Monday 29 August 2016

Poetry in Notion - Does poetry help us in times of need?

Hi all! 

Poetry is the go-to in times of need for many of us, but does it help? If we look at social media, yes, yes, yes.

After the Orlando massacre, Maggie Smith's poem went viral. It's not about Orlando per se, but about life being brutish and short--

"No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."
Thomas Hobbes.

A woman lights a candle during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.

Good Bones

Related Poem Content Details

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

 Events can seem too incomprehensible for ordinary language, so poetry can speak to us in precise language that fits the purpose.

It can be the language of defiance and protest, which is my favourite genre of poetry. I love poetry that packs a powerful message (who doesn't get Maya Angelou's Still I Rise?) -- 'you may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I rise,' as relevant today as when she penned it in 1978. Okay, most of us know and love that poem, but when Serena Williams went on *youtube to read Angelou's poem, it went viral.

In August last year, a Sydney activist for peace wrote an anti-racism poem then had to retreat due to the negative reaction. 

Second Earth
In another world
Just like this one,
Parallel to mine,
Is a life where I never met you.
And for that I am grateful.
Stella Smith (not her real name)

We have in our blogger-midst some amazing poets such as multi-published Nilanjana Bose who many discovered through the A to Z. I've known Nila since the world began, or close enough. She joined RomanticFridayWriters in 2010, now WEP. (She won the latest WEP challenge, GARDENS! with her amazing Point me to...) Her poems always blow my mind, so I asked her to share one with us which she wrote in the aftermath of the #ParisAttacks of 2015.

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All the world’s a war zone

The flowers dry, the candles burn;
both reach their ends. The world still turns.
The streets are full, the café chat
is about revenge, tit for tat,
air-strikes, mortal wounds, ground combat.
I cannot take in any of that.
I only know she won’t return.

Although each time the doorbell rings
my heart leaps once, instantly sings
then is brought to the days before.
She’ll never be back at my door.
The talk is thick with migrants, war,
how exactly to settle the score.
But I can’t relate to those things.

I just know that flowers dry rough,
that candles aren’t warm enough.
I just know my room’s gone cold,
my heart is shrivelled and grown old;
she’ll never again cross this threshold
whatever events might unfold.
That’s my truth, the rest’s just stuff.

 The old classicist, William Wordsworth said: '...thoughts ... often lie too deep for tears.' A good poet can help put those thoughts into words...

As much as we hate poetry, we really love it, don't we? Even when we don't understand it completely. It can make a thing of beauty out of ordinary things (even tennis!)

Thanks for coming by. I don't get to read much about poetry around the blogs so I've been thinking on this topic and shared my thoughts, random as they are. I think in the digital age, poets can fire off powerful words to encapsulate the horror, the capriciousness of life, the landscape of a world in turmoil. 

  • What's your take on poetry? Love it? Hate it? Indifferent?

Monday 15 August 2016

#WEPff story, GARDENS challenge. The Coming of the Immortals

Hi all!

To write this entry for WEP, I was inspired by a Marlena de Blasi story set in Sicily , inspired by a poem by Matthew Arnold, and inspired by a Greek myth. 

There are many versions of the myth of Demeter and Persephone, so bear with me as I retell my version...with embellishments...

What forms are these coming
So white through the gloom?
What garments out-glistening
The gold-flower’d broom?
Matthew Arnold

Sicily has a long history which is seared into the minds of everyone who lives on this island, part of Italy, yet with its own stories, its own rhythms.

A road paved with sun-bleached stones and whorls of yellow sand leads to the top of the island. Reaching the top, you see a hamlet made of heaped-up stones, huddled in the cleft of a shaly mountain. Beneath, the ruins of a temple. Above the hamlet, a high plateau of wheat forms a bronze curtain. Down on the meadows, sheep and goats graze. The only water close by the hamlet is a metallic smudge where bleached sky collides with yellow earth. The only waves are the wheat with its shuddering golden stalks roaring like the sea and crashing in the goddess-blown winds. There are Stone Age myrtles, wild marjoram and thyme meandering the steep grades.

