Pen’s Post

Thursday, March 1, 2012
By Penelope Allen


As I flew home from another trip to London I had ten hours to think about the contents of my March column. Regretfully, I spent most of my time trying to ignore the barrage of aches and pains that plagued me because I wasn’t craving cigarettes. My only comfort was I’d been forewarned because the flight to London was excruciating. One would expect, I know I did, a harry-free flight soaking up the bliss of being rid of the noxious weed.

Now, it’s a week later and something that’s been niggling me has cropped up due to the Oscars. It’s killer lines in movies that everyone, including Presidents, toss out to bemuse or bedazzle the hoi polloi. We all know those lines:
“Make My Day.”
“Make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
“I’ll have what she’s having.”

What brought this to mind was a train trip from North London to Surrey to meet the extraordinary Sarah Nock who’s an author and whose garden hosts Arabella Nock’s magnificent bird sculpture.

Sarah Nock
Arabella Nock

It’s due to serendipity that I know Arabella which led me to Sarah. Marion and Demelza Nock were my attentive travel agents through a convoluted train maze from Palmers Green to Three Bridges which is a bus ride away from Ferry House.

Travel tip: If you need to use the loo stop in at The Snooty Fox pub across from the Three Bridges train station and behave like a polite tourist.

Sarah Nock loves poetry and can recite masses of poems and speak knowledgeably about the poet titans. As she bedazzled me with her effortless renditions of poets I thought I’d probably have known if I’d even been a student of poetry in my salad days. I was honest with her about my opinion of Wordsworth being grateful I knew who he was and could reveal I’d been to Furness Abbey which is rumoured to be the setting for his poem about daffodils. Even better I’d seen them in bloom!

Furness Abbey

Sarah touched on a multitude of poets and then asked me if I knew of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I seized the opportunity to gush enthusiastically about one of her poems I’d heard beautifully recited on CBC radio several years ago. When Sarah asked the title I admitted I didn’t know. When Sarah suggested it might be a sonnet I said it was much longer than that. When she asked what it was about I babbled on about an apple tree which didn’t ring any bells. Demelza brought a book of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poems from one of Sarah’s well stuffed bookcases. I opened it to the poem Renascence and, even though there was no reference to apples, knew it was what I’d been looking for.

“A drenched and dripping apple-tree,”


Six words out of 1409. One line out of 233 held fast even though I couldn’t recite it. One moment in time about ten years ago when I’d pulled over to the side of the road to listen acutely. Imagine my delight when I found it so easily and how thrilled I was that my memory hadn’t failed me.

That was my killer line in that poem. The one that triggered my emotional response. That poem filled me up to the point of almost bursting. Of course it didn’t resonate the same way with Sarah because she’d been immersed in poetry for decades while I was only exposed to it occasionally by chance. I don’t consider for one moment that either of us were more fortunate it’s just our lives were different. What really mattered to me is both Sarah and I love poetry.

Movies have lines that endure, as do lyrics so why not poetry? Perhaps even prose contains unforgettable turns of phrase that turn us on.

Other poets have written lines that rock me to my core. Let’s see if you recognize this one.

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,

I first heard that line, recited flamboyantly by my mother, when I was a young girl and it never fails to engage my mind to the point of being mesmerized by the very idea! If you don’t know the poem just type the first seven words into your search engine and you’ll have the answer.

I’ll boldly state that I believe I’ve written some memorable lines myself. However it’s unlikely they’ll catch on and be added to the brocade of our language because one has to be widely read, listened to or watched to ride that magic carpet. Can you imagine the delight of those screen writers who dreamt up those killer lines never knowing what longevity they’d have? Yes! Let’s not forget that, for the most part, it was writers who created those lines that the stars delivered.

Do you have some killer lines that tickle your mind anytime you read or hear them? Have you wtitten any? Haven’t we all?

Throwing false modesty out the window, here is one of my favourite lines from a poem I wrote about my mother Pearl.

“Strewn petals of pink cabbage rose.”

Inside the Kaleidoscope

9 Responses to “Pen’s Post”

  1. HeroComplex

    William Blake is masterful at those “Killer Lines”.

    At the risk of shameless self promotion here’s one of my lines that I really like from a poem called Writers Lament:

    “O Muse, you merciless bitch
    She whispers sweetly
    Through a crocodiles smile
    “Here are your words,” she sings”

    Great stuff here Pen, I always look forward to your column!


    • Dave! That’s exactly what I was looking for! Writers examining their own words and offering their own choice. The words that you chose out of all the ones you’ve written reveal your core instead of a dead poet’s who is already idolized. I chose Blake because that’s the line that has always dazzled me! Since I was old enough to remember.

      Yours? Powerful stuff which show how much in love with writing you are no matter how it can torture you at times. In all honesty, I’ve never been tortured by my writing ability or lack of it. It’s probably because I came upon writing poetry late in life and don’t view it as the core reason of my existence. During my years as a poetry reader of current poets every so often I’d come across a writer whose core made my heart burst with the joy of discovery.

  2. admin

    You’re correct Pen, we did the same topic without even meaning to! Maybe I should start guiding a theme for all of us next month, that could be interesting – five takes on the same subject.

    That said…

    “It was many and many year ago, in a kingdom by the sea”, by Poe (Annabelle Lee)

    • Dear Editor,

      I will emphatically reject your suggestion as to Majestic months following a theme. For four reasons:

      1. It will rob me of the delicious joy I experience when I discover the common threads weaving their independent tapestry of thoughts which miraculously connect us. This is something which should remain spontaneous!

      2. It will hamstring me in a tighter corner when it’s touch and go as to whether I’ll be able to come up with a topic at all!

      3. It will suppress creativity rather than enhance it.

      4. For me personally, it will introduce a level of competitiveness which, IMHO will pit me against the other writers. I enjoy that sort of thing when it’s been ID’d as a contest but would be dismayed if I was forced into it instead of seizing it myself.

      Besides, I’ve already chosen my topic next month. heh heh

  3. I see dead people. Sixth Sense 1999

    Congratulations on not smoking. That shows willpower and determination.

    Wonderful you had a visit to London.

    Even though I’m leaving Majestic, I’ll stop by and say hello.

    all the best,

    • Yes! That’s a great line from a good movie and what really made it rock was how it was delivered and who was saying it. It made it real rather than trite. The actor made that line come .. alive[?]

      My visit to London was more of a .. oh .. I don’t know what but I managed to sneak a few delightful interludes in. Thanks to Marion Nock I saw The Iron Lady and didn’t miss the notion that London would be the BEST place to see that movie. If Meryl hadn’t won the Oscar for her vanishing act I would have lost all hope for the voters of the Academy. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it because even if you don’t like Ms. Streep it’s okay because you don’t know it’s her.

      Saw the escape capsule of the Chilean miners on the first day it was on display in The Science Museum. This was no mock up .. it was the real deal! And for free! All museums are free in London and maybe in all of Britain other than the National Trust sites like Hadrian’s wall.

      Made a fast visit to Manchester to see a friend I used to work with in Vancouver. She’s gone back there to care for her mom.

      Anyhow, thanks for popping in Sandra. If not for you I wouldn’t be writing this column which seems to keep me jotting down words.

  4. Oh Pen…just came back to read your column again and to my dismay, found that the comment I left you when this issue first came out, was not here! (Same thing happened when I first commented on Sandra column…whose gremlins are responsible…mine or Majestics??????

    In any event…I enjoyed it as usual…I’m green with envy that I wasn’t with you on your journey to England. I’ve longed to go there all my life…since I use to listen…glued to the radio, as a child during WW2…worrying about the children being bombed there and wishing I could help…and also thankful that I wss safe in my own home, without fear of suffering the same fate!

    I was coonvinced that I had been an imprisoned Queen, awaiting my fate in the tower of London. My brother was convinced that I was a scullery maid, with delusions of grandeur!!

    In any event…If I ever win the lottery…Off I will go to discover for myself! lol

    Great column as usual!


    • Many thanks Bea for doing it twice! Often gremlins get into systems and wreak havoc. There must be a poem in there somewhere! My trip to England was more about family duties than having a good time but those Nock women made sure it wasn’t grim. Marion especially. Bea, trips like that are cheaper than you might imagine. A package deal perhaps?
      I am especially touched at your comments about WW2 and how you empathized with those living in fear all the time. My relative Sylvia never spoke about that time and I just found out due to journals she kept that she wasn’t in London at the time. The Brits are super troopers when it comes to surviving onslaughts. I admire them so much for that! Something Sylvia did … keeping a journal .. allowed me a glimpse into her travel adventures. One trip journal I found was when I met her for the first time when I was a young girl. What a thrill! Another writing idea. We should write more about our experiences. Remember when you were encouraged to do that? It gives your children and grandchildren more insight. It might even inspire one of them to begin writing!

      oh Bea .. I’m in such a writing tizzy cause of Evangeline and cause I just spent a day on the road with my only grandchild who tells me he writes too! Super!

  5. Pen…I constantly preach to ALL my friends and relatives…even my children, to write down their experiences spontainiously…while it is happening…so that the memory will never fade and we lose that sense of wonder that made it such a wonderful experience. I’ve already left REAMS of suff for them to discover after I’m gone…but knowing my kids…they will just back up a truck the next day and haul it to the dump bin, so they can “finally fix the place up and clear out the junk!”

    If YOU want to remember me (fondly) I hope…you’ll just save snippits of my childhood chronicles from Lit.!
    Unfortunetly for my kids…I don’t plan on leaving any time soon…so that “Junk” pile will be growing larger than ever! lol

    As for your grandchild (I only have ONE too…also a grandson and he has delighted me every single day since he was born. He has a wicked sense of humor…like my husband…so you can’t help but fall in love with him. Now that he’s in college, I don’t get to see him often…and like most kids…he’s too busy “tweeting” to drop me a line via snail mail…which I miss…but there’s always a message on my cell phone saying “Hi Grandma…are you keeping out of trouble today?”

    Love it!!