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As of November 20, 2012 (that is, Midnight Eastern Time tonight) I am closed to queries. I will reopen to queries January 7, 2013.
If I already have your work, you should hear from me by January 7. (That's the point of taking the break, I have to catch up!)
I'm sorry to say that I cannot respond to new queries sent during this time.
The exceptions will be: work that I've requested -- conference material -- client or editor referrals -- and people I actually know in real life. If this is you, please be sure you've said so, along with the word Query, IN THE SUBJECT LINE of your email. Otherwise, your query will be deleted.
For all other regular queries, please feel free to try any of my colleagues at Andrea Brown Lit, or else try me again in January.
Thanks again for thinking of me in regard to your work.
Wishing you all the best, and Happy Holidays,
Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Well, I totally missed this kerfuffle!
From the Guardian:
It was all started by Richard Cooper (@RichardHCooper), a University of Kent graduate who was considering taking a creative writing course there. But he was troubled by a statement on their site.
"We love great literature," it said. "We are excited by writing that changes the reader, and ultimately – even if it is in a very small way – the world. We love writing that is full of ideas, but that is also playful, funny and affecting. You won't write mass-market thrillers or children's fiction on our programmes. You'll be encouraged to look deep inside yourself for your own truth and your own experiences, and also outside yourself at the contemporary world around you. Then you'll work out how to turn what you find into writing that has depth, risk and originality but is always compelling and readable."
*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
Universal Pictures has chosen a director for the studio’s adaptation of the Laini Taylor YA fantasy novel Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Heat Vision reports that commercials director Michael Gracey will take the helm of the project, which revolves around a 17-year-old art student whose father sends her all over the world collecting human teeth for a mysterious purpose. The young woman soon realizes that she’s part of an ancient struggle between angels and demons, and finds herself in a love affair with a warrior angel. Stuart Beattie (Collateral) initially penned the screenplay with subsequent rewrites by Taylor, and Joe Roth (Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman) will produce.
By: Emily Smith Pearce,
Blog: Emily Smith Pearce
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Sorry for being away so long! I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving. Ours was nice and low-key, and featured some gluten-free apple pie. There was a big to-do about who got the last pieces, and not just among the GF folks. It’s that good.
The hubs and I also took a trip just before Thanksgiving, which I’ll have to tell you more about in another post.
Here I wanted to show you a little holiday craft we did. Last year I made gift cloths with Christmas fabric and existing Christmas linens, but this year I decided to add to the collection by decorating and sewing up scraps of fabric I already had in my stash.
The red and green stripe in the back left corner was made with watercolor-type fabric paints by Deka. I’ve had that paint forEVER. I tried to find a link to a place you can buy it, but it’s looking like it’s not sold in the US anymore. Bummer. It’s good stuff.
We decorated the fabric for the center red-ribboned present with Target brand “slick” fabric paints (you squeeze the bottles to draw with them). My least favorite fabric paint ever. Really poor quality, but we made the best of it.
The blue-ribboned gift cloth is pale pink, and we drew on it with Tee Juice markers, which are great for quick and easy projects, especially with kids. They are totally permanent, though, so, as with all of these supplies, dress accordingly.
Lastly, on the red-spotted cloth with the dark green ribbon, we used stamps with cheap acrylic paints from Michaels mixed with textile medium. This is one of my favorite ways to paint on fabric, because mixing it yourself gives you a wide range of choices. And in the end you aren’t left with a bunch of fabric paint you may never use again.
Below are some pre-decorated and hemmed gift cloths: a thrifted plaid tablecloth and two tea towels from Target marked down to 88¢!
The kids loved trying to guess what all these fake presents were, the favorite by far being the pink one below that’s wrapped like candy. It’s a sack of corn meal.
Loving this free printable nativity the kids can color themselves at Made by Joel.
Hope to be back soon with some details of our trip.
Almost entirely Usual Suspects on this list: Winger, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Fangirl, Two Boys Kissing, The 5th Wave, Just One Year, The Moon and More, Eleanor & Park, The Waking Dark, and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.
I've read The 5th Wave (love) and Fangirl (double-mega love), The Waking Dark (over-the-moon love) and The Moon and More (It's Sarah Dessen. Love. Obvs.).
But I just snagged Coldest Girl in Coldtown off of the library shelf, so now I feel slightly less losery.
Two of the sessions I attended at NCTE in Boston helped me think about ways two digital tools could be meaningfully integrated into early childhood and elementary school classrooms to engage young writers. The "Exploring Collaboration of Multimodal Literacies in Early Childhood: Digital Filmmaking, Designing, and Co-Authoring" panel discussed the way digital video cameras could enhance learning, while two of the presenters in "Writing Workshop Is for All Students: Using Visuals, Oral Language, and Digital Tools to Maximize Success and Independence for English Language Learners" suggested the incorporation of digital cameras.
By: Jeanne Lyet Gassman,
Motes Books is now accepting submissions for Volume 4 of the Motif Anthology Series. Volume 4 will center on the theme of WATER. Denton Loving will serve as volume editor. Prose (fiction or nonfiction) submissions should be 3000 words or less. Poetry submissions may include up to 3 poems. WATER must be referenced or illuminated in the works, directly or indirectly, in significant and artful ways. Submit your manuscript in a word file (.doc or .docx) to:
MOTIFATMotesBooksDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to .)
Please include “MOTIF—4” in the subject line.
Please read the official call at our website.
This video is about a specific situation in Toronto, but much of what it says could be applied to pretty much any other public library, anywhere:
(via Book Patrol)
By: Alan Dapré,
Blog: Alan Dapré - Children's Author
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Do you remember that advert where an old man rings round bookshops until he smiles – puts on his hat – and nips out the door? He is looking for a book by J. R. Hartley and the twist is … Continue reading
MIMS HOUSE: Great NonFiction for Common Core
The story of the oldest known wild bird in the world. At 62+, she hatched a new chick in February, 2013. Read her remarkable story. A biography in text and art.
Just got an e-newsletter from the North Pole and Santa passed along these writing tips from the Gingerbread Man, posted for the young-at-heart who are writing novels this year.
Back by popular demand is my series on writing tips from popular Christmas figures. First published in 2007, they are updated here for your Christmas cheer.
Santa Claus’s Top 5 Writing Tips
12 Days of Christmas Writing Tips (live on 12/3)
The Gingerbread Man’s Top 5 Writing Tips (live on 12/4)
Frosty the Snowman’s Top 6 Writing Tips (live on 12/5)
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’s Top 5 Writing Tips (live on 12/6)
The Gingerbread Man’s Top 5 Writing Tips
Image by Michael Bentley
Based on the folktale about this popular Christmas pastry that comes to life, the Gingerbread Man gives his writing tips.
- Event Repeat. The story of the Gingerbread Man uses an event-repeat type plot. An event is repeated several times, with only a minor change. When the Gingerbread Man escapes and runs away, he meets several people who want to eat him. Each character is added to the parade as the Gingerbread Man runs away, until the Fox outsmarts him at the last.
- Chorus. Using a Chorus is effective in short stories and picturebooks.
Repetition of this chorus make the story fun and invites the audience to join in.
“Run, Run, Fast as you can, you can’t beat me, I’m the Gingerbread Man.”
- Changing Setting. Especially for the picturebook format, it’s important to keep the setting interesting, so the illustrations are exciting. By sending the Gingerbread Man across the landscape, the illustrations have visually exciting possibilities.
- Folktale Mode. This story is in the folktale mode, which treats characters as a general type. For example, the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, have a role as mean, ugly stepsisters, and not much more. When Gingy is added to the Shrek movies, though, his character is made more interesting by giving him individual characteristics. Decide if your story needs a general, folktale type character or a more individual character.
- Folktale Morals. Folktales and fables often add a moral at the end of a story. Of course, the Gingerbread Man should not have trusted the Fox! It’s seldom that picture books and stories today have such an explicit, straight forward moral. Instead, it’s usually implied and the reader is left to verbalize it for him or herself.
By: Linda S. Wingerter,
Blog: Blue Rose Girls
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I'll be selling books and prints once again at the RISD Alumni Holiday Art Sale (as will Grace!), this Saturday at the Rhode Island Convention Center. As always, the sale is a great place to do your holiday shopping- I love to stroll the aisles and pick out handmade goodies for my xmas list. Come join us! The sale is from 10:00-5:00.
When I was growing up, our tradition was that we always got at least one book for Christmas, and those were some of my most treasured gifts. I still remember the Christmas that I got an anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories, and I sat next to the Christmas tree and spent a pleasant couple of hours reading. Giving children books as gifts helps to reinforce that books are something special and to encourage a love of reading. Here are some sources that can help you find the perfect book as a gift for the child in your life:
- 150 Ways to Give a Book: Every year my friend MotherReader posts this list of gifts which pair a book with something fun related to the book. Check out the updated 2013 list here.
- I've been involved with the Cybils Awards since the award was founded in 2006. Our goal is to honor those children's books which have both literary merit and child appeal. The Cybils lists are great sources of ideas for book gifts. Go to www.cybils.com and check out the 2013 nominations lists by category in the middle sidebar. The nomination lists include links to judges' reviews for many of the books. You can also check out previous years' finalists and winners in the right hand sidebar.
- I've also been doing some web development work recently for the Mom's Choice Awards, making enhancements to their web store. Here you can shop for books, toys, and other gifts that meet the Mom's Choice standards of excellence. (My husband's book, The Dark Dreamweaver, is a Mom’s Choice Awards® Gold Recipient)
- Don't forget your local independent bookstore! Independent booksellers are knowledgeable resources who can help you find the perfect gift. You can find a local bookstore or search for books through the IndieBound website.
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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Written in Stone
By Rosanne Parry
On shelves now
Finding books of historical fiction for kids about Native Americans is an oddly limited proposition. Basically, it boils down to Pilgrims, the Trail of Tears, the occasional 1900s storyline (thank God for Louise Erdrich), and . . . yeah, that’s about it. Contemporary fiction? Unheard of at best, offensive at worst. Authors, it seems, like to relegate their American Indians to the distant past where we can feel bad about them through the conscience assuaging veil of history. Maybe that’s part of what I like so much about Rosanne Parry’s Written in Stone. Set in the 1920s, Parry picks a moment in time with cultural significance not for the white readers with their limited historical knowledge but for the people most influenced by changes both at home and at sea. Smart and subtle by turns, Parry tackles a tricky subject and comes away swinging.
A girl with a dream is just that. A dreamer. And though Pearl has always longed to hunt whales like her father before her, harpooning is not in her future. When her father, a member of the Makah people of the Pacific Northwest, is killed on a routine hunt, Pearl’s future is in serious doubt. Not particularly endowed with any useful skills (though she’d love to learn to weave, if anyone was around to teach her), Pearl uncovers on her own a series of forgotten petroglyphs and the plot of a nefarious “art dealer”. Now her newfound love of the written word is going to give her the power to do something she never thought possible: preserve her tribe’s culture.
It’s sort of nice to read a book and feel like a kid in terms of the plot twists. Take, for example, the character of the “collector” who arrives and then immediately appears to be something else entirely. I probably should have been able to figure out his real occupation (or at least interests) long before the book revealed them to me, and yet here I was, toddling through, not a care in the world. I never saw it coming, and that means that at least 75% of the kids reading this book will also be in for a surprise.
I consider the ending of the book a bit of a plot twist as well, actually. We’re so used to our heroes and heroines at the ends of books pulling off these massive escapades and solutions to their problems that when I read Pearl’s very practical and real world answer to the dilemma posed by the smooth talking art dealer I was a bit taken aback. What, no media frenzied conclusion? No huge explosions or public shaming of the villain or anything similarly crass and confused? It took a little getting used to but once I’d accepted the quiet, realistic ending I realized it was better (and more appropriate to the general tone of the book) than anything a more ludicrous premise would have allowed.
If anything didn’t quite work for me, I guess it was the whole “Written in Stone” part. I understood why Pearl had to see the petroglyphs so as to aid her own personal growth and understanding of herself as a writer. That I got. It was more a problem that I had a great deal of difficulty picturing them in my own mind. I had to do a little online research of my own to get a sense of what they looked like, and even that proved insufficient since Parry’s petroglyphs are her own creation and not quite like anything else out there. It’s not an illustrated novel, but a few choice pen and inks of the images in their simplest forms would not have been out of place.
Now let us give thanks to authors (and their publishers) that know the value of a good chunk of backmatter. 19 pages worth of the stuff, no less (and on a 196-page title, that ain’t small potatoes). Because she is a white author writing about a distinct tribal group and their past, Parry treads carefully. Her extensive Author’s Note consists of her own personal connections to the Quinaults, her care to not replicate anything that is not for public consumption, the history of whaling amongst the Makah people, thoughts on the potlatch, petroglyphs, a history of epidemics and economic change to the region (I was unaware that it was returning WWI soldiers with influenza that were responsible for a vast number of deaths to the tribal communities of the Pacific Northwest at that time), the history of art collectors and natural resource management, an extensive bibliography that is split between resources for young readers, exhibits of Pacific Northwest art and artifacts, and resources for older readers, a Glossary of Quinault terms (with a long explanation of how it was recorded over the years), and a thank you to the many people who helped contribute to this book. PHEW! They hardly make ‘em like THIS these days.
I also love the care with which Parry approached her subject matter. There isn’t any of this swagger or ownership at work that you might find in other authors’ works. Her respect shines through. In a section labeled “Culture and Respect” Parry writes, “Historical fiction can never be taken lightly, and stories involving Native Americans are particularly delicate, as the author, whether Native or not, must walk the line between illuminating the life of the characters as fully as possible and withholding cultural information not intended for the public or specific stories that are the property of an individual, family, or tribe.” In this way the author explains that she purposefully left out the rituals that surround a whale hunt. She only alludes to stories of the Pitch Woman and the Timber Giant, never giving away their details. She even makes note the changes in names and spellings in the 1920s versus today.
I don’t know that you’re going to find another book out there quite like Written in Stone. Heck, I haven’t even touched on Pearl’s personality or her personal connections to her father and aunt. I haven’t talked about my favorite part of the book where Pearl’s grandfather haggles with a white trading partner and gets his wife to sing a lullaby that he claims is an ancient Indian curse. I haven’t done any of that, and yet I don’t think that there’s much more to say. The book is a smart historical work of fiction that requires use of the child reader’s brain more than anything else. It’s a glimpse of history I’ve not seen in a work of middle grade fiction before and I’d betcha bottom dollar I might never see it replicated again. Hats off then to Ms. Parry for the time, and effort, and consideration, and care she poured into this work. Hats off too to her editor for allowing her to do so. The book’s a keeper, no question. It’s just a question of finding it, is all.
On shelves now.
Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.
Like This? Then Try:
Notes on the Cover: This marks the second Richard Tuschman book jacket I’ve reviewed this year. The first was A Girl Called Problem, one of my favorites of 2013. The man has good taste in books.
Videos: Um . . . okay, I sort of love this fan made faux movie trailer for the book. It’s sort of awesome. Check it out.
At the Guardian:
I am so glad that first-rate children's literature was there for my own children. I would not have wanted them – at 11, 12 or 13 – to confront the complexity and banality of evil. It's quite right that they wanted to read about worlds where evil was uniformly evil and good people were constantly good. In contrast, adulthood means learning that SS officers or drone pilots do go home and kiss their wives, without a thought of belonging to the "dark side".
Wow. If this essayist truly thinks—as opposed to deliberately writing clickbait, which is certainly possible—that children's and YA fiction depicts the world in black-and-white, then he can't be particularly well-versed in either category.
