#Micropoetry Monday: Ekphrastic Poetry

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She’d learned it all from Lucy–
how a life of grand schemes
& wars of the sexes made it worth living,
how one could come to America an immigrant & not make do but do well,
how a small apartment in the city could become a spacious house in the country,
how lifelong best friends & a long-awaited child
could be part of anyone’s American Dream.

Scarlett
Tomorrow was always another day—
that mythical time when all would be well.
Yet she pined for the one man
who represented that lost cause
in which she’d found happiness.

Caroline Carmichael had found purpose in a stolen life,
rather than the life she had chosen as Martha Sedgwick.
She was the water,
Hillary & Winston the powdered mix,
& blended, they made up the Instant Family.

Little Women
Beth was but a faint percussion,
Amy, a bold stroke of fresh color,
while Jo captured & condensed life as she knew it,
& Meg mothered the future.

She was one in a dozen,
a ginger with a snap,
the heart of a lion,
the breadth of a lamb.

Book Review: Little Women

 

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I was around ten years old the first time I tried reading “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott.  I was at my grandparents’ house for the summer, and they had a set of “Reader’s Digest Condensed Books”.  I remember reading a bit, and quickly losing interest.  Then, when I was in my early twenties, I tried again, having just watched the June Allyson version of “Little Women” (1949), but after reading maybe a chapter or two, put it down again.  The story seemed to lack vitality then, and I finally forced myself to read 33% of the book (according to Kindle), though I had wanted to give up at 25%.  I’ve been wanting to write a modern version of the story, and felt I needed to read the actual book, get the big picture, rather than just the details on Wikipedia, SparkNotes, etc.

I am craving a good book right now.  “Little Women” doesn’t have anything going for it in terms of plot, characterization, or even locale (which is why I read Elin Hilderbrand’s books).  Even though we are told (rather than shown) how unique each girl is, they are bland as vanilla pudding, and the moralizing is a bit heavy-handed.  Marmee (what the girls call their mother) seems to have more “teachable” moments with her girls than candid ones.

What killed the book for me completely was all the inanity.  We are barely introduced to the girls before they have one of what one calls their “dressing-up frolics”, and we are subjected to some play young Jo wrote about characters named Roderigo, Hugo, Don Pedro, etc., which we come back to a second time, complete with some odd poem.  I have never been a fan of a “story within a story”—it comes across as padding and is never as interesting as the actual story (and that isn’t saying much).  This goes on for pages!  (Okay, maybe I didn’t quite read 33%, because I skipped through all of this.)

Then we get to “The Pickwick Club”—the girls’ secret society—in which a periodical of some sort, “The Pickwick Portfolio”, is read.  Pages and pages of awful prose.  I tried, but skipped almost all of it.  Every time an author inserts one of these “padding devices”, as I call them, it draws one out of the story—it’s like getting a flat tire on a long trip and having to pass the time by playing “Eye Spy”.

The last straw for me was at the picnic (chapter named “Camp Laurence”) when the guests play “Rig-marole” (where “one person begins a story, any nonsense you like, and tells as long as he pleases, only taking care to stop short at some exciting point, when the next takes it up and does the same”).  Again, pages and pages of painful drivel.  I forced myself to read more after this, but I felt, having read at least a third (probably closer to a quarter because of the portions I skipped), I could write a legitimate review.  After all, if a food critic cannot finish a dish because it tastes so bad, why can’t a book reviewer review a book she at least took several bites (or read several chapters) of?

Mr. Wonderful Full of Himself, Wordsmith Stars, and Perfect Sense

I happened to catch an article (wish I had kept the link) that suggested a book doesn’t sell as well if it won an award.  My theory is that when people see a book won a prestigious award, they assume it’s boring (or overrated, like some classics).  Most people don’t like highbrow stuff.  They don’t want to think, they want to be entertained.  At least one out of every ten books I read is for pleasure, though I am challenging myself to read at least one nonfiction book a month (which I am 99% sure will be about writing, though the last nonfiction book I read was a biography of Marilyn Monroe, which read like creative nonfiction).  As you can see, I am not an egghead, nor will I ever pretend to be, but I am educated and do believe in lifelong learning, whether it be taking a class (I am hoping English composition will be one of the first classes I have to take when I go back to school) or teaching ourselves something new (I am getting ready to make my first batch of handmade soap).

Though an award would be an honor, I’d prefer to have the sales (unless the award came with a big payout).  I’m like Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’Leary) from “Shark Tank” in that way, though only in that way.  I will forever care about the quality of the writing that will be published under my name, whether I write for Harlequin Romance or a scholarly journal.

I’ve been on a “Little Women” kick lately.  I tried watching the 1933 version, but I just can’t stand Katharine Hepburn, so after about fifteen minutes, I had to pass on it.  I’ve always liked the 1949 version, even though I’ve never been a fan of June Allyson, who plays Jo, and then I watched the 1994 version with Winona Ryder, who made a less annoying Jo.  Her spouting “Christopher Columbus” all the time in the earlier versions was annoying, and seemed put-on to make her more of a tomboy (though I realize this was probably how she was portrayed in the book which I read a VERY long time ago).  Though the cinematography was far more realistic in ’94 version, I still prefer the ’49 movie.  The ’94 version just didn’t have the charm its predecessor did.

I like “Little Women” because the protagonist is a writer, but I relate to her because she is a female writer.  However, one of my favorite films of all time is “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”.  I fell in love with it as a little girl; Francie Nolan was just like me.  She had what her teacher called imagination.  My third grade teacher, Ms. Cahoon, was the first person outside my family who recognized my talent, and will be one of the first people who will receive a copy of my book.  Every morning, we had to write in our journals, and I would always write about my summers up in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, when I stayed with my grandparents.  My aunt, uncle and cousins lived right next door to them.

I wrote about what I knew and loved.  I still do that today.  Oh, I’ve fancied myself writing some nonfiction piece about a subject I know nothing about (writing creative nonfiction is a great way to learn something new through research), but personal essays are one of my favorite mediums to write in because it is a story no one else can write.

That teacher scene with Francie after class still brings a tear to my eye.

Now though I am not a fan of Stephen King’s books (or even most of his movies), I did enjoy his novel, “On Writing”, and I like his personal story of how he got where he is today.  It is very inspirational.  I’ve noticed he likes to make authors his main characters, as in “Secret Window”, “Misery”, and “The Shining”.  (I liked those.)

Cuba Gooding Jr. played a struggling writer in “A Murder of Crows”.  I don’t think it was a hit, but it drew me in like a Lisa Jackson novel.

While I’m on the subject of movies, there is one that I believe everyone must see for the experience, if nothing else, and that is “Perfect Sense” with Eva Green and Ewan MacGregor.  It’s like poetry on celluloid.  I will say nothing more.