Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Who really wrote Shakespeare's plays? The argument continues.

Lady Mary Sidney Herbert

The release of the film Anonymous has revived the enduring question of who really authored Shakespeare’s plays. Was it  Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Derby, the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Southampton, the Earl of Essex, Sir Walter Raleigh,  Francis Bacon -- or as the movie would have it,  Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (a theory most reviewers call Blackadderly).

Personally, in spite of the arguments to the contrary, I’d like to believe that the Bard of Avon was responsible for his own plays. (Well, okay, maybe not Titus Andronicus.) But if there is a serious contender for secret authorship, my money would be on Lady Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. The sister of Sir Philip Sidney, and one of the most gifted and prolific women writers of the Renaissance, she was the first woman to publish a play in English, and was generally acknowledged as the second most intelligent woman in England. (First place of course went to Lady Mary’s friend Elizabeth I ) At her family estate, Wilton House, near Glastonbury, Lady Mary hosted a famous literary salon, “The Wilton Circle”, attended by most of the well known writers and musicians of the age. Among her guests were Edmund Spenser, Michael Drayton, Sir John Davies, and a promising young poet, Will Shakespeare of Warwickshire.   

Apart from her accomplishments as writer, editor and translator, Lady Mary had a keen interest in medicine and alchemy (she had her own alchemical laboratory at Wilton House) and she pursued such esoteric interests as secret musical codes, spiritual magic and invisible ink.

Recognizing a promising young talent, she may well have served as Shakespeare’s mentor. But did she have a hand in writing Will’s plays? Her background and education, her many fields of expertise and her writing talent all lend credibility; but until we discover some Shakespeare-attributed work in Lady Mary’s handwriting, the jury will have to remain out.

Lady Mary and her Wilton House colleagues make an appearance in my 2004 historical fantasy, The Alchemist’s Daughter. (The book is currently sold out at the publishers, but you can find it in better online used bookstores)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November 11th, 1994

After the rain, the Last Post, the Silence,
after the laying of wreaths, the Legion fills.
Between sobriety and bathos comes
a quiet stage of drunkenness when men
remember private wounds -- lost youth,
illusion, hope -- when chinks grow wide
in the high walls they hide behind, the walls
that women never learn to build.
A man turns to an old comrade, then,
and says, "I was glad to have you at my back.
You were quiet, but you were a good man."
"We were all good men," the other says,
and something suddenly is laid bare
that cannot be explained, or shared.

(From Quintet: Themes & Variations, Ekstasis Press 1998)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wild Talent podcast

Listen to This: Marie Ellis reads an excerpt from Wild Talent: a Novel of the Supernatural.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Casey Wolf reads from Winter on the Plain of Ghosts

Drop into the multi-talented Casey Wolf's  Wolfden blogsite and listen to Casey reading an excerpt from my historical fantasy Winter on the Plain of Ghosts: a Novel of Mohenjo-daro . The Winter on the Plain of Ghosts excerpt is also available on you-tube .

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Through the Window of the Garden Shed


"Through the Window of the Garden Shed" from Tales from the Holograph Woods: Speculative Poems,  read at  Poetic Justice,  New Westminster BC, August 21, 2011.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Small press vs big press

On the latest posting for  her  "Writer in Residence" blog, Krista D. Ball asks me,  "Why did you go small press?" You can read the whole interview here.

From Krista's blogsite, "Writer in Residence  was started by  Krista D. Ball, after having a bit of a fit over the lack of sensible, correct, and experience-based guidance out there for new writers. Writer in Residence will feature theme months and guest posts, all to offer real-life experiences from the writing and publishing worlds."  Do pay Krista and her guest bloggers  a visit -- and she welcomes comments.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


A boar suckled me.
Hunters reared me.
I am not as other women.

My limbs are fashioned of wind,
my feet are flame-shod.
I have strong arms to stretch the bowstring,
a heedless mouth that laughs across my shoulder
as one by one my doomed suitors
fall behind me
exhausted in the dust.

I am a thrown spear.
I am an arrow shot from the bow.
I am death's handmaiden
whom no man outruns.

But Melanion, with your smile as innocent as orchards,
you do not come wooing empty handed.
You fling before me Aphrodite's
treacherous golden apples
burning like small suns in the white dust,
so ripe, so round that my palms itch for them
and each one a leaden plumb-weight
to hold me to the ground.

First published in Isis Rising, 2000
Photo  © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 23, 2011



At my birth, they say, the midwife
fainted at the sight of me.
Sweet mother, Pasiphaƫ, when you crouched
in the hot dust waiting for the white bull
to part your welcoming thighs, did you dream
then, what monster might be spawned
from your improbable lust?

Asking nothing, I have accepted what was given—
not human enough to spare the lives men sent me,
nor beast enough to remember them without shame.

If I did not exist, it would be necessary to invent me.

Mother. Stepfather. Sister. All who should have loved me
have betrayed me. Only Theseus has been faithful
to the destiny that binds us close as brothers.
Tonight I hear the echo of his footfall through the labyrinth.

I roar his name.
The thread unwinds.

First published in Paradox: The Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction, Issue #10, 2006.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Living in the Past, Part 3

  a sampling

Jean Auel, Clan of the Cave Bear   YA to adult
Eileen Kernaghan, The Sarsen Witch  (Bronze Age Britain) YA to adult
Joanne Findon, When Night Eats the Moon (Iron Age Britain) 9-12

Mesopotamia/ Sumeria
Geraldine McCaughrean, Gilgamesh the Hero. ages 9-12
Ludmila Zeman, Gilgamesh trilogy (Gilgamesh the King; Revenge of Ishtar; The Last Quest of Gilgamesh) Ages 9-12.

Jane Lindskold, The Buried Pyramid. YA
Judith Tarr, Lord of Two Lands.  YA. to adult

Indus Valley
Eileen Kernaghan, Winter on the Plain of Ghosts: a novel of Mohenjo-daro  (Older YA to adult)

Ancient China
Wei Jiang, Legend of Mu Lan: A Heroine of Ancient China
Lloyd Alexander, Dream-of-Jade, the Emperor’s Cat. age 9-12

Ancient Greece
Robert Byrd, The Hero and the Minotaur. Gr. 3-6
Dave Duncan (writing as Sarah B. Franklin) Daughter of Troy. Older YA.
Mary Renault, The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea (older YA to adult)
Patrice Kindl,  Lost in the Labyrinth  Ages 10 to 14
Caroline B. Coney, Goddess of Yesterday YA

Rome and Roman Britain
Alan Garner, Red Shift. YA  (Time- Slip novel set in Roman Britain,
17th C. England and modern times)  YA
Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove, Household Gods. (Older YA to adult)

Madeleine A. Polland, Beorn the Proud . Age 4-8
Chris Humphreys, The Fetch. YA
J.B. Olofsen, Svipdag    YA

Middle Ages
Janet McNaughton, An Earthly Knight (12th Century Scotland)  YA
Simon Rose, The Sorcerer’s Letterbox and The Heretic’s Tomb. (Mediaeval England) Gr. 4 to 7
Connie Willis, The Domesday Book (the Plague Years in England) YA to adult 

Elizabethan England.  Susan Cooper, King of Shadows
 Susan Price, The Sterkarm Handshake
Eileen Kernaghan, The Alchemist’s Daughter  YA

Early explorations
Russel Freedman, author, Bagram Ibatouline, Editor,  Adventures Of Marco Polo .
Ages 9-12   (Whether or not some of  Marco Polo’s adventures were actually fantasy,  the exotic splendour of Kublai Khan’s court lends its own enchantment)

Renaissance Italy
Gregory Maguire, Mirror, Mirror. YA to adult
Dave Duncan, The Alchemist’s Apprentice.  YA to adult.

Seventeenth Century England
John Wilson. The Alchemist’s Dream * 9-12 (not a  fantasy per se,
but the presence of Dr. John Dee adds a touch of magic.)

Himalayan Kingdoms
Peter Dickinson, Tulku
Eileen Kernaghan, Dance of the Snow Dragon (18th century Bhutan) YA

Victorian England
Linda Newberry, Set in Stone (Gothic YA)

19th century Ireland
James Heneghan, The Grave YA
Roberta A. McAvoy, The Grey Horse. YA to adult

Historical Canada
Kit Pearson, A Handful of Time
Julie Lawson, White Jade Tiger
Janet Lunn,. The Root Cellar

First Nations
Louise Erdrich, The Birchbark House

Comments are invited: add your own favourite titles!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Demeter and Persephone Celebrate Spring in the British Museum

Why did I think they would be sedate,
cool Parian goddesses reigning over
the still white halls of high culture? 
They are Greeks, after all,
these boisterous, blowzy, bumptious women.
Two centuries of British damp have not extinguished
their Mediterranean fire.

This one is Demeter,
broad hips firmly planted, 
strong peasant thighs indecorously
splayed. Beside her, first-born and beloved,
Persephone-- no shy bride now, 
but queen in her own right,
at ease, expansive, 
summoning the harrassed Hebe
with an upflung arm.

Soul-sisters, comrades,
carved from a single block of marble,
we see them forever frozen
in that first drunken and ecstatic instant
when the only season that follows spring is summer--
when winter and death are things that happen 
in another country.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Alice, in a gilt frame, with rabbits

Wistful Alice in your green Victorian wood,
perhaps the artist knows
what you have yet to learn,
that a dark, disordered country
waits outside the glass --
a world of whimsical justice
wielded by mad queens,

and white knights who mean well
but cannot be relied upon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Biblical Bestiary #1

... blind guides, which strain at a gnat,
Sebastian Munster, Cosmographia
and swallow a camel
--  St. Matthew 23:24

In Arabia Felix this is the season
when the camels swarm:
huge hummocky windborne
packages of hair and dangling legs and spit
blundering like busses through the ochre air.

The wise traveller, knowing better than to speak
or yawn, will make his way across the sand
in silence.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Celebrating National Poetry Month

green silk
shaken out to air on hedgerows
           . . . another April

Woodcut: The Works of Edmund Spenser, Volume I (1930)
April is National Poetry Month in Canada, and on April 6th I'll be reading at the New Westminster Public Library in company with poets Candice James, Jacqueline Maire and Alejandro Mujica-Olea. The event is sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Public Lending Right program.Readings begin at 7 p.m., an open mic follows, and pre-registration is requested at 604-527-4667

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wild Talent reviewed by the Historical Novel Review

An excellent review of Wild Talent: a Novel of the Supernatural has just been posted at The Historical Novel Review blog. Mirella Patzer writes "Although this novel is listed as a young adult novel, it transcends this limitation easily into adult or women's fiction. It is richly written with a high regard for historical detail, making this novel a true and accurate journey into the richness of the Victorian world."  Here's a link to the full review.