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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

I just received one! It was awarded by bttrflyscar and the details are here. It was not for this blog but for my poetry blog, The Passionate Crone. I am now asked to award ten other bloggers similarly, and disclose seven things about myself. This makes for a long post, so I'm doing it here in order to leave The Passionate Crone for poems.

10 blogs

What makes a blog stylish, in my book? Primarily, the words have to be good. Most of these are poetry blogs, and all are created by poets — wonderful poets — so the words are excellent. Secondly it must look good. These ten include the minimalist, the decorative, the dynamic; all are created with an eye to their appearance, and are user-friendly too.

1. Collin Kelley’s Modern Confessional

I met Collin at the Austin International Poetry Festival in 2006, but we didn’t really get to know each other until afterwards, staying connected online. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, from where he works as an editor, promotes and encourages fellow poets, and takes a lively interest in all things cultural including pop culture and an eclectic range of music — all of which he blogs about forthrightly and entertainingly. Everything Collin does is stylish. Just click on the Books link at the top of his blog and look at those gorgeous covers! (The contents are yummy too.)

2. Jennie Fraine’s Jaywig’s Jotter

Jennie’s an extraordinary poet whose work is too little known, even though she tends to win awards on the rare occasions she competes for them. She’s an old friend of mine and I take at least part of the credit for her recent foray into blogging. She doesn’t network a lot online, being too busy supporting people in real life, working for Landmark Education. Also an artist, she has a natural elegance which her blog reflects. She has always been an excellent source of advice on my own poetry, when asked.

3. Odilia Galvan Rodriguez’s ~feathers from the muse’s wings~

Odilia used to have the most exotically beautiful blog on MySpace; it was like entering a rich other world. Now MySpace is much changed and neither she nor I frequent it any more, but fortunately she has this other blog, which — although the d├ęcor is quite different — also invites one in, as into a sanctuary. She does wonderful things with poetry, from haiku to pantoums, and including free verse. I also love that she is a passionate activist and writes often about those topics too.

4. Shanna Baldwin-Moore’s Poettree

Shanna lives in Hawaii, and enjoys living close to nature. Like some others in my list, she is artist as well as poet. She loves haiku and often turns them into haiga by marrying them with wonderful photos, drawings and computer graphics. On her blog, these are interspersed with the longer poems she also writes.

5. Rachel Phillips’s Outlasting Moths

Rachel used to have a very minimalist blog with almost no personal information. I imagined her as an elderly lady like myself, reflecting on her experiences. (I’ve never told her that.) When she revamped the blog and included personal information, I discovered she is young and outdoorsy! Her poems seem to me to have a mature sensibility, and to be beautifully crafted. They remind me a bit of Leonard Cohen – not that they could be mistaken for a Cohen song or vice versa, as both have unique voices, but her poems have a similar evocativeness, leading the reader to associations beyond the text and seemingly creating new archetypes.

6. Amanda Joy’s Little Glass Pen

Amanda Joy is an Australian poet like me, but we’ve never met as she lives on the other side of the country. She is another I first encountered on MySpace where she had a huge following; then I found out she also has this blog and many followers here too. Her work is powerful and beautiful, and often experimental. It always makes you think.

7. Samuel Paralta’s Semaphore

I only know this poet online, where I think I first encountered him on twitter. He’s a most beautiful lyric poet; I’m always in awe of what he does with words. If I could steal the gifts of just one poet in this list, I might well choose his.

8. Rob Schackne’s The Tao That Can Be Named

Rob’s an old friend I lost touch with many years ago. Recently he found me on facebook. I see from his stunning blog that his poetry has matured into accomplished work which invites as much thought as feeling. He also posts on his blog work he likes by other poets, from the famous to the relatively unknown. Like Jennie, he is one of the few I turn to for opinions on my own work, and has given me valuable commentary.

9. Pearl Pirie’s 40-Word Years

Pearl and I encountered each other when we participated in the first September poetry month at Poewar: Writers’ Resource Center in 2007, and we became interested enough in each other’s work to connect to each other’s blogs. 40-Word Years is her version of a game we both enrolled in, started by another blogger in 2008, to write every day about someone who has made an impact on you, in the same number of words as your age. We have both chosen to continue long past that first year. Hers are closer to daily than mine ended up being (I haven’t even made 365 yet); she has stuck to 40 words whereas mine have increased with each birthday; and she now includes anecdotes and tributes. She’s quirky, humorous, compassionate, clear-seeing, and she always finds the most interesting conjunctions of words to convey an essence.

10. Bette Norcross Wappner’s Surimono Garden

Bette’s another friend discovered online. She creates exquisite haiku and equally exquisite woodblock prints, combining them as haiga. I do experience her blog as like being in a peaceful, restorative garden.


7 things about me

1. When I was a little girl, I decided that there could be no better thing to do with my life than make poems. I still think so, even though I haven’t reached such heights of life-affirming beauty as I imagined then.

