Tag Archives: poets

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!

 

Dedication: To A Poet Dying Young #atozchallenge.

For the past six weeks, I have been writing Letters to Dead Poets for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. This wasn’t a selection of the world’s greatest, most influential poets. Rather, these were the poets who have touched me personally.

Due to the alphabetical nature of the challenge, it meant leaving some poets out and actively seeking out fresh sources of inspiration to fill those usual tricky letters along the road.

However, as I researched my list of poets more thoroughly, it became alarmingly clear that too many of these poets had taken their lives or had succumbed to some tragic accident. Indeed, that too many poets died young.

Throughout the challenge I was haunted by a poem we had studied at school: AE Housman’s: To An Athlete Dying Young. I have posted it here for your consideration and ask that you substitute “athlete” with “poet”.

To An Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay,

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut

Cannot see the record cut,

And silence sounds no worse than cheers

After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,

The fleet foot on the sill of shade,

And hold to the low lintel up

The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,

And find unwithered on its curls

The garland briefer than a girl’s.

A.E. Housman, 1859 – 1936

As a community, we need to look out for one another and reach out with love to the broken bird. Shelter, nurture the vulnerable, helping them to regain their own strength to return to the sky. While we can not offer professional mental health support or advice, I have to believe that love, acceptance and being part of community has to be some kind of help. Well, it’s doing a lot for me!

As poet John Donne wrote:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

Prior to undergoing this challenge, I’d never considered “Poet” a dangerous occupation. However, I am starting to wonder whether Stunt Pilots might have been survival rates.

It certainly reminds me of the need for balance. For taking the time to smell and inhale the roses and not just write about them. That as much as life needs to be lived, we also need to put down our pens, laptops and tools of trade and walk in the great outdoors.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

Z- Xu Zhimo, On Leaving Cambridge:#AtoZchallenge

Taking Leave of Cambridge Again

Softly I am leaving,
Just as softly as I came;
I softly wave goodbye
To the clouds in the western sky.

The golden willows by the riverside
Are young brides in the setting sun;
Their glittering reflections on the shimmering river
Keep undulating in my heart.

The green tape grass rooted in the soft mud
Sways leisurely in the water;
I am willing to be such a waterweed
In the gentle flow of the River Cam.

That pool in the shade of elm trees
Holds not clear spring water, but a rainbow
Crumpled in the midst of duckweeds,
Where rainbow-like dreams settle.

To seek a dream? Go punting with a long pole,
Upstream to where green grass is greener,
With the punt laden with starlight,
And sing out loud in its radiance.

Yet now I cannot sing out loud,
Peace is my farewell music;
Even crickets are now silent for me,
For Cambridge this evening is silent.

Quietly I am leaving,
Just as quietly as I came;
Gently waving my sleeve,
I am not taking away a single cloud.

Xu Zhimo

(6 November 1928) See Note.

Xu_Zhimo

 

Dear Mr Xu,

For the last month, I have been writing Letters To Dead Poets.  At last, I have finally reached “Z” and in a sense, my journey is over. You are: “The End”.

This means that I am also doing my own leaving. At least, that was the plan. However, this has become the first step of a much longer journey, which has unceremoniously been labelled: DRAFT.

Of course, “DRAFT” in no way reflects this gruelling, personal odyssey. Indeed, rather than “DRAFT”, it should be stamped “VICTORY” instead. After all, I’ve been working on numerous incarnations of The Book Project for 9 years and now I’m finally on my way.

Moreover, “DRAFT” fails to reflect how much I’ve grown and changed in the last month. Indeed, I’ve left a flat, hollow version of myself back at the start and at least now, I’m more aware of my ignorance. I don’t know whether my writing has improved from all of this reading and research but I have. You could say that I am the New Improved Version or in modern lingo I’ve been relaunched as Rowena 2.0.

This journey has been superfood for my soul!

However, as much as I would like to believe you could write a life-changing book in 30 days, I know it’s been rushed. Unfortunately, this is but the tip of the proverbial ice berg of what lies ahead and much of this work will also be going on underground, which is neither glamorous or exciting.

Anyway, this letter is not about me. It’s about you.

I’m here to ask about how you become a poet. Do you feel there was something inside you, some kind of “poet seed”, just waiting for the right time and that mix of sun and rain to germinate and grow? Or, were you made? If we took a humble lump of clay and processed it through a poet-making factory, could we pump out: “The Poet” where you turn the handle and poetry flows out, like an electric mincer?

Given that so many poets seem to go through the proverbial mincer themselves, I also have to wonder whether we should be watering poet seeds or manufacturing “The Poet” anyway.

I don’t know whether it was just bad luck that you died in a plane crash when you were 30 and Shelley drowned in a yacht at much the same age and Sylvia Plath also took her own life at 30.

Being a poet, really does seem to turn you into an endangered species. Wouldn’t we be better off in a much safer line of work such as becoming a stunt person? I think even they outlive us poets.

Cambridge_-_Punting_in_Cambridge_-_1690.jpg

Anyway, for those of us too far down the poet path to turn back, it’s 1928 and we’re returning with you on a brief tour to Kings College, Cambridge. You were there as a literary researcher 1922-1923. Hungrily devouring a rich poet soup blended with Shelley, Keats, Hardy, Tagore and the French romantics and symbolists, must have nourished you like a super food. You translated poems into Chinese. In 1922, you returned to China and became a leader in the Modern Poetry Movement. In 1923, you founded the Crescent Moon Society, named after an anthology of poetry by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore and in 1924, you worked as a translator on Tagore’s controversial tour of China. In 1928, you briefly returned to Cambridge on a tour. That’s when you wrote: On Leaving Cambridge, which is now learned by children throughout China.

Reflecting back to Virginia Woolf’s investigations into what it takes to be a woman writer, did you have a room of your own and independent means? Is that what allowed you to flourish? Or, was it something else?

Anyway, what Woolf forgot to mention, was that you also need to survive. Being a poet almost seems synonymous with tragedy. Even when such tragedy seems accidental, random, pure chance, that there’s no chance about it. Of all the millions of people living on this planet, once again the lightning bolt has stuck the poet…not someone else!

I thought you might appreciate this verse from Yeats and you can just substitute “lad” with “poet”…

“A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him up for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.”
― W.B. Yeats

Anyway, I should be safe. I’m working undercover driving Mum’s Taxi and posing as a suburban “housewife” (not my words, I can assure you!! Actually, our poor house has been orphaned…especially through the last 6 weeks!)

I am truly sorry that you life was cut so tragically short and you journey came to such a sudden, horrific end. It doesn’t seem fair that you didn’t get to finish your story.

Well, speaking of journeys drawing to a close, my trains due to depart, heading back to the shed. Indeed, the train whistle’s blowing right now.

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

Note

This translation is taken from Peter Pagnamenta (ed.) “The University of Cambridge: an 800th Anniversary Portrait”, (London: Third Millenium Publishing, 2008), page 29.

The featured image shows a memorial stone at Cambridge featuring the first and last lines of Xu’s poem.

 

U-John Updike On Dogs #atozchallenge

Dear Rowena,

Thank you very much for your letter and I apologise for my delayed response.

As you might appreciate, there was quite a backlog of books for me to review and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a book again. Not that I wasn’t thrilled to receive your letter.

Knowing how I shun attention on the golf course, I appreciate your reservations about writing to a book critic. I commend you on your courage. However, there’s no red pen here!

In your letter, you asked me why dogs don’t live anywhere near as long as humans. After much research, I have turned to Scottish poet, author and amateur dog breeder, Sir Walter Scott,

“I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?”

Sir Walter Scott

320px-Sir_Walter_Scott_statue_at_Scott_Monument.jpg

The Sir Walter Scott statue designed by John Steell, located inside the Scott Monument

By the way, Sir Walter Scott’s most famous and favourite dog was a deerhound, Maida (1816-1824 Named after the Battle of Maida, which took place in 1806, he was a gift from Alexander Macdonell of Glengarry, a friend of Scott, and whose brother led the 78th Highlanders in the battle, a victory for the British against the French in the Napoleonic Wars.

Scott wrote to his son Charles that “Old Maida died suddenly in his straw last week, after a good supper, which, considering his weak state, was rather a deliverance; he is buried below his monument, on which the following epitaph is engraved in Latin [Maidae marmorea dormis sub imagine Maida / Ante fores domini sit tibi terra levis],[3]thus Englished by an eminent hand : –

‘Beneath the sculptured form which late you bore,

Sleep soundly Maida at your master’s door.'”

The monument mentioned is a statue of the dog at the hall door of Scott’s home, Abbotsford House.

Thought you’d appreciate a bit of dog trivia, especially as you are building up quite a dossier about poet’s dogs.

By the way, you might let your father know I’m free for a round of golf. Rather rusty but death is perhaps the ultimate assault on your handicap.

 

unknown artist; Wordsworth's Dog, Pepper

unknown artist; Wordsworth’s Dog, Pepper; The Wordsworth Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/wordsworths-dog-pepper-143085

Thought you’d appreciate a bit of dog trivia.

By the way, you might let your father know I’m free for golf. Rather rusty but death is perhaps the ultimate handicap.

Kind regards,

John Updike.

Source

Wikipaedia

S- Shakespeare On Love 400 Years On.

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for thy letter. Deepest apologies for the fingerprints. All this birthday cake is a delectable feast and I’m shoveling in another mouthful as I write. By the way, these pens are an ingenious invention and so much easier to use than quills. In between mouthfuls of cake, I caught the Express to London and almost reached the heavens on the London Eye.

“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Now, if you had asked me how to stage a play and entertain a crowd, that I can do. However, I am not so sure about love and its very essence, except to say that: “the course of true love never did run smooth.” and that I have loved:

“Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.”

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Yet, obviously there are poets better versed in love than I.

Brownings

So, I thought I would introduce to Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. Despite vehement opposition from her father, they fell in love and  On September 12, 1846, while her family was away, they eloped and were married at St. Marylebone Parish Church. She returned home for a week, keeping the marriage a secret, then fled with Browning to Italy. She never saw her father again. Her best-known work, Sonnets from the Portuguese, chronicles their courtship and marriage.

Yet, despite their great love, they retained their personal writing styles.Mrs Browning once said: “I never wrote to please any of you, not even to please my own husband”. Moreover, noting her husband’s masculine style, she wrote: “you are masculine’ to the height — and I, as a woman, have studied some of your gestures of language & intonation wistfully, as a thing beyond me far! and admirable for being beyond.”

Anyway, I have scribed examples of their work and trust you will explore them further.

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

Violin rose

A Red, Red Rose

 O my Luve is like a red, red rose

   That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melody

   That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

   So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

   Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;

I will love thee still, my dear,

   While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!

   And fare thee weel awhile!

And I will come again, my luve,

   Though it were ten thousand mile.

 Robert Burns

 

Well, Rowena, I’m off to the theatre tonight. I’m hoping a hat will suffice for a head.

Yours,

William Shakespeare.

References:

Kathleen Blake: The Relationship of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/ebb/ebbio1.html

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/elizabeth-barrett-and-robert-browning-elope

The featured image is Rodin’s Romeo & Juliet 1905.

 

 

P- Dorothy Parker Writes to the Pollicle Dogs #atozchallenge.

Dear Pollicle Dogs,

Please thank your mother for  her letter. She is very generous with her words but should consider that just as: “Brevity is the soul of lingerie”, writers also need to be brief.

We have reconvened the  Algonquin Round Table and there’s been much discussion over your protests to  TS Eliot. Indeed, Misty and I thoroughly concur that Dogs the Musical is an absolute must.

Of course, Misty must have a leading role and I insist that the pair of you retreat to the Salon. Lady, in particular, has a certain scruffy “je ne sais quoi”, which needs IMMEDIATE attention!

Bilbo, if you are serious about performing, baths, brushing and hairdryers are de rigeur. No further complaints, or you will be “replaced”!

Moreover, there are two further rules you’ll have to abide: “No balls on stage” and “No rolling in dead animals”.

Lady, I am appalled! Indeed, you are quite the “ruff ruff”, NOT a Lady!!

While that such conduct might be appealing in canine society, it’s not how you win friends and influence PEOPLE!

 

 

Meanwhile, here is a poem I wrote to my beloved Misty:

Verse For A Certain Dog

Such glorious faith as fills your limpid eyes,
Dear little friend of mine, I never knew.
All-innocent are you, and yet all-wise.
(For Heaven’s sake, stop worrying that shoe!)
You look about, and all you see is fair;
This mighty globe was made for you alone.
Of all the thunderous ages, you’re the heir.
(Get off the pillow with that dirty bone!)

A skeptic world you face with steady gaze;
High in young pride you hold your noble head,
Gayly you meet the rush of roaring days.
(Must you eat puppy biscuit on the bed?)
Lancelike your courage, gleaming swift and strong,
Yours the white rapture of a winged soul,
Yours is a spirit like a Mayday song.
(God help you, if you break the goldfish bowl!)

“Whatever is, is good” – your gracious creed.
You wear your joy of living like a crown.
Love lights your simplest act, your every deed.
(Drop it, I tell you- put that kitten down!)
You are God’s kindliest gift of all – a friend.
Your shining loyalty unflecked by doubt,
You ask but leave to follow to the end.
(Couldn’t you wait until I took you out?)

Dorothy Parker

Wait by the phone! I’ll be in touch my lovelies!

Best wishes,

Dorothy

Pollicle dogs was coined by TS Eliot after his niece couldn’t say “poor little dogs”.

 

Weekend Coffee Share – April 17, 2016.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share,

If you were thinking about popping round for coffee today, I’d probably tell you not to bother. That you’d probably have to make your own and truth be told, I’ve very surprised the family hasn’t been surviving on Vegemite toast for the last week as I’ve been totally swallowed up by the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. My theme is: Writing Letters to Dead Poets, which has evolved into quite a grueling yet fascinating journey alongthe road less travelled. You definitely need a mechanically sound 4WD to make your way through.

If you are interested in checking our the letters, I’ve posted a list of letters so far on my weekly review: Alphabet Soup

I also wrote a post about some of the twists and turns I’ve negotiated so far as I’ve faced what many would consider rhetorical questions head on for better or worse:Diving Deep into Deep Poet Creek.

On a more light-hearted note, the kids are currently on school holidays and still have another week to go. So far,, I’ve learned that trying to make cupcakes when your head’s focused elsewhere is not a good thing.  While translating grams into cups, I accidentally told my daughter to add double the amount. She later laughed that you couldn’t have too much sugar but thinking about the chemistry involved, I wasn’t quite so sure. They emerged looking like ponds with sunken centres which she filled up with icing sugar mixed with food colouring which was quite runny and moved. I didn’t photograph the neon ponds. No doubt, fearing I’d burst into hysterics and offend the cook, which is NEVER advisable!

My daughter and I also went for a walk with the dogs along the beach. There was quite a terrible smell and I knew that no matter what or where it was, Lady would find it and not just roll in it but actually grind the stench deep into the fur follicles to 100% guarantee it never came out. In this instance, the stench was a baby Bronze Whaler Shark. Just as well it was dead!

My son has spent most of the holidays playing Minecraft in chat rooms although he and Geoff built a shelf for his room and are in the throws of painting it. Mr has done most of the work and it’s look great.

Now, it’s Tim Tams and TV while psyching myself up to jump back on the A-Z wagon tomorrow with a controversial O.

How was your week? Have you been participating in the A-Z Challenge and how are you going with it? I’d love to hear from you!

Wish all a wonderful week ahead!

xx Rowena