Theresa A. Cancro
I just found out that a poem of mine that was included in Three Line Poetry, Issue #33, is being featured on the journal's Facebook page. Scroll down to see the entry.
One haiku has been published in the May 2017 issue of Stardust Haiku Journal. Scroll to page 6.
Two poems, "Stick Woman" and "Spellbound," have been accepted by These Fragile Lilacs for their print anthology, The Women's' Voices, to be published this spring.
Monday, May 22, 2017
Friday, May 19, 2017
This Day In Literary History
On May 19th, 1930, the famous African-American playwright Lorraine Hansberry was born in Chicago, Illinois. Her father, Carl Hansberry, was a prominent real estate broker.
In 1938, when Lorraine was eight years old, her father moved the family to an all-white neighborhood where a majority of homeowners had formed a covenant that banned blacks from buying homes in the neighborhood. So, he had a white friend buy the house for him.
After the Hansberrys moved into their new home, they were attacked by an angry mob. A brick was thrown through Lorraine's bedroom window, and she just barely avoided being struck by it.
Her father later sued the white homeowners for discrimination, and in the case of Hansberry v. Lee, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision banning homeowners' associations from discriminating against home buyers and renters on the basis of their race.
Although Lorraine's father had prevailed in court, the family was still subjected to harassment from their racist white neighbors. She later quipped that she had lived in a typical "warm and cuddly white neighborhood."
Ironically, after her death, her family home would be designated by the city of Chicago as a historical landmark. The climate of racism she grew up with would inspire her to write her first and most famous play, A Raisin in the Sun (1959).
The title comes from a line in the poem Harlem by legendary African-American poet Langston Hughes. Set in the 1940s, A Raisin in the Sun tells the story of the Youngers, a poor black family living in a small apartment in Chicago's South Side.
The family patriarch has died, and his survivors will soon receive an insurance check for ten thousand dollars. His widow, Mama, wants to fulfill the dream she shared with her husband and buy a house.
Her grown son, Walter, wants to use the money to invest in a liquor store with his friends - an investment he believes will provide the whole family with long term financial security. Beneatha, Walter's sister, wants to use the money to pay for her medical school tuition.
Walter's wife, Ruth, agrees with Mama, believing that a new house would provide more living space for themselves and their son, Travis. As the play progresses, the Youngers fight over their conflicting dreams.
When Ruth becomes pregnant, she considers having an abortion, as she and Walter really can't afford another child. Walter doesn't object, which drives Mama to put a down payment on a nice house in a white neighborhood.
Beneatha is not happy about her family mixing with whites. She's not the only one. When the Youngers' soon-to-be new neighbors find out that the black family is moving in, they send Mr. Lindner from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association to bribe them to stay out of the neighborhood.
They refuse the deal, even after Walter loses the rest of the insurance money when his friend Willy runs off with it instead of investing it in the liquor store. In the play's third act, Beneatha's Nigerian boyfriend wants her to move to Africa with him after she graduates.
Meanwhile, the rest of the family prepares to move out of their apartment and into their new house, fulfilling their dream but also exposing them to a dangerously racist environment. When A Raisin in the Sun opened in 1959, it became the first play written by an African-American to be produced for the Broadway stage.
The original cast featured Sidney Poitier as Walter, Ruby Dee as Ruth, and Claudia McNeil as Mama. It would be adapted as an acclaimed feature film in 1961, with the entire original Broadway cast reprising their roles - including a young Louis Gossett, Jr. as George Murchison.
The play would also be adapted as a hit Broadway musical called Raisin in 1973. The musical would be nominated for nine Tony awards and run for 847 performances. Original cast members included Joe Morton as Walter, Debbie Allen as Beneatha, Ernestine Jackson as Ruth, Ralph Carter as Travis, and Virginia Capers as Mama.
Lorraine Hansberry wrote several other plays, including her second most famous play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window. After 110 performances, the play closed on the day she died, January 12th, 1965. She was 34 years old and had lost a long battle with cancer.
Despite her illness, she continued to work as an activist for civil rights, women's rights, and other causes. Her other writings were turned into an acclaimed play called To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. It would be the longest running off Broadway play of the 1968-69 season.
Quote Of The Day
"Write if you will: but write about the world as it is and as you think it ought to be and must be — if there is to be a world. Write about all the things that men have written about since the beginning of writing and talking — but write to a point. Work hard at it, care about it. You have something glorious to draw on begging for attention. Don’t pass it up. Use it." - Lorraine Hansberry
Today's video features a rare recording of Lorraine Hansberry speaking in New York City, circa 1964. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 18, 2017
This Day In Literary History
On May 18th, 1593, a warrant was issued by the Queen's Privy Council for the arrest of the legendary English playwright and poet, Christopher Marlowe. The warrant accused Marlowe of spreading "blasphemous and damnable opinions."
Five days earlier, Marlowe's friend, roommate, and fellow playwright Thomas Kyd had been arrested and charged with the same crime. During an interrogation in which Kyd was horribly tortured, he claimed that offending documents found in his possession really belonged to Marlowe.
Marlowe was subsequently arrested. He was released on bail while the prosecutors prepared their case. The day before Marlowe was scheduled to appear in court, he was killed in a drunken brawl when a dagger was driven through his eye. He was 29 years old.
Although in life, he had been a controversial personality - he was known to be a hot-tempered alcoholic frequently in trouble with the law - he proved to be far more controversial in death.
The same Privy Council that had charged Marlowe with blasphemy had intervened on his behalf six years earlier to explain to Cambridge University why Marlowe frequently cut classes.
Pleading that he not be expelled, they claimed that Marlowe wasn't a miscreant student - he had cut classes to be of service to the Queen in "matters touching the benefit of his country."
That was actually true. Christopher Marlowe had been recruited as a secret agent while at university, and it now appears that he died not at a pub, but at a government safe house, while in the company of other spies and their associates.
With Marlowe's volatile personality and controversial libertine philosophy, his housemates undoubtedly had motive to kill him, especially if he'd flown into one of his drunken rages.
Conspiracy theories continue to follow the death of Christopher Marlowe. Some believe that Marlowe's death was faked to protect him from enemy agents.
What became of him afterward? Well, some believe that while the rest of Britain thought that he was dead, Marlowe continued to write plays.
One conspiracy theory claims that Marlowe hired an actor named William Shakespeare to be the front for his plays. Another theory claims that William Shakespeare was Marlowe's pseudonym and that an actor with the same name decided to take credit for his work.
According to this theory, the fake Shakespeare either knew or hoped that the real author wouldn't (or couldn't) reveal himself and dispute the false claim. Both theories, while intriguing, have yet to be proven. Most scholars regard them as nonsense.
One thing is definitely true: as a playwright, Christopher Marlowe's talent was on a par with Shakespeare. For centuries, scholars have agreed that Marlowe's plays, such as Tamburlaine the Great, Edward II, The Jew of Malta, and Doctor Faustus were in the same league as Shakespeare's classic tragedies.
Quote Of The Day
"I count religion but a childish toy, and hold there is no sin but ignorance." - Christopher Marlowe
Today's video features a complete reading of Christopher Marlowe's classic play, Tamburlaine the Great. Enjoy!
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
This Day In Literary History
On May 17th, 1873, the legendary English writer Dorothy Richardson was born in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. When she was seventeen, her father's financial problems threatened to plunge the family into poverty, so she left school to work.
A few years later, Dorothy's father went bankrupt, and her mother fell into a deep depression. Dorothy quit her job as a governess to take care of her mother, but the distraught woman committed suicide later that year.
After her mother's death, Dorothy moved to Bloomsbury, London, and took a job as receptionist, secretary, and assistant to a dental surgeon. When she wasn't working, she earned extra money writing essays and reviews and hung out with the Bloomsbury Set.
The Bloomsbury Set was a famous circle of libertine writers, artists, critics, and intellectuals who lived and / or worked in Bloomsbury. The group included such legendary writers as Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, E.M. Forster, and H.G. Wells.
Dorothy struck up a close friendship with H.G. Wells, which culminated in a brief and torrid affair with the married writer. She became pregnant with his baby. He offered to help her raise the child.
Dorothy, a determined feminist, broke ties with Wells and decided to raise the baby herself - a daring, controversial act for an unmarried woman in Edwardian England. Unfortunately, she suffered a miscarriage.
After losing her baby, Dorothy moved to Sussex, where she continued with her writing career, earning her living as a freelance writer and journalist. She began work on a novel - a huge epic autobiographical novel that would be published in a series of thirteen volumes.
She also found a new love, marrying Alan Odle, a surrealist painter fifteen years her junior best known for his illustrations for Voltaire's classic novel Candide and Mark Twain's notorious, raunchy comic tale, 1601.
