You Just Never Know…

by Edgar Guest

None knows the day that friends must part.
None knows how near is sorrow.
If there be laughter in your heart,
don’t hold it for tomorrow.
Smile all the smiles you can today;
grief waits for all along with way.

Today is ours for joy and mirth;
we may be sad tomorrow;
then let us sing for all we’re worth,
nor give a thought to sorrow.
None knows what lies along the way;
let’s smile what smiles we can today.

From his book A Heap O’ Livin’
published 1916 by the Reilly & Britton Co

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Reblogged from my former poetry blog,
Swallow in the Wind — Sept 2013

Personal Note:
Our new internet server is in place, but I’ve decided to go with my gmail address for awhile and see how that works. A slightly different e-mail address may show up in my replies to WordPress bloggers, but folks can contact me at christinevanceg @ gmail.com.

Hope you’re smiling, singing a song, and having a good day in spite of the woes common to us mortals.

“Friendship”

I’m happy to say that my visit to the Cancer Clinic yesterday was really encouraging. My white count is about the same as it was back in November, no sign of the leukemia becoming active.

I’m going to take a break from the internet for awhile to catch up with other projects. I’ll schedule some poems to fill in the gap. I trust you’ll find them as inspiring as I do.

Friendship

by Edgar Guest

You do not need a score of men to laugh and sing with you;
you can be rich in comradeship with just a friend or two.
You do not need a monarch’s smile to light your way along;
through weal or woe a friend or two will fill your days with song.

So let the many go their way and let the throng pass by;
the crowd is but a fickle thing which hears not when you sigh.
The multitudes are quick to run in search of favorites new,
and all that man can hold for grief is just a friend or two.

When winds of failure start to blow, you’ll find the throng has gone —
the splendor of a brighter flame will always lure them on;
but with the ashes of your dreams and all you hoped to do
you’ll find that all you really need is just a friend or two.

You cannot know the multitude, however hard you try:
it cannot sit about your hearth; it cannot hear you sigh;
it cannot read the heart of you, or know the hurts you bear;
its cheers are all for happy men and not for those in care.

So let the throng go on its way and let the crowd depart;
but one or two will keep the faith when you are sick at heart;
and rich you’ll be, and comforted, when gray skies hide the blue,
if you can turn and share your grief with just a friend or two.

From the Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest
© 1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company

Negative Self-Talk. Delete, Delete, Delete

A Reader’s Opinion

While I’ve been laid low with back problems this week, I took the opportunity to read a novel by P G Wodehouse. Like all his novels, Jill the Reckless is a great story! Six stars out of five. The author has created a memorable cast of characters and, like Agatha Christie, has such a delightful way with words and phrases.

Writers like D E Stevenson, Wodehouse, Sayers, Christie, etc., used strong story lines and an interesting cast of minor characters to showcase their heroes. There was a STORY in their story. Even in tales with a romance woven in, the overall focus was as much on the main character’s triumph over adverse circumstances as on their relationships.

Have modern genre formulas become like a corset, rigidly holding writers to a specific shape deemed to be attractive in our day? Stories tend to be so focused on the conflict between the two love interests. Furious outbursts, insecure characters full of negative self-talk, a lot of internal dialogue use up word count without adding variety. I read one novel awhile back where I’d estimate 75% of the word count was spent on the MC’s conversations with himself — basically why she’d never have him anyway so forget it.

I find almost no negative self-talk in those older novels. Miss Marple doesn’t constantly berate herself for snooping. Lord Peter may babble about his silly curiosity but the writer doesn’t devote long paragraphs to his self-chastisement. Wodehouse’s characters act and react in a lively way; they spend little time mentally rehashing their own actions and reactions.

In real life negative self-talk is usually destructive. It’s the devil on our shoulder that berates us for how we are without giving us any power to change. Sometimes we do need to admit faults and make changes, but negative self-talk rather tends to paralyze.

So, in our age of promoting self-esteem and ridding ourselves of guilt, why do we allow our book characters to indulge in so much self-criticism? Do readers really find it that appealing?

Imagine yourself standing in a long supermarket checkout line and striking up a conversation with the customer in front of you. You notice she has two boxes of Exquisite Caramel Ice Cream. You’re quite fond of it yourself. You say so, and she replies:

“I really shouldn’t be buying this. I know it’s not the best for me; it’ll only go to my hips and I really should lose weight. I can hardly resist the delicious taste but I know I shouldn’t indulge and it’s so foolish of me to be buying it. My best friend’s brother’s such a hunk and I wish some romance would take off between us but he makes fun of me for eating it and says I’m turning into a dumpling. Well I don’t like him anyway. But still, even if the taste is exquisite and I can hardly resist, I am just getting fat eating it every day. What kind of a wimp am I? I need to develop some backbone and not ever touch the stuff again. But then I might as well eat because no guy’s ever going to look at me anyway.”

Worse luck, every few days you visit that same supermarket, stand in line beside the Exquisite Caramel Ice Cream addict, with another two boxes in her cart, and hear her recite her insecurities again.

Welcome to the modern novel. No, not all. But too many. Recently read another one myself.

Let’s say you’ve been asked to edit some current book — your choice. So you open it in a new window, start at Chapter Two and delete all the negative self-talk. How much will be left?

