Category Archives: Poetry

Happy Friday

Happy-Friday

As another working week for those of you who still have to work comes to an end, and we have the weekend to look forward to, what are your plans for the next two days?

I wish you:

  • Time to meet up with friends and family.
  • Leisure to do some of the things you enjoy
  • Motivation to read a new author, take up a new hobby or restart one
  • Opportunity to take a small (or large) risk – to do something different
  • Space to do those things that really make your heart sing
  • Ability to make choices 
  • Chances to make new memories and
  • Peace to give thanks for all you have in your life.

These are the things I wish for all of us.  May your weekend be filled with fun and laughter or peace and solitude, whichever is your choice.

And as you know Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poems, so I give you this for your weekend

“it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.”
Mary Oliver,
Red Bird a collection of poems
published by Beacon Press

Books, What Else

This is what I was thinking about a year ago. Really? 365 days ago. I do hope that each of those days have been spent productively although to me productive may be just walking or reading or catching up with friends, These are “the peaceful years of time for me” and I am enjoying them.

I choose how I will spend the rest of my life

Those of you have read some of my earlier blogs will know that I have two very dear sisters.  One lives in London, UK and one in Los Angeles, California.  We keep in touch by phone and of course, emails.  Emails are always addressed to both sisters on the other side of the world.

Phone calls are rather more rare but it is great to hear their voices.  Recently after several many futile phone attempts I connected with my American sister.

We of course, discussed many things but we always without fail, discuss books we have read and those we hope to read.  Because at that time, I had just finished reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63 I was full of this book.  Others have written great reviews of it so I wont do so here.  Maybe an idea for another blog?

My sister is a prolific reader and she shared several…

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Promises To Keep

Do you know Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”?

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely,  dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

 Robert Frost American Poet 1874 – 196

I first discovered Frost many years ago when we were discussing/dissecting The Road Not Taken in an English lesson at school so many, many years ago and then years later I rediscovered him at University.  Everybody knows the first two lines of that poem – “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both….” but there are many others to be discovered and enjoyed

I was thinking today about the blogs that I had written and ended with the words To be continued.. that haven’t been continued and I thought that I had promises to keep.  Then this poem sprung to mind.  I couldn’t remember all the words but our friends at Wikipedia supplied the second and third verses.

So thank you Wikipedia.  I shall now make good on those promises to complete the various unfinished stories.  So as they say, Watch This Space.

Dreamstime.com Free images

And now
As the water cascades and tumbles
over the rocks in it’s rush
down to join the river
so my thoughts tumble around my brain
looking for an outlet
or a safe place to stop.
Judith Baxter, blogger, writer and friend
1938 –

 

The End of a Long Day

Granny on computer

Hours
and hours
sitting at
the computer
writing report for
friend’s return on Monday.
Now too tired to blog tonight
so will continue Antibes story
tomorrow after a good night’s sleep
having read more of Charlie Fox’s adventures.

This is another attempt at writing an etheree.  Exactly one year ago today I made my first attempt but got it wrongThe basic etheree form has ten lines, the first consisting of exactly one syllable, the second line of two syllables, and so on until the last line has  ten syllables.  An etheree can also be reversed, starting with ten syllables and ending with one.  But I wrote one word on the first line, two on the second and so on.  It wasn’t until after I wrote my poem on Snow in Brooklyn that I found my mistake.

Snowing in Brooklyn, Wellington

But the date on the camera is wrong – it was 15/8/2011.

An Apology and Another Favourite

If you read my post from yesterday, you will see that I am ‘chasing my tail’ these days, so much so that reading and writing blogs is suffering.  I do need a few hours sleep each day.

So apologies if I haven’t read your recent posts or made any comments.  Once this week is over, and I am on top of things, I shall diligently read them all.

And now, for no other reason than it has long been a favourite of mine and my children, here is Sir Henry Newbolt’s Vitai Lampada (They Pass on the Torch of Life):

There’s a breathless hush in the Close**tonight
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
Play up! play up! and play the game!

The sand of the desert is sodden red,
Red with the wreck of a square that broke;
The Gatling‘s jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England’s far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the School is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

*Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938)
** The Close in the above poem refers to the college cricket ground of Clifton College in Clifton Bristol.  The Close, played an important role in the history of cricket and witnessed 13 of W G Grace‘s first-class hundreds for Gloucestershire in the County Championship. Grace’s children attended the college.
*** Recite it out loud and hear the rhythm and the imperialism that was rampant when it was written.  Click here to hear the poet reading his own work, recorded in about 1928.
****And this is one of the many poems I learned so very many years ago and still recite often.

