Inspired By A Living Poet.

Tomorrow, the Annual April A2Z Blogging Challenge blasts off and if you’ve read my theme reveal, you’ll already know that I will be writing: Letters to Dead Poets. Well, have been writing them. While my kids think I’ve finally cracked and this theme is plain “weird”, this journey has had so many twists and turns and to be perfectly honest, I think my head is still lost up a drainpipe somewhere along these explorations.

Anyway, I have one last day to switch gears from the Royal Sydney Easter Show and start heading towards the realm of Dead Poets. However, before we get there, we’re off to the land of the living.

Rewinding back to 1986…

The Flight of a Young Poet

Flapping my wings,

I take flight,

soaring through blue skies

white feathers glowing in the sun.

In the blink of an eye,

I flew through some window

dividing now and then.

 

Somehow,

magically mystically,

I am a young woman again.

You soothe my heartstrings

like a maestro

restoring my battered soul.

I now sing like a skylark,

released from its rusty cage.

 

How did you know me so well,

when we have never met?

Do you know?

…………….

My parents had gone away and I was staying with family friends I’d always admired…a flamboyant, debonair entrepreneur and his incredibly beautiful and equally smart and sophisticated wife. There was talk that he’d given her a full-length fur coat. Of course, for someone getting around in clompy black school shoes and a tartan tunic, this sounded very extravagant, luxurious and there was no thought about how many innocent animals had been slaughtered to enable this gesture of love.

I’d never even been overseas and they were part of the jet set…London, Paris, New York and back to Sydney. Me… I just went to school and it was a thrill to hang out at the station. I guess you could very aptly describe my world as a goldfish bowl. Actually, a gold fish bowl is way too calm because although my world was small, it was a tempest having my heart unceremoniously smashed into smithereens in between studying for those all important end of school exams. That’s right. The ones which make or break the rest of your life.

Anyway, while I was staying there, I was introduced to an incredible book of poetry: The Thoughts of Nanushka by Nan Whitcomb.

This was 1986 when home photocopiers weren’t what they are now and her poetry wasn’t easy to find.  So, I jotted down what poems I could in my school diary and I think it was only once I went to university, that a friend finally gave me my very own volume of her poems. It was like being given a radiant beam of pure gold light. I understand that description might initially appear a bit cryptic but what she gave me was insight into myself, clarity of thought and a way to express and let out something of an inner cyclone. That was far more important to me than gold itself!

I know that I am not the only young person to feel consumed by darkness, crippling self-esteem and a sense that you must be an alien from another planet. There are so many of us out there but we simply haven’t met. Moreover, back then, there wasn’t the same capacity to discover like-minded people around the world via the Internet. You could well be stuck on your “Pat Malone”.

I remember how The Thoughts of Nanushka comforted me:

If you dare

To be different

And you do not

Join the crowd –

If they laugh at your honesty

And taunt you

If you’re proud-

When they talk of you

In whispers

And criticise the things

You say and do-

Do not fear them,

But forgive them-

They are more afraid

Than you-

Nan Whitcomb Thoughts of Nanushka Vol VII Love, Tears and Dreams

I was to find out down the track, that the severity of these storms inside my head, was physical rather than emotional. When I was 25, I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain. My sense of being different and not fitting in or belonging, was more than just a feeling but a fact. I had surgery where a neurosurgeon inserted a shunt into my brain to manage the pressure and give me some kind of equilibrium. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be different or that I’m still not different. However, having a full-blown neurological meltdown ultimately kills you and seeing the horizon bounce up and down when you walk is no picnic.

It’s a totally different, different scenario.

However, when it came to understanding the broken heart, Nanushka understood so well. Instead of simply telling me that there were “more fish in the sea”, she said:

FALLING in love
is a recurring illness –
the heady nights
and dizzy days,
the raging fever
and the pain –
recovery –
slow convalescence
with the uncertainty
of where and when or if
this wondrous sickness
will strike again . . .

 

However, Nanushka wasn’t just about heartbreak. She also rode the wave of passion. That intensity of falling in love and put those feelings into words too. I remember when I was so much younger falling in love with a young surfer and looking out over Sydney’s Whale Beach and seeing the surfers tackle a wave known as The Wedge and this poem travelled straight through me:

We sat on top of the world

watching the mist

roll in from the sea-

and far below,

the surfers floated there

like drowning bees-

I looked across at you

and lost my senses

in your dear blue eyes

and knew those surfers

well could drown –

and so might I –

 Nan Whitcomb Thoughts of Nanushka Vol VII Love, Tears and Dreams.

Perhaps, as you read her poems, you might wonder why you haven’t heard of Nanushka. It’s not that she’s been hiding under a rock. Indeed, this poem was read out at the funeral of INXS frontman, Michael Hutchence:

TO mourn too long
for those we love
is self indulgent –
but to honour their memory
with a promise
to live a little better
for having known them,
gives purpose to their life –
and some reason
for their death . . . . .

Nan Whitcomb Thoughts of Nanushka Vol This Moment is Forever

It can be hard for Australians to get their work out there and not everybody longs to belong to the cult of celebrity. Sell their soul just to fly straight into the candle flame and burn. Integrity and being able to live with your self matter to some of us.

Nan’s philosophy on life is to put her heart and soul into the present, never regret the past, but keep the experience and memories to enrich the future.

Beyond the ugliness

In this world,

Is the incredible beauty

Of love and friendship-

That is where I live-

Nan Whitcomb: The Thoughts of Nanushka Introduction.

 

I was initially going to include Nan Whitcomb in my letters to dead poets. However, an email revealed that she is very much alive. So, I decided to write this on the eve of the challenge instead. Although her poetry would have inspired some of these poets who seemingly slashed their wrists with the pen, I thought I’d keep dead poets with dead poets.

So, on that note, I’m off for one last sleep before heading off to Hades tomorrow.

Have you ever read: The Thoughts of Nanushka? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts and you could reference your favourite as well.

By the way, here is a link to her website: http://users.senet.com.au/~nanushka/index.htm

On that note, I leave with one last gem:

A SOLITARY seagull
rides home
on a shaft of golden sun –
our beautiful day
is melting into dusk –
pink clouds
fade back to sombre grey
and your dear face
is touched with gold –
why should we mourn
the passing of our day
because we know
the night
belongs to us –

Nan Whitcomb Thoughts of Nanushka Vol VII Love, Tears and Dreams

xx Rowena

3 thoughts on “Inspired By A Living Poet.

  1. vanbytheriver

    Amazing verses you shared. I was not familiar with this poet. Brilliant in the mood and simplicity. Lovely. Good luck with the ‘dead ones’. ☺

  2. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much, Van. Her poems are incredible and all have that beautiful simplicity. Shows that poetry doesn’t have to be convoluted and difficult to understand to be amazing!
    Thanks for your wishes with the dead ones. It’s going to quite an undertaking, especially when life doesn’t stop just because you “need” to write! I am more fortunate than most as I am not having to work but the kids can’t just be left to grow up themselves and I don’t want to be an island either. It’s a struggle we all face.

  3. Pingback: Banjo Paterson…Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge. | beyondtheflow

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