Tag Archives: Keats

#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

 

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

S-Shelley: Advice from A Dead Poet #atozchallenge

“Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number-
Shake your chains to earth like
dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many-they are few.”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Masque of Anarchy: Written on Occasion of the Massacre at Manchester

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your letter. As much as I love my dear friend Lord Byron, I was rather touched than you wrote to me and he hasn’t received a letter. Of course, he is a shadow of his former self, but it is a good lesson. Always everybody’s darling, he could well become bearable again.

“I was never the Eve of any Paradise, but a human creature blessed by an elemental spirit’s company & love – an angel who imprisoned in flesh could not adapt himself to his clay shrine & so has flown and left it.”

Mary Shelley.

I must confess that I am quite stunned that I became so much larger in death, than life. Having experienced limited success and having my hopes dashed, I never anticipated such praise. Had I known I would be so loved, perhaps I might have been more careful in the storm. Considered Mary and my future, instead of trying to save my little boat. I did love her so, even though took me to my grave.

Shelleys Tombstone

As a traveller, I thought you’d appreciate my sonnet Ozymandias. I wrote it during a friendly competition with my friend Horace Smith, a banker and political writer.

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Perccy Bysshe Shelley

Might I also encourage you as you continue your quest, pursuing those age-old questions which have so enflamed a poet’s soul. Even when you feel rocked and shaken by your ignorance and feel you can not put the pen to page, persevere. Walk that extra mile or two and satisfy those doubts. Those who know least, rest in the comfort of their vast knowledge.

“The more we study, the more we discover our ignorance”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

I understand how you are needing solitude to write, withdrawing to your cave so you can shut all senses down to focus on the page. Yet, I also know that the world outside gives us life. Fuels our imaginations and our dreams so we can fully appreciate and feel love, laughter, joy and pain. Merge with the clouds as they move across a moonlit sky and fly with the birds through the leaves towards the sun. To fall and know your loved ones pick you up and that you will not live or die alone, are just as important as those sacred words you strive to write… if not more!

So, I am pleased to hear that you and you’ve husband made it out to dinner last night.

“The sunlight claps the earth, and the moonbeams kiss the sea: what are all these kissings worth, if thou kiss not me?”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ours is not a balanced life and yet we have to strive. Go down the narrow path too long and you might find there’s no return. You’ve been consumed by the poet’s flame. No matter what you write, death is far too high a price to pay.

Anyway, I’m being whisked away by someone saying, it’s his big day.

Yours,

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Shelley

PS: Knowing how you love a strange and macabre tale, I thought you’d be interested to read what happened to my remains. I could not have written such a bizarre plot myself, although evidently my Mary played quite a part. You might recall that she wrote: Frankenstein.

When my body was washed up upon the shore, a copy of Keats’ poetry was discovered in my pocket – doubled back. Naturally, it was comforting to know my friend was with me at the end. My body was cremated on the beach near Viareggio by Lord Byron and the English adventurer Edward John Trelawny and my ashes were interred in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, near my good friend, John Keats.

Hold your horses! Before you start nodding off and telling me that wasn’t much of a story at all, we haven’t quite come to the end.

Whether you call it an act of God or some strange twist of fate, my heart didn’t burn and Trelawny, bless his soul, heroically snatched it out of the flames and gave it to my wife. I have no preconceived ideas about what a wife is supposed to do with her dead husband’s heart. However, when Mary died, my heart was found in her desk, wrapped up in the manuscript of “Adonais,” my elegy for Keats. In 1889, it was encased in silver and finally buried with our surviving son, Sir Percy Florence Shelley,but his gravestone in the Protestant Cemetery is inscribed: Cor cordium (“heart of hearts”), followed by a quotation from Shakespeare’s The Tempest:

Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea change,
Into something rich and strange.

Source & Further Reading

Richard Holmes http://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/jan/24/featuresreviews.guardianreview1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_Cemetery,_Rome

 

Diving Deep into Dead Poet Creek #atozchallenge.

