Sylvia Plath Reads “A Birthday Present”: A Rare 1962 Recording | Brain Pickings

In October of 1962, mere months before her death, Plath recorded herself reading “A Birthday Present,” written the previous month and later included in her beloved poetry collection Ariel. The recording was one of several broadcasts Plath participated in for BBC’s celebrated series “The Poet’s Voice” and survives on The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. With lines like “I do not want much of a present, anyway, this year. / After all I am alive only by accident. / I would have killed myself gladly that time any possible way,” the poem stops you dead in your tracks as you absorb the quiet catastrophe of Plath’s fate and simultaneously behold the all-too-human, universal terror that birthdays stir in all of us, that subtle but inevitable reminder of our own mortality. And yet — “sweetly, sweetly” — perhaps you’re moved to reach for, to choose, a different truth, the one 18-year-old Sylvia knew when she wrote, “I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have.”

via Sylvia Plath Reads “A Birthday Present”: A Rare 1962 Recording | Brain Pickings.

Droopy Left Eye

I have a droopy left eye
And I never even knew this
I never noticed how time flew by
how everything fell apart,
bit by bit

It makes me wonder now
what else I could have missed
Am I next in line for a lift of my brow
How come no one ever told me that this is how life
really is

That things will start to droop and sag
when you least expect them to
that soon you’ll be called an old hag,
no match for the mark of the years -
what’s a girl to do?

Should I grow old gracefully
even when all around me they’re fighting the years
with nips and tucks all done so skillfully,
slits and stitches meant to hide
aging fears

Or should I simply welcome the years,
and let them stamp experience on my face
every laugh, every smile, even all the tears
should I step away from the madness of youth,
and cherish every year’s trace

For every wrinkle holds a name
even for just a moment, maybe two
Every laugh line bears no shame
of a life lived in love, a life
lived in truth.

So I’ve Been Writing…and Reading About Freeze-Dried Grooms

I’m totally slacking off on my Daily Prompts of late simply because they just don’t interest me as much as they used to.  I’m also buried in things that need to be done before the  year’s end, like finishing my novel.

I finally got done doing the first round of edits till the last chapter, which helped me continue to write the “real” final chapters. I never realized how it can sometimes take awhile before your characters find the right and perfect way to tie the loose ends together.  But  until then, they hound your dreams till you do.

Another thing that I’ve been doing is reading.  Lots of reading. Some of them bad stories, some good stories, and then some awesome stories. Among the awesome stories is Margaret Atwood’s The Stone Mattress, a collection of 9 short stories (some of them interlinked) written in classic Margaret Atwood fashion. I honestly can’t remember Atwood fashion but reading stuff from her and other literary awesomeness reminds me that everything else I write is just so-so.

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One of the nine stories in her collection is called The Freeze-Dried Groom.  Even the title is pretty darn cool!  You can read the short story on Wattpad, where Atwood is also a “member.”  She’s also holding a fan fiction story contest, where you can take this short story beyond its ending.  Write your own version of what happens to one or all of the characters.  I didn’t think I’d throw my hat in the ring, but after reading the story and having the characters, especially Sam hanging out in my head overnight, I finally decided to give it a go.

So tonight, I finally clicked “Publish” on that sucker, and you can find it here.  It’s called Miss Hazel Eyes.  You know me and titles – I completely suck at them.  You don’t have to be a member to read the story, but if you happen to be a member, I’d love to hear what you think.  You can even vote for the story, or like it by clicking the yellow starry thing at the top right (for web-based readers) or the starry thing at the bottom of the screen (for mobile users).

Regardless of what you do, I’d be happy with just a read.  Oh, and maybe wish me luck, too!

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I’d Pick Elizabeth Gaskell

Today, Audible.com asked the question, “If you could read only one author’s work for the rest of your life, who would it be?”  They also said that it could “easily be the toughest question of the day.”

Probably, if one had many authors to choose from – Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens all the way to the contemporaries like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, and so many more.  However, it didn’t take me long to pick one author I wouldn’t mind reading for the rest of my life.

Elizabeth Gaskell.

In November 1865, when reporting her death, The Athenaeum rated Gaskell as “if not the most popular, with small question, the most powerful and finished female novelist of an epoch singularly rich in female novelists.” Today Gaskell is generally considered a lesser figure in English letters remembered chiefly for her minor classics “Cranford” and “Wives and Daughters: An Every-day Story.”

Gaskell’s early fame as a social novelist began with the 1848 publication of “Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life,” in which she pricked the conscience of industrial England through her depiction and analysis of the working classes. Many critics were hostile to the novel because of its open sympathy for the workers in their relations with the masters, but the high quality of writing and characterization were undeniable, and critics have compared “Mary Barton” to the work of Friedrich Engels and other contemporaries in terms of its accuracy in social observation.

The later publication of “North and South,” also dealing with the relationship of workers and masters, strengthened Gaskell’s status as a leader in social fiction.

via Elizabeth Gaskell: Biography.

I bought the complete works of Gaskell for my e-reader and I’m taking my time reading her stories, beginning with the obscure ones.  I’ve already read North and South, but I can’t wait to read Mary Barton, as well as Cranford.  I loved how astute she was about the social changes around her, the plight of the poor workers, even if it put her at odds with the general thinking of the time.

So, yes, for the rest of my life, Elizabeth Gaskell would be perfect.

Who would you pick?

 

 

A New Reality

Your coming back into town
doesn’t excite me anymore,
I no longer sit and count the hours
nor keep watch at the door

I no longer think of your face,
those blue eyes that once shone so bright
I no longer remember those lips,
everything about you has turned cold as ice

I no longer wish to see you again,
though I often catch myself wanting to know
how you’re doing without me wherever you are
does life become much easier once we go?

I no longer remember the curves of your face
though sometimes I catch myself thinking of us
back when things were much simpler and real
when neither one of us made such a fuss

But life has a way to tell us
that it’s high time we have to move on,
time to let go of those forgotten dreams
time to accept the reality that you and I are done

True to Herself

“We are on red alert when it comes to how we are perceiving ourselves as a species,” she said. “There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal. It’s not seen as a gift. Something happened culturally: No one is supposed to age past 45 — sartorially, cosmetically, attitudinally. Everybody dresses like a teenager. Everybody dyes their hair. Everybody is concerned about a smooth face.”

via Frances McDormand, True to Herself in HBO’s ‘Olive Kitteridge’ – NYTimes.com.

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When I Gave the Muse Away

The day I gave my muse away
I didn’t know what I was doing
I didn’t read the fine print that said,
this will be your own undoing

for you’ve given us rein
to do whatever we wish
to the one that you love
like some unwanted dish,

and so he’s ours now -
no longer yours to keep.
Oh how I wish I could take it all back
or are my thoughts running just too deep?

Maybe it isn’t really too bad
when someone takes your creation away
when you’re the one who signed on the dotted line,
too stupid to know the difference between playing
– and being played.

Of Writing Prompts & Other Musings

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