Tag Archives: poetry

Launching New Blog – Tea With Ethel Turner.

Last week , I launched a new blog – Tea With Ethel Turner – and I’d love you to come over and and hopefully follow me over there as well.

Ethel Turner is such an inspiration. Best known for her 1894 classic: Seven Little Australians, she wrote 40 novels for young adults, diaries, and edited children’s pages in a range of publications. Obviously, she was a very prolific writer, and I doubt she ever suffered from writer’s block for long.

It’s also worth noting that Ethel Turner wrote with a view of having her work published and read widely. Unlike so many writers, her work didn’t spend years in her bottom drawer. Indeed, even when she was at school, she and her older sister produced a rival school newspaper after her work had been rejected.

Then, as time went by and she was editing the Sunbeams pages in the Sun newspaper, it was Ethel doing the rejecting and lamenting a lack of space to publish the works of more of her young contributors. She also encouraged young children to write and gave them writing advice as well as broadening their general knowledge and exposure to literary classics. It also seems she was trying to build a new and better world after the horrors of the Great War, and these children were that future.

Above: Ethel with her older sister Lillian.

So, bearing all that in mind, I had enough material and inspiration to sink a battleship, and I felt she deserved her own bubble, and Beyond the Flow should remain my own space. That as much as I revere and admire Ethel Turner, I didn’t want to become her alone. I still have such a diverse range of other writing interests.

Here are links to my posts so far:

Ethel Turner enjoying her chair in the sun at home 1915.

Meanwhile, now that I’ve launched into this, I can’t help wondering what I’ve got myself into. Sure, I’ve unearthed a a veritable treasure trove, but I’d only read two of her books, and barely stuck my nose into her biography by AT Yarwood: From A Chair in the Sun and a complication of her diary entries by her grand-daughter, Philippa Poole. What was I thinking? Yet, I’ve also been working incredibly hard. I’ve read years worth of her “Chief Sunbeamer” columns as well as numerous press interviews and reviews. The advantage of blogging is that you can in effect publish as you go, and you can also correct any mistakes, embellish here and there before it’s set in stone in print. I am also a firm believer in collaborative research, especially when it comes to such an superlative shaper of Australian literature, culture and young minds. She is too big for one mind.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and hope you might join me on this exciting journey of discovery.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Poetry Memorised By Ethel Turner: Self-Dependence – Mathew Arnold

Tonight, I’ve been reading through Ethel Turner’s diary. You could say I’ve become totally obsessed by this incredible author of Seven Little Australians, and around 39 other novels written for children and young adults. Ethel Turner also had a passion for educating and mentoring young Australians through children’s pages in a number of publications. I don’t believe this is a quote, but if you want to be like Rome, you have to act like Rome. That’s another reason why I’m ploughing the depths I’ve never aspired to write a novel. Poetry, flash fiction and possibly the short story are more my forte. I also have fits and starts at writing a diary. However, I don’t just write a few lines – a bare skeleton of what’s happened. Rather, my entries are far more voluminous and I’m pouring my heart out onto the page. It also means I don’t necessarily write that often in my diary. I don’t have the time, and a simple notebook hardly has the space. I could fill one book in a sitting some days.

Anyway, aside from her success as a published author and journalist, I also appreciate Ethel Turner’s perceptive insight into people, the human condition and the ups and downs of life. Even more than a hundred s later, her insights and observations are just as true to life now as they were then.

So, if I want to write and be published like Ethel Turner, I need to do what she did. Although she didn’t have a formal university education, it seems she developed her own educational program which not only included extensive reading, she also actively worked to maintain her maths to the matriculation levels she’d achieved. Indeed, after her beloved friend Annie Christian passed away, she seemed to find comfort in doing quadratic equations. I’m not going to go that far to keep up with her, but I am going to chase up the list of poems she memorised.

So, in sharing this poem with you, I’m not sharing her words, but some of the fuel which nurtured her incredible mind. This poem by Matthew Arnold certainly speaks to me. My serious health issues have all but scuttled my career. Yet, I haven’t given up on finding some form of meaningful paid work. During the week, I finally pressed send on my short story for the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition. Could this be the vehicle for getting myself established? I am down on knees and praying this comes through, although goodness knows what it will means if my dreams actually start to unfold.

Anyway, without any further ado, here’s the poem:

Self-Dependence – Mathew Arnold

Weary of myself, and sick of asking

What I am, and what I ought to be,

At this vessel’s prow I stand, which bears me

Forwards, forwards, o’er the starlit sea.

And a look of passionate desire

O’er the sea and to the stars I send:

“Ye who from my childhood up have calm’d me,

Calm me, ah, compose me to the end!

“Ah, once more,” I cried, “ye stars, ye waters,

On my heart your mighty charm renew;

Still, still let me, as I gaze upon you,

Feel my soul becoming vast like you!”

From the intense, clear, star-sown vault of heaven,

Over the lit sea’s unquiet way,

In the rustling night-air came the answer:

“Wouldst thou be as these are? Live as they.

“Unaffrighted by the silence round them,

Undistracted by the sights they see,

These demand not that the things without them

Yield them love, amusement, sympathy.

“And with joy the stars perform their shining,

And the sea its long moon-silver’d roll;

For self-poised they live, nor pine with noting

All the fever of some differing soul.

“Bounded by themselves, and unregardful

In what state God’s other works may be,

In their own tasks all their powers pouring,

These attain the mighty life you see.”

O air-born voice! long since, severely clear,

A cry like thine in mine own heart I hear:

“Resolve to be thyself; and know that he,

Who finds himself, loses his misery!”

I’d be interested to hear if this poem touches you in any way.

Best wishes,

Rowena

My Year-End Search For Wisdom in Verse…

There’s probably a special word to describe the gap of time in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. If there isn’t, there ought to be, and perhaps I’ll get the ball rolling by calling it a “pregnant pause”.

