Tag Archives: poem

Writing Memoir…Paris Encore!

A few days ago, I started getting stuck back into writing a memoir about my time as an Australian in Paris in the Summer of ’92.  I spent 6 weeks in Paris during a rogue backpacking trip after graduating from university.

The memoir revolves around a solo poetry reading I gave at the Shakespeare & Company Bookshop and spins out from there. It was a time of particularly deep thought and soul searching, not only for me but also most of the recent graduates we met. I’ll add that that there was also falling in love, being dumped and all the usual things that come with scraping up the entrails of your heart off the tarmac after taking a direct hit.

Poetry Reading

Poetry Reading Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, Paris.

At the moment, I’m only at the early planning and dare I say research stage, although I’ve handwritten a few pages a day of actual text. (I usually find handwriting my work helps gets me into the flow).

I had been making great progress on “Paris” about a year ago, until a hail storm peppered holes through the office roof and brutally destroyed my flow. The entire office had to be evacuated and the mess wasn’t pretty.

Anyway, at the moment I’m seriously trying to immerse myself back into my Paris. Kick start all those near-dead neurons and getting the party started.

Unfortunately, I’ve hit a frustrating hitch. I can’t remember the name of the cafe we used to hang out and it is rather central to the plot. So, yesterday I started hitting the problem with every tool at my disposal…from the sledgehammer through to the magnifying glass, but I’m still not convinced that I’ve found it.

Finding the cafe isn’t only hampered by a lot of water under the bridge. I also have no sense of direction and struggle to find my feet, let alone retrace my steps from 24 years ago. Indeed, after all my meanderings yesterday, I was lucky to make it out of the labyrinth alive and am pleased to report that the Minotaur didn’t get me either.

My first step was to dig out my Paris photos for clues.

Immediately, I hit another hitch. The album was missing. I was pretty sure it was readily accessible but with so many photo albums, books, book cases, nooks and crannies, it was looking like mission impossible.  Don’t you hate it when this happens!! As if the frustration isn’t bad enough, there’s also that self-righteous voice in your head saying you should be more organised. Declutter! (That’s where a fly swat comes in handy. Whack! That should do the job!)

Humph!

I try to wing it online and try various Google searches.

Nothing!

Nothing!

Nothing!

Finally, I find the photo album but there’s only one shot of us sitting outside at the cafe. Even after scrutinizing the photo, I can’t find a name anywhere. What I do remember is cheap coffee, not having to pay extra to sit outside and a broad area of outdoor seating. Also, it was on a sweeping corner with plenty of space.

Yet, this physical description fits many cafes.

Fortunately, despite my abysmal sense of direction, I’ve been able to limit the search zone. The cafe is on the Left Bank in Quartier Latin somewhere near Rue Dauphine, the Luxembourg Gardens and St Michel. In retrospect, I’m thinking that was something of a “pedestrian passenger” blindly following my friends to the cafe  without gouging the route into my neuropathways.

Yet, through the fog, there is a glimmer of light.I cross over Pont Neuf into Rue Dauphine in my head. I have a general direction but then the vision suddenly goes dead with no cafe in sight.I simply don’t remember. So, that leaves me playing detective trying to piece together foggy memories, Google searches, walking through the streets on Google maps. I even emailed a friend.

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My feet in the Luxembourg Gardens. Aren’t those flowers spectacular!!

I must’ve been in one of my doggedly persistent moods because I wasn’t going to let it go until I found it. I Googled cafes and boulangeries around St Michel. I consulted Google maps and walked at street view round and around and around the streets of the Left Bank and crossed one by one off my list. Indeed, I was trawling through Google like a crazed stalker and I wasn’t giving up.

By this stage, I was starting to think writing memoir was seriously over-rated and that I should turn this thing into a novel and be done with it. Then, I can simply make everything up without all this arduous digging.

But I’m NOT GIVING UP!!

Instead, I’m off to Paris. Well, I’m off to Paris via Google maps.  As much as I would sort of love to be in Paris and retracing my steps in reality, it doesn’t matter if I get lost in Google maps. Eventually, I’ll make it back to Pont Neuf without being exhausted.

Well, to read about my virtual cafe crawl through Paris, you’ll have to wait for the next installment.

Hey, if you have any idea where the cafe might be, please put me out of my misery!!

PLEASE!!!

Have you spent much time writing memoir or non-fiction? How did it compare to writing fiction?

I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

The Poet Muse…a mostly magnetic poem.

Gorgeous Goddess

sleeping,

delirious in a chocolate forest.

Mother moon whispers

sweet symphonies.

 

Your hair is a rose garden

and I swim in your beauty.

Who are you?

What is your song?

 

I hear your music

Yet, can not dance.

Awestruck,

An inner silence

fills my heart.

 

Intoxicated,

I stare at you

as still as a pond,

though my heart beats

faster than time’s

tick-tock clock accelerating

fast beyond my dreams.

 

I feel such love.

Yet, have no words.

Only rusty strings,

an imperfect bow

and half-forgotten notes.

 

So, I’ll let you sleep,

and you’ll remain a dream.

Nothing compares with make believe.

Rowena Curtin  23rd November, 2016.

