crazyjane: (Default)
THE JOURNEY - Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

from New and Selected Poems, volume 1
crazyjane: (poetry)
- Serena Mithane

you cannot grow daffodils
between brittle bones-
in ribcages worn down
from a heart beating against it
to break free. you hum
bluebird melodies to yourself
make-believing morning dew
makes it better. you have mistaken
eyelashes for the meadows,
fleeting visions running barefoot-
carelessly, spinning - hoping
spring will come early this year.
your fingertips have never learned
the meaning of earth: discovery
of digging nails deeper into surfaces.
trembling, underneath shifting skylines,
blanketed in wisps of dandelions-
early morning light will not heal
the frostbite creaking in your joints.

he is not coming home today, either.

via deviantart
crazyjane: (poetry)
Continental drift
- Marian Weaver

He started wearing new suits
and leather shoes.
She cut her hair.
They read different books,
and faced away from each other in bed.

Published in NFusion 50
crazyjane: (Default)
let the dead rise
by Raya

paper sits on the wooden table & doesn't know what touch feels like.

& what of touch — indelicate, I didn't intend to cocoon it beneath a shell
conditioned not to break. a pen, I am thinking, touching: I can write

mother's body is not a sunday dress an ambulance collects
& hauls down the street for the examiner to unstitch, for the mortician
to suture back & breathless. I have to believe that

I can write:

mother's body is not a dead thing I watch others gently pack into soil

where above, someone erects stone that reads: she rests in peace.

my grandmother calls peace heaven, & I say what she calls heaven is earth
swallowing a person. I say we are Abraham sacrificing the son without lamb.

via deviantart
crazyjane: (poetry)

There's a star in the sky
that makes me think of you

That star shines so bright
that it light's up the entire night sky
Just like you shine so bright
that you light up my whole life

But then your life started to fade
you light becoming so dull
and you said that you knew that your time had come

As you started to go, crystalline tears flowed down my face
wishing that this was all just a dream, but it wasn't

Now whenever I look at the stars
I find myself trying to find that one shining star

When I look a that star I find myself starting to smile
remembering all the times you made me smile

So now that you're gone
here's my poem from me to you
a poem to let you know
that even though you're gone
and that your light may have faded
there is one little piece of that light
that still shines so bright
one little fragment that of your light
that I keep locked inside my heart

Untitled poem, by my daughter Megan
crazyjane: (poetry)
The Mortician, by ~crooked-clockwork
(via deviantart)

january: when i was stupid
enough to embark down the
path of death.

mortician, teach me the ways
of understanding death
& listening
a bit too close
to the broken clock
springs nestled
in your equally as broken
mind. i have grown
quite fond of the
smell of formaldehyde,
of the citrus oxides
you deploy to
deter suspicious neighbors.

i want to sleep
& dream of a body all my
own (& maybe for you too), to forget the
scars that caress me, but what i
isn’t always death’s
cup of tea. however, it always
seems like it’s your pleasure
to show me the books on
burials & committals & cults
skirting the ideals of the bible
to better under the world’s
bible of empathy.
so i sit,
split in between an existence
bent on our nirvana,
or an afterlife sewn
into the paper-thin-morale of
you, mortician.

july: when i finally realized
that love is real
even in the presence of death.

mortician, teach me how to
smile without my
skeleton wilting under
the moon’s
courage-crushing grasp. i want
to know,
i long to break ties
with the leviathan
we call God. to rejoice with
your idea of
warmth, with
your idea of mortality.

the art of embalmment? you’ll
have to forgive me
if i flinch,
if i shy away at first;
i’ve only ever known
the familiar sting
of a needle piercing my own skin,
not forcing a tube
into the veins
of a child
blessed with escape.
why do we all have to be so fragile?
“it’s simple,” the mortician responded.
“because we are not meant
to outlast our forefathers. we, as humans,
are not meant to age
alongside the concept of time,
nor are we meant to
live through the war, the battle
we call life.”

december: when i noticed a child
trying to kick out my ribs &
i felt comfortable in the arms of death.