After all, the lead up to Christmas is always absolutely frantic, and then you have exactly a week to rest, recover, put the old year to bed, while developing either a word or a list of resolutions for the new year, along with strategies and tactics for implementation and success. After all, you don’t want to start the new year off with an instant fail, do you? Especially, after 2020! No, we need to do everything in our power to get 2021 off to a good start. Indeed, we could well need a magic wand.

So, after watching The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy the other night, I decided I turn to the wisdom of British bard, Geoff Le Pard, who sent me his The Sincerest Form of Poetry a few months ago. In my usual well-intentioned way, I offered to write a review, and got side-tracked, and this “pregnant pause” at the end of what’s been the weirdest year I’ve ever had, seemed the perfect time to get on with the job.

I’ve lost count of how long Geoff and I have been bantering in the blogosphere. However, you can find Geoff at TanGental https://geofflepard.com/. I read and enjoyed his anthology online, and again once the hardcover version arrived in the mail. I really loved it, and it made a huge difference knowing him all this time.

However, as much as I enjoyed the poems, I was struggling to write my review. Although I’d reviewed his novels before, I found reviewing an anthology of poetry much more challenging. There were so many ideas inside, and what was I supposed to say? Why couldn’t he just write it for me, and I’d Australianize it to make it sound authentic? Of course, that’s cheating.

So, I decided to take a different approach.

Indeed, after I read The Sincerest Form of Poetry, I found myself questioning whether we still need poetry in the 21st Century. Or, has it become redundant, obsolete, and irrelevant? Indeed, has it gone the way of the chalkboard, a 35mm roll of film, the VCR, cassette tapes and by and large, the Christmas card? Taking a leaf out of Nietzsche’s book…Is poetry dead?

As a poet myself, my immediate response was: “Of course not!” The inner yearnings of the soul still matter, and are as relevant now as they’ve always been. Indeed, I’d even argue that we’ve needed poetry in 2020 more than ever, after Covid brought us to our knees.

However, even I’ve been corrupted by the forces of practicality, reason, and putting a meal on the table. As much as it’s good to ponder things, sometimes, you just need to get on with the job. Or, in the words of the Brits: “Keep calm and carry on!”

Moreover, it would also be fair to say, that there have always been people who have found poetry irrelevant, incomprehensible, alien drivel. There is also poetry that’s pretty dreadful, too, and doesn’t do us poets any favours. Not all poetry should see the light of day.

However, for me personally, when life isn’t going to plan for whatever reason, that’s when I turn to poetry for comfort, solace, connection, understanding, empathy as well as simply immersing myself in beautiful words.

So, 2020 and this dreadful covid pandemic, has been the perfect time for poetry.

Knowing Geoff, who is rather unassuming much of the time in his enchanting English way, he’d never set himself up as THE ultimate interpreter of life, the universe and everything. Indeed, he’d be rather aghast that I’m viewing his anthology through this light. However, for the first half of the anthology, Geoff repurposed poems which appeared in a collection of the greatest British poets compiled by the BBC for National Poetry Day in 1995. So, you’ve got a good chance of finding something meaningful in there somewhere.

Some of these poems and their progeny include:

Leisure – William Henry Davies Now – Dog At Leisure

How Do I Love You? – Sonnets From The Portuguese XLIII, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This Be the Verse – Philip Larkin Now – Contradicting The Curmudgeon

Home Thoughts From Abroad – Robert Browning Now – Foreign Is Quite Ghastly.

If – Rudyard Kipling Now – If (Or When) The Truth Finally Dawns.

Christmas – John Betjeman Now – Christmas 2018

Upon Westminster Bridge – William Wordsworth Now – Dog Show.

Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare Now – Only Skin Deep.

Sonnet 91 – William Shakespeare Now – Life Lessons (For An Englishman).

Twas the Night Before Christmas – Clement Clark Moore Now – We’re All Santas Now.

The Glory of the Garden – Rudyard Kipling.

…..

So, what wisdom have I gleaned from Geoff Le Pard’s book of verse?

Here goes…

“Come friend, reject facebook, texts and tweets

And all your social media conceits.

To win this war, you’ll need to be better,

Buy some stamps and write them a letter”.

In Christmas 2018, he asks:

“So what’s the point of Christmas time?

We have to ask ourselves

Surely it’s more than a cheesy rhyme

Sung by unpaid elves?

It’s time we took back full control

Of all to do with Xmas

We need to hold a people’s poll

And get out the vote for Brexmas.”

In Life Lessons (For An Englishman), which could well apply to rogue Australian women as well, he writes:

“Contentment’s path is clear, as was ever thus:

Always say you’re sorry and never make a fuss.”

I have gained much wisdom, support and understanding over the years through my friendship with Geoff. We used to belong to a blogshare called “One Thousand Voices for Compassion” which sprang up after the Paris bombings in January 2015, and tried to make the world a better place. We’ve also had a heart for fringe dwellers and those who don’t quite fit the norm or any approved prescription, which for better or worse, seems to include us. Through this time, my kids have almost grown up and his daughter recently got married and Geoff had the honour of walking her down the aisle. On top of this, we both have dogs, who I swear must be a tad dyslexic, and think they’re God.

However, before I head off, which indeed was my intention, I can’t help noticing these poems depict a world which is lusciously pre-covid. He’s out there walking his dog in the park without wearing a mask or being fined; and I’m not too sure how many folk are currently sharing his desire: “Oh, to be in England/rather than abroad…” Rather, I’d say now more than ever, the English wish they were in Australia or New Zealand, and especially well away from their more virulent form of the virus.

