Tag Archives: poetry

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.”


Annoying, maddening and downright frustrating

Have you ever tried to write a blog on a friend’s computer?  I tried to do so today with no appreciable result.

The computer is obviously older than mine; would not let me upload any of my photos; would not let me surf the web etc etc.

So I am left with only words today.

I think maybe I shall simply repeat the verse from yesterday’s blog and try again tomorrow to entertain you with some fantastic thoughts from this aging brain.

“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.”

Unfortunately, today, I am still looking for the safe place.  So until tomorrow.

Dancing With Skeletons

“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–”
Mary Oliver, The Journey.

When I decided that I did want to write I took a Creative Writing Course at the university here in Wellington.  Looking back all those years, I wonder how it was that I didn’t recognise that I had always been writing.  My many notebooks attested to this fact but yet, I didn’t think of myself as being a writer.

So to the Creative Writing Course.  One task we were given early in the course was to “Write about your skeletons”.  We were told we all had them and if we could put them onto paper it would be a good place to start.  We were required to write them down, not type them into the computer.  The tutor reiterated the “known fact”  (well accepted fact) that transferring the words from your mind, through your hand to the page gave them power.

Note – Research has shown that hand-writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you’re actively focusing on at the moment—the physical act of writing brings it to the forefront.  Author Henriette Anne Klauser who wrote Write It Down, Make It Happen, says that “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’


Free Clipart

For me at least, this skeleton thing was something that I didn’t want to write about.  And then the thought of reading my words  out loud to others in the group  (and yes this was a requisite that we read our pieces to the others) made my skin cringe and my fingers curl.  But guess what, in putting this down on paper it lost a lot of its power over me.  It wasn’t a huge skeleton just something that I omitted to do when I was much younger, but it had ‘haunted’ me ever since.

In writing this  I was required to analyse what the problem was, how I felt about it and also what I could have done differently in that situation.  Written down I saw it for what it was,  simply a blip in the long road I have travelled.

This task has stood me in good stead over the years when I have been honing my ‘skill’ as a writer.  I now write every day as we all know that we must practice and practice whatever we want to be good at.  Remember Beethoven, Einstein, Edison, Colonel Sanders, Clint Eastwood and the Wright Brothers all worked at their craft regularly to perfect it.

So I shall continue to write.  Whether for my eyes only or in the hope that others may appreciate what I have written.  And when the words flow freely as they sometimes do I shall recall these lines but I don’t know where they came from.  Can anybody help please. **

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.

** Since writing this blog I have discovered these lines written in amongst my attempts at writing poetry and so unless anyone can tell me otherwise, I shall recognise this as my own words.


The Queens Came Late

We all know about the three wise men/kings but their queens are so often forgotten or neglected.

Do you know the poem “The Queens Came Late” by Norma Farber?  My elder sister introduced it to me several years ago and it quickly became a firm favourite in our house.

“The Queens came late, but the Queens were there
With gifts in their hands and crowns in their hair.
They’d come, these three, like the Kings, from far,
Following, yes, that guiding star.
They’d left their ladles, linens, looms,
Their children playing in nursery rooms,
And told their sitters:
“Take charge! For this
Is a marvelous sight we must not miss!”
The Queens came late, but not too late
To see the animals small and great,
Feathered and furred, domestic and wild,
Gathered to gaze at a mother and child.
And rather than frankincense and myrrh
And gold for the babe, they brought for her
Who held him, a homespun gown of blue,
And chicken soup–with noodles, too-
And a lingering, lasting, cradle-song.
The Queens came late and stayed not long,
For their thoughts already were straining far-
Past manger and mother and guiding star
And a child aglow as a morning sun-
Toward home and children and chores undone.”
From the Night It Snowed by Norma Farber
1909-1984 , children’s book author and poet.

Without wanting to step on anybody’s beliefs I have to say that I wonder what use gold, frankincense and myrrh would be to a poor carpenter and his wife who had just given birth.  But a homespun gown of blue, chicken noodle soup and a song for the babe would surely have been more use to them at that time and in that place.

What are your thoughts on this?

The Year of the Child

Did you know that 1979 had been the International Year of the Child?  I had forgotten that until I came across a book my daughter bought me that year because of my love of poetry.

Book - I Like This Poem

The book is a compilation of poems chosen by children for other children.  When the book was put together in 1979 it was “the only collection of poems in existence, chosen by children”.  Kay Webb, Editor.  I wonder if it still is.

Webb goes on to say that the poems were winnowed from over 1,000 ‘enthusiastic recommendations made by children’.  Of course, many poems were submitted more than once and the most popular, Walter de la Mare, AA Milne, Lewis Carroll, Robert Lewis Stevenson among others, were submitted over and over.

The children were asked when making a submission, to also tell why they liked that particular poem and their responses are telling.

The book is divided into age sections – the 6/7 year olds say things like ‘it makes me laugh’ ‘because it would be funny if that happened’ ‘because I like owls and pussy cats’.  The 8 year olds go a little more into detail ‘because it gives me pictures in my mind’ ‘because we have a cat just like Macavity and he is a thief too’.

An 11 year old commenting on his choice “Pleasant Sounds” by John Clarke says ‘because each little picture in the poem seems to have its special sound.  I think it’s a very comforting poem….I have noticed when I have been saying the lines out loud, there seemed a sound echoing itself later in the line.  Strange – but it could just be imagination’  Great from an 11 year old child.

Do you know Walter de la Mare’s Silver –
“Slowly silently now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way and that, she peers and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees….”

A 13-year-old comments ‘This poem describes moonlight how I imagine it, all slow and silent but with just a bit of movement which is the harvest mouse.”  Isn’t it great that already that child was seeing the beauty in the words and the pictures they created?

And so on through the choices of the 14 and 15 year olds.  Obviously these are more sophisticated choices and include such poems as “Ozymandias” by Shelley, “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mare (still one of my all time favourites), “Memorabilia” by Robert Browning and then “Anthem for Doomed Youth”.  Wilfred Owen’s poem would of course, resonate/appeal to teenagers with it’s clever, clever use of words to paint the horror of war.  Our commenting child says “..because it’s beautiful rhythm and the way Owen has used words .. I love the ‘stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle’ because all the rs really do suggest gunfire, as does ‘stuttering’. ”  Her comment is one of the longest in the book and goes on to say “The poem is so sad and so lovely, and my favourite.  When I am feeling cross with someone, or ill-tempered with the world in general, I read it and it reminds me that some have gone through hell, and perhaps my troubles are smaller than I previously thought.”  Great insight from a 15-year-old girl.

And now 22  32 years later, (thanks Jenny at SkiingMama for the correction) I wonder where all those children are.  I wonder what they have done with those years and what they have become.  No doubt some have become writers and maybe even published writers.  But in any event, early in their lives they became aware of and learned to appreciate well written poetry.  And I hope that some of what they learned in reading the poems has stayed with them through the years, and perhaps given them comfort and guidance when needed.

And I shall leave you today with a poem that was one of my son’s favourites from the time I first recited it to him when he was very young

“There’s a breathless hush on 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!”
From Vitae Lampada by Sir Henry Newbolt.

My son used to be able to quote all the verses, I wonder if he still can? As a small child he liked the rhythm of the words and so found it easy to learn them.

I really love this little book.  It’s falling apart; pages are loose but it holds many of my favourite verses and I shall keep sticking it together forever – or at least until I am no longer here and my children have to decide what to do with my books and other belongings.

And no bells ring..

I like my new telephone, my computer works just fine, my calculator is perfect, but Lord, I miss my mind!  ~Author Unknown


9 months old and defunct

How quickly we have all become dependent on the trappings of modern day living.  Particularly our mobile phones that we take with us everywhere.

I can still remember the original mobile phone I had.  It was as large as a brick and had its own carry case that I slung over my shoulder.  I wish I had a photo of that one.  We also both had car-phones – tres chic and frightfully avant-garde.

On Friday I dropped my latest phone into a deep puddle of water as I was getting out of the car.  It didn’t seem to do it much harm.  I dried it and it appeared to work just fine.  However, on Saturday afternoon when driving it gave a strange popping noise and died.  I don’t really know how well it was working up until then because several people told me they called me during the time  I thought it was still working.

Anyway, the upshot is that even though this phone is only 9 months old, if it gets wet it isn’t covered under warranty.  So off to buy a replacement.

I have shied away from these smart phones saying I only needed mine to make and receive calls and texts to and from grandsons, to use as a phone book and very occasionally to take photos.


Several hours later the deed is done and I am back home.  In a couple of days I shall be the proud possessor of a new iphone with all the bells and whistles, most of which I will probably never use.  Oh how we are all seduced by modern technology.

And from a particular favourite of my children when they were growing up:

“Two old chairs, and half a candle,
One old jug without a handle
These were all his worldly goods
In the middle of the woods,
These were all the worldly goods
Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.”
From Edward Lear‘s
‘The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bongy-Bo.

The Yongy Bongy Bo

From my book published in 1966 - the original published in 1894

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Snow in Brooklyn

Snowing in Brookly

Snow fell here in Wellington both yesterday and again today.  We are so unused to this that the neighbours were out with cameras this morning shooting the strange white stuff falling in our streets.

Snow on plants

I thought then to try my hand at an Etheree * but then just started to write and what I ended up with was my own form of writing.

One word on the first line, two on the second, three on the third until the tenth line has ten words. Have I discovered a new form of poetry or is this just something from my head?  In any event I enjoyed this challenge.  So,

gently falling
from leaden sky
and finding places where
no snow has been before.
Now all is covered in white and
looks new and quite strange and different
And while it lasts it brings strange shapes
to this familiar world now changed for a while
Until it melts and all returns to normal once again.

Actually, I like the shape of this and whether it is a recognised form  or not, I think I shall continue to use it.

Postscript – after publishing the post I found this site that talks about ten lines of poetry.

*The 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’s ten syllables. An etheree can also be reversed, starting with ten syllables and ending with one.

This Woman I am Becoming

Picture Challenge by Val Erde

Painting courtesy Val Erde

In a recent post, my blogging friend Val Erde graciously gave us permission to use this fabulous painting as inspiration for a work of art of our own.  This is the challenge she set us – “It can be drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, knitting, crochet, animation, digital artwork, poetry, dialogue, short story, anything creative that you like, really!”

Well I can’t paint, can’t draw or sculpt, knit, crochet, produce animation or digital artwork and my photography is the point and shoot variety,  so it has to be an attempt at poetry.

As soon as I saw this painting, I saw a woman evolving and becoming.  So much in this painting reminded me of  “I am Becoming the Woman I’ve Wanted” by Jayne Relaford Brown.

So here is my attempt at writing poetry.  It is entitled ‘This Woman I am Becoming”

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.

This is my first real attempt at writing poetry.  In the past I have written rhyming poems to celebrate a wedding, visit to friends or other such but they really have been doggerel.   I leave it up to you to decide whether I should go back to writing doggerel.

Thank you Val for the use of this beautiful painting and thank you for setting the challenge.  I have enjoyed it.

Fair Warning

stop sign

image from dreamstime.com

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me. And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves and satin candles, and say we’ve no money for butter. 

I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells and run my stick along the public railings and make up for the sobriety of my youth. I shall go out in my slippers in the rain and pick the flowers in other people’s gardens and learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat and eat three pounds of sausages at a go or only bread and pickles for a week and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes. 

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry and pay our rent and not swear in the street  and set a good example for the children. We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.  But maybe I ought to practice a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Do you know this poem by Jenny Joseph, English author and poet?  This is from another favorite book bought for me by my late husband.

Book cover

It sits in pride of place with the other two similar books.  I have written about Becoming the Woman I’ve Wanted  and have quoted from If I Had My life to Live Over.

Book coverBook cover

So please don’t ever say I didn’t warn you.  My children have always thought that I would grow old disgracefully and this particular poem has haunted them since I first heard it.

I hope you enjoy it.