A Dragon Delivered My Parcel

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I was waiting for the delivery of a book written by UK author Maria Donovan.  The title and synopsis of ‘The Chicken Soup Murder’ hint at a delicious yet deadly coming-of-age mystery.

There was scratching at the front door and our well-trained pet dragon stood there with a grin on his face.  He had collected the parcel from the letterbox in anticipation of a treat.  I patted him on the head and said ‘Good boy’ then picked up the parcel.  He whined.  I laughed.  ‘Okay, I’ll get a couple of nuts’.

Inside the door, I placed the parcel on the sideboard.  Underneath was an old rusty toolkit containing old rusty bits and pieces.  I selected a couple of flange nuts and one bolt, gave them a squirt with WD40, and went back outside.

Part of the game was a quick toss-and-gulp and if you weren’t ready you’d miss it.  I closed the front door on the slobbering noises and went to find a pair of scissors.  The Booktopia cardboard was tough but I wrested it open.

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And there was the pristine book I had so eagerly awaited!  At the moment, I’ve only read up to Page 20 so I am sorry to disappoint you but my book review will be in another blog post further down the track.  As my auntie used to say ‘Keep you in suspenders.’

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Poetry Journey of Kate O’Neil

The personal experiences of poet Kate O’Neil offer a diverse and interesting look into the creative world of poetry.

After chatting to Kate over our shared memories of the old poem ‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ she kindly showed me her ‘waking up’ version (excerpt below) which fits beautifully with the original.  Kate then agreed to answer some tricky questions for me and her responses are both thoughtful and revealing.


Welcome, Kate!

Kate-ONeil-2001

Thank you so much for your time.
My favourite poem of yours is short and sweet; ‘Paragliders Bald Hill Lookout’ invokes in my mind’s eye vivid colour, movement and summer days at the beach.
Talking of short and sweet, I recall asking you which would you choose ‘Lollipop or Cake?’ and you immediately said ‘Cake’, supplying a recipe with almonds smothered on top.  I can identify with that!
I had read your work on Australian Children’s Poetry under Kate O’Neil and recently discovered your real name is Dianne Cook.  You explain why in our Q&A, and give readers a peek behind the scenes of your poetry life.

Okay, let’s get those thoughts into words…


What highlights stand out in your poetry journey?

I’ve been hanging out with poetry for most of my life, so there have been lots of decades for highlights to happen in.

Highlights of poetry reading still happen with amazing frequency.  They began when I first realised what magical particles words and sounds are, and what selection, arrangement, combination – even omission, can play in shaping and delivering meaning.  There were the ‘greats’ I studied at school – some fantastic stuff there, and I’ve stored many riches from them.  But the thing is – poetry keeps on coming.  There are poets all over the world publishing collections, submitting to competitions and anthologies and magazines – and sharing a way of seeing.  Some poems have knocked me flat, left me breathless.  Some have lifted me to heaven; it’s a great ride.

There have been highlights of poetry writing, too.  For years the only public airing of my poems was in eisteddfod performances by drama students for whom I had written them (but who did not know this – hence my use of a pen-name).  There have been lovely moments hearing something performed well.

A major ‘highlight’ was having my submission to the inaugural (and only) Manchester Writing for Children prize short-listed.  This competition was set up by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s team at Manchester Uni.

There have been some wonderful outcomes from this.  These poems were published in Let in the Stars, the competition anthology, and one of them has since been chosen for inclusion by Roger McGough in his anthology Happy PoemsAND I have kept in touch with several other poets in the book.  I love the book.  I love so many of the poems in it, and the illustrations (by Manchester art students) are wonderful.

Since then I’ve made successful submissions to several magazines and anthologies – for adults and children.  See ‘Cool Poems’ information further down.  And I keep on submitting – (loads of rejections, of course).

Kate O'Neil Bookcovers 2019
See OOPS! at the end of Q&A for more book details.

Is there a significant thread through your creativity?

I would say not.  If anyone ever notices one I‘d like to be told.  At the Manchester Prize event, Mandy Coe (one of the judges) commented that I write in a variety of voices / styles.  She suggested it might be the influence of drama teaching.  I don’t know if that was praise or not.  Aren’t we writers meant to ‘find our voice’?

What challenges do you face when beginning a poem?

Nothing like the challenges of finishing it.  If a beginning (or middle) pops into my head at an inconvenient moment, I fear it will vanish if I don’t get it down on paper or in the notes on my phone.  This makes my amount of ‘screen time’ look dangerous.

Are you inspired or influenced by another poet?

Inevitably, and I could never know how many.  I’ve done some online workshops recently with UK poet Wendy Pratt, whose work I admire.  She, and others in the group, have helped me tighten my writing.  Lots of deleting went on.

Can you name just one of your favourite poems?

James Carter UK Children's Poet
James Carter UK Children’s Poet

You are asking this of someone whose word files are loaded with favourites!  If they are in the cloud, it will rain my favourite poems one day.  What if I narrow this to ‘favourite poem for children’?  Or better still, ‘favourite concrete / shape poem for children’?  I can do that.  It’s ‘The Moon Speaks!’ by James Carter.  It’s on his website:

http://www.jamescarterpoet.co.uk/poems.html

What is your definition of a successful poem?

This is getting difficult.  There are so many ways in which a poem can succeed (or fail).  I think I’d rate a poem’s success (for me) by the state I’m in after reading it.

How did you feel about poetry when growing up?

I’ve probably answered this in the first question.  I had no discrimination, but anything with rhyme, rhythm, sound patterns, imagery caught my attention.  Hymns, advertising jingles, greeting cards, bush ballads…

Do you draw on your own childhood memories?

Yes, at times, but much of that grist is still very much in the mill.

Kate O'Neil Poetry Cool Poems 04
Excerpt from Kate O’Neil verse expanding on the traditional children’s poem.

Have you experienced an awkward poetry moment?

Mostly private ones. (‘What? Did I really write that?’)

Are you a day dreamer or do you plan significant goals?

Genetically inclined to dreaming, but I try to impose goals to counter this.  (Hence the Wendy Pratt courses which involved writing on a prompt a day for four of the past six months).

Can you give us a hint about your work-in-progress?

‘Progress’ plays tricks on me? I have drafts of picture books, a chapter book, jottings for poems – ALL OVER THE SHOP!  Sometimes something gets finished, usually unexpectedly, usually when I think I am working on something else – and I send it somewhere.  Results are mixed.  This morning, for instance, I learned I have TWO poems long-listed in a comp (adult) and they will be published in an anthology.  Last week I sent off a poem I quite liked to The School Magazine just before I left for Sydney.  By the time I got there it had been rejected.

Do you have some guiding words for emerging poets?

I think it better to share another poet’s words that have guided me.  The main one is READ.

Jo Bell web image credit Lee Allen
Jo Bell web image credit Lee Allen

Jo Bell quote:  “If there is one thing I want you to take from this book, it is this: Nobody writes good poetry without reading good poetry.  Those who don’t take this seriously invariably write cliched, derivative and unoriginal work – just what we all want to avoid – because they aren’t aware of the context in which they are writing.”

‘52: A Year of Poetry Writing Prompts’  p11.  Jo Bell   Nine Arches Press 2015

Poetry Clipart 04

OOPS!  I haven’t mentioned the publication last year of my ‘Cool Poems’.  This was a major highlight!  The book belongs in a series published by Triple D Press, Wagga Wagga NSW.  It was a nail-biting thing to have a book which would sit alongside collections by Australians Bill Scott, Anne Bell, Colin Thiele, Christobel Mattingley and Max Fatchen.  Many thanks to Zita Denholm (Triple D) and Christina Booth (illustrator) for helping it happen.

Di Bates, editor of Buzz Words Magazine, wrote a lovely review on 23 December 2018 ‘Buzz Words: Cool Poems’.

The book Cool Poems’ can be ordered through my website www.kateoneil.com.au or by messaging me through Facebook.

Front-Cover-for-web
‘Cool Poems’ The Kate O’Neil Reciter, illustrations Christina Booth, publisher Triple D Books.

Thank you, Kate!

It has been delightful making your acquaintance and learning more about the workings behind your poetry.  I look forward to reading many more of your beautiful poems.  Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Poetry Clipart 09

‘Undrought’ Poem by Casey Williams

Undrought

The year has barely started,
The ringers still on leave,
The wet is running late this year,
Lord, bring us our reprieve.

The North is bloody thirsty
The cows are calving down
The grass is getting sparser
And the ground is turning brown

It’s been this way a while now
Too long, in fact, for some
The dry is taking over
When will the rain please come?

At last the clouds are building
And the frogs are crying out
I wonder if they know at all,
What’s due to come about?

A couple inches, you bloody beaut!
What a blessed sight,
The sound of raindrops on the roof,
I’ll listen up all night.

Another night, and then again,
She’s getting fairly damp,
The river’s running beautifully,
She’s really set up camp.

Again and again, it hammers down,
In drowning, vicious waves,
We hate to sound ungrateful
But rain, please go away.

At last the drought is broken
But so are all our hearts
Homes are under water
Lives are ripped apart

No warning of the enormity
No chance to get ahead
Just paralysed by water
And what we will find dead

The land has gone from Barron
To an ocean, vast and brown
The calves are drowned or frozen
Their mothers, bogging down.

The rain has finished finally
The world turned upside down
There’s cattle stuck in trees
Dead wildlife on the ground.

The North just copped a big one
We’re hurting far and wide
Our community’s a strong one
But we need you on our side

Don’t kick us while we’re down
Don’t say we have no shame
You want to see compassion
Drive up here, see our pain.

I for one, could not be prouder
Of the industry up here
It’s one of strength and courage,
Through drought, through flood and fear

I say this to all affected
To those who’ve lost so much
You’re the backbone of this country
Keep talking, stay in touch

You’ve got your mates behind you
To help with all your doubts
We can rebuild together
The sunshine has come out.

by Casey Williams

Saturday 16 Feb 2019 ABC Brisbane Queensland Australia
Also blog post Drought
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Queensland Map

Botanical Gardens Fresh Air and Sunshine

Coming out of a hot dry summer, March weather is beginning to soften the sky and offer the cooler, more gentle mornings of autumn.  There is no definite change of season, just a calmness, almost a feeling of relief after the insistent tropical heat.

Apart from, whack, an insect, there’s something serene and relaxing about strolling through a garden, touching leaves, sniffing flowers, following a creek and hearing the splash of a small waterfall through the trees.

To quote Rudyard Kipling “The Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!” so…

Here’s what I experienced one lovely morning…

Arriving early at the Brisbane Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, I strolled through a cool, green gully and thought it was strange to be in a capital city yet hear no traffic sounds.  I floated along, enjoying the stillness, until my personal calm was shattered when the garden crew came on duty and the leaf- blowing brigade roared into action.  I had to wait until one fellow walked out of shot to photograph Xanthorrhoea australis, the Grass-trees (below; left).  The atmosphere shuffled its feathers and tranquility returned.