If that doesn’t entice you to at least wander over to check out Geoff’s blog and consider ordering The Sincerest Form of Poetry, I’m not sure what else I could do. I don’t think you want me to tap dance on the table. I hope you enjoy it!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I apologise that this review might be a little stilted, even garbled. It turns out this precious pregnant pause between Christmas and New Year’s Eve has been sabotaged by our teenage son who decided to clean up his room, by channelling everything into our loungeroom and tomorrow night we’re having a dinner party. OMG! It looks like Mt Vesuvius erupted and spewed her guts in an almighty blast. However, although we’re almost buried in his mess, his room is remarkably clear. Indeed, that’s the very sort of thing which inspires poetry, don’t you think?! However, somehow I’m stuck for words.

Weekend Coffee Share…4th August, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, this week I celebrated another birthday. I don’t know whether I’ve become any wiser, or even if I feel any older. However, I can’t kid myself that staying away from the hairdresser is doing me any favours. Stick my head in her door, and I’ll be transformed. I’d love to take Geoff with me as well. He’s in DESPERATE need of a haircut and beard trim and is looking like Moses after being in lock down and isolation at home for a few months. The trouble is he seems to like his new look. I’ve been giving him not too subtle hints, and then a work colleague of his who does photography on the side, asked him if he could take his portrait. Well, that was something having my husband approached to be a photo model, especially when you think the kids would be much more likely targets. Well, the downside of all of this, is that he’s been told not to change anything. Yikes! They had their first go at it today and I swear the beard was transmitting some weird kind of pulsating signal which interfers with technology, because all of his equipment miraculously failed and the connections between his camera and computer failed. Now, this is usually what happens when technology and I cross paths, and Geoff being an IT guru usually has the reverse effect. The computers know he’s in the office and behave themselves  when he’s around but muck up and go on strike when he’s on leave. Indeed, one of his former managers, was thinking about sticking a photo of him near the server to keep it happy. There was one particular Summer, where the air-conditioning failed and the server fried over the Christmas break while we were driving in between Hay and Adelaide in some of the most remote country in the world. I’ll never forget that call. Technology!!

Birthday Cake

Meanwhile, there’s covid, which seems to be like that annoying English backpacker who says they’re only going to stay for a week and is still glued to your couch six months later and showing no signs of moving on.

I don’t know whether you’ve been hearing about what’s been going on with Covid here in Australia? Well, just when I was starting to think we could even become covid free like New Zealand, things went pear-shaped in Victoria and I was back in isolation and second-guessing everyone I meet. There are a few outbreaks in Sydney, which are a concern, although not of immediate threat to us here. However, our situation has been challenged by my husband’s manager who has insisted that all IT staff return to the university to work on campus, despite NSW Health putting out a directive that anyone who can work from home should be working from home. The trains are virtually empty and he has no trouble parking at the station. So, it’s clear that many people are either working from home or have lost their jobs. So, I don’t understand why his manager has to be a trail blazer leading the way from common sense, but I guess we might just attribute that to “management”.

 

In addition to our frustrations with what’s happening at work, if what we see on TV is any indication, Covid seems to be bringing out the idiot in droves.  Here in Australia, we have “Bunning’s Karen” who refused to wear a face mask into the hardware store as requested and went troppo. However, that’s nothing compared to three Queensland girls who went down to Melbourne on a high-end handbag shoplifting spree in Melbourne and were fined in Melbourne for being at a party and flouting covid restrictions. Then, when they returned to Queensland, they lied about being in Melbourne and two of the three are currently in hospital with Covid. Meanwhile, with a bit of a humorous take on increased cases in Victoria, a map of Australia with Victoria missing, is doing the rounds.  This is a bit of blessed relief for the Tasmanians who are traditionally left off the map, mostly by accident. This, however, is much more intentional.

Map of Australia Without Victoria

Meanwhile, my research into Australian soldiers who served in WWI is continuing. You’d think I’d be ready to put pen to paper and start writing this massive epic. However, while my research is uncovering some brilliant stories and insights into the soldiers experiences, as well as efforts from the home front to support their efforts, it also uncovers my ignorance and I still don’t feel I’m in a position of knowing or understanding yet. Of course, that takes years and I’ve only been focused on this for one year so far, which really makes me a beginner. That said, I do have an honours degree in history under my belt and I’ve maintained an interest in history, especially Australian and Irish cultural history through my family history research. So, I’m not a rank beginner and I’m not completely untrained either. I just need to work out where I’m going to position myself on that continuum between storyteller and historian. I really do enjoy a good story, but I’m also a stickler for the truth and I’m not one to bend the facts to tell the tale unless I’m wearing my marketing/publicity hats. At the moment, I’m just going to keep “head down, bum up” and expect that I’ll find my voice when the timing’s right, and that will determine which way I go and this way, I’ll sort of grow into my spot instead of a fixed point determining who I am (if that makes any sense). This process might not be so structured, but is more organic.

The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, Pocket Editions for the Trenches ...

Well, I think about does me for this week. Have you been watching any good movies lately? Or reading any books? I read C.J. Dennis’s: The Songs of the Sentimental Bloke during the week. This is a great Australian tale of romance and family life set just before the outbreak of WWI. The entire thing is written in verse, and uses the Australian vernacular of the day, which is harder to understand than Shakespeare. However, there’s a dictionary at the back if you need it. The book was very popular with the troops at the trench, and he’s been called Australia’s answer to Robbie  Burns. If you’re interested in checking it our, it’s available for free online  Here

Anyway, it’s getting late here so I’d better head off. I hope you’ve had a great week and I hope you and yours are well and staying Covid safe.

This is another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Watch Out For the Triantiwontigongolope!!

If you thought that the Coronavirus was something to watch out for, you’d better brace yourself because if the Triantiwontigongolope gets out of Australia and takes on the world with equal force, they’ll be nothing left. A close relative of the vicious Dropbear (at least in terms of Aussie folklore), this insect is truly something to watch out for. Well, at least, that’s according to poet CJ Dennis who penned this poem back in the 1920s.

I remember hearing this poem when I was about 10 ears old and with its rollicky rhythm and great humour, I absolutely loved it and I thought you would too…especially at the moment when other horrors have us in various stages of isolation or taking our chances firmly believing in the great Aussie spirit (and no doubt you have your equivalent wherever you live): “she’ll be right mate!”

So, here goes:

The Triantiwontigongolope

There’s a very funny insect that you do not often spy,

And it isn’t quite a spider, and it isn’t quite a fly;

It is something like a beetle, and a little like a bee,

But nothing like a wooly grub that climbs upon a tree.

Its name is quite a hard one, but you’ll learn it soon, I hope.

So try:

Tri-

Tri-anti-wonti-

Triantiwontigongolope.

 

It lives on weeds and wattle-gum, and has a funny face;

Its appetite is hearty, and its manners a disgrace.

When first you come upon it, it will give you quite a scare,

But when you look for it again, you find it isn’t there.

And unless you call it softly it will stay away and mope.

So try:

Tri-

Tri-anti-wonti-

Triantiwontigongolope.

 

It trembles if you tickle it or tread upon its toes;

It is not an early riser, but it has a snubbish nose.

If you snear at it, or scold it, it will scuttle off in shame,

But it purrs and purrs quite proudly if you call it by its name,

And offer it some sandwiches of sealing-wax and soap.

So try:

Tri-

Tri-anti-wonti-

Triantiwontigongolope .

 

But of course you haven’t seen it; and I truthfully confess

That I haven’t seen it either, and I don’t know its address.

For there isn’t such an insect, though there really might have been

If the trees and grass were purple, and the sky was bottle green.

It’s just a little joke of mine, which you’ll forgive, I hope.

Oh, try!

Tri-

Tri-anti-wonti-

Triantiwontigongolope.

 

If you’d like to read more about CJ Dennis, please click here

Well, I hope that’s given you a bit of a laugh and I hope you’re okay.

If you have something funny to share, please leave a link in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Aussie Street Library, Pearl Beach …Thursday Doors.

“Be an opener of doors” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Welcome back to Thursday Doors. This week, we’ve jumped into the red Alfa, traversed the steep hill and hairpin bends down to Pearl Beach, just so we could check out Jill’s Library. This is Pearl Beach’s incredible incantation of the humble street library or book exchange. Without a shadow of a doubt, this brightly painted library full of pre-loved books, is just waiting for desperadoes like myself to pop along.

More than functional, Jill’s Library is also a work of art featuring some of the area’s local characters…a kookaburra, magpies and rainbow lorrikeets and sprays of wattle. I don’t know much about how it came about. Simply that it was painted by Pim and named after Jill. That’s all.

I know I’m supposed to be writing about doors here. However, you barely notice the door on this picturesque box. Rather, it’s little more than a framed piece of glass, designed to keep the books clean and dry. However, for ardent bibliophiles like myself who are peering through the door in search of treasure, the door is a window of possibility. What’s beyond the glass?

Temptation…That’s what it is. Although our place is bursting at the seams with books with buttons flying and fabric tearing under their monumental force, I still want more. Indeed, like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote who couldn’t stop stuffing his face, I can’t stop bringing more and more books home. I can’t say no.

Indeed, this was no exception. I shamelessly raided the library, taking home Kristina Olsson’s spell-binding Australian novel, Shell. However, in my defense, I’ve almost finished it. I couldn’t put it down.  Shell tells the gripping story of shell-9781925685329_lgPearl Keogh, a journalist who is protesting against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war. Then there’s Axel Lindquist, a glass artist from Sweden, who is working on the site of the emerging Sydney Opera House creating a glass sculpture inspired by Utzon’s design. Of course, there’s romance. However, that’s almost secondary to this world of living, breathing history. Olsson’s prose is incredibly poetic and philosophical, which I absolutely love. Indeed, it feels like Shell was written just for me. Indeed, it’s opened a door into another world just as surely as that very famous wardrobe door, which took Lucy into Narnia.

It usually takes me a few weeks to get through a book. So, the fact I’ve almost finished Shell in a couple of days speaks volumes.  Indeed, I’ve have been enjoying snuggling up in bed with my book and my electric blanket on. While the Winter sun filters through the curtains behind me, I could almost feel like I’m sunbaking down at the beach, except a cold snap surrounds me. Most homes around here don’t have central heating. We brave the Winter months and invest in air-con for the Summer.

Anyway, getting back to the Street Library…Despite its apparent simplicity, Jill’s Library captures the essence of Pearl Beach, a relaxed creative and cultural community of locals and weekenders who live alongside the lorrikeets, magpies and colourful Rainbow Lorrikeets.  It’s the sort of place people go to exit stress and embrace sun, sand, surf and a good read. Indeed, a good book is even better shared and discussed over coffee and cake.

DSC_5273

 

DSC_5271

 

 

 

Thought I’d better share a photo of the real deal also taken at Pearl Beach the other day. While that kookaburra is looking pretty innocent and minding his own business, I’ve had a local kookaburra snatch a hot sanger (sausage) off the BBQ here. So, they’re actually pretty audacious.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed that broader story of Jill’s Library, Pearl Beach.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0 Please pop over and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Lover’s Potion…Friday Fictioneers

Nobody had ever sent Michelle a letter before. Not even a postcard. Text had become the language of love. Yet, Jerome was different. A poet. Not that she understood any of his writings. He was in her philosophy class, and they kept running into each other until it was a long lingering picnic in Central Park. So, she didn’t think twice, as she inhaled the white powder….a touch of romance. Off to start her shift at the Met, she tucked the letter into her journal. Not even a doubt, she spread its sweet perfume throughout the packed August crowds. A woman in love is an easy target.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Bets wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

P- Pablo Picasso: Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to my A-Z Challenge Series: Letters to Dead Artists. With my most sincere apologies to Australian artists Margaret Preston and Thea Proctor, I’ll be writing to Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), largely due to his work towards world peace, something we should never give up on. Hence, John Lennon’s Imagine was a natural choice to accompany Picasso.

If you are more familiar with Picasso’s cubist works, you might not have made the connection with how he used his art to promote peace and deplore war. In 1937, incensed by the inhumane German bombings on Guerica during the Spanish Civil War, he painted Guerica, which he displayed at the Paris Exhibition as a political statement. I’m not too proud to admit, I knew nothing about this, but at least I’m always willing to learn.

However, I was familiar with his Dove of Peace, but not the story or image behind it.

Guernica Pablo Picasso

Guernica, Pablo Picasso, 1937.

Even if you are not familiar with Guerica, you’ll probably be familiar with Picasso’s very simple outline of a dove, which is still used today to represent peace. That design grew out  a lithograph of a fan-tailed pigeon (Matisse had given the bird to Picasso), which appeared on the poster for the inaugural World Peace Congress in Paris in 1949. When Picasso’s daughter was born on the eve of the Paris Peace Congress, he poignantly named her Paloma, the Spanish word for dove[1]. In 1950, when Picasso spoke at the Peace Congress in Sheffield, he recalled how his father had taught him to paint doves, and finished with the words: “I stand for life against death; I stand for peace against war”.

Antonio Banderas, who will be playing Picasso in the National Geographic’s upcoming: Genius: Picasso, touched on Picasso’s activism:

“He was not only a man who was very capable painting, drawing the reality, but he put that at the service of the political and social context of his time, a guy who was a visionary and had a long sight for the future and, also, an introspection of himself, a reflection about life itself,” Banderas says. “That was very important.[2]

By the way, Banderas was born and raised in Picasso’s home town of Malaga, and used to walk past his house as a child:

“[It was] a time in Spain in which we didn’t have too many international heroes, so Picasso trespassed that barrier at a time in which we were pretty much isolated by the dictatorship with [General] Francisco Franco in power,” Banderas says.

“So I grew up with the projection of this huge artist who was capable of actually making the people all around the world fall in love with his art, and he was [from] my hometown, and I was able to just see the house where he was born. That was very important for me.”

Once upon a time, I could believe in peace. Peace at any cost. However, now I also understand that sometimes you need to get up and fight and that we as a nation might have to go to war. That we must defend our borders, and the universal principals we hold dear such as freedom, equality and justice. Unfortunately, the nature of modern day terrorism, has muddied the waters. Now, it’s much harder to recognize the enemy. It could be anyone, anywhere at any time. Yet, we still need to be inclusive. Love our neighbour as ourselves, and not let the terrorists win, by having the rest of us lock ourselves up in our self-made prisons. So, while Picasso created that dove of peace over 60 years ago, it still means as much to us now as it did then.

Picasso’s Blue Period 1901-1904

In addition to his peace work, I feel inexorably drawn towards the paintings of his Blue Period, which were heavily influenced by the suicide of his best friend and fellow Spanish artist, Casagemas. The works of this period are characterized by their blue palette, sombre subject matter, and destitute characters. His paintings feature begging mothers and fathers with small children and haggard old men and women with arms outstretched or huddled in despair. Picasso was heavily influenced by the Symbolist movement and a revival in interest in the art of 16th-century Spanish artist El Greco.

The Blue Room 1901

Picasso, The Blue Room.

Casagemas (1880-1901), the son of the American consul general in Barcelona, was a painter and poet, and accompanied Picasso to Paris to visit the World’s Fair in autumn 1900. There, he fell in love with Laure Gargallo, known as Germaine, who ultimately spurned his affections. In despair, Casagemas committed suicide, shooting himself at the Hippodrome Restaurant in Paris on February 17, 1901, after first attempting to kill Germaine. Picasso was in Barcelona at that time, but was deeply affected by the news, as anybody who loses a friend to suicide always is. However, two things I find quite intriguing here, is that when Picasso returned to Paris in May 1901, he took up residence in Casagemas’s former apartment and also began a liaison with Germaine. I find this very difficult to understand, and to me, it feels like he’s almost trying to step inside his dead friend’s skin. However, it also could have been, that the apartment was offered to him rent-free and it was more of a practical decision. Personally, I would’ve found it emotionally impossible to live in the home of a dead friend, and could well have left Paris entirely.

Old_guitarist_chicago

Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, Art Gallery of Chicago.

Anyway, my favourite from his blue period is The Old Guitarist, where the blind musician bends over his guitar in an attitude of exhaustion and hopelessness. Like the figures of El Greco’s paintings, the guitarist’s features are attenuated and angular.[3]” It reminds me of a poet I met in Paris whose lover had thrown his guitar into the River Seine in a jealous rage. I can’t even remember his name anymore, but he was from Brooklyn and I met him at the Shakespeare Bookshop, when I was preparing for my reading. Things clearly weren’t going well for him, as he gave me a swag of his poems, the way one does when you don’t need them anymore. Anyway, clearly ours was a very short story. Not even a Haiku.

picasso-annotated-poem

Picasso The Poet

Finally, I wanted to share with you a bit of Picasso’s poetry. This has been yet another one of my discoveries during this series, and I really am starting to feel like I knew nothing at all about these artists before I embarked upon this journey. In the case of Picasso, I wasn’t too keen on his later cubist works, but really empathized with his blue period and Dove of Peace. So, I guess that encourages me to look beyond those few iconic works the world portrays as “THE Artist” and see what else you can find. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time for that, but possibly through seeing more exhibitions and watching documentaries, we might be able to find our own view of an artist and, which might not be the so-called “greatest”, but become our own. After all, no one dictates which artists or their works we have to like or dislike. That’s our personal choice, but to fully capitalize on that we need to venture further afield away from the headlines and peer beyond the flow.

Anyway, back to Picasso’s poetry. He could very well be writing about my days in Paris when a deep and compassionate friendship became yet another victim of the male-female friendship debacle (which I’ll call the When Harry Met Sally Disease for all of you old enough to have that movie still etched in your heart like me!!) Quite aptly, it is called: Does She Know I Am There? I Doubt. –

You are beauty personified. You are charm solidified.
Without you, darling, it is a moonless night. I shall go to the ends of the world with or without a fight to seek you forever. Does it matter if the infinities crumble?
Does it matter if the worlds tear apart? You are the only one important to me, darling.

My entire being recognises and responds to you. I know it when you are close by. I can almost feel the sense of your cheeks on my lips. Your hair is my forest of ecstacy.

Your heartbeat is the only sound I’d give up everything for, love! Each time our eyes meet, my heart speeds, I only wish our hearts could join too.

Who said jealousy is green? It is fuming red. Each time I see you there, casting an occassional glance at me, my heart pumps sadness into my veins. I regret being unable to talk to you. How should I explain my love to you?

Each day I stand so far, hoping that someday, the distance would become a bond. Your countenance lacerates me. Why am I so heavy? Oh, right! Because. I am carrying someone else inside me, my heart that belongs to you

Perhaps, this is a great juncture to stop writing about the man, and start writing to Picasso instead.

writing in Paris

Writing on the Window Sill at the Hotel Henri IV July, 1992.

A Letter To Picasso

Dear Picasso,

Where were you when I needed you? I’ve only just found your poetry as a mature 40 something mother and wife, when I really could’ve used it when I was in Paris as a heartbroken 23 year old who lived and breathed poetry with every breath.

No one ever warned about the ugly side of Paris. How the “City of Lights” so easily become a sewer of darkness, horror and despair where the menacing gargoyles jump off the roof of Notre Dame and circle overhead. The pain was so excruciating and as a writer, there was only one way to get it out. I abandoned my room in the Henri IV Hotel with its twisting spiral staircase, and set up residence beside the River Seine next to Pont Neuf with my notebook and pen. I was writing, writing, writing raw pain dripping from my pen onto the page, hour after hour, oblivious to all danger and any thought of sleep. Heartbreak can consume your soul, all sense of the wider world and everything you have ever been or worked towards all disappears, and all that matters is their eyes. That love, compassion and connection which goes so much further than a physical connection ever could. I’ve been told: “Ro, you know how to find them!” Well, I also know how to lose them and how much that hurts.

However, that was a long time ago. Indeed, I now look upon that young, naive girl as someone else. For better or worse, I’ve grown so much stronger. Indeed, I’m made of steel. Moreover, like most parents, I carry the world on my shoulders and wouldn’t be the first parent who’s fantasized about a little getaway. Indeed, some days even walking down the end of the street to our local beach seems like trying reach the other side of the world. It doesn’t take much for the To Do List to build four walls around me Lego brick by tiny Lego brick and fence me in.

Anyway, as I’ve already made clear to some other artist in one of these letters, all this is about to change. I’m going to find my feet and start walking. You just ask my physio. She had grand plans. Actually, they’re not all that grand. She only wants me to find 30 minutes three times a week and a ten minute walk on other days. That isn’t much, is it? Especially when all you artists keep telling me that walking kept you sane or at least saner than you might have been.

Anyway, I just wanted to ask you about what we can do help make your dove of peace a reality? Wars just never seem to cease, and people seem more intent on blowing each other up than trying to talk and sort things out.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Letter From Picasso

My Dear Rowena,

I am so sorry to hear that you too experienced that horrible heartache of Paris. As you know, my best friend Carlos, suffered the same fate. I should’ve seen it coming and wasn’t there for him. You know how it is you replay and replay and replay something in your mind and try to change what happened, but it’s pointless. You can only change things moving forward, not going backwards. That is one of life’s hardest lessons, my friend.

There’s not much I can tell you about Paris, except that it became my home.

Next time you’re there, might I suggest take The Travel Guide to Picasso’s Paris . Then you’ll know me a little better.

By the way, I have been reading some of your blog posts and you have such a heart to help ease even the suffering of people you’ve never met. Never give up and keep carrying that dove of peace in your heart. You might not be able to change the world, but one by one the numbers add up.

By the way, I’ve also heard you keep all the paintings from your rainbow period shut away in a portfolio behind your closet. That should be a crime. How could you hide your art away? I want to see it framed and signed before the end of this series or I’ll set the gargoyles loose. Trust me, they know how to find you.

Best wishes,

Picasso.

References

[1] http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/exhibition/picasso-peace-and-freedom/picasso-peace-and-freedom-explore-2

[2] https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/get-it-right-or-never-go-home-antonio-banderas-reveals-his-fear-of-picasso-20180413-h0yq1v.html

[3] http://www.artic.edu/collections/conservation/revealing-picasso-conservation-project/pablo-picasso-and-blue-period

 

K-Kandinsky- Letters to Dead Arts…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome Back to my A-Z Series: Letters to Dead Artists. Today, I’ve written to Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky, one of the driving forces behind German Expressionism. Kandinsky will be accompanied by Arnold Schoenberg’s  Transfigured Night for String Quartet. Schoenberg and Kandinsky worked closely together and were very like-minded.

When I very first saw Kandinsky’s paintings in a German Expressionist Exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW in 1990, all I saw was COLOUR!!! Bright colours and expressive forms. They were such a break from all the paintings I’d known growing up, with the dull greens and browns of the Australian landscape populated, as it were, by swagmen and sheep.

However, Kandinsky wasn’t just a man of bright, alluring colours and interior design. Rather through his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art, he expounded an entire theory about the emotions and spirituality of colour and devised a complex code of colours and symbols, which were also closely intertwined with music.

Wassily_Kandinsky,_1911,_Reiter_(Lyrishes),_oil_on_canvas,_94_x_130_cm,_Museum_Boijmans_Van_Beuningen

 

When I saw the German Expressionist Exhibition, I was a 20 year old university student living in a crumbling terrace house in urban Glebe. Caught in all the lurid emotions of semi-requited love and paralyzing self-doubt, I was a living, breathing powder keg of angst. Indeed, I went to the exhibition with the source… someone I’ll simply call “Sunflower”.

