Thursday, May 31, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Rivers

This is more or less the first poem I wrote, that is, the first poem I was satisfied with from the first poetry workshop I attended as an adult - I'm not counting poems from my childhood and teenage years. (There was a long gap after that while I played at being a scientist and then a stay at home mother).

We had three prompts which I combined in one poem: "drought", "river" and "ice". Since the Poetry Thursday prompt for this week was "rivers", I thought I would share this one.


Here where the winter rain
froze in the cracks
and pushed until the rocks
came tumbling down

Here where the spring swollen river
with the strength of young love
swept me off my feet
and I fell into the cold, sharp shock

Here now the river has grown old
lies shrunken in a stony bed
the grasses withered on the banks
and the rocks feverish in the hot sun.


More river poetry here

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Life Lines

Over at Poetry Thursday, Jim Brock has invited us to share lines of poetry that are particularly meaningful for us. In Jim's words:

lines, by a poet that stayed with you, that you could not let go for the life of you, and then in a paragraph (or two), describe a moment when these words arose in your life in which they brought you understanding, insight, solace, reconciliation, or comfort.

To me, reading this, I felt we were being asked to share not just favourite lines, but lines that whether literally or figuratively, saved our lives. And at first, I couldn't think of anything. I didn't feel that poetry had affected me that much. I've had a comfortable life, after all. I'm a fairly level sort of person. I can balance a cheque book, come up with a rational explanation for most things, and a practical approach to most problems. I was bullied somewhat in primary school, (being a bit nerdy), but I remember my family and my childhood as happy. I think of myself, I realised, as one of those egg-shaped childrens toys with the weighted base, that wobbles when pushed but never falls over.

I have always had enough to eat, a roof over my head, access to medical care when I needed it, books and education. I've been married to the same man for (gulp - is it really that long?) thirty five years. Our children still like us, as far as I can tell.

And then, if I do have difficult emotions to deal with, I don't turn to poetry for solace. When I was younger my approach to crisis was to sleep a lot. More recently, I find the most effective way of getting through is vigourous uphill walks.

Thinking about this, I realised that it's my lack of needing to be saved that poetry has saved me from. My ordinary, steady life. Poetry has taught me to look for the beauty and wonder in things. And the strength, and the power, and to listen to my emotions even when they talk in whispers, and go underground after an hour or so in the spotlight. Poetry reminds me to be human.

As for the lines that stick with me, I can't say why exactly. But here they are:

I married the way moths marry
I married hard

by Olena Kalytiak Davis, from a poem called "In Defense of Marriage"

(I found this poem on the wonderful Poetry Daily website, a few years back, but unfortunately as they only archive the poems for a year, it's not online any more. I believe it can be found in her book titled "And Her Soul out of Nothing".)

For more life lines click here

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Time for a Photo...

We are having a wonderful mild autumn here. Since the early settlers introduced trees from various parts of the globe, some are bare already while others have barely started turning colour.

I took a stroll this afternoon and took these photos:

Some extra seating has appeared at the local bus stop!

A closer look. Perhaps someone thought they would wait in comfort.

This tree/shrub on the nearby corner always seems to glow at this time of year.

I feel privileged to live so close to this beautiful river:

Friday, May 25, 2007

Simple - Or is It?

We all want simple solutions. It's easier if there are nice neat rules. For instance, I've had global warming on my mind a lot lately. What can we do to help the environment?

When my children were at school they had a speaker on environmental issues who told the children that they should bring their lunch to school in a lunchbox rather than a plastic bag. The thinking of course, was that the kids who used plastic bags were using bags that their mothers had bought, and that were thrown out after one use. My children took their lunch in plastic bags. So the other kids hassled them about it - the simple rule was "use a lunchbox". Actually, I never bought a plastic bag. They used the bags that the bread came in, and folded them up afterwards, into their pockets, to reuse the next day.

Then there's car pooling. It's better to have two people in the car than one, right? Well, on the days I drop my son at university on my way to work, we use more petrol than the days when I drive alone. I have to go a kilometre or so out of my way, and if I didn't give him a lift, he'd catch the bus.

Low energy light bulbs are better for the environment, right? Except that there is the worrying reports that they contain mercury, so what happens when they end up in the landfill?

And then there's food miles - locally grown food has to be better, surely? I don't know. If I want tomatoes at this time of year, should I buy New Zealand tomatoes or those flown in from Queensland? I suspect the Australian tomatoes are grown indoors and the New Zealand ones in glasshouses. Do they use fuel to heat the glasshouses or do they rely on passive solar heating? Unfortunately that information isn't widely available. (If you're in Britain, do you buy local tomatoes or those shipped in from Spain?)

We have kerbside recycling here, and of course I put my paper and plastic out for collection, but I can't help wondering about the amount of fuel used in the trucks that collect it from households, and then the shipping of the paper or plastic to wherever the factories are that reuse it.

I'm not advocating doing nothing. Sometimes things are simple. And sometimes it's more complicated. There are things we can do to simplify our lives - manage on less (less goods and less mindless activity), but there is no substitute for information and critical thought. Thinking is something that we shouldn't try and simplify.

More musings on "simple" at Sunday Scribblings.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Writing About the Past

Since my poetry group are beginning to talk seriously about our next book, I decided to go through my files and print out all the poems that I might potentially include, with a view to editing them and arranging them in an appropriate order. It's interesting to see what topics and themes tend to recur in my writing. I'm thinking that one way of organzing most of my poems would be chronological - not the order in which I wrote them, but the order of the subject matter.

There are poems that stem from my interest in genealogy, and which are either about my ancestors, or about imaginary ancestors. There are others that arise from incidents in my childhood, or from my own children, either when they were very small, or when they were older. Then there are more immediate poems, often about places I have been orienteering, or the hills close to home that I explore on foot. And some are harder to classify, being a mix of recent observations, the beauty of certain words, all sorts of trivia floating around in my head, and a dose of imagination.

Early on in my poetry writing career, I submitted several poems to a certain literary magazine. The rejection letter that came back told me, among other things, that beginning poets often write poems based on nostalgia, but "I prefer the here and now". This set me wondering about the here and now. What is it? If I walk in the hills, and think about what I've seen, and then write about it that evening or the next day, it's not "here and now" any more. It may be the recent past, but it's past. If I sit in a coffee shop, and write about what is in front of me, by the time the words are on paper it is past - even if it's only five seconds. So, everything is about the past. And at the same time, everything is about the here and now - what is here and now in my brain. Any poem is the world filtered through the mind of the writer, and the mind contains it all in the here and now, though it has been gathered up in the past.

Even the words we use were learnt in the past. One of the poems that was rejected was apparently "nostalgic" because it bore the title "What my Science Teacher Told Me". Well, it included a bit of scientific information I had learnt in high school, but it was actually about my thoughts on relationships as I was experiencing them at that time. Our brains like to mix everything up!

This poem, for instance - is it about the past or not? My greatgrandfather is clearly in the past, but the poem is about the experience of looking for the spot where he was buried, which was very recent when I wrote it.

Looking for Samuel

Samuel Arthur Wiltshire 1861 – 1905

I count down rows, across plots
to the number in the cemetery book,
a missing tooth in a jaw full
of crooked gravestones.
What did I think I would find?
I tried to tie an anchor around your neck.
Forgive me. There is nothing to keep you here
No concrete slab to roof you over, keep the rain
from you. No yew tree sending down its roots
to prise your femur from your pelvis,
nor flesh-nourished rosemary
carrying its aroma across town
on the nor-wester. May your bones rest.
Your hollow sockets gaze at nothing
but earth and sky. The rain has long since
dissolved your flesh, trickled rich and brown
through aquifers to creeks and streams.
Old sailor, you mingle with rivers
and return on the ebbing tide
to the sea,
to the sea

Samuel's unmarked burial plot in the Addington cemetery, Christchurch.

Posted for Poetry Thursday

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More Orienteering Adventures

This is the map of the orienteering course I did on Sunday. The event was much closer to the city than the last one, on this headland which separates Lyttelton harbour from Christchurch city:

Looks like gentle friendly territory to run on, doesn't it? Well, partly - in fact the course planner was very kind to us - but then there were controls like this one:

You may need to click on it to see the details. At the foot of the large rock is a runner and an orange and white control marker. The marker has a punch attached, to clip a card to show that you have been there. Each of the numbered circles on the map represents one of these control markers which has to be found and clipped, in order. You can see another runner approaching the marker from the top of the rocky cliff. From where I took this photo, the control is easy to spot. It's not so easy coming from the direction that the runners were coming from. Did I say runners? Some of the younger club members are like mountain goats, but I was certainly not running for very much of the course. I think I did manage a slow jog in one or two places.

Despite the fact that I am way fitter than last year, my time still put me near the tail end of the field. But I had a good time, and still had enough energy left to go and help collect controls at the end of the day.

On the way there I spotted all sorts of views that I thought would be ideal to photograph on the way back. But by the time I was heading home, the low afternoon sun was glaring fairly much straight into my camera lens. This shot is taken from further back along the headland, looking out over the fringes of Christchurch city. The seaside suburb of Sumner is just below, and beyond it is the estuary of the Avon and Heathcote rivers, with the long spit of South Brighton separating the estuary from the sea.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Poetry Thursday: A Small Smile

This week's prompt at Poetry Thursday was "humour". It was suggested that we might, for instance, take a joke and turn it into a poem. While I don't think any of my poetry is laugh-out-loud funny, I do have a few poems that are in a lighter vein and might perhaps induce a small smile or at least a twitching of the corners of the lips. Here is one, that results from the insect problem we have in a home that is rather full of stored paper of various sorts:

Everyone’s a Critic These Days

Silverfish are eating my words
I look in drawers for notes I made
and find ragged paper.
Holes appear in the middle of my poems

ilver ish r ating m wor s
ragged pap

Silverfish hide in damp corners,
emerge up the plughole,
scurry behind the bookcase.
At night there is one crawling across the pillow.

silverfish hide scorn
night scrawl

Silverfish are eating my words
and shitting them out in small gritty piles
behind the furniture
and in corners of drawers

Words are turning themselves
into insects and crawling off the page
They mock me in slow anagrammatic dance
Silverfish are eating my words

liverish sword
vile feat
evil tears


And as a bonus, here is a small poem that resulted from the random prompt generator at the Poetry Thursday site. The words it gave me were "flock", followed by "abacus". I'm not sure if this counts as a humorous poem, but it does depend on a pun:

You can count on
a flock of birds
perched on the telegraph wires
like beads on an abacus.


For more humorous poetry, visit Poetry Thursday

Saturday, May 12, 2007


After being "in my head" for all of April, with NaPoWriMo, I felt the urge to make something. I'm sending off job applications and with fingers crossed that something turns up, I'm feeling the need to update my work wardrobe. Especially since I've lost 14 kgs in the past eight months (about thirty pounds), and most of my clothes are rather loose. And it's so long since I sewed my own clothes that I'm not too sure what pattern size to use any more.

However, I do have some multisize patterns in my possession, and I have some fabric stored away which wasn't very expensive, so I'm going to make some shirts to test out the patterns, and then I can look for more "business-like" fabric when I get the fit right.

So I headed off into town this morning to buy buttons, and poetry. The poetry book I was after is "Blame Vermeer" by Vincent O'Sullivan. I'm heading off to bed to read it, shortly.

In the City Mall there was a girl with a basket of something. It looked as if she might be soliciting donations, or something like that, so I was carefully looking away. Others were hurrying past, too. And then I realised what was in the basket. Chocolate! Samples of Fair Trade chocolate, to be exact, and very nice tasting chocolate it was, too.

