Back to Books


For some time I have been struggling with the reading of books. If you read my last poem here on Chapter and Verse you will see how I feel about it. I am pleased to say that I think I have broken the spell. That is to say, I, along with the help of someone else among you, have broken it.

When I began this blog, it was in many ways to break free of my older archived material, and to begin a new voyage of poetic discovery. I entitled the blog Chapter and Verse because I was worried that the poems wouldn’t come, but the book-reading would. Funnily enough, it has been the other way around.

I am a very big fan of the writing of the very enigmatic “Oglach” on the Na Triobloidi blog. His words captivate me at every turn, and through some lengthy exchanges back and forth in the Comments sections of our blogs, we have learned something of each other. Not the least of which is, although we grew up on different sides of the Atlantic, and I believe there is an age gap of about 14 years (I’m the older one), we have grown up with quite similar experiences – his being a born and bred Irishman, and mine, being the daughter of a born and bred Irishman who landed himself in Canada back in the 1950s.

I have come to trust “Oglach” (though I wish he trusted me enough to let me know his real name) and when he wrote about the book pictured above in his memorial tales, “Across the Room and Into the Fire”, I was determined to track the book down and crack it open. We even chatted about this, with his being certain if I could not find it at my local small-town library, surely it would be available through an inter-library loan?

Well! Not only was it available through my own library system, but when I picked it up at the circulation desk this morning, it was a brand new paperback copy! Talk about a coincidence.

One thing Oglach does not know about me, is that I was virtually raised on War movies. My father was a fanatic for them, having been in the British Army himself for 11 years, not seeing direct action (he was only 15 when he signed on), but being sent to Singapore and the Far East after the war had ended. He was a part of the Royal Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (though to be honest, I never saw much evidence of this in his later life) and though a Roman Catholic, he got along with just about anyone and seems to have thoroughly enjoyed his time as a soldier in the British Army.

As for me, one of the first movies I was ever taken to see as a child was, “The Battle of Britain”, and now I have my own collection of War Movies and a few books. I read “Black Hawk Down” by Mark Bowden a few years ago, which is definitely not for the squeamish, and surely not a big favourite with women who enjoy chick flicks (can’t say that I do). I grappled with the book, but was determined to get through it, and am very glad that I did.

I do not expect to have any trouble reading Oglach’s recommendation of this Dalton Trumbo classic. I am familiar with Trumbo’s screenplays, having seen “Spartacus”, “Exodus” and “Papillon”.

Tho’ yesterday, my book-drought was broken by a breezy whip-through of the gentle epistolary delight, “84 Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff, I am itching to find out what happens when, “Johnny”gets his gun.

Thanks, Oglach (whoever you really are). I am indebted to you.



My Creative Spaces

Steviewren of A Little Birdie Told Me So has asked that today we share where we work and the places where we have our brainstorms, so I’m showing mine below.
Although I get most of my poetic inspiration in the middle of the night when my brain has hit the R.E.M. stage (I can’t show you right now, because I haven’t made the bed) – I do have spaces where I develop those ideas after I’ve let them marinate in the cerebral cortex for a while.

This is where I do most of my work, blogging and correspondence – right at my dining room table. I love it, because it looks out onto my back porch, the trees and all the creatures who come and go. (It’s also right next-door to the kitchen for when I get those cravings for chocolate biscuits and cups of tea!)

Speaking of my kitchen, this window has been the jumping off point for many a poem – the cemetery poems, Snow Upon Snow, Raising the Dead, and more recently Dead and Buried have all been spurred by this sight. Mind you, I have written many poems about birds, weather, squirrels and plants simply because I looked out the window while rinsing out a coffee cup, or grabbing a banana.

This is my office. It’s out of commission at the moment because we are trying to save some money by closing it off for the winter. It’s pretty chilly in there right now, let me tell you!

This is one of my bookshelves (sorry, it’s a bit messy – I recently bought some new ones – you know, the way you do – and I’m running out of room).
You’ll notice the stuffed animals at the top. I used to have a collection of around 100! They were running us out of the house, so I had to make the ultimate sacrifice and cull the group. I couldn’t even look as I packed them into a garbage bag to take them away. *sob*

Anyway, I did keep a few favourites and there they are at the top.

Funny story: Do you see the two boxer dogs in the back? Well, I had only one and thought I had donated him along with the others in the bag. One day we were at our favourite thrift store and I saw one just like the one I had donated, so I said to my husband, “I’m going to buy him back – I should never have got rid of him.” So, we brought him home and I went to put him on a rocking chair with the others and what did I find? I had not given him away in the first place! Now I have two identical stuffed boxers! I call one “Pisa” because he tilts when you stand him up and the other one is “Flo” for Florence. (And now you all know that I’m just a little bit kooky!)

Here’s a better shot of my “Mikado” poster. I found this at a thrift store and I was over the moon! I am a big fan of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas and the Mikado is one of my favourites. I also love the Mike Leigh film, “Topsy Turvy” with Jim Broadbent and Alan Corduner. It is full of the music, but also gorgeous to look at with its lush interiors and fantastic costumes!

Here’s another place where I find inspiration. I guess my mind just wanders off into worlds away when I’m shampooing the noggin. Some of my best ideas have come from behind this curtain!

My Hooker, Calliope

Photo borrowed from Flickr

Red Hot Poker

I want to scrawl on widest wall–

coffee must be talkin’.

what’s deep in me, unleash, be free!

my wares I must be hawkin’.

fire inside is burnin’ low

time and again, I’m stokin’.

diggin’ ashes—raisin’sparks

stirrin’ embers, smolderin’–

with my red-hot poker.

Words wedged deep

keep me from sleep

towards the break of day.

find the missin’ piece

that pulls me apart–

reveal it at my core

let me sing for you

so you may see

what my words

are meant to mean

when I’m off the damn caffeine.

Muscles all are taut,

givin’ all I’ve got,

not enough, but still

comin’ down,

or soon I will

when my blood is clear

once more–

Inspiration’s just a whore!

comes once in a while

bringin’ service with a smile

‘til she goes

and slams

the door.

Kathleen Mortensen© 2008