Thursday, January 31, 2013

Biography: Ted Kooser, American Poet

by M. J. Joachim
Ted Kooser offers a bit of humor with insights about everyday life in his poetry.  His poems are simple, unpretentious, and honest.  They tap into the beauty that so often gets forgotten in the rush of day to day living.  Kooser is an American Poet whose work can inspire anyone wanting to retreat to the calm, quiet realities that occur regardless of who is paying attention to them.

Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa in 1939.  He received his Master’s Degree in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he is currently a professor.  Besides working as a professor and freelance writer, he also sold insurance to support his family.  He is husband, father and grandfather.

Kooser is the author of several published books which include poetry, nonfiction, and chapbooks and special editions.  Some of his better known poetry books are:  Flying at Night, Braided Creek:  A Conversation in Poetry, and One World at a Time.  His nonfiction books include: The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Practical Advice for Beginning Poets, and Local Wonders:  Seasons in the Bohemian Alps.  He has also written texts and anthologies which are used for teaching secondary and college courses, as well as plays, fiction, and essays.

Kooser has been a noted speaker and poetry reader throughout his career.  He has read for the Academy of American Poets in New York City, as well as at University of California Berkeley, and many other reknown places.  Among his achievements, he has received a Pulitzer Prize, the Boatwright Prize from Shenandoah, two NEA fellowships, Governor’s Art Award, and Best American Essays Award.  From 2004 – 2006, he held the honor of Poet Laureate.

Kooser is an American Poet who has contributed full heartedly to the world of writing. His works can be analyzed and dissected, or read simply for quiet reflection and enjoyment.  His ideas, while not always being new, are expressed with insight and tenderness.  He resides with his wife and two dogs on a farm in Nebraska, where he writes about country life, old time values, and the simple joy of just being.

Photo credit: U. S. Library of Congress, Public Domain
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Promotions & Follow Me Buttons

Promoting our publications is a vital part of working on the Internet. Every social media site has a button to help us. It’s a win/win for them. By placing the button boldly on our sites, their logo gets out there for all to see.

However, with so many buttons out there and available, things tend to get a little cluttered, if not down-right messy.

I’ve thought about this for a while.

All those codes to place…

All those layouts to reorganize…

Everything in so many different (strategic) places, in the hopes people will click and follow us everywhere.

Make a page – 1 solitary page…in a document. Include all links (set to open a new window), on that single page. Place it at the top of your blogs and websites. Add your picture and personalize it however you see fit. Publish your page for all to see.

Problem solved!

Best to all,

M. J.

Photo credit: Info Graphic on Social Media, Mentionablehonor, Creative Commons Attribution

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Poetry Analysis: Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

by M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/04/15


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


Wrapped up in a story, the tale of one man’s power from the past is riddled into his demise of the future in the classic poem “Ozymandias”. Whether you seek to read it as political power lost or pride defeated by humility, Shelley’s poem is about the permanent truths of all time. Nothing lasts forever and presumed greatness, even when carved in stone can be shattered.

Ultimate care was taken to remove the author from the subject being written about. The opening line of Ozymandias tells of a traveler sharing a story that happened somewhere else. This traveler goes on to describe a stone statue of a person who is mighty and powerful. This is a figure that dominates others with a strong hand and threatening frown, someone who knows how to get what he wants at any cost.

Ah, but lest you be deceived, amidst these sturdy descriptions is telling information about how the passage of time has affected the powerful image portrayed. “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert,” claims the traveler. “Near them,” having been broken off from them, the frowning face lies sunken in the sand.

It is the sculptor whose passions are intensely revealed in Ozymandias. His labor could not be erased by the passage of time. Each and every artistic mark remains "stamped on these lifeless things." Shelley bravely speaks through the traveler, of the sculptor’s passion and mocking hand that carved this magnificent tribute to "Ozymandias, king of kings," titled and including an inscription, "Look upon my works, ye Mighty and despair!" Ozymandias claims greatness equal to God in a most daring and challenging way. The sculptor reveals his state of mind and arrogance permanently for all time.

Conclusion of the traveler’s story shows the baseness of Ozymandias’s claims. Finality reveals his ultimate demise figuratively and permanently, as this statue created to preserve the legacy of Ozymandias, is nothing more than a heap of rubbish in the middle of a vast and empty desert.

As a sonnet, the poem Ozymandias is a bit unusual, varying from the expected iambic pentameter rhythm and sequence. Shelley appears to have written the poem more freely, allowing the metaphor described therein to provide the maximum effect on its reader.

Written in the early 1800’s, Ozymandias has earned recognition as one of Shelley’s most famous poems. It has appeared in numerous anthologies and is praised as a remarkable piece that applies itself to any number of great themes and eternal truths, making it a treasured masterpiece in the literary world.

Ah, lots to think about with this one. Best to all!

