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

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Selene Update: Milestones

The beautiful Selene has now been with me a little under four and a half months. She is very happy now that I have made the back yard secure for her, and enjoys spending time there every day. She quite often asks me to go out there with her, and I must admit it is a pleasant place to be. (She would like to go out there at night too, but that is definitely not going to happen.)

She also enjoys the winter sun in the spare room. I put her special rug that came with her on one of the beds, and she gets very cosy. She has established her own routines by now, and likes to sit with me when I'm at the computer. If I'm using the laptop, she'll sit on the chair in front of the desktop, and vice versa. (They're on side-by-side desks, with a printer in between.) She basically likes to hang with me a lot, but when I watch telly at night she usually goes and curls up in the spare room.

Not sharing a bed works fine; I think we both sleep better. But during the day there are times when she reminds me she still needs pats and scratches. I am happy to oblige! I suspect she'll never entirely trust a human, but she has come a long way in trusting me. A few days ago I was able to brush her fur with a brush, which she would once have shied away from. This morning I got brave enough to pick her up for a cuddle in my arms – which I have been longing to do – and she didn't resist but seemed to enjoy it. Well, she was acquiescent anyway, and I made it fairly brief.

As I have recounted before, she is non-vocal and communicates by body language and telepathy. She is highly telepathic! And I am improving. A couple of days ago I said to her out loud, 'I wish you would talk to me with your voice. It would be so much easier for me to understand what you want.' A little later, she asked for some dinner with a loud and clear miaow!!! The rule is that she has dry food available all the time, and other food is not given on demand but when I decide. However, I certainly rewarded that little effort! So far it hasn't happened again, so I might have to repeat the request – but it seems she aims to please.


Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Selene Saga Continues

She has been here four months already!













Gradually she has claimed the space.













It is only very recently that she ventured into the bathroom (which, after a cursory inspection, she found boring) and the spare room, where she discovered comfortable beds that get the afternoon sun. The spare room is now definitely part of her domain.

















It still wrings my heart a little, to see her where I used to see her beloved predecessors. But after all, they don't need those places any more, and it's good that she can enjoy them now.

















Some weeks past she became daring enough to get on my bed, sometimes on her own during the daytime:













more especially at night – like Freya before her, arriving instantaneously upon my retirement. She also took to joining me for any afternoon naps.
















It didn't take too long before she was snuggling right up, pressed against my torso or legs for the whole night.














Then we had the latest setback.

There have been a couple of occasions, since the first frenzied attack, that she has scratched me – but only with one brief touch, never again drawing blood. I eventually understood that, as she didn't learn when young to communicate with humans by miaowing and purring, she uses body language such as a warning paw extended, and if that message isn't got, a small tap with extended claw.

Which is what happened when I rolled over in my sleep one night, and evidently flung out an arm, and it was one of the rare occasions when she was sleeping at the top of the bed. I was woken by a scratch on my hand, and came to with a yell of pain and surprise, at which she jumped off the bed and ran out of the room. When I came fully awake, I realised she hadn't actually hurt me; but things were rather cool and stand-offish between us the rest of the day.

That night, when I settled for a read before turning the light out, she came confidently up the bed to me as usual, for a pat and some stroking and a scratch behind the ears, a pleasant routine we had got into before she found her spot for the night.

Only this time, as I reached out to pat her, she suddenly sat back on her haunches and started shadow-boxing with her front paws, not in a playful way but defensive and threatening. I roared in surprise and outrage (though she hadn't touched me) and again she ran from the room.

'Well, that's it,' I thought. 'I can't have her on the bed tonight. I can't trust her not to over-react to my movements.' So I shut the bedroom door. (My former cats would have scratched at it furiously, demanding admittance as their right, but not this one.)

I woke up next morning without all the aches and pains I'd been experiencing on waking for the past couple of weeks. Well, well, well! So no more cat on bed. I now shut my door every night. The first time, she looked next day as if she thought she was in disgrace. I spoke to her kindly to try and reassure her; she seemed to understand, We are working out between us new times for strokings, scratchings and rubbings up. We both know we do need touch, for proper bonding.

And I talk to her. She does her best to talk to me with her expressive eyes.


Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Blog Posts and Literary Journals

A personal conversation which might be of wider interest

A friend messaged me with a question:

Noticing talk lately about poems posted on blogs or websites = publishing. Therefore holding back on posting new poems on my blog as hoping to submit to mags etc., many of which stipulate "not previously published". Not knowledgable about this, trying to find out more. What do you know?

I replied:

I know that it is a grey area. Whether or not blog posts are regarded as prior publication depends on the particular editor of the particular journal/anthology. Also your facebook posts could be ineligible, depending whether your profile is Public or Friends Only. Some editors/publications have a blanket policy of no prior online appearance. Others don't count posting on personal blogs or in closed online groups as prior publication. Check, but I think the groups you publish to on fb are not closed. (This is usually not specifically applicable to other online groups in the wider blogosphere, such as Poets United and others I use, because we don't publish our poems IN the groups, we supply a link to those posts at our own blogs.)

Some poets get around this by putting things on blogs very briefly, perhaps labelled as – and being – drafts, and removing them within a week or two before submitting elsewhere. Some don't put on their blogs anything they wish to submit elsewhere. They may perhaps post such poems to their blogs after publication, with appropriate accreditation of 'first publication' as one would if publishing one's own book.

Others, such as me, blog on regardless. There are enough journals and anthologies, many online and some offline, who will include pieces that have appeared on blogs and in social media. I don't bother much anyway unless I am invited, which still sometimes happens.

On the one hand, it could be said that I can afford to thumb my nose, as I was well published in decades past and made a name for myself. I think it was more like five minutes of fame, but it's true that I had and enjoyed it.

On the other hand, I look at my blog stats and know I get many more readers by publishing to a blog than I would by appearing in even the most prestigious Australian literary journals. (Some of my old colleagues seem offended if I say that! But it's not a denigration of the literary journals or their contents to note, from their own statistics, that they have a lesser reach. It's just the nature of things.)

There is also the fact that – for reasons of convenience, really – I don't do spoken word performance any more, so no longer have the grassroots community reach in that kind of way. I get it in a different way, in a different but sometimes overlapping community, via my blog.

Depends what you want: to be read, or to have some standing in literary circles. (Both, of course; but perhaps, as things are, one must predominate.) There is a widespread view that poetry on blogs is not of a very high standard; that people publish any old thing without it having been workshopped or edited, and readers who couldn't tell a poem from a Hallmark greeting card rush to praise it. (The same view is held about self-published ebooks.) There is some truth in that; I have seen some horrendous examples thereof.

However, the poets who publish in the online poetry groups I've found have a commitment to poetry, develop rapidly through communion with other poets (just as poets do in offline groups and events) and many of them are, in my opinion, as good as anyone publishing to more 'literary' acclaim. (Well, maybe not quite as good as Mary Oliver, but – you know – she's God. *Smiling.* Some aren't too bloody far off, all the same.) Many of them have a high reputation in online poetry circles. Does that count? Well yes, judgment of one's peers and all that.

I think my opinion of their excellence counts for something, having been a teacher of poetry writing at tertiary level, a reviewer in respected publications, and a publisher of prize-winning books of poetry.

As for my own esteem, it is indeed true that I received much validation when I was younger, and no longer need anyone to assure me I'm a competent poet. I think I am also pretty good by now at assessing fairly objectively which of my pieces are working well, and which could be improved or scrapped. Above all, people tell me when something moves them deeply, in comments which go beyond the politely encouraging.

So yes, I do feel I can afford to thumb my nose at more traditional avenues now. It comes at a price, though. While Australian poets (and readers) of my generation remember me well, newer ones coming up have probably never heard of me. I don't, I think, have a name that will last in Australian poetry. Once I longed for literary standing in the present and fame in posterity, while some of of my confreres said,'It's all ephemeral; let's be heard NOW.' Funnily enough, in age our positions have reversed!

For you (and others) who didn't seek and get that validation years ago, it may well be important to pursue traditional paths of publication at this point, pay your dues and earn the respect you deserve. After that you can choose where to go next. Perhaps in both directions at once; there are those who do that too.

You could put the blog on hold until later – either deleting it entirely, leaving it up as a record, or changing the setting to private so only you would see it.

Or you could keep it going and choose what to put on it, e.g. stuff ABOUT your writing, such as the chapbook publicity that's already there. And/or maybe poems you think good enough to share with the world, but don't particularly wish to submit to journals.

Basically you should do what YOU want. Life's too short not to! Hopefully this helps you make a more informed choice.