Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Spring Break

I'm taking a spring blogging break. Back in a couple of weeks. In the meantime here are two photos from my walk around the block a couple of days ago.

Blossom is bursting out all over.

In recent years more and more of these New Zealand native paradise ducks have joined the brown ducks and mallards on our local river.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pet Peeve Solved

I was clearing out my e-mail inbox - and wondering why I had a particularly irrelevant looking e-mail from a genealogy list flagged as important
- so I looked and found it was from SKS (some kind soul) who did a couple of lookups, one for me and one for someone else, and put the other one in the subject line
- I had probably opened this e-mail to check why it was flagged about a gazillion times before
- and then I had a brainwave.

I forwarded the e-mail to myself with a new subject line, so I would know exactly what was in it.

Note to self:
When I get about twenty or thirty e-mails from various members of a committee I am on, all with the same very general subject line because no-one every changes it
- and when one or two of them contain important information that I want to be able to find easily later
- I can just do the same thing. E-mail it to myself with a more relevant subject line. Problem solved (as long as I remember to do it).

(Of course it doesn't solve the problem of accidentally ignoring important e-mails in the first place, because of a misleading subject line. Never mind, it's a start).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Readwritepoem #88: Salacious Diodes

I nearly gave up on this week's prompt at readwritepoem. I wrestled with the list of words supplied, and after half an hour or so had a few phrases that didn't quite seem to fit each other, lines where I had written the words over and over again in the hope that a poem would magically write itself, and a great deal of frustration.

Then I took my notebook out again this morning in my coffee break, and somehow it started to come together. I used eleven of the fourteen words supplied (and put another one in the title of this post). I'm not sure that the two stanzas of the poem quite gel together, but I'm more pleased by the poem than I thought I would be.

I had in mind Nathan's comment that he always starts writing from words, not ideas. I tried to do the same thing. Given the words supplied, I thought this poem might come out more like a "Nathan" poem and less like a "Catherine"poem, but I can see my own world view sneaking in there, despite the fact that the words weren't ones I'd usually choose. (It doesn't have a title yet).

Magpies rant from the branches
of the macrocarpa, ready
to fling themselves at anyone
who dares to pass bare-headed.
Sunlight coagulates in pools
over the yellow grass, over the froth
of water tumbling over stones
in the creek, over the carcass
of the dead sheep turning rancid
in the paddock.

Memory like a reel of 8-track tape
unspooling backwards. Take it
with a large spoon of salt.
All our lives run in the same direction,
our particles bustling homewards.
We might lay our stories out
as if they were printed
circuit boards, copper etched
on silicon, transistors, diodes
the electrons’ precise elocution.

More salacious diode poems here

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's With All the Knitting?

During the recent Christchurch Arts Festival, random pieces of knitting started to appear on tree trunks and lamp posts:

(Well, yes, actually, this one is not knitting, it's crochet, but I'm pretty sure I saw some knitted pieces too)

and then today I read that the Poetry Society in the UK have a project going on to knit a poem. (It's not too late to take part, apparently).

According to the article at the Guardian newspaper Knitting and poetry are more similar than they might first appear......With poetry and with knitting, you work line by line, and if something goes wrong you have to unravel it

And this poem explains How to Knit a Poem

Sunday, August 16, 2009

On Writing Process

I'm a great fan of writing by hand. I very rarely start a poem at the computer, much more often I will scribble out ideas and drafts in a notebook, and then type it up later.

When I want to revise, I print it out so I can read it on paper instead of the screen, and then I scribble revisions on it before amending the computer file.

I didn't think that novelists worked like that any more though - I imagined that the slowness of longhand must mean that they all work at the computer these days. So I was delighted to read Emma Darwin's blog post about her process - she writes long hand in journals, using the right hand pages only, and leaving the left hand page for notes. There's a nice photograph with the post, too. She types it into the computer later. It sounds as if it's a method that would suit me, if I ever write a novel, or am foolish enough to attempt NaNoWriMo.

Emma's is my favourite writer's blog, because it has none of the tedious "my novel is up to page 100" or "got my proofs back from the publisher" sort of posts that seem to fill most writer's blogs. (Or at least, these sorts of things are there, but only in snippets.) Mostly, her blog discusses the art of writing in a really interesting way. It is directed at novelists, but I still find it a great read.

As an aside, I found a mention on Carolee's blog of a book "The Writers Retreat Kit" by Judy Reeves and went to Fishpond to check it out. Fishpond is the New Zealand version of Amazon. Since we are a small country, some strange things happen on Fishpond. For instance the "people who bought this book also bought.." brings up very odd pairings. And today they didn't disappoint me. Apparently I can get a great double deal on "A Writers Book of Days" also by Judy Reeves, if I buy it along with "Making Latex Clothes". To which I can only say "huh?????" (Or as my children would write, WTF?)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Readwritepoem #87

At Readwritepoem this week we were invited to write poems honouring vowels. My first thought was the letter o, which has always seemed the most poetic to me. There are so many "o" words I love, such as ocean, sorrow, willow, follow, not to mention crow.

However, I have put the letter "o" aside for another time, as I wanted to challenge myself by exploring another letter. I started making lists of "i" words and when I thought of "islands" I was hooked.

Homage to the Letter "i"

The least of letters, it is familiar
to the inhabitants of islands
thin thread in the white ocean
of the page, dotted like a rock in the tide
on which sea bird shit,
while their cries of krik krik krik
hang in the air.

We live in the littoral zone,
migrants washed up with the drift
bits and pieces discarded by sailors
ships' rigging, sticks and string.
Twined lines of bull kelp
litter the shore. Spined fragments of kina.
A pied stilt steps over rusting links
of an anchor chain. It stitches the sand
with its beak, in and out, in and out,
probing for pipis. The wind whips our hair.
We eye the horizon, rim of the Pacific,
do not flinch at the sting of salt.

(I think the second half still needs a little work. I found it quite a challenge to use sufficient "i" words and still have it read well. But, it's much improved on where it was a couple of days ago.)

Thematic Photographic: Abandoned

I'm a bit of a sucker for old, rusty bits of metal, or weathered paint on walls - it's the texture that appeals to me. Cobwebs are another thing that appeals to me. So when Carmi announced that his theme for Thematic Photographic this week would be abandoned, I knew exactly where in my files I wanted to look.

This abandoned car is beside a narrow walking track in the Port Hills of Christchurch, between a small stream and a cliff. It amazes me the lengths people will go to, to get an old car into an inaccessible spot, just so it can be left there to rust.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Dentist Wants Me!

...and this is the reminder card.

(Really? Really, really new?)

I don't actually find it too unpleasant going to the dentist. Managing to fit it in is another matter. They do have one evening clinic for the ten percent or so of the popluation who work during the day (it's more than that? Well, apparently we have to fit in to ten percent of the clinic hours). I'm guessing it will be booked up for the next few weeks, and then I'll be on holiday, so perhaps they'll see me in September.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Excavate #2

For Jill and Carolee's Double Dog Dare Mini Poetry Challenge

(These pieces are perhaps not as original as they might seem, being a response to various events in the Christchurch Arts Festival. The phrase "a bed becomes a boat" that Carolee responded to in the comments of the previous piece was a description of a theatre performance "Slava's Snowshow" in the festival programme).

Excavate #2

Beneath the forest
an ancient city
beneath the city
an ancient forest
petrified totara stumps
line an old river bed
in the streets
Herne the Hunter wanders
half-human, half-stag
far from his ancient haunts
searching for the city's
savage edge.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Thematic Photographic: Lines

Every child loves trains. Or at least, every child loves trains in the same way that every child loves dinosaurs - a lot of them love trains, and adults like to push the idea at those who don't.

When my children were small, they did seem to enjoy train rides, and even better than train rides were train rides that went through tunnels. So when we moved here to Christchurch, I planned to take them on the train through the hills to the port of Lyttelton. (Even better than a train ride - a train ride with boats to look at, at the other end). Sadly I discovered that the suburban trains that I remembered from my childhood no longer ran. Perhaps one day as oil prices soar, commuter light rail will come back, but for now, we just don't have the population density to make it economic.

In the meantime these railway lines carry no passengers - only freight, in containers heading for the port on the other side of the hills.

For more photos on the theme "lines" visit Carmi here.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Poetry Mini Challenge

This is for Jill and Carolee's Double Dog Dare Poetry Mini Challenge over at Readwritepoem. (I'm a day or so late, but what the heck)>

Three poems using a synonym for "dig" as the title of the series, and using words culled from one's notebook, or a magazine or similar.

All words and phrases used come from the programme for the Christchurch Arts Festival

Excavate #1

Within the confines of the city
the wayward workings of memory
peepholes to the chaos
in our heads
Winter becomes a wind tunnel
a bed becomes a boat
directions will be given
to layers of history
On treeless plains
skeletons of extinct birds.
What lies beneath is not to be disclosed.

(Check out the new readwritepoem site, it is fantastic!)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Another Poetry Book Launch

On Monday I went straight from work to the launch of local poet Bernadette Hall's latest book, The Lustre Jug. It's her ninth poetry collection and it seems to me they just keep getting better and better.

Bernadette spent six months in Ireland on the Rathcoola Residency and the first half of the book consists of poems from that time. Though born in New Zealand, her father was born in Northern Ireland, and her mother's family came from Southern Ireland. So she had an affinity with the country before visiting there.

There is poetry that is very "accessible" as for instance most of the poems on Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry series. And there are poems that seem to set out deliberately to confuse and mystify. The poems that appeal to me the most lie in the middle - as these do. There are complexities that reward careful re-reading, but they are clear enough to offer some immediate pleasures, too. They are warm, compassionate, intelligent, witty, and fierce, sometimes all at once. Bernadette is also a great tutor. She taught the first poetry course I ever took, and is one of the instigators of the Hagley Writers Institute which is an excellent course here in Christchurch that bridges the gap between hobby classes and university level Creative Writing courses.

Here is a link to one of the poems from the book, Leda at the Billabong, which appeared in Best New Zealand Poems 2008.

The event was held as part of the Christchurch Arts Festival. On the upside, that meant we had a great venue. On the downside, it meant that we were unable to linger and chat after the formal part of the event, as another event was booked in the same venue. However, as I left, another local poet approached me to tell me that she had found her family all listed on my online family tree. A few questions revealed that we are related - approximately fourth cousins. It always excites me to make new family connections - a small unexpected pleasure to top off the evening.

(For photos from the book launch, visit Joanna's blog, A Dark Feathered Art, here). I planned to take my camera but was running late for work in the morning and it wasn't where I thought it was.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

More Signs of Spring

Daffodils are coming up in my garden:

and other things: