Category Archives: Blogging From A-Z April Challenge

#AtoZchallenge Reflections…66, 652 Words Wiser.

It’s no wonder I needed an ambulance and a stretcher when I reached the end of the A-Z Challenge. I’d researched and written a staggering 66, 652 words and these weren’t any ordinary words either. They were probing philosophical investigations into the works and lives of over 30 exceptional poets, which were interwoven with my own ups and downs through life’s milestones.

letters-young-poet-rainer-maria-rilke-paperback-cover-art Just to recap, my theme was Letters to Dead Poets. While writing to dead poets does have an air of the macabre, the theme was simply a play on Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet. If an old poet could give advice to a young poet, surely dead poets had something to offer!

Each letter explored philosophical questions such as what it means to be a man, how to deal with adversity and a poet’s heart and somehow survive. Many of these poets didn’t.Naturally, I couldn’t write these letters without addressing the tragic nature of their deaths. Indeed, I wrote this post: Dedication To A Poet Dying Young. Emotionally, this was incredibly difficult and challenging, which stretched well beyond showcasing the poets who’ve inspired me through life’s ups and downs.

It is a reflection of my own tenacity that I could grapple with these contentious issues without going down myself. That my feet are firmly planted on terra firma and my head, heart and soul are in a good place. This isn’t something that happened overnight. I have a poet’s heart and have always been incredibly sensitive and know all too well how to dance with the dark side and succumb to its charms. I have survived brain surgery and live with a life-threatening auto-immune disease. Life is no picnic. I’ve gone up in flames and somehow walked out of the ashes. Well, I was actually carried out unconscious but I’m still here.

Not unsurprisingly, I needing to balance out the heaviness and developed a lively undercurrent with the age-old battle between cats and dogs. There were poets who were famous cat lovers like TS Eliot and Ernest Hemingway and ardent dog lovers including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dorothy Parker, Virginia Woolf and Sir Walter Scott, Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott. My two dogs jumped into the fracas standing up for the “pollicle” dogs (poor little dogs …TS Eliot). They were rather unimpressed that there is no Dogs: The Musical!!

Quite unexpectedly, many roads led to Paris. Paris the city of love, which can inevitably become the city of heartbreak. Although heartbroken in Paris myself back in July 1992, I did a solo poetry reading at Paris’s famed Shakespeare Bookshop , which attracted the likes of Hemingway, Henry Miller and Anais Nin when they were in town.Somehow, a 22 year old backpacking Australian with her self-published anthology Locked Inside An Inner Labyrinth, was following in their enormous footsteps. I have since discovered that young poets were considered “audience”. So, I have no idea how this crazed backpacker from the Antipodes slipped through the cracks and up the rickety red wooden staircase to perform.

Poetry Reading

Poetry Reading, Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, Paris 1992.

So, after going through all of this, it is hardly surprising that I staggering across the finish line barely conscious. Every cell in my body was aching and my brain had liquefied into soupy mush. That’s what happens when you try researching and writing faster than the speed of light. You start to fall apart.

By writing so much, I clearly went way beyond the scope of the challenge, which really is about writing very short, sharp posts under 500 words and becoming something of a blogging slut getting around to as many blogs as possible every day to build new connections and expand your reader base. However, I went the other way. Instead of short and sweet, you could say I did the extended version. However, they cover significant psychological and philosophical issues and aren’t simply a handful of words…a throwaway.

So without further ado, here’s An A-Z of Letters to Dead Poets:

A: AA Milne

B: Banjo Paterson.

Banjo Peterson Replies.

 

C: Lewis Carroll.

Lewis Carroll Replies.

 

D: Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl’s Reply.

 

E: TS Eliot.

TS Eliot Replies.

F:Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken.

Robert Frost A Reply.

G:Kahlil Gibran.

Kahlil Gibran Reply.

H: Ted Hughes.

Ted Hughes Reply.

A Surprise Letter From Ernest Hemingway.

Q & A With Ernest Hemingway.

I- A Letter to Issa- Japanese Haiku Master.

Issa: A Reply.

J-A Letter to Jim Morrison-The Doors

Jim Morrison Replies

K-A Letter to John Keats.

Keats Replies

A Letter from Rudyard Kipling including the poem: “If”

L-A Letter to John Lennon

A Reply From John Lennon.

Lao Tzu: A Poem about The Journey.

M-Dorothea Mackellar: Australian Poet.

Dorothea Mackellar Replies

Mary Stevenson “Footprints”.

A Letter from Mary Stevenson re “Footprints”.

Maya Angelou

Dr Maya Angelou A reply.

N:Oodganoo Noonuccal: Indigenous Australian Poet

O-Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde Replies

P-A Letter to Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker Writes to the Poor Little Dogs.

Dogs Accuse: “Dorothy Parker Is A Fraud!”

Dorothy Parker Defends Dogs’ Accusations

P-Sylvia Plath

Help Me Dorothy Dix: What to Write to Sylvia Plath.

A Letter to Sylvia Plath

Q-Qu Yuan Chinese Poet

A Letter From Qu Yuan: Chinese Wisdom.

R-A Letter to Rumi

Rumi Replies

Rilke: Letters to Young Poets

Rilke Replies: Advice to Modern Poets.

S-Percy Bysshe Shelley

Advice from Percy Byssche Shelley

William Shakespeare

I delayed writing my letter to William Shakespeare by a day to coincide with the 400th Anniversary of his death on 23rd April, 1616. By the way, when Shakespeare woke up, he found his head was missing.

Despite writing some of the most loved and recognised love sonnets of all time, Shakespeare admitted that his track record with love wasn’t a commendation. So, he introduced me to poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.

Shakespeare Time travels 400 Years

Shakespeare on Love 400 Years On.

T-Letters to Rabindranath Tagore

Wisdom of Tagore: Love, Children and Dogs.

U-A Letter to John Updike.

John Updike: On Dogs

V- A Letter To Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf Replies…Letter to A Young Poet

Poetical Dogs Unite…A Letter from Virginia Woolf’s Dog

Elizabeth Barrett’s Love Poem to Her Dog.

W- Letter to William Wordsworth

Wordsworth I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

X-Anon: Unknown Native American Poet.

Y- Letter to William Butler Yeats.

Yeats: Easter 1916.

Yeats: Sailing To Byzantium

Yeats On Life

Z-Xu Zhimo: On Leaving Cambridge Again

ZZZZ: A Letter from Xu Zhimo

We Are Donne: Donne

I hope you’ve enjoyed the A-Z Challenge and are returning to life again after a week’s R & R.

xx Rowena

A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

 

Mothers’ Day Coffee Share.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s Mother’s Day here in Australia. So Happy Mothers’ Day and I hope you’ve all had a great week. To read about our Mother’s Day, here’s Mothers’ Day & The Ghosts of Mothers Past.

Mummy

Cards and flowers from my kids.

If we were having coffee tonight, I’d invite you to join me watching Masterchef Australia. The contestants are doing an invention test using meat and three veg with English Master chef Marco Pierre White. No lamb chops with peas and mashed potato and diced carrot here. Two minutes to go and the tension’s intense. Go! Go! Go! The music’s accelerating as the plating up begins. Oops…under cooked…DISASTER!!!!…30 seconds to go! 10, 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1…Time’s Up!

Masterchef

This is cruel. Watching Masterchef when we’ve had an express meal. It’s Mother’s Day…not Mummy Masterchef Night. Mummy does nothing night! Nothing at all!

The stars just twinkled at me and said, who are you kidding?

By the way, the new Australian season of Masterchef kicked off last Sunday. To celebrate, I chucked all the limp carrots out and wrote this post.

Sunday night is a precursor to Monday and the start of another week. However, at least I’ve had a pajama  day and been able to take it easy. No breakfast in bed but I did receive hand made cards and flowers from the garden from the kids and a tulip from Geoff and bought flowers. I also had a surprise for Geoff. His mother passed away 16 years ago and on Saturday I found some Willow pattern china at the opportunity shop. Geoff’s Mum also collected elephants and I found a Mothers’ Day card with an elephant on it. I don’t also remember my MIL on Mothers’ Day but I did this year.

