Kate Llewellyn is a hidden treasure. I had not read any of her works before today but she is reaching the age of legend status and should be acknowledged for her beautiful poetry now rather than in retrospect.
Kate Llewellyn expresses wonder in the capacity of nature for regeneration in the face of disaster, and nature’s opportunism. In ‘Magpies’ she defines the summer heat and leaving a garden sprinkler on while a bushfire rages:
It had been hot for days,
the garden sprawled-–
hit like a cricketer.
I left a hose on,
hanging in the apple tree,
and went indoors and slept.
Magpies found this fountain
and stalked around.
They made a midsummer opera
and gargled water-–
it became their song.
They sang as if to praise
the fountain in the tree.
While all this was happening
a hundred fires swept the State.
Great trees exploded,
birds and animals caught fire.
People died and houses burnt,
yet still these magpies sang
around the fountain in the tree.
Australia is the driest inhabited continent on the planet. It is natural that drought and the regeneration which comes from bushfires and drought-breaking rains are timeless subjects in our poetry and evocatively captured by Kate Llewellyn.
Kate Llewellyn is an award-winning Australian poet, author, diarist and travel writer. She is the author of twenty-four books comprising eight of poetry, five of travel, journals, memoir ‘The Dressmaker’s Daughter’, letters and essays. “Kate Llewellyn is naturally poetic, naturally personal, and uniquely generous with it.” writes Australian Book Review’s South Australian State Editor Peter Goldsworthy. Further reading Poetry Library.
Sunday 1st March 2020 the Wales Readathon and Dewithon20 begins! To get fired up, read Gareth Evans emotive poem, one of many he penned on a trek across Wales.
“In the summer of 2003, Gareth Evans walked the length of Wales from Cardiff to Holyhead, taking 28 days to cover over 500km and 18000m of ascent. Twenty-eight poems were inspired by the journey. Some are humorous, some are philosophical, some are descriptive and all are the product of quiet, solitary observation. Join Welshman Garethas he probes deep into the heart of Wales.”
Here is one of his poems—
“The Dragon’s Back”
Turned to motionless stone by a great Welsh wizard
His red scaly back turned to a silvery grey
The most powerful dragon that ever lived
Is harnessed by a mysterious, magical spell
His elongated head peers down on the Llanberis lakes
His massive body full of spikes is a fearsome sight
His rock-studded spine slumped high above Ogwen
Gashes line his steep sides like old war wounds shooting down to Idwal
Gullies and arêtes form the webs of his folded wings
A bristly tail drops down suddenly, decorated by spectacular pinnacles
Before flicking up again with one last majestic sweep
To its triple-pronged tip soaring towards the heavens
The roar that once filled the valleys preserved forever
In the howl of the wind and the scream of the jets in Nant Ffrancon
His beauty is held in the eagles that now circle above him
He lives on in the spirit of the people of Wales
Courage and passion are mirrored in their eyes
And his fire still burns in the depths of their hearts
Grey Winter hath gone, like a wearisome guest, And, behold, for repayment, September comes in with the wind of the West And the Spring in her raiment! The ways of the frost have been filled of the flowers, While the forest discovers Wild wings, with the halo of hyaline hours, And the music of lovers.
September, the maid with the swift, silver feet! She glides, and she graces The valleys of coolness, the slopes of the heat, With her blossomy traces; Sweet month, with a mouth that is made of a rose, She lightens and lingers In spots where the harp of the evening glows, Attuned by her fingers.
The stream from its home in the hollow hill slips In a darling old fashion; And the day goeth down with a song on its lips, Whose key-note is passion. Far out in the fierce, bitter front of the sea I stand, and remember Dead things that were brothers and sisters of thee, Resplendent September.
The West, when it blows at the fall of the noon And beats on the beaches, Is filled with a tender and tremulous tune That touches and teaches; The stories of Youth, of the burden of Time, And the death of Devotion, Come back with the wind, and are themes of the rhyme In the waves of the ocean.
We, having a secret to others unknown, In the cool mountain-mosses, May whisper together, September, alone Of our loves and our losses. One word for her beauty, and one for the grace She gave to the hours; And then we may kiss her, and suffer her face To sleep with the flowers.
High places that knew of the gold and the white On the forehead of Morning Now darken and quake, and the steps of the Night Are heavy with warning! Her voice in the distance is lofty and loud Through the echoing gorges; She hath hidden her eyes in a mantle of cloud, And her feet in the surges!
On the tops of the hills, on the turreted cones – Chief temples of thunder – The gale, like a ghost, in the middle watch moans, Gliding over and under. The sea, flying white through the rack and the rain, Leapeth wild at the forelands; And the plover, whose cry is like passion with pain, Complains in the moorlands.
Oh, season of changes – of shadow and shine – September the splendid! My song hath no music to mingle with thine, And its burden is ended; But thou, being born of the winds and the sun, By mountain, by river, Mayst lighten and listen, and loiter and run, With thy voices for ever.
Henry Kendall (1839 – 1882)
‘Leaves from Australian Forests’ Poems of Henry Kendall – with Prefatory Sonnets.
Third poem – Page 7 of original book.
Pages 163 – with Dedication.
Published 1869 by George Robertson, Melbourne, Australia.
Printed by Walker, May & Co, Melbourne, Australia.
Blabbing about three topics based on READING LOOKING THINKING. This time a poetry collection, real live butterflies and overrating books. One post in three parts, a neat idea started by blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley of Book Jotter. Jump in! 😃 GBW.
READING: The dust-jacket image of a wooden paling fence on Bruce Dawe’s outstanding 1969 poetry collection ‘Beyond the Subdivisions’ will be familiar to anyone who lived in Australia in the middle decades of the 20th century. Timber mills must have worked overtime because everyone had a six-foot fence enclosing three sides of their quarter acre suburban block of land. A subdivision was formed by building identical weatherboard or brick veneer homes. Now called a housing estate or residential development but probably just as uniform.
Cravensville by Bruce Dawe
‘Run-of-the-mill’, you well might call this town —A place where many go, but few remain, Where you’d be mad to want to settle down, Off the main road, too far from bus or train, Neither backblocks enough to suit the likes Of most of us, nor moderately supplied With urban comforts, good for mystery hikes, But not the place to take the happy bride.
Population : 750, the guide-books say . . . After a week or two the hills close in, And what you came to find here moves away (If it was ever here . . .) ‘So what’s your sin?’ The barman says, with a wink, and the blowfly drone Of justification starts, for him alone.
This slim grey poetry book with orange lining was purchased for one dollar at UQ Alumni Book Fair 2019. The original 1969 price sticker on the front reads $1.95 which is confirmed on the inside flyleaf. In fifty years it had never been opened.
Back to the paling fence—as a child, I remember thinking the fence was insurmountable. Tall and ominous, it forbade me from seeing what was on the other side. As I grew older, I tried to climb the cross struts (usually only on one side of the fence) and couldn’t get a toe-hold. Splinters searing through my fingers, I fell back to ground. However, this didn’t stop me. Growing taller and bolder, one day I wrenched myself up and peeked over the top of the fence to see what our elderly nextdoor neighbour’s backyard looked like. Pretty ordinary as I recall. By this time, her children had moved away, the pets had passed away and I was way more interested in pop singers.
What has this got to do with Bruce Dawe, Australian poet extraordinaire? Nothing really, except I love his gritty poetry about what goes on beyond those wooden fences. Such insight, such lyrical, satirical prose. His words may appear nostalgic, yet not, because human nature never really changes. GBW.
LOOKING: The Bribie Island Butterfly House, north of Brisbane, is a community organisation run by volunteers. It is an incredibly tranquil experience to walk into a huge enclosure filled with beautiful flowers and thousands of butterflies. There is not a sound. Around a corner are small bubblers yet nothing detracts from the calm, delicate atmosphere. I was lucky to visit on a sunny day because apparently this makes the butterflies more active—but as my photographs below will demonstrate, it was hard to get a still image.
Six blurry shots of a Lesser Wanderer butterfly, fluttering its wings so fast and furious I gave up trying to focus. It was enjoying the nectar from the daisy-like flower and nothing was going to distract it. I thought perhaps it would stop for a quick rest but it didn’t. That flower must have been delicious!
As I was reading the information brochure, a Swamp Tiger butterfly landed on it. They like light, bright colours and often landed on the visitors sunhats. The spotted Monarch butterfly on the right was newly hatched and getting its bearings.
The next photo I took was of two butterflies mating . . . sorry, folks, but this post is only a trailer. I have heaps more to tell you so please visit my full report with photos on Bribie Island Butterfly House Visit. GBW.
THINKING: First, I would like to thank Madame Writer and Thoughts Stained With Ink and Peter Derk of LitReactor for voicing several bookish Thoughts on subjects which I have mused over but never put into Words. They raised some valid questions, none I can satisfactorily answer but I would like to respond—
We all know book publicity takes many forms. It’s a big leap from when William Shakespeare saw his posters printed off a hand-blocked press. Currently we have literary journals, author talks, Facebook, dedicated websites, bloggers, online bookshops, the list goes on, all reviewing with a positive spin. More on that further down.
I follow trusted book reviewers (you know who you are!) and receive publishers e-newsletters. I don’t read backcover book blurb unless my mind is filled with a healthy dose of scepticism. I don’t read a book review unless it’s from my independent sources or I am already halfway through the story. Likewise I won’t read book hype, particularly on social media, until I’ve formed my own opinion. When I finish a book, I read blurb, reviews and hype just to see if I agree with everyone. Not always, but that’s the beauty of personal opinion.
Then there’s snappily worded book bolstering, raking through the coals of already formed opinions, to generate a spark in book sales and sway the undecided reader. I don’t review most of the books I read but after reading I make a mental note of the merits of each one. And the Choose-Your-Own process works for me. I’ve read some great books which I originally knew nothing about. Stubborn, yes, belief in book hype, no.
Which brings me to the reviewers, particularly those who receive an ARC in return for an honest review. Are their reviews strictly honest? Do they leave out the bits they don’t like? Fudge the wording? I’ve yet to read a scathing review for a publisher’s complimentary copy. Someone out there must have written an unhappy book review, one where it genuinely states ‘This book is rubbish’ and not because they don’t like the genre.
Fear holds us back; fear of no longer receiving free copies; fear of being pilloried by other readers; fear of ridicule from fans; fear of not sounding smart enough; fear of being the kid in the classroom who stands out for all the wrong reasons. We shouldn’t have any fear about expressing ourselves honestly but we do. Be nice, be fair but does that mean be honest? Rather than admit they don’t like a book, reviewers have been known NOT to write a review. Almost misinformation for both reader and author.
I’m under no allusion that my Three Things #6 will make waves in the blogging community yet I still put myself out there, turning my Thoughts into Words, and trying not to be fearful of the result. GBW.
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.
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 Childrenprize 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 Poems’. AND 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).
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?
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:
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
Maxfield 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.
Did you see them pass today, Billy, Kate and Robin,
All astride upon the back of old grey Dobbin?
Jigging, jogging off to school, down the dusty track––
What must Dobbin think of it––three upon his back?
Robin at the bridle-rein, in the middle Kate,
Billy holding on behind, his legs out straight.
Now they’re coming back from school, jig, jog, jig.
See them at the corner where the gums grow big;
Dobbin flicking off the flies and blinking at the sun––
Having three upon his back he thinks is splendid fun:
Robin at the bridle-rein, in the middle Kate,
Little Billy up behind, his legs out straight.
Poem originally published in ‘A Book for Kids’ 1921
Ever get poetry nostalgia? Australian school children learn poems by C J Dennis, Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson and many more. Often a particular poet’s verse follows them through life, even though their lives are nothing like the rough and tumble era in which these pioneer poets wrote.
Changes were afoot in Australia in late nineteenth/early twentieth century and were reflected in the country’s poetry. In the evening, after dinner, someone would recite a poem or two. Years later, I grew up with Banjo Paterson’s ‘The Man From Snowy River’, a rollicking ode to bush men, stock riders, the dangerously rugged land and the great value of horses.
It’s Henry Lawson’s birthday today. Writer, poet and balladist, Henry Archibald Hertzberg Lawson (17 June 1867–2 Sept 1922) redefined and immortalised early Australian life despite suffering many hardships including deafness. Along with his contemporary Andrew ‘Banjo’ Paterson, Henry Lawson is among the best-known Australian bush poets and fiction writers of the Colonial period. He was the son of the poet, publisher and feminist Louisa Lawson.
This game can be adapted for writers, artists, poets and movie fans!
There are two versions. The version attributed to the Surrealist Movement is when the weirdest possible head, torso, legs of the Exquisite Corpse are drawn by three different players, each folding over the paper so the next person can’t see the results until it is unfolded at the end of the game.
“Consequences” is the original name of this literary pen and paper parlour game which has been played since the 1800s Victorian Era. A random sentence is written near the top of the page. The paper is folded over then passed to several other participants who add to it and fold until it reaches the last person, or the bottom of the page. The paper is unfolded and the whole “story” is revealed––often with hilarious results.
Alternatively, photocopied lines from classic poems (see above) can be cut into strips and jumbled into a bowl. Each player blindly chooses nine strips but uses only seven to form a poem. The mind takes over, sorting and assembling into a reasonably cohesive format. The verse pictured above is what I put together in a recent Masterclass during a timed exercise. My Exquisite Corpse earned the comment “feels Gothic and dark”.
To quoteAcademy of American Poets: “The only hard and fast rule of Exquisite Corpse is that each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising—sometimes absurd—yet often beautiful poem. Exquisite Corpse is a great way to collaborate with other poets, and to free oneself from imaginative constraints or habits.”
Minor changes have been added to Exquisite Corpse over time, from using a single word to including famous lines from books and movies. For example, you can jot down your favourite movie quote, fold over the paper then pass it on. See what you can pitch with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Hugh Jackman. In book mode, an amalgamation of Germaine Greer and Nora Roberts could prove interesting.
The following formula for fun was kindly supplied by WordPress blogger Life After Sixty-Five who wrote––“Here is my favourite version of Exquisite Corpse, though I have played the version where a human body is drawn”––
He (male name, fold) – someone we all knew, or someone famous
met She (female name, fold) – could be someone famous, or someone playing the game etc.
at (place, fold)
He wore (description of clothes, fold)
She wore (description of clothes, fold)
He asked, (question, fold)
She replied, (answers question, fold)
And along came (person, fold)
And so they decided to (decision, fold)
And in the end…(finish, fold) “…the gales of laughter at the silly stories…”
Language Is A Virus website has the history of Exquisite Corpse and suggested books on the subject. They started a poem which has been running since 2000 and you can add to the silliness.
Think of something
Not tai chi
Not doing anything
Boredom sets in––
Start a project
Best work ever
I can do more
Boredom sets in––
It is tricky
It is hard
It will never end
Why did I start
I don’t like it
I hate this thing
Boredom sets in.
Boredom – even the explanations are boring! Etymology and terminology:
(1) In conventional usage, boredom is an emotional or psychological state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, is not interested in his or her surroundings or feels that a day or period is dull or tedious.
(2) The word boredom comes from a device called a “boring tool”, a kind of drill that works slowly and repetitively; around 1768, bore, meaning “be tiresome” became a popular slang term and the word “boredom” soon followed.
September and spring is emerging in the southern hemisphere. And my garden!
I have just found out what Crocosmia means! Small, brightly coloured funnel-shaped blooms, sword-shaped foliage, grown from bulbs similar to the Iris family. Grouped together they make ideal, butterfly-friendly floral displays. Such a variety of colours and shapes to gladden the heart of any artistic gardener.
On Gardenia Creating Gardens website, companion planting with Crocosmia is reminiscent of English cottage gardens (see below) although they are natives of South Africa. I haven’t planted Crocosmia, I should, they tolerate Brisbane’s subtropical climate, humidity, heat and current drought-like conditions.
Since Queensland won’t be getting tropical rainfall for a couple of months yet, I will satisfy myself with what I can photograph in my own meagre garden; and add excerpts from some famous poems about springtime.