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Poldark vs. Warleggan

February 14, 2017


Happy Birthday, Valentine Warleggan (or is it Poldark…?!)!

Thank you Winston Graham for your twelve wonderful historical fiction novels about the Poldark family in Cornwall, England, 1783-1820. And thank you PBS for your amazing films based on the Poldark series.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! 💘

Twitter and the 2016 Presidential Debates

October 17, 2016


Here’s the link to a post I wrote for my work site, Syntax and Style. I wrote it in an effort to help my followers better understand the power of social media, in particular Twitter, during the campaigning of this presidential election. It’s an appropriate post for sublime days as well.

Twitter and the 2016 Presidential Debates


New Publications – A Book of Essays by Preston Browning and A Book of Poetry by Jordan Pomazon

July 12, 2016

book The Greatest Race: A Collection of Poetry and Rabid Verbalizations book Struggling for the Soul of Our CountryCoincidentally, I have two Massachusetts friends who have published books in the past two months. One friend is an octogenarian who lives in western Mass. while the other lives on the north shore and is in his 20s. One has compiled a collection of essays written over many years, the other a collection of poetry written over the course of a decade.

Preston Browning taught Literature at the University of Illinois (at Chicago) and in his retirement he operates Wellspring House, a writers retreat in Ashfield, Massachusetts. I have spent time at Wellspring House on several occasions and it’s a wonderful place to write, in large part because of Preston’s inspiring presence. He’s often writing as we, the residents, are.

Preston’s just-released book is timely. Titled Struggling for the Soul of Our Country, Preston offers ten essays – with titles such as American Global Hegemony vs. the Quest for a New Humanity and Why I Am a Christian Socialist. What backs his well-informed voice? Here’s his bio (taken from his publisher’s page about the author and the book – link above).

“Preston M. Browning Jr. holds a BA in history from W&L, an MA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a PhD in Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago. While a member of the English Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago for thirty years, he was a Fulbright lecturer in Yugoslavia. He is the author of Flannery O’Connor: The Coincidence of the Holy and the Demonic in O’Connor’s Fiction and Affection and Estrangement: A Southern Family Memoir. He operates Wellspring House, a retreat for writers in western Massachusetts.”

Jordan Pomazon’s book, The Greatest Race: A Collection of Poetry and Rabid Verbalizations shows promising talent from a young man with a BA in Fine Arts (Graphic Design and Creative Writing) from Montserrat College of Art. Jordan’s book shows steady bursts of literary talent. He strikes me as “a natural” – a poet who spills forth raw-honest musings from his heart. Describing a time when his poetic well had gone dry, he says in the Preface of his book, “It was a mix of lacking content to write about, a lack of motivation, a sense of disconnection between me and other writers and a lack of life experience. I was floundering in a most spectacular fashion…” That’s the truthful voice of youth. And it’s that voice that drives the work in The Greatest Race.

I’ll share here (with permission) the first poem, Bruise, in Jordan’s book. I enjoy the revisit to a Jack Kerouac style of riff that permeates the final verse.

by Jordan Pomazon

This isn’t a bruise
It’s makeup
I like to force the dramatics
And these aren’t shoes, they’re horse-shit
I never had strong foundations
This isn’t a hand, it’s a hammer
I like to wave it around until it’s actually needed
And these clothes, they’re actually clothes
But they don’t really cover much

So what we have isn’t that special
But what we do is a miracle
And we all want to have more
I go to bars
But they aren’t bars
It’s an act of faith
And all the patrons
They’re the faithful

And I go to shows
But they aren’t shows
They’re a carnival
Crazy and wonderful
And honest, of all things
My dashboard is paradise
My mom’s kitchen is Valhalla
My bed is just a bed
But the airport is a sanctuary
The doodle in my wallet contains the universe

We’re people, but no, not really
We’re stars
Standing, shining
Burning, burning, burning
Until we exhaust and explode
Until there is nothing left
And until we all fall back down
And all we want
Is to leave our lives for just long enough
To bruise

If you’re interested, you can purchase either of these books by visiting the links provided in the post.

What Are The Chances

March 22, 2016


Yesterday was my birthday. I love my birthday. As I go about my day, I tell everyone, even strangers, that it’s my birthday. After a transaction at a cash register a person might say, “Have a nice day,” and I reply, “I will! It’s my birthday!” They smile and wish me a happy birthday – and more joy is added to my day.