M. J.

Photo credit: Bodleian Library, Oxford, Public Domain
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Research Process

by M. J. Joachim

  • Learn:  Research involves learning new information to draw valid conclusions.  What you thought you knew often becomes obsolete in your quest for information and answers.  Think of yourself like a detective. Gather all the facts, even contradicting ones, to make an educated statement about your topic.  Present both sides of the issue, allowing the research to speak for itself.
  • Investigate:  Use multiple sources when gathering information. Sort out credible sources from non-credible sources, as well as fact from opinion. Rely on information from various media sources. Printed works, audio/video and web content all come in handy when investigating a topic. Web content may include such things as visual graphs, which can be used in your final presentation too.  Attend seminars and classes. Interview people in the know. Become one with your topic, to make it more real for your audience when they read your work. Speaking of which, it truly does help to know your audience, when you are researching and investigating your material.
  • Culminate:  While you may well have a hypothesis for your paper, the purpose of research is to prove or disprove that hypothesis, not to agree with your presumptions.  One sided research is misleading and faulty.  It often creates animosity from peers who know the work isn’t up to par.  As a writer, your job is to enlighten people with new and interesting knowledge, not tell them what to think about things.  Give your audience enough credit to make their own conclusions, based on your well written article.
Wishing you every success with your writing,

M. J. 

Photo credit:  Cameron Neylon, Research Cycle, Creative Commons Attribution
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 28, 2013

Grammar & Writing Guide

by M. J. Joachim
Writing is a detailed business. Determining the precise wording to express our truest meaning isn’t always easy. Keeping words grammatically correct, and sentence structure adequately sound can be overwhelming at times, especially when we need to express emotion or bring something to life through visual cues.

It helps to find sites like the one I found today called, Guide to Grammar & Writing, a site sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation. Writing and grammar information is categorized by topic. Each category allows you to scroll down, where you can be redirected to a page containing solid information about the topic of interest.

You can also test your knowledge via quizzes, to determine if you need to focus a little more intensely on some of your writing skills. Guide to Grammar and Writing includes a large section of Power Point presentations on specific skills, as well.

Regardless of your skill level, I believe you will benefit from knowing about this site. It’s a neat place to brush up on some basic skills, and maybe even learn a few new ones. If nothing else, it will serve as a valuable resource when you’re frazzled, and just can’t think well enough to write straight.

Until next time, I wish you every success with your writing.

M. J.

Photo credit: Stock.xchng Image ID 1386501
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 25, 2013

Stew from the Local Landfill??? Say What???

by M. J. Joachim
I think I’m having more fun creating web pages than I am writing these days. Yet, writing is something I simply cannot “not” do. As I was sitting on the couch drinking my 2nd cup of coffee moments ago (another that is bound to go cold, as the one before it – brain on overload, you know), the urge compelled me. So here I sit, attempting to explain the rush of needing to write, while a clip list of possible web page scenarios plays in the back of my mind.

Presentation is everything…or so they say…

You wouldn’t eat a stew that looked like it was scooped from the local landfill, would you? Ah, but one with gorgeous colors, smooth broth or gravy, symmetrically cut vegetables and a sprinkling of bright, vibrant herbs…

I can almost smell it just thinking about it – may have to make a big pot for supper, as a matter of fact.

Back to the topic at hand…

It’s simply not enough to write these days. We have to present our words, which isn’t to say that we have to stand out, but rather to imply that we have to at least try to be good at what we do, because when we’re good at what we do, we won’t need to stand out at all.

Um, yea…

Think I’ll stop there…

That last line got me to thinkin’ a little bit…

Best to all,
M. J.

Photo credit:  Wikimedia Commons, Creative Attribution License, Abbeyvet, Irish Stew
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Steve Martin, the Writer

by M. J. Joachim
If you had asked me what I think about comedian Steve Martin last week, I probably would have replied with a typical, “He’s that wild and crazy guy,” comment so many of us retort with, upon mentioning his name.

Now that I’ve read his autobiography, Born Standing Up, however, I must add his name to the growing list of writers, I so enthusiastically admire. It’s a relatively short book, to be sure, one that every writer (and wannabe writer) could benefit from reading, in my opinion.

Martin’s book is more than a chronology of events. It’s a relatable story – one I’m cerain many of us can see ourselves in, because throughout the book, he’s personal and intimate, without holding back. You can tell which parts of Steve’s story were a bit more sentimental, and which parts ticked him off too. You can also tell the book was edited by professionals. That’s a big plus, if you ask me.

One of the interesting things I learned about Steve Martin while reading his autobiography, is that he is in fact a writer first and foremost. He’s also a professional businessman, something he had to grow into, work at and learn how to be throughout the long and sometimes tedious years of his adult life.

Like many of us, Martin was plagued with your standard family dysfunctional moments – things that affected him while he was on the road and hashing out the details of his career. The impact those early relationships had on him, made him the writer and comedian he is today.

I’m inclined to revisit all those past movies and Saturday Night Live episodes Steve Martin starred in with a new set of eyes, having read this genuine and heartfelt story about a real person, who chose comedy as the means to earn his income, and just by chance took home the grand prize when he did.

Until next time, I wish you well.

M. J.

p.s. Learned something new today regarding Internet Safety and posted it here. When I saw this on the news, it sent chills up my spine, got me to react and inspired an article. After all, some things are just plain wrong and shouldn’t be allowed to happen at all!

Photo credit:  Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License. Towpilot, Steve Martin in Sweden
©2013 All Rights Reserved