Found poem, weather forecast

I have always enjoyed reading the weather forecast as set by Met Eireann, the Irish Meteorological Service: whoever helps describe the coming daily weather, I imagine, must have a love of all the different nouns and adjectives to differentiate between slight variances of weather. But this last Sunday's (July 15, 2018) was an exceptionally beautiful example, and I couldn't help making a found poem from it.

Fresher, drier, clearer
        will develop
in the evening

in western areas
with sunny


to end
the day

Lough Derg from Ballycruggeran

Lough Derg from Ballycruggeran

The Sway of Otherwise

One of my favorite evenings to recollect is June 24, 2012. It was a lovely, fresh evening on the North Shore of Prince Edward Island. I was there for the bi-annual L.M. Montgomery Conference (this one on cultural memory), and after all the interesting papers and presentations, we were visiting the site Maud called "hallowed ground" - the MacNeill Homestead where she lived until she was about 36 - and the place where Anne of Green Gables was born. No buildings remain, but the view Maud would have looked out on does - the old trees, the bright summer flowers, the long green hills. 

After a look-around, we walked to the nearby Cavendish United Church to hear some of the Island's best-loved poets read aloud. It was here that I heard David Helwig read from his most recent book, The Sway of Otherwise

The poems were so beautiful to me. There is a delicacy of diction in Helwig's work, and a kindness of vision: from a special shade of evening light to finding an old photo, not much is lost on this poet. With grounded, real words he gently spins ordinary moments into widening fields of thought and revelation. This was my kind of poet. What a gift to hear him in person in Montgomery's beloved Cavendish, and to buy his book and have him sign it.

I'll close with the last stanza of one of my favorite poems in the collection, "Poetics":

Lines, spaces, the unspoken between lines,
and the silence between the spaces—a tiny
peeping bird in silhouette against the cloud
of a November afternoon, exact, trans-
parent, counterlit, and defying syntax. Any
word said is perjury against the still unmade.

I took this photo from the bus while driving along the North Shore.

I took this photo from the bus while driving along the North Shore.

Reaching out to Bloggers

One of my hopes for The River Boy was getting the story to readers I've never met and probably never will. This is one reason why I took copies of the book to libraries. I loved the idea of someone finding the book on the bookshelves and taking it home - as I did with so many wondrously good novels during the long summers of childhood.

Another way was to contact bloggers who write about children's books. After searching, I gathered a list of bloggers who were willing to read self-published books. Out of these, two replied back to me, willing to read the book and review it. The blogs were award-winning sites, well-written by passionate readers; I could not have been more excited. These blogs were:

Children's Books Heal and

Bookworm for Kids

I share this here to encourage you to reach out with your writing. I know a few people out there who are self-published . . . it's hard to know how to carry out your own promotion, but it's usually worth it. What good content - and good people - you get to connect with. AND a new circle of readers forms through virtual connections!

Blessings for the writing journey, my friends!


Love's Work

"The Lovers must leave a distance, a boundary, for love: then they approach and retire so they love may suspire. This may be the economics of eros; but it may also be taken as the infinite passion of faith: Dieu se revele en se retirer. Love and philosophy may seem to have had the most to say, but friendship and faith have been framing and encroaching by night and by day."

- Gillian Rose, Love's Work: A Reckoning with Life

I will need to re-read this book again, if only to understand it a little better than I have the first time reading it. But to me this book puts forward - in the face of the hardest things, atrocities, sickness, death - a praxis of love that is wise in its humility, strong in its flexibility. When love can learn, reflect, adapt, seek, let go - when its has muscles, heart, and brain - in other words, when love is living enough to work: this is love that makes our human experience achieve its best form.

What stories show this kind of love? Do you recommend a novel, film, or memoir that shows this working love? One story that comes to my mind is Places in Heart, by Robert Benton. The story is so much about the transformation within the characters' capacities for love. Modes of love at first formed by brittleness, prejudice, and fear start to soften, share, see, and 'flesh out' so that by the end love is operative, and real.



Must we use words
For everything?
Can there not be
A silent, flaming
Leap of heart
Toward Thee?

