My prose poem ‘Amber Puppy’ was first published in Quadrant magazine in September 2019.
I do enjoy writing prose poetry. Prose poetry is a cross between a poem and a prose piece, although, according to Wikipedia, prose poetry is poetry written in prose form instead of verse form, while preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery, parataxis, and emotional effects.
Have a read of my poem and tell me what you think:
What can an amber puppy mean in a world of Siris and driverless cars?
I was older, one of the Baby Boomers. Life was a series of warnings: Don’t fall over rugs or loose cords, don’t overeat, don’t go to bed before nine, drink coffee after midday, watch too much Netflix. When the new puppy arrived one birthday, rich brown as a raisin, I heard it shadowing me: Don’t trip on the dog’s lead.
There was much to be anxious about. One day, walking through the park – the rain had eased, spring waterfalls spilled into the creek, soon we would cool off under the trees – I lost my grip on the lead. Into the bushes he fled, disappearing into green. Since when did parks swallow small dogs? I drove home in a frantic car. My best friend. I’d loved him and he’d loved me.
The days staggered past like drunks. I prayed silently, absorbed sunshine, climbed steps, wrote Letters to the Editor. Don’t panic, don’t shallow breathe, don’t think the worst – you could hear it all around. A reclining Buddha could show you how to deepen the breath. A bird call at first light could tell you when to get up. A storm could remember to fill the dams and the water tanks – I was meandering between the trees when I saw him scampering through the creek. Splashing around then shaking himself dry. A muddy escapee. A barking survivor.
Where had he been these three long days? I could wash him, wrap him in a towel, take him home. Unexpected good news could still happen. Dogs off-the-leash need to stay close to their mistresses. Trees shed their leaves in winter and dogs run away, but find their way back. Seventy-two hours later, what can an amber puppy tell you in a world of Botox and identity theft?
See the difference between holding on and losing your grip.
In terms of creating new material during a pandemic, poetry is where I turn for inspiration. What about you?
According to Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished Professor of English, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, 1976–90. Poet Laureate of the U.S., 1988–90, Poetry is literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.
Do you find reading and writing poetry right now is how you are able to express yourself during a troubling time?
Phyllis Klein from Women’s Therapy Services puts it this way: “Turning to poetry, poetry gives rhythm to silence, light to darkness. In poetry we find the magic of metaphor, compactness of expression, use of the five senses, and simplicity or complexity of meaning in a few lines.”
This is my pre-pandemic poem ‘Taste‘ first published in Quadrant magazine May 2019. Have a read. Hope you enjoy it.
I rather like poems about minor calamities, bursts of tiny delights, the sun warming the tender skin of the elderly. Also, the way palm fronds conduct themselves during a southerly, dishevelled, exposing the softness of their billowing arms. Pastries in display cases do something for me too. Even cupcakes iced in gelato colours, adorned with miniature decorations … Can you see my preference for the words ‘miniature’ and ‘tiny’, an inclination towards the distilled in a world favouring often the big and the overwhelming? People with the patience to follow a complex recipe – well, that’s not me, but I like to taste what they cook. Babies in prams kicking chubby legs make me hover – how difficult not to take a bite. If you write something about a paper straw, I will be fascinated. You could try a ladybird, a pocket-size umbrella. The generalised angst of the human condition, however, may be hard for me to get a handle on. Watch that man with the disabled daughter moisten his finger after her cupcake is eaten and relish the last crumbs. Consider the rainbow-coloured wristband tied to a letterbox on the way to the park or the miniature plastic bucket and spade we found half-hidden on the beach at Bronte and packed with us for years on every visit to the sea.
So what is a prose poem? According to the Poetry Foundation, a prose poem is a prose composition that, while not broken into verse lines, demonstrates other traits such as symbols,metaphors, and otherfigures of speech common to poetry.
If you are able to distill meaning in a very short form, you may enjoy writing prose poetry.
Have a read of my prose poem ‘Sixteen Is A Very Difficult Age, You Know’, first published in Quadrant magazine September 2018.
Sixteen Is a Very Difficult Age, You Know:
Well yes it is. This time of year isn’t easy either. It has most of us by the neck. You don’t want to get sick at Christmas. They said he needs six weeks of intensive therapy then they’ll decide about medication. How – when everything’s closed till February? Yes, he’s up and down. Better some days, but hardly ever. They said hide all the tablets and remove the kitchen knives. I ring or text to see how he’s going. He doesn’t always pick up. Don’t refer to the incident. Wait for him to say something. Well, he doesn’t say much though he’ll let me give him a hug – sometimes. So here I am trying to gather his forgotten dreams from the air. They’re drifting just outside my reach.
During the pandemic I find myself turning more and more to poetry, to the reading and the writing of poetry.
My first poetry collection ‘The Cellist, A Bellydancer & Other Distractions’ will be published by Ginninderra Press in May 2022. I’m currently working on a second collection, loosely themed around mental health.
My poem Between the Islands of the Pacific was first published in June, 2018 in Quadrant magazine alongside poems by Les Murray, Barbara Fisher, Craig Kurtz, Geoff Page, Dan Guenther, Gabriel Fitzmaurice and Graeme Hetherington. Big thank you to Literary Editor, the late Les Murray.
Have a read. Hope you enjoy it.
Between the Islands of the Pacific:
Because by now we know everything is not so blue
The cities had tipped rubbish into the sea,
and we let them without even noticing.
Not even feeling our breathing clear
as gusts reaching ten knots cleaned up our days.
Not even. Today pure blue sky, blue sea,
out there the horizon drawing a line
below the clouds, the absoluteness of it. Nights
of diesel engines shuddering beneath us.
We lounge on chairs side by side on the deck.
At dusk, we stand at the railing of the ship as the sun
slips into the ocean. In the fresh sea air, their backs turned,
some raise a selfie-stick or light a cigarette while others
ABR (Australian Book Review) Podcast: Released weekly Wednesdays: reviews, poetry, fiction, interviews, and commentary. For a discussion of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Klara and the Sun, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize, see: https://www.australianbookreview.com.au/podcast.
Australian Haiku Society: Information on Haiku events, journals and a calls forsubmissions to Awards. With links to haiku groups around Australia. https://australianhaikusociety.org/
BBC Radio 4: The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed. Guests such as poet Kate Tempest, actor Maxine Peake, hip-hop performer Testament and more join UK poet Simon Armitage in his writing shed to discuss poetry, creativity, rapping and more. Details, see: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p085jg48/episodes/player
Brisbane Writers Festival: Recordings of 2020 BWF events with writers such as Evie Wyld, David Mitchell and more via the site and BWF youtube channel. Donations welcomed to pay the artists. See https://bwf.org.au/online-events
Free Film Downloads (NSW, Victoria and ACT): See your local library for access to Kanopy and/or Beamfilm, the free on-demand streaming services providing access to more than 30,000 classic Australian, independent and world movies for library card-holders.
Instituto Cervantes: 2 Quixotes Podcast Series. Sydney’s Instituto Cervantes presents five podcasts (archived) examining all aspects of Cervantes’ famous work Don Quixote, past and present; includes Cervantes and Shakespeare and Planet Quixote: Fans and Detractors. Available to play via https://soundcloud.com/twoquixotes; iTunes, Android or see https://sidney.cervantes.es/en/special_activity.htm for other archived events.
James Laidler LitPoetry Australia: See the site for posts, interviews and links to videos of poems set to music including Adrienne Rich’s Diving Into The Wreck:https://www.facebook.com/jameslaidler3280/?fref=mentions&__tn__=KH-R). Also see recently uploaded video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3LcxgIdQeQ) of “Litpoetry’s first partnership with a practising poet: Michelle Seminara. Michelle sent me some of her fantastic poetry from her soon to be published collection, Surburban fantasy (coming out in June by UWAP Press), and I chose one of these to interpret into video form” (James Laidler).
Literary Hub: On-line journal with a weekly and daily e-newsletter offers articles on-site or linked. Recent topics include Why Do Some Writers Burn Their Work? More details, see: https://lithub.com/category/features/
Newcastle Writers Festival 2020: Multiple YouTube videos, including Millennial Panic Poems – Readings with Claire Albrecht, Hera Lindsay Bird and Bastian Fox Phelan (57 mins.) See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we0ocIv1ra4
NFSA Is OnLine: National Film & Sound Archive. Offers silent shorts, and vintage and more recent newsreels from Canberra’s NFSA, including ‘Brisbane Time Capsule’, ‘Australian Tennis Greats’ and more. See https://www.nfsa.gov.au/
Penguin Books: See the Australian site for The Huddle, an online book club which offers the chance for readers to chat with authors; free to join via https://www.penguin.com.au/book-clubs/2604-the-huddle. See the UK site for collated short articles by writers, agents and publishers.
Pitt Street Poetry: The LEGERE Online Poetry Festival. Weekly-scheduled online event with friends of the PSP press Melinda Smith, Simeon Kronenberg, Geoff Page and more, reading their own poems and poems they love. See:youtube.com/channel/UCYtSvjO3cM8XvelGYDR7ONQ
Poetic City Canberra: See the site (https://www.poeticcitycbr.com/) for recordings of events at the 2021 Poetic City Festival, including: Poet Hazel Hall’s ‘urban nature’ haiga workshop in Glebe Park on 17 April, where participants used their phones to create image and haiku combinations, inspired by the Japanese tradition of haiga (brush painting with calligraphy); see https://www.poeticcitycbr.com/urban-nature-haiku). “Seven poets were commissioned by hosts Aaron Kirby and Zoe Anderson to write poems reflecting a positive vision of the future for the Poetic City Good Future Slam, held on 20 March 2021. See ‘Good Future’ at https://www.poeticcitycbr.com/callouts-and-submissions, a compilation of these poems. (Other highlights include) the Not Very Quiet Drop-in Poetry Writing Session. On 20 March, the editors of Not Very Quiet women’s online poetry journal, Sandra Renew and Moya Pacey, hosted a drop-in poetry writing session at Gang Gang cafe, providing prompts and guidance. These are the poems that resulted.”
Poetry On The Move Podcast: Podcast on contemporary poetics from the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI). POTM is an initiative of the University of Canberra’s Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, Faculty of Arts and Design. See https://www.poetryonthemove.net/
Poets.Org: The site for the Academy of American Poets with poets reading their poems, features and more. See https://poets.org/;
WriteOutLoud:Poetry-focused British-based site with news, blogs and discussions; an extensive poetry publishing directory; and more. See https://www.writeoutloud.net/news/
Writers Victoria: See the site for news, events, competitions and informative blogs, articles and interviews on self-publishing pitfalls, writers in film, the freelance life, and more at https://writersvictoria.org.au/writing-life
WritersWrite.com (USA): Offers extensive links to sites (mostly US-based) for submissions and no-fee contests; literary, music and film news; ‘Types of Rhyme’; ‘Poems For Kids’; collections of famous poems. https://www.writerswrite.com/poetry/
The Writes4Women Podcasts: Celebrating women’s voices in literature, media and publishing with interviews, launches and podcasts. Free; listen via site or subscribe. See https://www.writes4women.com/
‘Neurologists at Exeter University, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, found that reading poetry activated different brain regions to prose – even the lyrical prose we find in fiction. When the research participants read poetry, it lit up the regions of the brain variously linked to emotion, memory, making sense of music, coherence building and moral decision-making. Poetry, the study’s authors concluded, induces a more introspective, reflective mental state among readers than does prose.’ – Sarah Holland-Batt, Weekend Australian, 21–22 March 2020
And they read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.
And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.
‘Poetry is the quiet music of being human and in these days and nights when our humanity is fully vulnerable and exposed, poetry takes a small step forward. In our separate isolations, a poem is like the Tardis: bigger on the inside. Like spring – to recall TS Eliot – poetry mixes memory and desire.’ – Carol Ann Duffy, The Guardian
This poem by poet Ian McMillan, reminds of us of just what we lose each time a library is closed.
I always loved libraries, the quiet of them, The smell of the plastic covers and the paper And the tables and the silence of them, The silence of them that if you listened wasn’t silence, It was the murmur of stories held for years on shelves And the soft clicking of the date stamp, The soft clickety-clicking of the date stamp. I used to go down to our little library on a Friday night
In late summer, just as autumn was thinking about Turning up, and the light outside would be the colour Of an Everyman cover and the lights in the library Would be soft as anything, and I’d sit at a table And flick through a book and fall in love With the turning of the leaves, the turning of the leaves.
And then at seven o’clock Mrs Dove would say In a voice that wasn’t too loud so it wouldn’t Disturb the books “Seven o’clock please …” And as I was the only one in the library’s late summer rooms I would be the only one to stand up and close my book And put it back on the shelf with a sound like a kiss, Back on the shelf with a sound like a kiss.
And I’d go out of the library and Mrs Dove would stand For a moment silhouetted by the Adult Fiction, And then she would turn the light off and lock the door And go to her little car and drive off into the night That was slowly turning the colour of ink and I would stand For two minutes and then I’d walk over to the dark library And just stand in front of the dark library.
‘The astronomer and poet Rebecca Elson (January 2, 1960–May 19, 1999) was twenty-nine when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma — a blood cancer that typically invades people in their sixties and seventies. Throughout the bodily brutality of the treatment, throughout the haunting uncertainty of life in remission, she met reality on its own terms — reality creaturely and cosmic, terms chance-dealt by impartial laws — and made of that terrifying meeting something uncommonly beautiful.
‘When she returned her atoms to the universe, not yet forty, Elson bequeathed to this world 56 scientific papers and a slender, stunning book of poetry titled A Responsibility to Awe (public library) — verses spare and sublime, drawn from a consciousness pulling the balloon string of the infinite through the loop of its own finitude, life-affirming the way only the most intimate contact with death — which means with nature — can be.’ – Maria Popova
Elson’s crowning achievement in verse is the poem “Antidotes to Fear of Death,”
ANTIDOTES TO FEAR OF DEATH by Rebecca Elson
Sometimes as an antidote To fear of death, I eat the stars.
Those nights, lying on my back, I suck them from the quenching dark Til they are all, all inside me, Pepper hot and sharp.
Sometimes, instead, I stir myself Into a universe still young, Still warm as blood:
No outer space, just space, The light of all the not yet stars Drifting like a bright mist, And all of us, and everything Already there But unconstrained by form.
And sometime it’s enough To lie down here on earth Beside our long ancestral bones:
To walk across the cobble fields Of our discarded skulls, Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis, Thinking: whatever left these husks Flew off on bright wings.
Hope you felt the positive benefits of reading these poems.
I am thrilled and delighted that my first poetry collection, ‘The Cellist, A Bellydancer & Other Distractions’ has been accepted for publication by Ginninderra Press. The book is due for release in May 2022.
Below is information about the Australian Poetry Publishers directory.
AUSTRALIAN POETRY PUBLISHERS – Poetry Sydney. The Australian Poetry Publishers directory is a portal for poets to have their poems published, to encourage Australian poetry to be purchased and to support Australian Poetry Publishers in enabling poets to have the opportunity to be published.
Here is the link:
Good luck with your submission.
By the way, when I attended an online course recently titled ‘Pathway to Poetry Publication’, we were told to aim for 100 rejections a year. To apply for everything.
Have a read of my latest prose poem, Someone I Don’t Know Side-Swiped My Car, first published in Quadrant magazine April 2021, Hope you enjoy it:
Someone I Don’t Know Side-Swiped My Car
Bad luck recently, you could say, after surviving some extremely unfortunate luck. For hours I sat across from you in the Emergency Bay: your face dripping with blood. They gave you a compress to stop the flow of red from your cheekbones and your nose. Every time you touched your face, it opened up the wound. Punched in both eyes and the nose. A robbery as you walked home, I hear you tell your girlfriend on the mobile. And then you’re telling the emergency nurse you can’t wait any longer to see a doctor. ‘You may have concussion,’ she cautioned.
Did you find your way home?
For days I wonder how you are. I sniff the first spring jasmine hanging over the fence and your girlfriend whom I’ve never met crowds my thoughts, till one day, peering out my bedroom window, I notice someone has side-swiped my car. Not exactly what I’d expected to see but, man, the wisteria are showing their purple blooms. A nervous possum balances on the telephone line above the road and there’s a newspaper article about an elderly cyclist who died after a freak bike accident caused by a swooping magpie. Bad luck that a second vehicle crashed into my car while it waited at the smash repair place. Look up, take care, someone or something you don’t know may sideswipe you or punch you in the nose.