Geoff as baby slide

Geoff as a baby.

Tonight, I wrote about how we celebrate an Australian Mothers’ Day, while making a tribute to mothers past. More than a history, buff, I did honours in history at university and I am mindful that women haven’t always had choice. That even an education, is a relatively recent leap forward…not only for women but the general population. Indeed, an education is still beyond the reach of much of the world’s population. So, we need to be thankful. Not take what we have for granted.

Newton Family & bilbo

A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007.

I also want to be thankful for my kids, my family and wallow in that today, without looking over my shoulder, which I must say I’m doing less and less now they’re getting older. To be perfectly honest, I am probably better suited to older kids and I am in much better health now too, which certainly lifts my outlook.

Happy Family Golden Book

The Happy Family

This week, both my kids are doing the NAPLAN tests. How do I begin to explain our Australian NAPLAN tests? Parents stare at each other blankly and I’m not even sure that my kids even know what NAPLAN is and they’re about to sit the !@#@# thing. All I know is that while the teachers downplay it and say it tests them more than the kids, I know NAPLAN will definitely be counting towards my daughter’s high school applications, even though high school is 2 years away. At the moment, she’s focused on applying for our local selective high school. Try explaining that to a ten year old who has changed schools this year and is fighting a rare digestive condition, gastroparesis. She might only be 10 years old but this year has been quite stressful. She’s also learning dancing, violin, Baritone Horn and performing in the Scout Gang Show. I haven’t turned her into a performing seal doing grueling hours of tutoring. Will she regret it? Or, can she pull this entire thing off whatever it is? Sometimes, it feels like we’re collectively passing through into some other dimension and it really is full on. Naturally, we need to aim high and not settle without going for it, which like it or not, brings the whole family into the dynamic. It’s hard for a ten year old to see the bigger, longer term picture and not get caught up in the now.

Meanwhile, I’m still recovering from the A-Z Challenge. I’m now in the process of cutting and pasting my posts back into Word and print off the DRAFT. Can’t believe I wrote so much! Thank you very much for those who have checked out my posts. Tomorrow, we all post our survival posts.

I’m so sorry. I just realised that I’ve reached the end of our coffee share and I realised that I forgot to offer you tea or coffee. My apologies. I was so focused on all that Masterchef food that I wasn’t thinking about drinks. I’m a lousy host but I’ll make it up to you with a few Tim Tams. These ones are dark chocolate so the kids haven’t devoured them all.

Hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to catching up!

The Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster.  You can join this week’s Coffee Share on her blog or by clicking on the “Linkup Linky“.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee With Alphabet Stew!

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share.

At last, I feel capable of giving you my full attention, instead of having a head full of alphabet letters corresponding to dead Poets. May 1st… the April A-Z Blogging Challenge is over for another year, although for me “over” is rather semantic. These letters have now been re-classified DRAFT and I will be adding a few more poets, editing and then it’s P for PUBLISH.

By printing these plans in black and white, it’s my way of converting dreams into action and moving things forward. I have been working on the Book Project in various guises for 9 years so I am very excited and relieved to get this far. Don’t know how many words I’ve polished off so far but I finally have a solid manuscript. Phew!

As the challenge drew to a close and the family and dogs were feeling well and truly abandoned, I’ve stepped out of my cave and touched base with the real world.

This week, the kids returned to school. This means I have more time to write uninterrupted during the day although I’m back in Mum’s Taxi so not completely liberated.

Jungle Book

Friday night, we went to see Jungle Book at the movies with the kids’ Scout troop. You might not be aware but the Cub Scouting Movement has very close ties with Jungle Book.  Baden-Powell, who the Scouts Founder, was friends with Rudyard Kipling and asked him for the use of Jungle Book’s history and universe as a motivational frame in cub scouting. In 1917, junior members became known as Wolf Cubs.

Anyway, we all enjoyed the movie. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the 3D version but the scenery was breathtaking. I doubt I’ve ever watched the full movie before so that’s a good sign, if you’re thinking of going. We’re not entirely sure how authentic it was and there were elements reminiscent of other movies. Geoff and I are both feeling we need to re-read the book.