- Elizabeth B. Rooney (1924-1999)

I love words. But I think I also see in my love of words a compunction to use them. They are safe. If not islands in the seas, they are at least floatation devices. 

Sometimes, I like to see what happens in me if I let loose for awhile my leash on words - slacken for a time (day, week, month) the way I use them to structure and hold, describe and name (all very good human capacities). Like many writers, my compunction for words is woven with a compunction to write, with unease - even a kind of febrile angst - quick to arise if I'm not writing. I've learned to hold this angst and let it be part of the task and work of writing. But sometimes, it is a gift to drop the rope, let wordlessness come upon me.

I think this is a way of freedom. Even replenishment. The need to write and my love of words is not going anywhere, but it seems good to let my soul know: you exist, and are seen and loved, regardless of your writing.


Sarah, Plain and Tall

I didn't read one of my favorite children's novels as a child; I read it when I was twenty. I had just spent my first year overseas: my brain was teeming with images and ideas and plans. Back home in Texas, I joined my family on a road trip to Montana, to mark out a little of the Lewis and Clark trail from our hired minivan. I had the soundtrack to Almost Famous in my transportable CD-player, and the wide vistas of last frontier out the windows. That's when I read the novel Sarah, Plain and Tall.

After all the theology and philosophy and literature I had read that past year (all really good stuff, igniting deep fires in the brain), Sarah, Plain, and Tall arrived like a goldfinch, at first - gold, bright, melodic. Then, it went deeper. The story settled within me, like ballast.

The story is a healing one, a story about trust and love, told in simple terms and kind words.

With Sarah, Plain and Tall on one side - Simon and Garfunkel's "America" in my ears - and the long spread of green, mellow pastures with rising mountains in the distance on my other side: I started writing The River Boy. It was in an old school spiral. I wrote double-spaced, the thick line of empty paper between each line of words, markings in pencil.

Good stories alight. Great stories settle in. They change us, help us. And sometimes, they even compel us to see etchings of another story - a new one, our own. Characters never seen before ask to come closer. Props like quilts and stones and rivers are suddenly at hand, eager to be used. The cadence of words sound out along the lines of what hopes to be a good story . . . 

River Boy Review

Great news, readers! Here's another review for The River Boy -

Review: The River Boy by Jessica Brown

Clara and Josiah's story is going further out into the world!

This blog, called Bookworm for Kids, has received several awards - and with reason: it's a clear, fun, helpful, good resource. Its tagline is "Reviews for children books - from toddlers to teens and everything in between," and the site is easily navigational between the different age groups. If you've got a reader in your life, this is going to be a boon!




At the time of writing this post, I am in the middle of revising three novels. One is the sequel to The River Boy (yay!); one is a novel set in medieval Rhineland, about a beguine; and one is the fantasy novel that I've been working on for years.

For Penny's Story (the sequel), the revision needed is for minor plot-points, working out the soundness/logic of a few beats. Then there's the last line of the novel: that needs work. Also, I'd like to add either a pair or trio of scenes between the characters, just to give it that abundance-of-good-story-ness. This is fairly straightforward writing/re-writing work.

For Consider the Nightingale (the medieval one), I am doing much more heavy-duty and intricate revisions. It's like I'm using my ear to sound something out: listening to strange structural noises underwater. I'm "unweaving" all the flashbacks, making the story fairly chronological, and writing new work for the last fourth. I think I'm doing the right thing here - but for all the analytical thinking skills (which I love employing), it also feels like deeply intuitive work - sculpting while blind-folded.

And as for Eight Travelers (the fantasy novel) . . .  I took that as far as I could go on my own. I've handed it over to a very, very good reader, and she is making copious notes. We'll see what kind of revision list I make after I receive those notes, and sit with it for awhile, and listen with story-hearing ears to the story-sound-shapes the story is making. 

Revision - a straight-forward word for a murky, multi-faceted process  . . . 

Revision is one word that could different kinds of writing work. What revisions are you doing now? Do you enjoy them? What kind of writing/re-writing does revision usually mean for you?