My brain’s been absolutely scrambled what with swimming through Dead Poet Creek…a thick molasses of words, thoughts and characters. Even when I turned to Roald Dahl for some light entertainment through his Revolting Rhymes, the dark side caught up, dragging me down by the toe.

I never really set out on this journey searching for meaning or anything profound. The muse just popped the idea in my head like a postcard and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I was right and revisiting these dead poets is exhilarating yet also deeply challenging. While I thought I knew about poetry and poets, I’ve actually found out I was ignorant. That you can’t just read a couple of poems, relate and feel you know someone. People are much more complex.

The letter I received yesterday from Rudyard Kipling, has thrown me a bit. Not only does it emphasise that I haven’t found an equivalent “girl” poem for my daughter but it’s thrown me into a quandary about his son.  After all, he sent me his poem If, which follows on from Hemingway’s poem: Advice To A Son.

How do you choose suitable role models for your kids? Just because the words sound good, is that enough? Or, do they need to walk the talk instead? Live what they say?

I believe so but we’re all human. None of us have got it right! Then again, some crimes are considered “unforgivable”.

This means I’m still no closer to working out what it means to be a man. Or, what it means to be a woman either.

Perhaps, I should’ve just stuck with 10 finger arithmetic and then I’d know all the answers. However, that wouldn’t be any fun!

As I’ve mentioned before, writing these Letters to Dead Poets hasn’t only been about asking the poets the questions I’d like to have answered. As much as I’ve felt totally transformed fully immersing myself in their words, ideas and splendor, the poets are also challenging me through their lives.

Why did Hemingway take his life? How did Jim Morrison end up dead in a bathtub in Paris at 27? Why did Keats die at 25 when so many lesser men live long but comparatively useless lives? How could Roald Dahl write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, his greatest work when he was experiencing such intense, unbearable personal anguish and grief?  Does suffering really make the poet, the writer? Without it, would we simply just be: “normal”?

With all these questions, running round and round inside my head and words blowing around like Autumn leaves, I am left wondering, wandering while trying to bake cupcakes with my daughter. The kids are home on school holidays!!

As I said, yesterday I received a not-unexpected letter from Rudyard Kipling. I was pleased to hear from him because under the constraints of this blogging challenge, I’m trying to stick to  writing to one poet per letter. Choosing between Keats and Kipling wasn’t easy but for me, there was never any doubt.

Anyway, Kipling sent me a few poems for my kids, especially my son. He’s now 12 years old, recently started high school and is steadily becoming a man. As much as he’s always been growing steadily upwards and learning new things, puberty is something of a metamorphosis where the child goes into a cocoon and emerges an adult. In so many ways, it’s like being forged inside a furnace. As the parent, I suspect that I’ll also end up in the flames and will no doubt emerge frazzled and somehow transformed.

One of the poems Kipling sent me was about his son Jack, who died in World War I. While there is incredible honour and sacrifice in dying for your country, I was intrigued to read that John Kipling had actually been declared medically unfit to serve and his father had pulled strings to get him in. Like his father, Jack was severely short-sighted. Kipling, I discovered, was 200% behind the war effort and fighting for King and country and was writing propaganda. This not does sit well with me and I find it all so difficult to understand. Wasn’t he sending his son to war just like sending  a lamb to the slaughter house? Or, was his son that willing to die? He didn’t value his life and was more than willing to be that sacrifice? Or, was that what it meant to be a man? Noble sacrifice?

How much should we as individuals be prepared to sacrifice for our country?

Should we be taking our freedom for granted? Or, should we be prepared to fight to the death in its defense? Do we adequately appreciate what it means to spread our wings and soar through the sky without being shot down or locked up in a cage? Somehow, I was lucky enough to be born in Australia. Although I can struggle with our geographic isolation, being out of the thick of things has also had its strengths…especially in the past.

I’ve never really had to defend a thing aside from the TV. My brother and I fought some pretty fierce battles over who controlled the box but that was about it.

So, I obviously have no idea what it means to lose your freedom, be silenced or what it’s like to live through a war. It’s so easy for me to take that freedom for granted. Forget that’s not a universal thing and that the free need to help liberate the enslaved.

So, I’m in no position to question Kipling about his actions and choices. I’ve never walked in his shoes. Instead, I think I’ll send him a poem I wrote to my son at the end of his first year at school.

Today, I am writing a letter to John Lennon. I am seriously struggling with this. What do you say to one of the greatest, most inspirational men who ever lived about the moment of his death when a crazed gunman shot him in the heart and robbed him of his life? Even though Lennon was a man of peace, wouldn’t he be angry about what happened? Or, has he found the power to forgive? You hear of people forgiving the unforgivable and that forgiveness is enlightened self-interest. That anger and revenge are  poisons consuming you body and soul from the inside out. Yet, I know I’d be mad. It’s one thing for someone to steal your car or break into your house but to take away your life and take you away from everyone you love? How do you live, or even die, with that? What stops you from haunting that bastard forever. Making their excuse for a life a living hell?

However, even in death, revenge could consume you. Rob your peace.

I have also wondered what, if anything, John Lennon would say to Hemingway?

Isn’t it a bit freaky that Hemingway shoots himself and Lennon gets shot? The man who shot Lennon is still behind bars and yet Hemingway escaped justice.

It’s a strange world once you lift up the hood. Indeed, perhaps, I should have left things alone.

I’m starting to think that too many questions can be bad for your health.

Do you have any answers or reflections on this mess? It seems to me, that asking more and more questions, only digs a deeper hole!

Best wishes,

Rowena

14th April, 2016.

K:Keats Replies #atozchallenge

Dear Rowena,

A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.

John Keats

So lovely to receive your letter. It’s been such a long time since I’ve heard from the land of the living. However, our Royal Society of Dead Poets recently accepted a new member…a  David Bowie. Although he says he’s a musician, we’ve had to relax our criterion.There aren’t so many poets anymore. Keep calling themselves “song writers”.

While you haven’t exactly heard of our Royal Society of Dead Poets, you and other living poets have been popping in and eavesdropping on our meetings. That force you call “the muse” is actually all our whisperings and wonderings.

“The poetry of the earth is never dead.”

John Keats

Anyway, we’ve all been talking about these letters you’re writing and I’m so honoured to be chosen. Kipling is feeling mortally wounded and is vowing to write to you himself. Says he has a poem for your son and to stay away from that Hemingway. The man had too many cats.I don’t know what that all means. I haven’t had much to do with Hemingway. He’s always out fishing and Shelley doesn’t want to drown again.

I am also trying to find a poem for your daughter. Trust me, I’m keeping an close eye on that Dorothy Parker. Anyone who thinks fish ride bicycles, has overcooked their imagination. There’s also a Sylvia Plath. I’m not too sure about her either. I’ll have to keep looking. I have heard of a Maya Angelou and but you’ve already been through A but you still have M ahead.

By the way, I’ve been taking a course in contemporary writing. It’s so cool, man!

Warm regards,

John Keats

K- John Keats: Letter to Dead Poets.

Dear Keats,

We first met many, many years ago, when I was Sweet 16 and still at school. Although I’ve now matured, I haven’t forgotten that cyclonic vortex called: “growing up” and how you helped me through.

While I attended an all girls’ school, there were these beings we met up with at the station in the afternoons called “boys”, who’d also been condemned to spending adolescence in a single-sex school. Not unsurprisingly, there was an absolute explosion of hormones every afternoon as soon as the school gates flung open.

Since you’re not up to date with contemporary movie stars and heart throbs, I won’t mention any names but there was one particular “Adonais” who roamed the North Shore Line. Of course, whenever word got out that he was on the train, you’d be amazed how the girls flocked from all directions. The other boys were left for dead. Well, not exactly. Most of us were nowhere near his league and knew it. We stayed put.