I wasn't impressed with the poetry selection in most bookstores. About half a shelf tucked away in some obscure spot without its own shelf title, mostly. For example, New Zealand poetry tucked in at the end of New Zealand fiction. And then, a good half of the poetry was those collections, often sentimental and awful, of "ten poems to change your life" or "poems to read at weddings and funerals". But I did eventually find the book I was after.

And I had a nice time walking around town on a sunny autumn day, poking around in interesting shops like Cherry Blossom and Blue Earth. Shops where I'm not likely to buy anything (Japanese fabric covered journals for $40, anyone? Beautiful, but I'd be scared to write in them) - but it's fun to look, once in a while. And to smell the beautiful Blue Earth soaps and massage balms.

And even though it's autumn, and the leaves are falling from the trees, the flowers in the pots on this balcony didn't seem to know that.

My Photo

I've put this photo up so I can add it to my profile as per instructions on blogger. The only problem is that when I follow the instructions and then try and save the profile, I get an error message. Grrr. Maybe I'll try again later.

Update: I should have read all the instructions. There are two URLs with a photo on blogger, the first is the large version and the second is the small version. Using the second one worked, the first must have been above the size limit.

The photo is in honour of my new haircut. And the autumn maples in our yard, which are losing their leaves fast. (Although the one in the background here is still greener than most).

I've been tweaking my blog a bit lately. I also added the poem that gives the blog its title to my profile. And I updated some of my links. What I really want to do is to come up with a fancy graphic for the header, but I'm a bit nervous about trying in case I mess the whole blog up.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Random Acts of Poetry

It's Thursday again! And now that NaPoWriMo has finished, and my second part time job has also finished, I have some free time to get things done. Which means that I am getting nothing done. I guess I can forgive myself for a week of zoning out.

However, among my e-mail was Eric Maisel's "Creativity Newletter". In it he suggests an interesting exercise: "take your medicine". In other words, treat your writing as if it's medicine - not that it's something nasty, but schedule it four times a day - fifteen minutes at 8 am, noon, 4 pm and 8 pm. Once I would have said "I can't write four times a day". NaPoWriMo has taught me that it's easier than you think to sit down and write. And fifteen minutes is not that much. It's possible to write for fifteen minutes in my lunch break, on days when I'm at work - and if I'm working, or driving, at 4 o'clock, well, I can do it when I get home, and again in the evening before bed.

Not that I have written four times a day, but I'm beginning to recognize that it's possible. I've been writing in the morning, mostly my CV and job applications. I've been writing at lunchtime, and this is when the Poetry Thursday randomizer is just what I need. I can't work on editing my poems, because I like to read them aloud when I do that. And I can't work on my family history, because I need all my research material at hand. But I can noodle around and brainstorm for ideas, and that's what I've been doing.

On Sunday I was orienteering, and this is the poem that resulted, using one of Poetry Thursday's random prompts "copper". I wanted to put a Common Copper Butterfly into the poem, but I had to admit that there weren't any. I managed to sneak the word in, anyway.

Running in the Alps

There is nothing spectacular here
except the mountains, which surround
this level basin where we run
in all directions through the pines.
The ground is carpeted with small
unnamed plants – mosses, lichens,
shrubs so low they form a thin cushion
that supports our steps. In the clearings
the fine seedheads of grasses a foot high
gleam copper and gold in the autumn sun.
We make tracks through them, believing
they will spring up again at the next rain.
But I avoid treading on the white flowers
scattered like stars in constellations
among the flat scrub. Tiny flies and midges
dance in the cool still air, and there is no sound
except footsteps and distant cicadas.
My brother once employed a man
who left out little unimportant words
like “not”, when writing his reports.
Let me never assume I know
which are tiny unimportant things.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ten Zen Seconds

As promised on Thursday, here is my interview with Eric Maisel as part of his Ten Zen Seconds blogtour. I've been a fan of Eric's work on creativity for quite a few years and was happy to be part of this innovative book marketing project. Some of the questions and answers that follow are the standard ones provided by Eric, and some of them are ones I asked, that you will only find on this stop on the blog tour and nowhere else. I felt for those who come on this day only, I needed to present some of the standard part of the interview first, so if you have read that before on other stops on the blog tour, scroll down.