mortician, finally i ask
for your hand in
under the sun of that
monster we call our guardian,
under the forceps of
a distinct, medicinal glove carving
out my philosophies that
you never taught to me. i’ve never
loved a man so
much, nor as violently
as i have you… entertain my
for all i have ever wanted
was to fall victim to your hands,
to your needles,
to your teachings of death
& to learn from you
how to deal
with dying.

the ice we tread is
weak, as we are,
as you have taught me
through the many nights your hands crept up
my thighs,
through the many times your heart beat
separate from mine
& you would let me
cry. but mortician,
can you explain life to
me? just this once
i’d like to know why my thoughts
go faster when you’re coiled around my mind,
around my body
like a disease weaving cancer
into my bone marrow.

“it’s merely because you are human,
you want to understand life.
i cannot explain, because i am a fool
that life never wanted.
i found solace in the dead,
in the art associated with the occasion
of death. but, with my child
beginning to live
inside of you, protected by
your bones,
& by your love,
i can admit:

death no longer needs me.”

The Mortician, by crooked-clockwork
crazyjane: (poetry)
The LZ Sally Poetry Page – Tales from the I Corps

‘Tales from the I Corps’ is a collection of poetry written by veterans of the Vietnam War (and one by the daughter of a veteran who suffered from chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). The poems themselves speak directly to the experience of the writers, both ‘in country’ and after the war, as they tried to settle back into their old lives.

Each poet’s signature contains both his name and his division assignment, underscoring their common background and experiences. Some also include their military nicknames (‘Doc’, ‘the Greek’, and so on).

The poems are self-published, and there’s little evidence of an editing process at work. As such, they suffer technically at times. The rawness of the poetry, however, lends a directness of communication that can be missing from more polished works. The reader is constantly reminded that these are real experiences, written by those who lived through violence and trauma. The poets’ struggle with language, form and rhyme can be read as part of their struggle to fully articulate ‘the anguish of just living or trying to stay alive in the midst of combat and the pitiful conditions of life in a war torn country that was thousands of miles away from home’ to those who remained in their home countries.

Each poet brings a distinctive voice. ‘Another Good Morning from Vietnam’, by Paul Cameron (1st Inf. Div.) is full of wry humour, marrying the banalities of a DJ’s patter with the almost offhand observation that ‘It’s been raining rockets all week up in Lai Khe’. In ‘We Regret to Inform You’, that same flippant tone is dramatically undercut in the last stanza, where the poet speaks directly and bitterly to those veterans who survived:

‘Dear combat comrades of these dear fallen men
We regret to inform you that your memories never end
The sights and sounds of their death keep pounding away
Their names carved on a wall as you kneel down to pray’.

Ken Hornbeck (D/1/501)’s ‘Black Panther in Ambush’ tells the chilling story, delivered in a matter-of-fact tone, of a veteran so haunted by the war that he turns his own backyard into a battlefield. The short poems of Mark Regan (B/1/501) serve as snapshots that place the reader firmly in the physical reality of Vietnam – narrowly avoiding being bitten by a green bamboo snake (‘Reprieve’), looking up at a single cloud in the sky and wondering if it portends anything (‘Omen’), and lying alone in a foxhole remembering a loved one (‘End of July’). Each short sketch has a restrained quality to it, often featuring objects in the natural world; these evoke echoes of Asian poetry, especially Japanese haiku and Classical Chinese ‘Beyond the Borders’ verse.

The raw power of these poems is perhaps best illustrated in ‘After Nam’ by Pete ‘Doc’ Fraser (3/187):

‘After Nam
it took me a long time to realise
that every time it thundered
someone did not have to die’.

Confessional poetry of any kind walks a fine line; it’s all too easy to tip over into dramatically overblown descriptions of pain, alienating the reader. Conversely, a reader can be left without empathy for the poem if it is too restrained. Many of these poems manage that balance beautifully, adding only enough detail to fully ‘place’ the reader, and trusting that fewer words can convey more than a whole stanza dedicated entirely to ‘feelings’. Often the poems lack a visible narrator; this absence, far from undermining the impact, actually heightens the emotional tension.

The collator of ‘Tales from the I Corps’, Mark Regan, urges the reader: ‘Don't read this stuff fast... it needs to be thunk about’ (sic). He’s right, of course – but one of the beauties of this collection is that we can’t help but think about it. The poems stay with us long after we navigate away from the web page, giving us both perspective and empathy for those who lived through the Vietnam War, and who still carry it with them.

Rating: 4 stars
crazyjane: (poetry)
After finishing the Persephone cycle, I was more than a tad optimistic about the possibility that I might be back in poetry-writing mode.

Thankfully, I was right!

Yesterday, I wrote two more poems - both of which I think will require minimal polishing. All tangled up in a 'here, read this' ... 'now you read this' conversation.

And then, last night, spontaneous poetry jam with [profile] punk_rock_nerd via IM that just took off and headed for the stratosphere.

It was, in a word, fucking awesome.

Yes, I know it's two words. Don't you oppress me.
crazyjane: (moondark)
Did I mention that oh god, I have missed getting drunk on poetry, letting it come spilling out, the sheer euphoria of that back-and-forth flow between poets?? Having someone's words take your breath away, doing the same thing right back ... there is nothing, nothing like it.
crazyjane: (moondark)
You've probably read a review, or an interview with an author who talks about having killed off a favourite character, or finished an epic novel. That author often mentions that they felt 'devastated', or that they cried.

I've always found that a little hard to believe. I mean, c'mon, you know how it's going to end - you're writing the words that do that. And isn't just a little convenient for publicity purposes? Sounds great in an interview when J.K. Rowling talks about crying when she wrote the last few lines of Harry Potter and the Deathly Prose - end of an era, epic conclusion, blah blah blah.

Yeah, colour me cynical.

And colour me now backpedalling frantically and offering something of a shamefaced apology. :)

Back in 2009 I started writing a cycle of poems about the Greek Goddess Persephone - not a retelling of myth as such, but more exploring a bunch of ideas like her relationship with her mother, how a rape victim could end up deciding to stay with her rapist half the year, what would an experience like that do to someone, etc.

I hadn't finished it by the end of my course at NMIT, so I submitted what I had and pretty much forgotten about it.

Fast-forward to a couple of months ago, when I noticed Neos Alexandria was producing a devotional anthology about Persephone. This is the same group that published a whole bunch of similar books, each dedicated to a different deity - I had a devotional to Hekate accepted for one. Even better, the Persephone book was being edited by [personal profile] sephatta, who's the most devoted and knowledgeable person about that Goddess I've ever known.

So I got to thinking ... maybe I could finish my cycle of poems. And then nothing much happened.

This morning I got email asking if I was still interested in submitting for the anthology. I hauled out the unfinished stuff and my notes and took a look. What the hell, it's worth a try, right?

I finished the cycle about half an hour ago. And as I wrote the last poem, I was getting more and more upset. When I finally wrote the last couple of lines, I burst into tears - not because it was over, but because of what I'd written.

Yeah, I kinda devastated myself.

So major apology to all those authors for thinking they were just making a shameless marketing statement.

I'm just, y'know, gonna go and hug somebody now.

(Also ... I wrote poetry! For the first time in literally months!)
crazyjane: (poetry)
Tonight I'll be heading into the City Library (hi, [profile] acerbicmuffin!) to try my luck in the wild card heat of the National Poetry Slam.

The top two from that heat will go on to the Victorian final, and the top two from there will fly to Sydney for the National final, to be held in the Opera House and filmed by the ABC.

The contest attracts some of the best poets in the country.

I feel no pressure at all. None. Who, me? Nervous?

crazyjane: (moondark)
I've been taking stock over the last little while.

Ever since I first decided to study at a tertiary level, I've been battling myself. I know I'm intelligent, know I have a certain amount of writing talent, know I'm quick on the uptake, a fast reader, fast worker, etc. I also 'know' that I am faking it, an impostor. There's always been a nagging suspicion that, sooner or later, the 'truth' will come out, and it'll all come tumbling down.

I know this is irrational. I can look at my results, read comments from teachers and friends, appeal to objectivity. For my feelings to be true, there would have to be a massive failure of reality for pretty much everyone and everything around me. Nonetheless ... the feeling persists.

Impostor syndrome is not unknown to me. I've read a fair bit about it, and I can recognise it in myself. It doesn't go away, though - and so I spend so much time and energy trying to ignore that voice that tells me I'll never be any better than mediocre, a big fish in a small pond at best. It's harder when events appear to confirm it. Rationally, I know that just making the final of the Overload Slam was a great achievement, and missing out on a place in the Bristol-Melbourne Slam by only 0.5 points was amazing, especially when I've only performed in half a dozen slams in my life. Emotionally, irrationally, I 'know' the result is 'proof' of exactly the reverse.

Then there's the paralysis of depression. I don't care what anyone says, depression does not make you write better. It does not bring out the deep, raw talent. What it does is send ideas careering around your head, just out of reach in a kind of horrible fog. The blank page - enemy of any would-be writer - becomes an insurmountable wall. You are assailed, torn between the desire - the need - to write, and the inability to make the words appear.

I see people churn out tens of thousands of words during NaNoWriMo, write pages and pages of poetry, a short story every week, draft and re-draft. I know I can write, but after so many years, the paralysis often feels like some part of the process is missing in me.

I'm aware of the irony of what I'm doing here. I'm writing about not being able to write. It's hard to explain, but there's something essentially different about blogging like this. Maybe it's because there is nothing riding on it? Maybe because it's something I don't connect with 'talent' or 'ability' or 'craft'?

Under pressure, I write. Forced in class to come up with something right then and there, I can do it. In one case, my teacher even recommended I polish the piece and submit it to The Age. (And here is that impostor-voice again, warning me that it's not good enough, my teacher is being generous or mistaken, etc.) When I sit here at home, though, the blank screen and the fog and the doubt all come crashing back. Anything I produce then is slow and painful in coming, and I'm never satisfied.

I don't understand what happens. Is it something about not wanting to let the teacher down? Is it that I need to have that supervision (and what does it say about me if I do)?

I line up my achievements (degree with Honours, conference papers, slam wins, acceptance by a publication) and put them alongside comments from others. I look at what I have written, and say to myself 'You did it once, you can do it again'.

It doesn't help.

So here I am, trying to reach for a future, a career that I hope will satisfy both the creative and intellectual sides of me. And here I am, battling myself and wondering if there's ever any way out of this spiral of self-sabotage and doubt.

State of the me.
crazyjane: (poetry)
So, tonight was the last heat for the Overload Poetry Slam, held at Northcote Social Club.

After rushing around like the proverbial chook to get there on time, it was hurry up and wait while everything got sorted. Our 7.30 pm start ended up being about 8.15 - not bad for Poets' Time, actually.

This Slam was run more like the US kind - five judges chosen at random from the audience who are not poets, or affiliated with poets in any way. In fact, they are preferentially insurance agents or bankers. These judges give a score from 10 to minus infinity. The top and bottom scores are struck out, and the remainder added. You are, basically, at their mercy.

Order of appearance is entirely random. The audience calls out a number, and if yours is up, you just gotta schlep out to the stage and pick up the mic. Going first is, of course, something that everyone prays will not happen to them.

Naturally, that's exactly what happened to me tonight. Argh. I got a cold room, new judges and a bagful of nerves. As a result, I wasn't too surprised when I ended up not making the top 3, who go into the Final on Friday night. Annoyed at getting the bum spot, but hey, it's the nature of the thing.

While I'm congratulating the winner (who has the best technique of dealing with hecklers I've ever seen - oh, didn't I mention heckling is not only allowed, but encouraged?), the MC came up to me and informed that the third-place finalist couldn't make the Final. I was only 0.5 points behind him so ...


Yes, it was a technicality, but you know what? To get that close, especially when I was up first? I'm not complaining.

So, now I'm just going to sit here and jitter until Friday night.

If anyone's bored then, and wants to point and laugh, it's at Dante's in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, at 9.30pm.

(Oh, and did I mention that there's a ninja? She attacks you with a pair of foam swords if you go over the three minute time limit. I shit you not. She's scary.)
crazyjane: (Default)
In honour of the imminent departure of Brendan Nelson:

A plucky young pollie named Brendan
Was dismayed at the way polls were trendin'
'That number's too low!'
Said the Libs, 'Time to go!
Get up to the back bench and blend in!'

This is getting addictive.
crazyjane: (poetry)
We were asked to tackle 'political poetry' in class last week.

My brain was, well, not in the serious poetic mode. And someone had challenged me to find a rhyme for the Prime Minister's favourite phrase, 'enhanced programmatic specificity'.

So I did.

For Julia Gillard, Deputy PM:

A feisty young pollie called Jules
Thought the Liberals were nothing but fools
When they’d come the raw prawn
She’d just laugh them to scorn
And go on showing pictures of schools

For the outgoing former Deputy Liberal leader, Peter Costello:

A veteran by name of Costello
Seemed to be such an ambitious fellow
But when called on to lead
He could not do the deed
Guess his belly was just too darned yellow

And the piece de resistance:

There once was a PM named Rudd
Who said, ‘I’m no stick in the mud!
With enhanced programmatic specificity
I’ll generate free electricity
And you’ll all see I’m not such a dud!’

Hm, now I need to do one for Brendan Nelson, (briefly) former Liberal Leader in Opposition, since he's announced his intention to flee for the hills.

brendan tendon lend 'em mend 'em pendin' bendin' sendin' ... I'm not hopeful.
crazyjane: (poetry)
Went off tonight to the Spinning Room for the Believer invitational Slam. This heat was being sponsored by Overland magazine, and there was a representative there listening keenly to us all. No pressure. (gulp)

I nearly didn't make it, thanks to my stupid knees, but the organiser was exceptionally generous and offered to pick me and up and drop me home afterwards. I'm very, very grateful to him - he went far out of his way, and drove from my place to Prahran and back (a round trip of over 90 minutes).

The standard was incredibly high - and to make matters even more nerve-wracking, after each round the lower scores were eliminated.

To cut a long story short (too late!), I made it through all three rounds. To my chagrin, though, I was nearly 90 seconds too long on my last poem, in the 3-minute round! I have no idea how that happened. When I timed it before the night started, it was 3 minutes 27 seconds, and so I cut out about eight lines to be sure. It's a complete mystery to me where the rest came from - I must have been really slowing down my delivery. The Spinning Room's regular organiser said, though, the fact that I held the audience silent for so long is both unusual and a credit to my performance. (I blushed. A lot.)

The upshot was that I came 5th out of a field of 14, dropping two places because of time penalties. I did, however, win the Overland 3rd round prize (a copy of the next issue), because my score before penalties was high.

The next heat is on October 23rd, in a church in Thornbury. I've been invited back, and urged to come back to the Spinning Room on one of their regular open stage nights. One of the other poets, a fantastic talent named IQ, has also urged me to enter the Overload Poetry Festival Slam.

This is all getting a bit epic ...
crazyjane: (poetry)
Last night was another Blue Velvet poetry slam. I actually thought I did pretty well - the first poem was a little weak. It works for open mic, but slam needs a bit more, well, 'punch'. No pun intended. Actually, pun definitely intended. So there. Ner.

As it's an aggregate score to determine finalists, I guess I'll be attending several more between now and December. I'm doing okay - one win, one third, and last night was fourth. This will probably sound arrogant, but I think I would have come second had one of the competitors not brought a bunch of friends who thought it would be funny to give really low scores to the person they saw as his main competition, i.e. me. I nailed my third round - one of the best readings of that particular poem I've ever done. Their response was to nudge each other, giggle and smirk at me while giving me the lowest possible score. They also tried it on the eventual winner, but he was gaining such high scores all the way through that they couldn't knock him off the top spot.

I know it sounds like sour grapes, but let's put it this way. I have no problem with people voting perhaps a little higher for their friends. It's natural. You like your friend's work, you're inclined to be a little more generous. But this was deliberately attempting to use the voting system to ruin another competitor's chances. It's not on. Vote the merit of the piece.

But on a happier note, I was surprised and incredibly flattered to be asked to take part in an invitation slam being held at the Spinning Room next Tuesday. It's being sponsored by Overland Literary Journal and by the Parliament of World Religions. Anyone can attend as part of the audience (and therefore, be a judge), but competitors are specifically invited to take part. So colour me really pleased.

Then the organiser of that slam informed me that he was also setting up a series of 'featured poets' to perform at the Spinning Room later this year. Would I be interested in being a featured poet, because he'd really like to see me perform more of my work?

Would I??? Is a bear a Catholic?!

So, between those, and my intention to compete in Overload Poetry Festival's Babble Slam, I'm hopefully going to be doing a lot of performance poetry in the near future. Which is good, because it's going to make me write more. This week was particularly productive - three parts to my 'Persephone' suite, two stand-alone poems and a submission for John Birmingham's 'epic poet laureate' challenge. The latter was particularly weird - trying to think in terms of post-apocalyptic American patriotism. Quite a fun exercise, in the end, and hopefully not too cliched.

All that kinda makes up for the fact that workshopping my poetry suite project is proving to be all sorts of frustrating and depressing. Mind you, it's getting written nonetheless!

Oh, and [personal profile] 17catherines? Today's little in-class assignment? Spend ten minutes writing in a language other than English. My Hebrew deserted me, so I put together a very strange little piece in French. The grammar, mind you, is a little wonky - I didn't have time to ransack my fading memory for the proper rules, so be kind - but I thought you might get a giggle out of it.

Cécile a dix-sept ans. Elle est tres jolie, mais aussi tres desolée. Pour Cécile, la vie est une monde sans soleil. Aujourd’hui, Cecile va a la domicile de la Maîtresse de la Maison des Arbres, dans la forêt noir. Elle veut a sais le nom de l’homme avec les yeux bleus dans le fenêtre. Elle adore l’homme, mais l’homme ne sais pas Cécile.
crazyjane: (moondark)
Since I'm making a conscious effort to read much more poetry, I thought I'd post a few recommendations.

First up is The Fat Lady Sings by Doris Leadbetter.

Doris came late to writing - in fact, it wasn't until after her 'retirement' to Bendigo that she actually took it up on a regular basis, and then, quite by accident. Coming back to Melbourne, she began teaching creative writing at TAFE, and made a real name for herself as a poet, advocate of poetry and general poetry nut. After her death in 2004, her entire collection of poetry, literature and books about writing were bequeathed to NMIT. The collection is some 600 books long, and contains many obscure editions and signed copies.

The Fat Lady Sings was published by Flat Chat Press just after her death. It's a poignant read; many of the poems have a confessional air, where Doris talks frankly about her experiences with aging, and with cancer. There are poems which tackle the idea of body image, and fat and descriptive pieces about country towns which may or may not exist. A particularly marvellous suite called "The Mrs Arthur P. Craven Poems" gives us historic events from the point of view of a fifty-something woman whose holidays include Pompeii in 79CE and the Titanic's maiden (and only) voyage.

Doris' style is chatty, matter-of-fact, and - at times - her tongue is firmly planted in her cheek. She's not afraid to call it how she sees it, and her language reflects that. Even though her language is quite plain, the images she evokes are rich and sometimes startling. In 'Driving Through at Night', her abandoned town is summed up by the beautiful description of the petrol station: " ... the pumps are spidered and the prices long out of date".

As a sample, here's the poem from which the title of the book was taken :

'The Fat Lady's Song' - Doris Leadbetter

When I die don't let them keep the bones
to marvel at the load they bore;
nor the ashes to wonder at the quantity.
Don't offer them the parts that work,
so that others, nearer life, can share my pain.

Break the bones, and spread the ashes
under a lemon tree and roses.
Let me at last bring scent and savour
to the weary lives of those who loved me.
When I die I want to be an ordinary memory.

The Fat Lady Sings is available from Flat Chat Press, and from good independent bookshops. I highly recommend it. If you don't like poetry, give it a go. She'll surprise you.

August 2017

67 89101112


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios