Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Our Children & Grandchildren Start Arriving Today!

My wife, Linda, has been in overdrive Christmas mode since the first of December (a couple of days after Thanksgivings actually, but I won't agree to setting up & decorating the Christmas tree until at least after December 1st :-) ). We got the tree up and all decorated, the outdoor lights strung in the bushes, the Christmas cards mailed early; all her shopping was finished early -- except, of course, for that late idea for another present for someone that she now needs to find. LOL (Is a woman's shopping ever really done or does she just have to quit because Christmas Day arrives?) All this was accomplished by the 7th. Then Linda cooked for and hosted four dinner parties for friends & neighbors over the next ten days. Last Saturday we went to White Lightning Road to Uncle Travis's country home for the Christmas gathering of her side of the family (the Barhams, Hoods, Dosses, Houcks). Huge buffet lunch and presents all around. This month Linda also has made a ton of various candies, cookies, muffins, and cakes -- in her spare time!

Today our kids and grandkids start arriving. Our daughter, Ginny, and our oldest son, Geoff, with his wife, Rebecca, and three of our grandchildren -- Emma & Elle (twins) plus Jacob are driving over from Dallas, where Geoff & family flew in from Rock Hill, SC. They stayed a couple of nights at Ginny's Allen home. Then on Friday, our middle son, Greg, & his wife, Susan, arrive from Belle Chasse with our other two grandchildren, Wyatt & Sydney (a girl). We will have our youngest son, Jason, & his wife, Hannah, dropping in frequently since they live about 10 minutes away from us. Christmas we will have fourteen people here. This is the first Christmas ever for all the kids & grandkids to be together for Christmas Day. It will be great! I am now ready for Christmas to arrive. :-)

I hope everyone has a tremendous Christmas!

Holiday Cheer!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's December!

Today is the first of December, and Linda is decorating the house for all she is worth! We got our tree out of its storage box in the garage, got it assembled, put the extra colored lights on it since Linda doesn't like just the white lights that came with it. Jason & Hannah are coming over tonight for supper (Sweet & sour chicken, Kung Pao pork, egg rolls) and then decorating the tree. We have many, many special decorations from trips, special occasions, etc so that decorating is always a trip down memory lane. We got four or five new decorations for the tree last month on our NYC trip. Besides the tree, Linda also puts out dozens of Christmas decorations of all sorts in the den, front hallway, living room, and front bathroom. She loves Christmas decorations! We have been collecting them for twenty-five years.

Linda has about finished all her shopping for presents, and we have wrapped almost all the gifts. (I guess I'll have to think about doing my shopping for her presents in another week or two.) By late tonight the tree will be all decorated with gifts piled high around it. Bring on Christmas! This year's Christmas holidays will be especially good since all the children (four plus three wives) and the grandchildren (five all together) will be here this year (which is a rarity!). Plus we have four dinner parties for friends scheduled. The holidays will be busy but quite fun.

I hope all of you have a great Christmas holiday season as well!

Holiday Cheer!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our November = NYC and a Bad Cold Afterwards

To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, my wife, Linda, and I went to see NYC for the week of 8 - 12 November. I had been once before, but Linda had never been there. We had a fabulous time! We had good weather, mostly in the 50s with wind but no rain. We saw all the main tourist sights: Empire State Building at night, Macy's, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Times Square, The Hershey's and the M&M stores (Linda loves her chocolate!), Wall Street, Chinatown, Little Italy, Metropolitan Art Museum, Natural History Museum, Rockefeller Center with tour, Top of the Roc, the horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park, two Broadway shows (Phantom of the Opera, which was truly spectacular, and Chicago). We rode a lot of taxi rides. We were surprised how many New Yorkers said they had never seen the major tourist sights. Thousands and thousands of people make a special trip to NY to see these sights and these folks live there and never have bothered to go see them. Weird! Come on, folks, if you live somewhere with tourist attractions, go see them!

As soon as we returned to Shreveport, both Linda & I came down with a bad cold with major congestion. Yesterday, after eleven days of coughing and blowing, Linda went to the doctor and got a shot, some antibiotics, and prescription-strength decongestants. She feels better already. I guess I will have to go see the doctor later today. This cold has been hanging on for twelve days now and doesn't seem to be going away by itself. I hate colds!

This week is busy: today (the 23rd) is our 25th anniversary; on the 24th Linda turns the big 6-0; and then the 25th is Thanksgivings. My daughter Ginny will be here Wednesday but leaves early Thursday morning to attend the Dallas-N.O. NFL football game later that day. I think Linda went to the doctor's yesterday just because she wanted to be able to clean the house and do all the cooking for Thanksgivings. She decided she has too much to do to be sick any longer!

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgivings. Overeat and enjoy yourselves!



Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Aldric and Anneliese" should be out early 2011

My next novel, which is an action/adventure/romance set in the sixth century, tells a tale of nation building, battles, betrayal, tragedy, desperation, love, redemption, revenge, chivalry, honor, and more. The main characters are Reinhardt (a clan leader with a dream), King Edmund (son of Reinhardt and chosen to fulfill his father's dream), Aldric (Edmund's friend, champion, and protector), Nikolaus (Edmund's cousin), Queen Ursula (Edmund's queen), Dietmar (Ursula's brother), and Lady Anneliese (Aldric's true love).

