El Violin: Valencia ( A Love Poem to the Spanish City of Oranges

Rhythmic swells reverberate through your lungs. The black streets of Valencia.

Backstreet Europe.

Romani enclaves, gypsy-parts of town.

We’ll sit here in the Plaça de la Virgen with our stiff drinks. Sangria. Smartly bashful we’re red-faced, delirious.

For it is Spring, the blossoms sing

Nodding in the wind.

Blanco bells of nerium ring.

Fast Times at Ilium: The Glorious Lives & Deaths Homer’s Iliad

The embodied landscape of Homer’s Iliad is a world rich in complex dualities. To be at once a brutal warrior and a lover, a romantic and a sinner was no great dichotomy for the complexities of humanity are fully acknowledged. The unapologetic yet progressive acceptance of these traits brings a sense of reality to the poem which endows its players with vivid realism. Still, the peoples of the Homeric Mediterranean were governed by laws orchestrating this behavior — obligations, rites. Within the confines of these laws readers discover the most valued traits of the ancients identity: arete, time, and perhaps above all kleos, “renown” or “fame.” Together the Iliad suggests these traits culminate in what can be called “glorification.” 

“Keeping with the dualistic nature of Epic literature to be a hero requires tragedy. One must all at once bring and preserve life while taking it.” On the glorification of war in Homer’s Iliad

To distinguish a figure as glorious, rather to glorify, or achieve glory remains a noteworthy endeavor. However that which we glorify is shaded by one’s own perspective, individual history, and culture: at best. That said the qualities transcend beyond the cultural boundaries, contributing to what might be called a human endeavor – to live honorably by serving those around you, striving to accord with one’s societal demands while simultaneously and selflessly contributing to what is deemed the “greater good.” Therefore what greater path may one choose to achieve glory, intentional or no, than sacrificing the self for fellows. 

As for the glorification of war? The Iliad opens upon the ninth year of a conflict with seemingly nothing to motivate the belligerents aside from a love triangle between a callous king, a divine beauty, and a flamboyant foreigner. Yet, this is enough. Why? Because of the significance of kleos, of honor/glory in the Hellenistic ethos. The cause of the war was of less significance than the chance to do battle. The opportunity to achieve greatness (glory) in the field. Whether live or die, but to do so in accord with the status quo. For the Greeks life was an ebb and flow of peacetime and conflict. Homer illustrates this reality through moments of ekphrasis, such as the illustrated digression on Achilles shield which suggests that war brings peace (and likewise peace, war). But war presents opportunities to achieve glorification and renown. To make a name for oneself. This is especially true for the masses who could fight alongside the greats such as the towering Ajax, or the chance to prove oneself in the theatre of war with gods and goddesses and spirits as witnesses.

Keeping with the dualistic nature of Epic literature to be a hero requires great tragedy. One must all at once bring and preserve life while taking it. Within this text, war is clearly demarcated as a symbol of achieving glory. While not the only path, it remains one most open to mortals. This honorific goal requires great sacrifice, of self and others. And to sacrifice the self is the greatest act one may commit. For many of the figures depicted in this Epic there appears to be less concern about life or death than there does to become celebrated, to be glorified. This shines through the central plot of Achilles fate, choosing celebrity over life. This is true of all parties. Trojan’s. Free-agents. The pantheon, too. Glory comes first and foremost in this world. Societal demands conform to these ideals otherwise one risks a reputation of cowardice. From the lyrical tongue of Odysseus to the prayers of Hector we, Homer’s most admiring audience, are encouraged to cheer upon both sides, not in victory but for valor. It is the battle, not the prize, the chance of landing one’s likeness upon an effigy, where true glory lies. I think back to the Greek “aristeia,” for one to be at their best is to be in their element. And where better to slip into that zone than in the battlefield. For a hero to reach such status a battle is required. For one to be at their best, well it takes the glory of battle. 

In conclusion, recall the ancient world’s most memorable figures and ask yourself why are they remembered? They’re often remembered because of accomplishments in wartime. The battles. Peace achieved through conflict. The theatre of combat. Rarely are individuals celebrated without having proven themselves in the battleground involved in some life of death scenario and it’s these figures were taught, or rather told to glorify. So while paradoxical lyrics suggest the follies of war I believe Homer’s Iliad an unambiguous and musical celebration of war. A song of encouragement for an audience bent on living themselves lives full of glory.

Works Cited
The Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles
The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fagles


In brief,
I’m Nicholas. As a citizen of the world i’ve never felt that I quite “belong” to one place or another and through this lens I approach my writing. Growing up in a family of immigrants, in a country founded for immigrants, there was never one culture I subscribed to. Thus I began to wander, so to speak. This is how I approach every aspect of life. Though I identify firstly as a writer, a poet, and aspiring novelist – I’m also an academic and explorer.
Professionally I am a researcher of comparative literature. An anthropologist with a background in literary studies surveying global traditions, especially those of East Asia, folklore, and archaeology. I created this space as a watering hole for us to explore, together, this wildly gorgeous and profoundly diverse world and the various ways in which we experience life. From the lore that binds us as communities, to our own personal experiences. Everything from the recipes that have inspired empires, to the legends and tales that continue to break hearts eons later.

I currently reside in Columbia, Missouri in attendance at the University of Columbia.

Seeing as so much has changed, reached haiatus, ceased to exist this year – what a year it is… – I wanted to reintroduce myself, to rekindle old flames, and to get to know you better. So please, introduce yourselves. I’d love to know you better, and I hope in turn we can build a stronger community of writers, readers, and all around creators.


What was the last great book you read?

I’m currently invested in the throes of Heian Era Japan, wandering the lose streets of Heian-kyō with the enchanting Sei Shōnagon (清少納言, c. 966 – 1017 or 1025) in her sensual, prosaic work the Pillow Book (c. 1000). And all the while I’m sharing stolen time between with her literary rival Murasaki Shikibu (紫 式部, English: Lady Murasaki; c. 973 or 978 – c. 1014 or 1031) whose epic Tale of Genji is in fact regarded as the. wait for it…

FIRST NOVEL EVER WRITTEN (at least for literary sake)

If I appear dramatic, well it’s well deserved.

Meanwhile i’m coursing through the Homeric epics, Iliad and Odyssey, and Virgil’s Aeneid, as part of my coursework this semester.

Did I mention I’ve returned to campus? Literally. Living on campus. In a dorm. A dorm. Dorm… worst idea ever? TBD… However, I’m loving it. Completely investing myself in this time of immense privilege to polish off my degree and return to the world anew.

The University of Missouri. Columbia, Missouri. All new to me. Much to explore, many stories to tell.

That said, I’m eager to reconnect with all of you in this time of immense loneliness and isolation — even dorm-living, once full of tireless undergrads and worn out grad students, are now lifeless, quite, and chances to connect few/far between… Again, I am not complaining, just looking for various ways to say this:

I miss you. All of you. And am thrilled to see what you have in store for me…

So what is it?

What was the last great book you read?

No judgment! Don’t hold back! I’m seeking stories, humble and epic alike, in which I might lose myself, invest my mind.

Kamishibai: how the magical art of Japanese storytelling is being revived and promoting bilingualism

Kamishibai: how the magical art of Japanese storytelling is being revived and promoting bilingualism

Kamishibai Performer In Japan.
Géraldine D Enjelvin, University of York

In a world where technological advancement seems to be at the forefront of almost everything, it can sometimes feel like if it doesn’t have a screen or a keyboard, it isn’t worth engaging with.

Yet despite this backdrop of ongoing high tech developments, a centuries-old Japanese storytelling tradition is being revived for modern audiences. Meet kamishibai – from kami, meaning paper and shibai, meaning play or theatre – the ancient Japanese storytelling tool that many librarians, nursing-homes and schools use in several countries around the world.

Pronounced ka-mee-shee-bye, kamishibai is such a powerful medium that Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) adopted it in 2011 as part of its AIDS campaign: “Befriend Malik”.

And more recently a French organisation promoting multilingualism, DULALA – which stands for D’Une Langue A L’Autre, and translates as “from one language to the other” – encouraged French schools to enter its first national kamishibai competition. This year, DULALA launched its first international “Plurilingual Kamishibai competition”.

The street style of storytelling is reminiscent of two Japanese traditions: etoki, the art of picture telling which dates back to the 12th century and benshi – the silent film narrators of the 1900s. But unlike a picture book which is designed to be enjoyed by an individual, kamishibai is a group activity – a shared experience. Storytellers engage their audience, eliciting reactions and answers from their public.

A brief history of kamishibai

Kamishibai illustration (collage and painting) from budding artist Bérengère Bossard. Author provided

From the 1920s to the early 1950s, Japanese sweet sellers and storytellers travelled by bicycle from town to town, village to village, drawing large, young audiences. Kamishibai men would secure their butai – a wooden structure, half picture frame, half theatre stage – to the back of their bicycle, and would use wooden clappers (hyoshigi) to beckon their young spectators.

The children who had purchased sweets from him were allowed to sit at the front. Once everyone was settled, the kamishibai man would start telling a story – pulling each of his numbered storyboards from the side, and sliding it at the back of the stack, one after the other.

Children’s kamishibai illustration (collage and drawing) Author provided

On the front of the boards were illustrations for the audience to enjoy, whereas on the back of the previous storyboard was the corresponding passage, which the storyteller would read aloud.

To ensure repeat custom, the kamishibai man stopped at a cliffhanger point. The children, eager to know the end of his story, would come back and buy more sweets.

Paper play

Kamishibai performances and workshops are popular in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany, South America and the US.

The storyboards can introduce audiences to folktales from Japan – such as the Hats for the Jizos. Or for European audiences, they might focus on tales from closer to home, such as The legend of the fir tree from Alsace – a cultural and historical region in eastern France.

“The great snake mistake”, an interactive kamishibai performance by Tara McGowan.

They also cover a wide range of themes, from friendship, to getting old, Father Christmas, and even autism. They can be very factual – some explain the water cycle, while others focus on Leonardo da Vinci or Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors.

Modern storytellers

Kamishibai is an extremely versatile and entertaining tool, which explains why schools in many countries have adopted it in the classroom. It offers an integrated approach not only to learning or revising, but also to drama and visual art. So it’s not really surprising then that more and more kamishibai stories are available in several languages – and some offer up to three levels of reading difficulty per story.

Children’s kamishibai illustration (collage and painting) Author provided

Tara McGowan, who has published several books and articles on kamishibai, explains that this tool offers a spectrum of possibilities: “from extreme top-down control” – when a teacher reads a published kamishibai story to “a quiet audience of well-behaved children” – to practices that give students the chance to direct.

As a result, kamishibai performances can take various forms. At times, the storyteller reads a published kamishibai, but occasionally improvises and incorporates the audience’s perspectives during the telling. At other times, members of the audience may take over the reading or performance of published kamishibai stories. Ultimately, participants can create and perform a kamishibai – individually or as a group – writing an original tale and illustrating their own storyboards using drawing, painting, and collage.

My own kamishibai story box, which, with its blue shutters, should remind the audience of the south of France. Author provided

You can make your own butai in cardboard or in wood. Some butais look rather plain, while others are real works of art – the audience feels transported to another world before the story has even begun.

Géraldine D Enjelvin, Associate Lecturer in French, University of York

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Laotzi on the Art of Travel – Ch. 26, Tao te Ching

The heavy is the root of the light.
The still is the master of unrest.

Therefore the sage, traveling all day,
Does not lose sight of his baggage.
Though there are beautiful things to be seen,
He remains unattached and calm.

Why should the lord of ten thousand chariots act lightly in public?
To be light is to lose one’s root.
To be restless is to lose one’s control.

The Oh-So-Poetic Roshambeaux of Rome in the Thunder Dome: A Rise to a Fall.

The story of Rome is one of civilizations greatest epics.

One of humanity’s greatest successes.

And perhaps even greater failures.

And thus, all at once perhaps its most tragic. In just over 500-centuries what began as a humble village, just a salty sea breeze away from the Mediterranean, calcified into a peal, a nucleus upon which blossomed the world’s greatest Empire — the effects of which ripple out to this very day. But how did such an unassuming hamlet rise to remarkable heights? Better yet, how did it fall?

At its pinnacle, the Roman Republic swept across Europe and throughout the channels of Asia Minor, and North Africa. At this time we find this successful machine growing far too large and far too wide for its own good. And before it was too late Rome proper had bitten off more than it could chew. Obese, the state began unraveling, bloated with citizens dependent upon welfare, the poor and the landless, the farmers stripped of their estates. While the countryside saw increasing divisions between classes over which the elites took advantage of great swaths of land straining “the traditional values of moderation and frugality”1 As classes were further divided between rich and poor, the Republic grew ripe for revolution…

And that’s just what happened. Ever the opportunists two tribunes, the Gracchi Brothers, Tiberius, and Gaius, leaped at the opportunity to provide favorable conditions for the landless, vying for the rights of Roman people and combating the Senate’s intentions. Tiberius utilized the Plebeian Assembly “to redistribute public lands to the Landless Romans.2 Likewise, Gaius came into his role as tribune and introduced a number of reforms in addition to establishing a court system led by a jury of equites, to hold senators accountable of corruption. Ultimately the Gracchi Brothers were assassinated. But the damage was done. They sliced a polarizing rift between political ideologies resulting in the Optimates, and the Populares. The Populares positioned themselves in favor of the people, whereby the Optimates aligned themselves to the high class. In the end, with the rising pressures between the poor and the elite, and the ever-shifting power play of the Senate, the Gracchi brothers were assassinated resulting in further chaos.

Among the ranks of the Gracchi’s equestrians came a prominent figure who would forever change the balance of power between the Republic, and its armies. After a succession of productive military campaigns abroad, the military commander Gaius Marius found Rome a city in disarray. By introducing a new class, the proletarians, or “men who had no property and could not afford weapons”3 via revisions of entry requirements for the army — instigating a new kind of soldier with greater ties to their commander than to Rome. The resulting power struggle between these influential generals and the Republic resulted in a military coup by Lucius Sulla, whose support and prestige amongst his troops allowed him to not only march against Rome but take control of the Republic.

Sulla’s legacy is one of greed, hedonism, and self-righteousness. At times brutal, others generous, he seized a number of opportunities gaining popularity amongst the non-Roman Italians and other stateless citizens, whom themselves had little alliance, if any at all, to Rome. Ultimately this shifting of power resulted in a quasi-dictatorship as Sulla positioned himself in such a high position that his authority had little outside flux. Tyrannical and brutally driven, Sulla achieved a massive land grab claiming even greater reaches of Asia Minor and winning great favor amongst his soldiers. Despite his storied and dark history, his is one of the few lives which ended in something of a rambunctious pleasure dome, which is perhaps the foundation of later generations impression of the overweight, grape chugging Roman, enthroned in virgins, guzzling wine, and reclining on a velvet divan.

After Sulla’s retirement, and directly influenced by his legacy of generals vs. Senate, arose another series of military leaders whose power-play sought to take control of the fading Republic. Among the ranks of successful generals striving for control at this time were Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompey, and Marcus Crassus –largely inspired by Sulla’s overhaul of Rome– who, out of great foresight concluded their outward power struggle by forming the First Triumvirate, an attempt to provide a thread of stability. Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus divided their roles across the Republic which ultimately did little to provide these rivals with a solid foundation on which to stand.

As the final legs of Rome began toppling down, and civil war ignited once again between Pompey and Caesar, as their rivalry grew ever hotter when Sulla sought to strip Caesar of his position. Caesar, nonplussed, jumped at the opportunity, risking all to overthrow Pompey’s Rome — a tumultuous struggle which ended with Pompey’s exile to Egypt where he was “treacherously murdered.”3 With control of the Republic, Caesar wedged himself into the role of acting dictator, meanwhile circuitously positioning himself as supreme ruler, “a king in all but name.”4 This act for rulership, however purposeful, and however well the foresight, proved to be the final blow to the Roman Republic.

As Caesar’s grip strangled the Senate, so too the ill sentiments against him. And in one final, grandiose, poetic act, for power, for Senate, for Rome, Caesar was plotted against by his once allies, the optimates, and assassinated. Thus Rome came to a most tragic, and finalizing end on the 15th of March, 44 B.C.E. The void left by these “liberators” created a vacuum of power that sucked the entire Republic into disarray.

For all intents and purposes, the “world” was toppling down.

End notes:

1Lynn Hunt et al., The Making of the Wes. Value Edition (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2017.) pg 163.

2Lynn Hunt et al., The Making of the Wes. Value Edition (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2017.) pg 164.

3Lynn Hunt et al., The Making of the Wes. Value Edition (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2017.) pg 168.

4Republic of Virtue: Ancient Worlds. 2010. Accessed April 9, 2019. https://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=11121&xtid=55138.


Hunt, Lynn, et al. The Making of the West. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2017.

Roman Republic’s fall from Grace. BBC, 2010.

The Better Cheddar: Ode to Kansas City

Oh, the Better Cheddar, Where would I be without you? Words fail me: “world’s best collection of cheeses, chocolates, charcuterie, and condiments” or “a true American gem, ode to the celebration of good food, good times, good company.” From specialities of any given season, to the wines that pair beautifully. From the delicate soft cheeses of spring, to the hardy mountain cheese from the greater-Alpine regions of the world.

Where else can you go for a bottle of Burgundy, a square of the blushing red-skinned French Brebirousse d’Argental, the decedent and perfectly bitter Venchi Chocolates? The intoxicating cadence and flow of freshly wrapped Iberico? That ruby veined vixen! The Better Cheddar is a heritage piece embedded deep within Kansas City culture. The make fresh sandwiches, carry some great imported pasta noodles (huge variety of shapes and sizes) from Italy, the olive oils and vinegars are top notch, the chocolate and confections are divine, and the crew, well they’re a unique ensemble from all walks of life congregating over the buzz of food, wine, and merriment. DIG IN!


The Curry of Life

Ingredients for the Curry of Life

  • 2 tbsp cooking oil 
  • 1/2 lb of beef stew meat
  • Salt
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced 
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper 
  • 8 oz Crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Russet potato, peeled and cubed 
  • 2 1/4 cups beef stock 
  • Hot Curry Roux, 1 pack of S&B Curry 
  • Hot sauce of your choice, to taste 
  • Serve over rice

To Make the Curry of Life

1. Heat oil in a stew pot on high heat. Brown beef on all sides, and season with salt. Once browned, about 1-2 minutes per side, remove from pan and set aside. 

2. Add in sliced onion and cook about 2 minutes, or until softened. Add in cayenne pepper, and salt, and cook another minute. Add in crushed tomatoes, carrots, potato, and stir together. Add beef back in, along with beef stock. Stir together. 

3. Bring to a boil, skim any scum that rises to the top, and then cover and simmer about 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables have softened. Potatoes should fall apart easily when pierced with a fork. 

4. Turn heat down to low, and add in the curry roux. Stir until fully melted, and then add in hot sauce to taste. Stir to combine. 

5. Serve over rice, and enjoy hot!


Hello Everyone,

It’s official

As of Fall 2020 I’ll be a Missouri Tiger! I just enrolled at the University of Missouri where i’ll study Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Anthropology – focusing on comparative folklore, archaeology, and mythic origins.

I wavered for some time between the University of Iowa, for their coveted writer’s program, and the University of Kansas, for their prized research in the humanities. But ultimately Mizzou with its accelerated M.A./Ph.D programs, linguistic background, folklore department, and, maybe just a little my obsession with Columbia, Missouri… This felt “right,” whatever that means.

I hope everyone is holding up well and please be sure to stay in touch!

Until then

Join Me and the Boy that Lived: Daniel Radcliffe Reads Harry Potter

That’s right. If you haven’t heard, Pottermore will host a reading of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in it’s entirely, chapter by chapter. This delightfully soaring cast includes non-other than Daniel Radcliffe, along with a myriad cast of others you know and love (Stephen Fry, etc.)

Follow the link below to check it out, and rest assured i’ll be there every step of the way.

I hope this finds you well. That somehow in the bleakness and muck, the uncertainty of this strange moment, that you’ve found a silver lining. Something unexpected. Some kind of magic.

Join Daniel Radcliffe and co. on a journey through the Wizarding World, from that fateful day of November 1st, 1981 to… well, I certainly hope that radiant moment so many years later. Platform 9 3/4, you know the one, where the saga comes to an end… er, pause… 😉



Sunday Morning – A Poem

Sunday Morning



Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.


Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.


Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.


She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.


She says, “But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.”
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.


Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.


Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.


She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

Bathing With Amy Lowell (1874-1925): A Poem to Feed Your Week


Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling

The day is fresh-washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air.
The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bathtub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.

Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot and the planes of light in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me. The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day. I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots. The sky is blue and high. A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.


Amy Lowell, “Bath” from The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell. Copyright © 1955 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © renewed 1983 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Brinton P. Roberts, and G. D’Andelot, Esquire. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

If the Shoe Fits: Comparative Folklore and the Cinderella(s) Story

East, West, North, South. Strike out in any direction and one is sure to find themselves a tale of such an event. So-and-so meets so-and-so, fates and starstruck, forbidden love and yet it’s meant to be… From Strabo’s Greek servant who finds herself marrying the pharaoh of Egypt to Japan’s “Middle Captain Princess,” whose parallels with Perrault’s Cinderella, while limited, express still the proper functions meant to serve its audience. In other words, “The achievement of the hero is one that he is ready for and it’s really a manifestation of his character.” (Campbell, Joseph: The Power of Myth. Chapter 12) The following essay is an analysis on the functions, characteristics, and mythology of two such cases. First, that of the standard European folkloric narrative of Cinderella. And second, the legend of Ye Xian, the fantastical Chinese peasant-gone-princess from a millennium earlier, the 9th century. and equally entrenched with magic. Despite elephantine differences, cultural variants, language barriers, and psychological distances readers of these tales observe their commonalities. For herein lie the richest gifts of storytelling: to relay the most human of desires; to define urges; to express feelings in such a way that is universally recognized. For those of us in the West we approach Cinderella from an insider’s point of view, or as Victor Turner would say, from an “exegetic” perspective (Introduction to Mythology). In this case we are removed by several centuries and distinct, yet recognizable cultural difference. Whereas we approach Ye Xian as complete outsiders, or as Turner termed from an “operational” perspective. The story of Cinderella, all its variations, complexes, prejudices, heroes, and heroines, strikes a resounding chord for all those listeners of her tale. And for this very reason: the story of Cinderella remains the most human and ripe for plucking. This is a story so ingrained in the collective mind that one can’t help but find themselves absorbed in the narrative. For it is the origin tale of the underdog: the one who overcame injustice: the one who got away. Whose patience and virtues paid off either by luck or karma.

Rites of passage, anxiety, the loss of adolescence. The challenges of this family romance are many. But the heroine inevitably comes out ahead, sometimes in life, other time’s through a meandering network of reincarnations.

Daughter of the Tang Dynasty: The Legend of Ye Xian

The legend of Ye Xian comes from a collection of folktales from the Tang Dynasty (9th century) referred to as the Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang, authored by Duan Chengshi. Wherein Ye Xian’s mother dies in childbirth and is left in the care of her father’s second wife, Jun-Li, whose negligence and demands are equal to those of Cinderella’s stepmother. Likewise Ye Xian’s beauty far surpasses her stepmothers whose bitter envy manifests via demanding, menial chores, jests, and backbreaking work. Unlike the story of Cinderella, Ye Xian is severely mocked and bullied. But one day while out fetching water Ye Xian encounters a fish. This is not just any fish but the very lively and very vocal manifestation of her spirit guardian (Ye Xian’s mother’s spirit/comparable to Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother) whom is meant to guide and protect her. Yet one day, the stepmother Jun-Li catches Ye Xian communing with this mysterious fish and becomes enraged. She returns in the dead of night and creeping up the pond she stabs the fish with a dagger and eats it. Shortly after Ye Xian is left to mourn as her stepmother attends the royal ball. In her misery Ye Xian is visited by yet another spirit, an ancient guardian spirit who restores her faith revealing that her mother’s energy lives on. Performing a magical burial ritual, Ye Xian’s mother is conjured in ghost-form and tasked with granting her daughter one wish: to visit the royal gala. Thus, Ye Xian manages to escape the gloom of her cavernous quarters for just one night, magically endowed with a gown and slippers. Immediately following her admittance, she becomes the life of the gala, everyone infatuated with her. That is until seeing her stepmother whereupon Ye Xian flees and in so doing loses a slipper. This lone tiny golden slipper is discovered by the king who sets out to make the owner of such an ornate and small piece of footwear his bride.

Thus, by luck, by action of external forces, and by divine intervention, Ye Xian is liberated, married to the king, swept away and rescued from the clutches of her wicked stepmother.

The similarities are many, but more interesting are the differences peppered throughout Ye Xian’s story which undoubtedly cast intqigue upon Western audiences. Whereas Cinderella’s liberation comes via fairy god mother, Ye Xian is liberated by an an ancestral spirit. Whereas Cinderella befriends mice, Ye Xian befriends a lovely koi (her mothers reincarnated form). And while Cinderella’s

The symbology of Perrault’s Cinderella range from shapeshifting pumpkins to ungodly felines while the motifs of Duan Chengshi’s tale reflect the symbolic thinking of an Asian audience: embracing the spirit realm, polygamy, and the significance of foot-binding (intoned in the prince’s desire of the woman with “tiniest feet.”). Curiously Cinderella and Ye Xian are both passive observers of their fate, playing a rather meek existence whose process of individuation is achieved mostly through the effort of others. Whether that’s being “discovered” by the prince of either tale or being coaxed by a fairy god mother, or ancestral spirit into taking the journey in the first place. These are simply surface level assessments. To fully appreciate the significance of “Cinderella’s” cultural variations and likewise similarities it is important to focus our attention upon specific insights.

The stories of Ye Xian hail from deep antiquity yet as a major function of folklore suggests a proper analysis of this tale will reveal cultural, historical, and metaphysical insights into 9th century China. Such that modern audiences are opened a window into the Tang Dynasty.

Cinderella, the Unconscious and her Symbolism

“We should understand that dream symbols are for the most part manifestations of a psyche that is beyond the control of the conscious mind. Meaning and purposefulness are not the prerogatives of the mind; they operate in the whole of living nature. There is no difference in principle between organic and psychic growth. As a plant produces its flower, so the psyche creates its symbols. Every dream is evidence of this process.”

C.G Jung, Man and His Symbols

To view Cinderella/Ye Xian as a product of the collective unconscious we must reflect upon the more recent Cinderella Complex (Collette Dowling. 1984) as a very real phenomenon. This modern term defines the precise trait shared between all “Cinderella” stories: they feature a heroine as a passive observer – rather than active participant of her own fate. With this in mind we can take a modern approach to the Jungian analysis which requires an assessment of the narratives characters, their structural components, and functions as manifest.

The individuation of Cinderella/Ye Xian begins with the call of action by external forces. The meek young girl with a father that is either absent or dead is abused by her stepmother (shadow figure), and is motivated by supernatural forces, either fairy godmother or talking fish/Spirit Mother (shadow figures) to challenge her circumstances and free herself from oppression resulting in a noble marriage and ultimately the reversal of all her hardship. The shadow figure in both stories is manifest in the stepmother and to a lesser extent, the stepsiblings. As for the contrasexual embodiment of the animus we see the ancestral guardian in Ye Xian’s arch as the male personification of her psyche. This spirit serves to drive Ye Xian further along her rite of passage when she becomes all but stalled by the death of her mother’s reincarnation, the talking fish. Ye Xian comes to terms with her shadow as her stepmother is outwitted by her attending the ball, and thus if officially challenged for the first time, initiating the scene of the lost slipper, and ultimately resulting in her marriage to the King. The inner psychology of the times in all variations of “Cinderella” reveal the universal truths which reside within the collective unconscious since time immemorial. It is noteworthy our human urge to value those who overcome suffering by all manner of plot, so long as they achieve their individuation by successfully navigating their rites of passage and entering adulthood.

Cinderella: A Big Romantic Family

“For the whole consequence of evolution from blind impulse through conscious will to self conscious knowledge, seems still somehow to correspond to a continued result of births, rebirths and new births, which reach from the birth of the child from the mother, beyond the birth of the individual from the mass, to the birth of the creative work from the individual and finally to the birth of knowledge from the work.”

Otto Rank, 1976

The history of man has run a rather linear course from tree-dwelling ape to gather-hunter rising ultimately to urbanite. Myths come to us from times immemorial, passed orally through the ages, altered to fit the times. I can’t help but wonder about the “Cinderella” that must have existed before recorded history. That said the “family romance” is certainly one which must stem from our primitive ancestors most fundamental instincts.

In 1909 Otto Rank (1884-1939) defined the “mythotype,” or “hero archetype” as a term used to collectivize patterns found throughout folktales regarding their heroes/heroines (Introduction to Mythology). Kinship and tribal roles have always played an important role in our lives, and familial relationships are as important as ever. Thus I find it noteworthy to consider Rank’s views on projection, which reconfigure the Oedipus complex in a sort of role-reversal so that it is the parent, not the child, acting in rebellion: a representation of the hostility and “powerlessness” felt by the child coming of age (Introduction to Mythology). Cinderella’s father and mother come into question in a Rankian analysis. The formers negligence, as an absentee parent and the latter, having passed away to be replaced by an “evil stepmother.” Themes of birth and regeneration are also in the story of Ye Xian, featuring various scenes of reincarnation, spirit manipulation, and divination. Both

Analyzing Myths and Folktales as Historical Manifestos

As much as we may syphon off the ephemeral minds of ancient writers, myths also offer a healthy serving of stimulating historical insights. For instance, in the stories of Ye Xian one may find details specific to the the Tang Dynasty. Of significant beliefs, household norms, and discernably 9th century traditions. This is true too of Cinderella’s 17th century Europe. In the former we’re dropped into the Golden Age of China. A world of sophisticated clocks and gunpowder. A time of great scientific breakthroughs and artistry. An empire heavily influenced by Confucianism and Taoism. The Tang Legal Code with its 500 codices and the laws of the Kojiki. Ancestor worship and the Incorporation of Buddhism (Chan(zen)) too. The Tang Dynasty witnessed a wealth of foreign cultures, economic diversity, and dominance over great swaths of geography as the kingdom grew larger in size, beginning to resemble China as modern audiences would recognize it. But what might we specifically draw from this folkloric China? Perhaps most striking is the significance of Ye Xian’s slipper. Not for its design, nor for the girl to whom it belongs, but rather for its size – the size of her feet are the sole concern of the kings appeal. The “Chinese Cinderella” is not measured by her beauty nor grace but the size of her most delicate stray slipper which symbolizes rather prominently the importance of foot-binding in the Tang Dynasty China. Thus, the story reflects significant marks of nobility and refinement which are traits not found within the European variations of Cinderella. From the European tradition, Cinderella is subservient, beautiful, and measured first by these traits, not her lineage nor commitment to cultural tradition. She is later pursued by the prince who seeks her based upon their prior meeting, not because of her shoe alone, but because the slipper belonged to her

Thinking Animal + Feeling Animal = Folktales

Folklore manifests in endless variation. That said, the tales, legends, and myths comprising such lore follow rather precise patterns inherited by the collective. When considering the importance of this tradition we shall consider William Bascom’s Four Functions of Folklore:

“Folklore lets people escape from repressions imposed upon them by society.

Folklore validates culture, justifying its rituals and institutions to those who perform and observe them. Folklore is a pedagogic device which reinforces morals and values and builds wit. Folklore is a means of applying social pressure and exercising social control.”

-William Bascom, Journal of American Folklore

Thus, it goes without saying, folklore is that device which grants individuals a place in this world. And doing so presents myriad paths of which they may choose to follow as fits one’s needs, desires, tendencies, and instincts. Folktales ultimately arise for a number of reasons beyond this inherent need direction. Distinct cultural variations occur for aetiological reasons, making orderly an otherwise mysterious and chaotic world. Even in this time of advanced quantum physics. For every answer we’re presented with more and deeper mysteries. The only lack we face in modernized society is that commitment to folklore. This is evident in the apathy and widespread listlessness sweeping America.

Cinderella’s Once and Future Selves

As readers of “Cinderella” we find “unconscious expression of ourselves” (C.G. Jung). It is no wonder these legends continue to be told. Their insights shed light upon the universal truths of what it means to be human. Our anxieties and desires alike. Stories arising from the collective unconscious meant to illustrate our inherited right to self-individuation. While at the same time offering guidance as to how one might go about such a dramatic transformation. In all her various forms from Cinderella to Ye Xian, Chujo-Hime (Japan) to Strabo’s Rhodopis (Greece/Egypt) we find these insights right true to their time, their place, and their humanity. Perhaps most enchanting and valuable of all is the fact that in a globalized world we may digest even greater insights from these legends than ever imagined. As our world grows smaller, as cultures blossom, the folktales they share shall become ever more present and more understood. To say any particular version of “Cinderella” is more relevant to me, or more fitting for my (hypothetical) child is to prejudice one for another and I simply cannot do such a thing for the various experiences, trials, and tribulations of all her adventures, in Europe, through Asia, the Classical World and the New World, hers is a remarkable and noteworthy tale. Through all her faults (passivity), and her strengths (daring to dream), “Cinderella” strikes a chord for all those coming-of-age, young or old. What matters is how the story is inherited. The various insights, motifs, and symbols learned in this semester will guide the way I share stories. Will shape the way I talk about the world, near and far. I am deeply grateful for the clusters, units, hours, and weeks we invested in the art and science of mythology.

