Friday, May 31, 2013

BREAKING NEWS | Prayer for Syria

I know I'm not alone when I say I'm struggling to make sense out of the vastly differing realities we - people of one community, one world - are facing at the moment. How, for instance am I to reconcile the relentless atrocities in Syria - the scale and horror of which are beyond comprehension - with the simplicity and grace of the life I'm living in my relatively peaceful corner of the world? Domesticity, safety and privilege on the one hand: a life of devastating fear, brutality and loss on the other? And of course, elements of each reside in both. 

Breaking News is not easy viewing. It is, however, my attempt to build a bridge across the chasm, to acknowledge and in some small way stand alongside the suffering of so many the world over; those for whom shelter and safety are unknowns, waking and sleeping unsafe and whose lives are daily darkened by violence and sorrow. 

The text is a combination of poetry (At Any One Time is the title of the original poem, written in 1998 in response to the genocide in Kosovo) together with lines borrowed directly from a May 14th NYTimes article on the Syrian crisis. The headlines that day read 'Atrocity in Syria - No Victim Too Small.'  Appalled by the stark truth of what I had just read and seen, I felt bereft, angry and powerless. It was into that space that the prompt came to offer up a prayer and make something - hence, this film.  


I am grateful to Moscow-based composer Darin Sysoev for making his music available to me for this film in the spirit of collaboration. Please click on the links below to discover more of his hauntingly beautiful compositions  --- 


This morning, just moments before publishing this post, I tuned in to an online radio interview with astrologer/activist, Caroline Casey. It just so happened she was speaking into the Syrian reality, acknowledging the fierce resilience and gentle strength of Syrian women (thank you for sending me the link, Penelope). With gratitude, I heard these words - the lightning rod of grace. 

I need to be reminded (and to remind myself) that Grace is a power; that Gentleness is a strength; that these qualities are energies that can be invoked even from a distance, thereby rendering distance no distance. Beneath the fire is the water that will soothe, heal and restore to order. I choose, over and over again, to believe this. 


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TUESDAY POEM | I Need The Sea by Pablo Neruda

                               I need the sea because it teaches me.
                               I don't know if I learn music or awareness,
                               if it's a single wave or its vast existence,
                               or only its harsh voice or its shining one,
                               a suggestion of fishes and ships.
                               The fact is that until I fall asleep,
                               in some magnetic way I move in
                               the university of the waves.

                               Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda: Absence and Presence

I was fortunate to spend time with poet and dear friend Melissa Green in Boston last month. She took me to her favourite second-hand bookstore where we came upon this magnificent book - Pablo Neruda | Absence and Presence. Actually, it was Melissa who picked it up in the 'new arrivals' section; she pressed it into my hands saying, 'You need to take this one home'. What a treasure it is - 'an hypnotic journey'. Neruda's poems are translated by Alastair Reid with photographs by Luis Poirot. "In this book, through Neruda's words, his friends' words, and magnificent photographs, we come to know his magical world, and ultimately the man himself. . . A passionate acquirer, he collected ships in bottles, shells, postcards, ship's figureheads, sextants, clocks, stones, books, hats and more. These objects served as extensions of his imagination, the vocabulary of his poems. . . " (from the book's back cover)

"The houses he collected were turned into original and often whimsical objects in themselves. Luis Poirot's photographs were taken at Neruda's house on the Pacific Ocean and they demonstrate the way in which the poet imbued the house and all it contained with his own vitality, style and imagination." 

(also from this book) Neruda's Self Portrait

"How to present oneself, to seem human yet come out well? As when one looks in the mirror or at a picture, trying for the best angle (surreptitiously), but coming out always the same? Some people stand sideways, others intrude what they want to be, others ask who they are. But the truth is that we are always watchful, lying in wait for ourselves, pointing up only the obvious, concealing the irregularities of our apprenticeships and of time itself. 

But let's get to the nub.

As for me, I have - or see myself as having - a solid nose, small eyes, not much hair on my head, a spreading belly, long legs, broad feet, a yellowish complexion. I am generous with my love, hopeless at counting, clumsy with words; with gentle hands, a slow walk, a rustless heart; enthusiastic about stars, tides, and sea storms; an admirer of scarabs, a sand walker, bored by institutions, a Chilean ever and always, friend to my friends, close-mouthed about my enemies, a dabbler in birds, awkward about the the house, shy in drawing rooms, repentant for no reason, a terrible administrator, an armchair sailor, an ink merchant, discreet with animals, happy under stormy skies, a prowler of markets, withdrawn in libraries, melancholy in the mountains, tireless in forests, slow of answer, witty years after, vulgar all year long, sparkling in my notebook, huge of appetite, a fierce sleeper, at peace when happy, an inspector of night skies, an invisible worker, disorganised, persistent, brave when necessary, cowardly but not to a fault, lazy by vocations, lovable to women, active in suffering, a poet by ill fate, and something of a fool." Pablo Neruda 

This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is Elizabeth Welsh, a freelance academic editor and poet from New Zealand, currently living in and travelling around Europe. Elizabeth has posted Four Paintings - a sequence of poems by Kiri Piahana-Wong, a New Zealander of Māori (Ngāti Ranginui), Chinese and Pākehā (English) ancestry. You can check out Kiri's first collection Night Swimming here


Today seems to be a day for the sea - either for needing it or finding it in unexpected places. (I am in the sea and the sea's in me?) It's snowing in Dunedin and the flurries have momentarily engulfed both harbour and peninsula. It is  as quiet as a sleeping turtle. I can barely make out the giant (c)old trees at the bottom of my front steps. 

As to the sea - please visit Marylinn Kelly's blog where the magical story of Gloria and The Reading Man (TRM - aka Mr. Apotienne) is unfolding in the most delightful of ways. . . 

". . . From his capacious coat he extracted a postcard, a seascape oil by Turner from the Tate, found tucked within his current volume of borrowed oratory.  I carry the ocean in my pocket, he thought, or it finds me, insistent as the tattooed name of a long-ago love. . . " 

(Can you possibly resist?)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TUESDAY POEM | The Blue Snake by Margaret Atwood


                       THE BLUE SNAKE 

                       The snake winds through your head
                       into the temple which stands on a hill
                       and is not much visited now.

                       Toppled stones clutter the paving
                       where the blue snake swims towards you,
                       dry in the dry air,
                       blue as a vein or a fading bruise.
                       It looks at you from the side of its head
                       as snakes do. It flickers.

                       What does it know
                       that it needs to tell you?
                       What do you need to be told?
                       You are surprised to hear it speak.
                       It has the voice of a flute
                       when you first blow into it,
                       long and breathless; it has an old voice,
                       like the blue stars, liked the unborn,
                       the voice of things beginning and ceasing.

                       As you listen, you grow heavier.
                       It asks you why you are here,
                       and you can't answer.

                       It begins to glow,
                       it's almost transparent now,
                       you can see the spine
                       with its many pairs of delicate ribs
                       unrolling like a feather.

                       This has gone far enough,
                       you think, and turn away.
                       It isn't what you came for.

                       Behind you the snake dissolves
                       and flows into the rock.

                       On the plain below you is a river
                       you know you must follow home.

                       Margaret Atwood
                           from her collection Interlunar, first published by Jonathan Cape Ltd in 1988

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic with aerial support by Lighthawk

This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is UK-based writer, Belinda Hollyer
with Saturday, Ocean Creek 
a spatially vast and haunting poem by Fred D'Aguiar 

                                "Sometimes the morning shakes itself from its moorings
                                To this world and lifts skywards with a fighter jet's roar,
                                Everyone lucky enough to be up and about looks to the east. . . "

(Belinda has - lucky us - posted a second Fred D'Aguiar poem on her blog.  The Rose of Toulouse and Saturday, Ocean Creek exhort me to look at familiar things differently.

For more Tuesday Poetry - a whole lot more - please click on the quill.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

TUESDAY POEM | Rachel van Blankenship reads her poem SLACK TIDE

I was struck by the crisp originality of Rachel van Blankenship's writing from the moment I first encountered it. As tends to happen out here in the blogosphere, Rachel and I met by chance (or magical intention?) on several mutual friends' blogs - Rebecca Loudon's (Radish King), Angella Lister's, Melissa Green's and Marylinn Kelly's. Rachel's comments were consistently exacting, lyrical, empathic and distinct; they carried the succinctness and musicality of poetry. Let's just say I 'heard' her voice long before I actually heard her voice? The obvious thing to do was to follow the trail that led to her blog. I was wowed and have been a regular reader ever since.  

   It was no surprise to discover that Rachel is not only a poet and artist, but a singer, too. As I mentioned in last week's Tuesday Poem post, we had the great pleasure of meeting last month and of spending 'real' time together in Phoenix, her new home town. (I've just realised it was exactly a month ago today, Rachel. Happy synchronicity.) So, yes, on Sunday 14 April, Rachel and I spent a good many hours walking and talking our way through our separate stories and histories at the Phoenix Botanical Gardens - an altogether other-worldly place. The following afternoon, we met up again and during the hour and a half or so we had available to us (I had to catch a shuttle to the airport and she and her partner Pat were meeting up for a rare Monday evening concert), Rachel agreed to my making a recording of her reading a poem she had completed the night before - Slack Tide. And here it is today in another iteration. 

There's something about Rachel's poetry that 'escapes the page'. Her words break free of tethers to occupy an independent, aural - airborne - space.  

Photograph - Rachel van Blankenship (Butterfly House, Phoenix Botanical Gardens)

Rachel's reading brings to mind an article I read some time ago on Adrienne Rich and her poetry - 

"She believed in the power of art, not only its beauty and necessity but also the real, raw, actual power of it. She agitated for poetry 'as living language, the core of every language, something that is still spoken, aloud or in the mind, muttered in secret, subversive, reaching around corners, crumpled into a pocket, performed to a community, read aloud to the dying, recited by heart, scratched or sprayed on a wall. That kind of language.'

And she wrote that kind of language. From the heart and the mind. From the gut and the crotch. She pulled us into the deep waters of her own darkest reckoning and made us understand that the reckoning was ours too. The ferocity of her vision was matched only by the tenderness at its root. . . " from Adrienne Rich's Kind of Language by Cheryl Strayed (NY Times)

'The ferocity of her vision was matched only by the tenderness at its root. . .' She's writing here about you, too, Rach. 


This week's editor on the TP hub is Andrew M. Bell
with Sonnet for a Hunter

Andrew writes, "Sonnet for a Hunter holds a special appeal since I lived in Western Australia for eight years. The images speak to me. I must confess that I don't entirely understand the poem, but I enjoy the ambiguity. Is the "he" of the poem a man or an animal? Does it matter? The couplet sand coloured luckless/bundles, quivers of musk is a striking image of a helpless ensnared rabbit and the final line locates it succinctly in the arid landscape of inland Australia. . . "

It's Tuesday. You know where to go, what to do. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

