Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Preparations for NaWriMoPo

First - read this week's Tuesday Poem! Linda France's homage to a wasp nest. I love seeing old bird nests in the bare trees in winter, a reminder that when spring comes around again, the male birds will start flirting all over again outside my window. I added the idea of nests to my thoughts about NaWriMoPo.

Then ransack your library for books on writing poetry - or simply books on writing about writing. I have quite a few, but the two I was drawn to immediately are The Practice of Poetry, edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell and Luna, Luna, Creative Writing Ideas from Spanish, Latin American and Latino Literature, edited by Julio Marzan, both books I have used in the past.

Find a good notebook. Easy around here!

I wanted to also be inspired by some images, so I googled various images and stored them on my desktop - though I might now go and make a Pinterest board.

Commit to NaWriMoPo somewhere publicly. Done.

Lastly, create a pile of poetry collections and anthologies to dip into over the month. Preferably have some books which are new to you, some which challenge your normal reading and others which contain old favourites. (Still doing this - it's rather a joyful task!)

That and getting my computer fixed was just about all I've achieved today! I hope your day was slightly more productive! Go read about the productive wasps - you know you want to!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Not the Tuesday Poem...

The sock lounges in Nelson, and a seal lounges outside Kaikoura. Seeing the seals was an unexpected highlight - we even saw three seal pups playing in some bushes. We're now at Little River, staying in a converted silo. It's been very thoughtfully fitted out - even the light switches are in keeping with the original use of the building. I wouldn't want to live in one fulltime, though - simply not enough space for all the books and other paraphenalia! 

Read Elizabeth Taylor's Palladian. It's only her second novel and I found it a little over-wrought, but very readable. It's a bit of a riff on the Jane Eyre - and interesting if only for that reason. I bought it at a secondhand bookshop that was closing down in Nelson. The building was being demolished and the owners, who had sold their house as well, were putting all their belongings in storage and heading off to South East Asia for six months. 

In knitting news, the sock grows, as does the new Lanesplitter skirt, which I'm making from Rowan Tapestry, a discontinued yarn. I'm very afraid this will end up pilling or felting a little - some of the balls are quite sticky, but I do like the colours so I guess I'll just get one of those little shavers and shave it from time to time. 

It would be great to get back to Australia with a nearly completed new skirt and half of a pair of socks! 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

New Zealand

Have spent the last ten days in New Zealand - Wellington, Napier, Picton and now Nelson. Lots of busyness! Amazing to see how many secondhand bookshops are thriving here - counted (and visited!) four in Wellington alone. But what really blows me away is the craftwork.

So, I've been thinking a lot about craft and how, constant as it has been in my life, I don't really push any boundaries with it. I'm a jobbing knitter and sewer. This year I'd like to try to be more innovative. I'm already doing more spinning but that isn't quite enough. How to push further?

I've been thinking the same thing about poetry. How to push that further - what to do with it. One of the problems, I think, is that I'm no longer immersed in the poetry world. My world has become divided between writing novels, teaching and family - it's hard to add extra things into that mix and poetry is something that needs more immersion, more thought, more experimentation and more reading.

I acknowledge it's hard to do everything - but...

I want to!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Tuesday Poem - Poppy-picking by Robyn Rowland


for Meral, Bozcaada island/Tenedos, 2013

Not the soft wrinkled skin of old men –

papery, easily torn – or the crumpled blooms in our town plots.

Upright as tulips, Turkish Red Poppies are firm and sure,

they need just four petals, bright scarlet,

red as red can get, each with its eye kohl-black.

We are laughing like children,

racing through fields-full, higher than our knees.

They crowd the narrow roads of your island

spilling across runnels, under fences

as if they were once water, spreading in a flood.

We are poppy-hunters, poppy-picking.

We run ahead of the other women,

driving to lane’s end, friends’ building sites,

competing for the best field to harvest.

You hold them hostage with talk while I grab and gather.

We pluck the four petals. Pollen-loaded stems are

shocked, naked, worrying how to attract bees.

Velvet along our fingers we recall our babies’ skin,

filling bucket after basket, harvesting till your small green car

is loaded with the lightness of their feather-weight.

At the house we wash them outside in basins.

Small creatures emerge to be purged,

bits of grass, poppyseeds, perhaps enough

to charm a winged monkey, put a lion to sleep

on their trudge behind the rainbow.

Over and over we rinse them, the spring heat on our backs,

flowers ruffling and crinkling in our cool hands.

It’s like washing silk shirts. The pot in the kitchen 

is boiling its sugary clouds. Your secret ingredient

that I am to take with me ‘to the grave’ is wafting old Morocco in.

When the jam is ready it cools into dark-claret shades

ready to sit in my bags with poppy lokum, red-poppy syrup,

travelling back to a country where red poppies only ever meant

grief over fields full of the bodies of dead young men,

a generation of women left unmarried, alone.

Now – you say to me – when you see red poppies you will think of these –

friendship in spring; wild flowering and its fruit; gelincik,

which means lovely young brides in their ladybird beauty,

black eyes shining with happiness; the touch of red velvet,

of sunshine, wet silk; the sweetness of jam on the tongue.

 Robyn Rowland

This Intimate War. Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915Içli Dışlı Bir Savaş. Gelibolu/Çanakkale 1915, is written by Dr Robyn Rowland AO and translated by Dr Mehmet Ali Çelikel. Published here with permission of the author.

Initially drawn to Turkey by her Turkish sister-in-law, Robyn began work about its landscape and history in 2009. During that work she has been a guest of the Turkish Australian Cultural Centre and the Australian Consulate in Çanakkale, and there learned of the Turkish history during the Gallipoli (Gelibolou) war. Beginning work on poems about the war, Robyn realised her limited knowledge on the Turkish experience and its relationship to Australian history. Her manuscript of poems on the war is enriched by the translations of Turkish translator Dr Mehmet Ali Çelikel, with whom she has been giving bi-lingual readings in Turkey. 

Dr Robyn Rowland AO received a Literature Board grant to complete research and write poems on Turkey. Australian-Irish poet, she has read and taught workshops in Ireland for 32 years. This Intimate war. Gallipoli/Canakkale 1915 (Five Islands Press) is her seventh published collection of poetry. Another, Line of  Drift will be published later this  year by  Doire Press, Ireland) 

This Intimate War was launched tonight, but unfortunately family commitments prevented me from attending. I'm sure it was a highly successful evening and I'm envious of everyone who could attend! Raise a toast to a brand new poetry book sailing into our lives and, when you've toasted to this book's success, hop over to the Tuesday Poem blog where you can partake of other poems. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Things done, doing things.

A little kimono vest for a baby. And the baby wearing the vest. How lovely it is to knit something that provides almost instant gratification! This is a very easy knit. It's the Sachiko Kimono Sweater turned into a Sachiko Kimono vest for a hot climate baby. What I would do in future - and I think I've thought of this in the past, as well, is to make it as seamless as possible.

Sewing has happened as well. This is an unironed Vogue 8876, complete with slightly wonky collar - although not as wonky as the photo suggests. I do like the different panels and seams in this.

I'm making another one as soon as I finish the Motherships replacement RattyOld Dress. I have buttonholes and handsewing to go on that and, who knows, today might be the day!

I feel that my sewing skills are improving and I'm determined, this year, to buy only the clothes I simply don't feel I can make. Given that I have two still serviceable swimsuits and quite enough jeans, this should add up to zero clothes bought this year.

On the knitting needles is another Lanesplitter skirt. I get so much wear out of my Noro Silk Garden version of this skirt that when I saw this Rowan
Tapestry for sale on Ravelry, I snaffled it up. I adore pinks but can't often 
wear them next to my face. So this is a perfect solution. It's a discontinued yarn made of 70% wool and 30% soybean protein. It may be a bit prickly but I intend to wear it with tights or leggings. Who knows, I may even line it. I have quite a bit of a plum coloured very thin stretch fabric which would
be okay with this, I think.

Next item for show and tell? The plyed yarn on the left. It's some bright bright roving I've had for yonks, dyed by Ewe Give Me the Knits which I've plyed with some natural grey.  Who knows what I will eventually do with it? The grey yarn could be Corriedale? And it's not particularly soft, so you wouldn't want it next to your skin.

Finally, more spinning. This is a batt from Ixchel Fibre dyed by the wonderful Charly. It's absolutely beautiful - the colours and the fibre
 mix make it a dream to spin. I'm a little late for the February spinalong with this but made a start last night while watching the end of Death Comes to Pemberly. Note that I tried to do that wrapping around a coin thing to show off the yarn's width but it didn't quite work. I'm really happy with the way this is spinning, however.

I have two batts of this and I don't particularly want to ply them with each other, so I'm wondering what I can do about that. I haven't really anything in my fibre stash that would suit the colours. So, I may end up simply plying it on itself and using it for a small shawl, or even as striping in a larger shawl.

Despite so much making, writing continues. I am about to begin Chapter Sixteen of the young adult love story! So delighted by that.

And of course, reading continues. I do recommend Hilary Mantel's collection of short stories. Brilliant. I'm trying to borrow as many books from my local library as I possibly can this year and using the 'Hold' system with alacrity.  What a lovely sentence this is:
Buried in the grass we talked: myself monosyllabic, guarded, eight years old, wearing too-small shorts of black-and-white check, that had fitted me last year; Mary with her scrawny arms, her kneecaps like saucers of bone, her bruised legs, her snigger and her cackle and her snort.

from Hilary Mantel, 'Comma', The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher,  Fourth Estate, 2014.
Read it aloud - there is that lovely moment of poetry 'kneecaps like saucers of bone' and then the bold  rhythm of those sound nouns at the end.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

O Me! O Life! by Walt Whitman

O Me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; 
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish; 
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who  more faithless?) 
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever    renew’d; 
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; 
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined; 
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?  
That you are here—that life exists, and identity; 
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

There are just times in one's poetic life when one needs a blast of Whitman, I reckon.

When you feel sufficiently blasted, check out the Tuesday Poem. Today's poem is brought to you by guest editor, Zireaux, and it's a song by Fiona Apple. It does rather seem appropriate to have a song as the featured poem today and be talking here about Whitman.  

I'm reading Hilary Mantel's short story collection, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. Brilliant! 

Also, The Buddha Walks into the Office by Lodro Rinzler. Thought-provoking. 

I would recommend both books, the latter particularly if you feel you're floundering at work, or if you simply want some kind of work/you reality check, or, like me, if you're always looking for ways to work differently - with greater calm, more empathy and more in tune with the way you live your non-working life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday Poem Blog - 'Shore Grass'

Shore Grass by Amy Lowell

The moon is cold over the sand-dunes,
And the clumps of sea-grasses flow and glitter;
The thin chime of my watch tells the quarter after midnight;
And still I hear nothing
But the windy beating of the sea.

From: Honor Moore, editor, Amy Lowell, Selected Poems, American Poets Project, 2004.

This poem reminds me of Stradbroke Island where we used to spend a week, sometimes two weeks, every Christmas holidays. This was years ago and the island was not top to bottom resort back then. We used to stay at Clayton's Cabins and the generator stopped at 10.00 pm so the lights went out! There was a small general store and surfies, who would frequently camp in the caves on the cliffs to save money, lived on milkshakes and hot chips from the store.

It was a walk along the cliffs to Point Lookout where there was another, slightly larger store. We'd buy iceblocks there and watch the surfies from the clifftop. Once I saw three sharks, quite visible in the clearest water, circling around a surfer. There was nothing one could do from the cliff except watch. He surfed in, but there were stories...

I love beaches at night - the shadows on the sand, the dark, glittering water and the track straight to the horizon made by the moon.

Do have a look at the Tuesday Poem blog this week which features an intriguing section of a longer narrative poem, 'Pen Pal' by Sugar Magnolia Wilson. It's great! I read it and immediately downloaded the pdf. Kudos for Cats and Spaghetti Press, too, for doing something so beautiful and then giving it away. Thanks, too, for Helen Rickerby for posting this - she's this week's Tuesday Poem editor. Sugar Magnolia Wilson's work makes my fingers itchy to write. (And what a wonderful name!)