Thursday, May 28, 2009

I am gradually getting round to revising my NaPoWriMo poems. It's more than just a tweak here or there. There are not many that satisfy me just as they are, but quite a few where I have a sense of an underlying story, mood or feeling that I want to unearth, which may mean discarding a great deal of the poem and starting again.

For this one, I initially abandoned all but the title - and I rearranged the words of the title, too - but then some of the initial story found it's way back in. I'm not done with it yet, but it is a lot closer to being a keeper than the original. I even managed to fit in a word from Readwritepoem's Wordle - veer. I also considered using paean, debonair, and twist, but in the end I didn't.

The last line confused my face to face poetry friends here. I was thinking of French flags, and various other countries, but "red, white and blue" made them think American. I think that's a little sad. There are few enough colours in the world - why should these be appropriated by one country? But since that's the way of it, I will probably find another way of expressing the ending.

(Both versions since removed from this post - expired! Contact me if you would like a copy)

Thematic Photographic: Single

At Carmi's blog this week the Thematic Photographic theme is single.

I looked through my photos pondering birds (plenty of those), "single tree in bare landscape" ( a few of those too), and then came across a selection of animal photos taken at Orana Park, our local wildlife park. So, cute furry animals it is.

This is an Asian small clawed otter. It is actually quite difficult to capture one on its own as they tend to move like a chorus line. they seem to be almost telepathic in their ability to get up and move together. However they had to go single file to get through the hollow log.

The meerkats are group animals too, but they do stand a little apart from each other, looking very alert as they take turns on sentry duty.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Make Way for Ducklings

The sign at the top is from the motor camp where we stayed in Dunedin for a couple of nights late last year. The footprints were painted on the road way to reinforce the point.

For more photos of interesting signs, visit Carmi here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Revising and Rewriting

Last night my small poetry group met and I took along half a dozen or so of my less abysmal efforts from NaPoWriMo. It was interesting to go through and re-read them. Some that I didn't like much at the time are growing on me. In some cases, I realise that small alterations have the potential to make a large difference to the quality. Some that I liked initially seem less interesting now.

One of them is essentially what Ted Kooser describes in his excellent book The Poetry Home Repair Manual as an anecdotal poem. He describes the form as
This happened first,
and then this
happened; then this
and this; this happened next, then this
and this and this,
and then - you won't believe it -

Well, mine isn't quite like that, but almost. But we all agreed that the poem had a good title -
The Blonde Ambassador's Daughter.
(Even the title needs changing, being a little ambiguous, so it will henceforth be the Ambassador's Blonde Daughter)

I have a whole new poem in mind to go with the title, using one or two elements from the original in their barest essentials only. Does that count as revision?

An extra treat this month - since one of the group's members couldn't come, we are having an extra meeting next week at her new flat (a New Zealand term for apartment). And then we have book plans to work on.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Paranoia and Hysteria

Most of the New Zealanders quarantined for suspected swine flu have been released. Even those who had confirmed cases had such mild symptoms that they have recovered and returned to school and work. The news media has moved on to other stories. So I was surprised to find the above scene when I dropped into my local shops on the way home from work a couple of days ago.

It seemed an appropriate photo for Carmi's human theme at Thematic Photographic. Fear is not confined to humans, but animal fear reacts more to what is real. Only humans manage to inflate their fears beyond what is real (or am I wrong here?)

(Some more background to this photo; those who have possible swine flu are allowed to buy Tamiflu over the counter at the pharmacy here, without a doctor's prescription - as long as they front up in person. Naturally the pharmacists were not too pleased at this policy, hence the notice at this and other pharmacies. I guess crazy government policy is another "human" characteristic).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Artist at Work

The photos that I take, other than family photos, tend to be of nature and city scapes more than of people. There are, after all, many situations where it doesn't seem quite appropriate to take photos of strangers (although a zoom lens can hide just what you are doing to a certain extent). I don't post family photos on my blog, so when I saw that Carmi's theme this week was "human", I pondered the possibilities of illustrating the theme without any actual people in the photo (I may return to that idea later in the week).

In the meantime I looked through my files and found these photos. The shop is just a block or two from my house, and the owner decided to take a creative approach to the problem of graffiti on his paintwork, and commissioned these young people to paint a mural. I loved their energy, and the sweep of the boy's arm as he sprayed the bold curve you see in the first picture.

On Poetry and Hyperlinks

At Wanaka in the South Island of New Zealand there is a three-dimensional maze. At each of its four corners there is a tower - the red tower, the blue tower, the green tower and the yellow tower. The object of the maze is to visit each of the four towers and then find one's way to the finish. But just as you think you are nearing a corner, you are confronted by a flight of steps, and an overhead bridge which suddenly takes you to the opposite side of the maze, well away from where you thought you were heading.

Hyperlinks can do that. This week at readwritepoem Juliette suggested we write poetry with hyperlinks in it. She gave the example of her poetry in which she will often link the name of a British bird, which might be unfamiliar to an overseas reader, with a website which gives an image of the bird.

I could do that, of course. I could put hyperlinks in my poetry to elucidate some of the words I use - local usage or New Zealand slang that might be unfamiliar with my readers. There are two problems with that. One, of course, is that I could equally well put the information in a footnote. (Less so, for an image which may be copyright, so Juliette's idea of a link is a good one).

The other aspect that I don't like is that it leads the reader away from the poem, and the only way to return is the "back" button. To truly use the possibilities of hyperlinks as an integral feature of the poem, I'd like to see something a bit more essential. Something that is as much a part of the poem as the overhead bridges are a part of the maze. The trouble is that to do it, I would really need my own website rather than trying to do it within the confines of a blog. I envisage a poem in which a line or stanza has two or three hyperlinks for the reader to choose from. Each would lead to a different line or stanza with two or three more links. These would lead further, and further... I imagine an intricate, branching network, so that each time the poem is read, it would be a different poem. Apart from not having my own website, the other reason for not having tried this over the past week is that it would be a lot more work than writing one of my usual poems which are rather short. But it certainly has me thinking.

