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

Friday, December 24, 2010

So That Was 2010

(Our personal 2010, I mean. You all know already what happened in the wider world.)

It was a mixed bag.

Wonderful to get our Housing Dept home after the 13-year wait, back in a town we’ve always loved, just as we needed to be closer to shops and services. It's also closer to many old friends, and we have been making new ones too since our return a year ago. We continue to love our peaceful street, with nice neighbours and mountain views.

The Beloved Spouse’s first wife died in February after an illness. This was of course an emotional time for him and his children. He couldn't attend the funeral (in Melbourne) but contributed his reminiscences to the eulogy.

Good news is that Spouse’s heart specialist told him at his annual check-up in Feb. that his heart is in excellent shape.

The old car became scary to drive with the automatic transmission slipping, but we were lucky to find an affordable replacement.

I retired from the Sunday markets soon after moving. Adored the work and the atmosphere for many years, but realised I didn't want to keep getting up so early and lugging the stall around. Occasionally people track me down and come to the house for Reiki treatments or psychic readings.

We both developed eye problems. Spouse needed expensive laser work. Thanks to his youngest, my Second Stepson, for a generous and well-timed gift which made that possible! (Yes, there are Medicare refunds but you still have to pay upfront.) As for me, I have a film over my left retina, a thing which apparently can happen with age. They monitor it frequently and I do a little eye test every day. If the film stays tightly attached, no problem; if it gets loose and wrinkly, I'll need surgery. This is unpredictable, but so far so good.

June - July were our worst months. My favourite Aunty over in Perth, my 'second Mum', died. Sad, but not unexpected. Then Spouse got an infected toe and went to hospital, we thought for a day or two. He deteriorated rapidly, was transferred from the local hospital to a bigger one forty-five minutes away, and all in all was in for three weeks. It wasn't the toe, which cleared up. Apparently he got a strain of flu they couldn't identify. He nearly died, and it was all very scary for both of us. He finally turned the corner when I called in all the Reiki help I could get, but remained frail some time after coming home.

I bought him a wheely walker, which he still needs from time to time due to arthritis. In fact we now have one for the house and one for the car to save me lugging it up and down steps. I'm not supposed to do heavy lifting because of my own arthritis, and have also stopped my Tai Chi classes because I can no longer stand on my right leg. But we are taking supplements and have found our way back to our good chiropractor in the coastal village where we used to live, who is helping. You walk out of his clinic with your body feeling noticeably different!

I still travel to said village often as facilitator of the WordsFlow writers' group (which has been going four years now) and as Secretary of the Management Committee for the Neighbourhood Centre. They won't let me go! Which is fine, as I enjoy both roles and it's only a half hour drive through pretty country. If I still lived in Melbourne, a half hour drive would seem like nothing.

During an exciting visit in May from Thom the World Poet (based in Austin, Texas) and his mate Bob Mud, muso/poet./artist from Brisbane, with a workshop for WordsFlow and a performance in the Castle on the Hill at nearby Uki, Spouse became so enthused that he joined WordsFlow and has been getting stuck into his autobiography and his children's stories.

We had a visit from Spouse's eldest, my First Stepson and the three little grand-daughters, soon after moving here. They filled the house with laughter and colour, and it suddenly seemed very quiet and spacious after they left.

Later in the year the beautiful Stepdaughter had a quick trip to the Gold Coast with her boyfriend, and drove down here to take us to lunch and see the new home.

(Her son, 18 now, is shaping up as a talented writer, which is exciting for his grandparents here!) And Second Stepson is arriving tomorrow for a week's visit over xmas.

My Firstborn injured an Achilles tendon some months ago, and is still recovering after surgery and having to wear a special boot for a while. No more swing dancing for him just yet, which was one of his greatest pleasures — but he has taken up DJ-ing and is enjoying it.

There have been some deaths of old friends, not all of them elderly.

I am still estranged from my Youngest, by my own choice.

I have acquired several new Reiki students who want to go as far as I can take them with their training, and who are already potential Masters, exciting to teach. One of them has created a herb garden for us in our little courtyard out the back.

We have a wonderful handyman who is an old Reiki student of mine. Housing Dept maintenance is quick to fix the essential and/or emergency stuff; he does the rest very well at a most reasonable rate. The guy who used to mow our lawns for free became a family man and isn't so available any more — but with our Housing Dept rent we have a little more money to spare, and our neighbour's friend, who does her lawn for $20 a fortnight, asked if we'd like him to do ours too. Yes! And I finally succumbed and got household help from Home Care for a very low fee. They don't do everything, but they do the stuff I can't manage, and are nice women to boot. (Stop it with those mental images! That’s not what I meant.)

Spouse had another trip to hospital in September, following a fall. He complained of headache and blacked out a minute, which was enough for me to call the ambulance. However he was fine and they allowed him home in a few days. Whew!

We are adjusting to being older and less mobile, e.g.for the most part seeing movies on DVD rather than climb stairs at the cinema. (With our wide-screen digital telly which we were able to get at sale price just after moving here, that's no hardship!) I'm enjoying doing more of the driving now and feeling more confident/competent as a result. Life goes on merrily enough. Writing is our major focus, as indeed it always has been.

As for my great weight loss program, it got thoroughly abandoned. This was not planned, but a lapse that lasted and lasted.  Too much going on, higher priorities.... Now I am a large lady again — damn! Never mind, after Christmas I’ll start over and stick to it. This is not a New Year resolution (made to be broken) but an intention for taking good care of myself. Others who did stick to it are looking wonderful now!

And so, dear people Bright Blessings to you all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Haiku and Other Short Forms — the cheat sheet

Someone asked me for guidance. This may not be the most elegant or scholarly dissertation, but I think it works as a quick reference.

Haiku: three short lines, traditionally 5/7/5 syllables. About nature, including a word that indicates the season (e.g. cherry blossom for spring) and containing a turn of thought or juxtaposition of objects/ideas. They are not supposed to use any poetic devices such as metaphor. Ideally they should create in the reader an ‘aha! moment’.

Senryu: same form, but about people and can include humour and urban settings.

Modern haiku and senryu in English often ignore the syllable count in favour of short/long/short, as Japanese syllables tend to be briefer than English ones (I’m told). In this case they aim for shorter lines than 5/7/5. Some people even go in for one-line haiku! They often omit punctuation, too.

In our Haiku on Friday page on facebook, the lines between haiku and senryu are sometimes pretty blurred!

Renga: a chain, in which someone adds two 7-syllable (or just longer) lines to the original haiku. The next person will then write another three, and so on, until everyone gets sick of keeping it going.

Tanka: a 5-line form of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables or short/long/short/long/long. Not so strictly about nature, though they can be. Often have a romantic theme. There should be the ‘turn of thought’ and aha! moment in tanka too.

Lune: a 3-line form devised as a Western haiku, based on syllable count without all the other rules. Called lune because of crescent shape (resulting from line lengths). Two kinds:
Kelly lune invented by Robert Kelly; syllables 5/3/5. Collum lune by Jack Collum, who misremembered and taught it as 3/5/3 WORDS (rather than syllables).

Gogyohka: new Japanese form freer than tanka. 5 lines, each as long as one breath (if speaking them aloud). No other rules.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Initial Capitals in Poetry

I asked a friend to do me the favour of casting a critical eye over my latest manuscript before I submit it. One thing she queried was my practice of not capitalising the initial letter of every line of my poems. Evidently she is more comfortable with the convention of initial capitals.

For the sake of others who may be interested in this question, here is my reply to her:

Many poets still use the convention of capitalising the first letter of every line. At least as many, if not more, no longer do that. There's an interesting discussion of the matter here, amongst poets.

The practice of initial capitalising in English poetry began in the 16th Century. This changed with the advent of free verse in the 20th Century, as initial capitals would have been intrusive to the flow and to the various ways that poetry can now be arranged on the page. It is very common now for formal poets, too, to dispense with initial capitals, though some retain them. On the other hand, some practitioners of free verse, when using a fairly conventional arrangement of lines on the page, like to adopt initial capitals — but have to abandon them when they venture into things like shape poetry or prose poetry.

I write mosty free verse, but like to play with form sometimes. I don't want to be inconsistent within my own work so I adopt prose rules for capitalisation, whatever kind of verse I'm writing.

When all's said and done, these days it depends on the personal preference of the poet.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A River of Stones

You've heard of NaMoWriMo. Introducing (drumroll.....) NaSmaStoMo!

For the month of January, Fiona Robyn asks people to join her in writing a short piece of writing each day for the whole month, and blogging it either on their usual blog or a new one (or in a notebook if they're shy).

Find out more at her new blog,  A River of Stones, and please help spread the word by tweeting and sharing the link on Facebook and emailing your might-be-up-for-it friends.

Fiona says: Don't worry about whether you're a 'writer' or not - this project will help you to connect with the world, and we could all do with a bit more of that. Start the year as you mean to go on.

So are you in?

I am, and will be posting at my new blog (yet another!): Stones for the River.