Monday, August 29, 2011

National Poetry Week 5-11 September - Jane Baker Book Launch

National Poetry Week beckons - 5-11 September

There is plenty happening in the world of poetry. Poetry Australia now has over 1500 registered members. Of course there are many more involved in one way or another in creating and supporting poetry.

I shall be attending a book launch on 3 September - Jane Baker of the 'Yass Valley Writers' is about to launch a marvellous collection of poems - The Galled Tree ... which link her deep appreciation of the natural world with words from close observation.

Below is a poem she wrote at the time of the recent drought where the 'galled tree' is mentioned ...

Despite the best efforts of weathermen
and long absent kookaburras, not to
mention the premonitional processions
of ants in column, we did not believe.
Despite the slow descent of the sky
to a point just above our heads and
single fat drops leaving random muddy
splats on the windscreen we did not believe.
It wasn't when the soft shirr of newborn rain
whispered on the roof that we found faith or
even when the shirr sharpened into audible
hammer drills boring into the solar fired earth.
It was when water coursed down the trunk
of the grey Blakeley's gum revealing rainwear
of pink and ochre, blue, green, rust and butter cream
that we dared to believe and, believing,
to look at each other and grin foolishly.
Jane Baker
Footnote ...details of Blakeley's Gum from Wikipedia ...

Eucalyptus blakelyi, known as the Blakelys Red Gum is a common eucalyptus tree of the tablelands of New South Wales and adjacent areas in Queensland and Victoria. Growing to 10–24 metres (33–79 ft) tall, the trunk is smooth, with shedding scales of bark, revealing varying colours of pink, white and grey.[1] This species is often a victim of eucalyptus dieback.[2]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Broken Words

She said she would get the matches we needed
but when she came back from the shops all
I saw in her basket was a dozen eggs and a cucumber!
And my dear mother said it would be the Gold Coast
this year, but we were not surprised to receive
a postcard from Batemans Bay. Now Julia’s another
fish and why we hold her words to ransom I just
cannot fathom, maybe that public face, – red one day
but never black and white. Well, it is clear to me
that reality is built from broken bricks.
It is just the way the world is, believe me –
but please, don’t take my word for it.

Richard Scutter  29 July 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mrs Midas - Carol Ann Duffy

A stanza by stanza commentary …

It was late September. I'd just poured a glass of wine, begun
to unwind, while the vegetables cooked. The kitchen
filled with the smell of itself, relaxed, its steamy breath
gently blanching the windows. So I opened one,
then with my fingers wiped the other's glass like a brow.
He was standing under the pear tree snapping a twig.

I like the domestic setting of this scene and the personification of the kitchen … the smell of itself and the blanching of windows (The I is infered female – which is the case) … 'brow' describes a well-recognised swipe in clearing the window. Who is this person? ... is the pear tree significant?

Now the garden was long and the visibility poor, the way
the dark of the ground seems to drink the light of the sky,
but that twig in his hand was gold. And then he plucked
a pear from a branch - we grew Fondante d'Automne -
and it sat in his palm like a light bulb. On.
I thought to myself, Is he putting fairy lights in the tree?

Dark of ground drinking light ... nice reverse of usual thought. They have some communion with the pear … and the Fondante d’Autumne is a delicious melting pear with a sweet musky flesh and a light green slightly russet skin … sexual connotations ... was the pear chosen for the transformation into a light bulb … the turning on of a light … she thought he could be putting bulbs into the tree

He came into the house. The doorknobs gleamed.
He drew the blinds. You know the mind; I thought of
the Field of the Cloth of Gold and of Miss Macready.
He sat in that chair like a king on a burnished throne.
The look on his face was strange, wild, vain. I said,
What in the name of God is going on? He started to laugh.

A real shock is taking place as he transforms objects familar to his hands.
From the Internet a comment by Carol Ann Duffy … Miss Macready is Mrs Midas's old History teacher- she taught her about The Field of the Cloth of Gold- Mrs Midas is suddenly reminded of her when Midas draws the blinds. Cloth. Gold. History.'

His God is gold or Gold is God. He has changed. She wants an explanation but he taunts with laughter. Male dominance implied by ‘king’ and ‘throne’.

I served up the meal. For starters, corn on the cob.
Within seconds he was spitting out the teeth of the rich.
He toyed with his spoon, then mine, then with the knives, the forks.
He asked where was the wine. I poured with shaking hand,
a fragrant, bone-dry white from Italy, then watched
as he picked up the glass, goblet, golden chalice, drank.

She takes up the traditional wife position in serving … golden corn no doubt for golden teeth! She is also changing … ‘shaking hand’ and ‘bone-dry’… as she watches the alliterative transformation of a wine glass

It was then that I started to scream. He sank to his knees.
After we had both calmed down, I finished the wine
on my own, hearing him out. I made him sit
on the other side of the room and keep his hands to himself.
I locked the cat in the cellar. I moved the phone.
The toilet I didn't mind. I couldn't believe my ears:

Total realisation now … he takes a submissive position … she wants to spare the cat but doesn’t mind having a golden loo … and then he starts to explain …

how he'd had a wish. Look, we all have wishes; granted.
But who has wishes granted? Him. Do you know about gold?
It feeds no one; aurum, soft, untarnishable; slakes
no thirst. He tried to light a cigarette; I gazed, entranced,
as the blue flame played on its luteous stem. At least,
I said, you'll be able to give up smoking for good.

The negatives of gold … can’t sustain the body… Ah … but there is a positive here … nice way to give up smoking! … a sense of humour in the interplay

Seperate beds. In fact, I put a chair against my door,
near petrified. He was below, turning the spare room
into the tomb of Tutankhamun. You see, we were passionate then,
in those halcyon days; unwrapping each other, rapidly,
like presents, fast food. But now I feared his honeyed embrace,
the kiss that would turn my lips to a work of art.

Near petrified takes on its literal meaning!
Presents and fast food equated to the sexual fire that existed … but now she feared the kiss that would destroy (religious connection)

Tomb of Tutankhamun … there was a golden sarcophagus in the tomb as well as a dead mummy

And who, when it comes to the crunch, can live
with a heart of gold? That night, I dreamt I bore
his child, its perfect ore limbs, its little tongue
like a precious latch, its amber eyes
holding their pupils like flies. My dream-milk
burned in my breasts. I woke to the streaming sun.

She literally does not want to have a ‘heart of gold’ ... nor to have a child with only gold in it's eyes … nor, of course, her precious milk contaminated. The son-nightmare is broken by the streaming sun.

So he had to move out. We'd a caravan
in the wilds, in a glade of its own. I drove him up
under cover of dark. He sat in the back.
And then I came home, the women who married the fool
who wished for gold. At first I visited, odd times,
parking the car a good way off, then walking.

Well what to you do when you find you have married someone with completely alien priorities … well he has to live his life but you don’t want to be involved anymore – apart from the occasional visit through the woods ... so the relationship is maintained ... but perhaps not such a touching relationship.

You knew you were getting close. Golden trout
on the grass. One day, a hare hung from a larch,
a beautiful lemon mistake. And then his footprints,
glistening next to the river's path. He was thin,
delirious; hearing, he said, the music of Pan
from the woods. Listen. That was the last straw.

… and after occasional visits you found he had progressed deeper into his world … and the world of Pan = the God of the wild and famous for his sexual powers

What gets me now is not the idiocy or greed
but lack of thought for me. Pure selfishness. I sold
the contents of the house and came down here.
I think of him in certain lights, dawn, late afternoon,
and once a bowl of apples stopped me dead. I miss most,
even now, his hands, his warm hands on my skin, his touch.

What is most trying is the total disregard for her … total male selfishness. (Where she has moved to we don’t know … but if she sold the contents of the house she might have made a bit of money on all that golden stuff!)

She is reminded of him when there is gold in the sky.

She still has a fondness for her fool husband  … stopped by a bowl of apples … note Eve only stopped Adam with one, but she is stopped in her tracks by a whole bowl … golden delicious no doubt… she misses his touch … his golden touch … the actual physical contact of man  … very much a touching poem in everyway ... and perhaps she does have a golden heart and still love him.

Carol Ann Duffy

Monday, August 15, 2011

Public Credentials

    ‘ well I’ve never met him personally

shaken ’is hand, had a drink at the bar
I know he’s been around for quite awhile
and people are always talking about him
apparently, he started out with nothing
’mazes me that he did everything by himself
original and imaginative work
but of course that was many years ago
one of m’ mates is always praising him
says he’s become more of a consultant
they say I should get more acquainted
not knowing tomorrow and in need of work

yes, I will have another, pour one yourself
and have you heard from Susie since she left
you’ll need a bit of help while she’s away
they should put on extra staff at the weekends

Bill’s been seeing him regular like
he reckons he’s a new person now
completely changed his way of working
but mind you he needed to change his ways
have you seen his work, what would you say
in need of more than a little refinement
did the devil of a job for his daughter
so crooked the council made him redo
he’s always been a bit of a loser
anyway he’s started to do the right thing
but how long will it last; you know what I mean
he’ll be back to his old ways; you wait and see

no, the wife’s better, not on her feet yet
it’s the change in the weather what knocked her
we’re taking her for a drive on Sunday
but she’ll have to stay in the car of course

so, you reckon I should contact this guy
perhaps send him an email to explain things
I’ve got enough work for a couple o’ weeks
after that, I’m afraid, there’s not much around
I hate having nothing planned in life
not knowing what to do or where I’m going
but don’t like the sound of a consultant
they’re always giving advice at a distance
I like someone more practical, involved
wouldn’t mind working for him if he chips in
you says he’s embarked on some big project -
probably needs me as much as I need him

anyhow, you say Susie’s up on Facebook
I’ll ask my son to search his computer
I’d like to see her photos as she travels
I might even surprise her with a message

Richard Scutter  June 2010

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Hymn to God the Father - John Donne

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done;
I fear no more.

John Donne 1572 - 1631

This poem was written late in his life. John Donne reflects on God forgiving man for wrong-doing (or sin), including a reflection on his own wrong-doing and most importantly in the last stanza a wrong-doing in terms of a fear of not being saved. Whether he was close to death or not this contemplation shows a fear that would be common to many approaching death.

In the first stanza he identifies with all that has gone wrong with humanity in the past. Life cannot be viewed without this acknowledgement whether or not you embrace the concept of original sin and a fall from grace.

The second stanza becomes more personal. Thinking of times where he has caused others to stray. Also the many years of his youth when he led a life of abandonment   '... wallowed in, a score'

The last four lines express his faith in his religion quite succinctly and his fear is dissipated. He uses his own name in two ways .... to state the accomplishment of God ... God has done his work through the son, and God has, of course, Donne within his care.

A link to more analysis of this poem