Works Cited

  1. Joseph Campbell et al. “The Power of Myth” Turtleback Books, 2012.
  2. Bascom, William. “‘Four Functions of Folklore.’” Journal of American Folklore , 1954.
  3. Dowling, Colette. = The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Hidden Fear of Independence. Mikasa Shyobō, 1984.
  4. Jung, C. G., et al. Man and His Symbols. Stellar Classics, 2013.
  5. Rank, Otto. The Myth of the Birth of the Hero: a Psychological Interpretation of Mythology. Read Books Ltd., 2013.
  6. Thury, Eva M., and Margaret Klopfle Devinney. Introduction to Mythology: Contemporary Approaches to Classical and World Myths. Oxford University Press, 2017.
  7. Turner, Victor. Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. ROUTLEDGE, 2017.

From Ulysses to Knausgaard: Time to Read That 500+ Page Novel/Series

It’s an investment for sure. But one of the greatest you’ll ever make. From a year-long commitment to Knausgaard’s monumental sextet “My Struggle” to the 2013 saga Americanah by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In this time of “social distancing” and respite, we turn the situation upside down, or is it right-side up? or right-side down? and embrace the solitude, grab that bull, those enameled prosaic horns and strike a path into the deep forests of epic literature.

20 Knock-Your-Socks-Off Novels Over 500 Pages

From the brilliance that is the New York Public Library:

  • The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
    A pianist accrues clues to his past in this enigmatic literary thriller.
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
    “Frankly, my dear,” you should give a damn about this sprawling Civil War classic.
  • Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
    The author of Jesus’ Son takes on Vietnam-era CIA.
  • Them by Joyce Carol Oates
    The National Book Award-winning third novel of Oates’ Wonderland Quartet covers three decades of slumming in Detroit.
  • The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
    A couple conspires to seduce a sick American girl for her riches.
  • Ada, Or, Ardor, A Family Chronicle by Vladimir Nabokov
    The title says it all: word play and linguistic filigree of the highest order.
  • Mortals by Norman Rush
    No one does Botswana — or a sentence — like Norman Rush.
  • Native Son by Richard Wright
    Bigger (Thomas) is better in Wright’s seminal novel Native Son.
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
    Want to know what a Schwarzgerät is? Then read the book.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
    A beautiful woman, a train, a trainwreck. You know how this one ends.
  • The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein
    In Stein’s hands, the glue that holds together a family drama is writing about writing.
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    There are a lot of fruitless endeavors in the war that is Okies v. Dust Bowl.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    An erudite group of budding intellectuals has something to hide, and it may just be a dead body.
  • The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells
    Wells imagines life from 1933 to 2106. 
  • Letting Go by Philip Roth
    Any bibliophile will appreciate a book in which a major plot point involves a letter being left in a copy of The Portrait of a Lady.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
    An extraordinary book about marrying a dud.
  • Underworld by Don DeLillo
    A DeLillo sentence is taut, energetic, and intelligent, so think about what happens when DeLillo’s sentences reach the length of a novel.
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
    This epic of whale proportions is perhaps the best American novel about the madness of dreams.
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
    Bro out intellectually with this novel of ideas.
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
    Entertainment looms a frightening shadow even over footnotes in DFW’s neo-classic tome.
  • https://www.nypl.org/blog/2014/05/12/20-knock-your-socks-novels-over-500-pages

3 Unique Research Methods for Identifying Small Publishers – by Rosalie Morales Kearns…

on Jane Friedman site: Back when I was seeking a publisher for my novel, finding small presses was a haphazard process. I would compile lists from …

3 Unique Research Methods for Identifying Small Publishers – by Rosalie Morales Kearns…

What the Hell is Water? David Foster Wallace and the Need to Believe

On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.” #DavidFosterWallace

“Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.”

David Foster Wallace

Writing Through a Pandemic: Writer’s Edit is Hiring Freelancers

If you’re among the writers of the world I’m sure you’re familiar with the monolithic resource that is the Writer’s Edit. If not (…who are you?), well they’re a one-stop shop for writers of all flavors, compiling advice and classes to nurture the seasoned novelist and the budding author alike with a global reach coming in at all angles from experienced contributors like you and myself.

What’s more: they’re hiring. Fire up them digits, strap on your lingua-cap, and put yourself to the good work, to helping writers just like us get through this murky, ambiguous time.

Writing Through a Pandemic: @WritersEdit is Hiring #Freelancers

The Grandeur of Ordinary Life: James Joyce on Literature About You, Me, And Everyone In Between

“In the particular is contained the universal.” – James Joyce

What. A. Quote!

Now, here we have the a monolith in name, diction, style, form, class, you name it who’s greatest achievement is rekindling the fire of what makes a novel a novel, or bending, no, rewriting the rules of literature and yet despite all that here he is claiming that all he’s written is the “universal” by tapping into the “particular.”

This must be one of the most complex statements ever declared on paper. For here we have a revolutionare extraordinare placing onus of his legacy upon readers, everyday humans. Which is to say that it’s the mundane, everyday existance that makes life, not only worth writing about, but living!

I hope you enjoyed this random thought of the week. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. A fan or Joyce? Yea, Nay, or …Yay?

Until next time…

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