“Long Ago and Far Away in a Kingdom by the Sea” – Poe, perhaps America’s most Musical and Cadenced Poet

Annabel Lee

By Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
   Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.
Share this text …?
 (Haha, this is nothing!  Read his “Tintabulation of Bells!”)
Time was when word music and melody suited to the subject of the poem was a dire requirement, and proficiency in this area was proof positive of serious poetic talent.   When novitiates stopped studying prosody, theme and meter, the capacity was lost.
Today most lazy, ill-equipped “poets” think they can squeak by without it and imply such proficiency is passe’, even hokey. Sour grapes; they can’t perform! When a major prosody genius, a luminary like Seamus Heany, for instance, (or Theodore Roethke), stumbles though the highways and byways of our literary magazines, he reignites a new appreciation for the power of musical language to strengthen our verse, to make it impossible to forget, indeed, to render it instantly memorable.  Theodore_Roethke
Posted in American Literature, Literary Classics, Literary Lions | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

“A Poem Should Not Mean But Be” – William Carlos Williams

Few novice poets today are familiar with this major talent, the wholly original and inimitable physician William Carlos Williams. A medical doctor all of his days and exquisitely attuned to both the strengths and limitations of poetry in capturing and explaining our lives and souls discursively.

Poets fall out of favor routinely, though, then are resurrected and canonized (as in the august literary canon–we should all be so fortunate).

But consider this, in his hey day Williams’ straightforward, unvarnished poetics, caused a stir. Quite a stir. And I’m betting the fickle fashion  of poesy will once again laud his singular unpretentious genius with a newly revived appreciation and gratitude.

Said Williams years ago–

A poem is a small (or large) machine made of words. When I say there is nothing sentimental about a poem I mean there can be no part, as in any other machine, that is redundant …. Its movement is intrinsic, undulant, a physical more than a literary character.  Therefore, each speech having its own character, the poetry it engenders will be peculiar to to that speech also in its own intrinsic form. The effect is beauty, what in a single object significance–into an intense expression of his perception and ardors that they may constitute a revelation in the speech he uses. [ital/bold mine] It resolves our complex feelings of propriety ….When a man makes a poem, makes it mind you, he takes words as he finds them– interrelated about him, and composes them without distortion  which would mar their exact significances–into  and ardors an intense expression of his perceptions isn’t what he says that counts as a work of art, it’s what he makes, with such intensity of perception that it lives with an intrinsic movement of its own to verify its authenticity.”

We’ve always liked to assume we were immensely talented Big Shots deserving of eternal acclaim for unforgettably getting down on paper once and for all what it means to be human (with a capital H) and thankful we weren’t instead thrust down the evolutionary ladder until our diction, metaphorical skills and one note repertoire improved.  God forefend! To be traumatically transmorgafied by the diety into “pointless” albino frogs (see previous point here) who can’t carry a tune, nevermind the burden of significance.

The critic and poet himself, Randall Jarrell (1949), wrote an astute appreciation of Williams’ poetry for James Laughlin’s highly regarded New Directions Publishing Co.  I have relied heavily on his observations in WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS: SELECTED POEMS.


Posted in American Literature, poetry, randall jarell, William Carlos Wlliams | Tagged | Leave a comment

“The Frog in my Boot by the Door” a prose poem

Note: I have been so busy editing books for other writers that I have had almost no time to do my regular blogging.  I hope you’ll forgive me dear friends, but I have come up with sort of a makeshift solution.  I have always written poetry and about poetry, and am in the process of assembling a new collection of my verse for publication. Some of them have been pubbed in periodicals, though most have not.

What follows is one, a prose poem, that has received no exposure so far.  It’s kind of quirky and about how poems often get written (not a straightforward process usually), and ultimately about poetry itself.

For the time being, I’m going to share with you some unpublished verse from time to time in lieu of my more serious writing advice and criticism until I get caught up with my editorial assignments.  If you have some poems of your own that you’d like to share here, please let me know.  I’d love to showcase them for you!

