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Poetry Friday ~ The Merchant of Venice

29 May

Hi, everyone! It’s the fourth week of the month, which means, we get a Theme Prompt! Merril D. Smith, the winner from last month’s challenge selected a quote from Shakespeare’s A Merchant of Venice as this month’s theme. Colleen’s 2020 Weekly Poetry Challenge

This week’s theme is:

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

After each good deed

no parade or accolades

Take a step higher

on heaven’s ladder until

you have reached St. Peter’s gate

I read The Merchant of Venice in high school, and I remember having mixed feelings about it. The Jewish loan shark (okay, moneylender) Shylock horrifed me with his request for a pound of flesh as payment for a loan.

Here’s a rough and short summary of the story: A man named Antonio owned a fleet of merchant ships. One day, a gold-digging friend of his, Bassanio asked him for a loan so that he could pursue a rich woman named Portia. But Antonio’s ships had not come in with his merchandise yet, so he had no money to lend him. Instead, Antonio tells his friend to ask Shylock for the loan promising that he’d pay it back once his ships return. When Bassanio asked Shylock for the loan, instead of charging extremely high rates of interest, as he usually did, the moneylender asked that a pound of Antonio’s flesh be the payment if the loan was not paid within three months.

Three months went by, and Antonio’s ships had not returned. He was told that they were lost at sea. It was time to repay the loan, but Antonio was broke. Shylock had him arrested and demanded his pound of flesh. Bassanio, now married to the heiress Portia, offered her money to pay the loan. However, Shylock held a grudge against Antonio because he considered him competition in the loan business and an anti-Semite (which he was). Shylock insisted he must be allowed to extract a pound of flesh from Antonio as per their contract.

Long story short (too late), Portia, (Bassanio’s rich wife) dressed as a lawyer (?) managed to safe Antonio’s life. She won the case against Shylock by stating that there was no mention of blood in the contract. Therefore, if he could extract a pound of flesh from Antonio without spilling any of his blood he could go ahead and do so, but if he spilled one drop of his blood he would go to jail. Of course, Shylock knew it would be impossible to cut out a pound of flesh from a man without an enormous amount of blood shed.

In the end, Shylock lost his daughter and part of his wealth to another of Antonio’s friends, and was forced to become a Christian (antisemitism). Antonio’s ships came in afterall, and he and his friends lived happily ever after with their spouses. At times, I viewed Shylock as a villain and other times as a victim. Nevertheless, The Merchant of Venice is a story worth reading.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a fabulous day!

Poetry Friday ~ Photo Prompt

22 May
Photograph by Balaji Malliswamy

Hi, everyone!

Every 3rd week of the month it’s Photo Prompt time at Colleen’s 2020 Weekly Poetry Challenge. I won the last photo prompt challenge so I had the privilege of choosing this week’s photo. I chose this intriguing and somewhat scary nature photo by Balaji Malliswamy.

Colleen’s words:

Remember, a photo can be a metaphor for your poetry. Think about the mood, the theme, and the color. Think outside of the box. We know there’s a crocodile, but what else is going on here? What do you smell? What do you hear? There’s more here than meets your eye. Surprise me!

There are many movies and books that depict crocodiles as monsters, but they’re simply animals trying to survive in the wild. Here are a few fun crocodile facts:

  • Crocodiles are reptiles.
  • The physical characteristics of crocodiles make them good predators.
  • Crocodiles are fast over short distances.
  • Crocodiles have the strongest bite of any animal in the world.
  • The muscles that open crocodiles jaws however are not so powerful, reasonably strong people could hold a crocodiles jaw closed with their bare hands.
  • Like other reptiles, crocodiles are cold-blooded.
  • Crocodiles can survive for a long time without food.
  • Most crocodiles live in fresh water rivers and lakes but some live in salt water.
  • Crocodiles eat a variety of fish, birds and other animals.
  • Crocodiles release heat through their mouths rather than through sweat glands.
  • The saltwater crocodile is the largest species of crocodile.
  • Some crocodile species can weigh over 1200 kg (2600 lb).

My poem today is about the most dangerous predator on the planet, man.

“I am an evil man. I do not love anyone. I wish harm to everyone and good to myself. I am an egoist. I am not God. I am a beast, a predator.”  

From The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky

*

The Stalker

The silent stalker

camps outside your home and waits

Followed you all day

He claims to add balance to

your soul ’cause he’s seen your horns

Photo by Viktor Mogilat

I hope you liked the post! Let me know what you think in the comments below. Enjoy the rest of the day!

Poetry Friday ~ Gratitude

8 May

Hi, everyone! It’s the first of the month, and that means poets choose their own syllabic poetry form, theme, words, images, etc. Colleen’s 2020 Weekly Poetry Challenge

The year 2020 has seen its share of major historic events and bizarre incidents in just a little over five months–– including the acquittal of President Donald Trump in an impeachment trial, the bushfires in Australia, the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and the entire world grinding to a halt as businesses shut down and people are quarantined.

As I ponder on these events and others like the death of (a legend) Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash, the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union, the Dow plunging 2,997 points due to coronavirus fears, the 2020 Summer Olympics postponed, and the fact that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped down from their duties as senior royals in Buckingham Palace, I want to pinch myself to be sure I’m not in some dark and eerie nightmare. Despite the peculiar times we’re living in, I’m sure everyone can find at least one thing to be thankful for, right?

I’m thankful that my family and I are doing well, and that we have plenty to eat and drink, and our toilet paper inventory is full. I’m grateful that this nightmare has not prevented me from doing a lot of reading and writing. My cooking and baking skills have gotten better. Despite the fact that I miss my family I have enjoyed our zoom get togethers. I’m also grateful to be in such great company during isolation – there are no better quarantine buddies than my husband JC and Pomeranian Scribbles. I have a roof over my head and a great view of a golf course. How could I not feel gratitude in my heart.

Although there are a plethora of strange happenings there are also appreciable moments. To be honest, there have been times when I’ve been down, fearful, anxious – none of us has ever lived through times like these. It’s easy to feel vulnerable and like you have no control over the outcome of your life. But when have we ever had total control over the outcome of our lives? We can’t focus only on the negative – it won’t solve a thing. Let’s think about all we should be grateful for.

“The most powerful weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. Train your mind to see the good in this day.”

Gratitude should be

as natural as breathing

Inhale and Exhale

Photo by Candice Picard @candice_picard

Stay healthy, helpful, and calm, my friends!

Poetry Friday ~ The Day After

1 May

Hi, everyone! Happy 1st Day of May!

Colleen’s 2020 Weekly Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge No. 175, Theme Prompt. This month’s theme is: “The Day After” chosen by Elizabeth from Tea & Paper (Blog)

Photograph by Jr Korpa

The Day After

As we hike through the wounded city

We search for something live and bright

Any remnant that we once

existed in the flesh

my ghost finds nothing

except the clear

evidence

that we’re

gone.

Photgraph by Clement Falize

Brilliant scientists

experiment in lab coats

doomed us all to hell

“This is the way the world ends,

not with a bang, but a gasp.”

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but for a while now I’ve been reading about how scientists are working with microorganisms to engineer them to perform certain tasks. There’s good that could come from this, for instance, if a bacteria was to be engineered to locate and kill only cancer cells in a person’s body, leaving the healthy cells alone. If this works, other microorganisms could be used in the same way to rid the body of many diseases. Things can go horribly wrong, though. So many discoveries and inventions were made for the good of the people only to end up in the wrong hands and used for atrocities –– just ask Einstein. I know this all reads like the premise to a Sci-fi novel, but once scientists discovered how to read and map a strand of DNA they’ve been busy experimenting with things we can’t even imagine. Who knows what they’re cooking up in those labs? Like maybe a solution to the overpopulation problem no one wants to talk about. Like maybe engineer a virus that can target the old and diseased, and kill them by the thousands? That can certainly solve the overpopulation problem in the world while maintaining the young and strong safe. After all, they are the future.

New Book Reviews: The One Discovered by Yvette Calleiro, Journey to the Rainbow’s End by Forrest Stepnowski, and The Ex Chronicles by Maura Beth Brennan

30 Mar

Hello, everyone! I hope you are all safe and healthy.

“There is no place like home.”

~L. Frank Baum

The best thing we could do right now to slow the spread of the coronavirus is to stay home. Of course, that’s not possible for everyone, but if you can work from home you should. Self isolation has worked well for other countries and in past pandemics. Practice social distancing even if you’re young and healthy because although your chances of dying from COVID– 19 is low you could still spread the disease to people that are vulnerable and could die from it.

I’d like to thank all the people in the medical field, including my brother Ralph, who’s at the front lines every day, and my cousins Lissette, Ray, Miguel, Leo, and Sonya. You’re putting yourselves at risk on a daily basis to help those in need. Thank you.

Changing the subject, I’ve been doing a lot of reading since I sent my manuscript to my editor. Today, I’d like to share three of the books I’ve read so far and my reviews. I posted the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and although they are already showing on Goodreads, Amazon has yet to make all three reviews available.

Book Reviews:

Click on image to purchase on Amazon

The One Discovered by Yvette Calleiro

I don’t read a lot of young-adult fantasy novels, but this one came highly recommended, and the book cover enticed me. This is the first book in the Chronicles Of The Diasodz series.

Sofia is a seventeen-year-old girl in her last year of high school. Up until this point, she’s lived an ordinary life as the daughter of Liana, a single mom and girlfriend to lifelong friend Rafe. One night, she has an extraordinary dream in which she meets a handsome boy named Ar’ch. Her life takes a bizarre turn when she goes to work and comes across Ar’ch in real life.

Sofia learns that she is far more than she ever thought she could be, and that an entire world’s existence depends on her. She has a decision to make, but how can she leave her home and everyone she loves behind?

How does a teenage girl choose between her boyfriend, who’s been her best friend since childhood, and a handsome boy who makes her feel things she’s never felt before?

The story was slow-paced at first, but soon picked up. Overall, it had a good flow and kept me engaged. The characters were well developed and relatable, especially Sofia, Angel, and Rafe. The final chapters are captivating and full of action until the end.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy a young-adult fantasy with a love triangle, excellent characters, world building, action, and drama. I look forward to reading the second book in the series, The One Enlightened. 

***

Click on image to purchase on Amazon.

The Ex Chronicles by Maura Beth Brennan

“The Ex Chronicles” is a humorous short story about a couple named Angie and Bryce.

When Angie met Bryce, she thought she had found Mr. Right. She fell madly in love with him, only to find out he was cheating on her.

Believing their relationship was worth fighting for, Angie designs a plan to confront her boyfriend and the other woman. All the while, old black-and-white movies played in her head, and she imagined herself as one of the heroines starring in the movies, so she figured everything would turn out as she planned.

Unfortunately, things did not play out as Angie had hoped, and her antics will have you rolling with laughter.

I enjoyed author Maura Beth Brennan’s sense of humor and writing style. I recommend this quick and fun read to anyone who’s been in a bad relationship and only has a moment to spare.

***

Click on image to purchase on Amazon.

Journey to the Rainbow’s End by Forrest Stepnowski

Journey to the Rainbow’s End begins with a varied collection of freestyle poems, which are both beautiful and heartfelt. About halfway through the book, author Forrest Stepnowski gives us a short, insightful account (fictionalized memoir) of his journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance.

Robert grew up in a religious home where being gay was not an option. He was taught that homosexuality was a sin and punishable by God. From an early age, he struggled with whom he was and hungered for love, acceptance, and compassion—mostly from himself.

In his early teens, Robert felt an attraction to other boys, but he was conflicted and confused due to his homophobic religious teachings. He suffered many terrible experiences in his developmental years, including a suicide attempt and the death of a close friend.

Robert experienced sex, and like a bird released from its cage, he began a reckless way of life with multiple lovers. When he learned that a good friend was diagnosed with AIDS and committed suicide, Robert was forced to change his ways. 

I enjoyed how the author combined his poetry with the narrating of his story because it gave me a better perspective. In the end, despite the difficulties endured by Robert, he managed to find his way to self-acceptance. 

Overall, this book is about learning to accept who you are and adds another dimension to the LGBT story, which is a human story. I was touched by this book because the author bravely bared his soul to inspire others who may be walking the same path.

The story and poems were fabulous, but there were a few poems that stood out for me and moved me in some way.

“I Am Not The One” – I loved this line: “I am worth more than my weight in diamonds and gold.”

“Freeze” – I got goose bumps reading this one, and I loved the ending.

“That’s Gay” – Powerful and relatable, even to straight people.

“The Touch of Your Skin” – HOT

“The Song of Ever Changing Fairytales” – Who wouldn’t relate?

If you enjoy beautiful poetry from the heart and riveting short stories, this book is for you.

reading, book reviews, Vashti Quiroz Vega, Vashti Q, author, books, stay at home, read more

“The ultimate luxury is being able to relax and enjoy your home.”

~Jeff Lincoln

I hope you enjoyed the post. Thanks for the visit, and feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.

So this happened . . .

24 Nov

Hello, everyone! Welcome.

luis royo-vashti quiroz vega-author-confession-Vashti Q-uterine cancer-warrior-the writer next door

Illustration by Luis Royo

 

I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend and those of you that celebrated Thanksgiving had a wonderful day. I apologize for the lack of “Poetry Friday” yesterday and I have something to tell you.

I’ve been having some health issues––nothing huge––but something that needed medical attention. Well, I went to my doctor and got a bunch of tests done. On Wednesday 11/15/18 I received a call from my doctor’s office. The nurse seemed somewhat frantic on the phone and asked me if I could come to the office “right now” those were the words she used. I asked  if I could come in later on after my husband got home from work but she said it would be best if I called my husband and told him to get off work early so that we can come in to see the doctor as soon as possible. Of course by now I was fairly alarmed. I called my husband, explained the situation and he came home right away. I was ready when he arrived and we left immediately to my doctor’s office.

We arrived at the doctor’s office, signed in and explained to the front office girl that the nurse had told me on the phone to have her paged when I arrived. An hour later, I finally saw the doctor. He told me that the biopsies he took came back abnormal and that I had uterine cancer. I remained calm and listened to everything he had to say. He made an appointment with an Oncologist for me. I went to see the cancer specialist on Wednesday 11/21/18 and he told me I needed a total abdominal hysterectomy plus the removal of two lymph nodes in the pelvic area. He also wanted to do the surgery sooner rather than later and advised me not to wait more than a month to get it done. I decided to get it done as soon as his schedule allowed. I wanted the whole situation behind me as soon as possible. The Oncologist said he would contact the hospital and they would give me a call.

The hospital called me bright and early on Friday 11/23/18 and asked me to come in to get preregistered because my surgery will be on Tuesday 11/27/18 at 7:00 am. I spent most of the day at the hospital on Friday which is why I didn’t do a “Poetry Friday” post.

For some reason I felt compelled to write this down and let everyone know. However, this is not a “pity party” because I’m actually feeling quite calm and optimistic. I’m not in any great pain and I know that if I had to have some sort of cancer this is probably one of the best to have. I know this may seem strange to some of you, but having been in the medical field I understand exactly what I’m diagnosed with and I know that this is a very curable cancer. The oncologist also said that it was caught at a very early stage and with surgery the chances of it returning is like 1%. I think those are great odds, don’t you? He also said there’s a good chance I won’t even need chemotherapy after the surgery.

Everything has happened so quickly I haven’t had a chance to really wrap my head around it all, but like I wrote earlier, I’m feeling optimistic and calm. The surgery does scare me a little, I’m not going to lie, and I’m not looking forward to the side effects after surgery but things could have been much worse.

So if you notice in the next few weeks that I am not as active on social media or on my blog as I used to be you’ll know why. I plan to recuperate from surgery and get back on my feet quickly, in the meantime, life goes on.

 

Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.

~Jack Ma

 

Vashti Quiroz Vega-Vashti Q-author-writer-book_dragon-book nerd-bibliophile-books

“BOOK DRAGON”

Haiku Friday – Tyrant & Hope

15 Jun

“The common mistake that bullies make is assuming that because someone is nice that he or she is weak. Those traits have nothing to do with each other. In fact, it takes considerable strength and character to be a good person.” 

~Mary Elizabeth Williams

Trolls

by Vacuous

Trolls,
a mythical creature now real.
They roam the internet looking to eat.
Looking to eat emotions.
You get a kick out of pain from another.
You kick them down on the ground while they are already under it.
Using technology to get into their brains and heart.
You find it funny to bring suffering to someone who can’t take anymore and has already taken it all.
You let them slip farther down into the hole when they confide
in you something they won’t tell others.
You think it is funny, cute, fair to treat others with the disrespect you have honed.
You practice day in day out to make those around you
feel less significant.
Unequal.
Lifeless.
No matter how far a person thought you could push
you always found a way to push a little farther.
That’s all you’ve known.
That is all you will ever know.
Because at some point in life,
you decided to become a
troll.

How much does bullying hurt? If we don’t know by now, after all the school shootings, teen suicides, mass murders in public places . . . The effects of bullying are painful and can sometimes lead victims to suicide as an alternative to pain. Bullying has a negative effect on everyone involved; the target, the bully and the bystanders.

We see the effects of bullying on the news almost every day. We read about it on social media. I don’t think anyone can turn a blind eye any longer. So what do we do about it? Spread awareness of the negative effects of bullying. If you see someone being bullied, try to do something to stop it. If you are a bully, and many adults are, stop bullying others. When you bully someone you take away their self-confidence. Bullying makes children feel lonely, unhappy and frightened. The effects of bullying can be devastating and lead to depression and suicide. In order to grow, we need to learn to lift others up, not tear them down.

bullied-bullying-Haiku_Friday-Poetry-Vashti Quiroz Vega-The Writer Next Door-Vashti Q-teen depression-teen_suicide

 

She yelled hopeless words

Like an old edifice, I

crumbled to the ground

bullies-trolls-Poetry-Haiku_Friday-Vashti Quiroz Vega-RonovanWrites-bullying-haiku

 

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

~ Mark Twain

Tyrant and Hope are this week’s prompt words chosen by Ronovan Hester of Ronovan Writes.

Ron hosts a challenge that anyone could participate in called Ronovan Writes Weekly Haiku Poetry Prompt Challenge every Monday, and you have until Sunday to create a post featuring your haiku poem. He is an author and poet and also does author interviews and much more on his blog. Be sure to check it out. Read Ron’s Haiku Prompt Challenge Guidelines for more information.


I’m almost done with my self-edits for the 2nd installment of my Fantasy Angels Series. Tomorrow I will be sending it off to my editor. I am also working on revising my first book, The Basement, which touches on the subjects of bullying and verbal abuse. So stay on the lookout for that one. 😉

The Basement-thriller-suspense-novel-Vashti Quiroz Vega-book-Vashti Q-bullying-child abuse-verbal abuse

Illustration by George Miltiadis for The Basement

Have a great day, everyone!

Haiku Friday – Singe & Deep

5 Jan

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you are all keeping warm. The temperature in S. Florida is 55º F and it’s midday and the sun is blazing! 😮  To us, Floridians that’s like -10º F, anywhere else. Ironically, today’s prompt words from Ronovan Writes are Singe and Deep. Just reading the word singe warms me a little, but it also gives me an eerie feeling. With that being said, here’s my contribution for this week’s prompt challenge.

creepy girl-fire-Haiku_Friday-Poetry-The Writer Next Door-Vashti Quiroz Vega-Vashti Q-RonovanWrites-flash fiction-story

 

“The house is on fire, and it isn’t my fault.” Emily crossed her thin arms as she stared at the burning house. She stood wide-eyed with red lips pursed.

The young female police officer in charged of her, observed her for a while. “Are you okay? I know this is a terrible experience for a ten year old girl to go through.”

The little girl didn’t look her way. She blinked a long blink and gave her a one shoulder shrug. Then she nodded her head ‘yes’, but said, “No, I don’t think so.”

The policewoman tilted her head and furrowed her brow. “I’m sorry, I know it’s got to be so hard for you. You can rest assured that the fireman are doing everything in their power to rescue your mother from the fire.”

Emily pressed her lips together, narrowed her deep-set chocolate brown eyes and then gazed at her like a puppy dog. “I left my scrunchy and my favorite teddy bear in the house. Do you think they’re burning right now?”

The policewoman stared at her and narrowed her eyes. She rubbed the nape of her neck and squatted down to be at eye level with the girl. She took Emily by the shoulders and turned her, so that they faced each other. “I think you should come with me. I can take you to the hospital where you can be properly looked after. You shouldn’t be here.”

Emily frowned and wrested her shoulders from her. She turned away and continued to stare at the house engulfed in flames. “Once I had a pet hamster. He accidentally walked into our fireplace. He made the strangest sounds as he burned––it was a he and his name was Agamemnon. Do you know how long it took me to learn that name? I was only six then, but that’s the name my mother wanted to give him. She couldn’t even let me name my own pet.” She grumbled the last sentence. “I would have named him, Apple, because he was round and had red hair like mine.” Her alabaster skin flushed making her freckles appear darker. She lowered her eyebrows and squinted her eyes. “Agamemnon died quickly and stunk up the whole house!” She turned to look at the officer. “Do you think my mom will stink like that, as she burns?”

The woman jumped to a stand and looked at the girl with a shocked expression.

Emily turned her sight to the burning house again. “I’m sure it will take much longer for my mother to die, because she’s bigger. She may stink up the whole block.” She crinkled her pixie-like nose.

“Come with me.” The officer took her by the hand and pulled her toward her squad car.

“No!” Emily screamed. “I want to stay here! I want to see.” She wore a hostile facial expression. She pulled her hand from the woman’s hand and took a few steps closer to the house. Her small chest heaved with every breath. She raised her chin and shoved her hands in the front pockets of her jeans.

The policewoman’s eyebrows bumped together in a worried scowl. She minced her way up to her and stood silently by her side. Her eyes were fixed on the girl and squinted in a furtive manner.

A fireman covered in soot and coughing approached the police officer. He took off his fireman hat and ran his hands through his hair. His face was black with residue from the intense fire, but his agonized expression was clearly seen. He gave Emily a grim look before turning to the officer again. He shook his head. “We did everything we could, but we couldn’t save her.” He lowered his voice some more and moved closer to the policewoman. “The fire got to her before the smoke. She burned to death. It was a gruesome sight.” He turned to Emily who was staring in their direction. “I’m sorry, kid.” He gestured goodbye to the officer and hurried away.

The policewoman wrapped her arms around her body. Her breaths were shallow and rapid. “I’m so sorry, Emily. The firemen did everything they could, but––”

“I know!” Emily interrupted her. “I heard everything the fireman said, even when he whispered.”

The police officer stared at the little girl with eyes glistening with pity, but her expression quickly turned to shock.

A grin spread slowly across Emily’s face, moving all her freckles.

After the first death

there is no other, you see.

Fire is complete

 

“Too many logs can squelch a fire. Flames need room to breathe.”

~Vashti Q

 

Singe and Deep are this week’s prompt words chosen by Ronovan Hester of Ronovan Writes.

Ron hosts a challenge that anyone could participate in called Ronovan Writes Weekly Haiku Poetry Prompt Challenge every Monday, and you have until Sunday to create a post featuring your haiku poem. He is an author and poet and also does author interviews and much more on his blog. Be sure to check it out. Read Ron’s Haiku Prompt Challenge Guidelines for more information.

the fall of lilith-novel-Vashti Quiroz Vega-fallen angels-book-Amazon-lilith demon-gadreel

Enjoy your day and stay warm!

Haiku Friday – Spooky & Night

3 Nov

spooky-night-Poetry-Haiku_Friday-The Writer Next Door-Vashti Q-Vashti Quiroz Vega-RonovanWrites

 

Spooky and Night are this week’s prompt words chosen by Ronovan Hester of Ronovan Writes.

Ron hosts a challenge that anyone could participate in called Ronovan Writes Weekly Haiku Poetry Prompt Challenge every Monday, and you have until Sunday to create a post featuring your haiku poem. He is an author and poet and also does author interviews and much more on his blog. Be sure to check it out. Read Ron’s Haiku Prompt Challenge Guidelines for more information.

“I like to write in a shroud of secrecy because I have to keep finding ways to scare myself.”

~ M. Night Shyamalan

“Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.”

~ German Proverb

“The artist must bow to the monster of his own imagination.”

~ Richard Wright

2 Line Horror Story:

I awoke in the middle of the night to hysterical laughter. I live alone.

When the day grows short

and spooky night chills our bones

We’ll tremble ’til dawn

Icy fingers touch their prey

Screaming campers run away

cemetery-Halloween-Haiku_Friday-Vashti Quiroz Vega- The Writer Next Door-Vashti Q-Poetry

Happy Friday and great weekend, everyone!

SPOTLIGHT: Musician Mihran ‘Mino’ Kalaydjian

17 Jul

The Writer Next Door-Vashti Quiroz Vega-Vashti Q-musician-spotlight-Mihran-piano-music

It is rare today for a classical musician to have mainstream appeal and simultaneously garner critical acclaim. Mihran ‘Mino’ Kalaydjian sells out symphony halls with his talent and star quality. So needless to say, I am ecstatic to have him on my blog today.

musician-spotlight-The Writer Next Door-Vashti Q-Mihran_Kalaydjian-piano-pianist-music

“The piano keys are black and white but they sound like a million colors in your mind.”

~Maria Cristina Mena

Award-winning Solo pianist and composer, Mihran Kalaydjian delivers heartfelt piano melodies with a rare level of artistry and emotion.

The Writer Next Door-Vashti Q-spotlight-musician-Mihran Kalaydjian-quotes-music-Poetry-Vashti Quiroz Vega

 

 In his words . . .

On a personal note, I love the outdoors, comedy, bbq, reading and traveling. I worked in the beer industry in college, so I love talking about good beer. I used to be a competitive runner so (like all runners) if you make the mistake of asking me, I’ll tell you about my entire career and PRs. I also spent my youth working in restaurants, so if you’ve done the same, we can swap stories.

Music is more than just notes on a page or a series of different pitches. Music is an art, and through art we are able to discover who we are in ways that we never would through anything else. Music is the desire to draw inspiration from everything we see and hear, to truly be aware of ourselves and our surroundings, and to translate atmosphere into sound.

 

Mihran composed the following musical piece for my poem, ‘FATHER’

Father

by Vashti Q

His brown eyes deepened into polished onyx, and upon them came a mist of tears.

He watched with the facade of a brave man as his baby boy entered the world.

As if his mind and body were not consumed by overwhelming fears.

What are my duties? There are no guidelines. Where do I start?

The babe in his arms felt so natural, yet so alien. A fire blazed in his chest.

“You are a father now.” The words were jolting, yet pleasing to his heart.

 

His brown eyes deepened into polished onyx, and upon them came a mist of tears.

He watched with the façade of a calm man as his son toddled, taking his first steps.

As if his mind and body were not consumed by overwhelming fears.

What if he falls? What if he hurts himself? Then I would have failed as a father.

The toddler tottered to him embracing him with dulcet giggles.

As he held his son, it did not feel alien. His heart gave way for love to conquer.

 

His brown eyes deepened into polished onyx, and upon them came a mist of tears.

He watched with the façade of a cool man as his son introduced him to his first girl.

As if his mind and body were not consumed by overwhelming fears.

What if he falls in love? What if she breaks his heart?

He embraced his son and slipped extra cash in his pocket.

As he held his son, it felt like love, and he rested assured his son was smart.

 

His brown eyes deepened into polished onyx, and upon them came a mist of tears.

He watched with the façade of a brave man as his son grew and had sons of his own.

As if his mind and body were not consumed by overwhelming fears.

Did I raise him right? Did I teach him to be a good husband and father?

He embraced his son, and they were swathed by the love they both felt.

As he held his son, his questions were answered, and he grew calmer.

 

His son’s brown eyes deepened into polished onyx, and upon them came a mist of tears.

He watched his father wear the façade of a spent man as he lay on a hospital bed.

His son’s mind and body were consumed by overwhelming fears.

Am I doing the right thing? Who am I to decide when his time has come?

His face dampened with sorrow as he embraced his father.

As he held his father’s weary body and gazed into his dimming eyes, his questions were answered, and he grew calmer.

 

His brown eyes deepen into polished onyx, and upon them comes a mist of tears.

He watches with the façade of a pitiful man as his son reaches for that plug.

He is ready to leave this world and grateful his son has let go of his fears.

As his son holds his ruined body, and he feels the lifeblood drain from his eyes, he knows he has raised him right.

His mind and body are consumed with overwhelming love.

His son has given him the gift of peace, and his happy spirit travels toward the light.

The Writer Next Door-Vashti Q-spotlight-musician-Mihran Kalaydjian-quotes-music-Poetry-Vashti Quiroz Vega

Q & A with Mihran Kalaydjian

 

When and why did you start playing?

I grew up in a family of musicians. My mother is a piano teacher and my father was a conductor in Jerusalem, Israel. My mother had a large influence on my musical development; she was the one who introduced me to music. Thanks to her, I was surrounded by music from the very beginning. Since childhood, I remember listening Berlioz’s “Fantastic Symphony”, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto, Chopin Etudes and many other beautiful music compositions. It was one little song that inspired me to start playing piano. I loved the song so much that I would sing it over and over. I was only Four years old, and of course I didn’t know how to read notes, so I tried to pick up the music by ear. When I sat down to play the song, it came easily. It was joy for me to be able to “perform” my favorite song and share it with my family and friends.

I started playing on my own aged around 7 or 8. At 11 I had a handful of lessons by a teacher who struggled to sight-read my Grade 2 pieces.

Actually, although most people find this difficult to believe, there was never a time where I decided I wanted to become a pianist. Instead, my early passion for composing was the driving force in my decision to be a professional musician, and the pianist part just came naturally with that. Inherently, I have great angst when I compose, for I “hear” so much more than what can be created on the piano as it exists now or any other singular instruments for that matter. Having said that, the piano is truly unique and unparalleled.

 

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What was the first tune(s) you learned?

The Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto 2. This was a piece that I’ve always wanted to play, since high school, and I never had the opportunity to. I think it’s one of the most dramatic pieces out there, and I really wanted the opportunity to play it with an orchestra

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Is your family musical?

I grew up in a family of musicians. My mother is a piano teacher and my father was a conductor in Jerusalem, Israel. My mother had a large influence on my musical development; she was the one who introduced me to music. Thanks to her, I was surrounded by music from the very beginning. Since childhood, I remember listening Berlioz’s “Fantastic Symphony”, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto, Chopin Etudes and many other beautiful music compositions. It was one little song that inspired me to start playing piano. I loved the song so much that I would sing it over and over. I was only Four years old, and of course I didn’t know how to read notes, so I tried to pick up the music by ear. When I sat down to play the song, it came easily. It was joy for me to be able to “perform” my favorite song and share it with my family and friends.

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Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?

Mahler at first. A unique harmonious invention and a capacity to be granted no limits in language, nor at the same time to give nothing up.

Then, the composers-pianists Liszt, Scriabin and Chopin, to whom I dedicated several recordings (Complete Chopin Nocturnes, Complete Poems by Scriabin…)

Mine are Andras Schiff (I love his Hammerklavier sonata interpretation in particular, & his lyrical tone) & Wolf Harden for his Busoni Fantasia Contrappuntistica interpretation. But Busoni actually indicated breathing places in certain of his works.

So many it is difficult to pick! I love Pierre-Laurent Aimard, he is an inspiration. Argerich as well. I cannot live without her Prokofiev.

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Who was your first teacher? Other teachers?

I had always loved music and I sang ever since I can remember. My mother tells me that I started singing, quite in tune, even before I talked.

My first piano teacher’s name was Augustine Lama & Colin Stone. Because I was only four years old, Augustine Lama at 65 was older than my grandparents, and looked so old to me as to be very intimidating. On top of that, when he asked how old I was and realized I was four, he told me that I was too young to start piano lessons, and then maybe I should wait another year. I started crying so much that he said, “Okay, I will put you to the test.” He started beating very complicated rhythms that I should imitate, then he went to the piano and played a few notes, then chords, while I was turned around, looking in the other direction. I was able to go back to the piano and play exactly what he had played. When he realized I had perfect pitch, and after seeing how I had a good sense of rhythm, to my delight, he changed his mind and said, “You can start Monday.”

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How do you enjoy performing lesser known contemporary music? Is this more of a challenge as far as selling the audience of the performance?