Last year on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I asked the question Will The Unit System Get Me Through The Holidays? The answer, at least for Thanksgiving, was, "No." Four days later, all the only work-related activity I'd done was an e-mail. The next day I was still writing about oozing back into a writing practice.
Things went a lot better this past Thanksgiving weekend. This year I used a smaller unit of time to keep me at work--a twenty minute sprint. With that I was able to squeeze in a little writing every day except Thanksgiving, itself.
Why Was I Able To Work More On Thanksgiving Weekend This Year?
I think sprinting worked for a number of reasons:
- Yes, twenty minutes is less time than the forty-five minute blocks I usually work in, so it's easier to find that short a chunk of time and stick with it.
- I'd been sprinting once a day on workdays for a month or two in addition to my other work, so I had some practice with it.
- I'd been trying to sprint on weekends for a month or two, so I had some practice with it.
- I use a laptop now, which means I'm not tied to one spot in the house for work. My laptop is often wandering around the house with me, so grabbing it for a twenty-minute sprint on the couch or at the dining room table or even the kitchen counter is incredibly easy. There is no thinking about when I can force myself to the office.
What A Twenty-Minute Sprint Does For An Organic Writer
I am not wracking up a big word count with sprints, especially since I'm revising right now. But what sprinting during periods when you wouldn't normally work at all does is keep writers in their projects. For organic writers, that's a huge benefit. We can't plan out an entire book or even portions of it. Instead, writing generates more writing for us. Working on an idea generates the next idea. We depend on continuing to "work" with break-out experiences when we're not actually hammering out words to a greater extent than plotting writers probably do. Working for twenty minutes early Friday evening could mean that an hour or so later some ideas will suddenly spring into mind, ideas that will become part of our writing at some point, if not the very next day.
But without working on an idea, we're unlikely to generate the next one. The longer we go without working on the work in progress, the less likely it is new material will just break out of our minds relating to it. The longer we go without working on a project, the more difficult it is to get started on working again when we finally can.
Yesterday was the Monday after a holiday weekend. Getting back into work was incredibly easy. I suspect I can thank the sprinting I did on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for that.
Photo taken by Abby Johnson, NAFCPL
My library is offering its first Winter Reading Club for teens and kids this winter! We borrowed heavily from Angie Manfredi’s Winter Reading program at the Los Alamos County Library System and we’re really excited to try it out!
For us, Winter Reading differs significantly from the Summer Reading Club because, where in summer we’re truly trying to REACH ALL THE CHILDREN! and GET EVERYONE TO READ!, in winter our goal is to get people to visit the library and discover the resources we have for them here. In summer, we’re trying to help bridge that gap and help kids keep up their reading skills. In winter, they’ll be in school most of the time our program is going on, so we’re trying to give them something interesting to do during those cold winter months, and we’re inviting them to explore their library.
What we really liked about the program Angie developed is that it helps us showcase some of the wonderful books that patrons may not know we have. Picture book biographies! Award winners! And on each BINGO card, they can fill a square by getting a suggestion from a librarian (come use us for reader’s advisory!).
We are really keeping it simple this first year. Kids get a BINGO sheet (like in Angie’s program – really, go check it out). For their first BINGO, they get their choice of scratch and sniff bookmark (we have candy canes, popcorn, and cookies) and they get to put their name on a mitten and add it to our bulletin board. If they want to keep going, they can earn another bookmark by filling in all the squares. Kids and teens can also earn “fine bucks” for participating in the Winter Reading Club so they can unblock cards if they’ve not been able to use them because of fines.
I really want to emphasize to families that the actual “prize” is having something to do and getting to know your library. We’ll see how it goes. If we feel that we need to add additional incentives next year, we can. Our teen program (developed by our teen librarian) is also a BINGO sheet, but has some additional prize drawings to help get those busy teens in the door.
Photo taken by Abby Johnson, NAFCPL
To help folks find some of the categories on our BINGO sheet, we’ve created some displays like the shelves under our bulletin board, which feature Coretta Scott King winners and honor books and Pura Belpré winners and honor books.