“The Frog in My Boot by the Door” A Prose Poem albino frog

© Copyright 2015, Margaret Langstaff, All Rights Reserved (first publication of this polymorphous perversity)

There are so many squirming things to be, amphibiously (or otherwise): polymorphs, artiodactyla, stones and pebbles between the toes in your shoe, stars, star dust, spring chickens, fried chickens, deep summer watermelons—lush, sweet, seeded with hope and enough juice to survive the dog days, Autumn mums, Wintry dads, a leaf born along by a wind for good or ill, statesmen, saints, cogitators general, imperial wizards, dictators, terrorists, dirt beneath a shoe that once housed a soul (tempus fugit, and so do we), endless permutations, shape shifting phenomena, bodily and psychically, truly in view of the indisputable foregoing, why be a poet? Why attempt poetry?
Henry Ford, and he ought to have known, said with leaden finality: “Explanations are dangerous.” Like last year’s models, they are soon obsolete and create such pointless contention and ill will.
This frog himself knows a thing or two—too. And though noisy, abrasive and polemical as only a loud mouthed, smugly secure frog can be, his vigorous grandstanding is not for fame, fortune or sparkling insights sure to dazzle, inform and make all things new, for even nitwit frogs know everything old is new again ad infinitum. No, like all rhymers and metrical schemers, he is simply intent on being noticed, acknowledged, and bent on making a name for himself, he aspires to become a name on a plaque, create an award, run a famous impossible to get in workshop, maybe become an inspiration, or—if snubbed—an evil lying genius determined to destroy another’s good name and rep in high bombast of sulfuric ill will. Though why he or anyone would go to all that bother, prevaricating like The Father of Lies himself, I don’t know.
What good does it do, how does it profit a poet, to be a big toe on account of his big duplicitous mouth? This is not exactly news. “Poets are liars,” Plato said, thousands of years ago. His words remain unchallenged.
So then why all the lyrical fuss and heartache? Poets and poetry sprout because, when all is said and done, the truth remains cagey and elusive, and given this quagmire, there is nothing left to do but crack the nuts of the words themselves, pretend they render Band-Aids and lullabies in lieu of eternal truths; yes, crack those memes melodiously and make believe pleasurably, crack them open in one’s rough’s hands in the search for something more, maybe kernels of truth or pleasant lies or ambiguous disambiguation, a singular musical progress to who knows where, metrical, alive with slippery nuance, elusive, and pretty damn pointless if you’re looking for a point.
Which is often love or the lack thereof.
But I have been waylaid by the tangents poets always succumb to, a fascination with the sound of my own voice and temptation to think I’m onto something (Walker Percy warned scribblers about this in Lost in the Cosmos) because the words are beautiful and portentous seeming—and there’s always a chance something will survive and prove the useful anodyne all crave once we acknowledge the grave as prima fascia evidence that we are doodle bugs in the sand and can’t for the life of us achieve the blissful certainty that we are headed in any consistent direction at all for any particular reason.
Back to square one. As I was saying 800 words ago, case in point: a frog the size of a man’s fist has taken refuge in my boot outside the front door. He is gustatory, insistent, and as obnoxious as a large white quacking duck. Like all poets, he is in love with the sound of his own voice and the illusory metronome between his ears or buried in his bowels, a deep rasping sonority and irksome persistence that will carry his day to a satisfactory croaking decibel-busting, mind-bending conclusion, his ear-shattering, clattering sum of all things, rattling us into a teeth-grinding agreement with his folderol froggerall.
He thinks he is singing scripturally, prophetically, telling a timeless tale rigid with the truth that will echo down through the ages. Relentless, restless, Ack Ack, he complains as he crawls and flops out of the turned over boot, full throated Ack utterer, and imposing Buddha fat and self-satisfied. He quaffs the moment deeply with a long unblinking bulbous stare at the red horizon, and bellies up to a tasty, convenient buffet of insects swarming under the entrance light (fools!) which he swallows whole and struggling. They squirm, their tiny brown legs kick in panic. The frog swallows hard. He wears a permanent grin. No bug, once on his long fat sticky pink tongue can escape.
Emerging from the dark shadows like a drunken poesy potentate in the last rays of the red-cheeked sun, the lumpy wad of widely waddling frog, long tongue lashing the air with his clattering, clacking arias, I see for the first time he’s an pink eyed albino, as white as chalk, and real as E=MC2.
By God, this is a sign, a signal from another dimension. There are more like him. I will never wear those boots again. Eye has not seen, ear has not heard of such as this.
Chilled, I slam the door and switch off the porch light. Time for some bracing poems by St. John of the Cross or a bit of Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday,” for I will never know froglisch or Indo Amphibian.
If he is on my porch in the morning, I will either shoot him or catch him in my boot and take him to my six-year-old nephew. He wants to be an astronaut and finds frogs companionable and hale fellows well met.

© 2015 Margaret Langstaff, All Rights Reserved. Margaret@margaretlangstaffeditorial.com

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to Update Your Book Marketing Methods!

Books have wings

Books have wings

I ran across the following article online the other day and thought it was quite timely and helpful for most authors.  Here is a brief excerpt, and you can (and should!) read the rest by clicking on the link at the end of the piece here :)


The book publishing industry has experienced dramatic changes in the past couple decades. Previously, a few gatekeepers at major publishing houses determined what was worthy of publication. But the digital revolution democratized publishing, spawning the explosion of self-publishing and enabling hundreds of thousands of books to reach the market every year. Much like in the music industry, indie publishing created a wild west where virtually anyone could publish a book quickly and inexpensively.

The media has also changed. The Internet, social media, and instant communication processes have radically streamlined the relaying of newsworthy information, forging a leaner media corps in which fewer producers and editors create more and more content.

Unsurprisingly, these changes also prompted a shift in how books are promoted and marketed. Now the competition for media attention isn’t just fierce — it can be overwhelming. Relatively simple book publicity tactics of the past no longer suffice. While some core elements remain the same, for the most part the process of pitching and disseminating information about a book and the way information is presented to media is quite different.

Here are four examples of longstanding book promotion strategies that no longer work :

Outmoded Book Promo Strategies

And keep us in mind!   For All Your Editing and Writing Needs . . .  20 Years Professional Editing and Ghostwriting Experience with Major Publishers and Brand Name Authors. Visit our website for complete information regarding all of our services, credentials and endorsements.



Posted in publishing, writing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

“It all comes out of that first line.”– E.L. Doctorow, 1931-2015


Writing advice and memories from prolific, revered literary American Novelist, E.L. Doctorow (Ragtime, The March, Billy Bathgate and more!)

From The New York Times (with video interview!)

By Emily B. Hager | Jul. 22, 2015 | 1:59

The acclaimed American novelist and playwright E. L. Doctorow gives some key writing tips. He died Tuesday in Manhattan at the age of 84 due to complications from lung cancer. Great video!

Posted in American Literature, American novels, Book Reviews, fiction, Literary Lions, Literature, New Yorl Times Book Review, NYTBR, publishing | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Joyce Carol Oates on Writing – Advice from a Master

[Terrific interview on BuzzFeed with literary icon Joyce Carol Oates about “writing.”] joyce carol oats “It’s been 52 years since Joyce Carol Oates published her first book, a short story collection titled By the North Gate. Since then, Oates, now 77, has written over 40 novels and countless poems and short stories, and she has been honored with the National Book Award and even Pulitzer Prize nominations. BuzzFeed recently had the chance to speak with Oates about the art of writing. Since the author has seen great literary success that most writers aspire to achieve, we asked her for advice. Here’s what she had to say: WRITING ADVICE FROM JOYCE CAROL OATES

Posted in American Literature, Literature, New and Recent Books, novel | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grim Realities Face Women in India Today: New Book Sensation

Margaret Jean Langstaff:

This re-blog is actually about a fine novel I just finished editing a little over a week ago!

Originally posted on cozybookbasics:

  • 51NicbHFmWL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_If you are not yet a fan of the young, award-winning writer, Fiza Pathan, her new novella Amina is a good place to start. I found it a compelling read.

Here is the description from the Amazon page of the Kindle edition, priced at only $2.99:

  • Amina: The Silent One brings vividly to life the grim realities facing women in India today, the grinding, filthy poverty, and debasement with which most Indian women must contend in their daily lives. This book will shock you and rip your eyes open. Through the magic of fiction, it tells an awful truth in human terms that cannot be told in any other way.
  • “The degradation of women in India is nearly universal, and ranges from their second-class status in society, often excluding them from educational and professional opportunities, to their frequent physical and psychological brutalization, often involving assault, rape, and sexual slavery.

View original 432 more words

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment