I’m teaching my class all about the sonnet tomorrow, and so I’ve been pouring over my poetry anthologies, reveling in the imaginative renderings of this much loved form. Of course, one of the main poets that we associate with the sonnet is Shakespeare, and we now use the term Shakespearean Sonnet to describe the type of sonnet he wrote. However, I think one of my favourite Shakespearean sonnets was not actually written by Shakespeare himself. It is, in fact, written by Carol Ann Duffy, and it’s named after William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway.
“Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed…”
(from Shakespeare’s will)
The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where he would dive for pearls. My lover’s words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he’d written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love -
I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head
as he held me upon that next best bed.
By Carol Ann Duffy
This poem is from a fantastic collection of poems by Carol Ann Duffy called The World and His Wife in which each poem is written from the perspective of the wife of a famous, often historical figure. I highly recommend it as each poem is such a gem. In this poem, in particular, I love that she chose to write Shakespeare’s wife’s narrative in the form of the sonnet: the verse form which was clearly so close to his heart.
What’s your favourite sonnet? What do you love about this very special verse form?
UPDATE: I’ve had a request to share all the favourite sonnets I gathered through Twitter and this post, so, ever obliging, here they are:
Thanks go to @lindiop, @dmcordell, @captainstardust and @pfanderson from Twitter, as well as to the following commenters who contributed to this list: Mrs Chilli, Joanna Young, Dale, Autumn Song and Ellen Wilson.
Yesterday we visited a new puppy who has recently arrived at my friend’s house:
She’s called Bunty, she’s 7 weeks old and when she grows up she’ll become a guide and a companion to a blind person. My friend just gets to keep Bunty and train her for her first year of life, and then she’ll be moved to a training facility, where she’ll learn all she has to know in order to do her job well.
So, all this means is that we really need to enjoy her for the 12 months that she’s here! As soon as we went in the house she was bouncing, sniffing, nibbling, catching her tail, somersaulting round the rug, playing with her toys. She was a blur of irrepressible energy:
In fact, it was some time before I managed to take a photo that wasn’t blurred! However, after a wee while she calmed down, and then promptly dropped off to sleep:
What really struck me about Bunty (besides from her unbelievable cuteness, that is!) was this ebb and flow of energy, and how she didn’t try and fight it, as it was just a part of her inherent nature. Small children do this too; they run around, climb on the furniture, display infinite curiosity and a knack for creating chaos whichever way they turn. And then, when you are just about run ragged trying to keep up with them, you find them conked out on the floor, the sofa, or wherever they were when sleep happened to overtake them.
Now, I guess it’s necessary for us to grow out of this stage. After all, we can’t keep up that kind of energetic ebb and flow and function well, or perhaps at all, within society. However, I do wonder whether we have become a little too disconnected from our energy levels. The pace of life is so frantic in the 21st century, and we are all so busy trying to ensure that we keep up with it. We stop taking notice of when we’re tired and we keep pushing on.
This is exactly what happened to me last year. I conferenced, I wrote, I taught, I blogged… and then I stopped. I had pushed past my natural flow of energy and I was exhausted. I feel like it’s taken such a long time to recover from this, and I only wish that I had paid more attention to that physical need to stop and rest. I wish I had taken a leaf out of Bunty’s book and rested when I needed to, and then returned with energy redoubled.
Does this sound a familiar pattern to you? Do you regularly push through your low energy levels, only to find that the high is not as high as it was before? What lessons have you learned recently from the bundles of fun in your life?
While I was around at my grandparents’ house yesterday, my grandma pointed out these narcissi in the front garden.
From one stem there blooms 8 miniature flower heads, each with perfectly yellow petals, bright orange trumpets and the stamens shaped like a triangle. But despite their similar characteristics, what intrigued me the most were their differences, and how it’s these differences that contribute to the beauty of the whole plant.
This observation sparked off a few thoughts about the message that I communicate through this blog. Often when I explain the ethos of Lives Less Ordinary, I worry that the message of celebrating individuality will be misconstrued as an endorsement for isolationism. This isn’t my message at all, as I’m a firm believer in the need for connection, as it’s this connection which fosters community. When we engage, connect, participate, contribute, our voices can sing in chorus and our influence is multiplied. However, communities are always stronger when they respect that which makes us unique and different, as well as facilitating the celebration of our similarities. If a choir were to sing the same song with the same melody in the same key, would the effect be as powerful as a fully harmonized piece?
To return to the analogy of collaborative connection in nature, have a look at this photo of some funghi I found at the foot of the Wallace Monument:
See how closely packed together they are? And yet this is precisely their strength. They are more powerful together, and yet each is a unique individual in its own right.
What communities do you belong to? And how do you celebrate your uniqueness in your connections with others?
