Category Archives: Poets

Barenaked Ladies by Vivienne Lynge

Good Morning! It’s suddenly Fall here in wonderful New England.  I’m off on a family camping trip – seems like I only camp in cold weather…oh well.  We have sleeping bags.  But I wanted to leave you with my thoughts on my favorite band: The Barenaked Ladies.  They aren’t bare, they aren’t naked (often) nor are they ladies.  What they are is a group of 40-something guys who are wonderful writers and musicians.   And they come from Canada!  

Oh so 90's!
Oh so 90’s!

Way back in 1994, I lived and worked in Long Island, NY.  My roommate at that time worked with a guy who spent quite a lot of time trying to impress her.  During one of those efforts, his brother worked for the William Morris Agency and the brother was going to some bar to see some band no-one had ever heard of.  My roommate was invited to come along and see the show from the front table of the agent.  She wasn’t really interested in the guy, but had nothing better to do, so she asked me to come along as wing-man.  And thus began my love of BNL. 

One thing I have always loved about them, is that we’re roughly the same age.  Their lyrics are about things that I can relate too.  And they aren’t too difficult to figure out.  I loathe poetry, always have.  I don’t get it.  If you want me to know something, then TELL ME!!!!  Don’t make me guess at your meaning.  But BNL’s songs are clever.  FromKing of Bedside Manoron their first album toBoomerangon new one, their songs are always fun.

barenaked ladies Another wonderful about BNL is that these fellas have aged very well. Check out a more recent photo.  Of course, the band has changed over time; Stephen Page, founding member and original lead singer has left to do his own thing.  But Ed Robertson  stepped up – he was always a leading voice, but now, his is the main voice.  Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve always liked Ed’s songs best.  Shhhh – it’ll be our secret.  

Ed is even on my list.  You know about the list, don’t you?  It harkens back to ye olde Friend’s episode where Ross and others have a list of 5 people with whom they may have an affair and not get in trouble with their significant other.  Hubby Deluxe and I have just such lists, and Ed is currently holding the coveted number 2 spot, right behind Josh Lucas.  Here’s why:  ed robertson

In my mind, Ed’s sexiness grew a bunch of times when he and the gang (not to be confused with Kool n the Gang!) released Snacktime – an album of funky fresh songs for kids.   We listen to it all the time, Bad Day, Louis Loon and Pollywog in a Bog are my favorites. 

Of course, no comment about BNL could be complete without a mention of their fantabulous live shows.  If you like the band but have never seen them live, you really must go.  They are hysterical!  And let me leave you with two quick thoughts: Odds Are from their new album soothed my soul on a very bumpy flight home from RWA Nationals.  And last but not least Lovers in a Dangerous Time is my favorite song, pretty much by anybody.  In a better recording than this one, you can really hear all the sounds, the harmonies and such.  Apparently Sir Paul McCartney has said that BNLs harmonies are tighter and more complex than anything he or his Beetley brethren ever tried.  

Today’s Secret: Canada’s best poorly kept secret is a bunch of guys called the Barenaked Ladies.  If I’ve converted you, see itunes for their full song list.  It’s well worth the investment.

Today’s Question: In a moment of 12-year-old-girl fan-dom, have you a favorite band?

 

My Doxie, A Poem and Me

It’s snowing off and on as I write this, and I’m thinking of my two favorite other snow days when my husband didn’t have to go to work, and we had the days to ourselves. One of those days, while the snow piled high outside, inside, we listened to music and read and talked, warmed by the fire. The second time, we braved the elements to have lunch by firelight at a local rustic inn.

Those are romantic moments to me. I’ve often said we romance authors are all married to engineers even if they aren’t engineers. My husband is an educator, teacher of English and former high school administrator. But really, he’s an engineer. He’s linear, he’s a one-thing-at-a-time guy, he doesn’t sugar coat anything. He solves problems. Don’t all heroes?