As that paralyzed, love struck young woman, these paintings weren’t just something on the wall. They were ME spurting through the canvas wrestling with love, rejection and hope against all hope. I guess you could say this was a “turbulent period” for me, where I gouged my torment out with my pen, scrawling ink across the page. I then released my inner demons at poetry readings at Chippendale’s Reasonably Good Cafe, which I now consider fun.

As it turns out, there would’ve been better artists for a young woman struggling with semi-requited love to turn to, such as Gabriele Münter. She would’ve been very sympathetic, and could well have made me chicken soup. Indeed, I can even hear her reflecting on her relationship with Kandinsky…“He’s not the Messiah. He’s just a very naughty boy.” (Life of Brian).

Munter_SelfPortrait1909

Gabriele Munter – Self Portrait in front of an Easel, 1909 at Princeton Art Museum, Princeton NJ

Kandinsky’s personal life was rather complicated. In 1892, he married his cousin, Anna Chemyakina. She took care of her husband and moved with him to Germany. However, in 1903 Kandinsky met and began a relationship with Gabriele Münter, one of his students at the Phalanx School. The two became inseparable. Kandinsky kept promising to divorce his wife and marry her, stringing love struck Münter along. Finally, in 1911, Kandinsky returned to Russia, and divorced his wife.

Yet, he still didn’t marry Gabriele Münter. Rather, he continued living with her as his lover. Unfortunately, when Germany declared war on Russia in August 1914, their relationship received a jolt. Kandinsky was considered an enemy alien and only had three days to get out. Since he couldn’t take much with him, he left the bulk of his paintings and possessions with Münter. The couple rushed to Switzerland and while in Zurich, Kandinsky broke up with her. For two years she urged a reunion. It took place in neutral Scandinavia in 1916, but failed. Well, that’s according to some of the sources I’ve read. Others are less clear about the breakup, suggesting he was still stringing her along.

Well, Kandinsky did get married, but it wasn’t to Gabriele Münter. Rather, he married 18 year old, Nina Andreievskaya, and he didn’t tell Münter. Indeed, he only came clean four years later when she received a letter from his lawyer demanding she return his personal effects and artworks. Not unsurprisingly, Gabriele didn’t return all his paintings, and kept these as “moral compensation”. While I’m very surprised Gabriel didn’t burn the lot, she actually kept them safe behind a secret wall in her basement during successive raids by the Nazis and Russians. Kandinsky never saw his paintings again. However, in 1957, Münter gave the stash to Munich, Stadtische Galerie in Lenbach. At least, the survival of this collection was a positive outcome of Gabriele’s grief.

Perhaps, there’s nothing about Kandinsky which is easy to understand. Indeed, for me, he’s an iceberg with only his head peering out above the waves. I even wonder whether he remains a mystery to experts who have studied him all their working lives, and know each and every millimetre of each work. I don’t know. Yet, despite the difficulties and also thanks to a sense of madness, I am still trying to fathom the unfathomable. Trying to unravel Kandinsky and his art.

POrtrait Kandinsky

So Who Was Wassily Kandinsky?

Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky was born in Moscow on the 4th December, 1866, the son of a wealthy tea merchant. He spent his childhood in Odessa, where he graduated from the Grekov Odessa Art school and enrolled at the University of Moscow, where he studied law and economics and was offered a professorship.

However, in 1896 at the age of thirty, Kandinsky and his trajectory permanently  changed.  Struck in a sense by lightning, he threw in his day job to become a professional    artist.

This was fueled by two events:

Firstly,he attended an Exhibition of French Impressionists in St Petersberg in 1896, where he was spellbound by Claude Monet’s painting: Haystacks in the Sunlight:

“So, I saw a painting for the first time. That it was a haystack the catalogue informed me. I could not recognize it. This non-recognition was painful to me. I considered that the painter had no right to paint indistinctly. I felt that the object of the painting was missing. And I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendour”.

Also in 1896, he attended Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin at the court (Bolshoi) Theatre in Moscow, which seemingly unleashed a moment of synesthetic apotheosis “which appeared to be the materialization of my fairytale Moscow. Violins, deep basses and wind instruments in the first place materialized my impression of evening hours in Moscow, I saw all the colours before my eyes – crazy, almost insane lines. I just could not admit that Wagner musically drew “my hour”. But I realized that art has much more power than I used to think about it and painting can have the same powers, as music”.

Music influenced Kandinsky’s art profoundly: he admired the way it could elicit an emotional response, without being tied to a recognisable subject matter. Painting, he believed, should aspire to be as abstract as music, with groups of colour in a picture relating to one another in a manner analogous to sequences of chords in music.

Kandinsky moved to Munich with his wife and studied at Anton Ažbe‘s private school and then at the Academy of Fine Arts.  It was here, that Kandinsky formed some artistic associations, which were to change the face of modern art. At Azbe’s school he met co-conspirators such as Alexei Jawlensky, who introduced Kandinsky to Munich’s artistic avant-garde. In 1901, along with three other young artists, Kandinsky co-founded “Phalanx” – an artist’s association opposed to the conservative views of the traditional art institutions. Phalanx expanded to include an art school, in which Kandinsky taught, and an exhibitions group.

In 1909, he was one of the founding members of Neue Kunstlervereinigung Munchen (NKVM, or New Artists Association of Munich), a group that sought to accommodate the avant-garde artists whose practices were too radical for the traditional organizations and academies. In 1911, after one of Kandinsky’s paintings was rejected from the annual NKVM exhibition, he and Franz Marc organized a rival exhibition and co-founded “Der Blaue Reiter” (The Blue Rider).

