The Three Degrees

These last two writing prompts have given my muse a workout. Yesterday’s Ragtag Daily Prompt was PURIST. The question came to me: So when are you a PURIST and when are you NITPICKING?

In some respects I’m a purist. Incorrect word usage makes me grit my teeth. I hear someone say, “He contributed his success to luck and hard work,” and I think, NO! You contribute–donate–to a worth cause. You attribute–ascribe–some (usually good) result or quality to what you’ve done or received.

People usually attribute their success to hard work, a good education, helpful parents, or just plain luck. On the other side, someone may attribute (credit or blame) their life of crime to their miserable childhood, but their behaviour contributes (add) to the rising crimes stats.

If I verbalize my dissatisfaction some people will say, “Why nitpick? You know what they meant.”

Today’s prompt word is FLATTER. Again, when are we FLATTERING and when are we simply ENCOURAGING? Am I flattering or encouraging if I say, “You have a beautiful voice”?

When praising children – which we definitely should do – I feel it’s better to encourage them when they’ve done their best, rather than flatter them with, “You’re the greatest!” or “You’re a STAR!” Life has some sharp reality checks for teens and adults who think of themselves as the greatest.

As the old school song says, “I’d rather be a little thing climbing up than a big thing tumbling down.”

Every coin has a flip side, likewise most virtues. Thrift can become parsimony. Determined can become pig-headed or pushy. Honesty can become offensive, even brutal, if not infused with kindness and tact.

Years ago the Toronto Globe & Mail had a little humor section that made use of this fact. Readers could send in their responses to these three viewpoints:
I am…
My friend is…
Someone I don’t like is…

For example:
“I am decisive; my friend is steadfast; that other guy is obdurate.”
“I am circumspect; my friend is astute; the one I don’t like is cagey.”

This is a great exercise for writers, or anyone who likes adjectives. Want to try it and leave your response in the comment box below?

Books And More Books!

I should have been
born in a library
to spend my life
a voracious bookworm
digesting its contents
munching my way through
musty old history
pondering poetry
puzzling out mysteries
smiling at rom-coms
sniffling over
heartbreaking memoirs
orbiting the sci-fi.
Horror gives me heartburn!

And, oh, those cookbooks
a feast for the eyes!
Though, sad to say,
bookworms seldom find time
to cook, dust
bulging buckling bookshelves
or sweep Home & Garden.
Yes, I should have been
born in a library.

I probably shouldn’t, but I do, subscribe to Book Cave and Book Bub. So I get ads about new releases and sales on e-books already in print. Which lead to the composition of the above poem. Looking over the ones offered today, I d like to read most of them!

As Frank Zappa once said, “So many books, so little time!” Here are some that non-fiction offerings that have piqued my interest; maybe they’ll pique yours, too?

H Is for Hawk: Helen Macdonald writes about adopting a temperamental hawk in the wake of her father’s death. I like animal stories, as long as the animal has a good long life. 😉

Webster’s New World: American Idioms Handbook. “The origins and meanings of American idioms.” Wouldn’t that be a fascinating read!

Too Much Tuscan Sun: Tour guide Dario Castagno “recounts unforgettable stories of his clients and their outrageous misadventures.” Human as I am, I enjoy hearing about other people’s misadventures, especially in foreign lands.

The Men We Became. A memoir by Robert Littell, who was JFK Jr’s best friend and writes about their growing up years. “Conveys the lasting love that can exist between boys who grow into men together.” (USA Today) Obviously this’d be more interesting to American readers, so I’ve included it here.

WW2 : A Layman’s Guide, by Scott Addington. “Concise read offers a thorough overview–without getting bogged down by minutiae.” I think this would be invaluable for writers setting their stories in that era.

The Roman Barbarian Wars by Ludwig Heinrich Dyck. As I said in my poem, I like ancient history. Gives me an idea of what’s gone on in our world heretofore.

Now a question for older readers: I’m reading a book that includes a flashback to Alabama, 1957. The young man is telling his parents, “I’m eighteen, legally an adult, and I can do what I want.” (In this case, marry her if I want to.)

And I thought, “Oh, no, you’re not! Back in 1957 you weren’t legally an adult until you were 21.” I recall some hot words in the 60s about being old enough for the draft, but for voting. What do you readers say? Is he right or am I. (Bearing in mind that US laws will have varied from state to state.)


This verse was written by Barry Cornwall — which was the pen name of Bryan Waller Procter, 1787 – 1874. Born in Leeds, England, this poet was a contemporary of Lord Byron.

The sea, the sea, the open sea,
the blue, the fresh, the ever free;
without a mark, without a bound,
it runneth the earth’s wide regions round;
it plays with the clouds, it mocks the skies,
or like a cradled creature lies.
I’m on the sea, I’m on the sea 
I am where I would ever be,
with the blue above and the blue below, 
and silence wherever I go.
If a storm should come and awake the deep
What matter? I shall ride and sleep.

I love, O, how I love to ride
on the fierce foaming bursting tide,
where every made wave drowns the moon,
and whistles aloft its tempest tune
and tells how goeth the world below,
and why the southwest wind doth blow!
I never was on the dull tame shore
but I loved the great sea more and more,
and backward flew to her billowy breast,
like a bird that seethe her mother’s nest, --
and a mother she was and is to me,
for I was born on the open sea.