If you’re a Kipling fan, you might enjoy his poem: If

We’ve also had a few family games of Boggle over the weekend. Our son is particularly keen and resilient. When you’re playing with four people, it’s hard to get much of a score and the kids have been lucky to get more than a couple of points. Geoff always doubles my score. Even though our defeat is swift and comprehensive, our fighting spirit has not been quashed.

dog beach zoom

Dog Beach. Photo Rowena Newton

This week, I need to get back into my beach walks with the dogs. No more excuses.

Thank you for joining me. I hope you’ve had a great week and I’m looking forward to finally catching up with you again.

The Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster.  Please click here for the “linky”.

Best wishes,

xx Rowena

PS: I’m now watching a show called Bondi Rescue set with the lifesavers on Bondi Beach. They have a bagpipe player on who is doing a fundraising tour. They just showed the lifeguards trying to play her bagpipes and the sea gulls leaving the beach in droves. The sound was woeful! Also, had the first episode of Masterchef tonight and I blame that for scoffing 2 Tim Tams in quick succession!

 

#AtoZchallenge – We Are Donne.

Phew! We have finally reached the end of the April A-Z Challenge, and in a curious fusion of the contemporary Madden Brothers with 17th Century Baroque poet, John Donne, We Are Donne.

We studied John Donne’s poetry at school and both of these poems are the perfect accompaniment to my Letters To Dead Poets.

Death Be Not Proud –

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Bust of John Donne

Photo: Matthew Black.

Thank you very much to everyone who has accompanied me along this journey. Or, simply popped in now and then. Your company along the road has been much appreciated and it’s been fabulous travelling along this “road not taken” together and to bring our islands together into a connected community…even if our paths never actually cross in “the real world”.

More than kisses, letters mingle souls.
John Donne
Love and Best wishes,
xx Rowena
Family shadow Byron Lighthouse Easter 2014

Our Family 2014- Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia.

 

 

Dedication: To A Poet Dying Young #atozchallenge.

For the past six weeks, I have been writing Letters to Dead Poets for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. This wasn’t a selection of the world’s greatest, most influential poets. Rather, these were the poets who have touched me personally.

Due to the alphabetical nature of the challenge, it meant leaving some poets out and actively seeking out fresh sources of inspiration to fill those usual tricky letters along the road.

However, as I researched my list of poets more thoroughly, it became alarmingly clear that too many of these poets had taken their lives or had succumbed to some tragic accident. Indeed, that too many poets died young.

Throughout the challenge I was haunted by a poem we had studied at school: AE Housman’s: To An Athlete Dying Young. I have posted it here for your consideration and ask that you substitute “athlete” with “poet”.

To An Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay,

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut

Cannot see the record cut,

And silence sounds no worse than cheers

After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,

The fleet foot on the sill of shade,

And hold to the low lintel up

The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,

And find unwithered on its curls

The garland briefer than a girl’s.

A.E. Housman, 1859 – 1936

As a community, we need to look out for one another and reach out with love to the broken bird. Shelter, nurture the vulnerable, helping them to regain their own strength to return to the sky. While we can not offer professional mental health support or advice, I have to believe that love, acceptance and being part of community has to be some kind of help. Well, it’s doing a lot for me!

As poet John Donne wrote:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

Prior to undergoing this challenge, I’d never considered “Poet” a dangerous occupation. However, I am starting to wonder whether Stunt Pilots might have been survival rates.

It certainly reminds me of the need for balance. For taking the time to smell and inhale the roses and not just write about them. That as much as life needs to be lived, we also need to put down our pens, laptops and tools of trade and walk in the great outdoors.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

ZZZZZZZ…The End: A Letter from Xu Zhimo

Dear Rowena,

Every journey reaches an end. Not a dead end but a place of transition, rebirth and a turning inwards before turning outwards again. This is a place of rest, sleep and ZEDs.

