Tuesday, September 16, 2014

If it's Ever Spring Again (Song) by Thomas Hardy

If it's ever spring again,
          Spring again,
I shall go where went I when
Down the moor-cock splashed, and hen,
Seeing me now, amid their flounder,
Standing with my arm around her;
If it's ever spring again,
          Spring again,
I shall go where went I then.

If it's ever summer-time,
          Summer-time,
With the hay crop at the prime,
And the cuckoos - two - in rhyme,
As they used to be, or seemed to,
We shall do as long we've dreamed to,
If it's ever summer-time,
           Summer-time,
With the hay, and bees achime.

From: Thomas Hardy, The Complete Poems, Macmillan, 1976.

This lilting lyric has a definite edge of melancholy underneath that musicality. It's interesting that he thought of himself as firstly a poet. I think, having read Tess recently, prior to teaching it later this month, I do prefer the poems! But it's always interesting teaching a novel about which you feel some ambivalence. Often I find that in the process of discussion I unearth bits of the novel that I really do love and feel quite differently about it after the classes end.

Do make your way over to the Tuesday Poem Blog and read Chris Tse's beautifully measured and elegiac  poem about the SS Ventor. Chris Tse's debut collection, How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes is available in hard copy and as an ebook. Thanks to guest editor Renee Liang for bringing this exciting voice to our attention. From the Tuesday Poem hub, you can enter a rich world of poetry - immerse yourself! While there is much to be gloomy about in the world, at least there is poetry.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Tuesday Poem - a dog s life



Years ago, when the Word Tree, under Marian Spires, used to run thematic readings, I was asked to feature on the subject 'insects'. I actually misheard Marian and thought she'd said 'incest' - a subject which I thought would easily provide (bleak) inspiration. I was already thinking of Greek mythology when she repeated the theme: insects. Okay, then. Back to the drawing board. At some stage in the intervening month I remembered that glorious insect poet hero - don marquis's archy - and decided I'd bring him out of retirement. I had enormous fun writing these and remain grateful that the topic wasn't incest, which could have resulted in a miserable writing month!

you can call me archy
poet blogger email correspondent
and unfortunately cockroach in this incarnation
like my ancestor the vers libre bard
and so am i boss so am i
one day you will find my file
and think archy now what can that be
and my words will scroll onto your screen
just the creative struggles of your common
cockroach on his way to a higher transmirgration
if you read this leave more food out
a poet needs more than blu stick to keep
ectoskeleton and soul together i should take up
rap like that rat in your compost but vers libre bard
i was and that i will remain you can call me
archy again

catherine bateson - with thanks to don marquis

Do you remember archy? When you've found your copy of archy and mehitabel (what edition do you have?), take a stroll over to the Tuesday Poetry Hub where Jennifer Compton, this week's editor, has posted 'Southbank', a poem by Petra White.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Tuesday Poem - a list poem...



The following poem was written from an exercise I set sometimes when I visit schools as a poet-in-residence. We've just had Children's Book Week here, in Australia, so it seemed appropriate. 

Ten Things to Do When You're Lonely

Draw a map of your heart, colouring each street light violet.
Write a love song to your future.
SMS knock knock jokes to everyone in your phone book.
Stand in the butterfly house of the zoo
and wait.
Invent a cocktail, drink it, then sing your favourite songs
loudly out of tune. 
Watch Buffy repeats and eat fairy bread
Learn how to say you're a groovy boy
in fifteen different languages

Design a break-his-heart party dress.
Send this poem as a chain email to all your friends
asking for a $5.00 reading fee

to be urgently deposited into your bank account.

With all your new money going shopping
for rainbow tights, a mood ring
and the perfect Sunday.


It's Tuesday - time to head over to the Tuesday Poem Blog where there is an absolute cracker of a poem, 'candle' by Hinemoana Baker, curated this week by Mary McCallum. It's a fabulous poem so, please, take the time to go and read it. And, of course, don't forget to scroll down the blogroll for other poems that might take your fancy on this blustery Tuesday. 

What's your favourite poetry exercise? 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dear You - Sundays

I remember when Sundays had a certain melancholy attached to them. Before I was old enough to appreciate nights by myself, it was the night a long-ago boyfriend worked. It also heralds the end of the weekend, of course, and one prepares, as best one can, for the onslaught of the working week. As I work largely from home, this hasn't been particularly relevant for many years. The Accountant has retired and Mademoiselle Rouge works in hospitality, so Sunday isn't weighted with any significance (except that Miss Rouge may be welcoming her weekend!)

Despite this, I still feel as though there needs to be something to look forward to on Sunday evening. For a long time we had the fam bbq. But with most of the fam moved out, that's no longer so relevant, either - although we do announce one every so often and they are always fun in a stressful kind of way.

Today I worked at making my room more ordered and more habitable, but before I did that I marinated a chicken - in orange juice, chermoula, honey and mustard to roast this evening. I knew we'd be gardening up at the Mothership's so I wanted something easy I could fling in the oven and forget about. I also cooked sticky ginger parkin - my go-to cake which is darkly delicious and not quite cake-like.

So I felt I could take an hour and shop for suitable chaos-ordering objects like lever files, a box file ( who knew they still made them!) and the like. I'm going to work over the next week at filling these with appropriate printed material. But the best thing I purchased? A roll pencil-case, for storing knitting needles when I travel. Seriously good!

Little compartments for needles. And my Knit Kit fits in the larger zipper section. I just love the sound of velcro!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dear You - Bread and Marriage



Dear You,

I’ve been thinking of the old-fashioned letter and how we hardly ever send or receive them anymore. How much delicate, passionate and truthful writing is now lost? An email is never the same. The reply can be too swift. It’s more like a conversation – indeed, increasingly like a conversation given that we now spend so much time texting.

Today, out of something like loneliness, I decided to treat some of this blogspace as a letter, a letter to you  - lost friend. By the time you’ve lived half a century, you’ve lost some friends along the way, either due to a falling-out-of -friendship, change of geography or a blow-up argument. I’ve lost friends to all three of these – and to a kind of disinterest that can settle in like dust. Let’s say you were lost to geography – a kinder reason than the others.

I have a new room. It’s my step-daughter’s old room. My daughter moved into when she moved back home but an infestation of some minute mites – unidentifiable by the naked eye – forced us to change rooms. I had been in her old room, a pale blue room decorated with the occasional green turtle wall decal and with a pale blue dado frieze she chose when we first moved in. I loved that room. The window was easily visible from the desk and just outside I’d put a birdbath that is always heavily used by different birds ranging from the too-large currawongs who balance carefully on it, to the tiny handfuls of wrens who flick in and out.

I’m now in a room that was painted a bright almost-apple green. The window is sideways to the desk and looks out, through a large tree, onto the blank side of my neighbour’s house. Birds come to the tree and I’ll put a birdbath in on this side before summer.  I had hoped that moving from one side of the house to the other would improve my internet service for audio things like Spotify and Skype, but it hasn’t. It’s the only room that hasn’t yet had wooden blinds put in, but at least the curtains are new and clean.

I’d feel hemmed in and sad if the room wasn’t just that much larger. In summer it will be unbearable – it’s one of the warmest rooms in the house and it will be like working in a sauna. I’m not looking forward to that. But, for the moment, I’m enjoying be able to spread out and introduce yet another bookcase into the mix.

But I didn’t really want to tell you about all that. I wanted to talk about bread. Specifically, I wanted to talk about sourdough and marriage.  I’ve been making sourdough – which generates quite a bit of floury mess in the kitchen, if you’re aiming for the correct hydration. Then there’s a sloppy mess of dough that needs to be pushed around, rather than actually kneaded. To clean your hands after pushing this around for five minutes, you use white flour and rub vigorously. Bits tend to fly around.

The Accountant is uneasy about this activity.  First he hovered. Now he tries to absent himself from the kitchen. Afterwards he cleans up my cleanup. He joyfully eats the baked bread. It’s just the initial stages he resents. He doesn’t enjoy cooking. Left on his own, he survives on a mixture of take-away and camping meals – sausages and mash, scrambled eggs and chops. A satisfactory meal for him is one composed of protein and two veg, one of which, at least, has escaped being burnt.

Today I took my dough mix outside, onto the deck, and moved it around where I would make least mess. Did he notice my effort to maintain harmony? The bread, rising now in its little cane basket, is a spelt loaf. I wish you were coming over for dinner. We could cut it, still warm, and eat it with the oxtail stew the Mothership gave me.

The Accountant won’t eat oxtail, but I love the glutinous flesh, falling from knuckled bones. It was one of the first things I learn to cook when I moved out of home. I think I rang my mother from a pay phone to get her recipe, which I then tweaked over the decades. A pay phone – STD because I was living in Toowoomba and she was in Brisbane. That was back when we wrote flurries of letters and checking the mail was a daily excitement.

Dear you, I hope your kitchen still smells of garlic, ginger and lemons and that you have paused in your dinner preparations to half catch at the edge of memory, a meal shared years ago.

Friday, August 29, 2014

In the depths of the cold

Well, a cold, rather than 'the' cold. Melbourne has warmed up and yesterday was a balmy 20 - 20 Celsius. The morning was wreathed in fog - I drove in early for a school visit which required an 8.15 start - but when that lifted, the day was heart-warmingly gorgeous. A good thing, too, as I've caught the devil of a cold and am surviving through the judicious use of medication, rest and Hercule Poiret videos. Oh - and spontaneous online purchases such as this - one of the cutest teapot cosies I have seen.

I've attended one offering from the Melbourne Writer's Festival - a seminar on romance writing conducted by Rachael Herron on Romance Writing. I don't write romance, but I have had a bit of writing slump lately. So , I thought I'd go and learn a little more about plotting. (I also wanted to see what knitwear Rachael was wearing.)

What I really didn't expect to do was to walk out of the seminar thinking I should try my hand at romance writing! But that is what happened. (Oh, and it was a very fetching green shawl, by the way.)

So, I'm using Write or Die to write roughly 2000 words a day - not on school visit days, which is wimpy of me, but that might also be because I'm deep in Congestion land and need to sleep at regular intervals.  With the siren call of romance and NaNoWrimo beckoning, I'm romping through the finish of my current novel - and enjoying it. I knew I would. Eventually. It was just getting there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Too exhuausted...

to post a Tuesday poem - but, don't worry - not all the Tuesday poets feel like this and you can read the poem at the hub and from there navigate a world rich in poetry. This week's featured poem, 'lost and found on the b train in winter'  is by Walter Bjorkman, guest edited by Michele Elvy.

This week I feel more lost than found and definitely wintry.