Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

SuperbowlSince today is the Super Bowl, and since football is the only pro-sports organization (to my knowledge)  that has a team named after a work of literature– i.e. the Baltimore Ravens, named after the Edgar Allan Poe poem– we thought we could re-post our “football in literature” quiz form last year… with a few additions. (We had fifteen questions last year, but now, we’ve added five more, plus a bonus.)

Feel free to bring these questions to whatever party you’re attending this evening and quiz your friends during one of the game’s slower moments.  And yes, we recognize it will have to be a pretty lame party if you have to resort to asking literary questions.  (I know we made that same joke last year.)

  1. What American novel features a neighbor named Roberta (formerly Robert) Muldoon, a transsexual former tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles?
  2. In William Faulkner’s The Hamlet, a young schoolteacher named Labove plays college football to pay for his education, even though he’s not crazy about the game.  (Labove sends home cleats to the members of his family who can’t afford shoes, which is very sweet; on the other hand, he also falls in love with an eleven-year-old girl named Eula– definitely not sweet.)  For what university does Labove play football?
  3. In Death of a Salesman, what is the name of Willy Loman’s oldest son, the star football player who never graduated from high school?
  4. And where was this character supposed to go to college?  (He threw into the furnace his sneakers imprinted with the name of the school.)
  5. What novel takes place during World War II at the Devon School, where students invent a game named blitzball, a combination of rugby and football?
  6. This young-adult novel which features a character named Darry, the captain of his high school’s football team who could have gone to college on a football scholarship; however, after the death of his parents,  he gave up on his dream to take care of his brothers, one of whom is named Ponyboy. What is this novel?
  7. Who is the narrator of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a Native American ex-football player who now pretends to be a deaf-mute?
  8. Which Tennessee Williams play features a former professional football player named Brick, whose possible romantic feelings for his former teammate Skipper may be the source of his current alcoholism?
  9.  What is the name of the H.G. Bissinger non-fiction book about the Permian High School football team (from Odessa, Texas), which was the basis of a movie (2004) and a TV show (2006-2011)?
  10. In the 1986 novel and the 1994 film version of Forrest Gump, Forrest earns a scholarship to play football for what university?  (Big Hint: In 2002, Winston Groom– the author of the novel Forrest Gump— wrote a book about this school’s football program, entitled The Crimson Tide.)
  11. I am an American author who played high school football and, during World War I, drove an ambulance in Italy for the American Red Cross.   I later drew on these experiences when I created Nick Adams, a former football player and World War I soldier, who is the protagonist of more than twenty short stories.   Who am I?
  12.  “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.  When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football again were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury.” These two sentences begin which beloved American novel?
  13.  The film Stand By Me features John Cusack as Dennis, a star high school football player whose death haunts his younger brother Gordie.  On what Stephen King short story is Stand By Me based?
  14. What 1999 coming-of-age young adult novel features an introverted narrator named Charlie and a closeted gay football player named Patrick?
  15.  On the Road author Jack Kerouac had a scholarship to play football for an Ivy League university, but after cracking his tibia and squabbling constantly with the coach over his lack of playing time, he dropped out of college completely.  Which university was it—Brown, Columbia, or Princeton?
  16. In The Great Gatsby, what is the name of Daisy’s husband, “one of the most powerful ends that ever played football” at Yale?
  17. I am the sixteen-year-old male narrator of a great American novel.  My story begins as I am standing all alone on Thomsen Hill, next to a Revolutionary War cannon, as my school Pencey Prep’s football team plays Saxon Hall.  I am just about the only one not at the game—except for the kid who lives next door to me, an acne-ridden senior named Ackley.  Who am I?
  18. What little-known (and rightly so) 1986 Robin Williams/ Kurt Russell film about a man who wants to replay an ill-fated football from high school takes its title from the first line of a Dickens novel?  (The question is asking for the name of the movie.)
  19. Which Pulitzer-Prize-winning author, famous for his “Rabbit” novels, has written a short story called “In Football Season”?
  20.  Which Robert Cormier young adult novel opens with high school freshman named Jerry Renault throwing up after trying out for the football team?Universoi
  21. BONUS:
    1. As a follow-up to Question #8, about the Tennessee Williams play:  what was the name of Brick and Skipper’s team? (Hint: it’s fictional.)


