tell me their own story.  I had a bit of a job getting them to spill the beans but don’t let those closed faces fool you – there’s a lot going on behind those net curtains:-

On your way stranger!

There aint nothing for you here.

You’re only courting danger,

I’m king of this frontier!

You’re talking to the fork!

And it won’t hear no blaspheming!

You’d better start to walk

(My sister – stop that screaming!)


Compose yourself my dear!

We just don’t want no trouble.

Supplies will last all year

And we got more than double.

Remember when the law came by

Twas I that they did question.

Then you produced that hot meat pie

That gave em indigestion.

I aint seen no missing folk!

I told em loud and clear.

Yet still they all would prod and poke

Which filled me full of fear.


Stranger why you standing there?

Be gone into the rain.

And while you ride, just say a prayer

That you don’t  pass this way again.

©Lynda M Roberts 2011


Our next poem comes from Val Erde  (Absurd Old Bird) who plays with words and images.  This great blog  features her very original art and interesting writings – worth visiting!


One day you’ll find
a husband, he’ll help
with pitchin’ hay….
keep you out of my hair
for all the livelong day.
His name may just be Wilbur…
Wilbur? Are you crazy?
Hush now sister, don’t be
frettin’, I only said ‘maybe’.

Just stand there
with your pitchfork,
I’ll hold my stomach in.
Is that a smirk
upon your face,
or just a silly grin?
Your glasses they be slippin’,
slippin’off your nose.
I sure do wish I’d thought a bit
‘fore puttin’ on these clothes.

The apple pie is cookin’,
the cottontail’s been shot.
Uncle’s in the cellar
heatin’ up the pot.

I heard a noise from yonder
and thought it was the rain.
You heard it wrong, it’s cousin Orson
going down the drain.
I chopped him up this mornin’,
with camphor on my nose,
all the bits were washed right down
except for Orson’s toes.

I put them in the pie bowl
and filled it to the brim.
Come now brother, raise a smile,
or folks will think we’re grim.

D’you like the little pattern
that’s on my old brown dress?
I can’t afford a new one
but hate to look a mess.
Your hair’s been gone for decades
but your overalls are neat,
Uncle! can you hear me?
I said turn down the heat!

Uncle cannot hear you,
the pot is boiling dry
I’ve tipped the remnants of his
guts into the pan to fry.
They’ll go nicely with the onions
nicely with the corn,

but best to put his bones to rest
before the break of dawn.

We’re just an average couple
Average to the core
The sun is shinin’ on our house
There’s fresh paint on the door
We found ourselves an artist
to paint us nice and neat
and when he’s done we’ll cook him
And then we’ll be replete.

Copyright © Val Erde

This contribution is from Adam Dustus who has the most wonderful poetry blog, full of challenges and delights!  Well worth checking our here AND with the added bonus of actually hearing the poems read by the author!

Approximately 650 miles from Winesburg, Ohio
Much nearer sticks to hospitable care
When boring wood lampooned beliefs
You may feel free
Bury me there

Ulysses & Grant would go home again
Iowa forgiving prodigal pride
Blond Emily Dickinson stares into oblivion
Poseidon’s prop gripped by father time

Behind them lies someone’s home
Spring arresting American plum
Sprouting hawthorn of unmentionable kinds
Reckoning they did die here too

©Adam Dustus 2011

Our next unique poem is from  poet and writer Jenne Rodey Andrews who has several blogs here and they are all well worth checking out too especially if you love poetry!

You search those sere faces
for any quiet declaration
like laugh lines
of wincing,  spending
mutual hunger
Just as holding the porcelain tea cup
on your knee in its quivering saucer
at Aunt Bessie’s just so, Mother watching,
Uncle Roy slumbering in the family graveyard
under the Sandia mountains
You wondered
about the rosy Venus  she had surely been
having conceived strapping sons
now a yew-crooked hostess pouring oolong
in mute and tremulous decorum

So it is with American Gothic
Miles, or Jared.
He stands composed, in solemnity
as if he slept in his suit
and had never cracked a joke
in all his days
And she, Naomi,  or Mary+
had babies via
spontaneous combustion
A pop of the tractor’s exhaust pipe
and presto
an infant in a christening dress
in the drawing room hand-hewn oak cradle
and everyone singing, old pipe organ
belching resurrected dust
shall we gather at the river.
Now or later.
One day in the country
an old man I knew went running
down the road talking to his hands
shaking them
as if they were bound with cobwebs
At his back
his small, plain clapboard house
the lawn freshly barbered.
Then I saw the coroner’s van
pull in and I conjectured
that she who lived behind the curtains
unwrapping store-bought cinnamon rolls
every morning
Had settled into the good sleep
under the quilt she and other
girdled Lutheran women made one spring
in the hen-house coffee-scented
ambience of farm wives
But did those hands of the archetypal
rural patriarch
that grip the trident of his pitchfork
in that painting that scares us all
about the Puritan strain
we bear within us
Ever please her
ever tend, placate
or wipe away a tear of hers.

copyright Jenne’ R. Andrews 2011



What I love most about the challenges is how everyones who participates brings their own  special  and original style and interpretation to the poems.  This next one is by Olivia from
Olivia’s In-Mind  Whirls is called ‘Conflict’.  Please be sure to visit her blogs 🙂
Aspiring Big throughout our lives;
Then losing it all at once!
It may be an American Lifestyle
To Me, it’s a Gothic trance.
I am left with this pitch- fork-
To dig my own grave..
It may appeal to you as American,
But I live in a Gothic cave!
© Olivia 2011
Another wonderful poem has entered the challenge!  This one is from Kavita who has a great poetry blog full of humour and thoughtful posts.  Please look at How I write is mine…How you  read is yours
Square Feet of Roofing
He: Change is a good thing
when it is for the better
She: What use is this quiet
if it becomes another fetter
He: Our boring lives will now
take on a brand new color
She: If blue turns to grey,
things can only get duller

