Chapter 51: Poetry Now & Then

Writers Group Session – Poetry.

Writers group is great for my mental health, not so much for my ever expanding arse – the nibbles are first rate. Tonight we were treated to a delightful host, delightful poetry, classical, beautiful words in intricate covers and pages.

We also had our poetry critiqued as well as reading personal favourite’s. I’ve got some cliched classics I enjoyed as a child and a teen as well as some new discoveries.

I read the Jabberwocky word for word – exactly how my third grade teacher had brain washed our class all those decades ago.

The writing exercise was

Choose a topic and a style

…from the hat of funness. I chose Boiling Bunnies which I painstakingly wrote an epitaph and limerick about. The limerick was bloody hard – much harder than I remember when I used to write them as a kid. The topic made it both tricky and hilarious. 15 minutes writing time for each.

Here lies our darling departed

Whose dear lives had barely started

Wee hares courageous and bold

Forever remain, buried and cold

Stark contrast to sweet cotton tails

Cutesy twitches

Once hippity hopped over meadows

and frollicked yonder in ditches

‘Tis a ditch they met a tragic fate

Hungry traveller came calling quite late

There was no waning moon

Nor was it sunny

Just a drooling oaf with a giant pot

and a penchant for boiling bunnies

Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust

Add salt and gravy to the rabbit stew you must.

and the really woeful limerick…

There once was a lass from York

Whose head was the shape of a fork

Folk thought it was funny

When she boiled a batch of bunnies

and skewered them with BBQ pork

Enheduanna

 The world’s first known author/poet is widely considered to be Enheduanna, a woman who lived in the 23rd century BCE in ancient Mesopotamia (approximately 2285 – 2250 BCE) and the first person in human history to sign their name to a work of literature. An ancient “triple threat,” she was a princess and a priestess as well as a writer and poet. As Leick notes “to some extent the descriptive epithets of Mesopotamian goddesses reveal the cultural perception of women and their role in ancient society”.[26]

The Exaltation of Inanna

Without you no destiny is determined… To run, to escape, to quiet and to pacify are yours, Inanna. To open up roads and paths, a place of peace for the journey, a companion for the weak, are yours, Inanna. To keep paths and ways in good order, to shatter earth and to make it firm are yours, Inanna. To destroy, to build up, to tear out and to settle are yours, Inanna. To turn a man into a woman and a woman into a man are yours, Inanna.–

Sappho

Sappho was an ancient Greek female poet who wrote lyrical poetry famous for its intense passion and description of love. Being born on the Isle of Lesbos she is also referred to as the first Lesbian poet. Little is known of her actual life, though she was born around 620BC, and died approximately 50 years later.

Charaxos and Larichos

Say what you like about Charaxos,
that’s a fellow with a fat-bellied ship
always in some port or other.
What does Zeus care, or the rest of his gang?

Now you’d like me on my knees,
crying out to Hera, “Blah, blah, blah,
bring him home safe and free of warts,”
or blubbering, “Wah, wah, wah, thank you,

thank you, for curing my liver condition.”
Good grief, gods do what they like.
They call down hurricanes with a whisper
or send off a tsunami the way you would a love letter.

If they have a whim, they make some henchmen
fix it up, like those idiots in the Iliad.
A puff of smoke, a little fog, away goes the hero,
it’s happily ever after. As for Larichos,

that lay-a-bed lives for the pillow. If for once
he’d get off his ass, he might make something of himself.
Then from that reeking sewer of my life
I might haul up a bucket of spring water.

Emily Dickenson

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

"A woman's psyche may have found its way to the desert out of resonance, or because of past cruelties or because she was not allowed a larger life above ground. So often a woman feels then that she lives in an empty place where there is maybe just one cactus with one brilliant red flower on it, and then in every direction, 500 miles of nothing. But for the woamn who will go 501 miles, there is something more. A small brave house. An old one. She has been waiting for you."
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

How To Silence A Woman: Retrieving Her Voice

When someone says, “We’re saying the same thing.”
Say, “We are not saying the same thing.”

When someone says, “Don’t question, just have faith”
Say, “I am questioning vato, and I have supreme faith in what I think.”

When someone says, “Don’t defy my authority.”
Say, “There is a higher authority that I follow.”

When someone says, “Your ideas are seductive.”
Say, “No, my ideas are not seductive, they are substantial.”

When someone says, “Your ideas are dangerous”
Say, Yes, my ideas are dangerous, and why are you
so afraid hombre o mujer ?

When it is said, “It’s just not done.”
Say. “It will be done.”

When it is said, “It is immature”
Say, “All life begins small and must be allowed to grow.”

When it is said, “It’s not well thought out.”
Say, “It is well thought out.”

When they say, “You’re over-reacting.”
Say, “You’re under-reacting vato.”

When they say, “You’re being emotional.”
Say, “Of course I have well placed emotions, and by the way, what happened to yours?”

When they say, “You’re not making any sense.”
Say, “I don’t make sense, I am the sense.”

When they say, “I can’t understand you when you’re crying.”
Say. “Make no mistake, I can weep and be fierce at the same time.”

When they say, “I cant understand you when you’re being so angry.”
Say. “You couldn’t hear me when I was being nice, sweet or silent, either.”

When someone says, “You’re missing the point.”
Say, “I’m not missing the point, but you seem to be missing my point—
What are you so afraid of?”

When someone says, “You are breaking the rules.”
Say, “Yes, I am breaking the rules.”

When someone says, “That’s not practical.”
Say, “It’s practically a done deal, thank you very much.”

When it is said, “No one will do it, believe you, follow it.”
Say, “I will do it, I will believe in it, and in time, the world may well follow it.”

When it is said, “No one wants to listen to that.”
Say, “I know you have a hard time listening to that.”

When it is said, “It’s a closed system, you cant change it.”
Say, “I’m going to knock twice and if there is no answer,
then I am going to blow the doors off that system and it will change.

When it is said, “They’ll ignore you.”
Say, “They won’t ignore me and the 100s of thousands who stand with me.

When they say, “It’s already been done.”
Say, “It’s not been done well enough.”

When they say, “It’s not time yet.”
Say “It’s way past time.”

When they say, “It’s not the right day, right month, right year.”
Tell them, “The right year was last year,
and the right month was last month,
and the right day was yesterday,
and you’re running behind schedule vato,
and what in the name of God and all that is holy
are you going to do about it?”

When they say, “Who do you think you are?”—
tell them who you are, and don’t hold back.

When they say, “I put up with it, you’ll have to put up with it too.”
Say, “No, no,no,no.”

When they say, “I’ve suffered a long time and you’ll have to suffer too.”
Say, “No, no, no,no.”

When they say, “You’re an incorrigible,
defiant, hard to get along with,
unreasonable woman,
Say, “Yes, yes, yes, yes,

and I have worse news for you yet—

We are teaching our daughters,
our mothers,
and our sisters…

We are teaching our sons
our fathers,
and our brothers

to be
just
like
us.


Favourites from long ago…

The Jabberwocky was drilled into me by my third grade teacher who read the poem every. single. day. for months! I remember every pause, every dramatic breath, every roll of her tongue. Whenever I hear other people read it I am quickly irritated because it sounds completely wrong. I can hear the ghost of her very impatient voice screeching unapologetically how poorly the interpretation is.

She was a tiny, very masculine looking warrior woman of the eighties. She scared the shit out of me and the entire school, but ironically her and I developed a great respect and adoration, one I still recall fondly. She not only introduced me to what would become a love of literature – but also the world of dystopian sci-fi. I devoured the tiny primary school library of the genre. She also read I am David by Anne Holm to a year 2/3 split class! It was only very recently did I discover it was an historical fiction based on WWII concentration camps – it sounded so foreign and unreal. It was an intense book for adults, let alone 7 & 8 year olds and it had the entire class horrified, but enraptured. Even the shit heads of the class would shut up and listen for the hour she would read.

She passed away years ago. I wish I could have told her how much I appreciated her influence in my life and my love of the written word.

Lewis Carroll

The Jabberwocky 

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

When I was 11 I went to stay with my Aunty and Uncle in Kalgoorlie. I was introduced to their neighbour’s daughter who was a few years older than me and she introduced me to – The Outsiders By S E Hinton. I think most gen x’s probably would never have become fans of Robert Frost had it not been for that book and later the brat pack film.

It was such a delicious gem at a sweet and poignant time in my life. I cherished her dog eared and footnoted copy, reading it so many times the pages started to fall out. Regardless of the 80’s teen cliches – I will always picture the golden sky across Ralph Macchio… I mean Johnny’s beautiful face as he sat listening to Pony Boy recite Nothing Gold Can Stay. His gut-wrenching death played out just as tragically on screen with Stevie Wonders haunting tones really bringing the whole depressing shit show home. No wonder I went down a dark path. Still – beautiful, classic poem.

Robert Frost

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

William Butler Yeats

This was the dawn of my research in the early 2000’s when I wanted to recreate that feeling of not being alone at my grandparents home in Fremantle. Because I was there so frequently I never allowed myself to imagine a reality where ghosts could exist, hence discouraging an eerie truth I constantly felt as a child growing up in a century old house. So fairies were something I gravitated to and happily worked with so as not scare the be-jesus out of myself – particularly at night when that place literally became a haunted bloody house with all its old baroquey Victorian era architectural decorative shit and freaky, fricken shadows casting every which way waiting to murder me.


The Fairy Pendant

Scene: A circle of Druidic stones

First Fairy: Afar from our lawn and our levee,
O sister of sorrowful gaze!
Where the roses in scarlet are heavy
And dream of the end of their days,
You move in another dominion
And hang o'er the historied stone:
Unpruned in your beautiful pinion
Who wander and whisper alone.
All: Come away while the moon's in the woodland,
We'll dance and then feast in a dairy.
Though youngest of all in our good band,
You are wasting away, little fairy.
Second Fairy: Ah! cruel ones, leave me alone now
While I murmur a little and ponder
The history here in the stone now;
Then away and away I will wander,
And measure the minds of the flowers,
And gaze on the meadow-mice wary,
And number their days and their hours—
All: You're wasting away, little fairy.
Second Fairy: O shining ones, lightly with song pass,
Ah! leave me, I pray you and beg.
My mother drew forth from the long grass
A piece of a nightingle's egg,
And cradled me here where are sung,
Of birds even, longings for aery
Wild wisdoms of spirit and tongue.
All: You're wasting away, little fairy.
First Fairy [turning away]: Though the tenderest roses were round you,
The soul of this pitiless place
With pitiless magic has bound you—
Ah! woe for the loss of your face,
And the loss of your laugh with its lightness—
Ah! woe for your wings and your head—
Ah! woe for your eyes and their brightness—
Ah! woe for your slippers of red.
We'll dance and then feast in a dairy.
Though youngest of all in our good band,
She's wasting away, little fairy.

The next is the most unoriginal teenage obsession – old Will, but in my defense I did have to study him. For years he was my escape, but as deeply as I immersed myself into his worlds I withdrew just as rapidly and have no clue what my favourite’s were, nor can I recite any of his work that I once knew off by heart. Me thinks my trip down hallucinogenic mid 90s lane may have something to do with that.

Fairy Land I is another more recent poem I’ve been influenced by with Warders Cottage.

William Shakespeare

Fairy Land I

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moone's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green:
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
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