This year, all the usual happiness occurred on my  birthday, with one remarkable exception, about which I’ll write last.

Throughout the day, I got text messages, emails, fb postings, and cards (e-cards and real, paper cards). They all contained images of hearts and flowers, candles and cakes, fireworks and butterflies, as well as words of love. It was good vibrations all day long!

A lifelong, joyful aspect to my birthday is that I share it with my aunt, my mother’s only sister, who is the dearest person. I had tears of happiness in my eyes as I read her (paper) card, which arrived in my mailbox precisely on our birthday. At age 95 she still handwrites the envelope and heartfelt message to me.

There’s a numeric quality of my birth date, 3/21, that fascinates me:  backwards and forwards in counting ~ 321, 123; addition and subtraction ~ 3-2=1, 1+2=3. These mathematical gymnastics float through my mind throughout the day.

And always, Mother Nature surprises me. Because my birthday is the first full day of spring, it’s on the edge of winter’s exit and spring’s arrival. I’ve had sunny, hot birthdays – with temps in the 80s, as well as full blown blizzards. Yesterday, I awoke to a gray day with snow falling at a good clip, courtesy of nor’easter Regis. Fortunately, only a couple of inches accumulated. By mid afternoon, the sun was shining brightly from a blue sky and it was in the high 40s! This is typical of my birthday.

But this year, the most surprising thing happened in the early evening. I went to CVS to pick up a few things. I waited quite a while at the end of a customer line. During that time, I saw a woman sitting and waiting for something. She was called to a register, handed her product and then she maneuvered to the end of the line, directly behind me.

I said, “Why did you have to come to end of the line if you had already waited and were then at the register?”

She explained the reason, which seemed reasonable to her, though it bothered me.

So I said, “Please go ahead of me. You’ve been waiting longer than I have been.”

At first she protested, but with my insistence she did move to in front of me.

After a minute she turned to me and said, “You know if I weren’t so tired, I would have been happy to wait. But I’ve had a long day. I was out all day with my brother and sister-in-law. They called me early this morning and said, ‘Why don’t you spend the day with us since it’s your birthday.'”

I said, “Oh my gosh, it’s my birthday, too!”

She said, “No.”

I said, “YES!”

We laughed and wished each other a happy birthday and talked on and on about how uncanny it was that we should meet on our actual birthday!

As it turned out, my celestial twin and I ended up at registers side by side. When the pharmacy clerk asked for her date of birth, she replied, “3-21” and then she turned and smiled at me. Five seconds later, I was asked the same question, to which I answered, “3-21,” and my new friend and I laughed at the amazing coincidence of our encounter, on our birthdays.

When my transaction was done, we said goodbye. As I walked away she smiled and called, “My sister’s birthday is tomorrow!” I laughed and said, “My brother’s birthday is the day after tomorrow!”

I treasure such moments of human joy!

On St. Patrick’s Day I’m An American

March 17, 2016

Under my mother’s watchful eye, preparing her parents’ grave site for Memorial Day. (circa early 2000s)

When I was young, I’d wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. Sometimes I’d wear a button on my jacket declaring my Irish heritage. I was proud of being of Irish descent.

But now, the day doesn’t have as much meaning. The struggle of my ancestors means a great deal to me, but after all that they achieved, I am left with the gift of being fully American.

One strand of my maternal family came to this country in the 1600s, about 16 generations ago. In the late 1800s, my great-great-grandfather was the first Irish Catholic mayor in New England – in the then booming immigrant city of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

John Breen, first Irish Catholic mayer in New England (City of Lawrence, Massachusetts)

John Breen, first Irish Catholic mayor in New England (City of Lawrence, Massachusetts)

It’s hard to imagine that Lawrence still had a rim of country land around it. But these photos show the home of the mayor and the field across the street from his home. These photos show the progress of an American immigrant family given opportunity and being self-motivated.

My great-grandfather held the drop-kick record at Purdue for nearly 100 years.


Charles Breen, Purdue-University football, held dropkick record for nearly a century.

My grandfather was the managing editor of the Lawrence Eagle Tribune. When I was 22 years old, my own father was given the honor of being asked to be the Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Lawrence, a city he served with his surgical skill. I choose the word “served” because he thought of his profession as one of service to the people of his community, all people – regardless of their country of origin or the number of years they had spent rooting into their new home land.

My generation, in photos below in 1977 at the Hibernian Dinner Dance the year my father was Grand Marshall of the parade, enjoyed a good life because of the hard work and courage of our predecessors.

I am proud enough of my Irish heritage and family history to have placed the story of my book, The Setting of the Sun, in the city of Lawrence in an Irish Catholic family.

My blood is about 7/8 Irish. The remainder is a smattering of English, Dutch and Native American. But in my heart, I am fully American. Perhaps I feel strongly about this now that my parents are gone. And perhaps it was their personal history and patriotism that caused me to transition to not really celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

Each of my parents served in WWII – my father in the Army, my mother in the Marines. Every year of my childhood, on Memorial Day, my mother would walk us, her children, the quarter of a mile to the passing parade. She’d instruct us to put our hand over our heart as each American flag passed. She’d talk to us about giving honor to “the boys” who lost their lives to keep our country free from tyranny.

My mother’s solemn disposition on Memorial Day had an impact on me. Looking back now, I believe that each year, I’d feel more and more American because of her influence.

At age 70, my mother went back to work. She worked for several years in the Immigrant City Archives in Lawrence. She loved the legacy her home city had left on the Merrimack Valley. She especially loved the mix of races and cultures, and the contribution of each to the American way of life.

My mother was a solid member of the GOP. I don’t believe she ever voted outside of her party. She followed politics with the same zeal that is associated with sports fans. She understood her civics and she could determine with a fair amount of accuracy, by following every move of the Senate and the House of Representatives, who might bid for the presidency and how he/she would be receive by both parties and the American people.

I think of her often as I watch the current presidential election. I believe she’d be in a dilemma. Her party has put forth a candidate whose bigotry and aggression is a threat to this country. It would bother her to hear his anti-immigration and immigrant bashing statements. She’d wonder how Donald Trump could lead a country whose military has already acknowledged that it will not follow his illegal commands regarding torture and the killing of civilians (family members of terrorists).

I am my mother’s daughter, and though we did not see eye to eye on all things, we loved each other dearly. Like her, I am proud of the courage it took for my ancestors to leave the home they loved and brave the seas to find a better life. I’m proud of what they achieved in their small way. This is the American story for every family in this country that is not Native American.

So, on St. Patrick’s Day, I thank my Irish ancestors for my American heritage. And I want this country to continue to allow the privilege of American heritage to any person fleeing oppression, violence, tyranny, starvation or lack of personal freedom and human rights.

The First Time – A Talk With My Daughter

March 1, 2016

snowdrops - signs of spring“Sweetie,” I said to my daughter, “I know it’s your first time, and I’m sure you’ve talked with your friends – each generation has their own ideas and I understand that, but still, there are some basic things that I want to be sure you know.”

“You need to be careful that you’re not choosing a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Money and flash can be distracting allures. But honesty and integrity are far more important.”

To my surprise, my daughter seemed to be content to continue listening to me.

“Once you’re alone and the moment has come, please be prepared. You can get caught up in the newness of it all and lose track of your thoughts. So please, for the wellbeing of yourself and all of us, be prepared. Know how you are going to proceed. The decision you make can effect your health and wellbeing for the rest of your life.”

“When the sheet is drawn and you have only your wits to guide you, please keep your head and don’t vote for Trump!”

10 Classic Shakespeare Plays Everyone Should Read

January 26, 2016

I’ve been following Interesting Literature for some time now. Sometimes the site introduces new (to me) writers and their works. Other times, like today, I’m reminded of reading I did many years ago – some in this article, when I was in high school. Reading this post tempts me to do a study of Shakespeare’s works again. Macbeth was my fav.

Interesting Literature

The best of the Bard’s plays, with some interesting facts about them

Every Shakespeare play is a classic, of course. But William Shakespeare left behind nearly forty plays, including his collaborations with John Fletcher and others, and it would be disingenuous to claim that they all have equal ‘classic’ status among the Bard’s work. What we’ve compiled here, then, is less a definitive list of ‘best Shakespeare plays’ and more a small selection of some of his most talked-about, reread, performed, and adapted plays. We’ve included some facts about them as we go. We’ve not attempted to place them in any preferential order: that would be a step too far. But what, if you had to choose, would be the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays?

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