Tag Archives: writers

Advance to King’s Cross Station, Sydney.

“You will never hear a lawn mower in Kings Cross and that, for many of us, is entirely a sufficient reason to live here. Give me sirens any day.”

Anne Summers: “In the Gutter … Looking at the Stars. A Literary Adventure Through Kings Cross (Edited by Mandy Sayer and Louis Nowra)”

 

Following an  appointment in Sydney today, you could say I was lured off by the pixies. By the way, this is a rather common scenario whenever I have appointments in Sydney. I love going off the grid, wandering into other worlds and exploring through my camera lens which gives me vision, not simply sight. As a mother of two gorgeous children and host to a few medical annoyances, I also love going, doing, being myself without anyone else in tow. Or worse still, towing me off somewhere else.

Darlinghurst Road.JPG

I was able to go on today’s detour, as usual, because my mother was picking up the kids and I am incredibly thankful. Mind you, today’s detour was a bit of an indulgence because Mum hasn’t been well lately  and she made a point of saying: “Come straight home”. She knew I wouldn’t come straight home, but I did say I’d be home by 6.00 PM so she could get home early.

Today’s destination was an exhibition of letters by Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank, at  the Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst.

Image result for Map Kings Cross Sydney

Kings Cross is on the left hand side where you’ll also find Darlinghurst, where the museum is located.

I caught the train to Kings Cross  Station and while walking along Darlinghurst Road into neighbouring Darlinghurst, I had my SLR camera with its huge and heavy zoom lens dangling around my neck. That is, when I wasn’t peering through it.

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If you have read anything before about my relationship with my camera, you’ll already know that I see so much better through my camera lens. Or, even just when I have my camera with me. I’ll spot some teeny weeny detail and zoom into it, in a sense blowing it up into a world, filling the shot. It is all I see…this tiny piece of detail. It resonates so strongly with me in photography mode, yet I would’ve missed it looking through my own eyes. Walked straight past it.

So before I take you to the exhibition, I thought I’d take you on a brief photography tour from Kings Cross Station into Darlinghurst, which coincidentally, is where I was born.

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You can see Sydney Tower in the Middle and the brown building on the left is where I used to work.

This is a view of Kings Cross by day, which I can assure you, is totally different from Kings Cross by night. Kings Cross is Sydney’s red light district. I have experienced the distinction between Kings Cross by day and Kings Cross by night personally. My first job after graduation was working for Dun & Bradstreet at 100 William Street. This was a very corporate job and if I worked back, I’d leave the office in my navy to suit to see a line up of “working girls” of a different sort lined up along William Street. Naturally I felt uneasy waiting for my boyfriend to pick me up after work…even though my knee-length blue suits put me in a different league.

I wonder where this door came from? It really intrigues me.

Other than working in Kings Cross for a year, it’s not a place I’ve spent a lot of time. That said, after clubbing we used to go to  Dean’s Cafe in Kellett Street which had exotic  lounges, a surreal fish tank the best nachos back when nachos were a thing. It was and remains a cosmopolitan, bohemian hangout a world away from Sydney’s conservative North Shore where I grew up.

While Kings Cross has attracted sleaze, drugs, crime and everything on the wrong side of the law, it’s also been a creative haven, particularly during the 1920s. POet Ketheth Sleesor lived there and wrote his famous poem about The Cross, William Street:

William Street

The red globe of light, the liquor green, 
the pulsing arrows and the running fire 
spilt on the stones, go deeper than a stream; 
You find this ugly, I find it lovely 


Ghosts’ trousers, like the dangle of hung men, 
in pawn-shop windows, bumping knee by knee, 
but none inside to suffer or condemn; 
You find this ugly, I find it lovely. 


Smells rich and rasping, smoke and fat and fish 
and puffs of paraffin that crimp the nose, 
of grease that blesses onions with a hiss; 
You find it ugly, I find it lovely. 


The dips and molls, with flip and shiny gaze 
(death at their elbows, hunger at their heels) 
Ranging the pavements of their pasturage; 
You Find this ugly, I find it lovely.

Kenneth Slessor.

St John’s Anglican Church, Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst.

In his essay  My Kings Cross Slessor reflected:

“For whatever happens to its landscape, Kings Cross will always be a tract apart from the rest of Sydney, still contemptuous of the rules, still defiantly unlike any other part of any other city in Australia. And, though its skyline keeps on changing in an unpredictable and bewildering way, its essence of individuality doesn’t change, its flavours, noises, sights and smells remain the same immutably. For this reason I find as much pleasure in contemplating it today as I did when I looked out of a Woolcott Street window in 1922- indeed with its unending flux of lights and colours and its gaudiness and reticence, its sunsets and midnights, it seems (to me) a good deal more beautiful than the highly advertised stones and sand of Central Australia. To me, the Chevron Hilton Hotel, with its glittering windows and huge verticals, is as awe-striking as Ayers Rock.”

He obviously loved Kings Cross!

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I was quite surprised to find this  historic Georgian house at 207 Darlinghurst Road. Once known as “Omrah” and used as a private hospital, it now stands alone.

My thoughts are that you can find joy, beautiful, love, inspiration anywhere as love as your eyes are open. That is, the eyes of your heart. You just need to look, keep an open mind and not judge.

Have you ever been to Kings Cross by day? Perhaps, your Kings Cross is in London or somewhere else? I’d love to hear your G rated stories!

xx Rowena

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I found this one way sign pointing back to St John’s Church rather amusing.

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.

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

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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

O- Oscar Wilde: A Reply #AtoZchallenge.

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your letter.

As you might expect, I’m no longer the peacock, and have become a changed man. While I was renowned for my intellect and wit, I have been humbled. Even talking to the worms has been an education. It turns out that once we’re underground, all of us are simply “food”no matter who we thought we were.

Naturally, I receive a lot of visitors but no one else has ever brought me Tim Tams before. I’m still licking the chocolate off my fingers and wondering how to salvage a chunk of precious biscuit which accidentally fell in. I’m not quite sure how to retrieve it. Even back in the day, “the world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.”

Perhaps, I shouldn’t ask but do they still remember me at Cafe de la Paix? Bosie crucified me there on my last visit and the pain was so intense but Robbie stood by me.

Oscar Wilde

Speaking of pain, I’ve been trying to think up some advice. In my younger days, I wrote a series of aphorisms:  “Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young”. It seemed very clever at the time but wasn’t sound advice. Instead I’d like to ask you to read De Profundis. It was a letter I wrote to Bosie while I was in gaol and addresses the nature of suffering and our need to somehow rise above it all and still find joy. I’m not going to bore you with my endless whingeing about losing the lot.

However, I jotted down a few excerpts for you now:

“Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return. With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one centre of pain.”

“Nature….she will hang the night stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send word the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.”
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

“Every single human being should be the fulfilment of a prophecy: for every human being should be the realisation of some ideal, either in the mind of God or in the mind of man.”
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

“I am completely penniless, and absolutely homeless. Yet there are worse things in the world than that.”
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

 

“All the spring may be hidden in the single bud, and the low ground nest of the lark may hold the joy that is to herald the feet of many rose-red dawns.”
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

“A sentimentalist is simply one who wants to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it. We think we can have our emotions for nothing. We cannot. Even the finest and most self-sacrificing emotions have to be paid for. Strangely enough, that is what makes them fine. The intellectual and emotional life of ordinary people is a very contemptible affair. Just as they borrow their ideas from a sort of circulating library of thought—-the Zeitgeist of an age that has no soul—-and send them back soiled at the end of each week, so they always try to get their emotions on credit, and refuse to pay the bill when it comes in. You should pass out of that conception of life. As soon as you have to pay for an emotion you will know its quality, and be the better for such knowledge. And remember that the sentimentalist is always a cynic at heart. Indeed, sentimentality is merely the bank holiday of cynicism.”
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

 

“When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realising what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else – the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver – would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”
― Oscar Wilde

Oscar-Wilde-Grave-Top-Tenz

You know, Rowena, you’re the very first person who has ever brought me coffee. I was deeply touched. You were thinking of me and wanting to know my story, even if you couldn’t stay here very long. You wouldn’t believe what I’ve had to endure. They’ve come here in their thousands, puckering up and bragging how they’ve kissed Oscar Wilde. While they might have smeared me with lipstick, they haven’t touched me at all.

You have.

Thank you for your honesty, acknowledging you don’t know me and not pretending that you do.

You wouldn’t believe how many people I have running round inside my head thinking it’s their “right” to explore each and every nook and cranny of my brain. Could you just imagine what it’s like with all those people running around yelling and shouting, flashing their torches up the back of my nose and even taking samples all in the name of “science”. What makes them think they know me better than I knew myself? Why can’t they all get lost and leave me in peace? After all, I never stuck my head in their privates, did I?!!!

As soon as you mentioned seeing my golden angel, I knew you’d come here for a reason.

You see, I don’t believe in coincidence either. You held the match which finally lit the spark. I’m going to charge them all an entry fee. If they want to explore my head and make all sorts of accusations, they’ll have to pay!

So here’s to new beginnings! Now, I’ll finally be getting that new wallpaper!

Thank you!

Yours,

Oscar Wilde