Life in the hamlet is the life lived for millennia. From time immemorial, nothing has been lost, forgotten or left to languish. Past and present congregate, living together in the harmonic song nature sings.

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Here you wander in the ruin of Demeter’s ancient temple. Demeter, the goddess of the Harvest, is responsible for the nourishment of all life-giving plants that grow on the earth. You can tramp amongst the great fluted columns as they lie supine, lustrous under the moon or glinting in the sun, while your feet bruise the wild thyme and marjoram and the air fills with their sweet, spicy scent. But if you look down, far below, you see a miraculous sight.

You see a meadow completely covered in the twining legume, purple vetch. Beyond that, you see acres of gardens amidst turrets and crenelated towers and Juliet balconies. But it is the roofs that catch your eye—the red and yellow porcelain tiles and mansard roofs set ablaze by a fiery sun. As you hurry down the hill, anxious to explore, the gaudy scent of roses and ripe oranges clog your nostrils. 

Pausing to breathe in the magical elixir, you are shocked to see hollyhocks. Hollyhocks do not grow in the desert, but hundreds and hundreds of their red satin blossoms line a winding stone path which leads to an ornate iron gate. You press against the gate and see astonishing sweeping gardens—roses of all hues, but predominantly ivory and white and butter cream. They energetically climb trellises, sprawl lazily in beds, spill and ramble and entwine wilfully. They are either a sun-struck illusion or…you have entered a fairyland.

It was here in these mountains that the Greek goddess of grain and fertility and motherhood once held forth. She does still. It was Demeter who illuminated the magic of sowing seeds beneath the earth, protecting them, feeding them, growing them into ripeness much as the seeds planted in the female womb grow to fruition.

Under Demeter’s will, the harvests flourished. She conjured the sun, the rain, the breezes at her pleasure. All was Elysium until it happened...

The grim king Hades had seen fair maids enough in the gloomy underworld over which he ruled, but his heart had never been touched. Now he was enchanted. Before him was a blossoming valley, and along its edge a charming girl gathered flowers. She was Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest. 

Persephone had strayed from her companions, and now that her basket overflowed with blossoms, she was filling her apron with lilies and violets. Hades looked at Persephone and was smitten by an arrow to his heart. With one sweep of his arm he caught her up and drove swiftly away where she became the Queen of the Dead.

‘Mother!’ she screamed to the uncaring wind, while the flowers fell from her apron and strewed the ground. ‘Mother!’

But only the immortals heard her cries.

Persephone had been trapped in a beautiful, divine trap. The flowers had been planted to ensnare her. The flowers were the work of Zeus and put there for ‘a girl with a flower's beauty.’ The trigger for the trap was an irresistible flower with one hundred stems of fragrant blossoms. When Persephone reached out with both hands to pluck the flower, the earth opened at her feet and Hades roared forth in his golden chariot to seize her.

Demeter gnashed the sun, keeping the mountain villages and the fertile fields—and the world itself—in darkness until she made a pact with Zeus. This is what they decided. Half the year her daughter would be restored to her, half the year she would be with Hades in the underworld. With Persephone by her side, the goddess rekindled the sun and tipped warm rain down over the parched earth. For a season, the trees, plants and flowers flourished.

Then Persephone returned to Hades and the earth returned to darkness and infertility.

In Sicily this story is still told, with all the wonder and anguish of an event that only just took place. Allegiance to the goddess with the crown of woven corn husks never fades; each season she is remembered, especially at the time of Harvest.

868 words
CRITIQUE: Go for your life!

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Thank you as always for taking the time to read/skim/spot check my story! I hope you enjoyed my tale. If you like my story, please hit my media buttons! 

So this week I'm attending a 5-day Margie Lawson Immersion Class on deep editing. Yummo! One busy August for sure.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

#IWSG post. #Writing at the desk. Jane Austen. Writing for fun! Lynda Young release, Cling to God.

Welcome to another #IWSG post.

Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh for starting this group and thanks to the rotating co-hosts. This month, please visit Alex's assistants, 

Today my topic is Writing at the Desk

We as writers might be sitting at our writing desk (your bed, the beach, the cafe), penning something for pure enjoyment. Okay. Rare. Most likely we're sweating over a masterpiece with a deadline, which is where writing loses its fun aspect. And where insecurity hits.

Jane Austen was prolific in her writing, with 6 major novels to her name. (See her full range of books HERE). The most popular has always been Pride and Prejudice which has had numerous adaptations. Considering she died at just 41 years old, she penned an amazing number of words--published novels, and some 3,000 letters. 

When Jane Austen was 19 years old, her father George Austen recognised her prodigious talent. He bought her that little mahogany writing desk we see in the rare drawings of her. This was in the early 1700s. Don't tell me that Jane, a woman, felt secure writing away in those good old days, where, let's face it, women had fewer options than today.

Image result for jane austen at her deskAusten christened her beloved desk with a tale told through letters (remember them?) featuring the wicked and wayward Lady Susan Vernon, an unashamed adulteress. Jane didn't dream it would see the light of published day. This was her fun work. The wickedly audacious tale about Lady Susan was considered way too scandalous by Austen's family to ever be published. But, time marches on, and fifty years after her death, the controversial and unfinished work was published. The Kindle edition is FREE.

Many years later (early 2000s), enter Whit Stillman, American filmmaker. He fell in love with the witty and charming Lady Susan and has worked laboriously to turn Austen's epistolary novel (novel written as a series of documents) into a screenplay. 

Stillman jokes:
"The family was right. It should never have been published. It is about a corrupt young woman who is a mistress of manipulation in her attempt to make the world her own. Lady Susan is a terrific find. It was Austen's first adult work."
Stillman has named the adaptation, Love and Friendship, and has attracted big name actors--Kate Beckinsale is Lady Susan.

Image result for Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesWe usually think of Jane Austen as tame. Chick lit claims her as its heroine, one of the first chick lit writers. Think Emma and you can see where they're coming from. There are multiple Jane Austen fan clubs and reading groups, and novels written about her. She has become a commercial commodity, even having zombie films and books adapted from her novels. Think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

If we think of the old adage 'write what you know', Austen must have been a very critical observer of her times. Her Lady Susan letters show her as a serious comedian with an incredible perception of the world as she knew it. 
Someone who needs no introduction, and writes what she knows, is our blogger friend and fellow Aussie, Lynda Young

Lynda has gouged out some time from her frantically busy life to pen a daily devotional to help in the chaos of life. 

Cling to God: A Daily Devotional by Lynda R Young
Release date: October 18th, 2016
Published by Freedom Fox Press
Cling to God in the chaos of life…

Blurb: Cling to God is a book of devotionals for every day of the year. The aim is to encourage Christians in their faith, to help them think about their beliefs and learn more about God. The devotions are short and inspirational so that people with busy lifestyles will still be able to spend time with the Lord each day. It will appeal to a wide Christian audience, to those new in their faith as well as those matured beyond milk and honey.

Author Bio:
Lynda R Young, a Christian first, writes devotionals, articles, and speculative short stories. In her spare time she is also an editor, game developer, artist, and dabbles in photography and all things creative.She lives in Australia with her sweetheart of a husband. 

  • So, what are you writing at your desk?
  • Do you have a favourite Jane Austen book?
  • Do you have any questions for Lynda re her devotional guide?

And the question of the month for #IWSG is:

What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust, or has it been published?

My first serious piece of writing was a story about a girl who sought asylum in Australia. This was the time of the Vietnamese Boat People seeking safety in Australia after the Vietnam War. I did my research, but life got in the way and this piece never grew wings. Now with asylum seekers and refugees all around us, the premise is current. Maybe I'll find it, dust it off, and modernise it. Or maybe I'll just start again...better idea.
And the next IWSG Anthology is on FANTASY. Over at WEP we have a guest post from our previous winner, Arpan Ghost, writing about FANTASY.

The Inlinkz form is up. You can now sign up for the WEP GARDENS challenge in my sidebar or over at WEP or on Yolanda Renee's blog. Post from August 17 - 19.