The waves were white and red the morn,
in the noisy hour when I was born;
the whale it whistled, the porpoise rolled,
and the dolphins bared their backs of gold;
and never was heard such an outcry wild,
 as welcomed to life the ocean child.
I have lived since then, in calm and strife,
full fifty summers a rover’s life
with wealth to spend and a power to range,
but never have sought or sighed for change:
And death, whenever he comes to me,
shall come on the wide unbounded sea!

Holiday Plans

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is LITTORAL

Actually, I was thinking of the sea this morning, as I just read a poem about the sea, written by someone who loved it dearly. The verse is long-winded but delightful, written in the early 1800s. I’ll post it later for those of you who enjoy such poetry. But now for my response to the prompt…

Holiday Plans

Ellen, studying the inviting seaside scene on their calendar, turns to her spouse. “Fancy a LITTORAL holiday this summer, dear?”

Ed frowns. “Littoral? Nah. I don’t want to hang out in libraries, or spend a week wandering through bookshops, either. Or were you thinking of Stratford, taking in Shakespearean plays and such? I find them rather boring, to be honest.” He looks up at the calendar. “I’d rather go fishing.”

Ellen laughed. “Actually Littoral and Literary are different genres altogether. Mind you, I’d love to spend a few days visiting bookshops. Especially used bookshops…finding some old classics I haven’t read yet.” She pondered the thought. “There are some huge ones in Toronto.”

“Blah! Coping with all that traffic and the crowded streets, carting around a ton of books? Not a holiday for me!” He points to the calendar. “Why don’t we rather go to the coast this year? Some place like that.”“Walk along the sand, hear the sea roar, maybe watch the whales.”

“An excellent idea, Ed. I’ll see what I can find.”

“That we can afford,” he adds.

Image: dimitris vetskias 1969 — Pixabay

Summer Stillness

We’ve been having some very warm days lately, which brings to mind a few heat-related poems. This verse is my latest exercise in “finding” a new poem; I’ve derived it from Archibald Lampman’s HEAT and included his verse below mine. I’m still learning, so if you have any insights on writing found poetry, please feel free to share them in a comment below.


from plains southward
the road beyond,
upward melts into the glare
nearer the summit
a hay-cart moving,
the wagoner slouching
half-hidden in the blur
of white dust

from sky to sky
the heat-held land
beyond me in the fields
the grass, the marguerites,
the buttercups are still,
on the brook not a breath
disturbs spider or midge

where far elm shadows
patch the burning grass
the cows, with peaceful cud,
lie waiting in the depth
from the slope nearby
a thrush’s thin tune
cricket, grasshoppers
spin small sounds in my ear 

the burning sky-line
blinds my eyes,
the woods far off blue,
hills drenched in light
in the shadow of my hat
I lean at rest -- I think
some blessed power
has brought me
wandering here
in the furnace of this hour

by Archibald Lampman

From plains that reel to southward, dim,
The road runs by me white and bare;
Up the steep hill it seems to swim
Beyond, and melt into the glare.
Upward half-way, or it may be
Nearer the summit, slowly steals
A hay-cart, moving dustily
With idly clacking wheels.

By his cart’s side the wagoner
Is slouching slowly at his ease,
Half-hidden in the windless blur
Of white dust puffing to his knees.
This wagon on the height above,
From sky to sky on either hand,
Is the sole thing that seems to move
In all the heat-held land.

Beyond me in the fields the sun
Soaks in the grass and hath his will;
I count the marguerites one by one;
Even the buttercups are still.
On the brook yonder not a breath
Disturbs the spider or the midge.
The water-bugs draw close beneath
The cool gloom of the bridge.

Where the far elm-tree shadows flood
Dark patches in the burning grass,
The cows, each with her peaceful cud,
Lie waiting for the heat to pass.
From somewhere on the slope near by
Into the pale depth of the noon
A wandering thrush slides leisurely
His thin revolving tune.

In intervals of dream, I hear
The cricket from the droughty ground;
The grasshoppers spin into mine ear
A small innumerable sound.
I lift mine eyes sometimes to gaze;
The burning sky-line blinds my sight;
The woods far off are blue with haze;
The hills are drenched in light.

And yet to me not this or that
Is always sharp or always sweet:
In the sloped shadow of my hat
I lean at rest and drain the heat;
Nay more, I think some blessed power
Hath brought me wandering idly here:
In the full furnace of this hour
My thoughts grow keen and clear.

The Uninvited Guest

Here’s Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt

And here’s my little story in response:


“There he is, just like clockwork. I’ve no idea how he knows when I’ve made roast and mashed spuds for Sunday, but soon as I’m dishing out the meal, he’s knocking at our door.”

“We can pretend deafness,” her son Lance suggested. “He’s bound to leave if no one answers.”

“Dream on,” Sue retorted.

“She’s right. He won’t leave.” Dad chuckled. “I wouldn’t put it past him to climb in a window.”

“Mavis says he shows up every time they have barbecue,” Mom said.

Lance grinned. “Must be great to have a nose that keen.”

Sue rolled her eyes.