Book-a-Day #Giveaway! Whispers from the Tree of Life by Fran O’Donnell


During her early years, Fran O’Donnell often thought of rhymes and phrases, wanting each sentence to form a rhythm and pattern. She enjoyed the association of words as she envisioned the world around her, likened to the vision of an exquisite silhouette from the branch of a beautiful old tree. Words and trees became her friend and companion as she grew hungry to learn more about them. Her book, Whispers from the Tree of Life, is a collection of poems written over many years from her involvement in life, observations, inquiries, experiences, love, and conclusions of and in her life.


Fran O’Donnell writes about what is natural in human life, particularly in the life of an artist and of someone who connects nature to human existence. The free verse and easy language allow the poems to flow along as if carried naturally by wind or water. The artificial is omitted. Fran’s poems are self propelled, organic. The poems are not couched philosophical rhetoric. Fran is an observer of nature and weaves it into her memory poems as she remembers or thinks of others and as an expression of how one strives to identify herself to herself as changes occur over time and the perception of self is recycled. Fran’s use of apostrophe and her nature metaphors for the workings of the inner self allow the reader to empathize with the poet whose persona remains steady throughout the collection. It would be difficult for anyone who has passed through a good portion of life and who has kept an eye turned toward nature not to both appreciate and enjoy Fran’s expression of living.

~ Marc G. LeVasseur, Associate Professor of English, Community College of Rhode Island

Buy the book here

You can WIN a copy of this book! Just leave a comment below. One winner will be chosen at random and the author will contact you directly. Contest ends one week after publication.



November is Book-a-Day Month!


Each day in November, I’ll be featuring a different book by a Rhode Island author, all leading up to the  4th Annual Rhode Island Authors Expo on Saturday, December 3 (11:00am – 5:00pm) at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet.

There are hundreds of authors located in little Rhode Island, and this is a way for me to showcase some real talent. Each author will showcase one book, and, in nearly every case, there’s a chance to win that book just by commenting on the blog post. Easy-peasy! And just in time for some holiday gift-giving (because we all know books make the best gift).

So be sure you’re following this blog and each day in November you’ll have a chance to win. The contest for each post will run for a week before I let the computer randomly select a winner.

For more info about the Expo, follow this link

Paris Between the Wars – “T” is for Tristan Tzara

A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Tristan Tzara, by Robert Delaunay
Tristan Tzara, by Robert Delaunay

Born Samuel Rosenstock in Romania, Tristan Tzara was an avant-garde playwright, poet, essayist, performance artist, journalist, art director, composer, film director. He is best known for being one of the central figures of the Dada movement, formed during WWI in Zurich in negative reaction to the horrors of war.

He moved to Paris in 1919 and joined the staff of Littérature magazine, bringing a skill in managing events and audiences, which transformed literary gatherings into public performances that generated enormous publicity. As the cohesiveness of the Dada movement in Paris was disintegrating, Tzara published Le coeur à barbe (The Bearded Heart).

From 1930 to 1935, Tzara contributed to the definition of surrealist activities and ideology. He was also an active communist sympathizer and was a member of the Resistance during the German occupation of Paris.

To Make a Dadaist Poem, by Tristan Tzara

Take a newspaper.

Take some scissors.

Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.

Cut out the article.

Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.

Shake gently.

Next take out each cutting one after the other.

Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.

The poem will resemble you.

And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.


Paris Between the Wars – “N” is for Anna de Noialles

A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Portrait of Anna, Comtesse de Noialles, by Philip de Lazslo
Portrait of Anna, Comtesse de Noailles, by Philip de Lazslo

Born in Paris as Princess Anna Elisabeth Bibesco-Bassaraba de Brancovan (1876) to a Romanian father and Greek mother (both high-ranked members of their respective societies), she married Mathieu Fernand Frédéric Pascal de Noailles in 1897 and the couple became the toast of Parisian high society.

She wrote three novels, an autobiography, and several collections of poetry, and was the first woman to be received in the Royal Belgian Academy of French Language and Literature. The collection Poème de l’amour (1924) is a long series of short poems. This is from “LXIX,” translated:

If words put you too ill at ease,

Say nothing. Dream. But be not cold.

Let me speak, me, who kiss you, hold

You in  my arms; like woodland breeze

That murmurs low, let me enfold

You in great whispers, hushed, like these…

Anna de Noailles died at age 56, in Paris.


Nov 17 – Meet RI Author Becky MacDonell-Yilmaz

Becky MacDonell-Yilmaz.pic

I wasn’t quite sure how to dress up for my fourth-grade Career Day. I had borrowed multiple books from my elementary school’s library in an attempt to research exactly how one goes about becoming an author, but most of the information I uncovered related to finding work as a freelance writer and lacked the step-by-step instructions and list of appropriate tools and attire that I had hoped to find. So I settled on an outfit that made me happy: my favorite pink shirt, a pair of comfortable pants, and my white Keds, with a cloth-covered journal – one of several from my collection – and pen my only real props.

Years later, after drastically altering my career path and enrolling in medical school, it was that same principle, doing what made me happy, that brought me back to writing. As fascinated as I was by my studies in anatomy and physiology, by the end of my first year I full of facts but empty as a person. When I learned of an opportunity to incorporate an independent writing project into my medical curriculum, I felt a surge of excitement, which was quickly washed away by abiding apprehension. I waited until the night before the deadline to submit my application. In truth, I spent half of that night trying to convince myself that I might actually have something to say.

When I was accepted to the program and awarded a fellowship to help support my efforts, words began to flow from my fingers into my journal, onto my laptop, onto any scrap of paper within my reach. What I had dismissed during my pre-medical studies as a childhood hobby suddenly emerged as an integral ingredient in my efforts to survive medical school and eventually to thrive as a physician. I filled the blank pages of journals that had sat on my bedroom shelves for so long, untouched yet unable to be parted with. And I finally recalled the sentiment that had first sparked my interest in medicine: the desire to understand, to bear witness to, and to offer a hand to hold throughout patients’ stories as they unfold.

Becky MacDonell-Yilmaz earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Health from Dartmouth College and her Doctor of Medicine from Stony Brook University School of Medicine. She completed a residency in pediatrics at Brown University/Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Her work has been published in Pediatrics, Annals of Internal Medicine, The New Physician, The Writers Circle, and Paumanok II, an anthology of poetry and photography by Long Islanders. Her first chapbook of poetry, Tools for Survival, was published in 2015 by Finishing Line Press. You can explore more of her writing at  The Growth Curve: ruminations of a pediatrician in training. She lives in Providence, RI, with her husband and son.

Nov. 15 – Meet RI Anthologist Deborah Halliday


Oh, to be a writer!

I belong to an authors’ group, and I love it. There I am, surrounded by creative people talking about their latest book or short story, and it is fun. Many of my fellow authors mistake me for a writer, which makes sense since it is an authors’ group, but a writer I am not, at least not of the fiction or poetry variety. When it comes to creativity in writing I remain awestruck and stumped as to where my fellow authors get all of those great ideas. No, I am an appreciative audience member. I admire the perfect turn of phrase, the well-chosen word (if it is almost obsolete I love it even more) and the plot twists I can’t see coming. I have also discovered, in my later years, that I enjoy poetry. Maybe it’s only now that I’ve allowed myself to slow down enough to read it, and allowed myself to read it out loud without fear of seeming foolish.

Because I admire creativity so much, and because I’m a bit of a pack-rat in general, I felt a need to preserve literature from the past that could otherwise be lost and forgotten. I became an anthologist, a poetry rescuer. I get a real thrill from turning a century-and-a-half old page in a deteriorating book, seeing a poem that makes me go “oooh,” and thinking I might be the first person in over a hundred years to have read it. I call it being a literary archeologist. I dig up lost things, things that tell us about a culture of not so long ago. Who were these authors? How were they like us? How were they different? Can they express emotions in a way that resonates with us? As a pack-rat who loves to bring order from chaos and find beauty in the overlooked, what more could I ask for than to discover and preserve old poetry.

When I go to book events where I’m selling my anthologies, I have a small plastic box with snippets of poetry in it. I call it “pick-a-poem,” and I invite passers-by to choose one – like choosing a fortune cookie. Often people will shake their heads and say “Oh, I don’t really like poetry.” But then they take one, and as they walk away reading, more often than not a smile will slowly spread across their face, and they will turn to me and say “thank you. You have no idea how much that fits.” And they’ll pocket their snippet for safekeeping. So while I don’t write poetry myself, I do feel that I’m helping to give a gift not only to authors long dead, but to people today; especially to those who maybe thought they didn’t like poetry.

Deborah L. Halliday curates and anthologizes poetry from Godey’s Lady’s Books, one of the most popular magazines of the nineteenth century. Her books can be found at on-line retailers with a search for “Godey’s poetry.”  Discover her on Facebook here.


Expo banner2

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost 1874-1963
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Illustration by Susan Jeffers
Illustration by Susan Jeffers

Buy the book

Y is for William Butler Yeats

A Drinking Song

Wine comes in at the mouth   
And love comes in at the eye;   
That’s all we shall know for truth   
Before we grow old and die.   
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

W.B. Yeats was born in Dublin in 1865.  He studied painting, following in his father’s footsteps, but realized he preferred poetry.  Though he never learned Gaelic, his writing drew extensively from Irish mythology and folklore.

His verse reflected a pessimism about the politicial situation in Ireland in the 1920’s, and he was influenced by Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, although Yeats never abandoned his strict adherence to traditional verse forms.  He was appointed a senator in 1922, and is remembered as a major playwright (he was one of the founders of the famous Abbey Theatre in Dublin) and as one of the very greatest poets—in any language—of the century.  Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 and died in 1939 at the age of 73.

When my husband comments on the sad state of our society today, I usually tell him, “Honey, it’s no country for old men.”  This is a poster from the 2007 movie by the Coen brothers.   The movie is based on a 2005 novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy (born in Providence, RI), and the book’s title comes from the first line of Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium.”


THAT is no country for old men.  The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


U is for Susan Utting


Photo Credit:

I knew the poem before I learned about the poet.    British poet Susan Utting’s work has won many awards, including a Poetry Business Prize for the collection Something Small is Missing. She has won the Berkshire Poetry Prize, was a winner in the Academi Cardiff International and has twice been short listed for the Arvon Poetry Prize. Her second collection, Striptease, was published in 2001 by Smith/Doorstop Books.  Her latest collection, Fair’s Fair, was just released last month.Utting runs poetry workshops throughout Britain and has taught poetry and creative writing at Reading University.  She is the founder of Reading’s acclaimed Poets’ Café, and is a member of Thin Raft Poets and Late Shift Poetry Ensemble. She has read and performed her poetry at arts venues and festivals including Edinburgh, Stanza at St Andrew’s, Ledbury, and for the Poetry Trust at Aldeburgh 2007.

She is my choice for today, and I’m adding one of her poems below.



Today’s Blue

Today’s blue’s nothing turquoise, it does not

shift in the light from duck-egg bright to aqua,

it is not a patch of sky to mend a sailor’s trousers

or the uniform of girls let out in crocodiles, on pre-set

routes through Mellor’s Park on Wednesday afternoons.

It’s not indelible on children’s tongues, or carbon

smudged on sweaty palms and touch-type fingertips,

nor is it jazzy/sad mood indigo for something small

you’ll always miss but never really had; today’s blue

is a memory of worsted cloth, tacked long and loose,

worn inside out, marked white with broken lines

of tailor’s chalk. It is a man cross-legged on a table

in a backroom; it is not my father, though he’s there

and with me and would understand the weft and warp,

the mesh of yarn, tight-woven to a blue so dark

you’d call it black; that he’d call midnight.

S is for Carl Sandburg

Who hasn’t read that the fog comes in on little cat feet?  Isn’t that delicious?

Carl Sandburg, author and poet, was born in 1878 and died in 1967.  He was the second of seven children, and was called “Charlie” by family members.

Like many boys of his time, he quit school after eighth grade and began working full-time.  He delivered milk, laid bricks, harvested ice, and shined shoes.  In 1897, at age 21, he began traveling as a hobo.  These traveling experiences influenced his writing, as he saw the stark difference between the rich and poor.

At the end of the 19th century, he entered college, where he honed his writing skills and produced three volumes of poetry.  Around 1908, he became a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, and in 1914, a group of his poems was published in a nationally circulated magazine.  At age 38, he was known throughout the literary world.  He won his first Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for a biography of Abraham Lincoln, and a second Pulitzer in 1951 for his Complete Poems.

This is a delightful old episode of “What’s My Line” featuring Mr. Sandburg: