Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Revision

I used to think I was a fast writer, but I've realised that only applies to a small percentage of my poetry, and I have a large collection of failed attempts. A good deal of the writing I have been doing lately involves going back to my files and revising the old poems, the ones where I feel there is a spark that I really want to turn into a successful poem, even if the first attempt was pretty dire.

The worst advice I ever read was not to revise. Granted, this was in a book which was more about writing poetry as self expression/therapy than about writing as literature. Even so, I can't agree. The author seemed to think that to revise was to deny the initial emotion that led to the poem. In my experience, the opposite is true. I remember an occasion when I took a poem to my small workshop group and was met with somewhat blank looks. "What are you trying to say?" one group member asked. I launched into an impassioned defence/explanation of the poem, and she replied "well, why didn't you say so?" And so, I revised the poem so that it did say what I intended to say in the first place.

And that, in my view, is what revision is all about. To make the poem more of what it set out to be.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Changing City

Sometimes it feels as if we haven't just moved house, but moved to an entirely new city. I spotted this building while out to a poetry reading the other night.

I thought it was an old building that I hadn't noticed before, newly refurbished, although I was a bit surprised at its unfamiliarity. It turns out that it is a brand new building, a refreshing change from all the steel and glass going up around the city. It is an Indian restaurant, with a lovely wide open verandah in front, with murals at either end.

And then on the other side of the road I spotted this:

Somewhere to sit and watch the changing panorama of the sky?

Getting round the city can be challenging with constant road works. My daughter tells me that her bus route changes almost daily. I took her home last night after a family dinner. Towards the end of our route, we had to detour as the road I wanted to take (Ensors Road) was blocked by police cars with flashing lights after an incident of "car versus tree". It was quite a long detour, which would have been much shorter if I had known a block earlier that I needed to take a different route. I thought of a different route to take home, along Ferry Road, but heading back from the detour towards my daughter's house, there was a big sign up saying "Moorhouse - Ferry closed, take "Ensors-Brougham". Fortunately it turned out one lane was still open westbound, back past the accident scene.

I need to remember to leave for work early tomorrow, as there is a new road closure which will spill a lot of traffic into one particular intersection on my route. According to the SCIRT website 437,353 km of road has been repaired or replaced. This is 33% of the total that needs to be done. So we will be going for quite a while yet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thematic Photographic: Vehicular, Etc

I took a lot of photos in October, when I was attempting to post a photo a day, so I hunted through them for "extras" for this week's theme. The vintage Harley Davidson was on display in New Regent Street, a Spanish Mission style street of shops in the centre of Christchurch, during Heritage Week.

The tram does a regular tourist circuit around the centre of Christchurch. Seen here in front of the Old Government Buildings, now converted into the Heritage Hotel. Ironically, this wing, the old wing of the hotel, survived the earthquakes due to strengthening work in the 1990s, but the new wing is still closed due to earthquake damaged, and I believe is likely to be demolished.

Finally, this shot because in Christchurch you are never very far from heavy earth moving machinery. (One day, all the road and sewer repairs will be finished, but not just yet...)

For more vehicular photos, visit Carmi's blog here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tuesday Poem: The Will

The Will

My father left me a boat:
The old red dinghy, slab-sided,
paint peeling, barely afloat.

Summers in the harbour
we sat, three small children
across the stern, one in the bow.
Older, we swam from bay to bay
in deep water, knowing
ourselves to be safe, my father
alongside in the dinghy, rowing.

My father left me a boat.
Sometimes when I falter,
reach for solid ground,
I think I hear his voice -
"Nearly there. Keep going!"
My father nearby
in his coffin boat, rowing,

- Catherine Fitchett

In the early twentieth century, and before that, it was common in wills for specific objects to be listed and bequeathed - a famous example being Shakespeare's second best bed which he left to his wife, Anne Hathaway. This poem was written prompted by an exercise in which we were to imagine something that might have been left to us. In fact, the family dinghy had rotted away and been dumped long before my father died, but the prompt allowed me another (much more concise) way to explore material that I had long ago attempted, and failed, to explore poetically.

"The Will" is included in the 2014 New Zealand Poetry Society Anthology "Take Back Our Sky" which launched recently.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Birds' Nests, by John Clare

Birds' Nests

How fresh the air the birds how busy now
In every walk if I but peep I find
Nests newly made or finished all and lined
With hair and thistle down and in the bough
Of little awthorn huddled up in green
The leaves still thickening as the spring gets age
The Pinks quite round and snug and closely laid
And linnets of materials loose and rough
And still hedge sparrow moping in the shade
Near the hedge bottom weaves of homely stuff
Dead grass and mosses green an hermitage
For secresy and shelter rightly made
And beautiful it is to walk beside
The lanes and hedges where their homes abide.

John Clare (1793-1864)

I've been intrigued with John Clare since reading Adam Foulds' Booker nominated novel, The Quickening Maze which includes Clare, along with Alfred, Lord Tennyson, among its protagonists. John Clare was born in Northamptonshire and was an agricultural labourer, but also a very prolific nature poet. I have taken the above poem from a recently acquired volume, "The Poetry of Birds" edited by Simon Armitage and Tim Dee. They note in the foreword that Clare wrote about 147 different species of birds. Quite an accomplishment. Sadly, he ended his days in a lunatic asylum.

I copied the poem quite carefully, so the odd spellings "awthorn" and "secresy" as far as I can tell are the original spellings used by the poet.

I took the photo at the head of the post a month or two back, I loved the way that the elongated leaf hangs delicately by a thread from this nest that I found in our yard. So I decided that this poem was a great excuse to use the photo.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In the Round

I've been meaning to post these photos for a while. When we travel to the North Island, we like to stop at the Lava Glass Studio just north of Lake Taupo. On our most recent visit, we found they had added a glass sculpture garden (where photography is allowed, unlike the rules inside the actual gallery).

Carmi's Thematic Photographic theme, round and round this week gave me the excuse I needed to post some of the rounder pieces of sculpture.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Poem: The Wild Swans at Coole, by W B Yeats

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

W B Yeats (1865-1939)

The image above is an installation for Festa - the Christchurch Festival of Transitional Architecture. A line from a Yeats poem floating on the Avon river by the water wheel near the Worcester Street bridge. There was also an event at the weekend, which I didn't attend, where participants could write their own "words on water" - I'm not sure what with, but apparently the words would evaporate eventually, whereas the Yeats installation looks a bit more permanent.

I had initially thought Yeats must be a misprint for Keats, given that it is Keats who has as his epitaph "here lies one whose name was writ in water". But I found when I googled the line that it was indeed Yeats, from this lovely poem "The Wilds Swans at Coole".

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.