Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year Transformation

"Love is an action," said the Prodigal Son recently, in his capacity as guru.

Andrew and I have already put into action a new year resolution – we've moved our desks from separate small dark offices at opposite ends of the house and put them together facing each other in the living room. Suddenly we have light, air and companionship. (The Prodigal Son came in very handy to do the heavy lifting and re-connect our ADSL and phones.)

It's great because we can consult each other when we're working without having to dash up and down the passage, and at night if one of us wants to watch TV and the other wants to go online, we can still be together anyway – or we can both be at our computers and watch TV at the same time, as we are doing right now. The Beatles movie "Help!" is on telly. (Oh, how young they look!) Silly plot but lovely music, so we are listening with half an ear whilst I blog and Andrew googles fairy shops all over the country which may wish to buy his book Jorell.

No more will visitors who can't make us hear their knocking have to stand outside our front door phoning us on their mobiles! (Translation for those who need it: calling us on their cell phones.) And I find I'm much more inclined to jump up and wash a few dishes or something, now that going into the kitchen isn't an expedition.

My former office was also my temple. I've dismantled that as well. Over the years I've amassed and been given so many wondrous objects, you should have seen my altar! It covered a large wooden dining table. The end result was clutter. Time for some of those treasures to go to bless other people, and for me to get back to basics. So now I step out into the back yard to do my morning and evening rituals. How much more appropriate for a Pagan to be out in nature!

I do have a beautiful wand, an athame and a ritual sword – but right now, for these private rituals, I'm using my forefinger. I like the reminder that I need nothing but myself for the creation of magick.

Breakthrough!

I have to take it all back about the Prodigal Son. Well, it's true that he did have some s**t from the past to release, and it's true that there were times in the past five weeks that either or both of us was almost ready to call it quits. But we didn't, and finally we got through all the upset and had our breakthrough. I got to see that the confronting questions were not meant as attacks, but as a contribution to me. He was trying to shift some of my thinking which he believed didn't serve me – and he did have some excellent insights for me.

So I sincerely thank all the good friends who have been sending me love, light, prayers and healing! It worked. (Which is not to discount our own perseverance with each other.)

Today we took him for a last visit to Byron Bay, which he thinks is the essence of Australia – a wild, wet, stormy Byron Bay today – and then put him on a plane to Sydney, where he'll be partying with friends by now. It's fine and hot there, we hear. We ourselves are preparing to watch the fireworks over Sydney Harbour on TV. He'll be there in the crowd somewhere. At the end of the month he flies out to Los Angeles.

This time with him was make or break for our relationship. He doesn't feel at home in Australia and says he won't be coming back. So unless I can go to visit him somewhere in the world some day, I might never see him again. I'm so thankful we finally arrived at new understanding before he flew away.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The year that's been.

Like so many people nowadays, we do the xmas update letter to far-flung friends and family. Omitting the greetings and closings, here's the latest summary of events and highlights:

It's been an up-and-down sort of year. The biggest drama was Andrew's heart attack in July, however it was a mild one, not even painful, and he is well recovered by now. It taught him not to push himself too hard, and he is now taking time out each day for things like walking, swimming, resting and reading.

His environmental fairy story, "Jorell", was published early in the year and launched on Environment Day under the auspices of the local Environment Centre. It has sold well locally, and we're about to take delivery of a second edition. A big thrill for us was when the cover artist, Tom Giffin, a young Californian, visited us with his Aussie girlfriend and presented us with the original of the beautiful cover painting.


A film company opened up not too far from here; Andrew approached them about making a movie of "Jorell", and they were very encouraging. He now has the task of writing a screenplay and attracting sponsorship. Luckily my son Steve, who is now working as a film financier, has a lot of clues about screenplays. He turned up to visit just at the right time to help Andrew tackle this; also he addressed my writers' group on the subject on several occasions, and held them enthralled for hours at a time.

I started the writers' group late last year, wanting to give something back to the community that helped get me to Texas for my 2006 poetry tour. It's hosted by the local Neighbourhood Centre, and I co-facilitate it with Pam Moore – another performance poet, ex-librarian and so on, like me. It's called WordsFlow, is full of talented, fun people, now has its own blog, and we just launched one member's first poetry book. In the coming year we're planning to branch out into a local history project, the creation of a community newspaper, and a book for children in hospital. The Neighbourhood Centre is very keen on the suggestion from Thom the World Poet
when he visited last year, that we transform this town to Poetsville. It's taken a while, but we shall do it!

My poetry's still going strong. I've had a few pieces published in on-line literary magazines, and there's a faithful Yahoo group of "Rosemary's Readers" who like to receive new ones in their email every so often. It was fun to participate in the "30 poems in 30 days" project at Writer's Resource Center in September, particularly as my Texas friend and soul-sister Connie Williams did it too and we got to interact there. Otherwise, my main writing activity has been blogging. I enjoy MySpace and Twitter, am getting to like Blogger – and I tried Facebook briefly and hated it! Andrew does a bit of blogging too, but he's by no means so addicted as I am. We're both still working on memoirs, and I hope the blogging proves a painless way of recording some details. We belong to a memoir group which meets monthly in Byron Bay. We don't always get there, but have had some great meetings and very useful feedback.

An online magazine called The Smoking Poet did some nice reviews of "Jorell" and also of my poetry book "Secret Leopard" . And we've finally got a website. It's not finished and is probably subject to some changes, but the bits about our books are there to stay.

At the end of March we had a quick visit to Melbourne for Andrew's son Adam's 40th birthday party. We also attended a luncheon, movie showing and general celebration of Young Media Australia, an organisation of which Andrew was the first Chairman 50-odd years ago. It was great fun, and we heard some stimulating speeches about the current goals and needs, and the things the organisation has achieved for children over the years. Sorry if you're one of the many we didn't catch up with this trip. We managed to see most family members, went our separate ways one day to catch up with a few other people each, had a quick look at the Art Gallery, and then we had to rush back home to Pottsville. Hope to make it down there again in 2008 for the launch of a "tribute" book to the late Melbourne poet Shelton Lea, probably February, and will definitely be there for Andrew's daughter Cecilia's wedding in April.

My dear friends Maureen and Alan had a birthday party for me and our other Scorpio pal Marg in their wonderful new house. It was very luxurious! And all the assembled company got drawn into a very heated – though essentially good-humoured – debate on politics, with our Federal election coming up. One person there thought John Howard was OK; we were eager to disabuse her! Need I say, Andrew and I are delighted that Dishonest John met such a resounding defeat at last. Steve arrived for his visit just in time to see us glued to the TV on election night. He was vastly amused. "This is such great theatre," he said. "Not that stuff on the TV – you two!"

We're still doing Reiki and psychic readings at the Sunday markets, but not so often in 2007 what with Andrew's convalescence and Steve's visit. We decided to be more laid-back about the whole thing. We also still see clients privately, and I've taught Reiki to a few people during the year. Early in the year we became involved with a remarkable animal healer, Doc Jamieson, who is also good at energy clearing for people. We spent some time helping him in his healing work and he in turn did some energy clearing for us. He wants to open a healing centre and have us live in and me be the resident psychic reader, but I'm not at all sure I want to leave Pottsville. We're happy here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Midsummer ceremony

It feels strange to celebrate Midsummer in December, when here in Australia February is usually our hottest month.

Nevertheless, the Star Circle met last week for Litha – probably our last or maybe next-to-last meeting. We had in fact disbanded a few months back, as life is taking us into new explorations and adventures; but came together in the astral recently to do some work to help a couple of friends. Now one of our beloved members is moving to Tasmania, so we decided to have a last gathering in the flesh. Maybe she will also have a farewell bash next year at the property she's leaving, which has often been the scene of our rituals – but that might well be a party to include others rather than a Star Circle meeting as such.

On this occasion we met at my home, which has also been the venue for many rituals. My son who is staying here at present decided he didn't want to attend the ritual, so he took his laptop down to the pub and did some work. We phoned him when it was time to return for the feast.One of us invited her new boyfriend, but he had to work that day. So it was just us, a sentimental occasion as we did our thing together again after a gap, knowing it was most probably the final gathering in the physical.

Altar

Our altar always includes God and Goddess figurines, representations of the Elements at each corner, and a happy little gnome who reminds us of the strong connection our Circle has to the Nature Spirits and Devic Kingdom. On this occasion we added an elegant, colourful faery figurine, obviously a flower faery. We had a big oil burner in the centre to bring present all the elements: the flame of the candle, the water into which the oils were added, the fragrance as the oils heated, the clay from which the oil burner itself was made. We used floral oils for summer: rose, rose geranium, jasmine, lavender. Someone brought sprigs of rosemary (still smelling beautiful on my personal altar).

Casting Circle

We cast Circle our favourite way, holding hands, each in turn kissing the cheek of the one on our right and saying, "From hand to hand the power is passed, from hand to hand the Circle is cast." Then we raised our joined hands in the air with a whoop of joy before bringing them down fast and letting go decisively to ground the energy.

This was our ceremony:

Invocations (adapted from the Correllian tradition)

The ritual sword was used to inscribe a pentacle in each direction as the invocations were spoken.

EAST

I invoke You, O God, in Your form as Golden Lord of the East; Hero—Champion of the Goddess, Lord of the Dawn and of Spring! Your breath is in the Air and the greening buds of leaves and flowers. May Your wind bring fresh ideas and inspiration to our Circle.

High Priestess: As the sword is raised, see the pentacle inscribed. Then imagine a column of pure white light arising in the East at the border of the Circle. See the column as strong and pure and filled with energy.

See similar columns as each direction is addressed.

NORTH

I invoke You, O God, in Your form as Red Lord of the North; Lover—Consort of the Goddess, Lord of Noonday and of Summer! Your spirit is in the Fire and the growing crops of the fields. May Your flames bring passion and vitality to our Circle!

WEST

I invoke You, O God, in Your form as Blue Lord of the West; King—Right hand of the Goddess, Lord of Sunset and of Autumn! Your blood is in the Water, in the harvest which is reaped and in the falling leaves. May Your waves bring empathy and compassion to our Circle!

SOUTH

I invoke You, O God, in Your form as Green Lord of the South; Sorcerer—Guardian for the Goddess of the Gates of Life and Death, Lord of Midnight and of Winter. Your flesh is in the Earth, the dormant trees and seeds which wait for rebirth. May Your soil bring wisdom and understanding to our Circle!

DEITY

1. GOD

O mighty God, we invoke You in Your name of Lover! Loving and beloved Consort of the Goddess, Lord of Life and Growth – Your fiery passion and shining heart radiate love throughout the Universe. Inspire us with Your spirit of service and devotion! Share with us Your joy in life and living! Be with us O God, and guide us we pray in this our sacred ritual! We bid You Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

High Priestess: Imagine the God entering the Circle, in any way that makes sense to you – perhaps in human form, or as a shower of glittering light, or a ball or tower of light appearing in the Circle.

2. GODDESS

O holy Goddess, we invoke You in Your name as Mother! Creator and sustainer of life, source of all fertility and abundance. You nourish and succour us, Your children. From You all things proceed and from Your loving heart are provided for! Share with us Your all-reaching compassion and providence! Inspire us to embrace love for all life! Be with us O Goddess we pray in this our holy rite! We bid You hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

High Priestess: Now visualise the Goddess entering the Circle.

ANCESTORS

O mighty Ancestors, Beloved Ones Who have gone before, we invoke You and ask You to join us and to bless us! Ancestors in the Craft, Priestesses and Priests, Pagan Mothers and Uncles, Spiritual family which aids and supports us – lend us Your inspiration and Your love, Your guidance and Your aid at this time we pray. Beloved Ones, we bid you Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Reading

We sat in Circle, and I read from Practising the Witch's Craft, a chapter called The Sabbats by Caroline Tully: a section on traditional Litha (22 June in the Northern Hemisphere) with dancing around bonfires, and the very different Australian experience. For one thing, bonfires are liable to be banned at this time of year, which is the start of the bushfire season! Tully writes:

"Australian Litha: 22 December

"The night sky unveils Orion the Hunter and his dogs, including Sirius the brightest star in the sky, rising in the east. Summer is Australian society's festive time, school holidays begin and workers take time off. Down south, many native plants are flowering and fruiting, pygmy possums, kookaburras and sacred kingfishers are attending to their young, and dolphins can be seen along the coast playing and hunting near the shore. In the north, it is the time of the early monsoon. The wet season begins after the summer solstice and is caused by seasonal change in the direction of the winds. After the sun moves south of the equator, Australia warms up while Asia cools down. Dry, chilly winds blow outwards from Asia, gather warmth and moisture from the oceans, and subsequently bring summer rains to northern Australia. As the season progresses, heavy rains fall daily and plants grow quickly. Freshwater crocodiles hatch, blue-tongued lizards and bats give birth, and the dangerous box jellyfish wash out of creeks into the open sea."

[Contrary to this description, Australia has been suffering years of drought, with serious effects. However this year we have recently had some widespread rains.]

Meditation

We meditated on the venomous coldblooded snakes appearing at this time of year to bask in the sun, and on the legendary Rainbow Serpent revitalising the land at this time. Again quoting Tully:

"At the sun's zenith, the twin snakes encircle the arms of the primordial Goddess, delivering creation and destruction. Revere the double serpent-power, giver of life, bringer of death."

We raised kundalini.

Magickal working

Often in these rituals we focus on things we'd like to let go of from our lives during the coming months. At Litha we considered rather the things we chose to invite into our lives. We wrote them on sheets of flowered paper (pink roses!), each in turn spoke words claiming what we had written, and burned the paper outdoors in my big burning dish – careful not to let the wind carry away any sparks. They burned fast, indicating the rapid manifestation of our desires. We formed a circle around the bowl of ashes, and did a hand dance of manifestation.

Closing ceremony and opening of Circle

Using the ritual sword to inscribe the closing pentacles:

ANCESTORS

Beloved Ancestors. You Who have gone before, Your wisdom and Your example guide us. We pray that You will be with us and aid us as we go forward, that we may call upon the strength and knowledge of the past, even as we build the future. We thank You for Your presence and Your aid at this time, and at all times. May You Blessed be in all things. We offer You our love and our respect! We bid You hail and farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

DEITIES

1. GOD

Divine Lover, Holy Consort of our Holy Goddess! Lord of everlasting love, strength and vitality, we thank You for Your presence and Your aid this day and at all times. We offer You our love, and our respect! We bid You Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

2. GODDESS

Most Beloved Mother Goddess, holy and ever-abundant Womb of Creation! You Who created and Who sustains all! We thank You for Your presence and Your aid at this time, and at all times. We offer You our love and our respect! We bid You Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!


SOUTH

We thank You, O God in Your form as Green Lord of the South; Sorcerer—Lord of Midnight and of Winter! We are grateful for Your guidance and Your aid in this our holy ritual! From our hearts — With love and with respect — we bid You hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

High Priestess: See the tower of white light pulled down by the sword, and all the other towers similarly as the directions are farewelled.

WEST

We thank You, O God in Your form as Blue Lord of the West; King —Lord of Sunset and of Autumn! We are grateful for Your guidance and Your aid in this our holy ritual! From our hearts — With love and with respect — we bid You hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

NORTH

We thank You, O God in Your form as Red Lord of the North; Lover—Lord of Noonday and of Summer! We are grateful for Your guidance and Your aid in this our holy ritual! From our hearts — With love and with respect — we bid You Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

EAST

We thank You, O God in Your form as Golden Lord of the East; Hero—Lord of the dawn and of Spring! We are grateful for Your guidance and Your aid in this our holy ritual! From our hearts — With love and with respect — we bid You Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

Devoking the Circle

High Priestess:

Behold: As Above, So below! As the Universe, So the Soul! As Within, So Without! May the Circle be Open, but never Broken! Merry Meet — Merry part — and Merry Meet again!

Then we joined hands and sang three times:

"May the Circle be open but unbroken, may the Peace of the Goddess be ever in your heart. Merry meet and merry part and merry meet agai-ai-ain", and once more raised our arms with a triumphant whoop, and dropped them firmly, letting go our hands to release the energy. One woman brushed away a tear.

Feasting

However we didn't dwell on the finality of the occasion. Instead we enjoyed the usual abundance, with dhal soup, bread rolls and spicy dip, all sorts of exotic savouries, bean salad, a huge platter of fresh tropical fruits accompanied by a big bowl of honey yoghurt, and Australia's favourite dessert: pavlova and cream. We drank champagne, white wine, and sparkling grape juice for the non-imbibers. There was much loud talk and laughter. My son did all the dishes to leave me free to be with my guests.

With a nod to that other festival being celebrated at this time of year, we each brought a present for a lucky dip. "Under $5, hand-made or pre-loved," I specified ... and they were all delightful gifts!

Spell for uncovering deception

One person received a big plaster crescent moon with a face in profile, to hang on his wall. I told him how to use it magickally:

If you ever suspect someone is deceiving you, stand with your back to this moon where it hangs on your wall and look over your shoulder at it, thinking of the person. If the person is a woman, look over your left shoulder, if a man the right. If they are deceiving you, they will have to make contact with you some time, some way, in the next 24 hours. If they don't, you will know you were mistaken.

(I have tried this and it worked dramatically. The person arrived on my doorstep unexpectedly, saying she "just had to" come and see me. When I faced her with my suspicions, she crumbled and admitted I was right.)

Epilogue

It was good to gather together again, and I just couldn't get my head around the idea of goodbyes. I think that coveners form unbreakable bonds, as it says in our closing chant. We might miss each other's physical presence in some ways, but deeper down we remain united, and for me that feeling prevails.

Blogkeeping

I've decided to duplicate posts here and to my MySpace personal profile.

It's tricky, and a bit pointless, thinking up different topics – given that I have three other blogs for more specialised interests!

So, if you read either one of these two, no need to hunt up the other. Whatever's easiest!

There will also be some duplications from my DragonStar Rose blog on MySpace, which is for people interested in magick, healing and energy.

Three

Transmemed from satyapriya at LiveJournal

Three Things You Want To Do Before You Die:
1.) Get a tattoo.
2.) Go back to Peru.
3.) Meet Lawrence in person.

Three Names You Go By:
1.) Rosemary
2.) DragonStar Rose
3.) Mum

Three Screen Names You Have Had:
(As in computer screen)
1.) Rosemary Nissen-Wade
2.) SnakyPoet
3.) Haiku on Friday

Three Physical Things You Like About Yourself:
1.) Looking younger than my age.
2.) Smooth, unwrinkled body.
3.) Fair, fine skin.

Three Parts of Your Heritage:
1.) Scottish.
2.) Indian (Asian, not Native American).
3.) Portuguese.

Three Things That Scare You:
1.) Being interrogated.
2.) Heights.
3.) Drowning.

Three of Your Everyday Essentials:
1.) Coffee.
2.) Writing.
3.) Some solitude.

Three Things You Are Wearing Right Now:
1.) Spectacles.
2.) Rings.
3.) Pentacle.

Three Of Your Favourite Bands/Musical Artists:
1.) Elvis.
2.) Ute Lemper.
3.) Annie Lennox.

Three Of Your Current Favourite Songs:
1.) A Whiter Shade of Pale.
2.) Summertime, from Porgy and Bess.
3.) O Great Spirit (chant)

Three Things You HAVE In Your Relationship:
1.) Cuddles.
2.) Mutual support.
3.) Togetherness.

Two Truths And a Lie (in no particular order):
1.) I'm a keen horsewoman.
2.) I'm a witch.
3.) I've screwed 10 blokes (so far).

Three Physical Things About The Preferred Sex That Appeal To You:
1.) Tall.
2.) Dark.
3.) Handsome.

Three Of Your Favorite Hobbies:
1.) Swimming (in fresh water, in summer – well it's only a hobby.)
2.) Reading Terry Pratchett.
3.) Crochet.

Three Things You Want To Do Really Badly Right Now:
1.) Sleep.
2.) Write a new poem.
3.) Finish the books I'm reading.

Three Careers You're Considering/You've Considered:
(As distinct from those I've actually had)
1.) Journalism.
2.) Kindergarten assistant.
3.) Schoolteaching.

Three Places You Want To Go On Vacation:
1.) Tasmania.
2.) Melbourne.
3.) Paris.

Three Names You Like:
1.) David. (Have always thought this the most beautiful name for a man, so much so that I gave it to my firstborn son.)
2.) Andrew. (Second favourite. Gave it to firstborn as his second name. Present husband has the good taste to be called it too.)
3.) Kira. (What I would have called the daughter I didn't have.)

Three Ways That You Are Stereotypically a Girl:
1.) Inept around machinery.
2.) Bad at maths.
3.) Wear makeup.

Three Ways That You Are Stereotypically a Boy:
1.) Dislike shopping.
2.) Like to watch motor racing.
3.) Admired Muhammed Ali's boxing skill.

I'm not tagging anyone, but feel free if this appeals.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My sins of omission

My youngest, Steve (38 years old), who is visiting me at present, massages my shoulders when I look uptight; he fixes things around the house; he washes the dishes when we have guests so that I can spend the time enjoying my friends; he hugs me often. So I know it's true when he tells me he loves me dearly – despite the fact that he sometimes informs me that I am a liar and/or insane.

This perception is at least partly based on our different recollections of his childhood. I remember walking down to the shops with him, hand in hand, chatting. I recall what I experienced as companionable family times around the TV watching favourite shows such as the old Dr Who and The Goodies. And all the other things mothers do, like creating costumes for school plays, driving my boys and half their mates to their basketball games, getting out in the back yard and kicking a football with them (however ineptly!) when their Dad was away working, hosting parties from kindergarten to teenage.... I remember a kid who used to confide in me both as a child and an adolescent. He remembers the door of my study
being always closed, and the feeling that I gave him little in the way of time or attention.

Nancy Lee, who blogs about the welfare of children in Child Person from the South, writes:

About All the Children...

The children whose pictures are on this Blog are not abused or neglected...at least not to my knowledge! Or should I say no more than what falls within a "normal" range... for in my opinion all children experience some degree of abuse and neglect...if only from their own perspectives.

These children may look "neglected" in some cases but it is a momentary thing, as happens in the lives of all healthy children. Any child who is never rumpled or dirty is more likely to be at risk from some compulsive caregiver than from some occasional bad-hair days!

The children may look so very sad, confused, or whatever that "symptoms of abuse," come quickly to mind. But, children's routine lives are complex, often involving challenges that few of us would want to experience. We carelessly use words such as "resilient" to describe their extraordinary ability to deal with tragedies...great and small...as though it is somehow easier for them to bounce back quickly and easily from whatever comes along to stretch, bend or compress them out of shape.

Their ordinary emotional lives seem subject to higher peaks and lower valleys than some want to believe should or could be part of children's experiences. But whether we choose to believe or not, children- all children- inhabit a world filled with loneliness, pain and terror as well as beauty, joy and exhilaration.

I salute and honor them, warriors and heroes all!

As my son tells me now, what actually happened is less important than his experience of it.


He was astounded when I contradicted his assertion that I never worked during his childhood. I was amazed, and somewhat outraged, that he could believe such a thing. I always worked. I gave crochet lessons. I made crocheted tank tops and sold them through a local store. I was an artists' model, paid to pose nude for students to sketch. And most of all I followed my profession of librarian, sometimes going out to work and for one period having books delivered to my home for me to catalogue. (It was before the days of centralised computer cataloguing.) Not to mention doing all his self-employed father's secretarial work.

The thing is, I worked part time, arranging it around my children's school hours, a deliberate decision which I believed to be in their best interests and mine. It all happened while they were out of the house at school, so of course they saw little evidence of it – though I do wonder how they missed hearing conversations about it, or seeing me crochet items which never ended up on their own backs, or noticing the boxes of books by my desk during a time when my desk was in a corner of the living room. What was this extraordinary lack of curiosity, I wonder. Do all children just take their parents' lives for granted?

He sees it differently, particularly as he checked with his brothers and they didn't remember much about it either. Even on that our recollections differ. He says their emails disclaim all knowledge of me working. I thought they vaguely recalled some details – though I no longer have the emails to verify the matter. To Steve this is evidence of my insanity: they said they remembered nothing and I then said, 'See, I knew they'd remember.' Certainly he is right on the crucial point: what on earth was going on that he knew so little about his mother and her life when we were living in the same house? 'How is it that I didn't know my own mother?' he asks. I can only speculate.

He feels I was never there for him. He believes I contributed nothing to the household in the way of work and income. Even if I could show him documentation that I threw out long ago, what difference would that make? Memory is selective, but the fact that he remembers things that way tells me the times with the study door closed made a greater impact than the times of talk and companionship. And although it was no secret that I worked during his childhood, the fact that it so surprises him means I entirely failed to communicate it to him at the time.

I realise I don't know what is normal. Do parents and children really live in separate worlds with different focuses of attention? Or are there families where it's impossible not to know all details about each other? There were things about my parents that I didn't find out until long after the events, but I don't know that I would have been interested, or even have grasped them, at the time they took place. But my son tells me he has a genius IQ; perhaps I underestimated his capacity to understand.

Or was it I who took things for granted? I remember a time when teenage Steve walked in as I was giving a friend a cuppa in my kitchen, and heard some mention of my degree. After she left he sat down with me and said expectantly, 'So – tell me about all these university degrees you've got.' I was surprised to realise that he didn't know about the (only) one I had. Then it dawned on me that he had no way of knowing. I didn't have the certificate on the wall – though it has been displayed ever since that occasion – and it didn't usually come up in conversation.

I learned a lot about my family background when I was a child by sitting around in the evening and talking, or listening to the grown-ups talk. This happened in the immediate family and at extended family gatherings. My kids grew up with the family gathered around the TV in the evenings, and they had few occasions to hobnob with their extended family.

The other day I spoke to Steve about my beloved Nana, my Mum's mother, who died when I was four. He remarked that he'd never heard about her before. I said, 'Well, you never wanted to read the family stories I was emailing to your brothers.' He told me that was because I'm a liar so he wouldn't have known what to believe of them anyway. Had he read them, he'd have known that some of them were taken from my mother's own writings and taped reminiscences, which he now tells me would have counted with him as evidence for their truth. But can anything make up for the communications he missed as a child?

This is a vexed question to which I have no answer at this time. Nancy's post reminds me that a child's emotional world is a vast and dramatic place of which we take far too little account.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Horror

The makers of Mars Bars still use animal testing. Click on the link to take action against this abhorrent practice!

Learn more at MarsCandyKills.com.

To see just how abhorrent, watch the video you'll find there. Personally I couldn't take more than the first few minutes, but that was enough to convince me of the need to register a protest.

If you don't want to see the graphic evidence, you can read about it instead.

Sometimes we need to inform ourselves of the unpalatable, rather than stay in wilful ignorance and do nothing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Being Well

My son Steve sent me this text in an email. I think it is great wisdom!

(It is reproduced in several places on the net, including other blogs, so it seems to be freely available.)


The Art of Being Well by Dr. Dráuzio Varella

...Speak your feelings.

Emotions and feelings that are hidden, repressed, end in illnesses as: gastritis, ulcer, lumbar pains, spinal. With time, the repression of the feelings degenerates to the cancer. Then, we go to a confidante, to share our intimacy, ours "secret", our errors! The dialogue, the speech, the word, is a powerful remedy and an excellent therapy!


...Make Decisions.

The undecided person remains in doubt, in anxiety, in anguish. Indecision accumulates problems, worries and aggressions. Human history is made of decisions. To decide is precisely to know to renounce, to know to lose advantages and values to win others. The undecided people are victims of gastric ailments, nervous pains and problems of the skin.


...Find Solutions.

Negative people do not find solutions and they enlarge problems. They prefer lamentation, gossip, pessimism. It is better to light a match that to regret the darkness. A bee is small, but produces one of the sweetest things that exist. We are what we think. The negative thought generates negative energy that is transformed into illness.


...Don't Live By Appearances.

Who hides reality, pretends , poses and always wants to give the impression of being well. He wants to be seen as perfect, easy-going, etc. but is accumulating tons of weight. A bronze statue with feet of clay. There is nothing worse for the health than to live on appearances and facades. These are people with a lot of varnish and little root. Their destiny is the pharmacy, the hospital and pain.


...Accept.

The refusal of acceptance and the absence of self-esteem, make us alienate ourselves. Being at one with ourselves is the core of a healthy life. They who do not accept this, become envious, jealous, imitators, ultra-competitive, destructive. Be accepted, accept that you are accepted, accept the criticisms. It is wisdom, good sense and therapy.


...Trust.

Who does not trust, does not communicate, is not opened, is not related, does not create deep and stable relations, does not know to do true friendships. Without confidence, there is not relationship. Distrust is a lack of faith in you and in faith itself.


...Do Not Live Life Sad.

Good humor. Laughter. Rest. Happiness. These replenish health and bring long life. The happy person has the gift to improve the environment wherever they live. "Good humor saves us from the hands of the doctor". Happiness is health and therapy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A great day for Australian women

A message from one of my friends, worth sharing:

Today, for the first time ever, we have a woman as our Prime Minister, albeit acting.*
The 30,000 women who signed the petition for women’s suffrage in 1891 would be crying with joy.
It has been a long journey and we salute you for your courage and determination, Julia Gillard.
And to the woman who encouraged Julia to take up law instead of teaching, thank you!

Helen Wells
SmartQuick solutions for people... learning coaching consulting training

* For non-Aussies: Julia Gillard, our Deputy Prime Minister, is running the country whilst our new PM, Kevin Rudd, is in Bali attending the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Being here

As I just said in response to a comment on yesterday's post, Loving MySpace, I think my reason for loving it could have something to do with being brought up in a small town. That town long ago grew into the City of Launceston and I haven't seen it in the last nine years, but I'm sure it will have kept some of the villagey atmosphere I remember.

I'm not fond of big cities, even though I lived in one – Melbourne – most of my adult life. I went to the University of Melbourne when I was 17, worked in various Melbourne libraries after I graduated, got married there (three times!) and raised my kids there. I lived there about 30 years and did get to love it for a long time. Cities are exciting places for teenagers, so I was disposed to embrace it from the start. But what was it I embraced? The city centre, the Uni and its surrounding suburb of Carlton, and later the Bayside suburbs where a kind fate led me to live and work. That's about it, really. With blithe disregard for such things as financial considerations, I used to ask rhetorically why anyone would live in Melbourne and NOT be by the sea. Put it down to my island heritage. Still a Taswegian at heart (which is what we Tasmanians jokingly call ourselves) I go for beautiful scenery, historic buildings, and a sense of community.

But I'm over Melbourne now. Andrew and I moved to northern New South Wales in 1994, and have no hankering to go back. We've lived since then in various locations around the town of Murwillumbah – with its hills, rivers and nearby mountains and ocean. No wonder I've always felt at home here! I like going into Coles and having six conversations with old acquaintances I bump into. I like walking down the street, encountering a friend unexpectedly and grabbing a coffee while we have a catch-up. I like it that the people in the shops have known me for years and say hello with a smile when I come in. I like the proprietary feeling I have about Mt Warning, the Tweed and Rous Rivers, certain cafes and the only bookshop.

We don't get into Murwillumbah so often any more, though those things still pertain when we do. In 2002 we moved out to Pottsville Beach, a small but fast-growing coastal resort with two tiny shopping areas and a thriving Neighbourhood Centre with hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers. Yes, there's a villagey feel and a strong sense of community, but the natural connections are with other places along the coast. When we want serious shopping, we go to urban centres like Tweed Heads (the start of the Gold Coast) or Byron Bay. And there are always lots of tourists here. One way and another, it feels less cocooned than dear old Murwillumbah, the town of which I used to say approvingly that it was 'cool to be daggy'. (For my non-Aussie readers, that's an oxymoron.) But we have the sea, and it's glorious!

It's a little like that, blogging here instead of on MySpace (not that I have stopped doing it there): considerably less cocooned, but with certain benefits. Now that I'm engaging with it, the wider blogosphere is rewarding too for a writer and lover of writing. Masters of the Verse on MySpace directed me to Writer's Resource Centre, one of my favourite places to play on the web, and there I found The Cerebral Mum, new friend and brilliant writer, without whom my life could no longer be complete. :) Also she's a generous promoter of other blogs including mine. It was she who directed me to David Coomler's blog on HOKKU, which I greatly treasure. Only yesterday, she helped me find PomGirl, a relative newcomer to Australia with a fresh eye for our foibles and a humorous take on her own, to whose delicious blog I instantly subscribed.

There's some cross-pollination goes on. I have told all my MySpace haiku friends about the HOKKU site, many of them now love it too, and one has started a thread on Haiku on Friday, based on a recent HOKKU post. Some of my favourite writers post on both Blogger and MySpace: e.g. Collin Kelley, an Atlanta poet whom I met in Texas at the Austin International Poetry Festival; Savvyology (B Y Penman) and Lance Strate, both of whom I met on MySpace. I see that one can duplicate content in both places, or have very different blogs at the different locations. Lance, for instance, who is a Professor of Communication, uses his blogspot for material related to his interest in that field, and his MySpace blog for his poetry. I'm opting for different posts in different places most of the time – though, regarding the recent Australian election, I waxed jubilant EVERYWHERE, including here.

I suspect, though, that this is really a MySpace blog. Does it truly belong out here, where there is so much concern for attracting traffic, writing winning headlines, and using blogs for business?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Loving MySpace

'MySpace is crap,' says my 38-year-old son, who is staying with me just now. 'Facebook is crap.' He had a quick look at both to see if they had any relevance to his business interests. I wasn't enamoured of Facebook either, after giving it a try for a few months, but I LOVE MySpace, where I have virtually (!) been living for the past 18 months or so and have three flourishing blogs with hundreds of viewers and dozens of subscribers. (See links at right.)

Out here in the wider world, I'm grateful for rssHugger, the proposed Directory of Australian women bloggers, and StumbleUpon. On MySpace I don't need to register on a special site to let people with like interests know I exist – the whole community is set up to function that way.

Why is it that this feels like being out in the world, and MySpace feels like a village? It's a pretty big village! Indeed, I sometimes think the whole world is on MySpace. Only this morning I added the Dalai Lama to my group of friends. And there are musicians like Tim Finn, Fiona Horne and Lisa Marie Presley, who actually write their own blogs and respond to their fans' comments and messages – although there are also plenty of others who only want to build up the numbers, and I don't bother with them. (Unless I REALLY like their stuff, e.g. Ute Lemper and Wendy Rule.) I didn't mind building up the numbers for our new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the head of the Greens Party, Senator Bob Brown! There are fake sites for famous people, and other sites which are essentially fan clubs, but I make sure to connect with the official ones.

But I'm not there in order to collect famous strangers as 'friends'. I was first enticed there because that way I could listen to new work by a muso I actually know, a personal friend in real life, the lovely Clive Price. I soon found other friends there, old and new. Above all I love the terrific poets I've come across, whom I would never have known otherwise. To mention only my top favourites: George Wallace, Geraldine Green, Ed Churchouse, and a woman I know only as 'dawn', a nature-lover who paints wonderful pictures and writes non-literary poetry which has the power to move people profoundly. (4/3/08: I just deleted the wonderful Lori Williams from this list, as she has left MySpace. *Sob!*)

I have met passionate political activists – usually older women like myself, interestingly enough – warm-hearted witches who treat me as a mentor, young people who honour me by talking to me freely and frankly, and a whole mob of haiku poets who post new verses every week on my Haiku on Friday page.

I've had my work published in the online literary magazines rorschach failure and Unquiet Desperation (the latter also publishes a print edition), I've helped distribute free booklets of "poetry found", and The Smoking Poet reviewed my latest book of poetry, Secret Leopard along with my husband Andrew's environmental fairy story, Jorell. All these contacts were made on MySpace.

It's also a great place to keep in touch with people I know in real life, including friends overseas, and even those only a couple of hours away. My 16-year-old god-daughter Mikaela lives in another State, and I've seen little of her since she was small. She joined MySpace just because I said I enjoyed it, and we now know each other much better through our communications there. My relationship with her has become one of the great treasures of my life! I've also grown closer to my 40-year-old stepson Adam since he joined; we've had discussions that go much deeper than our conversations at family gatherings. In the context of MySpace we relate without our preconceived opinions and past history. And there he's made the acquaintance of one of my real-life best friends and now they're pals too. On my visit to Texas last year I formed warm friendships with poets and witches I met, then came back home with no certainty that we'd ever see each other again. Thanks to MySpace, we've at least been able to remain in close contact and many of those friendships have deepened.

Why wouldn't I love MySpace?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hugging Myself!

... and perhaps you too, with



Thank you to The Cerebral Mum for letting her readers know about the brilliant new service at rssHugger. I am one of the more naive friends she mentions, only just starting to realise there are such things as blog ratings and ways to get more traffic. I'm not blogging as a business venture; I'm a writer in the literary, not the marketing sense.

But never mind customers – I do like making new friends with common interests. I love the idea of a community where we exchange hugs! And of course what all writers most need and want – after a blank page/screen – is readers.

The other thing I love to do, after writing, is reading. One of my great pleasures is finding new treasures online. Now, along comes rssHugger. Not only can it help people find me; it can also help me find them!

Best of all, it is generously offered free just now to people who review it in their blog. So if you would like to join in the blogging hugfest, click on the link above and check out the possibilities. The site is ridiculously easy to navigate, even for the technologically challenged such as myself, with clear instructions and see-at-a-glance layout. It looks good, and both colour scheme and language manage to be friendly and business-like at once. I can see me having fun there, exploring all the goodies on offer. And other explorers in my own areas of interest can find this listing.

For those who don't want to do a review, there's a one-off fee of only $20, so either way it's a very good deal.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

WE DID IT!

Thousands of cheers for the change of Government in Australia! A political commentator on TV this morning expressed the opinion that it was more than anything about getting rid of John Howard and his mob, and there's an element of truth in that. In fact, I was agreeing with my stepson Adam just a little while ago that the collective mood seems to be a huge sigh of relief around the country.

Our erstwhile Foreign Minister was quoted as saying, 'No-one was waiting for us with baseball bats. It was more a kind of ennui, a feeling that it was time for a change.' Oh yes? Then why, after the relief, am I feeling such glee?

Actually I voted Green. Witches care for the natural world! But my second preferences went to Labor. Getting the Howard Government out was indeed a huge priority.

On a vid of a US anti-war protest on MySpace today, I saw a placard saying 'Violence isn't strong. Compassion isn't weak.' I loved it so much, I thought I should use it as a banner or an email signature.

Our new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, will probably steer us to the centre, when I'd rather go more left – but I do believe he will restore some overdue compassion to Australian politics.

The issue of the pulp mill remains. Although I haven't lived in Tasmania for a long time, I'm keeping in touch with what's going on there. It must be hard for even the most wilfully blind to deny that there was a big protest vote against the mill. And that campaign continues. See these articles: Labor returns as pulp vote hits polls and The Lucky Country?

Today is a day for celebration, a great day for Australia!

Here is a quick-off-the-mark piece by Brisbane poet Stefanie Petrik:

HAVE FAITH, PEOPLE CAN LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES

Standing outside a community center
Deep in the heart of the Gold Coast
My friend and I beamed smiles through
The haze of affluence and indifference
Handing out how to vote cards:
“Socialist Alliance. Vote for a Revolution”.
Nobody got the irony.
The lone Labor supporter, was swamped at the door
By blue wearing oldies in t-shirts stamped
proudly with familiar effigies
Of a country unsure of its identity
Or of what it really wants and needs.
The conservatives, safe in that electorate
played dirty. They knocked down
her sign, repeatedly. They sniped at her with
pack mentality. The minor conservative
parties worked together, knowing that all
the preferences were theirs, anyway.
Then, a homeless man walked up to the
My Family First
Christian party, them representing money, not God,
And asked him for a dollar. He was pointed over to
Lone labor woman, while another bouncy woman
Tied blue and white balloons to a shopping trolley
That contained his companion’s worldly possessions.
I sat with my friend, hours later,
tired from standing in the sun
And a car screamed past yelling:
“Die Johnny Howard, you Liberal scum!”
We cheered a little too loudly.
The liberal next to us leant in and said,
“You’re lucky I don’t have my glock”.
In an American accent.
Told him he didn’t scare us, and asked him why
He had a registered weapon in a country with restrictive gun laws.
He was a bounty hunter from the USA
A personal friend of his candidate,
And he worked on promoting the Bush/Cheney campaign, too.
Lying or not, what bounty could he possibly
find in threatening two women on their own?
Apparently, he could even claim
his attack dogs back on tax. How nice for him.
We told him again:
You don’t scare us.
At the end of the day, the last rush of people
Voting after a working class day
The gauntlet of conservatives manned the lip
Of the gate. I joined them.
They said:
Don’t risk the economy, vote Liberal.
I said, louder:
People before profits!
Planet before profits!

And later that night, the people of this country
Voted John Howard out, and threw a magnificent party.
Hungover and definitely not scared - Nov 25th 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Insight, offsight

An email from my friend, Aussie poet and artist Bob Mud, which he says I may edit and spread as I wish! (Not that it needs editing.)

I didn't see the TV show he refers to, but I don't think you have to, to get the point.


Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2007 10:32:29 +1000

Tried sending to the SBS program 'Insight'- Jenny Brockie SBS Tuesdays 730.pm - can't seem to get through on their web site:

Your program seems to avoid all the tough questions while giving total focus to home ownership, jobs and economy.

If union bosses are to be feared why aren't corporate bosses mentioned, such as Skase, Bond and CEOs who retire on unimaginable millions?

If Kevin Rudd is guilty of "Me too." what about John Howard's "Me too." to George Bush?

Global warming is absolutely vital to the future of the planet and war is and has been a prime cause of phenomenal pollution.

The war in Iraq is a disgraceful bundle of lies.

Nuclear power uses large volumes of water and can never be called 'clean' when it creates pollution that lasts centuries!

Why has all media gone silent on Brendon Nelson's deals with America in buying fighter aircraft?

We might also be reminded of the wheat board deals with Iraq.

The aboriginal issues are akin to 'Children overboard.' Remote communities never have the same police services as the rest of the Australian community. Blaming victims in order to control land?

The immigration department's 200 false arrests might rate a mention.

Why wouldn't Mr Downer, or any foreign minister, welcome a diplomat capable of speaking fluent Chinese at a time when the country is emerging as a world power?

This bland program layered with superficial political correct politeness is a sad reflection on the self interest of Australians slowly agonising about immediate gains and losses for their better homes and gardens that are ultimately likely to destroy the livelihood of the whole planet itself!

Is this demockeracy?

Bob

Monday, November 19, 2007

Things people say to poets

I advise my writing students against showing their unfinished work to their nearest and dearest. I don't know why it is, but they are the very people who will bring you down. If they too are writers, they may be exceptions to this rule – but you can't count on it.

Australian author Carmel Bird – known for her fiction but also an accomplished poet – gives her students the same warning. In her book Dear Writer she shouts it in capital letters and exclamation marks.

'Beware!' she says,

'DO WHATEVER YOU LIKE WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS BUT DON'T SHOW THEM YOUR UNFINISHED FICTION'

I can only add that the same applies to your unfinished poems, plays, scripts and non-fiction ... and anything else I may have forgotten.

Carmel tells of students who ignore the warning and then come to her 'in tears and rage' to tell her 'how their loved-ones rejected their creation.' She adds wryly:

' "But," you say, "my lover is different. He would never be unkind about my work." Try him.'

The comments of strangers can be almost as alarming – especially when they haven't even read your work.

When I first began getting published, my then husband, Bill Nissen, introduced me proudly to new people with, 'Rosemary's a poet'. This engendered some interesting responses. A common one was,

'Oh, that must be such wonderful THERAPY.'

Well yes, it can be, as a side-effect – but I was rather aiming to create works of art!

Then there were the blokes who asked with a leer,

'Do you write dirty poems?' and guffawed at their own wit.

Yes, actually; they didn't know the half of it. I have indeed been known to write red-hot erotica. But see, I don't think that's dirty! And in terms of 'language' it's more inclined to be metaphoric than pornographic.

Most mind-boggling of all was the man who said,

'How can you possibly be a poet? You're much too young. You haven't SUFFERED!'

We had only just met and he knew almost nothing about me. Granted, I have always looked quite a lot younger than my years, and perhaps he didn't realise he was talking to a woman in her thirties (at that time). But youth is not exempt from suffering anyway. For instance, I was fifteen when my parents divorced and I found myself saddled with a cruel, mad stepmother whom I always describe as 'right out of the fairy-tales'. My brother, who was her favourite scapegoat, was only eleven.

Few people reach adulthood without experiencing some suffering, if only the death of a beloved grandparent or pet animal. Many children in the world know horrendous suffering from an early age.

This of course begs the question of whether suffering is in fact necessary in order to be a poet. Perhaps we'll never know, since it's so difficult to imagine even a young life completely devoid of suffering. But a talent for poetry seems to be genetic or hormonal, or perhaps both; not merely a product of circumstances. People typically start writing it either in childhood or during puberty, according to a study I read a long time ago. It definitely runs in my family!

Then again, I sometimes think it's natural to us all. People who are institutionalised often turn to poetry as a necessary form of self-expression. We need self-expression whether we're suffering or not. And the urge to communicate it, which follows immediately, is also very powerful.

I admit that emotions like grief and anger tend to be more urgent in demanding expression. When things are going well, I'm more inclined to bask in the moment than set it down on paper. But poetry can be made from joy as well as suffering, as witness all the rapturous love poems which poets have always made. 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day...', 'My luve is like a red, red rose...' and so on – centuries of them.

I found it disconcerting when Bill introduced me as a poet. I felt I didn't know how to 'be' a poet. Perhaps I still felt I wasn't one, really. Evidence accrued, however, in the form of publication and paid performance, and after some years I took the matter so much for granted that I became blasé about being introduced that way. At that point of self-acceptance, suddenly everyone else accepted the fact too, reacting as if the occupation of poet was unremarkable. Thereafter the only comment was likely to be,

'Where can I read your work?'

Astonishing! I have to think it was a profound change in my own energy which made the difference.

I guess the moral of this story is that we need to believe in ourselves.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Growing up poetic

Nancy and Robert over at Poetic Asides , one of my favourite blogs, say they started out writing free verse and only later experimented with forms. For me it was the opposite way round. I was brought up on formal poetry, which my parents, grandparents, aunt and uncles all loved. So when I started making poems as a little girl, it was natural to give them rhyme and rhythm.

Below is my first poem, written when I was seven. Well, I didn't write it immediately; I made it in my head first, saying it over to myself in my mind until I had something I thought worked – which was quite quick really. Explaining my process at Writer's Resource Center, I spoke of training myself to hold lines and verses in my head when my kids were small, when I couldn't always get straight to pen and paper as soon as the poems started forming in my mind. I had forgotten until just now that that was how I started out. Indeed, 'forming in my mind' is always what happens first.

So here's that first poem:

When the violin leaves
whirl round and round,
when the violin leaves
scatter the ground,
then Jack Frost comes out
and throws snow all about.


My Dad asked me why 'violin leaves' and I explained that I thought the leaves I was looking at were shaped like tiny violins. My first metaphor! It was quickly followed by my lifelong urge to be understood. I changed the phrase to 'autumn leaves' and called the poem 'Autumn' so that it wouldn't need explaining. I still hold accessibility as one of the highest values in writing, and at the age of 68 am only just starting to soften that stance a little, to accommodate more indirectness and mystery.

What with the Jack Frost image, completely derivative, and the mention of snow – which I only remember happening once, briefly, in the town where I grew up – my alterations made the piece ordinary. I was happy, later, to put it back the way I first composed it, even though more people 'got' the second version. Accessibility's one thing, compromise is another.

My Dad, no mean versifier himself, took my poem seriously enough to have a conversation with me about the merits of 'violin leaves' over 'autumn leaves' and the spuriousness of my other images. Probably I'd have continued creating verses anyway, but his attitude certainly encouraged me. He made me feel that I had enough potential to strive for greater things.

At school I played a bit with the forms we learned about: ballads and sonnets mostly, and eventually some free verse. I didn't have much idea how to go about it though until a family friend, who wrote very formal verse himself, took the trouble to introduce me to the word and idea of 'prosody' and the techniques of scansion. He explained about the number of beats to a line, and patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. He showed me how to note metre on paper, and I still do it the way he showed me, with / for heavy syllables and . for unstressed ones, so an iambic pentameter (5 beats to a line, each beat having an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one) looks like this, the way I write it: . / . / . / . / . /

I couldn't imagine anything better to be than a poet. To bring so much beauty into the world! When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always 'a famous poet', until eventually my father explained regretfully that a poet wasn't a thing you could 'be' in that sense and I'd have to find some other way to earn a living; and that, furthermore, very few poets ever became really famous. He opined that while my juvenile efforts were unusually good, he didn't know that they indicated latent genius!

Mucking around making poems remained one of my favourite pastimes, but by the time I was in my late teens I was convinced I could never be a 'real poet' – real poets were those other people, the brilliant shining lights who got published in books and literary magazines. I imagined their wonderful works were the result of inborn genius and divine inspiration; I didn't understand about the 99% perspiration. Nothing could stop me making poems, but as I entered adulthood it became my private indulgence. I seldom revised or polished anything. I was doing it just for me. But I still wanted to shape it; it was never just blurting stuff on to the page.

Poetic form is all about making patterns, so I started experimenting. I played with rhyme and rhythm, preferring a loose rhythm with a variable number of unstressed syllables to a strict meter – probably because I found it easier! I parodied popular songs just to get variations in rhymes and rhythms. I started making up my own forms (nothing very elaborate or innovative, I'm afraid) usually starting with a pattern of the number of lines to a verse and then looking at rhyme schemes and rhythms. So when I did finally try to go public with poetry, I discovered to my own surprise that I had given myself a good grounding in form while I thought I was just playing around.

I sometimes allowed people to see my very private scribblings, and they usually said they liked them. I was never sure if they were just being polite. One boyfriend told me it was like 'a diary in verse' because it was all confessional stuff, though we didn't know that term then. It was not until I was in my early thirties, the young mother of two small children, that I started asking myself why I was always restless and discontented even though I had everything I was supposed to want: nice husband, nice house in nice suburb, nice kids, nice career (in librarianship) which I was able to pursue part time while the kids were so young…. All that niceness could have been a clue!

'What more do you want?' I asked myself, and the proverbial lightbulb went off in my head. The thing I had always wanted was to be a poet, not just as a private self-indulgence, but really ... whatever 'really' meant. Well, one thing I knew it meant was being published. So I figured I'd better try.

That was a different game. In another post I talk about training myself more consciously by attempting every style of poetry in English to that date. (1975 if you must know.) At least, that was the intention. Pound's Cantos proved daunting, and by that time my own words, in my own style, were screaming inside me to get out. I sent some pieces to Nation Review, the most radical Australian publication of the day.

'These are too long for us,' the editor wrote back. 'Send us some shorter pieces.' I did, by return mail, and he selected four! I never looked back.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Writing for Facebook

A friend emailed me this information:

Facebook gets literary
Arts Hub, Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Only on the web can you start a new literary review and have over 2,000 people sign up within a month. In fact, the early popularity of The Facebook Review rebukes any charge that web-denizens don't care much for textuality beyond the hyper.

The review, a first for Facebook, already has over 2,000 subscribers, and is growing daily.

The global experiment in literature and social networking was launched this month, and the first virtual edition features 14 writers from across the globe, including emerging and established writers from Canada, the U.S. and the UK.

What makes this online literary magazine unique is its interactivity and the fact it only exists within Facebook, the huglely popular social networking website (boasting more than 49 million users worldwide).

By using Facebook as a publishing tool and accepting contributions from Facebook members, review founder, poet Jacob McArthur Mooney, hopes to harness the reach and momentum of social networking to provide a new platform for writers - with in-built instant feedback, as other members to comment on and share the work.

Mooney, a 24-year-old Canadian, says: "Facebook is such an immense environment I assumed that something like The Facebook Review had to already exist somewhere. As it turns out, Facebook is vast but also surprisingly empty. I wanted to challenge the idea that Facebook can only reflect the culture happening beyond it."

Issues will be edited by the contributors to the previous issue, producing an inclusive rolling editorial team.

"I think that the casual atmosphere on Facebook can get people talking to each other in ways they'd never do in 'the real world'," says Mooney. "Facebook is a meeting ground for writers at all levels; from kids posting their first poems for friends to read to established authors using it as a marketing vehicle."

UK author Mark Brown, featured in the first issue, agrees: "The Facebook Review is a fun idea that points the way toward new ways of publishing and reading literature. I'm really excited to be a part of it."

Anyone who is a member of Facebook can join The Facebook Review by visiting www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=18436918096 or by searching for The Facebook Review group. All details and submission guidelines can be found at The Facebook Review page inside Facebook

Well, I can't stand Facebook after trying it for a few months. Or was it weeks that only seemed like months? I really did try. I joined in sending people virtual drinks and gifts and hugs, I wrote things on their walls, I answered their questions. I did draw the line at exchanging vampire bites or sending a beach ball around the world. And I was amused when, in a fit of silliness late one night, I offered to marry half my Facebook friends and scared the s**t outa some of them! (I thought I had omitted all who might take me seriously but apparently not.)

I thought it was the most boring and time-wasting thing I'd ever come across! As far as I'm concerned, the kids can have it. I'll just find other ways to support the Burmese dissidents and record my personal history as raw material for memoir – the two reasons I stayed as long as I did.

The literary review tempted me only briefly. After all, though feedback on one's work can be useful – from 2,000 people??? It seems a mite excessive. Have I got time to sort through the uninformed, tasteless and half-baked opinions that would inevitably be included, to find the gems? If I wanted my poetry to appeal to the masses, I'd be writing greeting cards. (No, I would LOVE it to appeal to the masses – but not at the expense of poetics, you see.)

Glad to find out my instincts are sound. My friend The Cerebral Mum has looked into the matter more than I did, and points out the following:


I had a look at that Review Thingy. I know it has lots of members, but I wonder how many actually read it? And The material is only covered by Facebook Terms which says that you “grant to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise.” I’m all for open source, and Creative Commons, but I’m pretty sure that particular agreement is not one your agent would recommend signing when it comes to your artistic work. It’s one of the things that makes me distrust them so much.

Yes, that's a pretty horrifying agreement to make about one's writing!