The first volume of Dorothy Richardson's classic novel Pilgrimage, titled Pointed Roofs, was published in 1915. It was a breakthrough novel that bent the established rules of grammar, punctuation, and sentence length to the breaking point.
In a review of Painted Roofs published in 1918, the English writer and critic May Sinclair coined a new term to describe Dorothy Richardson's innovative writing style: stream of consciousness.
Dorothy didn't care for that term. The term she used to describe her writing style was interior monologue. Although her Pilgrimage wouldn't make her famous during her lifetime, it has since been recognized as one of the all time great works of early 20th century English literature.
Pilgrimage would not only inspire her contemporaries such as James Joyce and Marcel Proust, but future generations of writers as well. Her pioneering stream of consciousness writing style is still employed today.
Dorothy Richardson continued working as a freelance writer, as her novel wasn't a huge commercial success. She also wrote short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. Her marriage would be a happy one; she remained with Alan Odle until he died in 1947. She died in 1957 at the age of 84.
She may have been the least famous writer in the Bloomsbury Set, but her contribution to modern literature was legendary.
Quote Of The Day
"You think Christianity is favorable to women? On the contrary. It is the Christian countries that have produced the prostitute and the most vile estimations of women in the world." - Dorothy Richardson
Today's video features a complete reading of Pointed Roofs, the first volume of Dorothy Richardson's epic multi volume novel, Pilgrimage. Enjoy!
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
This Day In Literary History
On May 16th, 1939, The Day of the Locust, the classic final novel by the famous American writer Nathanael West was published.
Although he never achieved significant commercial success as a novelist during his short life, today he is recognized as one of the greatest American novelists of the 1930s, and rightfully so.
West, born Nathan Weinstein in New York City, like many fiction writers of the 1930s, worked as a Hollywood screenwriter. He had made a name for himself as a novelist with his dark, surreal tales of Depression-era America, such as Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) and A Cool Million (1934).
In 1939, the year that The Day of the Locust was published, the stifling Production Code was in effect in Hollywood, and movies were considered clean, wholesome entertainment. In West's classic novel, he explores the dark side of the Dream Factory.
The characters include Tod Hackett, a talented young artist who has come to Hollywood to work as a set painter. He does this to support himself until he becomes a famous artist. Faye Greener is a beautiful young aspiring actress.
Faye's father, Harry Greener, is an aging, failed actor and former vaudeville comic who earns a meager living as a door to door salesman. Despite all the doors slammed in his face, Harry, the ultimate huckster, pushes on, oblivious to the effects of his job on his frail health.
Homer Simpson (yes, that's really his name) is a good natured oaf who's not very bright. Also a neurotic depressive, he has come to California for reasons of health. The poor, pathetic Simpson will become the most tragic character in this dark and grotesque story.
Other memorable characters include Abe Kusich, a conceited midget actor with a huge chip on his little shoulder, and Adore Loomis, an obnoxious eight-year-old aspiring child star with a talent for blues singing.
Adore's mother - the ultimate stage mother - is so ruthlessly ambitious (and demented) that she passes him off as a girl, hoping that he'll become the next Shirley Temple.
The price of stardom - the depths one would sink to in Hollywood in order to reach the height of success - is one of the main themes of the novel. Another theme is the garishness of excess.
One film producer keeps a lifelike, life sized dead horse made of rubber on the bottom of his swimming pool. Mrs. Jenning, a retired silent film star, runs a brothel, where she also screens pornographic films for her guests.
Faye Greener is the catalyst for the tragic undercurrent of the story that drives it to a shocking and brutal conclusion. She's a thoroughly amoral young woman, a manipulative sociopath willing to do anything and use anyone to get what she wants.
Of course, Tod ends up falling in love with her, but grudgingly settles for friendship, recognizing her amoral nature. He fantasizes about raping Faye or physically harming her in other ways as both a subconscious attack on her immorality and an attempt to suppress his secret desire to be just like her.
Homer Simpson also falls in love with Faye, but unlike the more realistic Tod, the poor, deluded Homer actually dreams of marrying Faye, settling down, and starting a family with her.
When he accidentally discovers Faye having casual sex with a would-be actor called Miguel the Mexican, his delusion is suddenly shattered. Homer decides to return to his Iowa hometown, but never does.
In the novel's violent, surreal ending, Homer wanders the streets in a state of shock and happens upon a crowd gathering outside a theater for a major movie premiere. While he stares blankly at the crowd, Adore Loomis appears and teases him yet again.
Homer's mind finally snaps, and in the novel's most shocking scene, he literally stomps the child to death. When the crowd sees Homer attacking Adore, they riot and descend on him like a plague of locusts, killing him.Tod tries to save Homer, but gets lost in the milling throng.
The Day of the Locust received mixed reviews when it was published. It is now recognized as Nathanael West's greatest novel. Sadly, it would be his last. The year after it was published, West and his wife Eileen were killed in a car accident. He was 37 years old.
The Day of the Locust was adapted as an acclaimed feature film in 1975. Directed by John Schlesinger with a screenplay by Waldo Salt, the film starred William Atherton as Tod Hackett, Donald Sutherland as Homer Simpson, and Karen Black as Faye Greener.
Burgess Meredith co-starred as Harry Greener, Billy Barty as Abe Kusich, and in a memorable supporting performance, Jackie Earle Haley as Adore Loomis.
Quote Of The Day
"Man spends a great deal of time making order out of chaos, yet insists that the emotions be disordered. I order my emotions. I am insane." - Nathanael West
Today's video features the original theatrical trailer for the acclaimed feature film adaptation of Nathanael West's classic novel, The Day of the Locust. Enjoy!
Monday, May 15, 2017
My microfiction, “The Hurricane”, is up at 101 Words today.
This was my first attempt at writing anything this short. But, then again, a year ago, writing in 400 words or less for the Practice List was a challenge. Thanks to that list for vetting the extended version of this story.
I'm so happy! Just a few minutes ago I received my brand spankin' new copy of Critical Insights: Flash Fiction and it's beautiful. I can't tell you how proud I am to have my work included. Mine's the lead essay too - "Flash Fiction: From Text to Audio to Music, Stage, and Film Adaptations."
Here's what Salem Press says about it:
"Outstanding, in-depth scholarship by renowned literary critics; great starting point for students seeking an introduction to the theme and the critical discussions surrounding it.”
And here's how the book looks at Amazon.
Friday, May 12, 2017
This Day In Literary History
On May 12th, 1883, Life on the Mississippi, the classic memoir by the legendary American writer Mark Twain, (the pseudonym of Samuel Clemens) was published simultaneously in Boston and London.
In this great book, Twain combines autobiography with history. He begins with the discovery of the Mississippi River by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1542. Twain's personal history with the Mississippi began in childhood.
As a young man, while traveling by steamboat down the Mississippi to New Orleans, he befriended the pilot, Horace E. Bixby, who inspired him to become a steamboat pilot himself.
At the time, steamboat piloting was a very prominent and respected position. It paid handsomely - around $3000 per year, which is equivalent to about $72,000 in today's money. That's because the job required lots of training.
As he chronicles his own personal history with that of the river, Twain tells of his training and career as a steamboat pilot before the Civil War, discussing the science of navigating the Mississippi.
To become a steamboat pilot in those days was a daunting task - you had to learn everything about the piloting and mechanics of a steamboat and also memorize the geography of the entire Mississippi River, from St. Louis to New Orleans, which changed course frequently.
Later in his life, Twain and some of his friends traveled the same path by steamboat, and the author discusses how the river boating industry had changed since he was a pilot, including the competition it faces from the railroad.
Interspersed through the straightforward documentary are numerous anecdotes and commentaries, as Twain offers his perspective on the people who live on the Mississippi and their culture - everything from the architecture of homes to local customs and folklore.
The narrative is classic Mark Twain, often tongue-in-cheek and filled with self-deprecating humor. A good example of the narrative can be found in the following passage:
In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
Life on the Mississippi is a fascinating read that paints a colorful, detailed portrait of life in the 19th century American South. To write the book, Twain used a then newfangled instrument called a typewriter. Life on the Mississippi is believed to be the first book submitted to a publisher in the form of a typewritten manuscript.
In 1980, Life on the Mississippi was adapted as a movie for American public television. Starring David Knell as Samuel Clemens, the film weaves folklore from the book into a fictional narrative of the author's life.
Quote Of The Day
"Words are only painted fire; a book is the fire itself." - Mark Twain
Today's video features a complete reading of Mark Twain's classic book, Life on the Mississippi. Enjoy!