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purple rose

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on a day when a friend left us

There is comfort in routine.
Familiar repetition,
the reassuring deja-vu
of an ordinary activity.
It speaks
as if everything will be alright,
that this will always be here,
eternal,
building in the memory bank.
Yet it won’t. It really won’t.

Perhaps the so-called ordinary
calls for a response that sharpens senses,
as if to see and hear it for the very first time,
every time.

Yet seemingly repeated actions
are different every time.
They diverge from the norm
with nuances large enough for us to notice,
if we care to notice.

For instance:

when hanging out the washing,
soak in the sunshine’s warmth,
peg slowly, pay attention.

when pouring milk in coffee,
inhale the aroma,
dip your finger in the crema.

when waking to soft bird sounds,
differentiate them,
lie still and breathe the morning in.

This mortality of ours demands
sparklers and laughter,
not ennui and weariness;
mindfulness and regard,
not lethargy and indifference.

It feels as if it will always be here
yet it won’t, it really won’t.

It feels as if we will always be here
yet we won’t, we really won’t.

Lynn Buckler Walsh

Saturday supermarket

the young man working the express checkout lane

is up for a chat with his customers

what’s wrong with your wrists?

arthritis?

what caused it?

R S I says the man a little louder than he wants to announce

oh not arthritis, RSI, he repeats

it stands for Repetitive Strain Injury

says the man through his white beard

tiring of the inquisition

do you know what caused it?

playing cricket says the man

the boy persists with his cheerfulness

compounding the lie

the Michael Clarke of your day eh?

yeah, says the man

next up

a woman’s product selection is under review

are these any good?

I don’t know says the woman

hoping for a quiet and quick transaction

let me know what they’re like next time you’re in

I will says the woman

hurrying to meet her companion

my turn

did you mean to buy all those things when you came in?

he’s noticed I have no basket

I did

I didn’t know we sold these

he says as he scans the chocolate-coated ginger

notice he said we not they

he is loyal to the corporation

most people buy more than they intend

notice how observant he is

notice how he loves his job

notice him

Lynn Buckler Walsh

Brisbane PoemsHere’s some more poetry straight off my bookshelf.

Mal Andersen was a school teacher writing short poems in the 1970s. I haven’t been able to find anything more of him or his work after that date. This collection, discovered in a local bookshop way back when Anderson was writing, was published in 1978 by the then North Brisbane College of Advanced Education at Kedron Park (now part of the Queensland University of Technology).

I’ve included three of the poems from Brisbane Poems and Other Recollections below.

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OscarsBill

The Antique Dealer

Here’s a great example of what happens you muster the courage to put what you love to do out there in the big wide world. I never cease to be amazed what connections you can make through the magic of social media and blog platforms. What’s even better is when you get the chance to meet those people face-to-face and share conversations about passions and pastimes.

So it’s a big THANK YOU to Deb Reynolds, one extraordinary Canadian, who pointed me in the direction of this post this morning. Thanks for noticing the tanka love coming from this direction Deb, and for helping to open up my knowledge of how others are using and adapting the form.

sharing

A container such as verse form is useful to get the writing started. It doesn’t have to mean you’re ‘stuck’ with the format. Enjoying the playfulness of it is an important place to start.

This book review of a collection by Harryette Mullen is from National Public Radio. With these tanka forms, the 31 syllables goes into 3 lines, but not necessarily fixing the number of syllables for each line. Here’s a taste.

Tasting artisan chocolates,
hard to choose between Shangri-La
with goji berries or Aztec flavored with smoky chilies.

The review’s author Carmen Giminez Smith writes about how Mullen marries the modern with the older form.

Cover - Notes from a Tanka Diary

Poet Harryette Mullen makes a beautiful marriage between those new ideas and a classic poetic form in her first collection in over a decade, Urban Tumbleweed: Notes From a Tanka Diary.

The tanka is a Japanese form dating back centuries. It’s a 31-syllable poem that usually includes what Mullen calls “a refined awareness of seasonal changes and a classical repertoire of fleeting impressions.” In Urban Tumbleweed, Mullen has written 366 tankas, describing a year of living in Los Angeles and traveling to places like Texas, Ohio and Sweden while taking careful note of the natural world around her.

Here’s some more about Harryette Mullen and her work.

So many poets, so little time!

In 1961, at the age of 74,  Marianne Moore was interviewed by The Paris Review for their “The Art of Poetry” series. Apart from being able to write poetry as well as Marianne Moore, I would also like to have been in a time and position, as Moore obviously was, to have been invited by Lillian Hellman to have seen one of her plays!

I am also jumping for joy at having discovered The Paris Review online with its decades of recorded interviews with writers. Some more chewy grist for the mill!  To say nothing of their essays. Not only but also Dorothy Parker, Hellman herself, W H Auden, Joan Didion and Margaret Drabble, with whom I once had the pleasure of engaging in a short conversation. As literary sites go, this is pretty special.

Here are two excerpts from Moore’s interview.

INTERVIEWER

Do you suppose that moving to New York, and the stimulation of the writers whom you found there, led you to write more poems than you would otherwise have written?

MOORE

I’m sure it did—seeing what others wrote, liking this or that. With me it’s always some fortuity that traps me. I certainly never intended to write poetry. That never came into my head. And now, too, I think each time I write that it may be the last time; then I’m charmed by something and seem to have to say something. Everything I have written is the result of reading or of interest in people, I’m sure of that. I had no ambition to be a writer.

and

Now, if I couldn’t write fiction, I’d like to write plays. To me the theater is the most pleasant, in fact my favorite, form of recreation.

INTERVIEWER

Do you go often?

MOORE

No. Never. Unless someone invites me. Lillian Hellman invited me to Toys in the Attic,and I am very happy that she did. I would have had no notion of the vitality of the thing, have lost sight of her skill as a writer if I hadn’t seen the play; would like to go again. The accuracy of the vernacular! That’s the kind of thing I am interested in, am always taking down little local expressions and accents. I think I should be in some philological operation or enterprise, am really much interested in dialect and intonations. I scarcely think of any that comes into my so-called poems at all.

As for the poetry, here’s one small gem which appeared in Moore’s 1959 collection, O To Be a Dragon, snapped from my copy of Penguin’s Complete Poems.

photo-67photo-66

Many of us are familiar with the Japanese haiku form of verse. Here’s another one, with which I was unfamiliar until recently. Shadow Poetry has a good explanation of Tanka.

There are, of course, many more subtle components of the verse than its 5-7-5-7-7 or 31 syllable shape. You can always aspire to reaching higher expression of the form. In the meantime, it’s fun and satisfying to play with it as a container. If, like me, you are in the habit of writing down the odd phrase that occurs to you, the Tanka provides a good starting point to use the idea.  In this case, my phrase was the sound of one frond dropping.

Four Trees

photo from istockphoto

you don’t hear the sound

that silence before the fall

only with the break

that crack of separation

the sound of one frond dropping

Lynn Buckler Walsh

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POEMSThis is the cover of our high school poetry text. It was edited by John Palmer and published by William Brooks & Co.  This particular copy was decorated and annotated by my good self, age 17 or thereabouts and is a survivor of the odd book cull over the years.

With its paste-on characters, doodles, glossy pages, worn corners and a broken spine, it’s showing its age, but still provides pleasure in the gleaning.

For readers who are not familiar with any Australian poetry, today’s offering is from the late Judith Wright, poet, environmentalist and Aboriginal land rights activist.

The poem is The Company of Lovers. The scribbles are my high school notes. A clean copy is provided below for easier reading.

Judith Wright - The Company of Lovers

THE COMPANY OF LOVERS

We meet and part now over all the world,

We, the lost company,

take hands together in the night, forget

the night in our brief happiness, silently.

We who sought many things, throw all away

for this one thing, one only,

remembering that in the narrow grave

we shall be lonely.

Death marshals up his armies round us now,

Their footsteps crowd too near.

Lock your warm hand above the chilling heart

and for a time I live without my fear.

Grope in the night to find me and embrace,

for the dark preludes of the drum begin,

and round us, round the company of lovers,

Death draws his cordons in.

Back in my first days at university, I took a lot of English Literature subjects for someone who was also working towards graduating with a Geography major. In the end, I suspect the number of English classes surpassed the Geography ones.

It was the seventies. Unsurprisingly, I guess, Women’s Studies was on offer. One of my lecturers was the most radical woman I’d ever met at that stage of my life. Her classes were politicised, her clothes, her hair, her very presence in the academic halls were statements amidst the men’s tie and shirt brigade. I loved how what she taught was on the edge of the usual course fare. You could not ignore her. You could not get away with being in one of her classes and not thinking.

She is now Head of School at the same university. This was one of the texts for the course.  It’s been well dipped into over the years. The collection includes Denise Levertov, Gwendolyn Brooks, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath (of course) and Margaret Atwood, better known today for her impressive body of work as a novelist.

“After All You Are Quite” was written circa 1965-1972.

Margaret Atwood - After All You are QuiteMargaret Atwood - After All You are Quite

More in the ‘see what jumps out of the anthology at you’ series.  Again, from the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.

Josephine Miles was born in 1911 in Chicago. The link will take you to her biography. Her academic and writing career is more impressive given that Miles suffered debilitating arthritis for most of her life, making it impossible for her to use a typewriter. Her poems were committed to paper using a pen, in movements that were “slow and painfully deliberate” according to an oral history recorded by Ruth Teiser and Catherine Harroun. They conducted interviews with Miles in the late seventies under the title Poetry, Teaching and Scholarship.

This poem – On Inhabiting an Orange – was written in 1935 when she was 24 years old. She died in 1985.

On Inhabiting an Orange - Josephine Miles