"Aldric and Anneliese" is in the final stages of being edited by Barbara Ehrentreu, one of 4RV's finest editors. Hopefully, A & A will be published early in 2011. Please put it on your calendar to check it out then. The front cover has been designed already. Aidana WillowRaven (see: http://willowraven.weebly.com/1/post/2010/10/cover-art-design-for-harry-gillelands-aldric-anneliese-in-final-stages.htm ), who is VP of Operations, as well as Art Director at 4RV Publishing, designed this fabulous cover. I'm getting excited about having "Aldric and Anneliese" published in just a few more months!



Monday, October 11, 2010


My wife, Linda, and I went last Friday to see the newly released movie, "Secretariat". We both thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the equal to the Seabiscuit movie we thought. We highly recommend the movie.

Seeing the movie inspired me to write this acrostic poem:

A Horse Of Legend

Speak his name with reverence.
Everlasting fame is his.
Consider his record times with awe.
Racing may never see his equal.
Even the experts stood in wonder:
Triple Crown-winning champion
A “tremendous running machine”
Record 2:24 on dirt, mile-and-half track
Incredible 31-length victory at Belmont
A king among thoroughbred racehorses
The fastest racehorse that ever raced



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We bought pecans today.

This week we planted a red maple tree in our backyard. Maybe it should have been a pecan tree instead. My wife Linda uses a LOT of pecans each year in her baking and cooking. She puts pecans in various cookies, casseroles, desserts, pecan pies, plus serves them roasted. She uses a lot of pecans each year. This past year she ran out of pecans. Today we restocked our freezer with new pecans. We bought 40 pounds of shelled pecans. They are really tasty, plump pecans, but, my oh my, were they ever expensive. They were over $41 per 5-pound bag of the shelled ones. And we bought 40 pounds! That came to $344 for a year's supply of pecans. We should have planted a pecan tree in our back yard!



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Busy week!

This is turning out to be a busy week for my wife and me. Yesterday I bought a red maple tree from the nursery that is supposed to be planted in our back yard sometimes this week. Today we had a man out to the house to see about repairing our Corian kitchen counter top that has a small crack near the cooktop. Tomorrow we are getting our newly purchased Laz-y-boy sofa, loveseat, & recliner-swivel-rocking chair delivered. Then we hope to get our old furniture picked up by Goodwill later in the week. We are also trying to get a half cord of seasoned oak firewood delivered and stacked later this week. Plus Linda baked some gluten-free almond cookies and shipped them to my sister in Georgia who just came home from the hospital after surgery on her broken hip. Tomorrow Linda is baking a pound cake for my 92-year-old father in Macon, Ga and shipping it to him. Thursday Linda is going to Arcadia to shop & eat lunch with her Aunt Nellan. Friday morning we go to estate sales. Then Saturday is football! I hardly have time to work on the editing of the book I am editing from 4RV Publishing. Busy week!



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Signs of fall -- Hummingbirds abound

Tomorrow, 22 September 2010, is the first official day of fall. Here in Shreveport we are still having near record high temperatures in the upper 90s to 100 F. It doesn't feel much like fall! However, there are signs that fall is coming. College football is underway. On our last trip over to Ruston Linda pointed out several trees already beginning to turn yellow. And, the hummingbirds are swarming around my three sugar water- feeders tanking up for their migration south. All summer we have only two or three that visit these feeders at any one time. This morning we counted at least ten, maybe twelve. Five were sitting and drinking from one feeder alone. I love this time of the year when we have so many hummers visiting the feeders. Before too much longer they will all have left, not to be seen again until next June. I guess I had better enjoy them the next few weeks! I am ready, I said READY, for cooler weather to arrive. We had a near-record hot August, followed by another record hot September. Bring on the cold weather!



Monday, August 23, 2010

Bailouts Saved America From 1930s-like Depression

Alan Blinder, former vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics and former advisor to Republican presidential candidate John McCain, have reported that econometric models confirm that the bailouts and stimulus packages saved America from suffering through another 1930s-like Great Depression. That is, the bailouts and stimulus packages worked!

Without the bailouts of the five “too big to fail” financial institutions, followed by the stimulus packages, they predict the real gross domestic product would have fallen a stunning 12 percent instead of the actual decline of only 4 percent. Twice as many jobs (some 17 million) would have disappeared, instead of the job loss actually suffered. Unemployment would have reached 16.5 percent instead of the 9.5 percent it did.

Furthermore, while the current deficit in fiscal year 2010 will hit $1.4 trillion, this amount is considerably LESS that what it would have been without the bailouts/stimulus packages. With no bailouts/stimuli, there would have been a severe lowering of tax revenue coupled with increased social spending requirements. Without the government spending that was done, they project that the 2010 deficit would have been over $2 trillion, the 2011 deficit would have reached $2.6 trillion, and the 2012 deficit would have been $2.25 trillion. Obama’s and the Democrats’ spending actually has resulted in lowering the deficit compared to what it would have been without this spending!

I have long maintained that history will show that the Republican administration of Bush/Cheney was a financial disaster of epic proportions for the American economy. They came into office with a yearly budget surplus under Clinton and ran it into a $1.1 trillion yearly deficit when they left office, if the costs of their two wars are included as rightly they should be (instead of keeping them as “special appropriations” outside the formal budget). They more than doubled the total federal deficit from $5 trillion to more than $10 trillion. Their policies let corporate greed run wild, causing the housing crisis, followed by the Wall Street derivatives crisis. They brought the American economy to the brink of national bankruptcy (a fact few Americans seem to fully comprehend!), endangering the world economy as a result. Please recall before he left office Bush began the bailouts with a $400 billion bailout to try to save the country’s economy.

Anyone who came after Bush/Cheney would have been faced with this choice:
Do nothing and watch America slide into a Great Depression with millions bankrupted, with 17 million jobs being lost, with every American who had a mortgage or credit card balance held by one of the endangered banks having to pay off their balance in cash on the spot or declare bankruptcy as those banks fought desperately to avoid going under, see the deficit soar by trillions more than it has, watch the American dollar fall in the world market and be replaced as the world monetary standard by the Euro, driving up the cost of all imports (say oil), etc OR Try to save the economy by bailing out the five “too big to fail” financial institutions and passing stimulus bills to shore up the economy. Obama did what anyone who was president in 2008 would have had to do. Yes, even McCain and Palin! History will blame the previous Republican administration for causing this disaster and will credit the Obama Democratic administration with saving the country. Ask any economist.

How can Republicans keep getting away with fooling their tea-baggers that Obama is at fault for running up the deficit and causing the economic crisis? Are they really so ill-informed that they don’t see what happened to the economy under Bush/Cheney and how Obama has done what was necessary to save America? Is Fox Entertainment (not really News) that effective in brainwashing them? I just don’t understand Republicans. And those ‘gentlemen’ will most likely succeed in regaining power to have another go at ruining America while transferring more wealth from the middle class to the elite rich class. Will the blind never ‘see’ how the Republican Party is duping them and playing them for fools? If you don’t make at least $300,000 a year and you vote Republican, you just flunked your IQ test!

Source: Newspaper column entitled "Washington saved America's economic hide" in The Shreveport Times, editorial page on Monday, 23 August 2010, by Froma Harrop, of the Creators Syndicate, Los Angeles, CA.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Refreshing Rain

It was hot this afternoon -- 96 degrees in the shade, 105 Humidex reading. About thirty minutes ago in early evening, the wind picked up and gray clouds blew in, accompanied by lightning and rolling thunder. I was watching TV when flash-boom and the electricity went out. Then the hard rain came, sweeping across the yard in blowing sheets of water. I went out and sat on the bench on the front porch to watch the show. I enjoy watching rain. It is a wonder of Nature. The temperature fell fifteen degrees. The parched vegetation stretched upward to welcome and soak in the nurturing water falling from the sky. Millions, nay billions of individual droplets of water, insignificant alone but life-giving together, splashed down to the ground. Then, as quickly as it arrived, the shower moved on, heading down the road to refresh & renew some other place. I love the rain!



Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Aldric and Anneliese" Submitted to 4RV Publishing

Well, I decided to go the small press, traditional publisher route to get my latest romance/action-adventure short novel published. I submitted
"Aldric and Anneliese" to 4RV Publishing, a small press traditional publisher. Now it's wait and see if they accept it for publication. I am an editor for 4RV, so I hopefully know what they will publish in their adult novel section. However, as an author, one never feels too confident upon submitting work any where. :-)

Wish me luck, and watch for "Aldric and Anneliese" to be published in a few more months hopefully.



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Novel Completed: "Aldric and Anneliese"

This weekend I finished writing my latest novel. I had been "writing" it for the past two years on and off, much more off than on. LOL I had gotten so involved with reviewing on-line, editing manuscripts for 4RV Publishing, and writing poetry that the novel had been forgotten on a back burner for quite a while. Last January I cleared my desk of other activities and went back to my writing. I have written poetry as well as returning to the novel. After a few months work on the novel, I hit a roadblock and was uncertain what to do next in the story. Six weeks ago, the dam burst and the words have been pouring out. I rewrote a lot that I already had and finished the story to my satisfaction. You'd think it would be 150,000 words for the amount of time I have been "writing" on it. However, it is a "short novel" at about 42,350 words. It is a tight, fast-paced story, however.

It is entitled "Aldric and Anneliese" and is an adult, fiction (action/adventure, romance, medieval warfare and nation building), short novel. The story takes place in late 6th century in what is now Eastern Europe but is in a fictitious country in the book. One chieftain builds a united country under his rule as king out of six regions each previously led by a chieftain; he does this by war and by marriage. Then comes the intrigue. The novel features kings, knights, lovely ladies, barbarian hordes, battles, love, marriage, betrayal, revenge, etc. It should appeal to reader of action/adventure, romance, medieval warfare, etc. It contains graphic violence during battle scenes -- heads and legs lopped off, blood spurting, etc. -- and mild sexual references -- erect nipples, hard 'members' -- but nothing too graphic sexually. It has some humor, as well as some romantic emotional moments. I'm hoping readers will find it an enjoyable read once it becomes available in print.

I am not sure where I will submit it yet. I may go back to Lulu since I have five books published through them already. Or maybe I'll submit to 4RV Publishing. They have a new brick-and-mortar bookstore for their books now open in the Memphis area, by the way. It is called "4 Love of Books and Art". Check it out. It is run by Aidana WillowRaven as Shop Keeper. I'm also considering Createspace for publishing it. I'll decide this week hopefully.

So, all you readers and book buyers out there in cyberspace, mark it down and be on the lookout for "Aldric and Anneliese" when it gets published.



Sunday, July 4, 2010

H.E. Gilleland’s BOOKS

I am known primarily as a poet, yet I have published two prose books. People still act surprised when they learn I also write prose (a novella and a short novel to date). In fact, I am back to working on a new novel at present. Of course, I have had it in progress for well over a year now (with a lapse between starting it and now trying to complete it), but this time I'm more serious about it. I find it hard to work on a novel and continue to write poetry at the same time, and I love writing poetry. Anyway. I thought I would list the five books I have published -- three poetry collections and two prose works.

Books I have published include:

“Poetry For the Common Man: Storoems and Poems”, 2003, ISBN 978-1-4116-0064-5, 197 pages, 8.5″x11″, Lulu Press. A collection of over 180 of H.E. Gilleland’s storoems and poems addressing a wide variety of topics.

“Bob the Dragon Slayer”, 2005, ISBN 978-1-4116-3315-5, 106 pages, 6″x9″, Lulu Press. A fantasy novella describing the adventures of Bob as he slays dragons and leads an army in rebellion. A charming and witty tale suitable for young teens, especially "reluctant reader males", as well as for adults of all ages.

“Gilleland Poetry: Storoems and Poems”, 2005, ISBN 978-1-4116-2927-1, 205 pages, 8.5″x11″, Lulu Press. A collection of over 170 of H.E. Gilleland’s storoems and poems addressing a wide variety of topics.

“White Lightning Road”, 2006, ISBN 978-1-4116-8693-9, 192 pages, 6″x9″, Lulu Press. This is a story of romance set in rural northern Louisiana. It follows the lives of two best friends, Jennifer James and Sally Jeffers. Each was an urban teenager whose family moved to White Lightning Road, a country road running between Vienna in Lincoln Parish and Homer in Claiborne Parish, where they became friends. Upon graduation from high school, each escaped back to the big-city life they love. Now a family tragedy has brought Jennifer back to White Lightning Road. Soon she is embroiled in a mystery involving her neighbor Michael Garrott, a man widely believed to be an unpunished murderer. Thus begin the romantic adventures of both Jenny and Sally. It is a tale of mystery and romance.

“Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man”, 2008, ISBN 978-1-4357-1242-3, 172 pages, 6″x9″, Lulu Press. A collection of 81 storoems and poems by H.E. Gilleland addressing a wide variety of topics. (PMOOFM has won two awards for poetry books.)

All five of the above books are available currently on Amazon.com, other on-line booksellers, and/or Lulu Press.

More information and book covers may be seen at http://www.gillelands.com/poetry/ or at http://www.lulu.com/harry .

For some good reading, check out my books!



Thursday, June 17, 2010

Corn Day!

CORN DAY! My wife Linda talked to her sister Sheila early this morning, and Sheila told her she had been putting up corn in the freezer this week. As soon as Linda got off the phone, she decided we needed to put up corn TODAY. So, we hopped in the Jeep and headed to Lester's Produce 45 miles south of Shreveport in Coushatta. We bought 200+ ears (4 bushel baskets full) of sweet corn. From 10:30 this morning to about 3:30 this afternoon, we shucked the ears. The corn is quite good -- only about 5 worms in all the ears total and very well filled out ears. Now Linda is blanching, cutting kernels off the cobs, and bagging all that corn. It was miserable out on the back porch while shucking -- 97 F this afternoon on the porch. I am...sweaty and sticky...but we will be eating good all the next year.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where I Get Ideas for New Poems

Whenever people ask me, since I am rather prolific in the poetry I write, where do I get all my ideas for new poems, I usually answer with, "From the world all around me -- what I observe, conversations I hear, what I read/see in the newspaper, TV, magazines, Internet, or movies, and from my imagination after thinking about some issue or question. Many of my storoems/poems reflect my core values and thoughts regarding current events."

My latest poem is entitled "The Roar of the Lion". It may be read here:

Where did the idea for the poem originate? From several sources actually. I saw a movie on cable TV the other night about a lion preserve in Africa in which the owner had raised lion cubs and released them into the wild for over thirty years. Richard Harris played that character's role. The man would walk with his lions out to sit on a rock overlooking the plains below and encourage them to roar. He'd 'roar' the words "I am!", meaning "I am king of the beasts; I am a lion." The lions would then roar in response.

This reminded me of a TV documentary I had watched several years back that followed a pride of lions in Africa for a year. The male who was master of this pride successfully drove off various attempts from nomadic single males to displace him. Finally, a pair of nomadic siblings challenged him and together defeated him, breaking one of his front legs and blooding him gravely. He wander off to die, while the brothers immediately killed all of the old lion's offspring so that the pride's females would become receptive in a few months to producing their offspring. The dominant males usually rule a pride for only 1 or 2 years, sometimes up to three years, before being displaced. This gives them time to produce offspring to carry on their genes, but then introduces new genes into the pride when the new male lion(s) take over.

I then went to Internet and Googled "lions roaring" and read several articles about their roar(s) and what they are believed by scientists to mean.

Taking all these sources, I thought for several days about what I wanted my poem to accomplish and then wrote the first draft, followed by several edits. I am pretty pleased with the result. Please let me know what you think after you read my poem.



Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Gulf Oil Spill -- 2010

I wrote an opinionated prose poem about the current BP oil spill currently befouling the Gulf. If interested, you may read it here:


Feel free to offer any comments. :-)



Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

In honor of the upcoming anniversary of D-day on June 6, 1944, I wrote a storoem (see below) about the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France where the American soldiers who were killed or missing in action on the beaches at Normandy and shortly thereafter in the push inland are buried or memorialized. If you are unfamiliar with this cemetery, check out this link and be sure to look at the pictures there, especially the aerial overview:


We owe these gallant soldiers homage forever for their actions back then.

Now, my new storoem:

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

The son has brought his ninety-three-year-old
father to Colleville-Sur-Mer in France.
Overlooking Omaha Beach is told
the terrible price of freedom. Winds dance

through a field of cold, white marble crosses
marking graves of Americans who died
freeing France from her cruel Nazi bosses.
As they traverse the colonnade, his pride

causes the father to stand taller, straighter
than normal. “Here, my generation saved
the world from tyranny. There’s no greater
sacrifice for country then these men paid.”

They pass “Spirit of American Youth”,
a bronze statue near the center, before
reaching rows of white crosses, where the truth
is shown recounting death on this French shore.

More than nine thousand American graves
hold the unfulfilled dreams of the young men
who died upon Normandy Beach, its waves
red with their blood. They did their duty then!

Names inscribed on the memorial’s walls
pay silent tribute to another fifteen-
hundred missing soldiers, their country’s calls
to battle answered with a fate so mean.

Father and son join other tourists’ search
among the rows of crosses to find friends’
or family’s graves. There’s a feel of church,
since many pray, as tribute each extends.

The father is himself a veteran
of the D-day invasion, wounded twice.
He, who never spoke of war, has begun
to recall details, brutal and precise.

As they stand before graves, he says, “This man
once saved my life…I watched this soldier die.
He was just a teenager; still I can
see his face as he died, the look of ‘Why?'.”

On and on they walk pass graves, so many
holding his past fallen comrades in arms.
“I saved this friend’s life more than once; plenty
of times he cheated death. He died in my arms.”

On this day the son learns for the first time
details of what his father once endured.
He hears of war’s horror; nothing’s sublime
or glorious in combat, Dad assured.

Father and son sit for hours as the dad
tells of anguish he saw as a man dies.
As he relates what he did, he grows sad.
The son tries to comfort him as he cries.

As his body shakes with sobs, the dad says,
“Each soldier buried here in French soil has earned
the everlasting gratitude of his
country. Honor those who never returned.”

NOTE: The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
is near the site for the American St. Laurent Cemetery, which
was established on June 8, 1944, as the first American cemetery
on European soil in World War II. The current cemetery is located
on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel.
It is 170 miles west of Paris. The 172.5-acre site has the graves
of 9,387 Americans who died coming ashore on D-day on June 6,
1944, or shortly thereafter in the push inland. Another 1,557 missing
soldiers have their names inscribed on the memorial’s walls.
Millions of visitors have come to visit this cemetery.



Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Latest Storoem: Dis-Ash-ter

We have..er, had..an ash tree in our backyard. When Linda and I got married nearly 25 years ago and bought our house, the back yard had too many trees so that some were crowding out others. Chinese tallow trees had this ash crowded out so that the ash was stunted. We had the tallow trees removed, hoping the ash would thrive. At first it appeared to work. However, after a few years, the ash started having leaves wilting in the latter, hottest part of summer each year and some of the highest branches died. Thrice we had an arborist remove the uppermost dead and sickly branches. I wrote a poem about "My Sickly Ash" back then. We nursed the tree along as long as we were able, but this spring it was obviously dead. No major branches at all leafed out. Last week we had an arborist come and cut it down and grind away the stump, leaving only a pile of wood chips where the tree once stood. We had a family of red-headed woodpeckers that made a nest in the dead branches each year for the past ten years. Every summer we have enjoyed four or five woodpeckers at our bird feeders. I hope cutting the tree down won't mean we will lose our woodpeckers. Anyway, I wrote a poem about cutting down the ash. The arborist told me he thought the problem with the ash was that in its early years it failed to develop an adequate root system to support the rapid growth spurt that followed removal of all its competition for nutrients so that the uppermost branches were not supplied with enough nutrition to survive the hottest part of each summer. This made the tree sickly and more vulnerable to disease. Now the poem:

A Dis-Ash-ter

A great tragedy occurred today.
I lost a friend of twenty-five years.
Slowly ‘he’ had just withered away,
death by amputation it appears.

My friend suffered from a misspent youth.
Older peers’ actions stunted his growth,
causing him to lack good roots; in truth,
he was sick as youth and adult both.

I did what I could to promote health
and improved life over the past years,
but all vigor was taken by stealth
this winter; spring confirmed my worst fears.

I contracted a professional man
to handle my friend’s untimely demise.
This arborist in a two-hour span
dismembered him without compromise.

With ropes and chainsaws, branch after branch
came crashing down to cover the ground.
I thought I saw two woodpeckers blanch
as their nest in a dead limb wasn’t found.

Soon the ash tree’s stump was ground away.
All that remained was a pile of wood chips.
Cutting down my ash made it a sad day.
(I’m glad I couldn’t read those woodpeckers’ lips!)

If you are wondering about the title, it comes from an old joke. What happened when grandma backed into the fan? Dis-assed-her.



Saturday, March 13, 2010

We are having glorious spring-like weather.

The past few days have seen simply gorgeous weather here in Shreveport. Spring has sprung! Temperatures in the mid-70s with blue, blue skies. The grass is starting to green - which also meant yard work to get rid of all the leaves, mow down the weeds, and spread weed killer & grass feed. Fortunately for me, my wife does the yard work. (Hey, I'm terribly allergic to all kinds of weeds and grass or I would be doing it.) The yard looks much nicer after we got through. Yes, we...I spread the weed & feed.

The Bradford pear trees are all in full bloom with their springtime-only white blossoms, while the tulip trees are displaying their tulips in full force by the hundreds. The squirrels are chasing each other around wanting sex. Birds are building their nest for their soon-to-be-here eggs. Yes, spring has definitely sprung!

Being a poet, the past few days of wonderful weather naturally inspired me to pen a new poem for the occasion. Here it is:

Springtime Renewal

Winter’s cold grip is broken
finally by the sunny warmth
of spring’s earliest days.
The earth rejoices!

Brown lawns become tinted
with green – mostly weeds,
to be sure, but new grass will
come close behind.

The Bradford pear trees shed
their winter-bareness with a
sudden outburst of delicate,
white blossoms…such beauty.

The tulip trees are ablaze with
hundreds of pink blossoms,
creating a tree-borne field of
gorgeous tulips in the air.

Everywhere plants of every
description are displaying
new growth in celebration
of the end of winter’s reign.

Squirrels chase one another
in amorous foreplay, while
birds gather the makings of
a nest, soon to be egg-filled.

Oh, how primitive Man must
have been gladdened by early
spring days, for they meant he’d
survived the meanness of winter.

Spring signals the renewal of
nature’s bounty, a return of
comfort and plenty. As spring
brightens Man’s outside world,

it makes his spirit soar above
winter’s depression. Springtime
strikes a chord of hope within Man,
hope born of eons of life’s renewals.

I hope you all are experiencing springtime weather as well. If not, hang on because it won't be too much longer.



Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reconnecting with an old friend from high school

I had a good experience this week. I reconnected with one of closest friends from high school. I attended Lanier Senior High School (appropriately named after the poet Sidney Lanier) in Macon, Ga, graduating in the Class of 1962. Five of us "brains" (or "nerds" or "bookworms" or whatever they called us straight A students) were a close group, maybe originally thrown together for protection but later being good friends throughout high school. After graduation, we all scattered to the winds. I went to the U of Ga-Athens and my closest friend went to U of Va. I majored in science (microbiology); he majored in philosophy. After getting his Ph.D. in Philosophy, he went to medical school a few years later. Then he published a book about "near-death experiences" (a phrase he coined) in 1975. I knew the book did well and made him into somewhat of a celebrity -- Oprah, speaking engagements, that sort of thing. Then I guess I got busy with my life events and lost track of him for years.

A few weeks ago I saw his name mentioned in a blog I was reading, and I got to wondering how he was doing today. At age 65, who knew what he might be capable of doing, if even alive. So, I Googled him. Wow! Is he ever successful! He has now published over a dozen books after "Life After Life" (his groundbreaking 1975 book) and has sold more than 20 million books. I emailed his website email address, not sure what response to expect. Happily, I received an email shortly from his wife saying I should call him. I tried and ended up talking stiffly into an answering machine. I left my number and waited. That same afternoon Raymond called, and we chatted a long time catching up on old times. We agreed to swap books. I mailed him copies of my latest two poetry books, and he is mailing me a copy of his newest book about to be released. All around, it was a great experience. So, I guess you CAN travel back home sometimes and reconnect with a distant past.

Check out Dr. Raymond Moody on Google and examine his books on Amazon.com. His "Life After Life" still sells well every year. Raymond is healthy, walks 3 to 6 miles daily, and travels the world as invited speaker. He is a busy man. And an extremely successful author!

Raymond has done a much better job than I did keeping informed about the careers of our Lanier group. (Curt McM had a career with the government in San Francisco; Walter P works with computers in SC; and John O is a psychiatrist in SC) Each of the group has done well in life. Each left Macon to pursue his career. Go nerds of the world! I tell you, ladies, if you want a successful man as your husband, marry a nerd. :-)



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winner in 2009 Tom Howard Poetry Contest

The official, full results for the 2009 Tom Howard Poetry Contest have now been posted.

My storoem, The Nature Trail, won a $100 prize as one of seven poems in the "Most Highly Commended Award" category. Two other of my poems were "Highly Commended" (My Mother's Rodent Phobia) and "Commended" (Dog Pack Attack).

The complete listing of cash prize winners for the 2009 Winners may be seen by going to the home page of http://www.winningwriters.com and clicking on the contests at the left of the screen.

This is the second year in a row that at least one of my storoems/poems has won a cash prize in this contest. I really enjoy this contest and urge other poets to enter the 2010 Tom Howard Poetry Contest.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man won another award!

I received word today that my poetry book "Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man" won an award in the 2009 Readers Favorite Book Reviews and Award Contest. In the Poetry Category, PMOFM received an Honorable Mention Award. (This book also won an Honorable Mention Award in the Readers Views' Readers Choice Awards in 2008.) This makes two awards for my latest poetry book. Nice!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Entering Poetry Contests

Greetings, All ~

I enjoy entering poetry contests. Whether my poems place well or not, it is fun to anticipate the judging. For last year I won two cash awards (2nd place / $1,000 prize and High Distinction / $200 prize) in the 2008 Tom Howard Poetry Contest. Nice! Money plus the ego boost of being an award-winning poet. This last year (2009) I entered the War Poetry Contest with two excellent entries...but did not make the final cut. Oh well...I tried. I also entered the 2009 Tom Howard Poetry Contest. The results will be announced 15 February; one more month of waiting to hear official results.

Here is one of my entries:

The Nature Trail

When I am a lad about the age of ten,
my mother takes my older sister and me
to visit a park to which we’ve never been.
“It’ll be fun. You’ll love it. Just wait and see.”

The place is fantastic! It has a lake, a swimming pool,
even horseback riding, and, for old folks, a nature trail.
After lunch, Mom insists we do the trail. Like a fool,
I argue that I don’t want to waste my time...to no avail.

We join a tour, guided by an older girl of college
age. There is this flower, that flower, and look...a tree.
So boring! I should be swimming. Then we come to a ledge,
a place where the path narrows to five feet across maybe,

with a sheer wall of rock on the left. The ground steeply drops
down about eight feet to a shallow, rocky creek on the right.
The guide is leading, until beside some old bush she stops,
lifting a branch to show something or other. The sight

of a seven-foot-long coachwhip snake lying at her feet
causes her to scream and run. She must be a track star!
The poor, harmless snake is startled out of its sleep
and takes off “running” also, catching up before very far.

Looking down, seeing the snake along side, she accelerates.
So does the snake. Still neck and neck upon their coming
to a fork at the end of the narrow ledge, neither hesitates,
the snake going left, the guide right, with both continuing

to run until clear out of sight. Our small group still stands
in shocked surprise. Then laughter erupts. As we start to
continue along the path, another park guide, this one a man,
comes galloping over from the horseback-riding trail to do

what he can to assist. When he asks what has happened here,
my sister lifts the bush’s branch to explain. Out comes
a second coachwhip, startling the horse to see a snake so near.
He rears. The guide falls over backward, begins doing some

somersaults down the incline, before splashing face down
in the creek, letting out some curse words I had thought only
old sailors knew. It was great! Thus went the day that I found
out Mother was right about how much fun nature trails could be.

Wish me luck with my contests entries this year. I encourage other poets out there to enter contests. It's fun, and you just might win recognition for your work and even a little money.



Sunday, January 3, 2010

Meet Magdalena Ball

Today I am honored to have as my guest Magdalena Ball or Maggie to her friends. Maggie recently published a new book, Repulsion Thrust, just released last month. First, let's get to know Maggie a bit better.

Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. Her short stories, editorials, poetry, reviews and articles have appeared in a wide number of printed anthologies and journals. She is also the author of the newly released poetry book Repulsion Thrust, as well as the novel Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment: How to Review Anything, and three other poetry chapbooks: Quark Soup, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Cherished Pulse and She Wore Emerald Then.

Let's learn more about her newly released poetry book Repulsion Thrust.

Title: Repulsion Thrust
Author: Magdalena Ball
ISBN: 978-1906609306
Page count: 110
Format: paperback
Release Date: 2 December 2009
Category: Poetry
Distributors: Bertram Books, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, Ingrams

Publisher contact: Neil Marr at BeWrite Books ntmarr@bewrite.net
Author: Magdalena Ball maggieball@compulsivereader.com

Award-winning poet Magdalena Ball has released a new book of poetry that moves across a terrain not often the fodder of poetry. Following up on her chapbook Quark Soup, Ball combines her pursuit for scientific meaning with the steely-eyed observations of a poet, seeking answers to the human condition through Quantum Physics, and measuring human aging against technological singularity, or the loss of love against ecological destruction. Repulsion Thrust tackles big subjects not often the fodder of poetry: quantum physics, astronomy, time travel, ecological destruction, and technological singularity, all viewed through the lens of the human condition. It’s an extraordinary and original collection.

Now for a bit of Q & A:

Maggie, please tell us about Repulsion Thrust.