He: Wind plays many tricks
on creaky wooden stairways
She: There’s more than just wind
in the deceptive empty hallways

He: For my safety, I have
a pitchfork turned candle holder
She: But it’s always safe
to look behind your shoulder

He: It is now all ours;
this giant old house
She: But here’s known to live
the ghost of a vicious mouse


©Kavita 2011

Our next poem is by the ubiquitous Kserverney aka the artswebshow.  which features his own personal art, comedy, poetry, music and cookery.  Richard now uses video for most of his work, so this poem comes to you from his latest project   witty snippets – all worth checking out 🙂

Why the Long Face?

The American dream.

Your own house and pitch fork

So why the long face?


Gothic art take two.

A mind of modern darkness

Creepy expressions.


I cant smile at all.

Glum, dull and dreary  pitchfork

After the wind turned east

 ©Richard North 2011

My comedy take on American Gothic by Grant Wood.

Featured on book stains poetry challenge

Watched ‘Carrington’ DVD

Posted in Watched it with tags , , , on February 11, 2011 by echostains


I rewatched Carrington the other night on DVD.  I had watched it ages ago, but for some reason or other just wanted to see it again.  The film is about the artist Dora Carrington‘s relationship with the writer Lytton Strachey.  As a painter Carrington was quite selective in her subject matter, painting  her immediate background and her closest friends.  She hardly ever signed her work and hardly ever exhibited.

Lytton Strachey,by Dora Carrington

Her relationship with Strachey is both passionate and tender.  Strachey himself, a self-confessed homosexual thought a great deal of her.  Carrington is played very well by Emma Thompson and Strachey mesmerisingly by  Johnathan Pryce. The photography is very beautiful: the days drenched in sunshine.  Of course the Bohemian Bloomsbury group were non plussed by  Carrington’s and Strachey’s relationship – in that circle, anything went.  The menage de trois which Carrington finds herself in often is quite tragic, though she tries to deal with it in a ‘mature’ fashion.  Through it all her heart belongs to the unattainable Strachey.

Merry go round by Mark Gertler

Before her involvement with Strachey, (who really does prove to be the true love of her life), Carrington had a relationship with artist Mark Gertler.  Gertler proves a temperamental, erratic almost hysterical figure in the film. He was a conscientious objector like Strachey.  It soon becomes clear that Gertler and Carrington are not suited as partners.

Carrington’s art is reduced to decorating cupboards and painting lamp shades, making  a quirky but brilliantly original home for herself, Strachey and usually a third-party.  She first moved with in with Strachey to Tidmarsh Mill in Berkshire, then on to Ham Spray in Wiltshire making both houses highly individual with her artistic flourishes. But it does seem that Carrington gave more than she actually got back in this film.  She seems to support Strachey more than he supports her. Sometimes she is in dire straits with no money coming in, he hardly thinks to help her and the upkeep of their home, though he is a famous author.

Tidmarsh Mill by Dora Carrington

Carrington  married an athlete Ralph Partridge whom she didn’t love, then moved on to his friend a timid sort of man, Gerald Brenan who she did adore, though Strachey would always have all her heart.

Gerald Brenan by Dora Carrington

The saddest part of the film is towards the end when she attempts suicide and at the second attempt is  successful.  Her pain at losing Strachey is heartbreaking and very moving.  This is a haunting film, and some of the scenes are indelibly imprinted upon my mind.  If you get a chance to see it – please do and you will not be disappointed.

E.M Forster by Carrington

I shall be writing about Carrington’s art  later on my Echostains art blog

Images from here,  here here and here  and Here and here

Dora Carrington website here

Poem ‘I could sit in a chair all day’

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , , , , , on February 4, 2011 by echostains

Wouldn't mind sitting in this chair...

Here’s another of my ‘experimental’ poems.  Definitely more of a performance piece than static (see the irony) poem. I wrote this the other day, funnily enough as I was sat in a chair 🙂  I was thinking about all the stuff that I really should be doing and thinking to myself “well, it’s no good sitting here – there’s too much to do….” when inspiration stopped me in my tracks from doing anything but write about me sitting in a chair all day! 

I could sit in a chair all day,

I could sit in a chair and get carried away

Just sat in a chair all day.


I could sit in a chair all day

I could sit in a chair and rant and moan

I could sit in a chair and cry into the phone

As I sat in my chair all day.


I could sit in a chair and cry.

I could bring several tears to a plexi glass eye,

And still sit in this chair all day.


I could sit in a chair all day,

But my worries and cares would not melt away,

If I sat in that chair all day.


I could sit in a chair all day,

Until doctors came in and took me away.

‘Cos I sat in a chair all day.


I could sit in a chair all day

And weep with regret as my life slowly froze

I could sit in a chair all day

As silvery cobwebs covered my clothes,

I could sit in a chair all day.


I could sit in a chair all day

‘Til my limbs ceased up and withered away,

‘Til my mouth went dry with nothing to say,

‘Til my heart and my blood turned a dull shade of grey

As I sat in that chair that had turned into me

And myself became glued

And I couldn’t get free

And my eyes became leather

And now couldn’t see


sat in this chair all day!

©Lynda M Roberts 2011 

Thanks to Vincent Van Gogh for the use of his chair (the image from here)