Auf Wiedersehen Berlin, Hallo Boston!

music playing: Aimee Mann’s, Pavlov’s Bell

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to mention that I’ll be mostly offline the next couple of weeks.  For I am leaving my adopted homeland of curry sausage, beer, apfel strudel, and umlauts for a visit to my native homeland of hot dogs, coca cola, apple pie, and baseball.

In honor of the good ol’  USA, here is a poem by the great Romanticist, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:


As a pale phantom with a lamp
  Ascends some ruin’s haunted stair,
So glides the moon along the damp
  Mysterious chambers of the air. 

Now hidden in cloud, and now revealed,
  As if this phantom, full of pain,
Were by the crumbling walls concealed,
  And at the windows seen again. 

Until at last, serene and proud
  In all the splendor of her light,
She walks the terraces of cloud,
  Supreme as Empress of the Night. 

I look, but recognize no more
  Objects familiar to my view;
The very pathway to my door
  Is an enchanted avenue. 

All things are changed.  One mass of shade,
  The elm-trees drop their curtains down;
By palace, park, and colonnade
  I walk as in a foreign town. 

The very ground beneath my feet
  Is clothed with a diviner air;
White marble paves the silent street
  And glimmers in the empty square. 

Illusion!  Underneath there lies
  The common life of every day;
Only the spirit glorifies
  With its own tints the sober gray. 

In vain we look, in vain uplift
  Our eyes to heaven, if we are blind,
We see but what we have the gift
  Of seeing; what we bring we find. 


 boston harbor

Published in: on April 30, 2010 at 10:50 am  Comments (17)  
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Writing Update and Faeries

 “The Singer of the Chalice:

This Singer holds the Chalice from which a rainbow of energies pours like the richest wine…

Patience…is a joyful, loving willingness to wait for a process to bring us to where we want to be.  It contains trust and love and a special quality of expectant gratitude within it.” from The Faeries Oracle by Brian Froud.

It has not gone unnoticed by me that I haven’t mentioned how my WIP has been coming along.  There is a very good reason for my silence.  Namely, discussing anything positive regarding my writing process  tends to be as curse-inducing as walking under ladders,  breaking mirrors,  opening umbrellas inside, or muttering the name of that Scottish Play.

But as I start the third draft, I thought it would be fun (and hopefully safe) to mention what has changed along the way.

1. the title:  Unfortunately, “I Remember Jacqueline” had to go because my main character simply is not a Jacqueline.  Jackie exists…just not in this story.  So that title is being put on hold for now.

2. time period:  At first my murder/reincarnation story was going to take place in the early 19th century New England and the Jazz Age.   The 1920s didn’t fit for this story- that’s Jacqueline’s time.  So now the story is taking place in the early 19th century and modern day Berlin.  (the fact that the author is also living in Berlin is surely a coincidence)

3. the killer’s identity in modern day Berlin.  The person who I thought dunnit- most certainly did not!

4. my characters’ names.  Heroine of 19th century has changed her name at least eight times.  I have honestly lost count.   Surprisingly, heroine of today-Berlin has only changed her name four times.  Thus far.

5.  Berlin love interest dude still does not know what his name is.  Poor guy.

But like the faery card I chose today (or which chose me), I am being open to these changes.  It is in their very unwillingness to be captured- that my characters become real to me. 

So today I vow trust on my characters.  A belief that they’re not just sending me on a wild goose chase and giggling at my expense.  That if I listen to them very carefully, I’ll at some point reach The End of their story.

How has your WIP changed?

Published in: on April 25, 2010 at 10:46 pm  Comments (19)  
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Rilke: “Ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?”


File:Rilke, 1900.jpg

In 1902, the great German lyric poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, received a letter from a young military student named,  Franz Kappus, who inquired whether his enclosed poems were of any merit.  They would go on to correspond for the next six years.   After Rilke’s death, Kappus assembled the ten letters and published, “Letters to a Young Poet” in 1929.

Rilke responded to the first letter on January 17, 1903.  In the letter, after criticizing, ” … that your verses have no style of their own, although they do have silent and hidden beginnings of something personal….Nevertheless, the poems are not yet anything in themselves, not yet anything independent, even the last one and the one to Leopardi. Your kind letter, which accompanied them, managed to make clear to me various faults that I felt in reading your verses, though I am not able to name them specifically.”

Rilke went on to advise, “You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your while life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose.

…write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty – describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place.

…What else can I tell you? It seems to me that everything has its proper emphasis; and finally I want to add just one more bit of advice: to keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your while development; you couldn’t disturb it any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to question that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer…

…A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it. So, dear Sir, I can’t give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take the destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted…”


Rilke’s poem, “The Panther” in English and the original German:

His gaze has grown too weary from the passage
Of bars to hold a thing now or respond.
It seems there are a thousand bars around him,
A thousand bars without a world beyond.

Revolving in the very smallest circle,
The sleekly powered footsteps’ mellowed stride
Is like a dance of strength about a center
Wherein a mighty will stands stupefied.

Only at times the pupil’s soundless curtain
Is reeled away, letting an image start
Inward through the taut silence of his sinews
And come to nothing in the heart.

Original German:

  • Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
    so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
    Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
    und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.
  • Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
    der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
    ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
    in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.
  • Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
    sich lautlos auf -. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
    geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille –
    und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.
  • German Book List Updated

    A year of chronicling my German reading endeavors continues.  For those interested, you can head over to my page on the right side and see my results for March.

    Hope everyone is having a nice weekend!

    Published in: on April 11, 2010 at 2:10 pm  Comments (11)  
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    From the Diary of Caroline Dall: On Writing

    After my last post in which I included snippets from Caroline Healey Dall’s diary, I thought I would post a few of her diary entries in their entirety.

    The first, posted here, is from near the beginning of her diary.  She was fifteen-years-old and living on Beacon Hill in Boston, MA.

    excerpt is from “Daughter of Boston: The Extraordinary Diary of a Nineteenth-century Woman”  edited by Helen R. Reese

    Sept. 2nd 1838-

    “I have been wondering what it is that raises my spirits, and encourages me in the task which I have undertaken?  Certainly neither father nor mother, brother nor sister, have ever expressed any interest in what I have  written, or ever desired to read anything I have published, – It is strange, I think I should take pride & pleasure in the virtuous endeavors of a child of mine- and this apathy , this indifference breeds coldness- on my side, and there is no sympathy between me and my parents. 

    My mother oftentimes expresses harsh, disapproval of my love of study, and her daily life seems to express but one wish- that I were as fond of housewifery as my sister Ellen.  She knows  not the depth of wound she probes, and the unbidden tears, which often spring to my eyes, are imputed childish weakness- Why then should I persevere, if those whom I wish to honor, seem insensible to my truly filial feelings?  Because, in my father’s anxiety to procure me every literary advantage, in his kind smile, and gentle voice, I find at least one assurrance that he will joy in his child’s success, and grieve for her disappointment. 

    People talk of literary struggles, and of the trials which a man who chooses this department of life, has to endure.  These do not spring from the nature of literature, but from the interference of friends, the obstacles raised by the envious, and the discouragements, the cold indifference, with which his labors are regarded by the very ones who should be the first to support and aid him. 

    Nothing is easier, than this, if he be a man of talent, he forgets in the inspiration of his genius, the disagreeable manual labor, to which his inclination subjects him.  This is a pleasure & not a task.”

    Published in: on April 6, 2010 at 9:32 pm  Comments (17)  
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