One of my favourite things to do is to trawl through YouTube, and find the songs that make up the soundtrack of my life. When I think back over the last 15 years or so, I define many of the transitions I’ve made by the music I was listening to at the time. As I reach back through time, my memories are awakened by those familiar opening bars, a long-forgotten chorus or an achingly beautiful melody. I feel my heart swell, as I’m swept up into the music, and those lost moments of yesteryear feel tangibly close.
Here are 5 clips from the soundtrack of my life:
Suzanne Vega – Tom’s Diner
Moloko – Time Is Now
Radiohead – High and Dry
Oasis – Wonderwall
The Sundays – Here’s Where The Story Ends
What songs make up the soundtrack of your life? Why don’t you go on a YouTube treasure hunt, and post some links here to some of the songs special to you?
Van Gogh apparently said, “there is no blue without yellow and without orange”. I took this photo of Grandma’s African Violet last week, and, after discovering Van Gogh’s colourful perspective, I couldn’t agree more.
Who is your favourite artist? Who makes you see the world with fresh eyes?
PS Sunday was Van Gogh’s birthday, so to celebrate I posted some links, images etc. over at the Tumblr.
Painting details: Starry Night, oil on canvas by Vincent van Gogh, 1888; in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Now, perhaps this is because of my conviction that everyone is special, less ordinary even, but I genuinely think that brilliance is a quality that we all can claim. Just as in this photo of the raindrops on the washing line, glistening in a stray sunbeam, we all come in different shapes and sizes, we all reflect the light differently, we’re all capable of brilliance.
- This post is an entry to the competition run by Chris Garrett to win $2000 of SOBCon and ChrisG consulting prizes. Details at the end of the post!
- Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.
- - E.M. Forster
- For my 21st birthday my parents bought me a purple iMac. I had recently moved with my husband and my baby girl to the wild and windy north coast of Scotland; my nearest neighbours were 4 miles away, I couldn’t drive, I had no TV and I was 8 months pregnant with my son. By the time my birthday rolled around, my new baby was 6 weeks old, and I’ve never felt so isolated in my life. By giving me the gift of the iMac, my parents did more than give me a machine that I could write my essays on; they gave me the gift of connection.
- 8 years on and my connection to the internet is still of great importance to me, but things have changed somewhat with my introduction to blogging. Over the last 6 months that I’ve been producing Lives Less Ordinary, I’ve discovered that the connections that I’m involved in are multiple and wide-reaching. By posting images of where I live, coupled with my words and my thoughts, I have not only created a resource of beautiful photographs, a place where people can come and find inspiration, a corner of the internet where readers can enjoy an escapist moment out of their busy lives, I have founded a community of like-minded individuals. I am helping others to connect not only to their environment and to my environment, but also to each other and to themselves.
- For me, this is the essence of ‘authority’ blogging: the ability to create connections.
- As Chris Garrett states in his definition, to blog with ‘authority’ means to blog with a ‘friendly and open’ personality, to demonstrate ‘expertise, experience, knowledge or talent’ and to display an understanding of how to ‘develop visibility’. In order to demonstrate all of these attributes, you need to be able to make connections: you have to connect on a personal level with your readers, you need to connect your readers to ideas, information, and images that they’ll find valuable and will enhance their lives in some way, and you need to connect with all those you haven’t met yet, who you believe would appreciate your blog’s content. If I were to attend SOBCon 08 in Chicago, one of my main contributions to the event, along with my energy, my enthusiasm, my unique perspective, my creative approach (and my photos!), would be my ability to create connections.
- What I would hope to gain from a consultation with Chris, from attending SOBCon and from meeting the other delegates, would be the opportunity to create connections to people, resources, information and advice which combined would help me put together a plan to make my next project a success. Yes, you read that right! I have another project brewing, which would, in some ways, be a sister blog to Lives Less Ordinary, as it would focus on one specific topic that I often engage with here. I have big plans for this project, and I know that I can make it a success, but by attending SOBCon and by consulting with Chris, I would hope to gain the support of an amazing community, I would learn how to avoid some of the pitfalls which may slow down my progress, and I would learn how to refine the skills that I’ve been developing over the last 6 months. Attendance at SOBCon coupled with the consultation would be invaluable in helping me towards my goal of becoming an authority blogger.
- It would help me to connect.
- Now, if you fancy having a go at winning yourself the prizes listed below, you still have time. Follow the instructions on how to enter, and you could win the opportunity to attend SOBCon in Chicago. Trust me – you really want to be there!
Authority Blogger Contest Prizes and Rules
- $1000 budget to pay for SOBCon08 registration and travel expenses which also includes:
- a copy of ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett
- 60 attendees will get free design and SEO consults from Network Solutions experts.
- a $99 lifetime hosting offer from THC
- a pro account at E-Junkie
- a free subscription to Blogger & Podcaster Magazine and a chance to join their new USA Today guide
- a professional video interview on you and your biz for BlogTV sponsored by Fuel My Blog
- A hour of consulting with Chris Garrett, face-to-face if possible.