Learning contemporary music can be a challenge because our starting point of reference is not the same. However, I think any good piece will eventually show itself to be worthwhile and of real value. I think most of us love what feels familiar, even if we don’t think we do, so communicating the unknown to any audience, takes belief, commitment and perhaps some explanation to set the scene. Let’s not forget that all music has been contemporary at some stage or another!

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Describe your first instrument. 

In the beginning, like many people, there was a gradual attraction to music and playing through the years of my very early childhood.

My interest in music and playing an instrument was the result of a gradual process of experimenting and playing around with pots, pans and toy drums, dancing and writing little songs. I remember really liking the tactile aspect of playing percussion instruments. By the time I was in primary school, I became very interested in writing songs. It was strongly suggested I learn piano as a means of developing this interest, but for me, I somehow had a very strong feeling I needed to play drums. I did however, start playing guitar a little bit and wrote songs on that instrument but not with the seriousness with which I studied and practiced drums.

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 What is the most unusual aspect of traveling as a concert artist?

When I travel to a distant city for a concert, sometimes I’ll stay in a hotel, but very often I’ll stay with a “host family”—a local family that is usually the patron of the concert hall I’ll be playing in or the orchestra I’ll be playing with. Living in their homes, I have developed very close relationships with these families who are like substitute parents for me when I travel. My host families have become some of my closest friends in the world.

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 Do you play any other types of music other than solo?

I love playing chamber music. Chamber music encourages interactive collaboration as a value that every musician should learn to have. Being a pianist can be a solitary pursuit; chamber music is broadening the ways in which one thinks about and expresses oneself as a musician. It also opens the door to more performance opportunities, rather than pursuing a career purely as a soloist. A chamber performance uniquely offers the musicians the opportunity to cooperate with each other while simultaneously communicating intimately with an audience in a manner that would not be possible in larger performance situations. As a solo pianist, you spend most of your time practicing alone in a room with just your instrument for company. But with a trio, you have to be in tune—literally and figuratively—with two other musicians. The three of you have to find a common interpretation of the music, or you’re not really a trio—you’re just three people who happen to be playing at the same time.

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What are you working on at the moment? Tell us a little about your current projects.

Composing is, for me, an inner necessity: music is a fruit of the spirit that can sometimes lead us to the Absolute. When you compose, it becomes possible to fulfill the desire to create a world of your own, a personal microcosm where you set the rules and also make their exceptions.

Make music that I love and be happy.

My current projects are moving me in two directions, which sometimes overlap. First, I am recording the words of Granados, whose works, including the complete version of “Goyescas,” are not really as well-known as they should be.

I have fallen in love with his works’ distinct Spanish flavor, color, and rhythm. In preparing the music, I immersed myself not just in Spanish music but also in Spanish art and literature; the music is very dramatic.

I will keep enjoying my collaboration as soloist, Composer recording for the music publication ‘Pianist Millennium Production’; a tour in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, New York for Christmas Melody, Texas,   at the end of the year with other concert activities as usual; and learn more Rachmaninov pieces!

In the opera version, two men meet a woman, flatter her, and fall in love with her. But eventually love turns into a duel to the death between the suitors, and the woman’s true love dies in her arms.

The second direction is finding ways to bring classical music to more listeners though the connections I have established with several world-renowned brands.

Dolce & Gabbana has supplied my concert gowns, and I have performed for Breguet, the distinguished Switzerland’s watchmaker, at the Frick Collection in New York. Right now, I am touring the showrooms of Roche Bobois, the leading French retailer of modern furniture.

While my music can be used to help these brands, I see these relationships as a great opportunity to bring classical music to new audiences.

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What advice would you give to anyone serious about being a classical musician?

Everyone in every business talks about the need to network and socialize. I realize that’s true, even in the arts; I see frequently that aspiring artists are overwhelmed by the business side of things and neglect their artistic developments.

But you can never let these roles take too much time away from the time you spend on your art itself. You should never lose sight of your dream!

Mino-The Writer Next Door-Vashti Quiroz Vega-Vashti Q-musician-spotlight-Mihran

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Tell us about your website/blog. What will readers find there?

http://www.mihrankalaydjianpiano.com/

http://www.mihranpiano.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MihranKalaydjianPianoMelodies

And finally, a few fun questions… 

A favorite movie?  Lawrence of Arabia
A musical instrument?  Piano
A composer?  Magnus Lindberg
A book?  The Black Swan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb
A city?  London
A song?  Bohemian Raphsody by Queen
A TV Series?  Juncal

“I’m an interpreter of stories. When I perform it’s like sitting down at my piano and telling fairy stories.”

~Nat King Cole

Connect with Mihran on Social Media

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“I am still more and more aware of the true purpose of music and the people who play it: to heal and unite the planet.” 

~Mihran Kalaydjian