Someone who has explored the possibilities of new media, and hyperlinks in particular, is Hazel Smith, who discusses them in her book The Writing Experiment. There is a website associated with this book, where The City and the Body an example of this sort of poem can be found. It's well worth taking a look at.

Since I didn't write a hyperlinked poem, I thought I would write one using the words from the Wordle at readwritepoem. And then nothing came - until this afternoon. So, it is rather rushed, but here is my first draft (currently untitled). Words used were fence, jetty, carve, sediment, mosaic, slither.

There's a hill in it. There's a house
with a white fence, and a city at the foot of the hill
and a harbour on the other side. There's a small bay
and a jetty that carves a slice across the water.

There are memories in layers of sediment.
Here we are, digging again. We might find
a fossil skeleton, whole and complete.
More likely, a mosaic of broken shards
that we don't quite know how to piece together.
Or tidal ooze, that will not hold our weight.
We sink in, held fast, while unnamed creatures
slither at the water's edge.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thematic Photographic: Yellow

It's a colour that I love, so I was pleased when I saw that Carmi's theme for Thematic Photographic this week was yellow. I did wonder though, how many yellow photos I'd find in my files. I knew there'd be sunflowers, daffodils, kowhai (a New Zealand tree that flowers in springtime) and various other yellow flowers, but I wanted something a bit different. That was quite hard to find - I seem to have plenty of photos that feature blue and green, but not so many yellow (apart from the aforementioned flowers)

Eventually I came up with these:

The Antigua Boatsheds, a well-known Christchurch tourist spot.

An intriguing piece of art at sculptor Josie Martin's Akaroa garden

More subtle - lichen on rocks and old wood:

And, since it's autumn here, and since I love this photo even though it's almost as cliched as daffodils, autumn leaves in Hagley Park:

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A NaPoWriMo Meme

I don't generally do memes, but January has posted a list of questions about NaPoWriMo, and I thought it would be quite useful to look over my thirty poems and find out the answers.

1. Number of poems written in April - thirty on my blog, and I think there were two more, but I haven't dated them, so they may be from late March.

2. Number of poems you'll keep and revise. I'll keep all of them. Computer space is cheap, and they're my babies, however ugly. As for revising, I'm not sure. On glancing through, there are about ten that I can see myself revising or polishing in the near future.

3. List the titles of your top three NaPoWriMo poems: these are chosen not so much for their current state of completion, but for their possibilities.
Digging for Spain
The Scientists
Song of the Moth

4. List your three least-favourite NaPoWriMo poems - As I said, they're my babies, even if some of them are too sickly to survive to adulthood.
If I have to choose, then
Fifty Kettle Weather
The haiku from day 27
At Halswell Quarry

5. Favourite line from one of your NaPoWriMo poems.
From The Scientists:
The scientists have equations in their veins. Cut them and they leak solutions.
The final word in the line was originally "numbers" but I replaced it as I had repeated the word elsewhere. That was serendipitous, as I loved the double meaning in "solutions"

6. Notice any patterns? Too often, I fall back on nostalgia. I'm boring even myself with that. It makes me feel as if I don't have a life worth writing about, now. On the other hand, maybe things do need time to ripen and compost before they make good poems. I didn't write poems about our trip to the UK at the time (2007) and I'm finding it's just starting to come through.
It was towards the end of the month that boredom drove me towards experiments with rhyme, strange word associations etc.

7. What surprised you most about writing a poem a day? I'm not sure that I was surprised about anything, because I have done it once before. If I was surprised at all, it was probably about the strange things that started to come out towards the end of the month. And maybe that I managed to finish it.

8. Now that you have momentum, what's next? Our small poetry group has a book planned for later in the year, so I have plenty to do revising, selecting, and possibly writing new work. I have a sequence of poems on a single theme half started that I want to get back to. The side-bar of my blog desperately needs updating! I also look forward to getting a few non-poetry things done.

Thanks for the questions, January!

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Few Extra Bits and Pieces

Here's the link to the Speight's commercial from which I took the refrain for yesterday's poem.
(Quicker to do it this way than to figure out how to embed a Youtube clip).


I did intend to post an extra poem for the last Readwritepoem NaPoWriMo prompt. However, I did reach thirty poems in thirty days, and I've had a really busy week. Since it's evening here when the prompt goes up, and since it turned out that I needed to wait for members to contribute lines for me to choose from, and since I've been at work all day and then had family here for dinner, I decided that enough was enough.

For those who need a fix of poetry, hop on over to readwritepoem and you will find plenty of links to other blogs. There are some really good ones out there.


The first time I was invited to a book launch, I felt as if I was really quite cool :). Real writers wanted me at their book launch! Then I realised that this is New Zealand. Everyone knows everyone else, once you are on any sort of mailing list you will get all sorts of invitations - after all, the idea is to sell books, so the more people who come, the better.

I still really enjoy going to book launches though even if I'm more realistic about it. Last night's was the launch of Fiona Farrell's new novel, Limestone. Fiona is both a poet and novelist. She spent six months in Ireland on a writer's residency, and both her book of poems published in 2007, The Pop-Up Book of Invasions, and her new novel, arose out of that experience. At the launch of both of these books, Fiona's readings were interspersed with selections of Irish harp music from Helen Webby. Both the readings and the music made it a highly pleasurable experience. The selections that I heard lead me to believe that reading the book (which I bought) will be an equally pleasurable experience.