Tag Archives: poetry

Mary Oliver

“maybe death
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us–”
Mary Oliver 1935-2019

Those of you who have been following my ramblings these past years, know that Mary Oliver has been a favourite poet of mine for so long.

Many of her quotes grace the pages of my blog posts and may I say, that indeed she did add grace to the pages.

So rest in peace Mary after a life well lived. You will now never know the new readers who find your poems from whatever source, nor will you  ever know how much your words affected this elderly woman far away in New Zealand.

Read the New York Times obituary here.

And now, Goodbye Mary. May you rest in peace with your dearly beloved  Molly Malone Cook.

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

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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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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

Art and Inspiration

One of the bloggers I follow is Val Erde at Arty Old Bird.  Val is a very talented artist and generously allows us to use her art in our posts.

In a recent post Val asked Are You a Fan of Anything? and this was the piece of artwork that accompanied the question:

Painting - Quite a fan
Val saw this image as a fan obviously, but I saw it as a woman running  towards her future.  But on looking at it again and in further detail I see a woman swimming towards her destiny.  There are red, wild and dangerous waters behind her but mostly clear blue seas ahead.  What do you see in this painting?  I would love to hear from you and do go over and read the post from Val and all the comments.  Very illuminating.

Almost a year ago Val set us a challenge in one of her posts – “It can be drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, knitting, crochet, animation, digital artwork, poetry, dialogue, short story, anything creative that you like, really!”  To accompany the challenge and to act as inspiration she gave us this painting :

picture by Val Erde

Picture challenge by Val Erde

Val has now changed her blog and the original post is no longer available for me to give you the link.

I immediately saw a woman evolving and becoming and as I said at the time, I don’t paint, sculpt, knit, crochet or do any of the other things suggested by Val so  I wrote a poem having been reminded of one of my all time favourite poems Becoming the Woman I Wanted by Jayne Relaford Brown. 

While my poem in no way compares in the writing style of this poet, I was quite pleased with this my first attempt at writing poetry.  And in an unabashed show of self promotion, I am republishing it here.

This Woman I am Becoming

Memories flowing through me
Making me who I am
Warm thoughts to banish cold nights
And sunshine to dry the tears.

This woman I am becoming
Is learning patience
Learning grace
And learning that love is enough.

I am enjoying this woman I am becoming
She knows where she is going
And where she belongs
She has her place in the world.

So thank you Val for the inspiration and the use of your fabulous artwork.  I hope that I have followed the rules for using these pieces.  If you want to reproduce any of Val’s images please go to http://artyoldbird.com/using-my-images  to see the conditions for doing so.

Related Posts aka More Blatant Self Promotion

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

Better to write

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” ― Cyril Connolly

I came across this quote the other day and thought how much I agreed with it.  Just as some people, particularly children, like to sing I like to write.

I have many notebooks filled with my writing and often it is work that has never been seen by anybody else.  The joy in much of this writing was just to get it down on a page.

Notebook and pen

Of course, with the advent of at least one computer in every home, writing has become easier.  Well the physical act of writing.  No more putting pen to paper but instead sitting at a keyboard and letting the words pour forth.  On a good day that is.

But like all writers, whether well known or like me just writing for the pleasure of writing, we know what it is like to step up to the page aka computer screen to be faced with a blank sheet.  No thoughts on anything.  Blank screen and a blank mind.  But then something comes and the void is filled.

As writers we are vulnerable.  We write about what matters to us and expose ourselves and unveil our deepest feelings.  Our words reveal much about us and our truths.  And sometimes, because of this, writing feels dangerous.  But this is what keeps us (well me at any rate) coming back to the screen/notebook/page.  The need to share my feelings on the page with others (hopefully) or just with myself when necessary.  It is scary and often I am looking for excuses – the dishes must be done, the washing hung out etc etc, but I keep coming back to the page.

At times we feel the need to judge, to edit our writing.  We strive for perfectionism but we know, unless we are one of the great writers, that perfectionism is out of reach.  Lord Marks of Marks & Spencer fame said “The price of perfection is too great.  Close enough is good enough.”

But I do love it that people are following my blog and commenting.  Thank you for caring.

“And as the water continues in its downhill rush over rocks
and  the thoughts continue to tumble around in my brain
with no defined pattern or path,
they eventually find and settle into a safe place
and the void is suddenly filled
and my mind is active once again.”

Waterfall