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Showing posts from April, 2018

On Reading Romance

I have been resting this afternoon, although I'm never very good at accepting the importance of doing so. I've been reading a charming book by Mary Balogh, and I refuse to call it lightweight even though it's a romance. In my youth I disdained the very idea of reading romance novels, because I was an intelligent liberated woman, but now that I've settled more deeply into real feminism, I enjoy them a great deal, for I've come to understand that "women's literature" is just as valuable as any other. The histories of so many romance novel characters are quite tragic, and their struggles to find inner peace and happy relationships make worthy plots which no doubt would be more admired if they were written in artful prose by male authors.




It's also true to say that, when I was younger, I was an independent creature - I had relationships with others, but I was mostly focussed on myself. As I aged, that changed, and I discovered how centering my interes…

The Woman in the Dark Valley

Once there was a woman who lost her light while walking, and entered into a dark, cold valley. She could not find a way out, and after a long time came to believe there might indeed be a way out, but not for her. And so she wandered aimlessly, thinking of all the beloved things she had left behind, all the wishful things she would never achieve. And she wept until her tears grew so cold they turned to silence.

One day, almost by accident, she came across a flower. In the damp bitter shadows, a tiny, lovely flower. The woman knelt down in fragile wonder. It was only pale, but it was beautiful.




The woman left that flower, for knowing something beautiful existed in the gloom was enough for her. But overnight the stars did not shine, and her heart seemed to shrink into a knot, and the icy shards of her grief blocked her throat so she could barely breath. It was as if seeing that beauty had made her see even more clearly the misery she was trapped in.

The next day, she could not help herse…

I Wish the World Was Run By Young Women

I wish the world was run by young women. The ones who carry poems around in their pockets, and draw dresses and flowers in their school books, and dream of kisses in the long slow shimmer of afternoon light as if this would be the best life could give them.


elif sanem karakoc

I wish the world was run by young women with fierce minds and fragile memories, who practice how to laugh so it seems everything is all right. The breakable women, the women for whom life can sometimes feel too much. I wish the world was run by the frangible, the tender-souled, the ones who bury tiny fallen birds, and stop for every dog along the street, and hug books to their hearts.

I wish I could give the world over to the girls who love dark angels, Byronic heroes, boys with haunted eyes who buy them roses, but only in books; girls who love everyone else in real life, because they know how good being loved feels. Girls who are at the top of their class or most popular in the office but make friends with the bu…

Metaphors for Living

I used to write poems, but now I live them. Not
a gentle lyric of the garden, but a wrack of words against silence,
a striving for punctuation. For that last full-stop on which all
the sentiments rely for their gravitation and their hope -
that resolution, that peace. The poem ends and ordinary begins:
weeding the garden, walking in search
of flowers. Until the next poem falls like rain,
or outright thunder. Or unexpected gossamer sheets of sunlight
for many stanzas of idyll, and then, then, I want to leave the last line open,
or with a dash, so that ordinary becomes beautiful.

I used to write poems about doing the dishes, but now
my hands just get wet.

This is why, you see, I'm bashing away at a novel, even though
it's slower than my heartbeat and harder to find - pressing against
veins, wishes, requirements, for words and structure. I need to remember
there can be a narrative that falls and soars, breaks
with chapters then regroups, wallows
in all kinds of weather and water…

20 gentle books and films

I have been asked to list my favourite gentle-hearted stories. It is a little difficult because I am very narrow in what I read. I don't like modern literary fiction, for example. Also, as I began composing the list, I realised that I kept wanting to list different books by the same author.

I decided to list instead authors whose books could be relied upon to enchant a reader - ie, be engaging, lovely, and probably also provoking but without the use of brutality against the audience. In addition, they might have shadows, but not the cruel sort which will blemish your mind. I don't equate gentle with insipid.





Twenty Gentle Hearted Authors


Louisa May Alcott LM Montgomery Anne Bronte Connie Willis Jane Austen Patricia McKillip Sharon Shinn Robin McKinley Megan Whalen Turner Julia Quinn Beverly Lewis Elizabeth Gaskell Rebecca Shaw Terri Windling Sarah Addison Allen Erin Morgenstern Richard Bach Terry Pratchett Charlotte Bronte Charles Dickens






Twenty Gentle Hearted Films

Emma, the BB…

even more than the moon and the stars

And then maybe there comes a time when you decide you're worth it. This doesn't have to mean being brave enough to actually stand in front of someone and say so. Accepting your own worth has nothing to do with strength, and everything to do with compassion and tenderness. But maybe you will be able to quietly care for yourself in gentle ways, because you deserve it. And maybe you will stop making excuses for other people, because whatever they did (or didn't do) actually hurt you, whether they meant to or not, and it's alright to feel that hurt. Your emotions are valid and you are worth it.




Your hurt matters - perhaps not to anyone else, but to you, and that is enough. The thing is though, if it matters to you, it matters to the universe. You are one of the threads in the great weave of Life. You may think your thread is small, pale, insignificant, but without you, the weave would unravel. So I hope the time comes for you to shout, whisper, trace silently against your …

The Value of Protecting Gentleness

This week Polyvore closed down. It happened without warning, and only a few were lucky enough to download the artistic work they had created and saved on the site. When I saw the closure, I was deeply sad. For me, Polyvore was a place I could be who I would have been when I was young, if that had been possible at the time. It was also a place to develop visions of story characters and support my personal quiet within this overbearing world. I felt silly about all this, until I saw how many other people were experiencing the same sorrow. Polyvore was a refuge, a therapy tool, a community of dreamers, a place for visions of all kinds.

For those of you who don't know, Polyvore allowed people to build sets of imagery mostly based on fashion. Many wonder sneeringly how fashion has any claim to being therapeutic. Of course, this is the sort of response women are used to hearing about their arts, isn't it? For me though, the key issue is not that a place for mostly women has been lo…

The Crippled Writer On the Side of the Road

Today I read a beautiful article about writer's block by Hannah Tinti. She credited a poem by TS Eliot for saving her creative practice. I wish I could tell you the poem inspires me as much as it inspired Hannah. But there are places in the dark forest where, no matter how many words you dig from the soil and pull from the trees, you receive no sustenance. At times like these, all you can do is knock on the Old Woman's door and ask for a bowl of soup, even knowing that you really can't trust what she'll put in it. For some, she stirs in poetry. Others I guess are not so lucky.






I have been writing, but none of it goes anywhere. One of my works in progress is about a girl who runs away from home; she gets as far through the forest as she can before her blistered feet, inside old thin boots, will carry her no further. I look at her sitting on the ground and don't have any idea how to make her get back up. Just as I have no idea at the moment how to make her story…

a vocabulary for a woman on the rugged shore

when words and not-words
have scraped the gentleness away
and she feels like sand - her bones and dreams
pulverised, then aggravated by endless tides,
all the softening of lace and tea and quiet books eroded -
when this has come about, as it does to everyone no doubt,
she will go to green, remembering that remedy -
to meadows and overgrown lanes, to willow trees
that share benevolent poetry with the wind, and
sanctuaries of wildflowered grass, cosy places where the sun
falls mildly through leaves, where she can sit peacefully,
and just be;

and if she can not get there, because of weather,
or schedules, or the ache in her ungentled bones,
then she can go softly, go kindly, through the
half-forgotten pathways of her waking dreams -
she can sit on a sofa, holding cushions to her heart,
or on a doorstep with bees drifting past in search of flowers,
and she can lift herself with compassion, and carry herself
with care, into the beautiful places of her own soul,
where love, and remembered …

the inspiration of a simple woman

My nana and I used to wander the morning away along little hill roads and down to the sea. She didn't teach me anything on these walks, we were just together in old-fashioned quietness and a deep gentleness that came from her being a simple woman and me wishing to be one. A woman who found what she needed from wandering roads and being with her loved ones.




There have been many amazing women in the history of the world. Hypatia, Boudicca, the sister queens Mary and Elizabeth, Maya Angelou, Ursula le Guin, Emma Gonzalez, to name only a few. All have been inspiring in their own way. One of my own greatest inspirations was my nana. A simple woman. A gentle-hearted woman who never said a bad word about anyone. She knew the world did not admire her. She knew her ambition to be a homemaker and mother was not much valued. What did she do about that? She went on loving and loving, knitting for newborns, making scones for neighbours, waiting for visits from her family, living a small and si…

the good girl

There once was a girl who cared about giving people what they wanted. She had been told this was wrong, but she could not see the reason for that. So long as it didn't hurt her, or take away from who she was, why not meet people where they wished to be? If it was in her benevolent power to give them something that would make them happy, why not?




Very few people understood her. They looked out of their castles, over their moats, watching always for dragons and other creatures that might take advantage of their carefully guarded goodwill. The girl fed dragons. She got a little singed sometimes - and sometimes she got actually burned. But the dragons were hungry (they ate lemon cake and old poetry) and helping them was a thing she could do. It didn't necessarily make her happy; it was occassionally dirty, achy work. But it did make her happy to see the dragons contented. And she got to hear wild stories, sad stories, beautiful moon-drenched stories, of flying beyond the world.

I …

the child of pine and midnight sheds her lamplit skin

There is a pallor on the night horizon that makes me think the dark is haunted by dawn. There are crickets in my garden. I wish it was colder, with a wind going through. Autumn smoulders. It remembers summers in its vast golden moons.

I love those moons. And I love the night when it forgets the dawn, when the streets breathe silence and I can walk them alone, just me and the wind and the watchful nameless things behind hedges, behind stars. Honestly though, I don't love the daylight here. The beach, the buildings. I've been trying to, because we should love the place where our feet are, right? We should look for beauty everywhere. But I miss missing the wild.

I've also been trying to love the beauty in the stories I ought to write. The ones I know people want to read. And I can see the charm of wild-haired women with earth-stained hands and earth-stained old songs - that kind of story, drawn out of a cauldron, or echoing a bell at the threshold between worlds. But the best…

drinking wine and moonlight in the wild garden

The moon last night rose almost as bright as a dawn. I sat on my doorstep and watched it until I could no longer bear such gold. A wild-hearted cat kept me company, its eyes full of moon. When I went back inside it was still early - we're on real time again, the clocks finally having fallen back into sychronicity with nature, with woman-time, farmer-time. I think if more people sat to watch a moon rising in the eyes of a cat or a poet or a wondering child, there would be less call for daylight savings.

I'd been to church earlier in the day, but the moon did more for me. The vicar had a lovely voice but he lost me when he gently mocked Mary for supposing Christ was the gardener. It's always seemed clear to me that Mary was not mistaken, and in that moment she truly witnessed Christ in all his divinity, as the raiser of seeds, the lover of earth, the carer of the garden. That's what real, true-hearted power looks like, isn't it - so gentle, so simple, and maybe a lit…