You and I first met during this rollercoaster of love and pain, which was mingled with the angst of school exams and my future hanging in balance. In retrospect, these troubles were trifles. However, at the time each surging wave of emotion smacked me straight in the face, pulling me under before chucking me up on the beach in a bedraggled heap. Of course, I didn’t find any of these tortures “character building”. If I’d heard these words from Rumi, I definitely would have scoffed:

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”

-Rumi

Instead, you spoke straight into my melodramatic and broken heart:

          Now more than ever seems it rich to die,

         To cease upon the midnight with no pain,

          While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad

          In such an ecstasy!

 John Keats: Ode To A Nightingale.

Indeed, I knew beyond a doubt that you’d written: Ode To Melancholy just for me:

 Ay, in the very temple of Delight

Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,

Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue

Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;

His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,

And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

I think I thank you for giving me these words, although a kick up the rear and a bit of perspective was what I probably needed. Destroying your whole life over someone you’ve only known a few weeks, has to be ridiculous. After all, mathematically speaking, it simply doesn’t add up. This boy had been but a infiniessimal speck of my life to date and certainly not worth throwing my future away. However, a young head filled with hormones can’t think. Indeed, you’re sort of drugged!

Moreover, as annoying as it was to be told: “there are plenty more fish in the sea”, the truth is that the numbers were actually well in my favour. I only needed to catch one fish and while stocks looked questionable, there were enough…plenty even! Indeed, it was more a matter of catching the right fish. Not being fussy…only discerning!

It makes me shudder to think my kids are about to navigate their way through all of this madness and I hope they do a better job. As much as we can provide them with a map, compass, torch, a bottle of water and even sunscreen, that’s not enough. To be honest, I don’t know what it takes. After multiple collisions and breakdowns along the way, I simply turned up at a party and there he was. There were even fireworks. It was New Year’s Eve 1998 and we were watching the fireworks explode over Sydney Harbour. Such incredible beauty, which I was trying to photograph for eternity.

Even when I squint, I can’t even imagine what Sydney looked like in your day. Indeed, the planet was such a different place and yet so much remains the same.

Sorry, in all this excitement, I almost forgot to tell you that you’ve actually become one of the most read and loved English poets of all time. This may come as quite a surprise. Only 200 volumes of your work had been sold before your death. Indeed, in February 1820,  you lamented to Fanny Brawne:

“I have left no immortal work behind me – nothing to make my friends proud of my memory – but I have lov’d the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remember’d.”

John Keats letter

I’m so sorry that you didn’t live to experience your success. I wonder if that makes the anguish of your early death even more acute? Or, is it longing for the arms of your beloved, especially as you languished in Rome, that hurts you most? It doesn’t seem fair that one who had such vision, was claimed by death so soon!

This is no doubt my greatest folly…trying to find reason in between the lines of this nonsensical play. Why did death snatch you away in your prime? Why couldn’t it take someone else? After all, there’s so much evil in the world and those who waste away their time. Can’t wait til 5 O’clock. Then, there was you writing such inspirational verse, reaching to the deepest depths of human understanding and YOU were snatched away! It makes no sense!

Not that I mean to be nasty and I’m not the first to ask why the good die young. Indeed, is it so unnatural that I would ask:

 “Please, sir, I want some more.”
― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

I don’t think so. Not at all. I am not the first to utter this lament. Indeed, your friend Shelley wrote a moving tribute and when he drowned in a shipwreck in Italy, he actually had  your poems in his pocket:

Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I weep for Adonais—he is dead!

Oh, weep for Adonais! though our tears

Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!

And thou, sad Hour, selected from all years

To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers,

And teach them thine own sorrow, say: “With me

Died Adonais; till the Future dares

Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be

An echo and a light unto eternity!” …Verse 1.

Later, Oscar Wilde wrote:

THE GRAVE OF KEATS

Rid of the world’s injustice, and his pain,
He rests at last beneath God’s veil of blue:
Taken from life when life and love were new
The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
Fair as Sebastian, and as early slain.
No cypress shades his grave, no funeral yew,
But gentle violets weeping with the dew
Weave on his bones an ever-blossoming chain.
O proudest heart that broke for misery!
O sweetest lips since those of Mitylene!
O poet-painter of our English Land!
Thy name was writ in water—it shall stand:
And tears like mine will keep thy memory green,
As Isabella did her Basil-tree.

Rome.

Oscar Wilde

Keats Grave

However, as much as I lament your languishing suffering and premature death, would Keats have been Keats if you hadn’t contracted tuberculosis? If you’d simply married your one true love and live happily ever after? I doubt it, although perhaps I’ve just walked straight into another conundrum.

On that note, I’ll emulate a certain white rabbit muttering: “I’m late” and disappear down a rabbit hole without a trace.

It’s been so absolutely wonderful to finally speak with you and reflect on what you’ve meant to me and no doubt millions around the world.

A bright star, you’ve definitely left your mark!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Flowers: When You Can’t Grow Your Own……

Hope you’re enjoying your virtual experience of the Royal Sydney Easter Show. So far, we’ve boarded the rollercoaster, battled it out on the dodgems, toured the dog pavillion where we checked out the Best in Show and went on to see a sheep dog round up some sheep. How we’ve managed to jam so much into one day, I don’t know but it isn’t over yet.
Now, we’re off to the flowers. They were absolutely stunning and I can assure you that nothing like this is growing in our desiccated garden.
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What an incredible orchid just begging to be photographed!

“Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.”

Gerard De Nerval

 

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What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet (2.2.45-7)

 

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 “If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?”

Khalil Gibran
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“But when the melancholy fit shall fall

Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,

That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,

And hides the green hill in an April shroud;

Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,

 Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,

Or on the wealth of globed peonies;

Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,

Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,

And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.”

John Keats: Ode To Melancholy

 

“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.”
John Lennon
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“The fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure.”
D. H. Lawrence

“By plucking her petals, you do not gather the beauty of the flower.”
Rabindranath Tagore
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“When I walk with you I feel as if I had a flower in my buttonhole.”
William Makepeace Thackeray
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“The artist is the confidant of nature, flowers carry on dialogues with him through the graceful bending of their stems and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms. Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him.”
Auguste Rodin
So, I hope you enjoyed our journey through the Flower Exhibit at the show. It really was beautiful!
xx  Rowena

Theme Reveal: Blogging A-Z April Challenge

Once,

April was so far away

like a distant star in remote galaxy.

But time has flown

faster than an eagle

and now the theme reveal

was yesterday!

While I’m still beavering away on other projects, April has snuck up behind me like a thief in a dark alley and grabbed me by the throat.

“What is your theme?” It asks in its menacing, threatening tone.

“But it’s not April yet,” I reply.

“What is your theme?”It repeats, more forcefully. There is no way out.

Feeling like a kid bluffing their way through a half-concocted assignment, I’m trying to request an extension but time waits for no one…especially dithering writers who are trying to rise above their station with seemingly clever theme ideas which don’t quite come off.

I mean, let’s be honest here. Who really has a bone fide, stimulating and equally riveting subject for each and every letter of the alphabet? You can’t all tell me that you have something riveting planned for x and z and that you don’t have at least one “forced” or dreary consolation “prize” just so you can conform to the rules and deliver!

Inspired by the iconic movie Dead Poet’s Society and Rilke’s Letters to Young Poet, my theme is:

Letters to Dead Poets.

Although to be fair, I couldn’t leave out two brilliant Australian poet’s and philosophers who are very much alive…Michael Leunig and Nan Whitcomb. Moreover, just to be difficult, I also added in an artist who I believe very much had the soul of a poet…Vincent Van Gogh. So, you could say that I’m cheating or that my theme should really read:

Letters to Dead Poets With Exceptions.

I have also chosen a bit of flexibility when it comes to fitting these characters into the alphabet.

You see, strictly adhering to the rules has never been my thing. My criterion for these poets, rather, is that they have had a significant impact on my life at some point, helping to make me the person I am today. That they have spoken to me. Not just in a cerebral sense but deep inside, like a watchmaker breathing life into those secret inner parts and making me tick or at least keep ticking often during some very challenging times when it was tempting to give up. These poets were my personal friends, mentors, motivators and life savers. As such, they were too good to be kept to myself. They had to be shared.

At this point, the project is still rather fluid. I don’t want to fence it in. Rather, I want to see where it takes us because it really could take us somewhere very exciting. After all, when you immerse yourself in the words and ideas of some of the greatest poets and thinkers of all time, you have to emerge changed in some way. It’s a must.

So, I ask you to join me on this unchartered, experimental journey back through the poets who helped make a poet…just like grain upon grain of sand being deposited on a river bed, their words and ideas have accumulated, been inhaled through my eyes and planted somewhere deep in my soul, sprouting leaves and roots which have grown up into my own voice.

I still don’t know how it’s all going to work out but please come a along for the journey!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

The DNA of Happiness

As I explained before, I am slowly making my way through the Proust Questionnaire, a tool commonly used by writers for character development. It’s become my goal to work my way through this list a question at a time, preparing for a motivational memoir that I’m working on.

While some of the questions don’t require a huge amount of thought, the first question is a really, thought-provoking challenge:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Now, perhaps, I could’ve simply taken this question at face value and just jotted a few things down.

However, why get straight to the point when you can procrastinate and turn a simple question into a journey?

So, I’ve taken this opportunity to explore the DNA of Happiness.

What actually makes us happy and when you think about being happy, what sort of images come to mind?

Not the “I’ll be happy when…” but the real stuff. What has brought you the greatest, personal happiness?

Or, to put it another way, “What have been the happiest days of your life?”

I wonder if they look anything like mine?

Our Wedding Day....The Happiest Day of My Life. I smiled so much, my face hurt!

Our Wedding Day….The Happiest Day of My Life. I smiled so much, my face hurt!

“Happiness is a vine that takes root and grows within the heart, never outside it.”

― Kahlil Gibran

I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.
Martha Washington

The Arrival of Our Little Man...I couldn't take my eyes off him!

The Arrival of Our Little Man…I couldn’t take my eyes off him!

What does it mean to be happy?”
One kid declared:”If I have a million dollars in the bank, I’ll be happy.” Another announced:”If I’m number one in my chosen profession, I’ll be happy. But I won’t settle for number two.”
The discussion continued with comments in a similar vein. All agreed that money, success, and achievement would make them happy. Not one of these seventeen and eighteen year old kids talked about love, children, relationships, marriage, community or friends. Which made me wonder: When your resume is perfect, how does your soul feel? …If we can buy big houses and powerful cars, we may be able to achieve the illusion of security, but it is still just an illusion. If we do well at school or work, we may get a sense of accomplishment but there will always be a something more to accomplish- happiness will always be around the corner.
Real security only comes when we are comfortable with who we are (and the feeling is enhanced when we are in a relationship where there is mutual love and understanding. Real happiness is a by-product of a life well lived.

Letters to Sam– Daniel Gottlieb

Bringing Miss home from hospital.

Bringing Miss home from hospital.

True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Celebrating my Second Birthday with Teddy (my parents don't like to appear on my blog).

Celebrating my Second Birthday with Teddy (my parents don’t like to appear on my blog).

Giving to other people is what makes me feel alive. Not my car or my house. Not what I look like in the mirror. When I give my time, when I can make someone smile after they were feeling sad, it’s as close to healthy as I ever feel.”

Morrie…Tuesday’s With Morrie, Mitch Albom.

Graduation from the University of Sydney in 1992.

Graduation from the University of Sydney in 1992.

Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it- then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult, no longer matters.”
M.Scott Peck: The Road Less Travelled.

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

-Aeschylus (Quoted by Robert F. Kennedy in his Eulogy to Martin Lurther King.4th April, 1968.)

Overseas Travel. Pictured here in Florence, Italy.

Overseas Travel. Pictured here in Florence, Italy.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.”
“On Joy and Sorrow” Kahlil Gibran

Performing My Poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop, Paris 1992.

Performing My Poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop, Paris 1992.

Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
John Keats: “Ode to Melancholy”.

What with all this pondering about happiness and also its inter-relationship with sorrow, I thought I’d better start reading what seemed a pretty good authority on the nature of happiness…”The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C Cutler. Although I am only up to page 75, this book really is well worth reading.

The Dalai Lama basically states that: “The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness.” This happiness can be achieved through training the mind. Underlying all the Dalai Lama’s methods, there is a set of basic beliefs that act as a substrate for all his actions: a belief in the fundamental gentleness and goodness of all human beings, a belief in the value of compassion, a belief in the policy of kindness, and a sense of commonality among all living creatures.”

In terms of how to train the mind, the Dalai Lama says:
“When we speak of this inner discipline, it can of course involve many things, many methods. But generally speaking, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this,one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness.”

Christmas brings a lot of happiness....and also heartache.

Christmas brings a lot of happiness….and also heartache.

Yet, despite getting all philosophical, perhaps happiness really is as simple as this:

“Happiness is a warm puppy”- Charles Schultz.

Bilbo as a pup.

Bilbo as a pup.

I’m sure Bilbo would agree!

xx Rowena

PS I should mention that while I’ve been researching happiness, I’ve come down with serious bronchitis. Today, I was back to the doctor and given a powerful combination of two antibiotics and am on the nebuliser every 2 days during the day. If this doesn’t work, I’m off to hospital tomorrow afternoon. Although my health isn’t great, I am happy and content.

Why is this so?

Perhaps, because my ongoing health battles have made me quite conscious of seizing the day and what matters. For me, that’s my family, my writing, being part of community, my faith, getting out with the dogs and walking along the beach in the sun, photography, playing my violin. I am living my life to the very fullest. Things could be better. Could be worse but I’ve worked through all that and really do have a strong sense of hope that I am going to keep winning this ongoing battle.

-+

Romeo! Romeo! The Quest for Love & Reflections on The Rose.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

In case you’ve just joined me, I am participating in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.  where we write about a different letter of the alphabet every day, except Sunday.Today, we’re up to the letter R and starting approach the downward run. Although I don’t really have a set theme as such, I’m loosely writing about my favourite things.So for R, I will be taking you on a journey through the rose poems, which I found on this roller coaster journey of love, rejection, joy and angst.

Like most of us,  my very first rose poem was chanted in childhood and written in autograph books:

Roses are red,

violets are blue

sugar is sweet

and so are you!

The very nature of the rose perfectly reflects love’s passion and its heartache…its Jekyll and Hyde. A budding red rose symbolises new love with it’s incredible passionate intensity and it’s elegant, fragrant petals. Yet, just as love isn’t pure pleasure, neither is the rose. Every rose has it’s painfully sharp thorns…representing love’s heartache.

“The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose.”

― Kahlil Gibran

Roses, violin serenades...such is love!

Roses, violin serenades…such is love! Photo: Rowena.

Before I met my husband, I was on a determined mission to find Mr Right. This intense and challenging roller coaster ride was reflected in the greatest symbol of love…the rose. Whether I was basking in love’s giddy heights or more than likely,  sinking into its unending depths, there was a rose poem for every occasion. In the true spirit of a poetry-writing, angst-ridden youth in the days before you could just  summon Google, I transcribed these poems into an exercise book and absorbed them over and over again through osmosis. There is nothing like an angst-ridden poem to provide catharsis for the soul.

The Rose,

The Rose, “Little Prince”, St Exupery.

When love was going well, there was Robbie Burns:

My Love is Like A Red, Red Rose

Robert Burns

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only Luve
And fare thee well, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

Salvidor Dali,

Salvidor Dali, “Meditative Rose”, 1958.

In more recent times, I have discovered Rumi:

With the Beloved’s water of life, no illness remains
In the Beloved’s rose garden of union, no thorn remains.
They say there is a window from one heart to another
How can there be a window where no wall remains?

Rumi From Thief of Sleep translated by Shahram Shiva

The Little Prince watering his rose.