For more information on Eric Maisel's books and services
please visit

For information on Ten Zen Seconds, including the schedule for the blog tour, which will introduce you to a lot of fascinating blogs,
please visit

Catherine: What is Ten Zen Seconds all about?

Eric: It’s actually a very simple but powerful technique for reducing your stress, getting yourself centered, and reminding yourself about how you want to live your life. It can even serve as a complete cognitive, emotional, and existential self-help program built on the single idea of "dropping a useful thought into a deep breath".

You use a deep breath, five seconds on the inhale and five seconds on the exhale, as a container for important thoughts that aim you in the right direction in life—I describe twelve of these thoughts in the book—and you begin to employ this breathing-and-thinking technique that I call incanting as the primary way to keep yourself on track.

Catherine: Where did this idea come from?

Eric: It comes from two primary sources, cognitive and positive psychology from the West and breath awareness and mindfulness techniques from the East. I’d been working with creative and performing artists for more than twenty years as a therapist and creativity coach and wanted to find a quick, simple technique that would help them deal with the challenges they regularly face—resistance to creating, performance anxiety, negative self-talk about a lack of talent or a lack of connections, stress over a boring day job or competing in the art marketplace, and so on.

Because I have a background in both Western and Eastern ideas, it began to dawn on me that deep breathing, which is one of the best ways to reduce stress and alter thinking, could be used as a cognitive tool if I found just the right phrases to accompany the deep breathing. This started me on a hunt for the most effective phrases that I could find and eventually I landed on twelve of them that I called incantations, each of which serves a different and important purpose.

Catherine: Which phrases did you settle on?

Eric: The following twelve. I think that folks will intuitively get the point of each one (though some of the incantations, like "I expect nothing", tend to need a little explaining). Naturally each incantation is explained in detail in the book and there are lots of personal reports, so readers get a good sense of how different people interpret and make use of the incantations. Here are the twelve (the parentheses show how the phrase gets "divided up" between the inhale and the exhale:

1. (I am completely) (stopping)
2. (I expect) (nothing)
3. (I am) (doing my work)
4. (I trust) (my resources)
5. (I feel) (supported)
6. (I embrace) (this moment)
7. (I am free) (of the past)
8. (I make) (my meaning)
9. (I am open) (to joy)
10. (I am equal) (to this challenge)
11. (I am) (taking action)
12. (I return) (with strength)

A small note: the third incantation functions differently from the other eleven, in that you name something specific each time you use it, for example "I am writing my novel" or "I am paying the bills". This helps you bring mindful awareness to each of your activities throughout the day

Catherine: Those who are familiar with your previous work will know that you write in areas connected with creativity, and coaching creative people. Would you say that this book focuses less directly on creativity - that it is a technique that is useful in all areas of life?

Eric: Yes, exactly. It is a mindfulness, centering and meaning-making tool that anyone can use in a whole variety of situations - getting calm before a meeting or a medical appointment, getting centered so as to have a deep conversation with your mate or child, and so on.

The technique came out of my work with creative and performing artists and its uses for creative people are many - to help make the transition from day job to creative work more fluid, to reduce anxiety before a performance or marketplace interaction, and so on, - but it is meant to serve as a whole-life technique that provides "fast centering" and "instant stress reduction" for everyone in every situation.

Catherine: Some of us are not making a living in traditionally creative areas. We may have lives made up of many parts - we go to our day job, come home to cook meals and do the laundry, we may be involved in various voluntary organisations, find a family member needs help in a crisis, we may have health problems, or have no health problems and want to keep it that way by exercising and taking care of ourselves, and yet we still want to maintain creative pursuits as well. All these things are part of making our lives meaningful - we don't want to give any of them up, but it means we are constantly in transition from one thing to another. How can Ten Zen Seconds help with the stopping and starting that is part of such a fragmented life?

Eric: First, the creating ought to come first each day - that’s a big secret and a big deal. When we get to our novel at five a.m. and write for an hour, then we have made some meaning on that day and face the meaninglessness of some of our daily pursuits with much more equanimity. If, on the other hand, we spend a meaningless day and THEN try to get to our writing, we are usually both worn out mentally and drained existentially, since we have been with "too little" meaning all day long.

If the idea of getting right to your creative work first thing makes sense to you and you want to give it a try (that is, getting up an hour earlier, forgiving yourself for not getting up an hour earlier and trying again the next day, and so on), then using incantation 3, "I am doing my work" ("I am writing my novel", "I am working on Chapter 2", "I am turning to my poem", etc.), used as soon as you awaken and before you turn your mind to the day and its responsibilities, is a key to "creating first thing each day".

Catherine: One of your incantations is "I embrace this moment". As a poet, it has been suggested that I take a notebook everywhere and note things down as I see them. This seems to me to be an example of embracing the moment - being aware of what surrounds me at any time. And yet, there is also the temptation to multitask, which can lead to unawareness. Composing poetry while walking, or driving, or in spare moments at work, can take attention away from what is in front of me. It can also lead to difficulty in sitting down at a blank page and really focusing on the writing for more than a few minutes at a time. Could you comment on these issues, and suggest ways in which Ten Zen Seconds can help overcome the negative aspects of the tendency to multitasking which is common these days?

Eric: Always having your notebook with you, concretely and as metaphor, is a crucial part of the creative process. It’s the proof that you’re taking your own ideas seriously and the only way to capture some of your best ideas, which are entirely likely to come when you are aren’t sitting at your desk.

Taking attention away from what’s in front of you, unless that thing in front of you is of vital importance (say that you are in the middle of performing a surgical operation), is exactly the right thing to do and VERY different from answering an email with your left hand while taking a phone order with your right hand.

Stopping everything to be creative is not multi-tasking, it is the very essence of meaning-making. The incantations that especially support this process of "stopping everything" in the service of your own good ideas are "I am completely stopping", "I am writing this down" (a variation of incantation 3), and "I am open to joy" - open to the joy of living your life as the creative person you intend yourself to be.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Month of Poems

It was an interesting month. As I squeezed in time to write the daily poem, I contemplated the necessity of being away from the world, and the necessity of being in the world.

I started the day with the prompt in my head, wondering what I would write. Often, I wrote and posted in the morning before work. Sometimes, I set off with the day's prompt in my mind, still wondering what shape my poem would take. And coincidences abounded. On the day that the prompt was "spiral" I was startled by a flock of white gulls spiralling and wheeling in the park. On the day that the prompt was "glass" I went to hear a quilter speak, in a modern building whose facade is a river of glass.

Of course, these are not really coincidences. It's just that starting with a word in my head focussed my attention, so that I was more likely to notice incidences in the world. (And if I didn't, well, there is an even bigger world - the world of memory, of all that I have seen and read. The scope of my poetry expanded enormously due to the influence of the prompts).

Last Saturday I had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with a bunch of other writers and artists. We were celebrating the 60th issue of Takahe magazine. I looked out into the branches of a huge macrocarpa tree, and out another window over a beach and sand dunes stretching away into the distance north and south, a pier heading out west towards South America, a hardy bunch of surfers braving the cold autumn waves, a dog running in circles on the sand. The prompt for the day was "circles".

In the morning, I had been to the Arts Centre where Jeanette de Nicolis Meyer was having an open studio. She had been the artist in residence for the past month. There's that period of a month, again. I was mindful of those I had heard of, who had given up work to write a novel, and then spent long periods not writing. I asked her what it was like to have a month of nothing to do but work. She loved it, she said. She would stop work at 11.30 at night, not wanting to stop because of all the ideas buzzing in her head. But yes, she had four days at the beginning when nothing seemed to work, when she didn't have the right supplies, when all sorts of things seemed to combine to frustrate her. The key was to regard it not as a time to produce finished work, but as a time to explore ideas. And the results on the wall certainly suggested she had many ideas to explore.

Much of her work was based on bubble chamber images of the tracks of subatomic particles - full of lines and circles. Ernest Rutherford had once worked in the same building, and she had visited "Rutherford's Den". Those circles almost made it into my poem for the day, but in the end the dog running in circles on the sand won out.

I think I experienced the month in the same way - a chance to try out all sorts of ideas. Some of the poems I will let quietly sink into oblivion. Others I will print out, read aloud, and read aloud again, so that my ear can tell me where the clunky bits are, and my heart and mind can tell me whether I said what I wanted to say. Then, hopefully, I will revise them till I am satisfied, and send them out into the world for possible publication.

And I hope I will put into practice what I have learned - first to take myself apart from the world and write. And then to take myself into the world with new eyes, and notice things. And then to repeat the cycle. Oh, and I learnt that most of the time it has taken me to write one poem in the past has actually been all the drama of not writing the poem - of planning to write the poem. How much simpler to just get on with it!

I haven't written a poem since the end of the month, but it didn't seem like Poetry Thursday without one. So I'm including an older poem - not necessarily one that I consider among my finest, but it fits the season. Our dwarf maple by the pond is startlingly coloured, almost fluorescent, at this time of hear, and I found myself wondering what someone would make of it who had never seen autumn before.

But first, I'd like to invite you to come back on Saturday when I will be hosting Eric Maisel on his blogtour. This is an interesting way to promote a book without all the time, expense, and ozone depletion associated with the travel of a traditional book tour. Eric's book is "Ten Zen Seconds", an interesting book on a simple technique for calming anxieties and increasing focus. It will be useful not just to creative people (his usual target audience) but to anyone. I asked Eric several questions, but the whole tour is seven weeks, so it would be well worth visiting some of the other blogs to see what other hosts have asked him. Find the site for the book, along with the schedule for the blogtour, here. I'll be putting my post up on Saturday evening, New Zealand time, so that it will be early Saturday morning in the US, thus fitting in with both my calendar and Eric's.

And finally, today's poem:

The Amnesiac Discovers Autumn

It isn’t death that surprises him.
Though larger losses
- a parent, a loved pet,
even the dead bird on the garden path
- have slipped beyond
the myopic horizon of his memory
impermanence has its daily reminders.
Shrivelled flowers in the vase,
the spreading brown spot on an apple,
an upturned fly on the window sill.

No, it’s not the way the leaves
turn brown and slip to the ground
that startles him,
it’s the late afternoon
when the maple leaves
turn tangerine and magenta
and melt into the sky,
becoming pure light.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Last One!

Yes, 29 posts but 30 poems. And that's me done for NaPoWriMo. By the time I got this prompt "scatter", I was heading off to work for the day, and now that I'm home it's probably May 1st in the US. I hereby redefine the boundaries of April to encompass May 1st.

I was watching "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" the other night on TV. My family is neither noisy nor Greek, but there was one thing that resonated with me - all the cousins named Nicky. I found while researching my Scottish forbears, that the Scots had a very traditional naming pattern which resulted in large numbers of cousins with the same name, named for their grandparents. This poem is about the Jeans, although I could equally have written one about seven cousins all named David. I was thinking of the way in which the families who had no future in overcrowded Scotland scattered around the world.

There are four cousins
all named Jean. This is to remind them
of their Scottish grandmother
whom they have never seen,
and of the tenuous web which links them
to each other.
One Jean sews shirts
in Norwalk, Connecticut.
One Jean sings songs
in Newcastle on Tyne
One Jean is married to a doctor
in Boone, Iowa.
Dunedin Jean was born at sea.
She still feels its pull
as she walks on the beach at St Clair
reading a letter from the doctor's wife
who tells of the death of her baby
(also Jean).
Dunedin Jean
gazes out at the blue Pacific
and thinks of the cornfields of Iowa,
wave on wave of green.