You have worked hard. It is now time to recharge your body in the pauses in between words and ideas and listen to the whisperings of your spirit, the tinkle tinkle of the winds blowing through the leaves and the twittering of your colourful lorikeets and hold your family close. Walk along the beach with your dogs and cleanse your being in all that healing sea breeze and just be. You can not be a non-stop human doing without breaking down.

Too many poets fly straight into the candle flame without taking due care. Poets don’t have to die young. Unfortunately, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time but although I had a short life, it bore fruit.

I will leave you here with the wisdom of a man who greatly inspired me, Rabindranath Tagore:

Tagore Portrait

Rabindranath Tagore.

The Wisdom of Tagore:

“Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.”

“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”

“The small wisdom is like water in a glass: clear, transparent, pure. The great wisdom is like the water in the sea: dark, mysterious, impenetrable.”

“Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.”

“I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door – or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.”

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”

“Love is an endless mystery, for it has nothing else to explain it.”

“A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it.”

“I am restless. I am athirst for faraway things. My soul goes out in a longing to touch the skirt of the dim distance. O Great Beyond, O the keen call of thy flute! I forget, I ever forget, that I have no wings to fly, that I am bound in this spot evermore.”

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.”

eagle zoom

Australian Golden Eagle: Photo Geoff Newton. Tasmania 2005.

Take care of your dreams. Sleep on them but don’t leave them under your pillow. Let their wings grow and carry you up to the stars.Yet, never lose touch with the Earth. You don’t want your dreams to burn.

Now, it is time for you to go.

Good bye and Goodnight.

Yours,

Xu Zhimo

Y- Yeats On Life…Letters To Dead Poets

For the last six weeks, I’ve been working on a series of Letters to Dead Poets, which have been inspired by my own experiences of reading these poems, being inspired by the poets as well as the happenings in my own life.  I’ve re-read poems, discovered new poets, as my footsteps have forged ahead through virgin soil. Yet, there has also been this other force, which writers through the ages have called “the muse”. Yet, who or what is it really? Could it be the spirits of poets past posting ideas into my head like letters into a mail box? Is it my subconscious mind or even God?

Irish poet William Butler Yeats had a strong belief in the supernatural, which is reflected in his response.

 …………….

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

Dear Rowena,

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”
― W.B. Yeats

At last, I finally received your letter. I’ve repeatedly tried reaching you throughout the last month, watching as you’ve plucked out but a select few of my colleagues to receive your letters. It’s been an agonising wait, not knowing whether I would be chosen. Thank you. Your letter means the world to me. I am most honoured…and relieved!

By the way, if I ever come back on a more permanent basis, I’m going to change my name to Aardvark. I spent most of my life waiting, waiting…A,B, C,L,M,Q…! Even after death, it’s taken an eternity to get to “Y”!

Getting back to your letter, my dear, you asked so many questions. Too many, for me to respond to each one individually and give each their due. Besides, I am but a poet and “what can be explained is not poetry”.

yeats1.jpg

However, before I offer a few over-arching observations, please know that “I have believed the best of every man. And find that to believe is enough to make a bad man show him at his best, or even a good man swings his lantern higher.”

Yeats By Rohan Gillespie Stephen St Sligo

Wisdom – WB Yeats:

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”

“People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.”

“This melancholy London – I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air.”

“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth, We are happy when we are growing.”

“You know what the Englishman’s idea of compromise is? He says, Some people say there is a God. Some people say there is no God. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two statements.”

“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”

“Why should we honour those that die upon the field of battle? A man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself.”

“Every conquering temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.”

“All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions.”

“We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.”

Knowing how you’re a romantic at heart, here are a few thoughts about love:

 “Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that’s lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O Never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.”
― W.B. Yeats, In the Seven Woods: Being Poems Chiefly of the Irish Heroic Age

“WINE comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and sigh.”
― W.B. Yeats

Of course, being an Irishman, love is also touched by tragedy…

 “A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him up for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.”
― W.B. Yeats

By the way, the questions haven’t stopped since I reach Byzantium. Indeed, my journey has barely begun. Eternity awaits!

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”

Yours,

WB Yeats