Wooden bridges and flowing streams…

Leisurely, I followed the meandering paths across bridges and green lawns, enjoying the mild sunshine.  Strolling down a slope, I came to a bracken-lined watercourse then walked up a gentle incline towards king ferns, piccabeen palms and towering hoop pines.  I’ve never fully traversed the 56 hectare (138 acre) area which displays mainly eastern Australian plants.

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You can spot Eastern Water Dragons (lizards) and geckos as they scurry out of sight or get a giggle watching the many varieties of water fowl, ducking and diving in the lake.  Feeding wildlife is not allowed and I couldn’t entice them into an appealing photograph.

Sculptural features are ‘casually’ placed throughout the gardens and I think the most alluring is a silver fern seat (below; left) with interesting support.

Beside the pond and beneath the trees…

The Japanese Garden (below; entrance and pond) offers soothing symmetry and a waterlily’s single bloom.  Nearby the concert bandstand has grass seating surrounded by trees with foliage of different patterns and colours.  Around me, there’s a multitude of subtropical shrubs, cycads and flowers with names I never remember.  You will notice that I do not attempted to be horticultural!  A bit further along, in the arid zone, resides a sci-fi concoction of exotic cacti.  The culinary, fragrant and medicinal herb gardens are pure indulgence.  But if herbs aren’t your thing, the pungent eucalypt is my favourite and walking the Aboriginal Plant Trail with its edible food plants.

Biodiversity and water reflections…

The stillness of the morning created pleasing reflections on the lagoon which is fed by rainwater captured from the hills.  You can choose between typical heathland or wetland regions made easily accessible for suburban folk.  The Conservation Collection includes rare and endangered species in their natural habitats and I entered the steamy, geodesic hothouse (below; left) where equatorial plants are nurtured.  My face beads in sweat, it’s not a place for humans to linger too long.  Time for an ice-cream!

Look outside the Botanic Gardens…

Outside the entry are several buildings of interest: Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium (below; saved from extinction by a vocal community uprising) large carpark, small art studio, specialist library and auditorium providing a variety of events.  I have booked a place in a workshop Monoprinting Australian Native Plants, so a blog post may be forthcoming.  The new Visitor Information centre offers guided walks and Gardens Café has the ice-cream.  The two white-coated fellows outside the café are entomologists, surviving statues from World Expo 88.

Pandas and children have a special treat…

The Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens Children’s Trail is a hide-and-seek ramble through the shady rainforest garden with special works of art dotted along the way and I couldn’t resist following it myself.  Check out the wacky weathervane!  And a log for native stingless Sugarbag bees.  Mother and baby Panda bears enjoy the bamboo; they are a special fabrication of laser-cut aluminium by Australian sculptor Mark Andrews.

Parks and gardens change with horticultural trends.  The smaller City Botanic Gardens are older and more formal, in keeping with the style of previous centuries, but I prefer the softness of Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.  As the world becomes more populated and natural plant life decreases, Brisbane city dwellers like me need our botanical gardens to nourish and refresh our screen-dependant interior lives.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Note:  Please click or tap an image to enlarge.

You may also like to read about my visit higher up the road at Mt Coot-tha Lookout.

Leonardo da Vinci said…

Gears and Cogs 15 Quotation
Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was a painter, sculptor, architect, inventor and student of all things scientific but he had difficulty waking up in the morning. He wrote “Lying on a feather mattress or quilt will not bring you renown”. One of his earlier inventions was a personal alarm clock powered by water. Based on his elementary diagrams, Leonardo’s device would trigger an alarm by the collection of water dropping into a reservoir at brief intervals. I would have thought the drip, dripping of water all night would have kept him awake. Website https://www.leonardodavinci.net/ Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Wales Readathon 2019

If you’ve never read a Welsh writer’s work, now is your chance!  I’ve been to the library and collected my copy of Under Milk Wood, the radio/stage/film drama by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas to get me started.  Read all about Dewithon19 on Book Jotter’s blog….Mwynhewch ddarllen! (Enjoy reading!)
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Book Jotter

1st-31st March

Wales DragonWelcome to the first ever Wales Readathon (aka Dewithon 19), a month-long event beginning on Saint David’s Day, during which book bloggers from all parts of the world are encouraged to read, discuss and review literature by and about writers from Wales.

For more in-depth information on this reading jolly, head over to DHQ (Dewithon Headquarters) – and should you wish to take part in the official readalong, please follow this link. You can also share your thoughts and posts on Twitter by using the hashtags #dewithon19 and/or walesreadathon19.

Here we display your Dewithon-related posts. Please leave your links in the comments below or drop me a line with the URL.

Mwynhewch ddarllen! (Enjoy reading!)

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You may use the Reading Wales/Dewithon logos with a link…

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The Blogosphere Ebb and Flow

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Tropical lagoon and green algae swirls at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane, Australia 2019

The swirls and ripples of the blogosphere will let your post resurface any number of times to an ever-widening pool of readers.

Never underestimate the infinite lifespan of a blog post.

Your post may not make a big splash the first time, nor days later, but it has the potential to be viewed many times into the future.

I know, because I have certain posts which haunt me.  In the nicest possible way, of course, but it is still rather disconcerting when an old post gets a sudden flurry of views.  It’s like they tread water waiting to bob up.

The reason behind my floating posts remains unclear to me.

Where, or why, my original blog story becomes resuscitated could be caused by any number of factors from reblogging to tweeting or—

  1.  linked on someone’s page
  2.  kindly mentioned in a comment
  3.  family members on Facebook
  4.  topic of interest and my tags swum into view
  5.  tumbled into the lake of eternal blogs…

I’m sure the tech pond at WordPress is teeming with answers but that’s too factual for me, I prefer the serendipitous, the happenstance of it all.

Overall, I am always pleased and still thrill to see those stats wade across the WordPress map!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Tropical lagoon ebb and flow of green algae at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane, Australia 2019

Rattling the Book Club Cage

Do you ever throw a literary stink bomb into your book club meetings?  Does a particular book annoy you into spewing a non-positive review?

My recent attendance at a book club gathering certainly raised eyebrows (I guess I’m not highbrow) when I panned Julian Barnes 2016 quasi-biography ‘The Noise of Time’ based on Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

I believe book clubs should read a wide variety of books and not just ‘literary stuff’.  Out of 12 people, only two of us spoke up and voiced our critical opinions without fear or favour.

Read my review below and make of it what you will – this is not a discussion post but it is my opinion and I totally respect yours –


Book Review – ‘The Noise of Time’ by Julian Barnes

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

Author Julian Barnes fictionalised biography of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich begins in 1930s and is about the man himself, not necessarily about his music which is a disappointment.

Barnes wants to immerse us in the inner world of Shostakovich, therefore most of the story takes place within the previously uncharted waters of the composer’s own mind.  The rest appears to be gleaned from conventional sources.  There’s a lot of telling and not much showing.

Russian Composer Dmitri ShostakovichFirst up, Shostakovich’s opera ‘Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk’ is denounced, and while there is tension and foreboding throughout the story, there’s no significantly dramatic scenes after this point.  Shostakovich smokes heavily and is understandably nervous.  He has the fear of Soviet Communism hanging over his head all the time (there’s a peculiar phone call from Stalin) and the dread which Shostakovich seems to pile upon himself.  Like the bookcover illustration, he’s a man always looking over his shoulder but this doesn’t necessarily make edifying reading.

Politics aside, Shostakovich later wrote his Fifth and Eighth Symphonies yet Barnes glosses over a lot of this, using a series of vignettes without delving into that emotional side, so there’s minimal mention of his creative process or the effects of his wife’s death on his family.

The interior dialogue does not expose Shostakovich as an eccentric creative, nor do I think it makes him a likeable protagonist.  Barnes portrays his inner world in an obsessive manner (think clocks, bad luck in a leap year, the elevator scene) and I think he comes across as a bullied child.  One who needs encouragement yet gets slapped down at every turn.

British Author Julian BarnesMy favourite paragraph is when Shostakovich is staying in New York and a woman working at the Soviet consulate jumps out of a window and seeks political asylum.  So, every day a man parades up and down outside the Waldorf Astoria with a placard reading “Shostakovich Jump Thru The Window!” but according to Barnes and other writers this gave him great inward shame.

In strides man-about-town composer Nicolas Nabokov who kindles Shostakovich’s shame so that Shostakovich is trapped by his own timidity, unable or unwilling to stand up and be counted, preferring to talk through the medium of music which is later used to punish him.

For me, this partly true reimagining is not very engaging.  I did learn a couple of new things but even allowing for Julian Barnes writing style, this book doesn’t add anything special to my reading list.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Publisher Penguin Books
https://www.penguin.com.au/books/the-noise-of-time-9781784703332
Author Julian Barnes
http://www.julianbarnes.com/
Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmitri_Shostakovich

‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ Poem by Eugene Field

Childhood can come crashing back when you read something from your past.  I saw the words ‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ and instantly I was about five years old.

Unwilling to stay in bed, sleep seemingly a million miles away, I knew as soon as my mother recited this magic poem, I would drift off into dreamland.

Eugene Field may not have known the children around the world who fell asleep under the spell of his words, but I’m pretty sure his own kids were good examples.  Did they know the entire poem?  Every line, every verse, every nuance?  I certainly did not.

If you are in the same shoe-boat, read on to discover the complete original while you sip strong coffee…


Wynken, Blynken and Nod

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe —
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!”
Said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea —
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish —
Never afraid are we”;
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam —
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
‘Twas all so pretty a sail
 it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea —
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

By Eugene Field (1850 – 1895) poet and journalist.

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/eugene-field


Biography:Wynken Blyken and Nod by Eugene Field Poet Columnist 01

Eugene Field was born in St Louis, Missouri, on 2 September 1850 and by all accounts was a great practical joker.

In 1875 he married Julia Comstock and eventually they had eight children.  In 1883 he moved to Chicago, Illinois, to write a column for the Chicago Daily News.

His columns occasionally featured light verse for children and he became known as the ‘Poet of Childhood’.  These imaginative poems were both happy and sad (‘Little Boy Blue’ is a well-known tearjerker) and later published in collections including ‘The Tribune Primer’ in 1900 and ‘A Little Book of Western Verse’ in 1903.  Eugene Field died on 4 November 1895 in Chicago, Illinois.

Wynken Blyken and Nodd Artwork by Maxfield Parrish 1905Maxfield Parrish and other artists illustrated his earlier books, and artwork changed to reflect 20th century styles over the years while the eponymous characters remained constant.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

Review ‘Heart of the Grass Tree’ by Molly Murn

Simon McDonald is a Sydney-based reader, writer and senior bookseller at Potts Point Bookshop.  I always enjoy his book reviews.  Simon writes perceptive, eloquent and up-to-the-minute appraisals which have helped me discover some great stories and I look forward to reading this book.  GBW.

Molly Murn is a South Australian author and poet.  She holds a Bachelor of Dance, a Masters of Creative Arts, and is currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Flinders University.  ‘Heart of the Grass Tree’ is Molly’s first novel.  https://mollymurn.com

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Simon McDonald

9780143792499With Heart of the Grass Tree, Molly Murn cements herself as not only one of Australia’s most exciting up-and-coming novelists, but a brilliant novelist of Australia.

In the South Australian author’s debut, multiple generations of a family ensconced in secrets and embroiled in personal turmoil converge on Kangaroo Island to farewell Nell, an Indigenous elder, mother and grandmother. The narrative flits between their stories, which occur in distinct time periods — the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries — and their unifying factor is Kangaroo Island, which makes the island, and its distinct landscape and indigenous population, the Ngarrindjeri people, the true protagonist of this extraordinary novel.

Lyricism empowers this tale of settlement on Kangaroo Island. Its prose is gorgeous, every page jewelled by Murn’s lyrical parlance, antithetical to the brutality of its conquest by the first settlers. Her rendering of the island’s natural beauty and it’s violent, oppressive history is…

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day 11Valentine's Day 01Valentine's Tree 03

Valentine's Day 12

Sonnet 116: Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

By William Shakespeare

Love to all Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Beach Boys and West Coast Girls

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Guest post from Maud Fitch who looks at 20th century male chauvinism, surfer culture and skin cancer.

Okay, she looks at one particular song––California Girls by The Beach Boys––with the observation that it reeks of male teen spirit.

Thanks for filling in, Maud.  “No problemo,” she writes “My comments relate to the inequality of the sexes and when males sang about women with such defining features, dare I say ‘personalities’, that a song could transcend the decades.  Whereas women sang about males who are leaving/arriving or causing tears/heartache and are not physically described, leaving nothing etched in the memory.” 

Maud’s musical hypothesis…

If you don’t know the song lyrics (lucky you) here they are:

California Girls
The Beach Boys
https://www.thebeachboys.com/

Well, East Coast girls are hip
I really dig those styles they wear
And the Southern girls with the way they talk
They knock me out when I’m down there
The Mid-West farmer’s daughters really make you feel alright
And the Northern girls with the way they kiss
They keep their boyfriends warm at night

I wish they all could be California girls
I wish they all could be California
I wish they all could be California girls

The West coast has the sunshine
And the girls all get so tanned
I dig a French bikini on Hawaiian island dolls
By a palm tree in the sand
I been all around this great big world
And I seen all kinds of girls
Yeah, but I couldn’t wait to get back in the States
Back to the cutest girls in the world

I wish they all could be California girls
I wish they all could be California
I wish they all could be California girls

I wish they all could be California girls
I wish they all could be California girls
I wish they all could be California girls
I wish they all could be California girls
etc, etc…

Songwriters: Brian Douglas Wilson / Michael Edward Love
California Girls lyrics 1965 © Universal Music Publishing Group

Location is not an issue here, the girls in question are prominently mentioned and The Beach Boys diplomatically reference various US regions so as not to offend by omission.

A catchy tune, they sing of the visual pleasure of one woman pitted against another until the type named ‘California Girls’ moves to the top of the lust list.

The objectifying of women does not translate well to 21st century sensitivities.  Although in 2010 Katy Perry sang a similarly shallow song California Gurls.

It can be argued that The Beach Boys were young and represented their gender and the world-wide surfing movement with what appealed to them at the time.  Their songs certainly represented the superficiality of youth and what was uppermost on the manly mind.  In contrast, The Supremes song of 1965 Surfer Boy shows an entirely different slant on surfing and a more emotional approach.

The Beach Boys skimming appraisal of the external woman brings me to the French bikini on a Hawaiian island girl.  I don’t know skin cancer statistics in other countries but at one stage Australia had the highest skin cancer rate in the world.  Most beach babes of the mid-to-late twentieth century now have a crusty epidermal layer of melanoma sores and spots which are regularly checked by their skin cancer specialist.

Are these bikini babes still loved?  Nobody of that beach culture vintage is cute now, unless Botox is involved.  Heck, everyone of that generation has aged and, depending on decrepitude, may wish they had that body again.

Allowing for variants, The Beach Boys and The Supremes are now older, wiser people who made a lot of money from their hard-working vocal chords and have moved into Music Legend status.  I wonder if they sit in comfy chairs, musing about their past lyrics?  Do they laugh, cringe or couldn’t care less?

The world may have moved on but surfers still surf, boys still ogle girls, and sex discrimination still remains.  And no matter how irksome, old songs never die.

Music Note 02


Maud Fitch – Guest blogger and east coast Queensland girl

Nasturtium Flowers Lifespan

Nasturtiums like to grow free-range in the sun with well-drained soil but I planted the seeds in an old hanging basket under the verandah and watched their lifespan over three months from warm September mornings in springtime to steamy January afternoons in summertime.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2019

This year’s winners have been announced at an awards ceremony on 31 January 2019.

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour Australian writing.  The awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.

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The Winners

  • The Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-Fiction: No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani (Picador Australia)
  • The Prize for Fiction: The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida (Faber & Faber)
  • The Prize for Drama: The Almighty Sometimes by Kendall Feaver (Currency Press, in association with Griffin Theatre Company)
  • The Prize for Poetry: Tilt by Kate Lilley (Vagabond Press)
  • The Prize for Writing for Young Adults: Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Prize for Indigenous Writing: Taboo by Kim Scott (Picador Australia)
  • The Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript: Kokomo by Victoria Hannan
  • People’s Choice Award: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee (Allen & Unwin)

The winners of the main suite of awards – fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, writing for young adults, and the biennial Prize for Indigenous Writing – each receive $25,000. The winner of the Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript receives $15,000.

