Milestones: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

November 12, 1969, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is expelled from the Soviet Writers Union.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

One year later, he is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for The Gulag Archipelago.

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

Celebrating Halloween with Carl Sandburg


By Carl Sandburg

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o'-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

The Poetry of Rupert Brooke

On this day in 1887, English poet Rupert Brooke, described by W.B. Yeats as “the handsomest young man in England,” is born.

Rupert Chawner Brooke is known for his idealist war sonnets written at the beginning of WWI. While his poem,“The Soldier,” also known as “Nineteen-Fourteen: The Soldier” was immediately popular, looking back there is a nuance of sentimentality, even naïveté.

This work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain.

Robert Brooke died on April 23, 2015 at the beginning the WWI. He was on a ship to the Dardanelles when he died from blood poisoning from an insect bite. I have often wondered if he had lived through the war, whether his poetry would have been more in step with Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Robert Graves. Alas, we shall never know.

Poetry is a reflection of a time and place. Rupert Brooke captured the spirit of a nation during a patriotic moment. Some critics,”argue that Brooke’s poetry—especially the “Nineteen Fourteen” sequence—is important as a barometer of England between 1910 and 1915. As Eder states, “Brooke’s war sonnets perfectly captured the mood of the moment.” Poetry Foundation

The Soldier by Rupert Brooke

I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

#KaramazovReadalong Day 1: Who is Fyodor?

The #KaramazovReadalong adventure begins with the first chapter entitled Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov. To commemorate this special date, I steeped a pot of Russian Caravan tea, which has a bold smoky taste of lapsang souchong, oolong, Assam, and puerh to accompany me on this profound journey into Russian Literature.

Who is Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov? What was he like? The narrator was quick to provide clarity on Fyodor’s character. On page one, the description was delivered, without any hesitation or sentimentality, in this sentence:

And yet all his life he had been one of the craziest crackpots in the whole of our district.”

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky has been on my “To Be Read” stack of books for several years but I have hesitated, waiting for the right moment. Then serendipity arrived in the form of an e-mail message from my blogger friend and book aficionado, Liz Humphreys from Leaping Life, announcing that she was organizing a #Readalong of The Brothers Karamazov to coincide with the 200th year anniversary of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s birth. The stars aligned when Elisabeth Van Der Meer, from A Russian Affair, agreed to join the party. Liz, Elisabeth, and I are inviting you to join us on this reading adventure.

This is your invitation to join us as an invited guest.

Three Apples Fell From The Sky

I just finished reading Three Apples Fell From the Sky by Narine Abgaryan. My thanks go to Elisabeth Van Der Meer, from the blog, A Russian Affair, who recommended this book. Serendipity seems to bring books to me at the right time. From beginning to end, this book was an absolute joy.

Amazon’s overview provides a great introduction to the narrative, but it is in the reading that the lives of the villagers come alive, their stories tumbling from the pages into my life.

In an isolated village high in the Armenian mountains, a close-knit community bickers, gossips and laughs. Their only connection to the outside world is an ancient telegraph wire and a perilous mountain road that even goats struggle to navigate.

As they go about their daily lives – harvesting crops, making baklava, tidying houses – the villagers sustain one another through good times and bad. But sometimes all it takes is a spark of romance to turn life on its head, and a plot to bring two of Maran’s most stubbornly single residents together soon gives the village something new to gossip about…

Elisabeth Van Der Meer & Dave Astor on Why Should We Read the Books We Do Not Want to Read Tea. Toast. & Trivia.

Poetry in Brief – a day in a life – by Jean-Jacques Fournier

I had been checking the mail awaiting a special arrival.

Two days ago, I received the package that held the first edition of Jean-Jacques Fournier’s poetry book, Poetry in Brief – a day in a life -.

I had already downloaded the e-book format, but there is something wonderful about feeling the pages turn and reveal the words that are waiting for me on the next page.

Jean-Jacques” acknowledgement at the end of the book was poignant and a testament to the creative talent of Marianne, his wife and life partner.

“My profound heartfelt thanks to my dear wife and life partner Marianne. For it is she with her creative mind, for near all my book designs, continues to be my poetic council, reader and adviser. Thus so with patience, that can still endure my unorthodox writing time, and schedule abuses. Her ongoing encouragement, along with that of generous readers, have brought this effort, my seventeenth collection of poems, to a finished book state.”

I have already taken Poetry in Brief on my nature walk and spoke the words aloud in the sunshine to the audience of spring flowers.

Pen, Paper & Signature

My fountain pen arrived yesterday at my doorstep.