2. I’m not a fiction writer. I have managed some quite creditable short stories — both of them published — but nothing earth-shattering, and my few attempts at novels have been pretty bad. Luckily I have no particular desire to create fiction (except in verse). I do like writing articles and essays, so I enjoy blogging.

3. I used to read heaps of fiction; in the last 20 years or so I rather lost my taste for it and haven’t read much — except for good fantasy, which I devour. (And except for old favourites, which I like re-reading).

4. I think the greatest English-language poets have been Shakespeare, Chaucer and Yeats.

5. My favourite contemporary poets are Mary Oliver, Jared Carter and Marge Piercy. And there are lots of others I love too.

6. My secret alter ego (no longer secret!) is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I always wanted to save the world — a lot.

7. I’m quite shy but I hide it well.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Writer's Journal (exercise): Paddleboats

I love all kinds of boats, always have, and I’m very happy aboard any kind of craft.

When I lived near Mildura as a schoolgirl, I first saw paddleboats in the flesh so to speak, and they took my fancy in a big way; but it wasn’t until years and years later when I was grown up and married and living in Melbourne that I finally got to go on one.

We made friends with some people Mum knew, when we were visiting Tassie, and they had the idea. The ‘we’ I speak of was Bill and me, husband number 2, to whom I was married for 27 years. He was a boatman, an abalone diver with his own boat, and had a skipper’s licence, so he insisted he had to drive the thing, that he was reqired by law to do so. There were seven of us on board, Mum and Bill and me, and two other couples. There were a few ructions about Bill wanting to be skipper all the time; the other blokes didn’t see it his way. Mum soothed him down so he let the others have a bit of a go. But he kept muttering that he’d be to blame if we ran into trouble. We didn’t of course.

It was interesting to me to see Sunraysia as a visitor — that place where I spent two years of misery finishing school and suffering a stepmother from hell. At the time of our paddle boat jaunt my dad was in an old folks’ home, suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We took Mum with us to see him. They had managed to be friends after their divorce, but my stepmother was fiercely jealous of Mum. So the visit was a sneak expedition. It was sad for her to see him like that, but sweet for him to get a visit from his true love. I’m glad we did it. Also we met friends of friends up there, including a woman who reminisced about my stepmother, who had been her hated schoolteacher. That pleased me very much. 

I liked the pelicans along the river, and I liked lazing on the top deck and writing poems.

Writer's Journal (exercise): My Favourite Song

There’s a few, but the one that comes first to mind is Summertime from Porgy and Bess. Why? I don’t know. I just love that combination of words and music, and the idyllic happiness and love the song conjures up.  For a woman who regards herself as not very maternal, I’m a sucker for babies. Even now, when I am far too old to be clucky and certainly don’t want the looking after of infants, I make eyes at strange babies. Babies are the best flirts!

There was one at the chiropractor’s this morning. He had huge, deep blue eyes and he was obviously happy, gurgling and smiling. I caught his eye, beamed and said, ‘Hellooo!’ and he beamed right back, and we did things with our eyes, peeping and hiding and smiling again. Then another woman came in, a young woman, who saw the baby, made eye contact and pulled a wonderful face at him. He turned to her and beamed even more radiantly than he had for me. I was so jealous!  His Mum meanwhile dandled him on her lap, and chatted to her friend without for a moment losing awareness of her son.  

Happy babyhood, isn’t it a lovely thing? And I love the fact that it’s a tender dad who sings that Summertime song, I grew up when dads weren’t allowed to be tender. Luckily mine was.

Paddle Boats


I love all kinds of boats, always have, and I’m very happy aboard any kind of craft.

When I lived near Mildura as a schoolgirl, I first saw paddleboats in the flesh so to speak, and they took my fancy in a big way; but it wasn’t until years and years later when I was grown up and married and living in Melbourne that I finally got to go on one.

We made friends with some people Mum knew, when we were visiting Tassie, and they had the idea. The ‘we’ I speak of was Bill and me, husband number 2, to whom I was married for 27 years. He was a boatman, an abalone diver with his own boat, and had a skipper’s licence, so he insisted he had to drive the thing, that he was reqired by law to do so. There were seven of us on board, Mum and Bill and me, and two other couples. There were a few ructions about Bill wanting to be skipper all the time; the other blokes didn’t see it his way. Mum soothed him down so he let the others have a bit of a go. But he kept muttering that he’d be to blame if we ran into trouble. We didn’t of course.

It was interesting to me to see Sunraysia as a visitor — that place where I spent two years of misery finishing school and suffering a stepmother from hell. At the time of our paddle boat jaunt my dad was in an old folks’ home, suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We took Mum with us to see him. They had managed to be friends after their divorce, but my stepmother was fiercely jealous of Mum. So the visit was a sneak expedition. It was sad for her to see him like that, but sweet for him to get a visit from his true love. I’m glad we did it. Also we met friends of friends up there, including a woman who reminisced about my stepmother, who had been her hated schoolteacher. That pleased me very much. 

I liked the pelicans along the river, and I liked lazing on the top deck and writing poems.