The winners of the seven award categories go on to contest the overall Victorian Prize for Literature, worth an additional $100,000.  This is the single most valuable literary award in the country.

Website https://www.wheelercentre.com/projects/victorian-premier-s-literary-awards-2019
Winner https://www.wheelercentre.com/news/behrouz-boochani-wins-the-2019-victorian-prize-for-literature

This could be your book one day!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Australia Day 2019

aussie icon australia day 2019

Long weekend

Hot weather

Stretch and yawn

Shorts and t-shirt

Bushells cuppa

Vegemite on toast

Barbecue smoke

Burned sausages

Tomato sauce drips

Potato salad

Paper plates sag

Pavlova sweetness

Dry lamingtons

Lemonade spiders

Cricket match

Afternoon sleep

Bonfire crackling

Eucalyptus spits

Singalong

Mosquitoes bite

Humid night

Ceiling fan

Beach tomorrow

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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HOMEMADE AUSSIE PAVLOVA is a baked crusty meringue with a soft fluffy centre, topped with whipped cream and sweet tangy seasonal fruits. Melts in your mouth!

Why Writers Write

Is acknowledgement a cherished goal?
Is reimbursement the final accolade?
Or will a writer write regardless?

On a writer’s wishlist, there would have to be the thrill of seeing their name in print.  My name under a bold heading on a hardback cover would show that I’ve made it.  Throw in a display stand, a book launch with signing table, coffee and cupcakes, and I would be in literary heaven.  No doubt hell would follow with the necessary writing of a sequel…

Recently a member of my writers group asked the question “Why do you write?” which seemed innocuous enough but there were vastly different answers—-see below.

My earnest reply went something like “Because I think in words hence the title of my blog.  Most things I experience can become a potential story.”  I am always mapping out first lines, or an introductory paragraph, or setting the scene.  This, however, does not mean I will be traditionally published.  I just keep doing it.

I believe a writer’s inner core is made of words and emotions which must be written down.

If I’m undertaking a complex household chore like chopping carrots, I may not jot down a sudden literary gem, but, no matter, I will find myself composing another while out grocery shopping.

For example “See that bloke over there, he’s uncomfortable and he’s trying to get up the nerve to...”

(1) ask the sales assistant out (2) steal that expensive car polish (3) abandon his trolley at the checkout (4) inquire about a job (5) hide behind the refrigerated cabinet to avoid his mother/parole officer/ex-boss or chatty neighbour.

See, I can’t help it!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


I Only Need This To Write 01
“All I Need To Write” by Grant Snider – A room with a view, No other work to do, A child-proof lock, A ticking clock, Natural light, A chair that fits just right, New paper and pens, Some animal friends, The right phase of the moon, Ambient tunes, A world of my creation, Or internal motivation – http://www.incidentalcomics.com/


GENUINE RESPONSES FROM 31 WRITERS WHEN ASKED THE QUESTION

“WHY DO YOU WRITE?”

A form of self-expression, the joy of crafting something meaningful.

I write because I can’t imagine my life without writing in it.

I started writing because I wanted to explore my creative side.

Because I can’t dance.

Mostly it’s because I have loads of inspiration and story ideas and I need to write them to get them out of my head!

It sets my soul free and my heart on fire….storytelling is an inextricable part of who I am.

I write because I want to.

I write because ideas, images and words come to me and they seem important to share.

I can’t help it, stories bubble and whirl around in my head all the time.

So I can draw the pictures, to be honest I find writing really tedious – I just want to illustrate.

I do not know why. It just is. And sometimes or often, it isn’t.

Because I like making people laugh and feel other feelings.

I’ve always imagined myself writing one day, but now that I’m finally trying to make it actually happen I’m finding it a lot harder than I expected.

If it’s any help, writing for me is mostly agony.

Starting is great fun…I love cracking the problems.

Because I know how it feels to not create.

Writing is, for me, a personal freedom.

Because I like making things.

Because I think in words, the title of my blog is Thoughts Become Words.

For me it is almost a subconscious act that I’m completely driven to do.

Because I have to, it’s not a want or a need, it’s an in-the-bones thing.

Writing is always there with me, sometimes we’re best of friends, often we’re not.

Cos I have to! I do my best to avoid it, I really do.

Can’t help it.

To put something wonderful out into the world.

It does get easier especially when you get a download in your head.

I think it’s a wonderful form of escapism.

It’s part of me.

At the moment I’d say that writing is a kind of masochism for me.

I love writing and hate it in equal measure.

Because it’s fun and because I find it impossible not to.


Pen Paper Clipart Boy Holding Pencil

EAGER FOR MORE LITERARY INSIGHTS?
Frank McKinley, author and writing coach, also raised the question—-
https://www.frankmckinleyauthor.com/54-writers-love-writing/

‘Strength without wisdom’ counsels Milton

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What is strength without a double share of wisdom? Strength’s not made to rule, but to subserve, where wisdom bears command.


John Milton (December 1608 – November 1674) was an English poet of the late Renaissance period. He is particularly noted for his epic poem on the fall of Satan and Adam and Eve’s ejection from the Garden of Eden ‘Paradise Lost’ which he composed in blank verse after going blind.

Allow yourself plenty of time to read this legendary poem!

 

Poem of the Week: Paradise Lost by John Milton’ a unique viewpoint from of The Guardian who says ‘The muscular blank verse of this great classic reveals a visionary amalgam of the biblical and the classical.’
https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2019/jan/07/poem-of-the-week-from-paradise-lost-by-john-milton

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

john milton english poet

Three Things #4

A snapshot of what’s happening in my reading world.  Three books!  Three genres!  Three reviews!  My theme was originally started by Book Jotter under the title ‘Reading Looking Thinking’ but I’m only doing the Reading part for this installment.

POTENT ROMANTIC COMEDY

OUR TINY, USELESS HEARTS novel by Toni Jordan
https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/our-tiny-useless-hearts

QuoteI couldn’t stop staring at babies and toddlers in the street: their impossibly tiny nails, pores around their noses, the way each hair on their head existed not as an individual but as part of a silken wave.” Janice, Page 125.

Toni Jordan’s new book ‘The Fragments’ has hit the shelves and in preparation I’ve just read her novel ‘Our Tiny, Useless Hearts’ which I think is a clever rom-com story.  Jordan has the knack of writing intelligent gems of heartfelt dialogue from the mouths of sincere characters then setting them in a ludicrous situation.  Well, Caroline’s house isn’t ludicrous, it’s more a trendy vehicle for British-style upstairs, downstairs naughtiness and relevant sex scenes.  The main players are two couples with shaky marriages (think clothes shredding) and the rest have grit in their relationships.  Protagonist Janice (with microbiologist syndrome) is meant to be the sensible one but she has just as many hang-ups as those around her.  Amid the embarrassing yet hilarious turmoil, Janice’s divorced husband Alec turns up.  The tension escalates even higher, a bad case of ‘Who is going to explode into a million pieces first?’.  I was entertained by this book of forthright and dysfunctional people who drew me into their lives.  GBW.
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MINUTIA OF VILLAGE LIFE

THE BOOKSHOP novel by Penelope Fitzgerald
https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9780007373833/the-bookshop/

Quote “Browsing is part of the tradition of a bookshop,” Florence told Christine. “You must let them stand and turn things over.” Florence, Chapter 5.

What a sombre little story this is.  I try not to read reviews or publicity first so I was quite impressed when I saw that English novelist Penelope Fitzgerald wrote ‘The Bookshop’ in 1978 when in her sixties.  That’s a lot of life experience, and later a Booker prize.  Fitzgerald had worked for the BBC, taught in schools and ran a bookshop.  I felt the struggles of Florence Green, fictional proprietor of the East Suffolk small town bookshop, were genuine.  Her droll experiences with young helper Christine Gipping appear to be first-hand.  In comparison, I found Mr Brundish, Milo North and the rapper (poltergeist) written along classical lines to add drama.  Village life is parochial and Florence battles with Mrs Gamart and her far-reaching resentment against resurrecting Old House as a bookshop.  Editor Hermione Lee says that Fitzgerald had a ‘tragic sense of life’ and I agree.  But her finesse with dialogue, letter-writing and the unspoken has launched countless tropes.  By all means prepare, this book has more thorns than roses.  GBW.
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INTER-DIMENSIONAL TRAVEL

THE CHRONICLES OF ST MARY’S series by Jodi Taylor
https://www.simonandschuster.ca/series/The-Chronicles-of-St-Marys

Quote “My speciality is Ancient Civilisations with a bit of medieval and Tudor stuff chucked in for luck.  As far as I was concerned, 1851 was practically yesterday.” Maxwell, Book 5.

The term preferred by Dr Bairstow, Director of the Institute of Historical Research at St Mary’s Priory, is ‘contemporary time’.  Jodi Taylor, author of ‘The Chronicles of St Mary’s’ series, writes about a humorous herd of chaos-prone historians who investigate major historical events.  They are led by intrepid historian Madeleine Maxwell (aka Max) Chief Operations Officer.  After costume fittings, the historians travel in pods with armed guards to places like Ancient Egypt, Mount Vesuvius, Great Fire of London, etc, to observe and take notes while Time Police loom threateningly.  Best read in chronological order but Dramatis Thingummy explains characters and each gripping story unfolds, threefold sometimes, as another disaster hits the team.  Historians die; Dr Tim Peterson gets bubonic plague; at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Bard himself catches alight.  There are currently 22 books, in long and short format.  If, like me, you have ever daydreamed of visiting an historic moment in olden times, these books are for you.  GBW.
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Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Snoopy Woodstock Bookstack Cartoon

 

One post with three acts READING, LOOKING, THINKING, an idea started by Book Jotter, innovative blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley.  Her invitation to participate offers a slight change from Thinking to Doing if that suits your purpose.  I can love, like or loathe in three short bursts!  GBW.

Kei Ishii Q&A The Kollective Idea

The second part of our two-part interview with Queensland contemporary dance teacher Kei Ishii, founder of The Kollective Idea and workshops The Kontemporary Idea, which reveals his early passion for dance and an ongoing commitment to helping aspiring dancers reach their full potential.

Kei Ishii Contemporary Dancer & Teacher 

Q&A Interview | Profile Snapshot

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  1.  Early passion for dance

Q.  How and where did your passion for dance begin?

A.  It started when I was 7 years old.  I originally wanted to start Irish dancing, but my mother didn’t know the difference between Irish dance and tap dance, so she sent me to The Ritz which does Tap dance and the rest is history.

  1.  Creativity in the genes

Q.  Do you come from a creative family?

A.  I come from a very musical family, everyone has played an instrument at some point, but I am the only one who went into dance.

  1.  That pivotal moment

Q.  When and how did you become interested in contemporary dance?

A.  After high school, I found my interest in Contemporary dance.  I had already done a year of full-time dance at The Space in Melbourne and was wondering what to do with my career when one of my instructors suggested I go to Ev & Bow to pursue Contemporary dance.

  1.  Artistic inspiration

Q.  Which choreographers inspire you?

A.  So many different Choreographers to choose from!  Pina Bausch, Gary Stewart and Anton to name a few, but there are so many I have seen and worked with that my list would go on forever.

  1.  Your studies and qualifications

Q.  Where did you study and what are your dance qualifications?

A.  Well, I started learning dance at The Ritz then I completed full-time training at The Space in Melbourne and Ev & Bow in Sydney and gained a Cert IV in dance performance.

  1.  After you graduated

Q.  Any performance related highlights or working adventures in Australia?

A.  One of my first contracts was Legs On The Wall in their piece ‘Puncture’.  I have also done some independent work in Sydney Fringe Festival.  I entered a choreography competition Fast + Fresh with a short work ‘Memories’ which was awarded ‘Most Outstanding Choreography’ and ‘Most Outstanding Group’ which was quite amazing for me as it was the first work I’d created.

  1.  Formation of The Kollective Idea

Q.  What is the story behind your formation of The Kollective Idea?

A.  Coming back to Brisbane, I realised that the contemporary community is growing quite significantly, and Contemporary dance is become more popular amongst dance studios.  I wanted to contribute to this growth and help young aspiring dancers to experience what Contemporary dance has to offer.  Contemporary dance is something which needs to be experienced by teachers, it’s all about what you experience.

  1.  Planned events

Q.  What upcoming events do you have planned for The Kollective Idea?

A.  There’s our 3-day workshops The Kontemporary Idea in January and plans are underway to hold a few more workshops throughout 2019.  I have plans to create our first show/development this year.

  1.  Goals for The Kollective Idea

Q.  What are future goals for your workshops The Kontemporary Idea?

A.  I want to create a company for young dancers, so they can experience what it’s like to be in the Contemporary dance industry, what to expect, be part of the creation of different works.

  1.  Closing thoughts

Q.  Is there something encouraging you can say to aspiring dancers?

A.  Never take anything for granted, especially your teachers.  They offer a wealth of knowledge and are helping you to achieve your fullest potential.

contemporary dancer shadows

Many thanks for your time, Kei, and best wishes for your dance career.
CLICK to read the first part of our two-part interview.
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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The Kollective Idea

Check the website for upcoming workshops

Website http://thekollectiveidea.com.au/
Events http://thekollectiveidea.com.au/events/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thekollectiveidea/
Instagram http://picdeer.com/thekollectiveidea

Kei Ishii and The Kontemporary Idea

Kei Ishii, founder of The Kollective Idea and its related dance module The Kontemporary Idea, will be holding more 3-day workshops this year, offering a creative boost to young and emerging dancers.

This is the first part of our two-part interview with Kei discussing his contemporary dance career.  Watch out for part two with Q&A insights!

kei ishii kollective ideas website 02Kei Ishii graduated from The Space Performing Arts, in Melbourne and went on to take a place at the world-renowned Ev & Bow Full-Time Contemporary Dance Course in Sydney where he trained with Sarah Boulter for two years.  During this time Kei assisted Sarah in choreographing many events including Dance Academy and the Arabian Games and was also offered a secondment with the Internationally famed ADT (Australian Dance Theatre) in Adelaide.

As a member of Legs on the Wall Contemporary Dance Troupe, Kei performed in their production of Puncture at the Sydney Festival in 2015.  He has choreographed many short works which have been performed at festivals such as Sydney Fringe Festival and Short Sweet Dance and was also awarded Best Choreographer at Fast + Fresh 2013.

 


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Since returning to Queensland, Kei shares his knowledge of various contemporary techniques with dance schools around Brisbane.  He started The Kollective Idea to give aspiring dancers the chance to perform in a company setting, to learn what working within the industry involves and to be guided through this exciting process.


 

Kei says “At The Kollective Idea we foster your talents and expand your experiences in an environment where you can gain the creative edge needed to succeed in dance.  You will dance alongside award-winning instructors and choreographers.  We are highly motivated to develop your performance technique, style and stage skills.”

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Kei Ishii, creator of The Kollective Idea

 

Kei goes on to say “The right philosophy drives success, it is where everything we do creatively and professionally starts.  A promising idea will define what you do and how you will do it.  Having the knowledge and skills to use this idea is why we study, practice and gain experience, growing to expand our ideas, our horizons and ultimately our dance futures.” 

“We can help you through the process of growing in the industry.  Our mentors are award-winning dancers with experience and the knowledge needed to help you grow that idea.”

A great learning opportunity from a man with vibrant and affirmative ideas!
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The Kollective Idea starts their year with another The Kontemporary Idea 3-day workshop 19-21 January 2019 in two groups for ages 10-13 and 14+ covering techniques, improvisation and choreography.  Website bookings––

http://thekollectiveidea.com.au/
http://thekollectiveidea.com.au/events/
https://www.facebook.com/thekollectiveidea/

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The Kontemporary Idea

Brisbane Studio––

WORKSHOPS 19-21 JANUARY 2019
DAY 1 – Contemporary Techniques
DAY 2 – Improvisation Techniques
DAY 3 – Choreography Techniques
AGES
KONNECT – Ages 10-13
KOLLECT – Ages 14+

PERFORMANCE VIDEO
http://thekollectiveidea.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/CompressedIRISH-1.mp4?_=1

CLICK to read the second part of our two-part interview.

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