- The complete Authority Blogger online course when it launches.
- An introduction to all of the speakers at the event.
It’s a fabulous prize package!
1. Write a blog post explaining why you’re the best candidate to be the next Authority Blogger. What you’ll add to the event, what you hope to learn from a personal consultancy with Chris Garrett and the wealth of great business bloggers in that weekend in Chicago. Be sure to write with authority. Tell your compelling story.
2. Have your post written by March 31st.
3. Leave a trackback to this post or a link in the comment, so that we know you’ve entered.
4. Your post can include pictures, but should be no longer than 1000 words.
5. Liz Strauss, and Chris Garrett, that’s me, will select the winner on 1st of April.
6. In the case of a draw a representative from Blog Catalog will have the deciding vote.
So, how would you define ‘authority blogging’? Do you agree that the essence of authority is connection? What inspires you to connect with a blog’s community?
When Shelly from This Eclectic Life announced the contest Scared Silly, my first thought was this post about my encounter with the fairies. Funnily enough, it is one of my most popular posts as it gets at least 5 people every day coming to it through the Google search ‘Are fairies real?’. Unfortunately, I think many must leave disappointed as I’m incapable of providing a definitive answer. But I’m hoping that everyone else who reads it appreciates it for what it is: a fun story about a time when I was scared silly.
While my husband was still my fiancee, we took a trip up to the isle of Skye. He had worked there for a while in the past, and I had never been, so we booked into the local youth hostel, hired a car and drove up for a weekend. As we drove, we planned out all the things we wanted to do when we got there, and one of the things that he mentioned was that he wanted me to see the Fairy Glen at Uig. I’d never heard of it, but I was keen to go and check it out! So, on the second day of our sojourn, we traveled up from Kyleakin to Uig to check out the Fairy Glen.
It really is an amazing place; these strange steep-sided hills are scattered haphazardly throughout the glen, with crystal clear pools of water glistening in the small valleys. It feels like you’ve wandered out of the ‘real’ world of traffic, technology and crowds, and into this sphere of calm, where the silence is so complete that you could be swimming underwater. Over dinner that evening, we decided that we would go back to the fairy glen under the cover of darkness, and see if we could spot any of the ‘little people’. I think we both knew that it was silly, but it can be such fun to suspend the soul-crushing disbelief in which so many live their day to day lives.
Anyway, we headed out to the Fairy Glen, and it was so dark. I don’t think I fully appreciated just how dark, until the car headlights were turned off, and we began walking between the fairy hills and passed the fairy pools. Pretty soon that darkness became that velvety blackness where you can’t see your hand in front of your face, and you have to keep blinking your eyes just to check that you still have them open. The silence was only disturbed by our own footfalls and, when we stopped, there was no noise at all. Deprived of two senses, I started to feel a small flutter of panic. I’m a city girl at heart, and so being outside in the dark was completely unfamiliar to me. Really in the world in which I live in there is no real darkness, no real silence. My heart started to speed up, my eyes kept straining to see some light, my ears to hear some sound. Nothing…. And then, somewhere about 20 feet to our left, someone coughed. I don’t think my body had ever experienced such a rush of adrenalin, either then or since, and, holding hands, my fiancee and I ran blindly back towards the direction of the car.
Throwing ourselves into the car and locking the doors, we both looked at each other, and started to laugh. Great belly laughs which seemed to shake our entire beings and made our eyes weep. We sat for a while, until we reined our giggles in, and then we sat a while longer waiting to see if anyone would follow us out of the glen. There were no cars parked there but ours, and no-one showed up, so eventually we started the drive back to the hostel.
Now, I don’t know if it was the fairies playing tricks on us, or someone out for a quiet stroll (in the pitch black?), but I do know that I’ve never ran so fast or laughed so hard as I did when I visited the Fairy Glen.
When were you last scared silly?
The other day I was watching an episode of The Wonder Years with my kids, in which Kevin and his friends Winnie and Paul discover that the local woodland is to be torn down for housing. None of the adults seem particularly perturbed, and it is their reaction (or lack thereof) that cause the trio of friends to realise that it was only special to them, as it represented that part of their childhood tied to the imaginary and the magical. This got me thinking about those special places in children’s fiction, which evoke that part of ourselves we set aside in order to grow up. Here are 4 excerpts from some of my favourite imaginary places from children’s fiction:
- “The island lay about a mile away towards the lower, southern end of the lake, its trees reflected in the glassy water. They had been looking at it for ten days, but the telegram had made it much more real than it had ever been before. Looking down from Titty’s Peak in the evening of the day on which they had come to the farmhouse where their mother had taken lodgings, they had seen the lake like an island sea. And on the lake they had seen the island. It was the island, waiting for them. It was their island. With an island like that within sight, who could be content to live on the mainland and sleep in a bed at night?” Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
- “Oh, Kitty! how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking-glass House! I’m sure it’s got, oh! such beautiful things in it! Let’s pretend there’s a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it’s turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It’ll be easy enough to get through -’ She was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass was beginning to melt away, just like a silvery mist. In another moment Alice was through the glass and had jumped down into the Looking-glass room.” Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol
- “The sun was shining inside the four walls and the high arch of blue sky over this particular piece of Misselthwaite seemed even more brilliant and soft than it was over the moor. The robin flew down from his tree-top and hopped about or flew after her from one bush to another. He chirped a good deal and had a very busy air, as if he were showing her things. Everything was strange and silent, and she seemed to be hundreds of miles away from anyone, but somehow she did not feel lonely at all. All that troubled her was her wish that she knew whether all the roses were dead, or if perhaps some of them had lived and might put out leaves and buds as the weather got warmer. She did not want it to be a quite dead garden. If it were a quite alive garden, how wonderful it would be, and what thousands of roses would grow on every side?” The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- “The cyclone had set the house down, very gently – for a cyclone – in the midst of a country of marvellous beauty. There were lovely patches of greensward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits. Banks of gorgeous flowers were on every hand, and birds with rare and brilliant plumage sang and fluttered in the trees and bushes. A little way off was a small brook, rushing and sparkling along the green banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girl who had lived so long on the dry, grey prairies.” The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
What are your favourite imaginary places from your childhood? Do you have a favourite fictional place from a children’s classic? Neverland, perhaps? Or maybe, Narnia? Do you still find inspiration in the places in your imagination?
PS This is the 4th and final post in a series of sources of writing inspiration (the other posts being about populated places, unpopulated places and virtual places) as a contribution to a writing project being run by Joanna over at Confident Writing. Why not join in?
It’s probably no surprise that one of the places I find inspiration is via the internet. There is a truly enormous amount of inspiration to be found on many different kinds of websites, but for this post I’m going to stick to blogs. For me blogs are like an extension of the blogger who produces them. I often feel as though I’ve been invited into their (virtual) home for a brief while, and when I leave I take with me a new way of thinking about something. Blogs don’t just offer me a great source of entertainment, but they alter my perception. So here are a few of the blogs that I know will offer that inspirational spark:
- Postsecret – For a long time I didn’t really ‘get’ Postsecret. I didn’t understand what would drive someone to send their deepest secrets, albeit anonymously, to be shared with the rest of the internet community. However, I took the time to really pay attention to it, and became just overwhelmed with emotion at some of the stories these postcards told in so few words. The creative attention which goes into these customised cards is extremely imaginative, and the narrative fragments themselves often provide much food for thought. Here’s a clip with a few, so if you’re unfamiliar with it, then it’ll give you an idea:
- Haha.nu – I have no idea how to go about classifying this blog. The blogger that produces this ‘lifestyle ezine’ describes it as providing interesting finds from around the net. And yes, it is random, but it’s also wonderful. I’ve discovered profoundly moving short films. I’ve listened to clips of music being played in a way I didn’t even know was possible. I’ve found incredible images. The list just goes on and on! I never know what I’m going to find when I visit haha.nu, but often it’s through these random combinations that we become our most creative selves.
- Kottke.org – Just celebrating it’s 10th birthday, Jason Kottke’s blog is one of the oldest active blogs in the blogosphere. According to its tagline, it is ‘the home of fine hypertext products’, but I’m not really sure that does it justice. I like it for much the same reasons that I like haha.nu; I find many seemingly completely random posts on everything from a newly published booklist to a great Flickr pool to a link to an amazing archive. It’s a little bit like being on a magical mystery tour where you don’t know where you’re going, but you know you’re going to be amazed at what you see when you get there.
- The Daily Sunrise – I’ve been a subscriber to this blog since December, and I still have to remind myself every now and again that the blogger behind this photoblog is only 17 years old. Azhar lives in Mumbai and he takes the most wonderful photos. If you are best inspired by visual stimuli, then you simply must go and pay Azhar’s blog a visit. So many times I have clicked to read the feed for The Daily Sunrise and been completely entranced by the story the image tells. Simply stunning.
Well, those are 4 of the places where I find inspiration online. Of course, there are many, many others, but I’m hoping that if I turn this over to you now, you’ll tell me where you find inspiration on the internet. Is there an artist’s blog that you enjoy visiting? Do you like to peruse photoblogs? Why not share the blogs which jump start your creativity?
PS This post is the 3rd of a series of posts on sources of writing inspiration (following the 1st on populated places and the 2nd on unpopulated places) as my contribution to Joanna Young‘s group writing project. If you want to join in, why not check out the rules and the prize she’s offering!