Tag Archives: poet

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

 

William Blake On Joy & Suffering

Man was made for joy & woe;

And when this we rightly know,

Thro’ the world we safely go.

Joy & woe are woven fine,

A clothing for the soul divine.

William Blake From “Auguries of Innocence”.

Featured image:

“When the Morning Stars Sang Together”

[Book of Job, no. 14]

ca. 1804–7
Pen and black ink, gray wash, and watercolor, over traces of graphite
11 x 7 1/16 inches (280 x 179 mm)

 

Poet for Peace.

A small voice called out

in the wilderness:

“Why must you throw

your sticks and stones?

Why grow anger,

instead of love?

Or, do you even know?

 

But then,

the great wind came,

blowing the small voice

from pole to pole.

Yet, its whisperings spread.

Amelia footprints in sand

Footprints in the sand.

 

“Why must you throw

your sticks and stones?

Why grow anger,

instead of love?
Or, do you even know?

 

Brother asked sister.

Sister asked brother.

Husbands and wives,

partners…

questioned why.

The neighbours wondered

whether a cup of sugar

would be better instead.

 

Slowly but surely,

the people started looking in,

instead of blaming out.

After all, peace in our world

begins in our hearts.

amelia heart painting

My daughter’s painting

 

And so,

after  scattering the seed,

the small voice called on

the sun, rain and soil,

waiting for love to grow.

 

Rowena Curtin

26th August, 2016

This is my contribution for Poets for Peace, a collaboration of poets right around the world urging for peace. It is being hosted by Forgotten Meadows Deadline for Contributions is 31st August, 2016.

“In response to the recent unceasing, and, in fact escalating global violence, we have seen and felt a corresponding surge in poetry about it.

We would like to take this opportunity to invite you to share your thoughts and feelings, a piece of yourself, to add to other Poets from around the world. We are hopeful that the combined weight of our collective spirit and wisdom will be felt worldwide as well.

The only restriction is that absolutely no hate is expressed other than the hate of violence. Any and all words will be appended to the running poem. This is not about ego, so you retain the rights to your creation, we are only interested in doing what we can to stop the violence.

Please share your poetry and your platform to spread the word for Poets everywhere to unite in this effort we are calling, “Poets for Peace.”

Google +1 it, Tweet & share it on Facebook, wherever you are able. Hashtag #PoetsForPeace

 

#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

 

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- William Butler Yeats: A letter to Dead Poets

Gratitude To The Unknown Instructors

WHAT they undertook to do
They brought to pass;
All things hang like a drop of dew
Upon a blade of grass.

William Butler Yeats

 Dear Mr Yeats,

How are you? No doubt, it’s been quite a surprise to regain human form and return from Byzantium. I assure you that this isn’t some kind of belated April Fool’s Day prank. Rather, I am writing a series of Letters to Dead Poets from A-Z and you are my second last stop. I know you’re probably sick of almost always coming last. This is unless there was a “Z”. I’m sure that you and “Z” would have been the best of friends!

So, being “Y”, I had to ask you: WHY????

This journey from A-Z has become quite a philosophical journey, exploring a plethora of seemingly rhetorical questions like what it means to be a man?  Why do some people suffer so much and what is the point of suffering? What’s more, when things in our own lives go devastatingly wrong, how do we survive? How do we go on, when we want to let go? What is love and how can it last a lifetime and overcome its many challenges and hurdles? What does it mean to be happy and how do we find happiness? Why do so many creative people struggle with depression and mental health issues? Is it wise to become a poet or should we get a “real job”? Why did Hemingway shoot himself and John Lennon get shot? Why was Shelley out sailing in a violent storm and when he was cremated, why didn’t his heart burn? Indeed, why did his wife, Mary, wrap his heart up in the manuscript from Adonais and keep it in her desk until she died? You weren’t even all that close. I’m not even going to ask what happened to Shakespeare’s head. That said, I might ask if that’s really you in “your grave” in Ireland? Of course, conspiracy theories prevail!

That will keep you busy for awhile!

I must admit that I find writing to you rather intimidating, although you would think I’d be used to it by now. In 1923, you were the first Irishman awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature  for what the Nobel Committee described as “inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”. However, you are one of the few writers who completed their greatest works after being awarded the Nobel Prize. Indeed, TS Eliot called you “one of those few whose history is the history of their own time, who are a part of the consciousness of an age which cannot be understood without them”. Indeed, I’ll defer to WH Auden’s eulogy:

Yeats By Rohan Gillespie Stephen St Sligo

Statue of Yeats by Rohan Gillespie

In Memory Of W.B. Yeats

I

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
The snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

II

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

III

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

[Auden later deleted the next three stanzas.]

Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and the innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,

Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honours at their feet.

Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice.

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress.

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountains start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

WH Auden

However, it seems you understand what it’s like to have a dream which is still a work in progress:

Aedh Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats

I have read your poem: Easter 1916.

Having Irish heritage myself, of course, I had to mention Ireland. While in so many ways our family are Heinz Variety Australians, a good number of our ancestors came from Ireland and brought something of Ireland with them which keeps being passed down from parent to child, in our souls as well as in our genes. My husband’s great something grandfather, Daniel Burke, helped Irish revolutionary John Mitchell escape Tasmania bound for America by lending him his horse…a role which earned him a mention in Mitchell’s Jail Journal. My ancestors somehow survived the Great Famine and came to Sydney. These Irish people were tough. After surviving the famine, their beloved St Mary’s Cathedral burned down in and they raised the money to rebuild through donations brick-by-brick. There was no falling on their sword crying “Woe is me”. No talk of how they’ve survived the famine only to have the cathedral burn down. No, they immediately started fundraising the next day and when that fledgling structure was also burned down, they started over. Indeed, John and Bridget Curtin lost three children and yet they battled on in the overcrowded hardship of Sydney’s Surry Hills and Paddington. Yet, they never gave up. That said, they might have drunk a bit too much…

I have never been to Ireland and am quite curious to see whether I feel a sense of home there or not. Just how Irish am I?

Humph! Despite raising poets from the dead, I still can’t quite click my fingers and travel over to Ireland in an instant. So, I am back to searching for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to fund my trip.

So, this leaves me sitting about to board the train to meet up with my very last poet…Z.

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

Notes

Aedh was a Celtic God of Death, one of the children of Lir.Yeats seems to have used this character in some of his stories along with Ahearne and Michael Robartes and describes him as fire reflected in water.