William Blake…Birthing A Poet.

Have you ever considered who inspired you to write? The writers and poets who paved your way, connecting with your inner muse and launching your innards all over the page?

Well, through this post over at  Hugh Views and News, I was reminded of how William Blake inspired me back at school. That was when my hair was in plaits, my teeth were in braces and I was well and truly stuck in that teenage, ugly duckling phase.

It was also well before Dead Poets’ Society brought poetry out of the shadows, even giving it an edge of cool.

Dead Poets

As a poet, it’s hard to believe that there was ever a time before Dead Poet’s Society. The movie inspired an awe, a magic and a sense of crossing over into something raw, innate and at the very essence of the soul.

However, by the time Dead Poets’ Society came out in 1989, I’d left school and in that very same year (perhaps no coincidence), I attended and performed my poetry at my very first poetry reading. It was held at the Reasonably Good Cafe in Abercrombie Street, Chippendale a stone’s throw from Sydney University and if you threw the stone the opposite direction, it would’ve landed at Redfern Station, which was pretty much a no go zone back then after dark. That said, we students were made of stronger stuff!

Dead Poet's sign.jpg

However, although Dead Poet’s Society had an Australian Director in Peter Weir, it was an American movie featuring American poets. Growing up on the other side of the world in Sydney, Australia we studied English poets, the odd Australian poet and absolutely no indigenous poets whatsoever.

So, when I picture myself in a school scene studying and falling in love with poetry, I am thinking along the lines of William Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats and this love affair began with Blake’s Tyger, with its primal drumming beat and graphic imagery:

The Tyger

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? what dread grasp,

Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears

And water’d heaven with their tears:

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,

In the forests of the night:

What immortal hand or eye,

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake

I encourage you to read it out loud. It has a such a strong, striking rhythm like the pounding of a drum or the beating of your heart (especially if you’re being chased by the Tyger!!)

Like much of Blake’s work which is highly symbolic and devoutly spiritual, Tyger isn’t just about a Tiger but about God the creator and who he is. Could the same God who made the meek, innocent and gentle lamb also make the tiger, and both Jesus and the the devil?

Most of the poetry I write doesn’t have this strong sense of rhythm and while rhyming can be a bit twee, in this poem it really creates a sense of theatre and I think it really would’ve fitted in well to Dead Poet Society’s readings by candlelight out in the bush late at night. I could feel the tiger running towards them now.

However, it’s been sometime since I was studying Tyger at school and my son is roughly that age and the doors of my perception have widened.

I am now grappling with Blake’s  Marriage of Heaven and Hell…a complex, baffling and incredibly humbling work, not unlike Revelation in The Bible. I came across this work while researching Jim Morrison from The Doors. Indeed, The Doors take their name from these lines:

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narow chinks of his cavern.

Jim Morrison Grave

Jim Morrison’s Grave July 1992.

Moreover, back when I visited Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris, I found these words graffitied nearby: “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” I’d thought someone had made them up and the “palace of wisdom” referred to the cemetery after all Morrison’s years of wild excess. I didn’t know it was a quote from William Blake.

I have also started delving into William Blake’s art which seemingly shows something from beyond those doors of perception and I suspect this is the beginning of another chapter with Blake and I’m curious to know where it leads me. Yet, I have little doubt that I will be taking the road less traveled. Indeed, I suspect we’ll be ploughing through the bush!

Have you read any of William Blake’s works? Or, perhaps another poet has inspired you way back when? Please share.

Meanwhile, the the doors of my perception are about to shut. It’s after midnight and it’s long past time for bed.

xx Rowena

 

#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

 

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!

 

Y-Sailing To Byzantium, William Butler Yeats: #atozchallenge.

Sailing To Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

Byzantium

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing‐masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

William Butler Yeats

Through the use of various poetic techniques, Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” describes the metaphorical journey of a man pursuing his own vision of eternal life as well as his conception of paradise.

Written in 1926 (when Yeats was 60 or 61), “Sailing to Byzantium” is Yeats’ definitive statement about the agony of old age and the imaginative and spiritual work required to remain a vital individual even when the heart is “fastened to a dying animal” (the body). Yeats’s solution is to leave the country of the young and travel to Byzantium, where the sages in the city’s famous gold mosaics could become the “singing-masters” of his soul. He hopes the sages will appear in fire and take him away from his body into an existence outside time, where, like a great work of art, he could exist in “the artifice of eternity.” In the final stanza of the poem, he declares that once he is out of his body he will never again appear in the form of a natural thing; rather, he will become a golden bird, sitting on a golden tree, singing of the past (“what is past”), the present (that which is “passing”), and the future (that which is “to come”).

Interpretation

Yeats wrote in a draft script for a 1931 BBC broadcast:

I am trying to write about the state of my soul, for it is right for an old man to make his soul, and some of my thoughts about that subject I have put into a poem called ‘Sailing to Byzantium’. When Irishmen were illuminating the Book of Kells, and making the jeweled croziers in the National Museum, Byzantium was the centre of European civilization and the source of its spiritual philosophy, so I symbolize the search for the spiritual life by a journey to that city.[1]”

Wikipaedia