WAR AND PEACE – Martin Luther King Day, Obama’s second inauguration, possibly three unrelated topics

The heartbreak Tolstoy is to me…

The context of this writing is that on Martin Luther King Day 2013 and Obama’s second inauguration where he promises to support greater equality for LGBTQ couples, I’m just finishing reading WAR AND PEACE.

Okay, so I’m a year into WAR AND PEACE and almost finished the tome.  Please understand, this is not my reading habit.  I avoid long novels because, as a novelist myself, once I get into a novel good or bad they become equally fascinating to me, as I try to understand these aesthetic judgments:  What makes this novel good?  What makes this novel bad?

What I know before I start is that this novel has been deemed ‘good’ and is ‘a classic’ so the risk is slight.  Yet the book is very long, so as slight as the risk is, given its length, if the judgment of critics is wrong it will represent a huge waste of time for me whereas a bad novella represents less risk.

These were thoughts of a year ago, a thousand pages ago.  I’ve read many other novels in between, some good, some wonderful, and one big disappointment (and it was long and the critics had assured me I would love this other novel, so yes, there is always a risk).  Good or bad, that is not my thought as I’m coming to the end of WAR AND PEACE.

My thought as I come to some of the beautiful passages of heart break and stupidity that Tolstoy tells with unflinching prose, is that this is a profoundly Christian tale, way longer than any of the four gospels, embedded in a completely different historical context and in a completely different climate – instead of the desert we read of Russian winter approaching, then overtaking the army.

This is not the heartbreak.   I share Tolstoy’s faith, though mine is weaker than his, I’m quite sure.  Yet the sense that WAR AND PEACE is retelling of the Gospels in some passages at least, I find heartbreaking because it calls into question the integrity of storytelling, and of my own ability to know anything about the Gospels.  I wonder if what is beautiful to me is merely what confirms my beliefs, a belief wrapped in the intelligibility of the story, the integrity of the story.  God is beyond all that, other than that, more than that.

So is all writing an attempt to ‘ef’ the ineffable, as one lover accused me of attempting long ago, pun intended I suspect? I can’t ask him; he left years ago. And is great writing just doing that well, better than I can achieve.

I’m almost finished WAR AND PEACE and then, most likely, I start rereading it.

January 22, 2013

Self-help group starting for those still reading WAR and PEACE

How can you not appreciate Tolstoy’s War and Peace?  I do.  I’ve been appreciating it slowly for almost a year now.  It’s on my KOBO reader, as are a great many other novels.  I love my Kobo reader.  I’m loving War and Peace.  We go to bed together almost every night.  At this rate, it might become the longest love affair in my life.  More later….

More poetry in 2013

“I think that I shall never see

a poem as lovely as a tree…”

That poem has always bothered me.

It’s like comparing apples to oranges, though this sort of cross-domain thinking is the cruz of metaphor.  Surely it’s not a trade-off; we can have both, and protecting forests, planting trees, and making more poetry would be a good set of resolutions to this new year.  That’s my train of thought this morning when I read about VQR‘s new series.  We can flood our social media networks with poems instead of pet-pictures in 2013, judged by one of my favorite writing bloggers.  Here are the specifice:

As part of a poetry publishing experiment, VQR is launching an Instapoetry series, to which all poets are invited to submit poems for consideration. What is the Instapoetry series? Brief poems of 14 lines or fewer, designed to be shared and distributed across social networks such as Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest. But you do not have to be an Instagram user to participate.

Here’s how it works.

1. You submit poems for consideration. 2. Selected poems are designed by VQR to be optimally viewed and shared through apps and sites such as Instagram. 3. VQR shares and distributes the poems every week through its own social media accounts, including Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. 4. Everyone is invited to share and comment.

We are thrilled to have Robert Brewer, editor of Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market—and published poet—to be curator of the series.

Click here to view the full set of guidelines. We look forward to reviewing your submissions!

The Mummers Play – A Christmas Tradition

I discovered the MUMMERS PLAY while researching SUICIDAL MANIACS, and would love to have it performed here in this house in Northern California where I’m spending Christmas, but that isn’t going to happen in this isolated farmland, so I send the script out to my readers hoping someone takes up the tradition.  It’s all play.  Merry Christmas.

“Eliza prints out versions of the Mummers play that cover the floor like fresh fallen snow. She plans that she and her friends will perform the cycle of plays, trite old pieces, and Shauna wonders if it’s not almost a séance Eliza’s planning.

“Shauna reads the play as she picks up the pages strewn on the carpet:

1. When righteous Joseph wedded was,

Unto a virtuous/virgin maid,

A glorious angel from heaven came,

Unto that virtuous/virgin maid,

Unto that virtuous/virgin maid.

2. O mortal man remember well,

When Christ our lord was born,

He was crucified betwixt two thieves

and crown’ed withe thorn,

And crown’ed with the thorn.


3. O mortal man remember well,

When Christ died on the rood,

’Twas for our sins and wicked ways,

Christ shed his precious blood,

Christ shed his precious blood.

