The second major event that altered my worldview was motherhood. Talk about a life-altering experience! Also, experiencing how hard it is to care for and make decisions about dependent beings made me understand my parents more, and to be more compassionate with people in general. Empathy builds good poems. Children make language live again for you. At three or four, nearly every child speaks like a poet. A rich earthy scent, both vegetable and mineral, flaxen like corn. Briefly, one final experience: we lived in Indonesia for a year, a vastly different culture.
In that beautiful island nation speaking another language expanded my viewpoint, my sense of the world, and a sense of the importance of each word. Two experiences changed how I looked at the world that year. The first was the day a female orangutan in a nature preserve on the island of Borneo draped her long arm around my waist and shoulder and, in exchange for letting me go, received an extra snack from the trundle truck that the helpers rolled through the jungle.
But mostly, even then, I felt a deep connection to a member of another species. I knew she would not hurt me. The other experience was walking on a nature path when a group of young women strolled by. Through their eyes, I discovered that in some cultures, people prefer to walk beside a vivid green padi with a friend on each arm, sharing stories and laughter. It looks over the front yard at the pampas grass and the elm and Japanese maple we planted and at the bald spot where the huge maple that died from drought used to soar.
After a year, I still miss that tree every single day. Since the early 80s, when my husband dragged me into the computer age, I compose by typing. Good because my handwriting is nearly unreadable. But sometimes I wake in the dark and try to draft something in a notebook. With luck I can translate snippets of it in the morning. And sometimes they actually jump-start a poem. Prompts seldom interest me except for the age-old one, of Webster-diving.
But I confess: I cheat often. Nausea and tergiversate I can barely spell let alone use in a poem. Call me an undisciplined writer, but one always in the process of reforming. Please describe that form and why you are drawn to it. Many contemporary poets include haibun in their collections.
A haibun combines prose--often, heightened, similar to that of prose poetry--and haiku. Usually, a haibun closes with a haiku, but one or more can be found anywhere in the haibun. The haiku should not complete the prose or repeat it in another form but take it in another direction.
Why do I write them? Because they combine the exploratory nature of the essay with the heightened prose of the prose poem. Because they originated in a country, Japan, where people live their lives attuned to nature and beauty. Because you can write about any subject in them and use many forms--letter, travel journal, biography, conversation, or even prayer. Some even substitute poems for what were traditionally the prose sections.
Because they are usually small, though Basho wrote a whole book of them, and you can finish one in an afternoon though it will never be perfect or even necessary. What poetry project are you currently working on? Putting a manuscript together. Writing new poems. Trying to become at least somewhat competent in the centuries-old form of haiku.
To succeed in capturing the world in eleven to eighteen syllables, I find a very challenging struggle. Mary Oliver--because she looks deeply at the world and describes it in jewels of language, easily understood. These nature poems expand beyond nature to also show us our human foibles, problems and hallelujahs. In each line she incorporates the world of the senses. She watches nature for hours. She brings you to that pond or wood on Cape Cod, sits your smack down on a grassy bank and lends you her eyes, her beautiful sensibility, her questing mind, her knowledge of animals, vegetables, minerals, and especially humans.
I was struck by the wonderful turnout and how everything was so well planned. What is the most important advice you can give to someone wanting to set up a public poetry reading? Talk it up! Share your excitement. Get the word out. Find a partner. The Writers Guild in Bloomington is always game for more programs, and they advertise for you also. Gather a list of contacts of folks who love literature. Use social media.
Buy snacks. Invite people you know personally with a phone call or by mentioning it when you see them. Pray that B-town has not invited some great musical act, comedian, or world-class speaker that same night. Or that the Hoosiers will play B-ball against—well against anybody.
What are three of your favorite places in Monroe County? In Monroe County, Lake Griffy tops the list. To visit the park in the early morning is to watch the world born anew: spider webs glimmer on the grass, reeds rustle in the wind, and as the rising sun spills rose over the lake, the heron begins her one-legged fishing on the far side.
Griffy has it all: beauty, hiking trails, canoes to rent and acres and acres of forest. On a knockout spring or fall day, the preserve gets very crowded, but if you time your visit you can find solitude and solace there. My favorite Griffy memory is the night my daughter, who was still in high school and having a difficult time, suggested we hike a nearly two-mile trail barefoot. My feet learned to recognize the slight rise of a big root and its fall on the other side. At the beginning of the hike, I opened my eyes wider and wider.
Griffy has gifted me with several poems but more importantly the serenity into which to compose them. Yesterday, as Mr. Darcy jumped into the car after a hike and we headed over the bridge, a heron rose from the lakefront just before us and flew into the sky, rising higher and higher. It gifted us with a poetic, aha moment. Kivalina, Alaska, aerial view.
Menes www. They not only make the world a more fascinating place, they reveal aspects of ourselves we may otherwise be blind to. Griffy Lake at sunset by Doris Lynch. Why such gloom? Murky skies lift our spirits. When buzzards roost on rooftops, we see Dominicans, tonsured and aquiline, wings clasped in penance. We are Latins, not yeoman yanquis. Those plain churches in your cherished Chesapeake Bay are mere hovels to us. We prefer overwrought facades, garish bell towers, rituals rich with condiment. Gilded altars rouse our faith, candles titillate, incense makes us so giddy we can crawl on cobbles as if plush pillows.
Transubstantiation is gobbledygook, but I do understand yeast. Not the wild kind that breeds in cauldrons of dank air; I mean the bloom, that soft, white powder on black grapes before they get squeezed to must then vinify in casks of Calvary. My yeast comes from merlots plump as fish eyes I keep safe from molds in a tin tabernacle, my paschal oven by the altar stone where I bongo the dough, roll the loaf, three taps on the rump.
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus. Even Judas gets a ginger effigy. Yeast is all you need to raise the dead. I grew up the beggar of seeds, almsgiver to strays, then was by chance apprenticed to a barber but bungled combing, inept at leeching, loose with razors. Misfortune was my blessing. How else could I have become your Bishop of Brooms, my crosier that sweeps away the sins of the world, my miter the do-rag I wear to scrub naves.
Jesus favors the lowly laborer, bruised of knee, rickety boned. The rich are wrong to think they will go to Heaven. Their gold offerings evaporate to dross, their pleas drain like water through limestone. Give thanks to Our Lord for linty purses, empty cupboards, calloused soles. A widow with ten kids, she has skin like olives Brined, jute hair, gaunt eyes, yet her bony hips Are lithe as twigs on wet tamarind leaves. Oxen get sold for gifts, fields die, kids starve.
Smoke floods the fields. Bells peal. Sand like raw sugar blows from Gabon, burying creek and aqueduct alike, even agaves wither in tin-can gardens, and the women of Angel Hill make do with shortages more numerous than bristles on a pig. No meat today? They grind plantain peels or pickle mop rags. No soap? I wait in darkness, sitting on an oxhide chair, smell of sinew, tallow. Cowrie shells augured exile. Few listened. Knees buckle, fingers claw my wrist. I lay him on a mattress stained by urine, wilted clippings of Fidel glued to bedposts.
Stroke scarred hands, arms as if touch could heal a lifetime cutting cane in the sun. Brings cafecito, chicory coffee, tepid, bilgy water, raspy dregs. I swallow to be polite. One sepia print shows a girl switching a mule, Cuca at twelve, looking stern because teeth had grown crooked on the cobs. Tall as royal palms, smokestacks spew ghosts of the sugar harvest; dismembered, Soviet tractors rot in sheds, corrugated tin.
Boys playing baseball chase me across the yucca thickets. On these rutted canefields I trip over pits of memory, red dust stinging my eyes, I the bearer of dollars, false promises. Chirping, whistling--teeth like broken bottles-- Ofelia unknots legs, arms that danced high branches of el caucho , weeping wood. I tweeze the blow dart, whittled bird bone. I run away, hide under her iron bed. Ofelia slices. The eyes, rubied by fire, terrify me. Cinnamon aureoles prick my finger. Ofelia pulls me, whimpering back to the chair. Her legs scissor me, arms constrict. This morning the cold sea-mist shrouds all of Lima; black vultures perch like gargoyles on rusted neon signs.
They formed a line, passing around a furry bowie knife. Go back to Cuba, the chorus taunted. We hate the Spanish. Indigo snake coiled about his wrist, Marcus hissed, snarled, telling my father to kiss his ass. Stars and Stripes flying from car antennas, hate signs taped to windows, Anglos fled to rural Manatee and Osceola, some journeying as far north a Alachua, Apalachicola Bay, Blackwater River; and County Line Road, a strip of gravel and sticks, the new border dividing America from America.
How has your Latino background influenced who you are as a poet? Had the Cuban Revolution not taken place and thereafter succeeded in altering Cuba in the most extreme and sinister ways possible I am no apologist for the Castros , I would have been born in Cuba and been raised on that island. It was a fluke that an Eastern European man, an Ashkenazi Jew who had somehow escaped the Holocaust and settled in Lima, Peru, but who loved traveling to Havana for reasons I do not know, proposed to my father, an upholsterer by trade apparently they had met at some bar in Havana , that he manage his newly opened furniture factory in Lima.
The year was My father and mother had just gotten married. After leaving for Lima, my mother followed him, already pregnant with me, so I was conceived in Havana and then born in Lima. My parents did not adjust well to Lima: its climate, its culture, its history, etc. Therefore, we returned to Cuba in , and I was baptized in Varadero.
Soon after my father started his own furniture business, and in just a few years amassed quite a fortune, so we ended up being rather privileged in this South American city. My sister, my brother, and I studied in a British academy. We lived in a chalet in the suburbs.
We traveled to Europe. The year was , and I was ten years old. History would judge them right. Though my father had managed to take out of Peru a good chunk of money, bad investments, bad decisions, and just plain bad luck would result by in near bankruptcy. My father went from prosperous businessman to being the owner of a small workshop in Hialeah making kitchen cabinets. My father and mother divorced, and I was on my own by age You might say that my family went from rags to riches and then back to rags. I think it is important for readers to know my trajectory through these different countries, in particular because my poems and short stories at least until now have been so preoccupied with investigating the complex relationship between place and culture, place and history, place and memory.
I prefer not to use the term Latino to fully define my family heritage or family culture. Being specific about place and culture is more accurate, I believe. Because of our current national discourse on identity, Latino is unfortunately much too generic, much too overextended, much too circumscribed by politics. We need to think of Latinos as a large and complex family of cultures, languages, and peoples in which unity and difference should be equally celebrated.
Now let us talk of my own particular family. Although my parents were born in Cuba, their fathers were immigrants from Spain who ended up marrying Cuban women. I was thus raised with Spanish customs, Spanish mores, Spanish foods. So we had a strong and unbreakable connection to Spain as the Mother Country. Nonetheless, I have made it my mission to explore and give homage to the various cultures that make Cuba and Peru distinctly American, distinctly cross-cultural, distinctly multiethnic. It is a blessing that the imagination has allowed me to go beyond the limitations of my upbringing.
Could you elaborate on this aspect of your work? As a writer, as a teacher, and as an ordinary human being, I believe profoundly in giving justice to those who have suffered socially, economically, spiritually, etc. I suppose I very much believe that grace, if we define it as something divine, dwells in the world of the living, this complicated world of the mortal body and the immortal spirit.
When did you first start writing poetry and what drew you to that art form? It is a long and convoluted story, full of false starts and auspicious beginnings, full of doubt and stubborn hope, full of mentors and detractors—all very messy, very turbulent. I was drawn to the rhapsodic voices of Yeats, Blake, Crane, Rilke, etc. It was their musical language that inspired me, their copious imaginations that mesmerized me: words and imagination wed together. Could you give us some background on your father and his influence on your approach to writing? My father made me work for my money, which meant I had to help him at that workshop in Hialeah.
I was angry. I was rebellious. I even disparaged his manual labor. Whatever he taught me I rejected. Nevertheless, his reverence for craft, his indomitable work ethic, have resonated with me over the years. As I work with words, just as he worked with wood and cloth, I find meaning in my life. Sometimes we can gain the insight maybe through just sheer luck to overcome our youthful stupidities.
I was glad that I did. Who are some poets who have had a great impact on you? The first poets to have had a tremendous impact on me poets who inspired me to write were W. Yeats, William Blake, T. Eliot, Hart Crane, and Galway Kinnell. Thereafter I found further inspiration, further sustenance, in the poetry and in the prose of Wallace Stevens, Derek Walcott, and Alejo Carpentier.
One Cuban-American poet who also laid a path for my vocation, though he may not know it, is Ricardo Pau-Llosa. I am also indebted to my mentor Michael Anania who directed my creative dissertation at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Without these writers I would not be who I am. Is there a particular poem that has been a touchstone for you? Why has this poem been so important to you?
What do you feel is the most helpful advice you can give your student poets? I do agree with Rainer Maria Rilke that a young poet should be drawn to this vocation because of necessity, and this necessity has to be internal. Write poems because if you do not write poems you feel dislocated, unbalanced, and incomplete. Your poetic vocation needs to be integrated into your life, needs to be organically derived from your life, needs to be harmonized with your body, your mind, and your heart.
Our latest Narratively story isn't available online - we printed the entire thing on a tote bag!
Devote yourself to craft, surrender yourself to the discipline of revision, take personal and artistic risks, find a refuge for yourself in this vast and bewildering world. Please name three of your favorite places in Indiana. I like Indianapolis, which reminds of Chicago where I lived for seven years. There is also Amish country e. Plus South Bend where I live now and where my son Adrian was born. Above all, I cherish how decent and good-natured the people of Indiana have been since I moved here in As a volunteer with the local Writers Guild, she coordinates a reading series and works with others to offer free poetry workshops to the public.
To give back to the writing community at-large, she reviews poetry books and interview poets at the blog Poetry Matters , as well as on her blog. She has a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering Technology and an MBA, worked as an electrical engineer, software consultant and project manager, and more recently earned an MFA. She works in Research Technologies at Indiana University. In the interview that follows these poems, Nancy Chen Long describes the events that led her to enroll in an MFA program and says, " I love it when such episodes of surprise and synchronicity interject themselves into my life.
It gives me a sense of hope and possibility, a reminder that anything can happen, that little in life is truly locked in. Nancy's faith in synchronicity is also striking in her chapbook, Clouds as Inkblots For the War Prone. In these "found" poems, Nancy links up with a war novel by James Gould Cozzens--using only words she finds in its pages. She describes this unique process in her interview. Nancy's poems are impressive at every level. Imagery, music, grace of line, insight, epiphany.
No, no, no! In her mouth, a stick. A Fine Meal i. A fine Chinese meal, my mother told me, is made of five flavors, a blending of elemental portions. What is sour , she said, if not the flesh of plum? How simple, salt , she said, and how necessary, married as she is to water. Child, proceed lightly with bitter , she warned.
Who has not known its pinch? Cooling to the heart, it favors full sun, its joy in fire. Lastly, two kisses of sweet. Embrace all five, she said. Repudiate not one. A fine Irish meal, my father told me, is a made thing, constructed with care, like the spire of a skyscraper or the precision of a cesium beam concocted from what is available like the shard of blue limestone, jagged in your hand and those mounds of cool moss, lush underfoot.
Star seltzer effervescing across your tongue, some nexus of intuition. But So Beautiful, Yes? Mahalia Jackson? Inflamed The man at our table, his insistence last night--how the color red will conjure up feelings of rage, as if to see red is to see rage. Rage, a simple slip in- to those familiar ways of being. Dare we break them? You want to--the way you broke that flawless Lalique vase you thought so rare in its redness, smashed against your mother's antique vanity, crystalline no more.
Your grandmother's face, helpless to stop you, drained of color, save her pencil-thin lips glossed in red--like the red of that northern cardinal you're always searching for.
Look-- lucky you! Such a bird is lighting right now onto the lower branch of this sweet gum tree next to our bench in the park. See how it disappears in the autumnal- red star-shaped leaves? I like how the cool nip of the biting wind reddens the apple of your cheeks. Is it too cold for you? Oh, you and your fascination with red. Here, sip this red rooibos tea. It'll fire up the caverns of your heart, ruby like Santa's suit in that photo, when we were in Florida, fake snow, fake tree with all red lights, flashing, spin, spin, flashing red lights of the ambulance that Christmas our child was taken to the emergency room, so tiny on the gurney.
No one dies of scarlet fever. You asked for a sign. Remember your father's words? It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. So true, the sanguine sky that night, but all I could think about was the rusty dust of Mars, whether heaven was a scarlet desert with polar ice caps. At least we could pick out the planet from among the others. How lucky that it is so visible, lucky us, lucky red, lucky like me, nubile bride in a crimson dress, gift-wrapped in red, the bittersweet door to our house, lucky--your birth, my birth, our child's.
So let us wave our red flag of complicity. Yes, tonight let us sip our favorite aperitif. Like that Campari, we also have dark-red bitters and secrets, we who carol of luck and of splendid weather, we who sing with rage in our throats. Dugong i. Once, in Thailand, there was a young wife who had a vigorous affection for seagrass fruit. As her cravings escalated, she wandered each day deeper into the sea, lingered longer in the buoyant brine. One day she didn't come home. Her husband, steadfast, searched for her until the night that she visited him in a dream, saying she could never return to land.
Now half woman, half fish, she met her beloved one final time, then returned forever to water. And when he saw me abruptly thrust my head out of water, gasp for air, and turn to ripple back, deeper into the sea, I know he lost sight of me. We studied Gauguin. While everyone else was taken in by his use of color and image after image of nude Tahitian beauties, I couldn't stop staring at his wife Mette, embroidering. I'd seen it before, as a painting of a woman in obedient domesticity.
Now, she was a wife in situ, posing while her husband withheld the sun to blot out her face. He rendered her featureless. She became more mask, a quiet interruption in the wallpaper. Instead of needlepoint, I started to imagine that she would have wanted to leave, stroll down the banks of the Seine, smolder along the soot-like evening, reclaiming that textured glow some of us feel as we fall under the whitewash of summer.
I scarcely glanced at the other paintings, those fine features of Tehamana-- the Tahitian who became, at fourteen, mother of Gauguin's youngest son, whom he named Emile, after his oldest son Emile, who lived in France with Mette. The day Mette learned of his pubescent other-bride must have been trauma, the way it is when you learn of a husband's lover, the way it is when a girl comes to your home on a Sunday afternoon in August while you're outside gardening and you think it odd that the dog seems to know her as he trots up the driveway to greet her, and the weight of summer humidity has caused you to be slushed in sweat and you smile politely as she approaches.
Forget that you told him "I can teach you to fly. It should have been winter. He should have aligned himself with hurricanes, to sweep across the channel, instead, impressed by the red lip of the sun, to fritter with a faint pop or two, fall alone into a pool of silent light.
Clouds as Inkblots For the War Prone Consider the earth as more than a speck in the night, sky more than chalk on a warboard. Consider a swarm, thick, an advancing cloud. Perhaps to the stouter brain, such darkness becomes a far-off foe, slight, with no more than spit enough to swallow. To the hair-triggered eye, it may be the fog of four thousand fighters in flight, each with a finger touch, light like the broken angel's wing. We know all gunners spit flame.
So let the swarm be a rush of bees. Let it be a bevy of starlings, birds beyond number, newly fledged. Let it be a bright mission of men, our familiars, not yet thunderborne, their groomed young faces never to want for a kickstorm of lead, never to bore-in once more unto the breach, for God and country, for flying pay, with a command of death and a gladness to kill. Japanese Home Islands During one passing moment under the pine-soaked sun, the Old Man carefully tore a corner from the fabric of his war-memory, a little piece of the Japanese mission--a patch with one small island and its unforeseen barn.
An island with a garden, some old chickens and a barn, a house that didn't amount to much and the lone woman who lived there milking her cows one morning years ago. Under the blare of the sun, the barn mistaken for a shed. His training run, target practice on sheds. The old woman and her barn.
The wrong island and a bomb. Accidental ammunition. The old general pressed the torn-fabric piece into a prayer, placed it into the wing of a passing crane on her way home after winter. An Interview with Nancy Chen Long Nancy, an exploration of identity and its transmutations seems to be a theme throughout your new book, Light into Bodies.
First, Shari, thank you so much for featuring my work on Through the Sycamores. Most people that I know grapple with issues of identity at some point in their life, if not for their entire lives. The poems in your chapbook, Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone , were created through techniques you describe as remix, erasure, and collage. What did that process involve and why were you drawn to it? Found poetry can be thought of as a literary equivalent of collage, in which words, phrases and lines from existing texts are refashioned into new poems.
It includes centos, erasure poetry, cut-up poetry, collage, remix and other textual combinations. For the Pulitzer Remix project, eighty-five poets were selected and assigned a Pulitzer Prize-winning work of fiction. Pulitzer Remix was my first and so far, only major attempt at found poetry. While I used erasure and collage to create a few of the poems, my primary method was remix : I took an arbitrary selection of a source text, for example the first paragraph of each page in a chapter, and then scrambled it, mixing and rearranging some of the words from that selection.
First I separated all of the words out of the text so that they were not in context. Next, using the computer programs mentioned earlier, I created two lists, one in which the words were alphabetized in a single column and another that was randomized with the words scattered in rows across the page. I selected words from those two lists to make the first draft poem.
The randomized list helped trigger my imagination as my eye scanned unrelated words and my mind tried to make connections. In addition to the word lists, I allowed myself to use words that were not in the selection, but that could be discovered by concatenation e. I kept detailed notes so that I could adequately cite the source text, which is important for these sorts of poems. I read that you wanted to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing when you were a teenager but were counseled to pursue science instead.
The way it came about is a study of chance and synchronicity for me. Back at a point in my life when I was under a great deal of stress in both my career and family life, Cynthia Bretheim , my massage therapist at the time who has since become a friend, suggested I attend a writing session at Women Writing for a Change Bloomington. When she mentioned it, she had no idea of my love of language, of what writing and poetry meant to me. I signed up for an evening class. It was magical. The program is focused more on the process of writing rather completing a polished product such as a poem or story.
We wrote in response to poems, guided meditations, prompts that unearthed memory, etc. I was in the middle of pursuing an M. At that same time, Earlham coincidentally offered a poetry class as part of their Writing-as-Ministry emphasis. Her support and encouragement were crucial and resulted in a change in attitude: I started to take my writing seriously. It was during one of those classes that I decided to pursue an MFA.
Students then complete the semester through distance education, working with a professor using phone, email, snail mail and online methods, depending on the school and mentor preferences. The Spalding program is exemplary. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. All of this happened within a year-and-half—fairly quickly. I love it when such episodes of surprise and synchronicity interject themselves into my life.
Do you find that your science and math training affect your approach to poetry in any way? Science and math actually, anything I am interested in or study or spend my time doing wiggles its way into my writing. Also, I find that science, math and poetry play off of one another like steel balls in the pinball machine of my brain. Even though there are differences, science, math and poetry do have some things in common.
For example, each one is a way of understanding. Also, for each of them, it helps to use your imagination. When I think about, say, irrational numbers, I definitely need to use my imagination. Math and poetry are in some ways quite kindred. One could think of math as a kind of language. And both poetry and math impart meaning through patterns, symbols and even counting, for example syllabics and meter in poetry. You volunteer with the local Writers Guild. Please talk about your activities with this group and why the Guild is important to you.
I believe the arts are crucial for a healthy, sane and balanced society. Writing is my art and I am blessed to live in the Bloomington IN area, which has a rich and active community of local writers, as well as writers associated with IU and its MFA program. As a member of the community, I have a responsibility and desire to do my share, to be a good literary citizen. One way to do that is to volunteer. For the Writers Guild, I co-curate a reading series called Lemonstone, which is on hiatus for while we re-envision its format.
I noticed that you took the heron photo on the cover of your book and created the collage image on your chapbook. What connections do you see between your photography, artwork and poetry? I find the experience of poetry to be more like the experience of painting than writing or reading a novel. Also, Sena Jeter Naslund, who founded the Spalding University MFA program, stresses the interrelatedness of the arts as being necessary to development of the artist. Can you say a few words about your next collection? My second manuscript indulges that obsession, the language we create to name and map those ideas and interactions, and how language mediates, bridges and serves as connective tissue.
What are three of your favorite places in Brown County? Steele State Historic Site and the little bungalow where I live. That the poet, his friend, would be that important new voice? No, those were fears, And not from jealousy. The problem is, it's good. Truthful, beautiful, all that. And worse, it is the opposite of rare. Outside Elkhart Along U. Harry He's 85, thick, ruddy, so far past that regal gig --vice chancellor, SUNY-- he could just as well pass for a retired shop foreman he drops ponderous names, titles, trends into the conversation lightly as a star waiter warming up our coffee a history maker a history teller he rose to importance with his books, pluck, handshakes but not to greatness greatness he brought, learned in the dawn of a life pressed to the earth of western Minnesota, a grandmother's battleground "Tiny woman, tiny, up every day before light, caught the chicken, wrung its neck, plucked it, had it cooked by that same afternoon.
Uncollected Poem Attention To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit. Her slender white fingers, wrists and forearms are never still as she holds forth on God knows what, the Wittgenstein assignment, the unreliability of J Crew sizing, the latest hint that some lucky and exasperating male may be capable of adult behavior toward her. Thus her miraculous hands, fluttering, flowing, flowering, flashing in the Edenic fall afternoon sunshine as though they held the spotlight in a blackened concert hall, are set free to conduct a vanishing symphony for an audience of one--one who is no one, knuckles locked to his paper cup, rubber soles at rest on the pavement, gliding into his own twilight in ever-widening wonder at the immensity of the tiniest of the losses that will come with eternal deafness and blindness, somehow content and complete that his divinely bestowed eyes have heard every note of this.
Interview with Dan Carpenter Dan, what draws you to writing poetry? Prose was my medium for many years, journalism and short fiction; but poetry always has been a staple of my reading and has provided my favorite writing elements: rhythm, imagery, succinctness, organic wholeness, valediction. And to make a reader somewhere suddenly stop, close the book and clutch it, as Linda Gregg and Hayden Carruth made me do. The basics--accuracy, economy, clarity, sensual description, audacity, lively quotes, storytelling as opposed to abstraction, people preferred to personages--all apply to the literary arts as well.
And the best of newspaper, magazine, broadcast and other journalism rises to literature E. White, Edward Hoagland, Joan Didion. It's funny. I was first attracted to Denise Levertov by her explicitly political poems during the first Gulf War and I admire both her attacks on war and injustice and her excoriation of fellow poets who stand above the fray. Other great poets likewise have put their talents to the service of immediate social needs. More power to them. At the same time, however, I believe their art owes its existence to itself and must illuminate truths that are both too particular and too broad to fit any marketplace agenda, even in prophetic times are there any other times?
What do you most value about these particular poets? Their morality, humility and fervor for authentic living infuse their verse and prose, producing an elegance and precision that transfigure everyday language. Did your regard for Riley change through the process of writing this piece? The comfort I have Debs offering him in my imagined conversation strikes me as fully in character--Gene was a genuine man.
Please speak a bit about your involvement with Brick Street Poetry and other local writing groups. Why are organizations like these important to a community? Poetry--the written, spoken, demanding, subversive kind--will defy our efforts to make it a mass phenomenon. But the community is better for it and, as Dr. Williams said, we mortally need it whether we realize it or not. Working the old body--hitting the gym, walking and biking with my wife, thrashing about in the pool.
Working on our old house and toiling in the garden. If you could go back in time to talk with one man or woman from Indiana history who would that be? Why would you choose this person? His eloquence, his courage, his passion for grand change, his compassion for the oppressed individual, his willingness to pay a devastating price for his matchless integrity make me yearn to shake his hand and crazy to ask how his state and country formed him.
How could that conversation not be a joy? Dan Carpenter. Helen Frost loves to travel. That doesn't surprise me a bit since her desire to understand "the other" is well-evidenced by her books--by their range of characters, settings, time periods, and thematic issues from teen pregnancy to the moral dilemma of war. Cari waded in up to her ankles. I did not know why. I like being alone with Dad--and with myself. I stand on the shore and watch her become queen of Eastside Beach. She dives under the rope, comes up laughing, flings water from her hair into a ring of sunlight, attracting a swarm of boys--were they even here last year?
I know they were. But something's different now. Last summer, Abigail liked to look at boys-- a lot--this year, the boys are looking back. She's like a kid on Christmas morning with a pile of new toys. We made our plan when Brock came over. At first he said, I don't have my swim trunks.
Come back at ten o'clock, I said. I wish I remembered him better. They say his voice was like strong music. Everyone loved to listen to him speak. Then soldiers, and the fort. I'll be right back, Mom promised. I heard the car door open, heard it close. The music stopped. Mom liked that song. I breathed again. Mom smelled like cigarettes. But then I heard a word Mom wouldn't say. A man's voice. He was yelling at our car. You should be ashamed. Sander pushes on: If we can't stand together as a free country, what are our boys fighting for? Sander's eyes. So far , he mutters under his breath.
Muriel has every right to speak her mind. Sander withers under Papa's steady gaze, and we go home. Be a little careful of such people, Muriel. Is that what women--"ladies"--are supposed to do? Swallow them? I'm almost there. I don't want them to see me getting bigger, bigger every week, almost too big to hide it now. But if I don't go home, where can I go?
Jason said, You could get rid of it. I thought of how he tossed the broken condom in the trash, saying. Nothing will happen. Now this baby is that nothing, growing fingers in the dark, growing toes, a girl or boy, heart pulsing. Not something to be tossed aside, not nothing. Love and terror both grow bigger every day inside me. Jason showed me where to go to take care of it. I looked at him and said, I can't. Now he isn't talking to me, and if he won't talk now, I know what to expect in six months' time--nothing.
His family doesn't know about the baby. When I used to go there every day, his mom would say, It's nice to have a girl around the house. But they have bigger dreams than this for Jason. All my questions are like wind-tossed papers in the street, and after they've been tossed around, rain comes, and they're a soggy mess. Now I'm hungry. I had a doughnut, but I need a bigger meal. I'm not prepared for this. I know nothing about living on my own. At school there's this girl I know named Keesha who told me there's a place kids go and stay awhile, where people don't ask questions.
I go, Yeah, sure, okay. I kind of tossed my head, like I was just some girl who wouldn't care. But now I wish I'd asked her the exact address. Nothing wrong with asking. To lots of girls, it's no big deal to have a baby. They treat it like a big attention getter--when the baby's born, they go around showing it off to all their friends. But nothing like this ever happens in my family. Mom and Dad won't toss me out, or even yell at me, if I go home right now. But how can I keep acting like the girl they think I am--a carefree teenage girl with nothing big to worry me.
As for what I've started thinking now-- don't go there. Interview with Helen Frost Helen, when did you first start writing poetry? I must have been about seven—pretty much as soon as I could write at all. What led you to start writing novels-in-poems? I have kept following that interest and continue to receive appreciation and encouragement. I like all the poetry tools that allow me to let the reader know how to hear the music and receive the images of a poem. The language of poetry is, in a way, condensed, which can make it more intense emotionally.
The white space on the page offers breathing room as readers take in the story and emotion. It had been brewing for a long time and went through several different versions before the characters and I found our way into this story. Lots of different memories from different people and places came together and nourished my imagination. I like the acrostic form for the poems in the voice of the lake because it gave me an opportunity to include lines of poems I love.
In the story, there is a current running through the lake, and the acrostic armatures represent that current. You frequently work with traditional forms such as quatrains and sestinas and sonnets. Any tips for how you do this? And what does a poem gain by being written within a traditional form? A traditional form offers its own heritage—all the effort and joy of the poets who have lived in the form. I see that as a kind of DNA that language offers to the poet, the poem. Yes, these two, and also The Braid are based in history.
I love writing historical fiction because I enjoy the research. What advice do you have for poets wanting to write for youth? Give yourself time. It took me about ten years from the publication of my first book of poetry for adults to my first publication for young readers. You may not need that much time, but ten years is not atypical. You really need to do a lot of reading, to learn what has been done before. What suggestions do you have for teaching poetry writing to middle-school and high school students? Encourage them to read for pleasure and share what they are reading, as well as what they are writing, with their classmates.
Let them learn the craft and discipline, much as they might learn a sport or musical instrument. There are so many resources for this. The best is probably Teachers and Writers Collaborative—a wealth of books and articles there. Who are your favorite poets? Randall Jarrell, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks come immediately to mind—just naming poets who are no longer living.
Always, of course, too many favorites to mention. What do you appreciate most about the literary community in Fort Wayne? I love the supportive friendships that have formed through the years among those of us who go to poetry and fiction readings. And that is also true throughout Indiana—thank you for your part in this, Shari. A traditional form offers its own heritage-- all the effort and joy of poets who have lived in the form.
Click here to visit his website. Likewise, I will surely read many times over his newly-released book, Map to the Stars. I'd love to see book groups all over Indianapolis, throughout the state, and, indeed, the nation, read and talk about this important book and discuss what communities can do to help their children. This reading is sponsored by Indiana Humanities. Please spread the word and click here for more information! One of nine celestial bodies snapped into drummed orbits around the Sun like the orthodontic rubber bands no one in Carriage House had. Behind a mirrored visor, the singing inside my American-flagged extravehicular mobility unit so robust it could keep a black boy from Indiana breathing in outer space.
The kid in the ad was as excited as I was—waiting for the mailman every day after mailing five wrinkled bills—but the solar system never came. One time we found a press-on nail ledged like a glittering smile where the screen used to be. Busted shopping strip of old walkways, crooked parking spaces nicked like the lines on the sides of somebody's mom-barbered head. Anchored by the Piccadilly Disco, where a shootout was guaranteed every weekend--coughing stars shot from sideways guns shiny enough to light the way for anyone willing to keep a head up long enough to see.
Not me. The shirt was polyester with flyaway collars, outlined in the forgotten astronomies of disco. There are more kinds of stars in this universe than salt granules on drive-thru fries. We were out like juice boxes after lunch. We were on the West Side-- nowhere near our old neighborhood-- like a well-organized poverty protest.
Desegregation out here. Iron chains around a bear's neck don't slow him too much. A bear will always make short work of a dog. So the handlers sometimes put the bear's eyes out or took his teeth to make the fight more sporting. I believe you need eyes more than you need teeth in a fight, but losing either makes a bear a little less mean. Once baiting was against the law, some smart somebody figured coloreds fight just as hard if hungry enough. This was one of the many reasons why the Commission also did not permit private headstones since this would distinguish the rich dead from the poor dead and the Commission wanted to emphasise the equality of sacrifice of all the dead.
Everyone had to accept a regulation Imperial War Graves Commission headstone, which caused more distress, but perhaps by way of compensation families were allowed to personalise the headstone with their choice of inscription. Herbert Downs was the third of his parents five children. Father, Matthew Downs, was a builders' labourer. Eight days after HerbertDown's death the Austrians signed an armistice - the war on the Austro-Italian front was over.
It raises an interesting question. Who is actually speaking here? The voice is obviously meant to be that of the son, Dudley Mein, but the words were chosen by the father. Do the words express the father's sentiments or the son's. We're not going to know. All the voices in these inscriptions are the voices of the bereaved.
Occasionally quotation marks indicate that the dead person is being quoted but even then the choice has been made by the next of kin, the bereaved. And whether they are grief stricken, angry, proud or loving they have had to make a decision on what to say, and they have had to limit it to 66 characters whereas there were probably a million things they could have said.
Some people will have said what they thought they should say, some people will have said what people conventionally say and some people will have wanted to say something that brought them comfort. The ones I admire are the ones that say something totally original - 'He would give his dinner to a hungry dog and go without himself' , Love and kisses from Mother , Yes my love the same your wife, Ethel'.
I suspect I would have said something deeply conventional. His Military Cross was awarded for an action on 23 September when he captured two guns and prisoners. He was killed on 26 October in an event described in General Allenby's dispatch: "Early on the morning of October 26th the armoured cars and the 15th Cavalry Brigade, moving round the west side of the town, followed the enemy along the Aleppo-Katma road and gained touch with him south-east of Haritan.
