Wonderland

The Ragtag Daily Prompt  this morning is WONDERLAND.

I encountered this word several different ways during my childhood, the first being through the well known song, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” I’m happy to say the a warming trend has kicked in here on the prairies and the temp has risen ten degrees. It’s now -21 C here, with almost no wind —and next week is supposed to be warmer yet. Wonderful! Snow tends to lose its wonderland sense after the middle of January.

I also recall an old 45rpm record my cousin’s wife owned. The song, instrumental only with a trumpet lead, was called “Wonderland by Night.”  (Blessings on the ever helpful Wiki, who tells me this tune was recorded in July 1959.) As a girl I often wondered whether there was a real place called Wonderland and where it was. I assumed this would be somewhere in California, where all wonderlands are located, right?

Or was the song a takeoff from the popular children’s story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? The writer Lewis Carroll—in reality Charles Lutwidge Dodgson—delighted not only the real Alice, but millions of other girls and boys since, with his delightful tale of adventure.

I was curious to know if Dodgson invented the place name, but it seems he only made use of the word. His book was published in 1865, whereas the word wonderland made its debut in English in 1790, according to Merriam-Webster, who defines it as a place that is filled with things that are beautiful, impressive, or surprising.

And that ends my knowledge of the subject. You’re welcome to pop over to the RAGTAG Community and read what other bloggers have written. Better yet do a post yourself and share your impressions of WONDERLAND.

BOOKS: A Perfect Day

For those of you who are looking for some really good holiday reading, here’s my suggestion:

A Perfect Day by [Evans, Richard, Richard Paul Evans]

The story opens with Robert Harlan striving to move up in his position doing radio ad sales, and working slowly on the side to write a book. He wants to tell the story of love and family — his wife’s close relationship with her father, especially as the father’s health fails. One day he’s called into his supervisor’s office confident he’s got that promotion he’s been working for. Instead, he’s fired for lack of achievement. (And so his supervisor can give the position to a current flame.) He’s furious.

Feeling like a failure, Rob mopes around too long at home. His loving and supportive wife, Allyson, finally gives him the push he needs to get with it and finish that book. So he applies himself to the task and once it’s done he decides he needs an agent. He sends out twenty-five letters and gets repeated rejections.

He accepts his failure as a writer, among his other failures in life, and wonders where to from here, but then he gets a call from one of the last agents, Camille. She and her boss love his story and she agrees to represent him. She visits their home, interviews them really likes what she observes of their love for each other. Camille warns him that fame is hard on a family; he should hold on tight to the happy home he has. At this point he has no worries; fame hasn’t landed at his door yet.

If you’ve ever heard the story behind the song, “Silver Threads Among the Gold” you will guess where this is headed. Suddenly Robert gets a whacking big advance and becomes a success, a best-selling author doing book tours, signings, talk shows. And has no time for his wife and daughter. Tensions build up; Allyson resents his celebrity world that shuts out his family. Rob decides to move out. Later, under pressure from a big shot agent who’s offering so much more — a movie contract even — he fires Camille.

As Rob reaches for the pinnacle of success, and is waiting at a coffee shop to sign the new agent’s contract that will make him filthy rich, a younger man slips into the seat beside him. The younger man begins to talk; Rob is startled when this newcomer starts telling him things about himself that no one should know. This strange man, who calls himself Michael, tells Rob that he’s been tried and found wanting, that his days are numbered. He also tell him that the big shot agent isn’t going to show up. He’s been intercepted and sent elsewhere.

Initially Rob’s a skeptic, but as the days go on, there are signs…and strange e-mail messages…about his number being up. Rob’s alarmed. Where does this guy get his information? How has he infiltrated Rob’s e-mail? Could this really be a messenger from heaven?

I wondered where the author was going with this, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the story played out. This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Constable About

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was MICROCOSM

This is a word I’ve never really understood and never used—I find it hard enough to spell — but I dutifully checked it and came up with “a miniature representation” of a greater thing, “a little world” unto itself that typifies a greater society, or  “a community or other unity that is an epitome of a larger one.” (The last being from Merriam-Webster.)

I suppose you could say that “Amazon authors are a microcosm of writers the world over.” And I hope I’m using it rightly in the following example.

I’ve started reading another of Nicholas Rhea’s “Constable” books. I read this delightful series twenty years ago, when Bob’s mom lived with us. I borrowed them for her, along with the Miss Read books, from the local library. Simple fiction stories divided into cases or incidents, replete with amusing, mild and friendly characters, though some are a trial to the poor constable and his colleagues.

The Yorkshire village where Constable Nick Rhea lived and worked was a microcosm of village life in counties all across England in the 40s and 50s. There are a number of books in this series, which, I understand, was made into a British TV series in the 60s:
Constable Goes to Market
Constable on the Prowl
Constable Over the Style
Constable Versus Greengrass (An amiable “opportunist”, poacher & general layabout)
Constable at the Dam
Constable Under the Gooseberry Bush
And more

Prize-winning gooseberry bushes that must be protected feature first in the Constable in the Dale book I’m reading now. This is followed by the vicar’s successful, if sometimes embarrassing, porker-producing enterprise starring the lovely “White Lily.”

If you like a touch of rural England that’s both nostalgic and a great picture of human nature, do check out these books. I’m delighted to discover that the e-book versions are all free on Kindle Unlimited.

Faces

Faces

The Ragtag daily prompt this morning was THINGS WITH FACES.

An intriguing prompt! I’ve turned it over in my mind, thinking of the many objects that have — or could have — faces. Toys…pictures…paintings…book covers… AH!

What better place to find faces than in a book store or library? As you walk in the door you’re greeted with numerous book covers set on display to entice you. And in the library there are many magazines with faces from the current news, sports and Hollywood looking back at you.

Wander into Adult fiction section. Have you noticed that it’s uncommon in our day to find actual faces; for some reason the current fad in book covers seems to be someone walking away.

The Girl from Ballymor

In the mystery and thriller section and you may find classics like Hercule Poirot detecting on the Orient Express. In recently published books you still find a few faces peeking at you.

I'll Walk Alone: A Novel by [Clark, Mary Higgins]

Check out the romance section and you’ll see the faces of sweethearts — and dozens of millionaire bachelors of all shades — looking back at you hopefully, wistfully, defiantly. What is it with millionaire bachelors nowadays that they’re swamping the romance section? Albeit a good catch.

Her Awkward Blind Date with the Billionaire (Billionaire Bachelor Cove) by [McConnell, Lucy]

In the History and Biography aisles you’re apt to see faces you recognize instantly.

King.Gordon Johnson.png
Gordon Johnson – Pixabay
non-violence-1158316_640
John Hain – Pixabay

Cookbooks often have the cook’s face smiling at you, holding their latest culinary masterpiece.

The section for teens features a selection of ordinary faces, high-school types trying to navigate the problems of today, plus the graphically rendered faces of superheroes and the gruesome spectres of vampires, zombies, etc.

ZSA teen sad

In the children’s section, especially among the old favourites, you’ll see rather unusual faces.

MaryP.ChaminaGallery
Chamina Gallery – Pixabay
Lion.Oberhoster Venita
Venita Oberholster – Pixabay

Flip the books over and read the back cover blurbs, where you’ll usually see the face of the writers, hoping with all their hearts you’ll get hooked on their books and read — or better yet buy — everything they write.

Stroll up to the archives and you’ll see the face of anyone who’s ever been someone in your area.

Yes, libraries and books stores are great places to find faces new and old.

Appreciating the Good Things

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American neighbours!

Family
Gordon Johnson – Pixabay

I hope you’re all having a great day with family and friends, giving thanks for all the wonderful people and blessings in your lives today. Granted, there’s always something that could be better, but a whole lot of people in the world would gladly trade places with us here in North America. Which reminds me…

A Great Thanksgiving Day Read

Awhile back I read a really inspiring book and this is the perfect day to tell you about it. Stories to Remember is written by Dr Pedro Garcia, an educator who immigrated to the USA from Castro’s Cuba while still in his teens. He and his brother came first and their parents were able to join them later. They’ve made successful lives in the States and Dr Gracia really appreciates all the freedoms he’s enjoyed in his adopted homeland.

You could say he doesn’t see the trees for the forest. Rather than elaborating on all the malfeasance of current politicians, he focuses on the vast forest of freedom and opportunity that exists in the USA.

Some of his stories are from a Christian perspective; the majority are his personal experiences. He writes of coming to the American Midwest and making the country his home, also about his work as an educator in various cities. All the way through he points to the blessings and successes he’s enjoyed through the years. Delightfully upbeat, well worth reading.


Those of you who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited can read it for free.

 

Haiku: A Quick History

Haiku & Senryu History

from comments by Alan Summers,
compiled by Christine Goodnough

Most people who know about haiku think of masters like Basho and his famous poem about the frog jumping into the pond. Or the tender-hearted, melancholic Issa who knew so much sorrow in his life. Haiku master Alan Summers, who has spent decades studying this form of poetry, offers the following background for this style of poetry.

Are haiku verses all about nature?

Pre-haiku, as written by Basho et al, were seasonal poems, more than being nature poems. They might be about a human society celebration, the coming of age of boys, children, or Matsuri, which are holidays, religious days or farming events.

When haiku came about, in the 1890s, it was caught in the old medieval mindset, but on the edge of the 20th century, when trains and factories were starting to be built. So I think of haiku, which really came into its own just before WWII and post-WWII, reflecting the industrial revolution and huge changes in human society.

The intimate relationship with the seasons, coming from the pre-Industrial Revolution era when people were super-aware of the slightest shift into the next part of a season, meant that folks would write little postcards with a seasonal reference. Sometimes this was just a note or a hello, and not always poetry. But when haikai poetry came about, the common and popular and normal practice of mentioning the change in a season in conversation, gossip, or greeting cards, also became part of the tiny haikai poems.

In the shift toward haiku, just before the 20th century, writers often used the seasonal ‘mention’ although post-WWII when the industrial revolution morphed into the various technological leaps in warfare and general manufacture, different topics would be added. Of course, as they moved into computer technology and robotics, these would be naturally added.

So nature, or natural history, is often part of a haikai verse in some aspect, but this is only part of the body of haikai poetry.

When Shiki did his reformation of haiku and tanka, little changed for a decade or two, then those society-changing world wars we seem to love for some reason, shifted haiku into its own genre, away from the chains of the medieval hokku and earlier haikai verses penned by Basho et al.

Haiku has been known in the West almost as long as in Japan, interestingly enough. The French were the very earliest to pen haiku very early on in the 20th Century.

See: Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton 2013)
ed. Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, Allan Burns; plus Introduction by Billy Collins
Click here for link.

What is senryu?

This was another verse from the big group poem collaboration called Renga, which spawned both hokku (similar to haiku) and the verse named after its most successful propagator.

Senryu was the nickname or pen-name of a poet who was famous for this particular style of verse in the group poetry writing activity called renga, and later, under Basho, the increasingly popular renku. Both renga and renku are the most complicated and intricate poems in the world, with more rules than you could shake a stick at!

Senryu verses were sometimes written to mock the growing haiku writers and, before haiku came about, the various haikai verse writers who wrote hokku.

A good test of what makes the verse a senryu: CLICK HERE.

For more reading, check out these articles & free books:

To learn more about the various forms of Japanese poetry, check out Call of the Page

Why haiku is different and Basho never wrote them in English: Click Here

More than one fold in the paper: Kire, kigo, and the vertical axis of meaning in haiku: Click Here

Free eBook:
Senryū: An Application to be a) human
by Alan Summers

Free eBook:
Kaneko Tohta:Selected Haiku With Notes and Commentary – Part 2 – 1961–2012

There are also a number of online haiku journals where you can find great examples of Japanese poetry:
Troutswirl, cattails, The Heron’s Nest, Wales Haiku Journal, etc.