4. O mortal man remember well,

When Christ was wrapped in clay,

He was taken to a sepulcre,

where no man ever lay,

Where no man ever lay.

5. God bless the mistress of this house,

With gold all/chain round her breast,

Where e’er her body sleeps or wakes,

Lord send her soul to rest.

6. God bless the master of this house,

With happiness beside,

Where e’er his body rides or walks,

Lord Jesus be his guide.

7. God bless your house, your children too,

Your cattle and your store,

The Lord increase you day by day,

And send/give you more and more.

Last week we hosted Yumi Sakugawa for a reading as part of our Second Sunday series at Artwalk (www.artwalkinc.org) and tonight will be the longest night of the year, so I’d like to share Yumi’s thought on the moon.  I’m in northern California for this night, and of course it’s raining, but I hope it clears long enough to see the moon.
Check out Yumi Sakagawa’s site and her comics.  One of my favorites, and a Staff Pic at Skylight Books (www.skylightbooks.com), is There is No Right Way to Meditate.
Happy Winter Solstice everyone.  The light increases starting now.


←yumi sakugawa :: illustrations + comics







First Featured Reader:  Roberta Morris Will read selections from her new book,



Suicidal Maniacs and the Lady of Shalott


Come celebrate the launch of this literary achievement and celebrate a wonderful faculty member!


3RD floor 


Reading at Art Institute of California – Hollywood

You are invited to
First Featured Reader:
Roberta Morris

Will read selections from her new book,

Suicidal Maniacs and the Lady of Shalott

Come celebrate the launch of this literary achievement and celebrate a wonderful faculty member!

5250 Lankershim Boulevard

North Hollywood, CA 91601

Suicidal Maniacs and the Lady of Shalott is out!

So I’m holding a copy of my newest novel in my hand, and feel free to let it go entirely.  Of course, I have to work on publicity but it is done, out there in the world.  It is out there and I can move on.  This feels like the happy ending to a difficult love affair.

Thanks to all the people who worked with me on this project:  first and foremost to my daughter Andrea who inspired, encouraged, edited and now is helping with promotion. < http://www.andreamorris.com >  She has taught me to respect the art of acting even if I still don’t understand it, the mystery of making someone else besides yourself real in your very person.  It seems hard enough to make yourself real — to make some other self real?  Amazing.

And thanks to my son who encourages my writing at all stages.  Special thanks to Lisa Helene Donovan Bacalski for all she did to edit this book and for designing my website, to Jen Moran for providing the image for the front cover and Pat Millar for the image on the back cover.

What’s so good about bad poetry?

Last weekend I was staffing our booth for Artwalk (www.artwalkinc.org) at the annual ArtCycle event in East Hollywood, and the woman in the booth next to me was writing poems for people for $1.  It was more than sweet; it was inspiring.  There she worked away on an manual typewriter.  She wrote me a poem, but I forgot to ask her about copyright so I don’t feel right reproducing it here.  I also forgot to ask her name, and it isn’t legible on the poem she signed after writing it for me, so she will have to remain anonymous for now.

Her’s was quite good poetry, by the way, so how did we get onto the topic of bad poetry?  She and I  got talking about creative practices, one thing led to another to another, and finally to my “Bad Poetry” project.  I started it two years ago, writing one bad poem a day in a little red book.  I named it “Bad Poetry” at the outset and intended to write nothing but bad poetry in it.  I feel this succeeded where some projects, for instance my attempts to write good poetry, have failed.  It was freeing and creative work should be freeing.  Attempts to write good poetry can be freeing too, I realize, but in my experience not trying to write artfully was a huge pleasure and resulted in some… bad poems.  So I succeeded.

I love the Balinese saying, “We have no art; we try to do everything as well as we can.”  But sometimes the opposite might be the case; not trying to do something well, just doing it, can result in some interesting art.

New Novel sent off as an attachment – how weird is that?

Okay, it’s gone to press.  The manuscript for Suicidal Maniacs and the Lady of Shalott I sent off yesterday as a file attachment – after years of work on that novel.

I remember submitting No Words for Love and Famine to my publisher on a disk, thinking that might be the height of alienated labor; all the work that goes into writing a novel comes down to rearranged bits and bytes on a small disk.  But no, that wasn’t anywhere near as alienating as this experience yesterday.  This novel isn’t even submitted in “the body of the text”, “the body” being a metaphor that’s stretched a bit too far when you are referring to email.  And the novel isn’t even part of the body; it’s simply an attachment.

So here again I need to practice the principle of non-attachment.  Everything passes and all we do is love and labor as best we can.  “Attachment” then is in fact an excellent metaphor, because as an author I become way too attached to my little project and have to simply let it go.  It’s done.   Send it off.  Press “enter”.


SUICIDAL MANIACS AND THE LADY OF SHALOTT will be released November 17, 2012. 

Contact the author at www.RobertaMorrisAuthor.com to arrange a reading or interview.