Do you offer a Winter Reading Club? Any tips for this Winter Reading newbie?
– Abby Johnson, Children’s Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN
I recently started reading a book in a series that I quit reading years ago. Why? A few years ago, my husband bought me the latest book in this series as a Christmas gift. At the time, I thought I wanted to read it. But after book six or seven, I couldn't take the series anymore. And the big reason was the POV. It changed out of the blue. I don't like when a series begins with one MC narrating and then all of a sudden three or four books in, we have multiple narrators. I've never understood this. I get attached to the POV and I don't want it to change.
But I've had this book on my shelf, and I felt obligated to give it a chance. After all, I liked the first three books in the series (before the POV change) and I thought now that time had past, I'd be more open to giving the series another try. Well...I'm trying. I really am. But I find myself cringing when yet another POV is introduced. A minor character's POV. I'll be the first to admit that seeing a scene from another character's POV can be interesting. It offers new insight. But I don't want to be inside every character's head. It's too much. I feel like I know everything that's going on and the poor MC is clueless. I'd rather discover things alongside her.
How do you feel about books that introduce a new POV late in the story/series?
Last day for Cyber Sale on Empath School & Fairy Online School. Take advantage of great rates now on January classes!
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By: Grant Overstake,
A former rural newspaper editor has created a teen novel that’s harvesting praise from readers of all ages for its realistic view of life on a family farm. The novel, Maggie Vaults Over the Moon is a perfect gift idea … Continue reading
...have been announced.
The YA Fiction list is as follows:
Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Paperboy by Vince Vawter
Reality Boy by A.S. King
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Winger by Andrew Smith
Click on through for the rest!
...in the 2014 RITAs due to lack of entries:
Due to the failure to obtain the minimum number of entries (5 percent of total contest entries) required by the contest entry deadline, the Young Adult Romance category of the 2014 RITA® Contest has been canceled.
Other than a LOT of chatter on Twitter and FB, that's the only link I've seen so far that directly quoted the RWA letter that broke the news.
I have no doubt there will be more information forthcoming.
In the meantime, though: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. The idea that there somehow weren't enough YA romances to fill the category* is rife with ridiculousity, and fills me with sadnosity as well as a bit of indignosity.
*Category criteria: "Novels that focus primarily on the romantic relationship between two adolescents. These novels are marketed to adolescents and young adults." So is the issue that if a book is a combination of multiple genres—say, Dark Triumph, which is a historical-fantasy-adventure-romance—it doesn't count? I'm rather at a loss here, because in that example, sure, there's a lot going on... but the romance is TOTALLY INTEGRAL to the main character's growth, healing, and happiness. I dunno. Thoughts and/or insight?
This time, from Soho Press:
—1 book per month, starting at $9.99
—50% off selected backlist titles
—Complimentary Soho Teen swag
—Free shipping in U.S.
—Members’ discount on every product in the Soho Store
—Give it as a Gift
It should be noted, though, that some of the upcoming Book Club offerings (Relic, Escape Theory, The Sweet Dead Life, etc.) have already been published, so you may have already read them. But, you could give those ones away or donate them or whatever.
I LOVE SUBSCRIPTIONS, BECAUSE IT'S LIKE GETTING A PRESENT* in the mail every month.
Previously mentioned YA subscriptions: Lizzie Skurnick and Strange Chemistry.
*Well, one that you pay for. But it FEELS like getting a present.
Jeff Smith* has launched a free webcomic at his website that, according to PW, "is set during the ice age and is the story of the first human to leave Africa".
He's updating it three times a week and it starts here.
*The creator of Bone, which I still haven't read. Yes, I know, I KNOW.
By: Jeanne Lyet Gassman,
Commons Magazine is now accepting submissions to our poetry column, UNCOMMON/WORD, through December 31 at 11:59 p.m. PST. Commons Magazinereviews work twice yearly, often on a theme or specific subject. The current theme is “water,” one of our most essential commons. We invite you to learn about our work in the Great Lakes region and participate in our I AM WATER project as you prepare your submission. You can also learn more about On the Commons, and the commons movement, here. Six poets will be selected and featured in the magazine during each submission round. See our full submission guidelines, and please note there is a limit of THREE (3) poems per person, per submission round. Email work to:
poetrysubmissionsATonthecommonsDOTorg (Change AT to @ and DOT to .)
Pays $50 honorarium for Poet of the Month.
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After reading a slim book of essays by Edward Thomas earlier this year I decided to try his poetry. Thomas, born in London in 1878, was, by the time he began writing poetry, an established writer of prose. It was only after Robert Frost became his neighbor that Thomas tried his hand at poetry in 1914.
Thomas was a great walker of the countryside and his prose about his rambles is beautiful and lyrical so it doesn’t seem like it would have taken a great leap for him to write poetry. And while his poems have a Frosty (Frostian?) feel to them, Thomas is also distinctly his own man. Sadly WWI broke out, Thomas joined up and was killed on the first day of the battle of Arras in 1917. Nonetheless, during his short time as a poet, he managed to produce 140 poems. Pretty amazing when you think about how productive that is. Makes me wonder what he would have been like should he have survived the war. Would he have continued as prolific? Or maybe he had a premonition that his time was short and he needed to write as many poems as he could. Whatever the case might be, I am glad for Frost’s encouragement of him and I am delighted by his 140 poems.
They tend to be on nature or humans in relation to nature, and while his voice is generally light and the verse sparkles along, an underlying feeling of darkness or death creeps in to remind us the birds might be singing and the woods bright and green but it is not always so. Take, for example, the last stanza of the poem “Old Man.” Old Man, also called Lad’s Love is a green herb. In the preceding stanzas he talks about his love of the plant and he imagines his child loving it too, and then:
I have mislaid the key. I sniff the spray
And think of nothing; I see and I hear nothing;
Yet seem, too, to be listening, lying in wait
For what I should, yet never can, remember:
No garden appears, no path, no hoar-green bush
Of Lad’s Love, or Old Man, no child beside,
Neither father nor mother, nor any playmate;
Only an avenue, dark, nameless, without end.
Along with whole poems that are wonderful, he has many standout lines too that just grabbed me and made me pause to think about them and read them again and again. Lines like, “When Gods were young/ This wind was old.” And:
And she has slept, trying to translate
The word the cuckoo cries to his mate
Over and over.
And yet I am still half in love with pain,
With what is imperfect, with both tears and mirth,
With things that have an end, with life and earth,
And this moon that leaves me dark within the door.
Once the war starts Thomas begins to shift his focus away from nature a little bit. I take that back, shifting away is not accurate, broadening his view is more like it. He writes a few love poems, missing his wife and family perhaps. And of course the war enters in to some of the poems too. Even though he only wrote a handful of poems about war he is still better known as a war poet than a nature poet. There are some fine ones that made my heart sink with their utter sadness. But I don’t want to leave this on a sad note because Thomas is not a sad poet. So here is one of his love poems, “Some Eyes Condemn”
Some eyes condemn the earth they gaze upon:
Some wait patiently until they know far more
Than earth can tell them: some laugh at the whole
As folly of another’s making: one
I knew that laughed because he saw, from core
To rind, not one thing worth the laugh his soul
Had ready at waking: some eyes have begun
With laughing; some stand startled at the door.
Others too, I have seen rest, question, roll,
Dance, shoot. And many I have loved watching. Some
I could not take my eyes from till they turned
And loving died. I had not found my goal.
But thinking of your eyes, dear, I become
Dumb: for they flamed, and it was me they burned.
Isn’t that wonderful? I take that last line as a positive thing, burning with desire and love, but it could be read differently. It’s a glass half empty, glass half full line, isn’t it?
You can read more details about Thomas on his page at the Academy of American Poets where there are also four of his poems to enjoy as well.
Filed under: Books
Tagged: Edward Thomas