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

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): Un-Australian

Well, that’d be my Mum for starters. Migrated from India with her family when she was 15.  She was Anglo-Indian, not dark-skinned, so people heard her accent and not only the English bit — she went to boarding school in England from the age of 7. People still ask me sometimes if I’m English. I must have absorbed something of Mum’s way of speaking. And yet she lived in Australia from the age of 15 until she died at 83. She said that in Austraia she was taken for English, and when she went back to England on a visit, everyone said how Australian she sounded.

When did she go from being a foreigner to being an Aussie? Oh yes, I suppose she and her family got naturalised and all that; she was certainly an Austraian citizen. But don’t some of the other nationalities who come here get naturalised too? It still doens't make them Aussies in the eyes of their critics.

We love to have peoople to hate for their difference. I remember when I was a kid, it was the I-ties. Now they are old stock, many gneerations here.

I always say I’m dinkum cos I was born here — but I don’t drink beer or tea, don’t bet on the Melborne Cup, prefer poetry to sport, and don’t profess to be Christian.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): The Getting of Wisdom

Boring book, I thought. Didm’t see why it was such an Australian classic. And the movie wasn’t much better. The only intersting thing about it was when my stepsister told me it was based on PLC in Melbourne, where she went to school. She was another boarding school child like my own Mum. Anway, she didn’t seem to have got much wisdom from going to PLC. My stepmother later sent her to a finishing school with a domestic emphasis, called Invergowrie. There Merrie learned how to drink and smoke, and how to wear thick tights under your long evening gown in winter (they had to dress for dinner, you see).

Not much wisdom to be got there either. Mind you, I wasn't much wiser with my State School education. I was unwise enought to ask Merrie to teach me how to smoke so that I could be sophisticated. Took me 30 years to kick that habit. I don't suppose it made me look sophisticated anyway. It's very hard to bring that off the way they did in the old movies — even when I used a long  cigarette holder and smoked Black Russian Sobranies. I now rather think I probably only looked silly.

The getting of wisdom, I think, has to come with time and experience. If I’ve got any, it arrived by dint of growing older and having stuff happen to me, and having to figure out ways to deal with it. 

I doubt if school is the place where you find it. You get information, some if it useful.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): A Time to Dance

That’s when I’m all by myself with time to spare. I love to dance, but apparently I have no sense of timing, no rhythm. I never knew that when I was little and used to dance in front of the wireless. My parents must have been too kind to tell me. But later I discovered it all right; other people told me. So I dance alone, not on a dance floor if I can help it. Sometimes one can’t help it; there are dinner parties and things where you pretty much have to if you’re asked. ‘I’m a really bad dancer,’ I used to say discouragingly, but some men aren’t to be put off. ‘Oh you can dance with ME.’ The only one of whom that was true was my first husband, Don. He had cups and medals for ballroom dancing and could make even me look good and even feel good some of the time. Only he knew how hard he gad to work for that and what a relief it was for the poor man to occasionally have a dance with someone who know how to do it.

But dancing alone is great. I put on Janis Joplin very loud: Mercedes Benz and Me and Bobby McGhee and go for my life with a broom a partner, or maybe no partner at all. I sing along too, loudly under cover of the even louder music, and no matter that I can’t sing in tune either.

Everyone can dance, say people who can, and everyone can sing. But just the other day when I was singing along to something and thinking I was getting it right for once, Andrew said plaintively, ‘I wish you could sing in tune.’ Not half as much as I wish it, dear!

I love to sing almost as much as I love to dance, In my next life I might decide to be a singer or a dancer or even both. But would I swap for being a writer? Not on your Nelly! In poetry I can find rhythms, and create song. Well, true I write free verse or syllabics most of the time, but still the choice is there.

