Sunday, February 12, 2017

Violets and Other Stories by Alice Dunbar-Nelson

I'm listening to Piano solo music by Manuel de Falla.  I'm not providing a link because I now realize how impermanent they can be.  But feel free to google in his name and "piano solos" and you'll find a link somewhere to listen to it.  

I thought for the week that holds Valentine's Day it would be appropriate to  review some poetry.

I read the following book on my Kindle:

Violets and Other TalesViolets and Other Tales by Alice Dunbar-Nelson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a book of poetry and short stories. It is not a hundred pages long. I liked the poetry better than the stories because the latter carried a tragical, Victorian-esque style.

What I did like was the vivid descriptions of New Orleans. It gives the reader a rich taste of the Creole and Anglo-French culture.

What I especially appreciate is that this book is not self-consciously ethnic or gender specific. I did not know the writer was black when I read these stories. I did not even know it was a woman who wrote them.

All I knew was that a brilliant writer wrote them.

Here is the poem of the title:

I had not thought of violets late,

The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet

In wistful April days, when lovers mate

And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.

The thought of violets meant florists' shops,

And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;

And garish lights, and mincing little fops

And cabarets and soaps, and deadening wines.

So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed,

I had forgot wide fields; and clear brown streams;

The perfect loveliness that God has made,—

Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams.

And now—unwittingly, you've made me dream

Of violets, and my soul's forgotten gleam.

Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar Nelson (July 19, 1875 - September 18, 1935) was an American poet, journalist and political activist. Among the first generation born free in the South after the Civil War, she was one of the prominent African Americans involved in the artistic flourishing of the Harlem Renaissance. Her first husband was the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar; she then married physician Henry A. Callis; and last married Robert J. Nelson, a poet and civil rights activist. From Poem Hunter.

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  1. lovely poem; it made me remember spring here in the northwest, when tiny violets decorate the forest floor along with wood sorrel and ferns... i can't wait for this fairly nasty winter to finally end... 3-cornered hat?

    1. The northwest is so beautiful. My mother's family is from that are. It's so lush with all the vineyards and majestic mountains.

      Believe it or not it is warm here. I am typing this in a t-shirt and shorts. I would not have minded the cold weather to last a little longer.

      What do you mean, 3-cornered hat?

    2. that's the only piece by de Falla that i could remember... speaking of which, do you know Domenico Scarlatti? i'm nuts about his harpsichord sonatas... his brother Alessandro(i think) was a big wheel in the Venetian opera world...

    3. Oh yes. No, that's not what I was listening to. Usually I listen to de Falla's piano music because I gave a lecture recital on Flamenco music and how Spanish composers transcribed the style to the piano, which is not a Flamenco instrument.

      I love Scarlatti. I played many of his Sonatas. They are so much fun! I played them on the piano, of course, but I have a good recording of them on the harpsichord as well.

      I also love Rameau's Trio Sonatas, do you?

    4. yes, i don't know them nearly as well, but i admire what i've heard... and Lully... that was a riotous period in French history that is somewhat reflected in the music, i used to think... don't know if i still think that, tho...

    5. I had a phenomenal recording on cassette tape years ago of all of Rameau's Trio Sonatas. That tape is long gone and even though I have a CD and Spotify, I cannot find a performance that equals the interpretation of the group on the tape. I have no idea who the ensemble was, just that it was recorded on Deutsche Grammophon.

      Lully I know of but am not so familiar with his works. In fact all I think I know about him (aside that he was a Baroque composer) is that he died from gangrene from striking his foot with the large conducting staff they used then. I am going to find Lully on Spotify now. :)

    6. my ignorance: what's Spotify?... i read that re Lully also: in context with what i was reading, it had something to do with him being overly enthusiastic, alcohol powered, about his conducting...

    7. Ha! Thanks to you I've been listening to Lully all afternoon. On Spotify, of course.

      Spotify is a music channel you can subscribe to for a minimal monthly amount (or for free if you don't mind the advertising). It has millions of songs from every imaginable style. It's like having your personal radio on demand. It's on our computers and cell phones.

      The only problem is the Spotify search engine is not very smart. If you don't type in the exact title and composer it has no idea what you want. Sometimes I have to go to youtube and find the right way to spell things then go back to Spotify.

      Other than that I really enjoy it. :)

    8. tx, sharon; i'll do a little investigation with my extremely limited computer skills...

    9. Mudpuddle: You're welcome. Good luck!

  2. What a beautiful poem. I've heard of Paul Dunbar but not this lady. We did a Spanish Composer study a couple of years ago & listened to de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance played by Luka Šulić & a cello ensemble. Love the Spanish composers.

    1. Hi Carol! I love the Spanish composers too. For my Master's degree I wrote a paper about Flamenco music and how Spanish composers (specifically de Falla, Albeniz and Granados) created the "flamenco sound" on the piano.

      The Spanish culture has always held a special place in my heart. The language is so beautiful as well.

  3. This sounds good.

    Creole and the other cultures that thrive in the New Orleans area are so rich and interesting. I would like to read more stories and poetry centered there.

    That is a wonderful poem.

    1. Hi Brian. Those cultures are interesting. I have always enjoyed walking around New Orleans the few times I've been able. It's a city rich with history and culture.

  4. What a beautiful poem! Thank you for introducing me to Alice's work. Lots of snow coming down here in New England!

    1. Hi Marcia! I actually miss the snow. When I lived in New Jersey and upstate New York, it was so cozy curling up with a book and cup of something hot while it fell outside my front bay window. It wasn't fun when it decided to fall when I was at work. Then it was a two hour drive home. :(

  5. In New Criticism, focus on the author is irrelevant and inappropriate. I weary of other critics who give so much attention to authors' gender, sexual preference, race, politics, etc. A text must stand on its own. What do y'all think?

    1. Hi R.T. That was exactly my point! Not only is undue attention given to the author (race, sex, etc.) many authors today are confined, not by "racists" or "sexists" but by a culture that defines what it means to belong to a certain race or sex and dictates in what context they are allowed to write.

      Usually, it is in the context of "victim".

  6. you might find this a bit frivolous: i've had this fragment batting around in my head for awhile and i want to attempt to transcribe it so you can play it on the piano and maybe identify it... i think it's a continuing basso from something in Bach but i'm not sure; anyway,"+" means upscale, "-" means down, a note repeated means it is played that many times; so here goes: e+bb-g+aa+b+cc-a+bb-fsharp+gg-dsharp+ee-a+bbb-e tx...

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Hi Mudpuddle:

    Sorry I deleted my previous comment because I did it under another account and I didn't want you to be confused as to who was answering you. Here's my answer:

    I played the note sequence on the piano and I do not recognize it. It does not strike me as consistent tonally with something Bach or any Baroque composer wrote, however.

    Sorry I couldn't help you. I hate when I get something stuck in my head and I can't recognize it. Hope it comes to you. :)

    1. tx very much for giving it a shot... i'll just have to endure until it goes away or enlightenment comes crashing in.. this is a frequent occurrence that has plagued me my whole life: i have melodies floating in the background 24/7; sometimes it's entertaining and sometimes not... more frequently Vivaldi or Rossini than anything else...

    2. Hi Mudpuddle. I know what you mean. For me it goes beyond music, although I also have that problem, hearing snatches of music in my head and trying to identify it.

      I also will hear in my head a fragment of conversation or a bit from a movie and think, "Where does that come from"?

      Even more worrying is hearing someone's voice in my head, every bit of the conversation and not being able to place the person or event it took place in.

      Those things drive me crazy. Probably a little bit of OCD going on there.

      My husband has an app on his phone that if you can sing any part of the song, it can often identify the entire song. It's not foolproof, however.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.