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.
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, 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.
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.
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”.
Dr Maya Angelou A reply.
N:Oodganoo Noonuccal: Indigenous Australian Poet
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
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
Rilke: Letters to Young Poets
Rilke Replies: Advice to Modern Poets.
S-Percy Bysshe Shelley
Advice from Percy Byssche Shelley
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.