Another favorite memory happened on a summer day when he wanted me to listen to an album of poetry — Billy Collins — so we drove to Litchfield listening to the CD, had lunch, and continued listening on the way home. After which I immediately wanted to start writing poetry because listening to Billy Collins just inspires you that way.
One of the poems, “The Revenant,” really resonated with me. It was from the viewpoint of a dog in the afterlife, finally confessing his true feelings about his long-time owners, words to the effect of — I never liked you. I hated the food you made me eat. I despised this. I never liked that.
You get the idea. A litany of dislikes and resentments. It made me look at my mini-doxie in a whole new light. Did she hate me? Despise the “naming of the parts” game I played with her? Hate all the silly nicknames I gave her? Did she resent my re-naming her “Munch”?

She was my mother-in-law’s dog, as I may have mentioned previously, a gift after the sudden death of mom’s then canine companion, Casey. The problem was, mom was ninety at the time, had macular degeneration, and was pretty unsteady on her legs.
So my Munchkin started out in pretty shaky circumstances: taken from her mother at 6 weeks, flown up to NY, put in the hands of strangers who then gave her to an elderly nearly blind lady who couldn’t properly care for her.

Something had to give; a year or so later, something did: mom fell, went to the hospital, and we took Midgie. At the time we had our beloved galumphing lab mix, Maggie who was about four times Midgie’s size. We honestly didn’t know what to expect. Mom always thought Midgie would be eaten alive by Maggie. But that didn’t happen.
They got along just fine. Midgie — or Munch — would chase Maggie around the kitchen-dining-living room and then hide under her legs so Maggie couldn’t find her. Or she’d climb up on the couch pillows dive bomb onto Maggie’s back. When they slept, Munch’s body language imitated Maggie’s. I really think Maggie taught Munch how to behave.

She was, as was Maggie, the Best Dog Ever. We were privileged to love her for ten years, and our beloved Maggie for twelve. We lost Maggie to cancer two years before Munch passed away a dozen days into 2011.
Munch’s was the hardest passing to bear, maybe because we’re that much older. And so, the first time in 45 years, we don’t have a dog in the house.
In truth, I’m a little scared. What will he think? What if he hates us? How will we know? And, after all, we still have memories and pictures – and a cat.
I really don’t want to wonder if Munch was happy — I think she was — I loved her to pieces, walked her, fed her, spoiled her rotten, made up songs about her, played with her — but a year after that lovely lunch in Litchfield, that Billy Collins poem continues to haunt me. I never liked you …
And still I wonder …
Did she hate me?

Do you have a pet? Would you? Wonder, I mean …]
How powerful words are.
How about you? Any pet stories to tell? Any poems that resonated on that level? Meantime, I’d seriously advise you to occasionally look deep into your pet’s eyes and try to divine what she or he is really thinking.

(You can read The Revenant on-line.)

Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She’s the USAToday best-selling author of 25 historical and contemporary romances and a dozen novellas. She’s currently working on an erotic contemporary romance. She misses her Munchkin terribly.

Turkey Talk

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  Suze here wishing you all a most special day. I’m writing to you today from my cabin on a cliff in the north woods.  A woodfire is crackling in the stove, I’ve got a cup of hot perked coffee and a Pillsbury orange cinnamon roll in front of me (trust me, try these), and the surface of the lake below us is smooth as glass.

The view from my cabin window a couple of years ago

The air is quiet except for the occasional crack of a rifle off in the distance — it’s hunting season, after all, and while I love venison, I’m secretly rooting for the deer.  Soon the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will start.  We get one channel here, and this is the only time we ever watch television at camp.  (DVDs, yes. Television no.)    After that, we will head out to my mother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband, who bless him does the grocery shopping for our family (one of my most-hated chores), informed me that he wanted to buy a turducken for Thanksgiving.  For those unfamiliar with this not-quite-mythological beastie, a turducken is a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey, all bones removed.

Rare Who roast beast? Nope, it’s the elusive turducken!
Cool, right?  Sounded like fun.  Except he then proceeded to inform me that I should tell my mother not to make a turkey.  Let me just make sure you got that.  He wanted me to tell my mother not to make a turkey.  On Thanksgiving.

Now, of course he was right.  There would have been far, far too much food if both a turkey and a turducken were cooked.  But I dreaded this phone call and put it off as long as I could.  Who was I to mess with the centuries-old tradition of a big fat gobbler on Thanksgiving?  My ancestors came over on the Mayflower and lived in Plymouth.  Carried blunderbusses, wore buckled shoes and buckled hats, and had their unprepared English hineys saved from starvation by Squanto and Massasoit.  John Alden and Priscilla Mullins?

They’re my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents.  The turkey tradition runs deep, I tell you.

Finally, I dialed the phone and made the announcement.

There was a pause.  A long pause.  I chewed my bottom lip and pulled the phone away from my ear in a preemptive attempt to save my hearing when the explosion came.

“Turducken,” Mom said thoughtfully.  “You know, I was watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Channel a couple of weeks ago and Guy ate turducken.  That sounds like fun!  I won’t make a turkey.”

So I invite you this Thanksgiving day, in addition to counting your blessings, enjoying the time with your loved ones, and remembering the loved ones who are no longer with you, to do a couple of things:

  • Don’t be afraid to tell your mother stuff — she might surprise you; and
  • Examine your personal traditions and beliefs.  The ones you thought could never, ever be changed, for any reason.  What seems inviolable might just be . . . violable.  And it might be an opportunity for you to grow and for creativity to expand.

Or maybe that’s just your stomach growing and expanding after that last piece of pumpkin pie today!

Because you can never have too many cranberry recipes around the holidays, I’ll leave you with a no-longer-secret family recipe.  As far as I’m concerned, no Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is complete without Cranberry Relish.  My grandmother, Margarette, would haul out her giant metal food grinder, the kind that clamped to the table and was heavy enough to use as a weapon, and make this every year.  Now that we don’t have to work so hard for our food, we use a food processor.  Enjoy, and have a wonderful day!

MARGARETTE’S CRANBERRY RELISH*

  • One bag fresh whole cranberries (see Viv’s instructions for cleaning and inspecting these bouncy beauties)
  • One whole seedless orange, peel and all, chopped into a few pieces (an orange with seeds is fine as long as you remove them)
  • One whole apple (a green one is pretty, but any firm apple will do), cored and chopped into a few large pieces
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, depending on taste

This is best made the day ahead, or at least several hours before you want to serve it.  Fit up your food processor with the regular chopping blade.  Place all ingredients in the bowl, starting with the half cup of sugar (you can always add more later if it’s too tart).  Pulse everything until it’s in fine pieces, stopping short of pureeing the mixture.  Taste and add a bit more sugar if necessary, and serve in a clear glass bowl so you can admire the jewel-like colors.

Delicious with turkey, chicken, or even ham.  My favorite post-holiday leftover is a turkey, cheddar and cranberry relish sandwich.  Enjoy!

** To be fair, I don’t know where my grandmother got this recipe.  It could have been from her own mother, Gladys.  There may be some bickering going on among the angels right now over who should get the credit.  Love you still, girls!

What Is Up With Nursery Rhymes?

Hi!  J here.  Jamie blogged about poetry on Monday and that inspired me to share with you all a project that I’ve had on the back burner for quite a while. I have 3 year old twin boys and a 6 year old niece.  Over the last 6 years, I have read more nursery rhymes and fairy tales than I can count and mostly, they are terrible! 

Example: Rub a dub dub, 3 men in a tub, who do you think they be?  The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, all heading out to sea.  Really?!  Come on!  3 men in a tub might have been reasonable fare at one time, but it’s pretty ridiculous now. 

How about the Princess and the Pea.  In this one, the king opens the door on a rainy night to find a rag-a-muffin standing outside claiming to be a princess.  They test her by putting a pea at the bottom of 15 mattresses.  Since she’s bruised in the morning, she must be a princess.  What is that about?!  Let’s torment our guests to see if they’re telling the truth?  And don’t get me started on the idea of a king opening his own door.  Can you say butler?

And even though Disney/Pixar/WB has done a decent job with princesses lately, I’m still quite tired of our princesses waiting to be rescued by Prince Charming.  Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella all have no character develpment of the hero.  None.  He doesn’t even have a name!  Could be the same charming fella rescues them all and has some kind of harem!

I know these were written ages ago as cautionary tales for kids, but I think they need serious updating.  This brings me to my back-burnered project and today’s secret: I’ve started to write a collection of new nursery rhymes and I want to do an updated collection of fairy tales.  Unfortunately, I’m not a very good poet.  I have always hated poetry and it’s tough to write.  Click here to read my first nursery rhyme.

Today’s question: What is your favorite fairy tale?  Mine is The Little Mermaid.

Those Who Can’t Do…

Before I found my calling teaching small autistic children I did a short stint teaching high school English. I know how trying typical teenagers can be ( I know I was) but I got to teach the alternative kids. The ones with criminal records and emotional problems. The students who were barely passing, and found it more stimulating to smoke outside by the tree than come to class. I liked English and walked in my first day with all these expectations and big plans. But this is no romantic story of a teacher overcoming the odds and reaching her students. I was no Michelle Pfeiffer  in Dangerous Minds. This was not Freedom Writers.

I was twenty-one when I started with them. The oldest girl in my class was twenty, barely six months my junior. I couldn’t tell those kids what to do like most teachers. Seriously, who wants to listen to a twenty-one year old anyway? I had to cajole, manipulate and in a couple of cases beg a few of them to listen. In the meanwhile I had to teach Shakespeare. Julius Caesar. All of them hated it and frankly I didn’t blame them. They couldn’t relate to it. The language was difficult to understand and even I was faking enthusiasm for my least favorite play. I did them a favor, printed out SparkNotes for everybody and created the test from that. Only half of them passed. Of course, while my spirits sank and I started to rethinking this whole being-a- teacher- thing, my cooperating teacher assured me that it wasn’t my fault. ” Look on the bright side. At least nobody cut class today.”

Thankfully we moved on to other units. Short stories, American Classics and poetry. Poetry? Poetry! When I enthusiastically announced that we were going to study and then write poetry all I got were blank stares. One kid mumbled, “I $%&*ing hate poetry.”

I liked poetry in high school. I remember reading Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou as a teenager and thinking I had found my personal anthem. I wanted that for them. I wanted them to find a poem they loved and identify with it. So, I exposed them to a lot of poetry. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (Which I got a couple I -don’t -get -it’s.) The Raven  which is actually really just kind of dark and creepy and awesome. They didn’t find it as awesome as I did until I showed them The Simpson’s version of the poem. ( Click The Raven to see it.) How cool was I?! (Not very.) I earned bonus points for the day but they still weren’t excited until I introduced them to Poetry Slam and Def Poetry and spoken word artists. One kid said, “Hey, that’s not poetry it’s hip hop without music.” Ding! Ding! AHA and Woot! Woot!

How could I have forgotten that songs are poems without music? From there I started to forget about the classics and pulled the lyrics to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and stuff by Bob Dylan and all those great protest songs from the late sixties. Some of them even liked it but I found myself falling in love with this genre of writing the more I taught it.

Then came the part of the unit where they had to write their own stuff and my blank stares and ‘I $%&*ing hate poetry,’ returned. I could teach them all about stanzas and couplets and rhyme schemes but I couldn’t inspire them to be creative. A lot of poems are about life experiences and pain and while this class probably had more of that than most kids their age I just couldn’t get them to put it down on paper. So what did I do? Fill in the blank poems. It was like Mad Libs for poetry and a total cop-out but it got them writing.

What’s the point of all of this? I hate teenagers. Just kidding. But seriously, teaching writing, and poetry is hard and I will gladly admit that it is not one of my strengths. That’s why I admire English teachers, mentors, the people who help us shape our writing and inspire us to put words on paper. Sometimes a little education can be a good thing.

Sharing time! How do you feel about poetry? Got a favorite? Hate it? Write it? Any real English or writing teachers out there? Leave any comment you would like.