On Saturday, June 1, two weeks from today, I’ll be manning a table at the School of the Soldier Civil War Ecampment at Allaire State Park in Wall Township, NJ. I’ll be signing and selling copies of my book Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War. Hopefully, I’ll also have copies of my second book, The Journals of Lt. Kendall Everly: a Story of the American Civil War. It’s being printed now.
The encampment will also feature all types of Civil War attractions. Visitors will be able to stroll regimental camp sites, talk to soldiers, listen to period music, see battles, and perhaps even talk to President Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States.
Come on out, by a book, and have some fun.
- Civil War Reenactments (themsrp.wordpress.com)
I started reading Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child in December of 2012. Now, early may of 2013, I’m just about done. Yes, five months is a long time to read a relatively short novel. It wasn’t a difficult read. Well, the words – they weren’t big words. I simply failed to identify with Ivey’s characters. I didn’t care for them as much as I needed to.
Here’s a book description from the novel’s Amazon page. “Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.”
I was born in Alaska – Kodiak, Alaska – in 1968. I admit my Alaskan heritage drew me to The Snow Child as did the magic and mystery of Faina. Is she really of the wood, of the cold, of the snow – a character stolen from a fairy tale somehow made real? But soon, Faina’s magic flopped. She became nothing more than a girl, then a woman who was more comfortable outside than in. And the other characters, Jack and Mable, as they suffered in the novel’s early pages (Mabel attempted suicide) I cared and worried for them. When they transformed into Charles and Caroline Ingalls (of television’s Little House on the Prairie) I began to suffer.
Still, I will finish the book. I want to see if the snow child, Faina, melts.
The Snow Child gets two out of five stars.
I’ve decided to take part in the writing challenge offered this week by WordPress. It tasks writers to connect with their “our geographical, generational, and cultural affiliations” and produce a piece of writing. I (kinda) did just that. The poem posted below is from my book Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War. The poem’s speaker, Hercules, is a Confederate soldier. I hope, I think, the poem illustrates a Confederate voice.
It’s like a season passed in the blink
of an afternoon. This morning
I smiled at tall shoots of lavender
reaching above the grass and clover.
Bees hummed from bloom to bloom
like politicians knocking on doors,
mustering votes. Breeze carried scents
of earth and honey – sweetest spring day|
that ever filled my lungs. Made me wanna
touch something soft, something special –
maybe the hand of a Tennessee beauty.
But after a day of trading spit and smoke
with a regiment of Billies, this pretty spot
done shed all its pretty. Blood has a queer smell,
like a bog choked with sour fish,
but it don’t mud a patch of ground
like water does. Blood turns dirt
into syrup – walk in it too long
and you’ll get all gummed up.
And the dead are leaking blood all about.
From here it looks like a herd of fellas
decided to nap, but they ain’t waking up
no time soon. You can see their last thought
carved on each of their faces. It’s never fear or anger.
Mostly it seems like sorrow to me, like they know
they just lost memory and hope all at once.
Don’t seem like spring no more.
What season is it? It’s a season for breathing –
at least while you still can.
I wrote the poem posted below some time ago. It was published in a web-based journal. The journal is called Triggerfish. I share the poem again here in response to a post on a photography blog, SethSnap. The post challenges all to write a short response to a posted photograph. Yup, there’s a barn in that photo.
Here’s my poem.
Yet, a red barn is still best – warped and worn.
It settles into its stretch of earth – an old, heavy
woman who sags into a favorite chair.
This will be her place. A cavalcade of cats
chokes a darkness insulating splintered beams,
a scythe dulled with a history’s grunge,
and a thunderous silence – the rattled heart
of a regiment of mice. Like a ghost, rain passes
through its wood, curses muck rakes and corn sickles
with rust. This is where autumn stores its perfumes.
And if you lay your ear to the sill, air seeping
over the jagged glass fixed within a window,
you can hear the lost clank of a hammer and the hiss
of a hot shoe dropped into a bucket to cool.
I recently finished reading George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novel A Game of Thrones. It’s an excellent read: swords clash, blood flows, war rages, death looms…and of course a good flagon of wine (and its trappings) is often enjoyed by all involved, including me. I’m poised to begin Martin’s A Clash of Kings as soon as Amazon ships it to me.
I’m also teaching Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, another good read, but so much different from Martin’s work. It’s “a novel first published in 1813. The story follows the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England.”
As I sink deeper into both pieces of literature, I keep expecting Miss Bennet to brandish a long sword and slay, in bloody fashion, all that stands between her and a husband. Also, perhaps Martin’s dragons would enjoy a spot of tea and a chance to waltz with Mr. Darcy.
Just some balderdash that made me laugh.
Today, my son wrote a poem. It’s good. Well, it’s great. My son is only 9-years-old. I share it with you here.
Photo by S. Thomas Summers
How I enjoy the flowers of spring.
I imagine the days ahead.
As the southern wind starts to sing,
Warm pictures fill my head.
Oh Robin! Harbinger of spring,
How I love your breast so red!
Oh Butterfly! Jewel with wings,
Your magic fills my flower bed.
Before I started to write about history (the Civil War and currently the life and times of Jesse James), I often would sit near a window that overlooks my backyard. Backyards often provide a writer/poet with inspiration. Well, my backyard often inspired me.
Today, looking out that same window, I was inspired – not to write, but to click, to click my camera. Here’s what I saw.
Yes, this blog was created to discuss all things literature and writing; however, I recently discovered photography. My last post consisted of three photos I took, three wolves. Today, I’ve captured a few butterflies. One of the photos is of a butterfly that landed on my son’s hands. Each butterfly – a poem in its own way.
Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. ” I believe he’s quite right.
I wrote and posted the poem featured below two years ago. In it, I weave together three different pieces of thread: my love of poetry, my interest in the Civil War, and my faith in Jesus Christ.
Today, I am reminded of our Lord
and savior Jesus Christ as I am each spring
when buds form like tears on the dogwoods.
Those trees bloom near the fence line where,
when just a boy, you broke your arm.
Remember? You, not more than twelve,
mounted Gertrude and trotted toward
that fence expecting her to sail over
those rails like Pegasus. She stopped short
inches before you expected her to leap.
You flew like a pheasant from a hound.
I swear old Trudie snorted a hardy
laugh – just as a horse might. I know
you’re in pain again, son. Your letters
are heavy with loneliness and sorrow.
The things you describe – the blood –
as if this country has been plagued
as Egypt was and her waters have run red
and thick with death. But know this, Thomas.
Christ has also inhaled blood’s stench,
felt it mix with sweat streaking His brow.
Sleep tonight. Feel the air His breath warms
and the morning will taste as sweet as honey.
Your loving father