Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Back To Literature, Past
A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

For the Love of Journalism

Checking My Column List Twice,
Adding a Bit to It,
And a New List of My Favorites

I have been writing “Back to Literature” columns for for a very long time now. Since 2002—some ninety-eight of them--according our editor’s archives (www.backtoliterature/archive). At our editor’s suggestions, I am reviewing the long list of those columns.

You probably noticed I said, “a very long time.” I have been acutely aware lately that things seem move more quickly as we age. I say “seem,” but we all know it’s true. When we were very young, the time between Thanksgiving and the day Santa arrived or candles were lit was very, very long, indeed. Watching the calendars didn’t help. Nor did holiday cards. The glitter. The colors. The ceremony. There were spicy smells, snowmen, cookies with icing on them. Time dragged because we were focused on gifts, crinkly paper, and “Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House We Go!” where we would be showered with still more gifts, turkey, maybe giant shrimp and cocktail sauce hors-d’oeuvres . . . and hugs. For some, that wasn’t true, but time still dragged because it wasn’t.

So, maybe time dragged because Einstein gave us a new perspective. Maybe it’s because metabolism tells us time is relative.

Looking at my old columns did a good job of altering time for me and in some cases noticing things don’t really change at all. This column from 2008, is an example. (I’ve included the first line so you can determine if you want to click on the link to read more.)

Carolyn Rills on Literature, "Little Black Sambo" and the Politically Correct~ They say our nose is our most memorable feature. I think the eyes, but my husband would argue for ankles.

It’s 2019 and I still find articles arguing the pros and cons of “politically correct?” in newspapers, periodicals, and even books. I’ll tell you one thing; I liked it better when most of us could agree that being politically considerate helps us to maintain the values we have always stood for—or hoped we would. I wish I had included a poem in that “Sambo” column that shows how some great literature lets us peer into other cultures and other times like this poem about my childhood with B’rer Rabbit and his pals.

Utah Child Borrows Her Song from the South

Days in mountain
shadows diminished to dark
by three.
Winter world. Sounds
in the bit-hard chill, leg
and egg, models
for Li’l Abner cartoons.
Laig and aig.
Round sounds like viruses
caught in noses
of those who came
before us, no rhythm,
no sweet surprises.

Foisted on me were Cockleshells,
Mrs. Pumpkin Eater imprisoned
in her shell—fare from Volume
One—when I wanted
Revere’s hooves hard
on cobblestones,
and Uncle Remus’ songs.

Mama (tired of trying to effect
his noise) skipped the part
where B’rer Rabbit, went

clippity lippity

only she didn’t fool me. I knew
its breath. How clever those B’rers!
B’rer Fox,
he juz lay low
and B’rer Rabbit,
that moment
when he knocks
that tar baby silly
‘cause she didn’t behave
properly as he’d like.

And tar baby!
so quiet, had no name—
and she was nobody’s

she juz ain’t
sayin’ nothin’

And now in the world
where I dream I hear

sez B’rer Rabbit,

He as friendly as can be, the tar baby

she ain’t suspectin’’

These, the sounds of the South,
stay in my ears at night when I pray
and mornings when I brush,
the echoes of Remus . . .


and it’s lucky they do ‘cause Remus’
lovely, lyrical lilt staid
in my head an no matter
who sez those stories iz right ‘er thair wrong.
Thair the reason I’m gone.

Originally Published in Master Class Poetry Mystique
Inside the Contemporary Poetry Workshop
Edited and commentary by Suzanne Lummis, ©2014.
A text on the writing process
Featuring poems by Suzanne’s students.

As it turns out, many of my favorite columns were politically influenced, perhaps because we are influenced by what is in the news (and perhaps we should be!). Other than the column mentioned in this, the first of 2019’s columns, I mention my top three in the “Suggestions” box I always include in my columns. Scroll just a bit and see it below.

I list a Tidbit that may help authors write or promote better on the months my “Back to Literature” columns appear. I also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books, a sapphire among the newly-published, or some other way to increase the joy of reading and, in this case, my past columns. Won’t you help me celebrate my longevity with MyShelf? And MyShelf’s longevity—twenty years! Some of these columns may get you reminiscing on the passage of time—how little and how much it changes things.

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

For Everyone:

Carolyn's Five Favorite Columns

From 2002, one of my first columns: “Russia, A Land for Lovers of Literature

From 2004: “A Skunk-Like Odor Emanating from Paid-For Reviews
Note: I eventually wrote a whole book on for authors on getting reviews frugally and ethically.

From 2007: “A Rant on Libraries and Their Destiny
From 2017: “Can Prejudice Cause Cancer?
From 2018: “Nostalgia and My Precious Freedom of the Press

Gift for Writers:

To learn more about how authors can battle the fear of writing, the fear of speaking, and even the fear of success, read the first few chapters of my The Frugal Book Promoter and then keep reading to help take the stress out of book marketing (and nurture an affinity for it!)

Click here for a list of Carolyn's Recent Titles

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