This is my latest book, released a month ago by BeWrite Books. It's a full-length poetry book which is in three sections. The first has an overall theme of "The Black Dog" (as in Churchill's - e.g. depression and pain), the second is environmentally and technologically/futuristically focused, and the third is an almost lighthearted (for me) synthesis of the first two -- a kind of answer to the clash of the first two notions. As always with my work, there's a fair amount of influence from the 'sciences', from quantum physics to psychology, geology, evolution, and astronomy. I think, in many ways, that Repulsion Thrust is much more intense and grander in design than anything I’ve written before. I’ve been able to cover a wide terrain, which forms almost a kind of philosophy for me – about the world we live in, the role of humanity, and my fears and hopes about the future. I’m particularly happy about the gorgeous cover, which is from a painting by Australian artist Scott Jackson called “Reaching for the Sun”. I feel that it really captures that simultaneous sense of bleakness and hope that the book has.

So what’s the connection between science and poetry?

I know (all too well) that there are forms of science which are rote, and systematic, but at the edges of science, and in some of the arenas we’re playing in now, there is so much that is new to us, and outside the scope of our existing knowledge, that a poetic leap has got to underpin the hypothesis. I’m thinking about nanotechnology and the pace at which it’s changing our perceptions. I’m thinking of quantum physics and how different things are the quantum level than they are in classical physics. I’m thinking of SETI and their scientific search for life (not UFO sightings!), or the first few minutes of the universe. I’m thinking of Large Haydron Colliders and particle smashing (how poetic is that? Or am I the only one who thinks the notion of smashed particles poetic?!). To get into those places that science is going, you need to make a kind of cosmic leap. The hard work and mathematics will surely follow (and might have preceded too), but without the imaginative leap and wonder, you wouldn’t even be thinking about things like the first few minutes of the universe or colliding galaxies. To me the poetic elements are very strong.

What draws you to poetry?

I’ve always loved writing poetry. Its medium I find most natural and always have –in fact there are times when my convoluted metaphors (in everyday conversations) can get a bit much for people! When I was doing a DPhil at Oxford, my supervisor was always telling me off for my overt use of the metaphor, and of course he was right – there’s a place for poetry and academic writing is probably not the place! I do love the way in which poetry can go one step further than a structured sentence – it forces you to push out the limits of language and say more – more about life, more about a moment, more about relationships, more about those things that matter. It isn’t always easy to find the right word, structure, or phrase, but when it happens, I feel like something entirely new is being created. You can do that in prose too, of course, but with poetry, it’s always what you’re aiming for. There’s never any space for simple connectors, or words that are there to just help the reader (other than footnotes). I love that immediacy.

How can we purchase your book?

Always my favourite question! You can drop by Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Repulsion-Thrust-Magdalena-Ball/dp/1906609306/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261262555&sr=1-1 For a hard copy of the book.

A very inexpensive ebook (£1.00!) can be found at:

More information can also be found at:

The book can also be purchased at Barnes & Noble, Powells, and good bookstores everywhere. Just ask for it! The ISBN is: 978-1906609306

We can't leave without a sample of Magdalena Ball's poetry:

Repulsion Thrust

take any web
worldwide or otherwise
poke holes
break boundaries
make it new
that kind of thing

no silk is strong enough
for your anger
it isn’t yours really
its mine
my mother’s, your father’s
you get the idea
genetic instructions
writ in your
knit brows

use it
thrust through the repulsion
turn it to love

what else is there?

Here are just a few excerpts from the numerous highly favorable reviews Repulsion Thrust has reviewed thus far:

"Precise and exciting. Words sizzle on the page. Images steeped in the physical world work beautifully to illuminate complex emotions and states of mind. Magdalena Ball is an important poet." Joan Schweighardt, author of Gudrun's Tapestry, Virtual Silence and other novels.

"Magdalena Ball creates a stunning impression with her first full-length collection, Repulsion Thrust. Her poems speak of experience, wisdom, and curiosity and welcome the reader to embrace a voyeuristic ride. Beautiful, haunting, and honest, Repulsion Thrust is a powerful collection with a refreshing voice and an open heart." Lori A. May, author of stains

"Using physics and philosophy, phobias and facets of astronomy and math, the poems in Magdalena Ball’s new book, Repulsion Thrust, are manuals and kones to scientifically and whimsically imagined new worlds; they are forthright and experimental, they are futures you really hope are not true. Reading her book is like reading the poetic version of 1984 by George Orwell, where humans are really not human any more. And you might even feel like you are smarter, more hip to science." Nanette Rayman Rivera, writer and editor

"Ball’s poetry is wholesome, blending the rational and the irrational, the physical and the metaphysical, together with the real and the surreal. The result is a an unusual and compelling book. Repulsion Thrust is a poetry book to be read very slowly in order to savour every word, every metaphor, and to immerse oneself in the rich and colourful imagery, to be touched by despair but also by hope and love." Beatriz Copello author under the gums' long shade

"This debut full-length poetry collection by Australian poet Magdalena Ball is full of poetic thrust, propelling the reader through thought-provoking and beautifully crafted considerations of love, illness, identity, genetics, the environment, planet – and more" Sarah James, poet, blogger

There you have it, folks. All you need to know about Maggie Ball's newly released poetry book, Repulsion Thrust. If you aren't anxious to go immediately and buy a copy of her book, then all I have to say is you must not have been paying much attention.