If it is new to you, I hope you like it and if you know it, I hope you will enjoy reading, reciting and hearing it again.

Gatling Gun

1876 Gatling gun kept at Fort Laramie National Historic Site via Wikipedia

Mr Nobody

Have you met Mr Nobody yet?  When we were growing up he was a regular visitor to our house and again when my children were younger, he was often there too.

I know a funny little man,
As quiet as a mouse,
Who does the mischief that is done
In everybody’s house.
There’s no one ever sees his face,
And yet we all agree
That every plate we break was cracked
By Mr. Nobody

Chipped plate

‘Tis he who always tears our books,
who leaves our doors ajar;
he pulls the buttons from our shirts,
and scatters pins afar,
that squeaking door will always squeak,
because of this you see:
we leave the oiling to be done
by Mr Nobody.

He puts damp wood upon the fire,
So kettles cannot boil;
His are the feet that bring in mud
And all the carpets soil.
The papers always are mislaid,
Who had them last but he?
There’s no one tosses them about
But Mr. Nobody

And now I come to think of it, perhaps he and that Very Strange Old Lady have got together and decided that my home is where they want to co-habit, living  in blissful disinterest in how they upset my routine and my life.  I just wish they would find somewhere else.  Does anybody have a spare room for this awkward couple?
old woman

Weddings

I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance,
A church filled with family and friends.
I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for,
He said one that would make me his wife.
~Author Unknown

For several years I acted as the Wedding Coordinator at an historic church here in Wellington.  New Zealand is a very young country, so historic in this instance is only some 140 years.  However, I enjoyed my time there and loved being involved with so many brides and grooms.  Each year we had around 90 weddings, so there were plenty of people for me to interact with.

For whatever reason, today I found myself looking through some of the poems that had been read at the ceremonies.  Of course, there were those that were used again and again, eg  from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

“….Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree and not two…”

and the Apache Blessing

“Now you will feel no rain,
for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness,
for each of you will be a companion to the other.
Now you are two persons,
but there is only one life before you….”

and of course 1 Corinthians 13

“… Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…”

And many others.

During my tenure I made many friends.  I have heard from some of the brides and grooms on where/how they spent their honeymoon, when their first child was born, how they celebrated anniversaries and generally they have kept me in the loop.  I received several invitations to the reception that of course I always refused and have many thank you letters filed away.   I feel very honoured to be treated this way.  After all, for most of them, I was only in their lives for a very short time at a very busy period in their lives.

And many have given me approval to use their photos in my blogs so here are a few:

BrideBride2Bride and groom


Walking at Night

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) American poet.

As a break from writing fiction, I decided to have another attempt at writing an Etheree, a particular form of poetry.  This form was created some twenty years ago by an Arkansas poet named Etheree Taylor Armstrong.  An Etheree, consists of ten lines of un-metered and un-rhymed verse, the first line having one syllable, each succeeding line adding a syllable, with the total syllable count being fifty-five.

Here’s my attempt

Why
Do we
We Still walk here
Every night
Small dog and I
Together in the
Cold empty streets of town
Where nothing moves and no dogs roam
Where all is locked and barred for the night
We should both go home to our warm safe house.

Lotte and I always walk in the daytime but I have often wondered how different the world would be if we walked at night.  But I know that even here it is not safe for a woman and a small dog to be out late at night.

Note – I saw the repeated word and have now changed it.

“No matter how dark the night we know that whatever happens the sun will rise tomorrow and then all the shadows will be chased away.”
Judith Baxter, Blogger and friend. 1938 –

Poetry or Doggerel?

Many years ago when my children were young, I used to read and recite poetry to them, rather than nursery rhymes.  One of their favourites was Vitiae Lampada, Sir Henry Newbolt’s famous poem.  Do you know this one?

“There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night —
Ten to make and the match to win —
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
“Play up! play up! and play the game..”

For the rest of this poem click here.

In Britain in the late 19th century and the early 20th century there was  a blind devotion to Britain and her Empire and yet there was an ethos that the playing of the game was better than winning.   There was also the powerful social phenomenon of the ‘Basically Sound Chap’.  Rudyard Kipling was one,  so was John Buchan and so of course, was Henry Newbolt.  This poem then might almost be regarded as the anthem of the Basically Sound Chaps.  The stiff upper lip was his trademark but today the BSC would probably be regarded as politically incorrect; he had no female equivalent and he often did not get along very well with women.

When I first tried my hand at poetry, it was very simply rhyming verse and in fact I considered it (and still do) doggerel.

Doggerel?  “Doggerel is a derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value. The word probably derived from dog, suggesting either ugliness, puppyish clumsiness, or unpalatability (as in food fit only for dogs). “Doggerel” is attested to have been used as an adjective since the fourteenth century and a noun since at least 1630.” via Wikipedia.

My first attempt at writing poetry followed a wedding in a small ski resort here in New Zealand.  It was headed The Party with Apologies to Noel Coward”  And it started

“We went to this marvellous party
All manner of people were there
We drove through the rain
To toast Robin and Elaine
A chance to let down our hair…”

I went on to name all of the people who were present that weekend and if I say so myself, it was quite clever.  But it was definitely doggerel.

When we arrived back in New Zealand from a very brief sojourn in Montreal, my children each went back to the schools they had attended before and quickly settled back into the life of New Zealand children.  However there was one person that made this re-immersion difficult and that was a teacher at my son’s school.

Having asked the children to write an essay on what they had done during the school holidays, she shot down my very young son (he was only about 7 or 8 years old) by saying that they weren’t interested in his tales about travelling to far distant places.  How cruel is that from a school teacher.

Another time, she asked the boys to tell her the name of their favourite poem.  Imagine my son’s dismay when she dismissed Sir Henry Newbolt’s Vitiae Lampada as doggerel.  He of course, didn’t know this word and was very upset.

It transpired that this young woman teacher had chosen to teach in a boys only school even though she really didn’t like young boys.  Go figure, as we say now.

So if this great poem is doggerel, then maybe I am in good company with my scratchings.

….I’ve been to a marvellous party
I must say the fun was intense;
We all had to do
What the people we knew
Might be doing a hundred years hence.
We talked about growing old gracefully,
And Elsie—who’s seventy-four—
Said, “A) It’s a question of being sincere,
And B) If you’re supple you’ve got nothing to fear”—
Then she swung upside-down from a chandelier!
And I couldn’t have liked it more!
From “I’ve Been To a Marvellous Party”
Sir Noel Coward, English playwright, director, actor
and singer 1889 – 1973.

My Lot is Cast

Those of you have read some of my earlier blogs will know that I have two very dear sisters.  One lives in London, UK and one in Los Angeles, California.  We keep in touch by phone and of course, emails.  Emails are always addressed to both sisters on the other side of the world.

Phone calls are rather more rare but it is great to hear their voices.  Recently after several many futile phone attempts I connected with my American sister.

We of course, discussed many things but we always without fail, discuss books we have read and those we hope to read.  Because at that time, I had just finished reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63 I was full of this book.  Others have written great reviews of it so I wont do so here.  Maybe an idea for another blog?

My sister is a prolific reader and she shared several of her favourite authors and  books she had read with me.

She is apparently very fond of Nicola Upson’s series about detective Jacqueline Tey.  She quoted one of her favourite poem’s which came from the book “To Love and Be Wise.

“My lot is cast in inland places,
Far from sounding beach
and crying gull,
And I
who knew the sea’s voice from my babyhood
Must listen to a river purling
Through green fields
And small birds gossiping
Among the leaves”.

I don’t live in inland places – the ocean is about 10 minutes drive away, but I miss the sights and sounds of the ocean that I used to see from all the windows of my home.  It seemed that we were surrounded by the sea and it’s activities. For 15 years we lived in that house.  The children spent their teenage years there and we became almost immune to the fantastic views from most windows.  We could see not only the ocean with all its comings and goings (cruise ships, ferries, barges and tugs for the port)  but the planes landing at the airport, and the trains bringing people and goods into our capital city. So maybe this post should be headed “Trains and Boats and Planes”.

And as in this poem, now I don’t hear the crying gull when I awaken in the morning but I do hear the small birds gossiping among the leaves.  I love the thought of the birds gossiping.

I hear the sounds of busy families getting ready for their day – households waking up, newspapers being brought in, children going to school and parents to work.  The road outside my house is alive with activity for a short time each morning and then, as if a switch has been pulled, the peace descends and only those of us who are no longer living the busy years are left behind.

We have time for another leisurely cup of coffee; time to exchange pleasantries with our neighbours as we retrieve the newspaper from the drive; time to read the newspaper, complete the crossword and as I am getting older, I peruse the death notices just in case there is somebody I know mentioned there.

And so –

My lot is cast
In different places
Not beside the river or the ocean
But in the city with its life and vitality.
Not in the distant years of my youth
Nor the busy years of family life
But the peaceful years of time for me
To enjoy friends and family.
Time to investigate new things
New activities and new friends
Time to be me.

,old lady smoking cigar