“Der Blaue Reiter” (The Blue Rider) initiated and deeply inspired the highly influential German Expressionist style. It was a loose association of nine Expressionist artists that included August Macke, Münter, and Jawlensky. As a group, they believed in the promotion of modern art and the possibility for spiritual experience through the symbolic associations of sound and colour – two issues very near and dear to Kandinsky’s heart. Despite the similarities between the group’s moniker and the title of Kandinsky’s 1903 painting, the artists actually arrived at the name “Der Blaue Reiter” as a result of the combination of Marc’s love of horses and Kandinsky’s interest in the symbolism of the rider, coupled with both artists’ passion for the colour blue. During their short existence, the group published an anthology (The Blue Rider Almanac) and held three exhibitions. Kandinsky also published Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1911), his first theoretical treatise on abstraction. It expounded that his theory that the artist was a spiritual being who communicated through and was affected by line, colour, and composition. He produced both abstract and figurative works, but expanded his interest in non-objective painting. Composition VII (1913) was an early example of his synthesis of spiritual, emotional, and non-referential form through complex patterns and brilliant colors. Unfortunately, the outbreak of World War I in 1914 led to the dissolution of the group.

Kandinsky returned to Moscow in 1914. Following the Russian Revolution, Kandinsky “became an insider in the cultural administration of Anatoly Lunacharsky”and helped establish the Museum of the Culture of Painting.However, by then “his spiritual outlook… was foreign to the argumentative materialism of Soviet society”[4], and opportunities beckoned in Germany, to which he returned in 1920. There, he taught at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture from 1922 until the Nazis closed it in 1933. He then moved to France, where he lived for the rest of his life, becoming a French citizen in 1939 and producing some of his most prominent art.

He died in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1944.

So, without further ado, I’m off to write to Kandinsky and I promised myself that I wouldn’t mention his love life. Instead, I’m going to play it safe and stick to art and music.

A Letter to Kandinsky

Dear Kandinsky,

I’m burning the midnight oil trying to find the right words and my pen is stuttering away like the love struck uni student of days gone by. I’ve gone through sheet after sheet of paper, trying to find the right words and finally put together some kind of meaningful question to ask.

So, I’ll cut to the chase.

Could you please paint me playing my violin?

I know that’s a big ask when you’re world famous, and I pass right under all forms of radar. However, the world also needs to acknowledge the full scope of musicians, and not only honour those at the very pinnacle of success. Kandinsky, people forget that music doesn’t just refer to the maestros playing million dollar instruments. It also includes the beginners…the scratchy violinists, the annoying recorder players, the tone deaf, as well as the rhythmically challenged. Someone needs to represent the musical battler, and it might as well be me.

Of course, I can’t help wondering how my playing would affect your vision, and the corresponding relationship between colour and sound. Would you still paint my violin a relaxing tone of green? Or, would it all be reds, oranges, yellows? Maybe, somewhere in between?

Speaking about musical battlers, last weekend, I spotted this decrepit, dilapidated piano at the Scout Hall and I just had to play Moonlight Sonata on it. Moreover, I even asked my husband to record it. It sounded so bad, that it hurt your ears and we dubbed it: “The Sorry Sonata”…even “The Suicide Sonata”. Ironically, I usually play Moonlight Sonata on a Steinway Grand, but who hasn’t experienced the horrific twang of an old hall piano?  Well, I guess that’s changing because the piano is dying and you might be shocked to know that you can’t even give one away.

Anyway, why am I talking to you about pianos, when I wanted to talk about painting violins?

Getting back to my question, could please paint me playing my violin. It would really make me smile.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Letter From Kandinsky

Dear Rowena,

Thank you very much for your letter. Jackson Pollock had insisted I’d be next, but you never can be sure. There must be plenty of other artists who you admire starting with K.

Nothing would delight me more than painting you playing your violin. However, I should warn you that I’ve developed a new minimalist style where nothing actually goes on the page. I know that sounds very much like Hans Christian Andersen’s classic: The Emperor’s New Clothes. However, please trust me. It’s been liberating…just like painting nude. John Lennon got me into that.

Let’s make a time.

Best wishes,

Kandinsky

Featured Image: Composition VII 1913– The State Tretyakov Gallery

References & Further Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassily_Kandinsky

http://www.artcenterinformation.com/2012/08/who-and-what-inspired-wassily-kandinsky/

http://viola.bz/wassily-kandinsky-and-his-women/

https://www.moma.org/documents/moma_catalogue_448_300063127.pdf

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/kandinsky-path-abstraction/kandinsky-path-abstraction-room-guide

Kandinsky,  “Steps”  an autobiographic novella

 

 

The Last Rose of Summer…Friday Fictioneers.

There was something different about this rose…the last rose of Summer. While the harsh Autumn winds had claimed the rest of her kin, she stood firm, holding her petals in tight. Clearly, she was waiting.

Once upon a time, I would’ve known she was waiting for me. That she would be my bride. I’d have pulled out my violin, and accompanied her sweet song. Kissed her tenderly, sweeping the dew drops from her heart.

However, the winds had changed. Tortured by her thorns, I only knew love’s scars.

I did what I must.

It was off with her head.

……

Rosa_'Old_Blush'

“The Last Rose of Summer” is a poem by the Irish poet Thomas Moore. He wrote it in 1805, while staying at Jenkinstown Park in County Kilkenny, Ireland, where he was said to have been inspired by a specimen of Rosa ‘Old Blush’.[1] The poem is set to a traditional tune called “Aislean an Oigfear”, or “The Young Man’s Dream”,[2] which was transcribed by Edward Bunting in 1792, based on a performance by harper Denis Hempson (Donnchadh Ó hÁmsaigh) at the Belfast Harp Festival.[3]

I have been researching my Irish roots for many years and recently started researching a group of Irish Famine Orphans from Midleton Workhouse County Cork who emigrated to Sydney, Australia. These girls included my 4th Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan. I have been trying to pick up a bit of Irish cultural history and came across this dramatic poem.

– Wikipaedia.

“The Last Rose of Summer”

‘Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter,
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?

Thomas Moore

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Marie Gail Stratford