The Turkish rearguard consisted of some 2, infantry, cavalry, and eight guns. The Mysore Lancers and two squadrons of the Jodhpur Lancers attacked the enemy's left; covered by the fire of the armoured cars, the Machine Gun Squadron and two dismounted squadrons of the Jodhpur Lancers. The Mysore and Jodhpur Lancers charged most gallantly. A number of Turks were speared, and many threw down their arms, only to pick them up again when the cavalry had passed through, and their weakness had become apparent.
The squadrons were not strong enough to complete the victory, and were withdrawn till a larger force could be assembled. It is difficult to think where he might have been wounded or killed. At the time of his death his battalion were 50 km further east near Zaandvoorde. Nevertheless, Pugh, who served originally with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, died on 25 October and is buried in Hazebrouck.
Pugh was not an Irishman. He came from Tregynon a small community near Newtown in Wales where his father was a farmer. It was his wife, Sarah, who chose his inscription. It is a traditional inscription, one that chimes with all those relations who chose 'Thy will be done', or 'Not my will but Thine be done O Lord' or 'God knows best', an attitude of acceptance that we today find difficult to comprehend, especially perhaps for someone who was killed within two weeks of the end of the war. The Germans having withdrawn from the Hindenburg Line had set up a new defensive line to the east of the Selle.
Yardley in buried in the Capelle-Beaudignies Road Cemetery where there are only 53 burials, all from a two-week period 21 October to 5 November. More than half the graves relate to the two days 23 and 24 October.
Born in King's Norton, Warwickshire, Yardley was his parents' only son, the eldest of their two children. In the father, Charles Yardley, was a 'pianoforte agent' in Sheffield. This being the case - that the authorities knew where his parents were living - it's strange that Alan Yardley's medals were never delivered. His medal index card just says that they were retained, undisposed. It was not unknown for next-of-kin to refuse to receive medals, scrolls and memorial plaques.
They wanted nothing to do with the authorities who had 'killed' their family member. It looks as though the Yardleys could have been one such family. Charles Yardley signed for his son's inscription. It comes from Byron's poem 'Don Juan'.
The poems of John Keats
However, the quotation had a life of its own apart from the poem since it was frequently used as a fatalistic acceptance of what life had thrown at you. On 10 April the battalion were holding the front line between Wambeke and the Blauwepoortbeek in the Messines Sector. Between the first entry at 2. The rest of the day is also minutely recorded although it is difficult to get a sense of exactly what is happening, just that by the time 9.
The battalion were not relieved until the 18 April when the casualties were assessed as 13 officers and other ranks killed, wounded and missing. Private Ernest Bennett was among the missing other ranks. Bennett had been taken prisoner. The Red Cross records show that he was "taken on He is buried in Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, one of the four permanent British war cemeteries in Germany where those who died as prisoners of war are now buried having been exhumed from sites all over Germany.
Bennett's father, Walter Bennett, signed for his inscription, a magnanimous and inclusive inscription for the eldest of his seven children. Albert William Hall was his parents' eldest son. They only had two children. He lived in Gloucester where his father was a "deal porter" someone who handled baulks of softwood, unloading them from ships and stacking them sometimes 60ft high in warehouses.
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In , Albert, aged 16, was a telegraph messenger, someone who delivered telegrams. His brother, Walter, aged 14, was a 'Corporation employee'. Albert enlisted soon after the outbreak of war. He served with the 8th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, which was raised in Bristol in September The battalion went to France on 18 July , the day Albert's medal index card says he arrived in France. He died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station on 31 July Our attack was held up by enfilade machine gun fire and concealed snipers from the right.
Our men returned to their original front line at 9. Casualties, Officers killed 8, 3 wounded, 3 missing. The Co Major Thynne was wounded in the body while urging on the second line. Other ranks Nevertheless, it had been an 'expensive' raid in term of casualties. Albert Hall was most probably one of the wounded; the battalion had not been in the front line for some considerable time before it. Hall's mother, Henrietta Hall, chose his inscription.
Whilst there were several hymns that declared Christ "died for me", there are none that say "he died for me and for me only" so it would seem that Mrs Hall was not quoting but giving a piece of her own mind. It's rather an extraordinary inscription. There are plenty that say 'He died for us', 'He died for others', 'He died for you', 'He died for you and me' but I have not come across another one that says 'He died for me and me only'.
Mrs Hall was not going to share her son with anyone else - even his father and his brother. This is such a specific inscription that it is a shame I haven't been able to find out any more details. This records: "28 June Raids on German trenches".
These raids were carried out in daylight, in unaccustomed and very difficult circumstances, and in the face of very determined opposition. In spite of these obstacles the results aimed at were successfully obtained and great damage and loss inflicted on the enemy. The gallantry, devotion, and resolution shown by all ranks was beyond praise, and the Major-General Commanding is proud to be able to congratulate the West Lancashire Division on the discipline and soldierly spirit exhibited - a discipline and spirit which most seasoned troops could not have surpassed.
When the opportunity comes of avenging their deaths the Major-General Commanding is confident that the Division will not forget them. He joined the army soon after the outbreak of war and was in France in on 6 June He was the son of the late Rev. Robert Stephenson, who for over 30 years was vicar of St Jame's, Birkdale.
He possessed marked ability as a pianist and frequently gave classical recitals at Southport. Kenneth Ian Somerville was a student at Toronto University when the war broke out. On 15 March the battalion conducted a raid on the German trenches. Somerville, another officer and four soldiers were killed in the action. Somerville was in fact originally badly wounded in the face.
This blinded him. His was being taken back to the front line when he was caught in an enemy barrage and wounded a second time, this time in the left thigh. He was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station but failed to survive an operation the following day. All this is documented on the Veterans Affairs Canada site on which there is also a letter his father, Charles Ross Somerville, wrote to a niece: "My poor Kenneth was killed in France on the 16th March.
I should have sent you word sooner but have been all broken up it is such a shock. After about 2 years in the fighting line I had hoped that he would have come through - but it was not God's purpose for my dear boy. Where did he get this idea from? He outlined his Fourteen Points, setting out what could be the terms on which to base peace. Wilson spelt out how behind everything he proposed was the principle of justice, people's "right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak".
He pledged the people of the United States to maintain this principle, "the moral climax of this, the culminating and final war for human liberty". Robert Emerson was 21 when he was killed in action on the 2 September in the capture of the Drocourt-Queant Line. Wounded twice, once in the face and once in the arm, he also spent some time in hospital with Scarlet Fever in June His elder brother Warren, who had been badly gassed, returned to Canada to recuperate and was about to be sent back again when the war ended.
A younger brother, Frederick, wounded at Passchendaele, had his leg amputated and another brother, Minard, died of influenza. What gave his father, who chose his inscription, the idea that his son had died to uphold world civilization? It would have been the Allied Victory Medal awarded to all the combatants of every Allied nation with the same agreed wording in the various different languages on the reverse - 'The Great War for Civilisation'. Warren Nickerson and his wife, Jacobine, called their son, born in , Robert Emerson Drocourt Emerson, Warren's brother's names with the addition of the location where he had been killed.
He qualified as a pilot and was killed over Cheshire flying a Hurricane which crashed due to a leak of glycol. He was buried there, with other members of Battalion by a Padre and a cross, a very nice one, was erected. He was a fine little chap. The ground was held. Eye-witness: -No Description:- Dark, thin face, grey eyes, medium height. Home address:- Informant: Byrne. Rannard was giving orders whilst a barrage was on, "I saw him killed by a piece of shrapnel, back of neck, instantly fell back dead in my arms". Rannard's inscription is very much influenced by propaganda: recruiting posters such as - "Take up the Sword of Justice" - and the memorial plaque given to the next-of-kin of all the dead which states that whoever received it had died for 'freedom and honour' , together with numerous pleas in posters and the press for Australians to fight for their King and the Empire.
Richard Rannard was born in Australia and enlisted as a private in September As the centenary draws to an end, I thought it would be interesting to see what some next-of-kin gave as the cause for which they believed their family members had died. Yesterday's casualty, Thomas Scott Brodie, gave his life for the Empire. Ralph Harwood, who served with the 3rd Battalion Australian Infantry and was killed in action in Gallipoli on 30 November , 'died for England'. The son of Ralph Harwood and his wife Mary Frances Buckley, Ralph jnr was born in Liverpool, England and emigrated with his parents to Australia in when he was two.
He enlisted in May when he was 18 and 9 months and embarked for Egypt two months later. He was killed a month before the Allied forces were withdrawn from the peninsula. His mother chose his inscription and filled in the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia. One of the tragic aspects of John Buckley VC's life is that although he was married three times and fathered eight children, two of his wives died and all eight of his children, some from disease and some killed during the rebellion.
Thomas Newton John Buckley also served in the Royal Engineers but it looks very much from this forum as though he was a deserter. The things you find out. Thomas Scott Brodie was a volunteer - 'his life for the Empire he willingly gave'. On 2 September they landed at Suvla Bay and after three months were evacuated to Egypt on 28 December. This served in Salonika until June when it was posted to France. Brodie was killed in action on 17 October in the crossing of the River Selle. Marie Brodie chose her son's inscription because her husband was dead.
It is a variation of an In Memoriam verse that appeared in various forms in the local newspapers during the war. This is one version: "Somewhere in France", a brave heart beats no more, He has finished his bit, and the tumult is o'er; In the garb of his King, with his feet to the foe, "Somewhere in France," how calmly he sleeps. Blow softly O south winds blow soft o'er his grave, His life for the Empire he willingly gave, And sweetly he rests with the heroes of God.
Here is another: Far away from his home and his loved ones, Laid to rest in that far away land; Never more shall are eyes here behold him, Never more will we clasp his dear hand. Somewhere in France, how calmly he sleeps, While the songbird her singing all the day keeps; Blow softly O south winds, blow softly o'er his grave, His life for the Empire he willingly gave. The south wind is traditionally the wind that brings comfort, refreshment and quietness. His medal card doesn't indicate when he joined the cyclist battalion but it was formed in February Initially used exclusively for home coastal defence, eventually small groups of cyclists were transferred to the Western Front where by late they had become useful for reconnaissance work.
The trench warfare was over; it was now a war of movement and bicycles had become an important means of transport. They were silent, fast and light, the latter meaning that they could be carried over difficult terrain. Bicycles were in effect a form of calvary whose 'steeds' were not so expensive to maintain. Nowell Cooper was the middle of his parents three children. Father was a railway accountant's clerk and the family lived in Dinas Powis in Glamorganshire. It was his father who signed for this very touching inscription - Dear lad, good bye.
It was all so simple once - Britain and her allies were in the right and Germany and the Central Powers were in the wrong. And in the end right had triumphed over wrong as she should. The wife of a coachman, in she, her husband and six children lived in Pitlochry. James had served with the 8th Battalion the Black Watch. There is no date of entry into a theatre of war on his medal index card and he was not entitled to a Star so he was probably not a volunteer.
He was killed on 14 October when the battalion attacked towards Winkel-St Eloi. The attack began at B and C companies were ordered to assist and Mogg Farm was cleared. It had been discovered with three other members of the 8th battalion at map reference F26a. McIntosh had been a casualty of the hold up' at Mogg Farm. It was 28 days before the end of the war.
He is said to have been the son of William McMahon but I have not been able to identify either William or James in any of the censuses. James McMahon was a volunteer. He first entered a theatre of war, France, on 22 October serving originally with the Northumberland Fusiliers and then with the York and Lancaster Regiment. He was killed on 13 October in the crossing of the River Selle, east of Cambrai, which had fallen on the 8th.
Whoever Miss N McMahon was she knew her history. Her 'eternal Flanders' is often known as 'the cockpit of Europe', the battleground of numerous campaigns throughout history. McMahon was killed less that 15 miles from Ramillies and Malplaquet, the sites of the Duke of Marlborough's famous victories of and Agincourt, Crecy and Waterloo were themselves only just over 70 miles away.
McMahon joined the long line of Englishmen killed in the struggle to keep a strong power out of the Low Countries whether that power was France, Spain or Germany. Yesterday's casualty died a month later than today's but it took five years for the War Graves Commission to ask Private O'Neill's parents for an inscription as opposed to one year for Private Milner's. Constructing the cemeteries took many years, combing the battlefields, exhuming bodies where necessary, reburying them, acquiring the land, designing the cemeteries - there was no standard style - communicating with the next of kin.
In fact it was before the final memorial to the missing was completed. And then of course the next year was O'Neill was a volunteer from Ballylongford Co. On September 2 the battalion took part in the capture of the Drocourt-Queant line. A week later it went into the support trenches near Moeuvres and spent the 8th to the 12th, according to the war diary, undertaking 'various reconnaissances'. Having survived the attack on the Drocourt-Queant line it would appear that O'Neill was killed in one of the 'various reconnaissances'. His elder brother, Patrick, serving with the 8th Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers, was killed in action on the Somme on 9 September His body was never recovered and his is one of the 72, names on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.
William Milner was killed in action in Italy one hundred years ago today. His father chose his inscription. William was one of his parents' twelve children of whom five had died before Mrs Mary Milner, William's mother, died in , as did his twenty-two-year-old brother Harry who died at home in Droitwich. Florence, his older sister died in Leaving five - four siblings and their father - to mourn William's death. The battalion were part of an Allied contingent sent to help the Italians in the Trentino where it was feared the Austrians were getting the upper hand.
Milner was killed on 11 October on the Asiago Plateau during a raid on the Austrian trenches. Italy was a completely different battle front from the flat lands of France and Flanders, and from the desert heat of Palestine and Mesopotamia. It was rugged, mountainous and inhospitable and the cemetery where Milner is buried is rarely accessible between November and April due to deep snow.
For all its inhospitableness it would appear that Barenthal was one of the very first cemeteries to be built. Mr W Milner must have been asked for his choice of inscription in Next-of-kin don't seem to have been asked for this information until the War Graves Commission were ready to build the cemetery as I've seen inscriptions that refer to three, five and even eight years having passed since the soldier died. There is more to this inscription than meets the eye. What sounds like a simple injunction to never disturb Jones' body is in fact a famous inscription - if you know your American literature.
Natty Bumppo, a white boy raised by Indians, is a 'good' white man, a frontiersman who helps people in trouble. At the end of 'The Prairie' , Bumppo dies in the fulness of time and the Indians pay him this tribute: "A valiant, a just, and a wise warrior has gone on the path, which will lead him to the blessed grounds of his people. By choosing this inscription, Evan Jones' father, William Jones, associated his son with "a valiant, a just, and a wise warrior".
Jones served with the first Battalion the King's Shropshire Light Infantry and was killed in action on 8 October when the battalion attacked at 5. The battalion war diary reported a 'great numbers of prisoners soon began to come back, which meant attack was going well'. The attack did go well but nevertheless the battalion suffered over casualties killed and wounded.
However, William Jones had no opportunity to choose an inscription for his younger son because Albert's body was never found. He is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois memorial to the missing. Evan and Albert were two of his nine children all of whom worked with him on the farm. His wife, Mary died in , his daughter Sarah in and two of his sons in He was educated at Bedford School, had only just joined his squadron, and had been offered an instructorship in England, but made special application for active service abroad.
After qualifying as a pilot he went to France to serve with Squadron. The squadron was based in Dunkirk and flying DH9s on daylight bombing raids. Herbert was killed whilst practicing formation flying; his plane collided in mid-air with another machine and he and his observer were both killed. Herbert's father chose his inscription, a very masculine tribute from a father to a son but one of total admiration and approval. The first two lines come from 'Hail and Farewell' by the popular poet John Oxenham. They died that we might live,- Hail! That we might live they died,- Hail! Eternal honour give,- Hail!
The second two lines of the inscription are Mr Killick's own words and reflect a popular sentiment of the time: that those who lived on had an obligation to the dead to look after the world and make it a better place, one where such a terrible event would never happen again, a world that would be worthy of the dead. It is a relevant point today, remembrance itself is not enough. If the dead did leave the future in trust to us, that should be the subtext of 'all remembrance mantras - 'Lest we forget' the responsibility they hoped we would assume.
His body was not discovered until December when it was found with five other bodies at map reference 62c. There was no cross on the grave so it hadn't been previously registered. The body was identified by "Clothing, boots, numerals and two paper discs". The form asks "Were any effects forwarded to base? Gold cased watch guaranteed 20 years. Discs fell to powder after being exposed. See covering letter. This refers to the fact that French and Belgian farmers were paid for each body they discovered to discourage them from failing to report it and just ploughing it back in to the ground.
In David Jones was assisting his parents in the business. By the time his body was discovered his father was dead. He immediately took a commission in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and after training went to France in June He was promoted captain that September. In November he was awarded a Military Cross for carrying out "a daring raid against the enemy with great courage and determination".
In November he returned to England for six months home duty before returning to France in May He was killed six months later by a shell whilst leading his Company into action on 28 September Smith's inscription, chosen by his father, George Smith Master of Dulwich College, comes from Robert Browning's poem Rabbi Ben Ezra , a philosophical poem in which Age addresses Youth and tells it, "Grow old along with me the best is yet to be".
This is because in Age we acquire the wisdom and insight that Youth, too concerned with living in the moment, doesn't have. However, these are the very qualities that twenty-two-year-old Smith was admired for. As his Colonel wrote to his parents: "Though young in years, he had an old head, with much discretion. I could trust any duty to him knowing that it would be well and faithfully carried out". The poem holds that our life on earth is but one step on the journey of our soul, which will continue after death.
To his parents, George Smith was setting out "Once more on my adventure brave and new". A volunteer, he joined up as a private and went to France in November A year later he received a commission in the 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. He was killed on 8 August in the capture of the village of Sailly-Laurette on the opening day of the Battle of Amiens. It is based on a Hindu mantra from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a treatise on the soul composed sometime around the year BC. Lead us from the unreal to the real.
Lead us from the darkness to the light. Lead us from death to immortality. It is a very unusual inscription from a very unusual source. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad does not appear to have been well known in Britain. It had been translated into English in but I can't see that either the book or the mantra were widely known so it would be interesting to know how Mr and Mrs Hill came across it.
This is such a heartbreaking inscription. I've neither heard of Chute-Erson before nor ever seen this poem. It's the kind of sentimental verse that the twentieth century rejected but it's the type that must have expressed many a mother's feelings: Yes, I am proud, I shall not weep, my son — Boy of the high, brave spirit, who lies slain, Blent with the earth grown hallowed for the stain Of thy young life-blood. Boy, who on my breast Has lain, so small, so dear, in infant rest; Whose tiny, clinging hands and nestling head Seemed God and life to me - dear son, now dead.
Son of the strong, young frame, the fearless heart, Vibrant with life and thought, the coming man Shadowed in graver mood, the finished plan. My mother-love foresaw and knew content, And when, all youthful fire and courage blent, You said good-bye, I smiled Oh, God! I would not have you stay. Yes, I am proud, my son, I shall not weep, But, oh! Yes, I am proud, indeed, but - Son, oh, Son! Those three words - 'Son oh son'. For all that the mother has tried to convince herself that she's proud that her son has died 'as we would have you die', and that she is determined that she 'shall not weep', remembering him as a baby and and 'on the verge of manhood' is actually too much for her.
William Stephen was 18 when he was killed in action on the day the 51st Highland Division took Marfaux with very heavy casualties. William London's father chose his inscription. I can only imagine that he is telling his son that his mother and father have been trying to 'call' him through a spiritualist medium. And I can only imagine that they have not had any answer. It's rather a haunting inscription.
Belief in spiritualism, the belief that it was possible to make contact with the dead beyond the grave, was very popular after the First World War. There were numerous charlatans out there but some people genuinely believed that they were speaking to their dead relations. And not everyone who believed was a gullible innocent. Sir Oliver Lodge, a British physicist who played a key part in the development of radio, firmly believed that he was in touch with his son Raymond who had been killed in action on 14 September William London was the younger of his parents' two children.
He served with the 2nd Battalion Welsh Regiment and was killed in action on 20 July There is a gap in the battalion war diary between the end of June and the beginning of November so it's not possible to tell how he might have died. It comes from Tennyson's poem 'Merlin and the Gleam' where the gleam is a glimmer of the holy grail, that intangible quality that man should attempt to follow in his life: Not of the sunlight, Not of the moonlight, Not of the starlight!
This will have been the source of the inscription but it could have been a second-hand source. The song won and became a YMCA anthem, which is still sung today. Based on Tennyson's poem the song encourages young people to follow the gleam: To knights in the days of old, Keeping watch on the mountain height, Came a vision of Holy Grail And a voice through the waiting night. He finished his flying training and was just about to be sent to France when he had a head-on collision in the air and was killed.
His father, the Revd Horace E Bray chose his inscription. His mother had died when his sister was born. Bray's patriotic poetry was included in several Canadian anthologies. This plea for peace was written by Robert Burns in , more than a hundred years before David Herkes repeated it on his son's headstone. Burns' poem, 'On the Seas and Far Away' expresses a parents' yearning for peace so that their sailor son's life might be saved: Bullets, spare my only joy!
Bullets, spare my darling boy! Fate, do with me what you may - Spare but him that's far away. Robert Herkes was 18 when he died of wounds in a base hospital in France. At one time this would have meant that the soldier had his parents' signed permission to be serving abroad, but by this stage of the war more and more eighteen-year-olds were being sent to the front without this. Although Herkes served with the London Regiment he was born and brought up in Leith, Scotland where his father was a dock porter.
From the census it would appear that his mother was dead and that his grandmother, Isabella Herkes, was looking after the family of two children. In this later poem he says: Peace, thy olive wand extend, And bid wild war his ravage end, Man with brother man to meet, And as a brother kindly greet:. This inscription takes us far away from Western Europe to southern Persia, now Iran, where the British had formed the South Persia Rifles in an attempt to counter German influence among the region's tribes. There was much local hostility to the British and the loyalty of many members of the Rifles had became uncertain.
In June the Rifles' garrison at Abadeh mutinied and joined the enemy, laying siege to the town. A small Indian Army detachment had recently joined the fortress to take control of the supplies and ammunition in case of just such an eventuality. On 2 July the enemy succeeded in breaking the bank of the irrigation channel, diverting the water so that it flowed directly towards the mud walls of the garrison fortress. Gwynne-Griffiths went out under heavy fire to mend the breach and was killed. The breach was eventually mended but Abadeh was not relieved until the 17 July.
On 2 August a detachment of troops left Abadeh taking Gwynne-Griffiths body with them back to Shiraz, a journey of miles in the scorching heat. You must be thinking what I'm thinking. How did they keep Gwynne-Griffith's body from being unspeakable. I don't know but they didn't want it left among the hostile local people. We wouldn't have known about this if his mother hadn't told us via his inscription. His comrades' actions must have brought her great comfort. The battalion diary exists and shows that it was out of the line for most of June It doesn't mention suffering any casualties but it does mention that many of the men had 'three-day fever' and some of them had Spanish Flu and were very ill.
Chetkovich died in Pernes, a large Casualty Clearing Station centre two years to the day after he had volunteered. His father, who still lived in Boan Uskosi, chose his inscription, highlighting the seemingly strange fact that his Serbian son should die in Belgium fighting in the British Army.
Serbia and Britain were therefore on the same side, both fighting Austria-Hungary and her ally Germany. Mrs Kate Scurlock had no misgivings about the cause for which her son had died, unlike yesterday's mother who was obviously deeply against war. It's strange to think how many people passionately believed that their menfolk had died for abstract concepts like 'justice, freedom and for right' when that's not how most people think today. Yet how things are perceived is how people believe they are - and it's good to think sometimes of how people in a hundred years time might judge our present-day perceptions.
Frederick Scurlock was born in Pembroke Dock where his father was a fitter in the dockyard. He worked as a clerk in a timber yard in Haverfordwest until he was called up. Scurlock served with "C" Bty. Leslie Rose died of meningitis whilst a German prisoner of war, his body later exhumed and buried in Valenciennes St Roch Communal Cemetery.
The War Graves Commission records this exhumation and the record includes the evidence of identity. This says, "Plate on coffin". I'm pretty sure that British soldiers were normally buried in ground sheets not coffins yet this is the second time I've come across the mention of the plate on a coffin and that too was of a soldier buried by the Germans.
At this time the Germans were so short of some raw materials that shoes and boots were being made out of vegetable matter. Yet they were burying soldiers, including enemy soldiers, in coffins with coffin plates. Rose's mother chose his inscription. It's a stern rebuke to everyone, she is not blaming the other side she's saying that it takes two to quarrel - "war cannot be on one side". She then follows this statement up with the reference to a passage in Deuteronomy.
She's identified it as Deuteronomy but most people would say And what is the quote"? George Helliwell Harding was the Red Baron's 73rd victim. He had only been with 79 Squadron since 2 March when he became von Richthofen's third kill of the day. Harding was attacking a German fighter when von Richthofen came from behind and shot him down. Harding's plane caught fire and broke up in the air.
Two years later, Harding's sister, Ruth, an actress, was in France entertaining American troops. She wanted to identify her brother's grave - the implication being that he had been buried as an unknown airman. She identified a grave and insisted on the body being exhumed for her to identify the remains. It must have been indescribably gruesome. Her brother would have been horribly burnt and had been in the ground for a year.
Just under a month later Manfred von Richthofen was killed. Harding was an American citizen from South Minneapolis, Minnesota. After America's entry into the war he tried to enlist in the American army but so many Americans were volunteering that he became impatient at the delay and crossed the border into Canada to enlist in the Flying Corps. He arrived in England in August and after further training, he went to France on 2 March. Twenty-five days later he was dead. His father, Mr GF Harding, chose his inscription from Algernon Swinburne's poem 'The Halt Before Rome': Republican Rome, for whom the soldiers in the poem are fighting: She, without shelter or station, She, beyond limit or bar, Urges to slumberless speed Armies that famish, that bleed, Sowing their lives for her seed, That their dust may rebuild her a nation, That their souls may relight her a star.
There's no indication as to why he volunteered, it could have been the sinking of the Lusitania on 7 May in which so many American citizens died, or perhaps the fact that there's a Star of David on his headstone. This sign of his Jewish faith might have been a significant factor. Anti-semitism was rife in certain parts of Germany and within certain sections of German society. His family could have been refugees. Aaron who died at 30 CCS as the result of an accident while driving Ford Ambulance on duty on the Death resulted on Born in Clapton, London in the first quarter of and educated at Hackney Downs School, Ernest Dunn was just 19 when, according to his medal index card, he went to France in May He was killed the following month.
His parents' only child; his father had died in At the time of his death he was attached to the Machine Gun Corps. The Hackney Downs School memorial site , records that Dunn was killed by a shell. Originally buried where he died, Dunn's body was exhumed and reburied at Orchard Dump Cemetery in March The site of the cemetery was donated to the War Graves Commission by the widow of a Captain in the French 72nd Infantry killed in action in August Mrs Alice Whelan had thirteen children of whom nine survived to adulthood.
Widowed before she and her one daughter described their occupations as ironers. Thomas was her eldest child. She says of him in the War Graves Commission records that he had had 15 years military service. It is likely that this service had come to the end before the war and that he rejoined on the outbreak. He died of wounds in the hospital centre of St Sever on 1 July , the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Thomas was 'the first to fall'. Two years later James Whelan, sixteen years younger than his older brother, died of wounds close to the front line on 26 June Eight of my sons Answered the call You, dear Jim, were the second To fall - sleep on.