The Little Prince watering his rose.“The thorns– what use are they?”

Like anyone who has experienced love’s sting, St Exupery’s Little Prince also wondered why roses have thorns:

“The little prince never let go of a question, once he had asked it. As for me, I was upset over that bolt. And I answered with the first thing that came into my head:

“The thorns are of no use at all. Flowers have thorns just for spite!”

Antoine de St Exupery: The Little Prince.

When love went wrong, I turned to William Blake’s scathing attack in The Sick Rose and John Keats Ode to Melancholy:

The Sick Rose

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

By William Blake

POrtrait of poet John Keat by Severn, 1819.

Portrait of poet John Keat by Severn, 1819

Ode on Melancholy (an excerpt)

John Keats

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
       Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
       And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
       Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
               Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
       Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
               And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
While the red rose first comes to mind, then there is the yellow rose, symbolising jealousy.
I photographed this gorgeous yellow rose, the symbol for jealousy, at the home of artist Hans Heysen, The Cedars, Hahndorf, South Australia. Both Hans and his daughter Nora created incredible rose portraits.

I photographed this gorgeous yellow rose, the symbol for jealousy, at the home of artist Hans Heysen, The Cedars, Hahndorf, South Australia. Both Hans and his daughter Nora created incredible rose portraits.Photo: Rowena

My Pretty Rose Tree

William Blake

A flower was offered to me,
Such a flower as May never bore;
But I said ‘I’ve a pretty rose tree,’
And I passed the sweet flower o’er.

Then I went to my pretty rose tree,
To tend her by day and by night;
But my rose turned away with jealousy,
And her thorns were my only delight.

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker

When I wanted to appreciate the humour is love, there was Dorothy Parker’s: One Perfect Rose:

One Perfect Rose

A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet –
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
‘My fragile leaves,’ it said, ‘his heart enclose.’
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.

Dorothy Parker

Then, alas, there is the death of the rose, as expressed by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

A Dead Rose

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

O Rose! who dares to name thee?
No longer roseate now, nor soft, nor sweet;
But pale, and hard, and dry, as stubble-wheat,—
Kept seven years in a drawer—thy titles shame thee.

The breeze that used to blow thee
Between the hedgerow thorns, and take away
An odour up the lane to last all day,—
If breathing now,—unsweetened would forego thee.

The sun that used to smite thee,
And mix his glory in thy gorgeous urn,
Till beam appeared to bloom, and flower to burn,—
If shining now,—with not a hue would light thee.

The dew that used to wet thee,
And, white first, grow incarnadined, because
It lay upon thee where the crimson was,—
If dropping now,—would darken where it met thee.

The fly that lit upon thee,
To stretch the tendrils of its tiny feet,
Along thy leaf’s pure edges, after heat,—
If lighting now,—would coldly overrun thee.

The bee that once did suck thee,
And build thy perfumed ambers up his hive,
And swoon in thee for joy, till scarce alive,—
If passing now,—would blindly overlook thee.

The heart doth recognise thee,
Alone, alone! The heart doth smell thee sweet,
Doth view thee fair, doth judge thee most complete,—
Though seeing now those changes that disguise thee.

Yes, and the heart doth owe thee
More love, dead rose! than to such roses bold
As Julia wears at dances, smiling cold!—
Lie still upon this heart—which breaks below thee!

“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared. You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. Well, we are the rose – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals.”

-Tupac Shakur

Unforgettable: Bette Midler: The Rose.

Unforgettable: Bette Midler: The Rose.

However, as much as I love my poetry, who can go passed one of the most loved songs of our time: The Rose:. Once I’d finally found my Romeo, a friend of ours gave a beautiful rendition at our wedding. Here’s the Bette Midler & Ms Judd: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5q0KmjU0Qk

Do you know any good rose poems to contribute?

How are you going with the Blogging A-Z April challenge? I’ve been trying to read as many other blogs as I can but it’s all getting challenging. I planning to do some catch up after the challenge is over and the writing load has hopefully cut back.

xx Rowena