Can you fill in those gaps with ACTION? An outside CRISIS they must deal with? Other issues going on apart from main character blow-ups. Maybe leave just a phrase here and there to let the reader know those feelings are still in the background. Once in every  chapter is often enough, IMO.

Can you add some ENVIRONMENT? In one story I read, the female MC and her parents had joined a wagon train. Though they would have been crossing amazing new territory, scenic description was scant. (Saves research, I guess.) Pages were filled with how she was attracted to/ couldn’t let herself fall for/ the scout or he was attracted to/ couldn’t let himself fall for/ her.

What about adding a new CHARACTER? A jolly old auntie or uncle to give readers a break from the intense focus on the lovers’ spats. Wodehouse added the smooth-talking, conniving Uncle Chris who squandered Jill’s inheritance in poor stock market investments, but was always ready to fleece some new lamb. The author devotes some paragraphs to Jill’s assessment and acceptance of her uncle’s nature and weaknesses; these in turn show Jill’s compassionate nature.

Maybe you could add a nosy neighbor? If the story already has one, write in another and have the two interact with each other and with the main characters. Sprinkle in their WRY COMMENTS ABOUT HUMAN NATURE and each other. Have them play “Pass the Rumor.” Display your hero’s nature in the way they deal with these minor characters.

I believe these subplots are what made novels so memorable and writers so successful in years gone by. As a reader, I’d like to encourage all writers to loosen the constrictions of formula and put more STORY in your stories.

Looking on the Bright Side

“JUST BROKE”

by Edgar Guest

Nothing’s the matter with Me!
I can see,
I can hear, I can sing, I could climb
up a tree.
I am well, I can eat anything that’s about.
I can run, I can dance,
I can laugh, I can shout,
and I’m blamed if I’ll travel around here and croak
that I’m broke!

My arms are all right;
I can fight!
I can still romp around with the kiddies
at night!
I haven’t neuritis; I haven’t the ‘flu;
I still have a fairly good
foot in each shoe;
I am able to gather the point of a joke;
I’m just broke.

Nothing has happened to me
that I see!
My appetite’s good and I’m strong
as can be!
The wife hasn’t left me, the children are well.
Things are just as they were
when the stock market fell.
I can work, I can play, I can eat, I can smoke.
I’m just broke!

From the book, The Friendly Way
© 1931 by The Reilly & Lee Co.

Do You Know Your Neighbor

by H Howard Biggar

Do you know the neighbor who lives on your block;
do you ever take time for a bit of talk?
Do you know his troubles, his heartaches, his cares;
the battle he’s fighting, the burdens he bears?

Do you greet him with joy, or pass him right by
with a questioning look and a quizzical eye?
Do you bid him “Good Morning” and “How do you do,”
or shrug as if  he were nothing to you?

He may be a chap with a mighty big heart;
and a welcome that grips, if you’d just do your part,
and I know you will coax out his sunniest smile
if you’ll stop with this neighbor and visit awhile.

We rush on so fast in these strenuous days,
we’re apt to find fault when it’s better to praise.
We judge a man’s worth by the make of his car;
we’re anxious to learn what his politics are.

But somehow it seldom gets under the hide,
the fact that the fellow we’re living beside
Is a fellow like us, with a hankering too,
for a grip of the hand and a “How do you do!”

Note about the author:
Harvey Howard Biggar (1886 – 1965),  was born in SD and died in Chicago, IL. He was an agronomist, an instructor in agriculture, and a poet.

An Un-Fun Haiku

pill by pill
I put my pain away
prickly spines

Where I’m at today. Not feeling the greatest Sunday afternoon and woke up yesterday morning with something “out” in my lower back. I could hardly walk. Thankfully I’m a little more mobile this morning, but not out of the woods yet.

If you’re young and your spine is supple, do take time every day to keep it that way. This is no fun! 😦

Another Poem From My Stash

HOLD STILL

by Margaret Penner Toews

Wee little hummingbird, caught in a wire,
Halt, little bird, or your wings will tire:
In your little-bird-world your plight is dire!
Hold still, wee bird, hold still!

Wee little hummer, don’t flail, don’t fight!
If you’d stop your frenzy you’d be all right.
It’s the flailing that causes your awful plight.
Hold still, little bird, hold still.

Is your wee little scream a little bird-prayer?
How can I tell you, wee bird, I care?
You pause at last and numbly stare.
Don’t be afraid! Hold still.

Spent, despairing, you rest your wing.
I reach. I touch. What a fragile thing,
The delicate body quivering,
A hummingbird, holding still!

In my palm you tarry a little bit,
Then shake, and away like a breath you flit.
I stand astonied at thought of it…
A hummingbird, holding still!

How tiny the feather you left behind!
…And then of a sudden there comes to mind
The truth God wanted for me to find:
“Hold still, my child, hold still.

“Stop your frenzy and rest in Me.
It’s the flailing that hurts you, don’t you see?
Whate’er your predicament, trust in Me.
Hold still, my child, hold still.”

© Margaret Penner Toews
From her book FIRST A FIRE

Margaret’s poetry is delightful reading and she has published several books of poems as well as several books of devotional thoughts. These are available from PrairieView Press and Gospel Publishers.