TUESDAY POEM | Another Poem of the Gifts by Jorge Luis Borges

                        I want to give thanks to the divine 
                        Labyrinth of causes and effects 
                        For the diversity of beings 
                        That form this singular universe, 
                        For Reason, that will never give up its dream 
                        Of a map of the labyrinth, 
                        For Helen's face and the perseverence of Ulysses, 
                        For love, which lets us see others 
                        As God sees them, 
                        For the solid diamond and the flowing water, 
                        For Algebra, a palace of exact crystals, 
                        For the mystic coins of Angelus Silesius, 
                        For Schopenhauer, 
                        Who perhaps deciphered the universe, 
                        For the blazing of fire, 
                        That no man can look at without an ancient wonder, 
                        For mahogany, cedar, and sandalwood, 
                        For bread and salt, 
                        For the mystery of the rose 
                        That spends all its color and can not see it, 
                        For certain eves and days of 1955, 
                        For the hard riders who, on the plains, 
                        Drive on the catttle and the dawn, 
                        For mornings in Montevideo, 
                        For the art of friendship, 
                        For Socrates' last day, 
                        For the words spoken one twilight, 
                        For that dream of Islam that embraced 
                        A thousand nights and a night, 
                        For that other dream of Hell, 
                        Of the tower of cleansing fire 
                        And of the celestial spheres, 
                        For Swedenborg, 
                        Who talked with the angels in London streets 
                        For the secret and immemorial rivers 
                        That converge in me, 
                        For the language that, centuries ago, I spoke in Northumberland, 
                        For the sword and harp of the Saxons, 
                        For the sea, which is a shining desert 
                        And a secret code for things we do not know 
                        And an epitaph for the Norsemen, 
                        For the word music of England, 
                        For the word music of Germany, 
                        For gold, that shines in verses, 
                        For epic winter, 
                        For the title of a book I have not read: Gesta Dei per Francos, 
                        For Verlaine, innocent as the birds, 
                        For crystal prisms and bronze weights, 
                        For the tiger's stripes, 
                        For the high towers of San Francisco and Manhattan Island, 
                        For mornings in Texas, 
                        For that Sevillian who composed the Moral Epistle 
                        And whose name, as he would have wished, we do not know, 
                        For Seneca and Lucan, both of Cordova, 
                        Who, before there was Spanish, had written 
                        All Spanish literature, 
                        For gallant, noble, geometric chess, 
                        For Zeno's tortoise and Royce's map, 
                        For the medicinal smell of eucalyptus trees, 
                        For speech, which can be taken for wisdom, 
                        For forgetfulness, which annuls or modifies the past, 
                        For habits, 
                        Which repeat us and confirm us in our image like a mirror, 
                        For morning, that gives us the illusion of a new beginning, 
                        For night, its darkness and its astronomy, 
                        For the bravery and happiness of others, 
                        For my country, sensed in jasmine flowers 
                        For Whitman and Francis of Assisi, who already wrote this poem, 
                        For the fact that the poem is inexhaustible 
                        And becomes one with the sum of all created things 
                        And will never reach its last verse 
                        And varies according to its writers 
                        For Frances Haslam, who begged her children's pardon 
                        For dying so slowly, 
                        For the minutes that precede sleep, 
                        For sleep and death, 
                        Those two hidden treasures, 
                        For the intimate gifts I do not mention, 
                        For music, that mysterious form of time.

                        Jorge Luis Borges

                                        translated by Alan Dugan 

". . . Intelligence has little to do with poetry. Poetry springs from something deeper; it's beyond intelligence. It may not even be linked with wisdom. It's a thing of its own; it has a nature of its own. Undefinable. . . " (lines offered up from a penetrating conversation between Borges and Ronald Christ in The Paris Review)

This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is Alicia Ponder with the poem Resilience by New Zealand TP poet Keith Westwater

It seems mathematics and alignments (or re-alignments) of various kinds are a theme this week.

You might also enjoy checking out our collaborative 3rd birthday poem - SCRATCH - a jazzy piece of improvisation with contributions from 18 of our 30 international poets. . .  

On the subject of collaborating with other writers, here's Borges in the same Paris Review article, ". . . Now, the queer thing is that when we write, and we write mostly humorous stuff—even if the stories are tragic, they are told in a humorous way, or they are told as if the teller hardly understood what he was saying—when we write together, what comes of the writing, if we are successful, and sometimes we are—why not? after all, I'm speaking in the plural, no?—when our writing is successful, then what comes out is something quite different from Bioy Casares's stuff and my stuff, even the jokes are different. So we have created between us a kind of third person; we have somehow begotten a third person that is quite unlike us. . . " Jorge Luis Borges. 

To read this week's Tuesday Poems, click on the quill then make your way down the list of poets on the Left-hand side of the TP page.  

Next week I hope to feature Phoenix-based poet and fellow blogger, Rachel van Blankenship with a spoken rendition of her - paradoxically, taut - poem Slack tide. We had the very wonderful pleasure of meeting (yes, for the first time) in Arizona last month and during the short, sweet time together made a recording of her poem. 

Gratitude for the diversity of beings 
That form this singular universe. . .