  1. John Irving’s The World According to Garp
  2. University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)
  3. Biff Loman
  4. University of Virginia
  5. A Separate Peace
  6. The Outsiders
  7. Chief Bromden
  8. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  9. Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream
  10. University of Alabama
  11. Ernest Hemingway
  12. To Kill a Mockingbird
  13. “The Body”
  14. Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  15. Columbia
  16. Tom Buchanan
  17. Holden Caulfield
  18. The Best of Times
  19. John Updike
  20. The Chocolate War
  21. BONUS: Dixie Stars

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Last week, I gave my Composition students an assignment related to poem “Tensions,” by the Modern Master, Billy Collins. Not familiar with the poem?  Here it is, with the all-important opening epigram…

“Tensions,” Billy Collins

Billy Collins

“Never use the word ‘suddenly’ just to create tension.”
— Writing Fiction

Suddenly, you were planting some yellow petunias
outside in the garden,
and suddenly I was in the study
looking up the word oligarchy for the thirty-seventh time.

When suddenly, without warning,
you planted the last petunia in the flat,
and I suddenly closed the dictionary
now that I was reminded of that vile form of governance.

A moment later, we found ourselves
standing suddenly in the kitchen

where you suddenly opened a can of cat food
and I just as suddenly watched you doing that.

I observed a window of leafy activity
and, beyond that, a bird perched on the edge
of the stone birdbath
when suddenly you announced you were leaving

to pick up a few things at the market
and I stunned you by impulsively
pointing out that we were getting low on butter
and another case of wine would not be a bad idea.

Who could tell what the next moment would hold?
Another drip from the faucet?
Another little spasm of the second hand?
Would the painting of a bowl of pears continue

to hang on the wall from that nail?
Would the heavy anthologies remain on their shelves?
Would the stove hold its position?
Suddenly, it was anyone’s guess.

The sun rose ever higher.
The state capitals remained motionless on the wall map
when suddenly I found myself lying on a couch
where I closed my eyes and without any warning
began to picture the Andes, of all places,

and a path that led over the mountain to another country
with strange customs and eye-catching hats
suddenly fringed with little colorful, dangling balls.

You can see a video of him reading the poem here.  (In this reading, however, he inexplicably changes “dangling balls” at the end to “dangling tassels.”  Perhaps he read the audience and figured they couldn’t handle a poem that ends with “dangling balls”?)

I don’t know if I’d call this “quintessential,” but it definitely has everything I want in a Billy Collins poem.   First, it’s funny.  (Best part: the pause in between “suddenly you announced you were leaving” and “to pick up a few things at the market.”  Probably the most effective use of a line break in any poem ever.)

Next, it’s accessible: I bet even my dad could get this poem.  But there’s also more going on than just the obvious humor: the stanza that begins “Who could tell what the next moment would hold?” really gives a whole new dimension to the poem. Think about it: we all just accept that, for example, the painting of the bowl of pears won’t tumble off the wall, but really every single second is the possibility for something extraordinary to happen.  Maybe something extraordinarily good, maybe something extraordinarily good– but something.  Of course, more than likely, it won’t.  But the point is, your life can change quite…well, suddenly.   And I think the poem, once you dig just underneath the humor, does a great job reminding us of that.

(As an aside: I have often compared to Billy Collins to Norman Rockwell; like all the greatest of Rockwell’s prints, Collins’s poems are relatively easy to understand– accessible, as I said– but deceptively so; there’s always a larger story going on.)

According to Collins, he was inspired to write this poem after perusing through a “how to” book called Writing Fiction.  He found a particular nugget of advice– “Never use the word ‘suddenly’ just to create tension”– and decided to have a little fun with it.

And that bit of inspiration in turn inspired the assignment I gave to my students: Identify a rule of writing (and there are a lot of ’em), and use that as the basis for an original poem.  I may even try to do the assignment myself.  And maybe you in cyberland can do the same.

That’s right: I first give this assignment to my students.  And then, SUDDENLY, I pass it on to you!

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Top o’ the morning, Erin go bragh, and may the road rise to meet you!  For our 50th post, we prepared a special St. Patrick’s Day Literary Quiz, celebrating Irish (or Irish-American) writers and their works.  We came up with seventeen questions (in honor of March 17th), and just so you know:  some are tougher than the blarney stone, and leave just as bad a taste in your mouth!  Answers follow…

irish writers

  1. What is the last story in James Joyce’s short story collection Dubliners?
  2. From which William Butler Yeats poem did Chinua Achebe borrow the title Things Fall Apart?
  3. Which Irish-born writer is famous for classic “chick-lit” novels such as Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married, Watermelon, Sushi for Beginners, and This Charming Man?
  4. What is the name of Jonathan Swift’s well-known satirical essay, in which he advises the Irish to sell their children for food in order to relieve the problems of famine and poverty in Ireland?
  5. He may not have won an EGOT (and for all non-30 Rock fans out there, that stands for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), but Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw is the only person to have won a Nobel Prize for Literature AND an Oscar.  For what film did Shaw win the Oscar?
  6. In Samuel Becket’s famous play, who are the two main characters who are waiting for Godot?
  7. How many Pulitzer prizes did Irish-American playwright Eugene O’Neill win?
  8. Which Seamus Heaney poem begins, “Late August, given heavy rain and sun/ For a full week, the blackberries would ripen”?
  9. Which best-selling Irish writer, whose sixteen novels include Glass Lake, Tara Road, and Circle of Friends, died last summer, on July 30, 2012?
  10. What is the title of Irish playwright Oscar Wilde’s only novel?
  11. Stephanie Meyer owes a blood debt to this nineteenth-century Irish-born writer, whose Dracula is the prototypical vampire novel. Who is this author?
  12. Which Irish writer was famous for his short stories, including “The Majesty of the Law,” “The Drunkard” and “My Oedipus Complex”?
  13.  I am an importance voice in the literature of the American South.    My stories (including “Everything That Rises Must Converge” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find”) have influenced rock-and-roll demigods Bruce Springsteen (who allegedly read my stories while writing the album Nebraska) and Bono, of the Irish supergroup U2; in fact, Bono alludes to my story “The Enduring Chill” in the lyrics of the song “One Tree Hill.”  And while I was not born in Ireland, I do have Irish ancestry and an Irish last-name. Who am I?
  14.  The “S” in “C.S. Lewis” stands for “Staples.”  What does the “C” stand for?  (And yes, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia was born in Belfast, Ireland.)
  15.  Which Irish college houses the Book of Kells, an ornately decorated rendering of the Four Gospels, dating back to the Middle Ages?
  16. What is Gulliver’s first name in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels?
  17. Who is Angela in Frank McCourt’s memoir Angela’s Ashes?


What is “Bloomsday”—the date on which James Joyce’s Ulysses is set?  (a) July 2, 1902 (b) June 12, 1903 (c) June 16, 1904, or (d) July 16, 1905


  1. “The Dead”
  2. “The Second Coming” (The line is, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”)
  3. Marian Keyes
  4. “A Modest Proposal”
  5. Pygmalion (1938).  Shaw also wrote the play on which the film is based.
  6. Vladimir and Estragon
  7. Four, for Beyond the Horizon (1920), Anna Christie (1922), Strange Interlude (1928), and Long Day’s Journey into Night (1957).
  8. “Blackberry Picking”
  9. Maeve Binchy
  10. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  11. Bram Stoker (Incidentally, his actually first name is “Abraham.”)
  12. Frank O’Connor
  13. Flannery O’Connor
  14. Clive
  15. Trinity College
  16. Lemuel
  17. Angela is the author’s mother, who is a native of Limerick, Ireland.  Frank McCourt himself was born in New York, but eventually his family moved to Limerick.

Tie-Breaker:  (c) June 16, 1904

How’d You Do?

15-17 Correct: Pot o’ Gold!

11-14 Correct: Shamrock-star!

6-10 Correct: Lucky Guesser

2-5 Correct: Green around the Gills

0-1 Correct: Potato Famine

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Just under the wire (and perhaps the mistletoe)… a literary Christmas quiz, one that will require you to use your (egg)-noggin!  Happy holidays to everyone!

  1. In O. Henry’s short story “Gift of the Magi,” what is the name of the woman who sold her hair to get a Christmas gift for her husband?
  2. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, during his Harry’s first Christmas at Hogwarts, what gift—a Potter family heirloom—does Harry receive via an anonymous Dumbledore?
  3. What Shakespeare play is named after the Feast of the Epiphany, which takes place on January 6th (the day, according to some scholars, when the play was first performed)?
  4. What is the name of Scrooge’s former employer, the proprietor of a warehouse who would host Christmas balls?
  5. In John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, the narrator describes how Owen Meany, during one holiday season, played a role in a Christmas pageant and a role in a  version of A Christmas Carol. What were these two roles?
  6. I am an American poet who wrote a poem called “Christmas Trees (A Christmas Circular Letter),” but you probably know me better for that other wintry poem, the one about keeping promises on the darkest evening of the year. Who am I?
  7. I am a classic American novel which ends with the line, “So we beat on boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly to the past.”  This Christmas, I was supposed to get 3D movie treatment (thanks to director Baz Luhrman), but the studios decided to postpone the film’s release until the summer.  I am who?
  8. In The Catcher in the Rye, which historical figure is Phoebe Caulfield reportedly playing in her school’s Christmas pageant?
  9. John Milton, author of “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” is better known for what other religious poem, about the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden?
  10. Chris Van Allsburg, the author of children’s books such as Jumanji and Zathura, is also the author of which Christmas classic?
  11. Which now-classic Christmas movie—about a boy and his BB gun—is based on a book of short stories called In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, written by Jean Shepherd?
  12. Joe Christmas is the main protagonist of what William Faulkner novel with a decidedly non-Christmas-y title?
  13. And what non-Christmas-y Yeats’  poem ends with the line, “Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born”?
  14. The song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”—recorded by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Sarah Maclachlan, and Bette Midler—is based on the poem “Christmas Bells,”  written by which American poet (famous for “Paul Revere’s Ride”)?
  15. According to the Foreword of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, which character reportedly dies on Christmas Day 1952?
  16. What is the name of the young boy who is one of the two main characters in Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory”?  (Hint: he shares his name of a famous Christmas elf.)
  17. In what C.S. Lewis novel does Santa Claus give children named Peter, Susan and Lucy “tools, not  toys”—including a sword and a red shield emblazoned with the picture of a lion?
  18. What is the official title of  Clement C. Moore’s “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”?
  19. I am an American poet whose poem “The Savior must have been a docile Gentleman”—which notes how Jesus was born in Bethlehem on ”so cold a Day”—has two of my trademarks:  it’s brief (40 words) and full of dashes!
  20. Boris Karloff, who narrated the animated special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” famously played what famous movie monster, originally created by Mary Shelley?
  21. What Scottish poet wrote the poem “Auld Lang Syne” in 1788?
  22. What Christmas ballet is based on an 1816 short story by M. T. A. Hoffman about a toy that comes to life?
  23. What Irish poet, famous for “Don’t Go Gently into That Good Night,” also wrote “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”?
  24. I am the author of the one-act play The Long Christmas Dinner, but you probably know me better by my Pulitzer-prize winning play Our Town. I am who?
  25. Which Christmas carol began as a poem, written by Father Joseph Mohr in 1816, which was then set to music by his friend Franz Gruber?


1. Della

2. Invisibility Cloak

3. Twelfth Night

4. Fezziwig

5. Baby Jesus, Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

6. Robert Frost

7. The Great Gatsby

8. Benedict Arnold

9. Paradise Lost

10. The Polar Express

11. A Christmas Story

12. Light in August

13. “The Second Coming”

14. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

15. Lolita herself (Mrs. Richard Schiller). She died while giving birth to a stillborn child.

16. Buddy

17. The Lion,The Witch, and The Wardrobe

18. “A Visit from St. Nicholas”

19. Emily Dickinson

20. Frankenstein’s monster

21. Robert Burns

22. The Nutcracker

23. Dylan Thomas

24. Thorton Wilder

25. “Silent Night”

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It’s late November, and you know what that means: our annual Literary/ Pop-Culture Thanksgiving Quiz.  (OK, you got us: we’ve never done this before… but it could become “annual,” right?)  Quiz your family and friends while in your post-meal, food-induced coma.  Enjoy!


1. Name three food items served at the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving feast.

2. Which American poet, also famous for this glorification of Paul Revere, wrote “The Courtship of Myles Standish”?

3. What three modes of transportation is the title of the John Candy/ Steve Martin movie about two hapless travelers trying to make it home for Thanksgiving?

4. On “Friends,” what is the name Ross gives to the gravy-soaked bread in the middle of Monica’s Thanksgiving leftover sandwich?

5. Also from “Friends”: which actor guest-starred as Ross and Monica’s formerly fat friend, who has an intense hatred for Rachel? (Hint: this actor was dating Jennifer Aniston at the time.)

6. Final “Friends” question: in the Season Five Thanksgiving episode, what did Monica put on her head when begging forgiveness from Chandler?

7. In what Sherman Alexie young adult novel does a character, when asked why Indians celebrate Thanksgiving, answers, “We should give thanks that they didn’t kill all of us”?

8. On an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry feeds his girlfriend turkey in the hopes that she will fall asleep.  Why does he do this?

9. Which Roman goddess of grain is also the root of the word cereal?

10. Several classic films opened over Thanksgiving weekend. For example, Back to the Future Part 2 opened over Thanksgiving weekend in 1989.  In the Back to the Future films, what is the speed you must reach in order to travel through time?

11. Thanksgiving weekend in 1999 was the opening of Toy Story 2, which included the song “When She Loved Me.”  Who sang that song?

12. The film version of the musical Rent opened Thanksgiving weekend in 2005. Which couple, who married in 2003, met when they were both starring in the original Broadway production?

13. On the “West Wing” episode “The Indians in the Lobby,” which character talks to a representative from the Butterball Hotline?  (Extra credit: where does this character give as his/her home city?)

14. In the Oscar-winning film Scent of a Woman, a teenage boy played by Chris O’Donnell spends Thanksgiving weekend looking after Al Pacino’s blind, suicidal ex-Army colonel.  What is the colonel’s name? What is the teenage boy’s name?

15. Which author, famous for In Cold Blood, also penned the short story “A Thanksgiving Visitor,” about a boy who has to spend Thanksgiving with his arch-nemesis, a bully named Odd Henderson?

16. Which area in the Hunger Games Arena takes its name from the traditional Thanksgiving symbol often called “horn of plenty”?

17. Which American author, who gained fame for her books about Stephanie Plum, also wrote the novel Thanksgiving, about a romance between Megan Murphy and Dr. Patrick Hunter?

18.  In the “Courtship of Myles Standish,” whom was Myles Standish courting?

19. Which 2007 movie has Steve Carell, during a Thanksgiving weekend with his family, fall in love with his brother’s girlfriend, played by Juliette Binoche?

20.  Which artist illustrated the Thanksgiving-themed “Freedom from Want” in 1943?


1. toast, popcorn, jelly beans, pretzels

2.Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

3.Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

4.Moist Maker

5.Brad Pitt


7. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

8.he wants her to fall asleep so he can play with her classic toy collection

9. Ceres

10. 88 miles per hour

11. Sarah McLachlan

12. Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel

13. President Bartlet (Extra Credit: Fargo)

14Colonel Frank Slade, Charlie Simms

15. Truman Copte

16. cornucopia

17. Janet Evanovich

18. Priscilla Alden

19. Dan in Real LIfe

20. Norman Rockwell

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This week’s election reminded me of another epic showdown, from almost two hundred years ago.  Only this battle wasn’t between warriors or statesmen, but two poets.  And at stake? Not money or power, but the honor of having your work read by A.P. Literature students for evermore.

No doubt you know the tale of the confrontation between these two battle-weary wordsmiths, but allow me to provide some context nonetheless:  it’s December 1817, and two friends—Percy Bysshe Shelley and Horace Smith—have an idea: they’d have a sonnet-writing competition!  Both men would write a sonnet about the same subject and then see which one is better. (Hey, they didn’t have Angry Birds back then or even iCarly re-runs.  What else could they do to pass the time?)

Ozymandias – Shelley’s draft

Shelley and Smith both decided to write about Rameses II (of course), the great Egyptian pharaoh, also known as Ozymandias.  Or, more specifically, they both decided to write about a statue of this king, a statue that has deteriorated over the centuries to the point that only fragments remain—the head, the legs, and the pedestal.

Both poets even explore the same paradox:  that Ozymanidas, the self-proclaimed “King of Kings,” commissioned a statue of himself to guarantee his immortality, but all that’s left is a broken statue.  So if anything, he is immortalized, all right, but only as a symbol of mortality.

Both Shelley and Smith dutifully wrote their separate sonnets and submitted them to the same magazine, The Examiner.  Shelley published his poem first, on January 11, 1818:

I met a traveller 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 shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d 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.”

Three weeks later, on February 1, 1818, Horace Smith’s poem was published:

In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows.
“I am great Ozymandias,” saith the stone,
“The King of kings: this mighty city shows
The wonders of my hand.” The city’s gone!
Naught but the leg remaining to disclose
The sight of that forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when through the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the wolf in chase,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What wonderful, but unrecorded, race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Both pretty solid poems, actually. To me, the main difference is that Shelley includes a narrator (“I met a traveler…”), which reinforces the theme of story-telling: the narrator is telling us about a story he heard from someone else about this forgotten king (who is obviously not completely forgotten, since all these people are still talking about him).

However, although both poems were published about the same time, and they both take the same angle on the same historical figure, Shelley clearly came out the victor in their sonnet-brawl. Shelley’s poem, after all, is a widely-known staple of English literature… and pretty much no one has ever read or even heard of Horace Smith.

And why?  Why did Horace Smith get the fuzzy end of the legacy-lollipop?   A simple reason: Shelley had a better title.

Shelley entitled his poem, “Ozymandias.”  And Smith entitled his, “On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below.”

A rose by any other name, indeed…

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If you asked me in 9th grade to describe the man of my dreams, I would’ve answered in one of three ways: 1) swashbuckling pirate, 2) wealthy Duke with a tortured secret, or 3) bad boy renegade with a heart of gold.  Can you guess what kind of books I read back then?  Well… if I’m being completely honest, I still read those kinds of books, but my understanding of real and healthy love has matured and deepened over the years.  And tomorrow will be the 15th anniversary of the day I married a true partner and soulmate in every sense of the word.

Most romantic comedies are based on the premise that opposites attract.  You see it in enduring hits such as Roman Holiday, When Harry Met Sally, or Pretty Woman.  It plays great on the big screen, and maybe it’s true for some real life couples.  Sure, Mark and I have our differences.  He’s pretty mellow and I can be a bit uptight at times.  He’s an intensely social extrovert while I love to stay at home with a good book.  He’s super messy and I’m only sort of messy.

Romantic comedies are fun to watch because of the comedic potential, but what would a long-term relationship between these characters really look like?  Where would they be after 15 years of marriage? (Before you curse my name forever, don’t worry… I believe Harry and Sally are definitely still together!)

I rather like Shakespeare’s romantic take on relationships in Sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

From what I’ve seen, the “marriage of true minds” – couples bound together by what they share – are much more likely to last.  I’d like to believe that’s true of my own marriage. Mark and I both love to laugh and to make others laugh.  We are readers and writers and teachers.  We love analyzing the dickens out of any fictional text, having once spent an entire 2-hour car ride dissecting the lyrics to “Closing Time” by Semisonic. (Perhaps a future blog post if you’re interested?)

We share the same faith and the same vision for a more perfect world.  We are both fiercely devoted to family and friends and we are equally enthralled with the incredible twin boys we brought into this world.  We can’t believe they belong to us, and we’re awed by the fact that we belong to them.

We are both colossally disorganized.  Just ask my sister about the time I famously picked up a property tax bill from a pile of papers on the floor of our study and asked: “Was this due yet?”

But what lights the biggest spark in our marriage is our shared creativity.  And in 2009 we embarked on brand new creative journey together – we began co-writing a novel.  And aside from raising our boys, it has been the single most thrilling experience of our marriage.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post to read Mark’s reflection on the rewards (and pitfalls) of writing as a husband/wife team.

Happy Anniversary, man-of-my-dreams!  I’m really glad you’re not a pirate.

Use the comment section below to share the secret of what makes your marriage or relationship work!

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