Stanley Jenkin's inscription comes from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's beautiful, passionate love poem 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways'. It was signed for by his father. The battalion was sent first to a quiet part of the line to acclimatise themselves to the trenches before being sent into the front line at Givenchy on 17 February. The next day the British artillery bombarded the German trenches from 8 to 11 pm.
The war diary recorded that the enemy's retaliation was 'moderate' and that one soldier was killed. The next day, the 19th, is described as "Very quiet - nothing unusual happened. In civilian life Jenkins had been an engine driver in a colliery in Ogmore Vale, Glamorganshire. In he was living in Ogmore with his grandmother, Anne Davies, without his parents, as he had been aged 7 in On his attestation form he named his grandmother as his next of kin and left his money to her in his will. However, by she was dead and it was his parents, Evan and Esther Jenkins of Brodawel, Twyn, Garnant, Carmarthenshire, who received his medals, next-of-kin memorial plaque and scroll.
To do this they had to fill in Army Form W. This revealed that all his grandparents were dead and that he had no brothers or sisters. He was 52 years of age. On the outbreak of war he rejoined the army and was in France by March with the rank of Temporary Lieutenant Colonel, meaning that he would hold the rank for the duration of the war.
Harrison was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in He came from an army family. His father had served with the Madras Native Infantry and his grand-father had been a major-general in the Royal Artillery. In France he served with the 16th Division Ammunition Column and as the newspaper reported, died of pneumonia. His wife, Beatrice, chose his inscription. It comes from Robert Louis Stevenson's Requiem, the poem that appears on his own grave in Samoa: Under the wide and starry sky Dig the grave and let me lie: Glad did I live and gladly die, And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you 'grave for me: Here he lies where he long'd to be; Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill. Mrs Harrison has contracted the words to read as she wanted them to read. Her husband, after a long career in the army, was lying among his fellow soldiers in the battlefields of France. When relations quoted from this hymn they usually quoted the first three words of the first verse: 'Abide with me', or the last line of the last verse: 'In life in death O Lord abide with me'.
James Dick's parents have quoted from the second verse: Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day; Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not abide with me! James Dick was a apprentice engineer in Gateshead-on-Tyne when he enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry soon after the outbreak of war. His medal card shows that he disembarked in France on 20 April He was a private.
His military career shows his quality. Over the next two years he was awarded a Military Medal, promoted corporal, then acting sergeant and on 29 May he received a commission. Five months later, almost to the day, he died of wounds in one of the Casualty Clearing Stations at Proven. He is buried in Mendinghem Military Cemetery. This was one of the humorous names the troops gave to this group of Belgian Casualty Clearing Stations, along with Bandaghem and Dozinghem. The subject of my tweets, blog and books is inscriptions. They come first and the person and their story comes afterwards.
What I mean is that I don't look around for a person and then see what their inscription says, it's the other way round. This has led me along some interesting byways from very under age soldiers, men serving under false names, huge family tragedies, examples of incredible fortitude, to suicide and murder. This inscription has led me nowhere; I could find out even less than I usually can about a soldier and certainly nothing about Lee as a musician. Yet the inscription is one of the most powerful I've come across.
This much it says in the War Graves Commission Register but I can't identify him with any certainty in any census. William AJ Lee's medal card does not indicate when he enlisted nor when he arrived in France. We know he served with the 25th Tyneside Irish Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, that he died of wounds in hospital in Etaples on 3 May and that's it. Arthur James Lee signed for his son's eloquent inscription - he did well. The words "Don't worry" are in inverted commas, which would suggest that they are the words of the dead man and no, I don't think they mean don't worry that I'm dead because I shall now be alright.
I think that brother Edward was fully conscious of the irony of his choice. His brother had gone off to war telling them all not to worry - and look what happened. Robert Allen had gone off to war in October when he was He had been out at work since he was 14 when he was a door boy in a restaurant.
Ernest J Allen was a baker in Battersea and in the family had, Jacob Buss, another baker, living with them. Buss was a naturalised German citizen. There's no indication in the war diary when the wounds might have been received. Edward Wilfred Allen was too young to have served in the war but if you follow up Ernest J Allen, Ernest Jones Allen, he was killed in action on 25 September whilst serving as a driver with the Royal Horse Artillery. Alexander Graham, serving with the 9th Battalion Black Watch, died of gas poisoning in a hospital in Bethune.
The battalion had gone into the front line at Vermelles on 26 April The Germans launched a gas attack on the 27th but the gongs sounded the alert and the men all got their smoke helmets on in good time. Even though the gas was so dense that one could not see more than 8 to 10 feet little harm was done. However, on the 29th the Germans subjected the line to the most intense bombardment using every form of shell including gas shells and lachrymatory shells tear gas.
This time casualties were very high probably, it was concluded, because the men had been advised to remove their helmets too soon. Graham died in hospital the following day. Isabella Graham chose her youngest son's inscription. This poetic translation of the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, was very popular, especially with Theosophists who were interested in Eastern mysticism.
The passage is based on Book 2 "Thou grievest where no grief should be! I have slain a man! I am slain! Life cannot slay. Life is not slain! Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never; Never was time it was not; end and beginning are dreams! Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for ever; Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems!
William Larkin's sister, Edith, chose his inscription. She was his only living relation their parents having both died by She chose a line from verse 3 of the hymn 'For all the saints'. O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold, Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old And win with them the victor's crown of gold, Alleluia! The siblings had not had an easy life. Father was a groomsman and domestic gardener who died in Their mother was deaf and had been since she was Edith spent two years in the care of the Maidstone Poor Law Union between the ages of five and seven, and aged fourteen was living with her mother's sister.
William doesn't appear in the census but by he was a grocer's assistant in Rottingdean. William Larkin joined the 12th Battalion Sussex Regiment. The battalion were in France by March where they were heavily involved in the Somme campaign. On 8 October they relieved the 14th Battalion in the trenches at Auchonvillers. Enemy retaliated to some extent with TMs and 77 mm shells. Our trenches slightly damaged, but repaired each night. Enemy appear to have few heavy guns opposite us on this sector. John Tweddell, a stoker, fireman on the railways, embarked from Australia in October to serve with the Australian 1st Field Ambulance.
He died of wounds - two fractured lags and laceration of his eye - in the 1st Anzac Main Dressing Station, France, on 6 November His widowed mother chose his inscription and to me it has an echo of the Roman poet Catullus's farewell to his brother.
Poetry Features - Shari Wagner
By ways remote and distant waters sped, Brother, to thy sad grave-side I am come, That I may give the last gifts to the dead, Since she who now bestows and now denies Hath taken thee, hapless brother, from mine eyes. But lo! Hail and Farewell - Ave Atque Vale. Catullus had come a great distance to visit his brother's grave, to salute him and say 'for all time' good-bye'.
Mrs Tweddell sent her inscription from a great distance to say 'for all time' remembrance. It sounds very much like a quotation to me but I can't find it anywhere, only as this inscription. This is Kipling - do you recognise it? If you can keep your head, trust yourself, dream, think This is Kipling's poem 'If', written in Strangely, for all its popularity, I've not come across any reference to the poem in an inscription before. Geoffrey Gidley was the second youngest of George and Annie Gidley's seven children.
Some might think he was a man already because he was out at work, as a clerk in a barrister's office, by the time he was 14 in There is no individual mention of his death but the battalion war diary records that, whilst they were being relieved from the front line trenches at Missy au Bois on the 25th, they were subjected to very heavy gas shelling resulting in 9 officers and other ranks being admitted to hospital.
It seems likely that O'Rorke was one of these casualties. There's another version of it that is fairly common as a general 'In Memoriam' inscription: "There came a mist and a blinding rain and life was never the same again". It's a love poem and the quotation comes from the first verse: Alas, how easily things go wrong! A sigh too much, a kiss too long, And there follows a mist and weeping rain, And life is never the same again.
Ralph Hamilton's father signed for his inscription. They were therefore familiar with the land Byron describes: the land of cypress and myrtle of cedar and vine, 'where the flowers ever blossom, the beams ever shine The quotation has an interesting after life. The 'immorality' of his life making him unacceptable to the Abbey authorities. I haven't looked up to see how long the notices kept appearing but it was not until May that Byron got a memorial in Westminster Abbey. Hamilton's battalion had been brought back from Palestine to meet the German offensive.
They had certainly had no experience of gas but the experts sent to train them in fighting with bayonets soon found 'we had not much to learn in that line'. Hamilton was killed on 2 September The battalion successfully attacked across the Canal du Nord when 'murderous machine-gun fire opened up from the left and their rear. In addition to this we were being subjected to very heavy fire on our left flank, which was now completely in the air, and we could actually see their gun teams working the 77's on the crest of the ridge.
The Bosche had paid us the compliment of rushing up his best troops to meet our Division, and certainly the Alpini Corps were most gallant fighters. To advance unsupported was out of the question, and our casualties were by now very heavy, so there was nothing left but to withdraw to the west side of the Canal again and reorganise the remains of the companies.
Christian Phillips was born in March His mother died in and his father in leaving him and his older sister and brother, Rachel and Edward, to be brought up by their mother's spinster sisters.
Related South of the Sunset: More poems from World War II including Voyage to Anguar
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