It was not what I expected.  The cartridges were missing.  How could this be?  I soon discovered that I did not look at the fine print which features the benefits of this specific fountain pen.  The cartridges were not to be found when I looked back at my order.  

Serendipity had prevailed for I had been looking for a fountain pen that required ink and reluctantly ordered what I thought was a cartridge fountain pen.  I was excited to see the small pump-like apparatus that had clearly been upgraded since my 6th grade fountain pen days.

Now to order the ink.

Fountain pens are perfect for cursive writing, which is making a comeback in the world of keyboards and digitalization. Research suggests (and even maintains) that cursive handwriting stimulates the brain in ways that typing cannot.  Other advantages included increased writing speed (I have yet to experience this benefit as my fingers love to type), improved fine motor skills, increased retention and enhanced legibility and spelling ability.   Best of all, my signature will be of higher quality! 

Over the next months, I will put cursive writing to the test and report back on my findings.

I leave you with this quote to consider:

“When you die, others who think they know you, will concoct things about you… Better pick up a pen and write it yourself, for you know yourself best.” Sholom Aleichem, Russian Writer

Celebrating Ireland with Armergin

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Tradition maintains that on March 17, in the year 432, Saint Patrick, at the young age of 16, was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Great Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland. Little did the pirates know that this young man would be an agent for change and celebrated centuries after his passing. They had found a treasure greater than gold

I am celebrating by going back in Ireland’s long-ago history to meet up with Amergin, aka Glúingel (“white knees”) a bard, a Milesian prince and Druid. It is said it that he was a judge for the Milesians in the Irish Mythological Cycle.

“The Mystery” is a starting point for more research into the ancient stories. Thank you for joining me in a nature walk, reading Amergin’s poem, “The Mystery.”

In researching this poem, I have come across the renowned Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory, Irish dramatist, folklorist and theatre manager.

This is Augusta, Lady Gregory’s translation of The Song of Amergin “The Mystery.”

“I am the wind on the sea;
I am the wave of the sea;
I am the bull of seven battles;
I am the eagle on the rock
I am a flash from the sun;
I am the most beautiful of plants;
I am a strong wild boar;
I am a salmon in the water;
I am a lake in the plain;
I am the word of knowledge;
I am the head of the spear in battle;
I am the god that puts fire in the head;
Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills?
Who can tell the ages of the moon?
Who can tell the place where the sun rests?”

Celebrating Robert Burns with Dr. Leith Davis

Simon Fraser University Centre for Scottish Studies

Tonight, we celebrate Robert Burns, affectionately known as Rabbie Burns, the great Scottish poet and lyricist. He has been given the honoured titles of National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire and the Ploughman Poet. He penned in the language of the Scots, even though much of his writing is in light Scots dialect and in English.

This year will be different from all other Robert Burns Suppers that have been held throughout its history. January 25, 2021 will be the first time that the Burns Supper will be going virtual across the world.

Dr. Leith Davis, Professor of English at Simon Fraser University and Director of Simon Fraser University, Centre for Scottish Studies, speaks of another moment in the history of Burns Suppers when new technologies connected the community celebrations across vast distances.

Dr. Leith Davis, Director Centre for Scottish Studies

Thank you for joining in celebrating the life and works of Robert Burns.

Celebrating National Hat Day 2021

Celebrating National Hat Day with Jean-Jacques Fournier with his poem, The Gift of a Day.

January 15th is National Hat Day, an unofficial holiday that celebrates one of the most essential accessories invented centuries ago.  The Egyptians sported sassy headgear, along with the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Even Frederick the Great had something to say about hats when he remarked, “A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in.”

I did not know that the Fedora was originally a woman’s hat. Nor did I know that “hatters” and “milliners” were not the same, although both made hats. Traditionally, hats for women were made by milliners and hats for men were made by hatters.

Hats keep us warm in winter’s chill and cool in summer’s heat. Hats shield us in spring rains, and protects us in autumn winds. From sun hats, berets, beanies, baseball caps to graduation mortarboards, hats give us a reason to celebrate.

The Gift Of A Day ”
– to live as tho a lifetim
e –

Was yet another guide,
For what I am to live…

I am alive since now,
To live as tho a lifetime
This and every day…

Will only be,
Of consequence
When I am there,
As I’ve no time
For what may never be…

The gift of a day
Be another morrow,
I am alive again
Since now,
For yet another
And find to choose
I am to live this day
And those that follow
As though they be a lifetime!

written in Montréal© Jean-Jacques FournierSeptember 17, 1988, the day of my birthday,alas not my birthyear!