Many poets in fact liken the act of making poems to dancing. Myself, not being a natural dancer, I see it more as a form of sculpture. It’s about separating out the poem from the stuff around it, the blank stone if you like, or the empty air, or the babble of other miscellaneous words. I am babbling now. Time to dance; I need it soon. Haven’t danced in ages. Unfortunately Janis is on 33rpm; I’ll have to find a CD.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Walking Around Murwillumbah

It’s a sunny winter Saturday morning, so glorious that it feels like autumn. The little town of Murwillumbah is a bit quieter than it would be on a weekday, though there are still people out and about. It’s not too hard to find a parking space.

Walking up towards the Post Office, I peep into Crystal Treasures next to the Regent Cinema, and wave at Priya, who’s behind the counter today. She waves and smiles back.  We’ve known each other a long time, as fellow Reiki channels with mutual friends. If we’d met out in the street, we’d have stopped for a hug; and often do.

Then I come to the tiny vacant block past the NRMA, and there’s a young girl with mysterious cloth bundles of stuff on the ground around her. She’s wearing skin-tight, black three-quarter pants, and a purple singlet top with a black overlay.  Her hair is in braids with black and purple ribbons. Around her slender hips she’s twirling a hoop with a big, glittery bow tied on. Practising, I think.

‘I love your hair,’ she exclaims.

It’s very deep purple today. I did the colour yesterday and it was the last of the bottle so I put a bit more on than usual, using it all up.

‘I love your whole outfit,” I say.

We draw closer to each other. She admires my amethyst drop earrings, touching them gently. I tell her a friend made them for me.

‘I have a big thing for purple,’ she says.

‘Oh, me too!’

I ask what she’s up to, and she tells me she’s a performer. She indicates her fire sticks amongst the bundles. We wish each other a good day, beaming, and I move on. There’s a  big feather lying right in my path, which I take as a sign from the Universe that this was no accidental meeting. I think that on my way back I’ll give her one of my cards, expecting that by then she’ll be set up and doing her thing in the little vacant block.

In the IGA store, I’m standing at the counter with my purchases and a voice says, ‘Hello, beautiful Scorpio woman!’  There’s Tanya next in the queue, smiling into my eyes. I met her years ago when I was doing psychic readings in the Sunday markets. She consulted me a number of times thereafter, at my market stall and sometimes also for private readings at my home. Over the years I’ve seen her grow from an uncertain, self-doubting girl into a vibrant, self-actualising woman who has solved her dilemmas and no longer feels a need for guidance. We walk out of the shop together, chatting a little, before going our separate ways. She lives close enough now, she says, to walk into town and back. I say that I’m just a bit far for that; it’d be quite a hike.

‘Ah,’ she says, ‘You get to come in and see people and then go back to your lovely quiet.’ She’s got a point.

I walk back past the vacant block, and it’s empty. The performer and all her bundles have disappeared. Now that I come to think of it, it wouldn’t have been a great spot for busking; not many passers-by in that location, on a Saturday morning in Murwillumbah. A lesson: I should have acted on the impulse to give her my card as soon as I thought of it, instead of waiting. Never mind; what is, is — and it’s still a warming memory. If we are meant to connect further, the Universe will arrange another opportunity.

Instead, Del comes walking towards me. I’ve known her since we were in a singing workshop together, oh years and years ago; I can’t remember how many. The workshop didn’t cure my tin ear, but it was lots of fun because Trish, the leader, created all sorts of innovative exercises for us including dressing up, dancing, swimming nude in the local creek, and doing some Goddessy rituals. I made friendships that have lasted ever since.

Del is what you’d call an ‘older woman’ but I have no idea how old. Probably younger than me (almost everyone is, lol). She has looked just the same in all the years I’ve known her: not young, but getting no older in any respect as far as I can see. One thing is different nowadays, though — her hair has a vivid pink streak across the top and front. Del is in a band that plays around town and visits local events such as the Sunday markets. They all dress in glamorous, outrageous costumes of basic black with lots and lots of knock-your-eyes-out red. Each person’s outfit is different, and together they are a joyous, exciting spectacle. Many times in my market days they would parade past my stall, half marching half dancing, playing their instruments, then stop somewhere where there was space to collect a crowd and give a brief performance.

I often wear vibrant colours myself, with lots of red and purple, and these days I have this purple hair which fades to auburn and then cherry between dyeings. Del likes to tell me I should be in the band too, the way I dress. Our affection goes back further than our bright hair days. We too tend to greet in the street with delighted hugs, as we do now.

‘How are you, darling?’ we ask each other. She tells me she’s having a walk in the sun. Like Tanya, she lives close enough to walk into town — and like Patsy, my Chinese-Australian friend whom I bumped into last Sunday when I ducked in quickly (by car) for a few items. I wrote a lune (a form of Western haiku) about that encounter:

Went to town.
There was Patsy walking around
in the sun.

These are people with whom I have seldom socialised. Not that we wouldn’t if occasion arose, but it doesn’t seem to matter. We’re just always thrilled to see each other, and go on our ways warmed by the encounters. It’s one of the great pleasures of Murwillumbah, to have these chance meetings with both close friends and, as today, fond acquaintances. There’s always the moment of pleased surprise, the kiss or hug, the exchange of news great or small, whether we saw each other only yesterday or three years ago. It will be the same with the young performer, if I bump into her again. The link is made.

People frequently ask us how we are liking our new home.

‘We love it!’ we say. ‘And it’s so good to be back in town.’

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Occupation: Poet

My friend Helen Patrice (aka Satyapriya) is at present on retreat somewhere in North America. This is a recent blog post from her, which she says I may share here:

Sitting above the valley of the creek, I am writing in my journal. A woman stops being dragged about the park by her black dog, and we chat. She smiles at me indulgently.
"So, what do you do?"
"I'm a poet."
I let it hang there, for the first time ever. No adding on 'dance tutor' or 'yogini' or 'columnist' or 'single mother'.
Poet.
An even more indulgent smile from her. "And what does your husband think of that?"
It is obvious that, to her, I fancy myself a poet in my off hours, and am a lucky, indulged stay-at-home wife. She is having a day off work while the office hires professional movers to shift everything to a new building. She WORKS.
I do not have a husband. Have not had one for 16 years. I oscillate between wanting one, and not.
The man I am living with these past ten days could pass as a husband if I let him. Very occasionally I think of him that way, when my mind slips out of gear, and I let down my pointed, jagged guard.
"He likes it just fine," I say. "I earn my keep."
I do not earn much from poetry. I earn something from being a columnist. I once was paid $150 for a ten line poem. If I could get that every day, I'd be laughing.
That shuts her up. She sees only that I am sitting in the sunshine, on a yoga mat, looking out over the valley, a packet of cherries and a bottle of water by my side.
She does not see that every day I wrestle with my pen and page to make them sketch out, in wordplay, the feeling in my head. My arm muscles are the match of any man's, so hard is my work. At the end of each day, if I am lucky, is a pale resemblance to what was inside, and I am empty of anything but the touch of the Goddess. If I am not lucky, I have before me a twitching wretched mess that has no life but will not die.
There is no holiday pay, no sick leave, no bereavement days.
I would have no other job.
The woman and her black dog walk on.

******************************

I want to share it because:
a) I think it’s a lovely piece of writing.
b) I like what she says about the job of being a poet.
c) I’m astounded that, in this day and age, the woman who spoke to her would really ask such a question as, ’What does your husband think of that?’  Shocked, I commented that if feminism is not dead, it’s obviously pretty weak. A fellow-Aussie reminded me that such a comment would be unlikely in her neck of the woods, where people would probably be much more interested in the poem being written. True. I acknowledge in relief that it is a most unlikely comment anywhere in Australia, from anyone. I can’t imagine anyone even thinking like that any more. Even so, it still seems amazingly backward for North America, too. Please tell me it’s atypical!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Why Blog My Poetry?

My blog on MySpace had had 30957 views last time I looked. Those people have given me ‘kudos’ for my writing only 1386 times, and I have received only 2130 comments. Some have been from the same people returning over and over again. Even so, I think that’s a lot more people than would find and like my poetry in any in-print Australian literary magazine.

My MySpace blog includes prose and has been going for four years. On Blogger I have three blogs just for poetry: a haiku page, a page of ‘verse portraits’ and a page for poetry in general. The haiku page was started in January 2007 and has received 736 visitors. The verse portraits began in June 2008 and have had 752 visitors. I started The Passionate Crone, where I post all my other poetry, in May 2006 and it has had 6973 visitors to date (already 30 this month, so far). Again, some are the same people returning many times; some visitors don’t stay to read for very long; and many more visit than actually comment.

These figures are ridiculously small compared to the traffic some other kinds of blogs have, with thousands of hits a day. For poetry, however, it’s a high readership, and it comes from all over the world. I have readers in India, Africa, Argentina, China (to name just a few) and all over Europe, as well as thick concentrations in Australia, New Zealand, all the north American countries, and Britain. This exceeds my wildest pre-internet dreams.

But is it only that I can’t get published in reputable journals? Admittedly I don’t try very often, but when I do, I don’t have any trouble being accepted. (I do, however, prefer online journal publication too, these days.) In previous decades I was widely published in prestigious places; also the people who now comment favourably on my work include poets whose own work I love and admire. Yes, every poetaster can now get a blog and a host of enthusiastic readers to go with it; lovers of real poetry can still discriminate.

There are blogging poets with readerships and reputations far higher than mine. Some of them publish mostly in blogs nowadays; others use their blogs as adjuncts to their print publications. Some of us put our first drafts on our blogs and submit our revised work for publication in journals. Some go straight from blogs to chapbooks, and it seems that enough of their blog readers want to have the work in book form to make that worthwhile.

Somewhere in the mix is performance, for decades a good way of getting your work known and building up a following. It still is, and often the two things go together. Many of the blogging poets I know are also performers. I seldom do that any more, though I was a high-profile performer in the past. I moved to a small town where poetry performances are a few hours’ drive away in various directions. Although from time to time people have tried to get things going locally, so far they haven’t lasted. And I’m older now, and don’t much like driving for hours through the night for any reason. I rely more and more on the blogs.

However, you can surely do both, and submit to journals and publish books as well, and they will all enhance each other. Even I still do a little bit of performing, submit to journals occasionally, and am gradually creating some chapbooks. Blogging doesn’t have to be a substitute for other kinds of exposure, but along with performance it has become one of the first and easiest places to get your work ‘out there’.

It’s good from a reader’s point of view, too. I love being able to read the latest pieces by my favourite poets with just a couple of clicks.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Wendy Rule Concert at The Castle on the Hill

Last Friday I went with the Beloved Spouse and some dear friends to a Wendy Rule concert, one night only, at The Castle on the Hill. That’s a venue and b&b built by three artists, two of whom are good friends of Andrew’s and mine. It is also their home. (They can truly say, ‘My home is my castle.’) When Thom the poet did a gig there recently, it reminded him of Montsalvat in the Melbourne hills. Indeed it is very reminiscent — but whereas Montsalvat is a Great Hall plus a number of small dwellings and outbuildings, this is all one building, full of comfort as well as artistry.

I’ve adored Wendy’s music for years, but this was the first time I’d had a chance to attend a live performance. I have been astounded to discover how many Aussies don’t know who Wendy Rule is. Hell-o-o-o-! Internationally famous singer-songwriter, with one of the most gorgeous voices around. But of course she’s not mainstream pop. Melbourne people are somewhat more likely to know. She lives in Melbourne when she’s not touring. The Pagan community all know who she is: she is also a very high profile witch, who conducts workshops and is known for casting circle on stage.

It was a cold night, but with many bodies in the room it was soon cosy. The room fits 80 at a squeeze, and the event was sold out. Some of us sat on chairs around the walls; most people brought cushions and filled the floor. We could see glimpses of the dark gardens through the walls of windows. Wendy’s voice, alone and unaccompanied, is even more glorious than on disc. Mostly she played a guitar, several times sang without even that. We all felt it to be a magickal experience, and Wendy loved the venue so much that she wants to come back in a few months. And yes, she cast circle, with incense and song, before she began, and opened it again after the concert finished. When casting, at first she made a mistake in the directions. She giggled at herself and said without embarrassment, ‘I must be thinking I’m in the Northern Hemisphere. Let’s do that again.’

She comes across as warm and real, no visible egotism. She told us she’s just started sewing again, and had made the lovely, floaty, green and gold gown she was wearing. We applauded. (Oh, and did I mention that she’s incredibly beautiful?) She sang a song she had written for her son on his 18th birthday, and mentioned his recent party with ‘a back yard full of teenagers’. She sang a lot of songs from her new CD. This was the very first night of a tour to promote it. And she also did some of my old favourites: Wolf Sky, Animus, Horses.... When we wouldn’t let her go without an encore, she chose an early, powerful piece, Zero.

‘Let’s raise some energy,’ she said at that point. As she sang, we could feel the energy rising. ‘What shall we cast a spell for?’ she asked, adding immediately, ‘I know — freedom!’ And so we did. She chanted the words; we joined our will to hers. ‘Freedom for all living things,’ she declared.

There have been some interesting repercussions. Andrew said he experienced a major shift in knowing who he is. He felt uplifted, and that she had touched his soul with her beautiful songs, performed alone in that magickal venue — an event unique in the whole world. He described his experience in detail next day to a friend who was there too. The friend said, ‘You’ve had a shamanic death’ and proceeded to relate his own very dramatic shamanic death experience after the concert. Both men came out of this with a new freedom from certain oppressive conditions in their lives.

As for me — for four years I have hosted a popular online site called Haiku on Friday at MySpace. It’s been a joy as well as a commitment. Suddenly I realised I didn’t want to keep working within the haiku form; I don’t want to be bound by those particular rules any more. I handed it over to a couple of other haikuists. This morning I visited to cheer them on and contribute not a haiku but another short form called a lune. I noticed that I enjoyed being released from my duty to Haiku on Friday too, liking the freedom to come along as just one of the mob. There was a new pleasure, and leisure, in being on MySpace simply as myself.

Post-Script:  In our friends’ photos taken at Wendy’s concert, many spirit orbs are revealed, hovering over us all. One of the said friends has kindly provided the link to the photos on facebook: here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Silent Prayer

Found on the Wild Women page on facebook and reposted with permission:


In my heart, I accept my perfect Being.
I accept that the joy that I have intended is already in my life.
I accept that love I have prayed for is already within me.
I accept that the peace I have asked for is already my reality.
I accept that the abundance I have sought already fills my life...

In my truth, I accept my perfect Being.
I take responsibility for my own creations,
And all things that are within my life.
I acknowledge the power of Spirit that is within me,
And know that all things are as they should be.

In my wisdom, I accept my perfect Being.
My lessons have been carefully chosen by my Self,
And now I walk through them in full experience.
My path takes me on a sacred journey with divine purpose.
My experiences become part of All That Is.

In my knowingness, I accept my perfect Being.
In this moment, I sit in my golden chair
And know that I Am an angel of light.
I look upon the golden tray - the gift of Spirit -
And know that all of my desires already have been fufilled.

In love for my Self, I accept my perfect Being.
I cast no judgment or burdens upon my Self.
I accept that everything in my past was given in love.
I accept that everything in this moment comes from love.
I accept that everything in my future will result in greater love.

In my Being, I accept my perfection.
And so it is.