Friday, June 24, 2016

I Wish I'd Written This

Letter to Freud
By Kate Llewellyn

What does a woman want
it’s simple
what a funny question
well speaking for myself
to be loved
same as everyone else I know
by the man who I want to love me
and by the greengrocer
the chemist
the postmistress
my children
– I take it my friends will anyway
and I want to be left alone
no-one saying sit down
stand up
come here
I run away then
it may surprise you but I’d really rather not
have a penis thanks all the same
I suppose it’s hard for you to believe that
I’d like a few laughs
rolling round a bed laughing my head off
and all the normal human things
clean water shelter
fresh food
that most never see
in their whole male or female lives
and not to want anything
most of all that
or does that only come like a ticket
with death?

© Kate Llewellyn 1985

It's not new, now, for women to address Freud's famous question:

The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'

Kate, however, was the first I encountered doing so in poetry, in her book Luxury, published in 1985. (The above version, with only a few very tiny alterations from the original, is from her Selected Poems of 1992.) I still don't see anything to argue with in her list.

Back then she was a refreshing new voice in Australian poetry, at a time when our women poets were emerging in numbers. It was a time of activism in many ways – the feminist revolution, opposition to the Vietnam War, and for some of us the founding of a Poets Union of Australia and the beginning of the resurgence of 'performance poetry', now known as 'spoken word poetry' – the reclaiming of an ancient oral tradition, and precursor of its recent developments, rap and slams. 

Kate was involved in all these kinds of activism, as well as raising children and running an art gallery in Adelaide with her then husband Richard, a quadriplegic.

When I met her in the late seventies she was single again, and studying for an Arts degree. She was National Secretary of the Poets Union for a time. Then she and fellow poet Susan Hampton produced The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets, as so few of us were being represented in anthologies in those days.

The way this poem appears on the page, with very little punctuation, no division into stanzas, and the line breaks falling where they do, is an exact representation of how she would speak it. (I heard her a number of times.) Better to hear it, but I think you'll work it out.

Details of her life and work are at the Australian Poetry Library, along with hundreds of her poems.

As you will gather from that last, she has written a number of volumes of poetry. There are also several very popular memoirs and an autobiography. Here is her radio interview about the latter. And you can find her books at her Amazon page. That page also tells me that for 20 years she taught creative writing at the University of Sydney, but has now moved back to her home State, South Australia.

I've illustrated this article with the cover of a book I haven't read (found online) as it uses an image like the Kate I remember.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Resilience

Resilience Bootcamp

"The energy expended in pushing down despair is diverted from more creative uses, depleting the resilience and imagination needed for fresh visions and strategies."
~Joanna Macy

"There is no way to re-enchant our lives in a disenchanted culture except by becoming renegades from that culture and planting the seeds for a new one."
~Thomas Moore

"The more we focus on trying to instill grit, the less likely we’ll be to question larger policies and institutions."

Midweek Motif ~

Whether the topic is climate change, endangered species, burnt trees or trauma of human varieties, we hope to discover resilience. More than resistance, "resilience" is growing better and stronger in moving beyond the obstacle. But what if real social change is needed?  

When is individual resilience enough?

Your challenge: In your new poem, define/clarify resilience by example. 


by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh, and the world laughs with you; 
Weep, and you weep alone. 
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, 
But has trouble enough of its own. 
Sing, and the hills will answer; 
Sigh, it is lost on the air. 
The echoes bound to a joyful sound, 
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you; 
Grieve, and they turn and go. 
They want full measure of all your pleasure, 
But they do not need your woe. 
Be glad, and your friends are many; 
Be sad, and you lose them all. 
There are none to decline your nectared wine, 
But alone you must drink life's gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded; 
Fast, and the world goes by. 
Succeed and give, and it helps you live, 
But no man can help you die. 
There is room in the halls of pleasure 
For a long and lordly train, 
But one by one we must all file on 
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Related Poem Content Details

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Out of the night that covers me, 
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be 
      For my unconquerable soul. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
      My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
      Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
      Finds and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gate, 
      How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
      I am the captain of my soul. 


The rain to the wind said,
'You push and I'll pelt.'
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged - though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt. 


Please share your new poem with Mr. Linky below and visit others 
in the spirit of the community.

(Next week Susan's Midweek Motif will be ~ Birthdays )

Monday, June 20, 2016

Poems of the Week ~ On Grief, Aging, and the Now, with Kerry, Karin and Elizabeth

This week, my friends, we are privileged to consider the topics of grief and aging, in wonderful poems by Kerry O'Connor of  Skylover and Skywriting,  Karin Gustafson of ManicDDailyand Elizabeth Crawford of Soul's Music. We do hope you enjoy them.

Kerry O'Connor

Sherry: Our friend Kerry recently wrote a poem about grief that literally took my breath away. She posted it on her second blog, Skywriting, and I knew I must share it, since we are all too familiar with life's passages through grief. Let's take a look.

Casting Grief

When I die, remember
that I have lived
as a pulsing point of light
in your inner sea,
and the tide that brought me to you,
has fetched me back again.

And then your life will be
a shore, clean swept
after the high flow of loving
each other,
brow to brow, knee to knee, those nights
we dreamed awake, we two.

When I am gone, content
yourself with knowing
we shared the salt and the surf

cast grief
down the wind, listen for me in the sigh
of waves upon sand.

copyright Kerry O'Connor January 30, 2016

Sherry: "And then your life will be a shore, clean-swept".....such a beautiful vision of death, dying and memory, Kerry. I especially love "Cast grief down the wind., listen for me in the sigh of waves upon the sand." So beautiful. Would you share with us your thoughts about this poem?

Kerry I'm afraid I don't have too much to say about the process. I tend to write by the seat of my pants, without much forethought or editing. One idea just chases its own tail until it comes to rest upon its haunches. I was affected. last year, by several unexpected deaths, a colleague, and three students from my school. At the time, I wondered what it must be for families to have no closure, and for the dying not to have a chance to bid farewell. Loss often comes with regrets and even some guilt, and I would wish to spare my own beloved ones that kind of grief. If anything, the poem arose from those thoughts.

Sherry: It is hard to lose a colleague. And how tragic it is when young lives are lost. How very hard for their families, their fellow students and teachers. I am so sorry, Kerry. Thank you so much for being this voice for them, so those who knew them can listen for them on the wind and in the song of the waves. What a beautiful thought that is.

Karin Gustafson, whom we see regularly at our sister site, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, and whose posts are always accompanied by her delightful sketches, especially of elephants, also addressed grief and aging around the same time. This gave me the idea of a feature on this theme.

Karin Gustafson

Night Mare

As I age, what the night mare carries
on her broad black back
is more often grief
than fear,
joys foregone rather than horrors
to come,
friends who never reached
their rightful ends,
the loved who had to leave,
with no more days
tucked up a sleeve, not even
a sleeve,
and I, who walk this earth
that mounds around them, weep
by the darkest side
of that night horse.
I cannot, in the remorse of here
even lean into her warm hide, cannot breathe the balm
of hard-run sweat, yet bending past
my divide, she nuzzles me; she
snorts, resettling her hooves
in sound sparks whose ring against the doved rise
of my winding sheet is so surprising
that I am able to turn, at last,
to the warmth,
in the way a tree might turn
when the wind winds down,
and apologize to those
who have gone.
But if they reply, I do not hear them
for those beats as the mare
moves on,
for those beats
as the mare
moves on.

copyright Karin Gustafson January 30, 2016

Sherry: So moving, Karin, "the loved who had to leave, with no more days". I find your repeating closing lines especially effective. Where did this poem come from?

Karin: I wrote the poem, Night Mare, in response to a prompt by Bjorn Rudberg about nightmares.  What came to mind for me were not dark dreams but the waking grief I sometimes feel  for lost friends and family members. This led me, in turn, to think of comparing such sudden waves of grief with an encounter with a night mare--that is, a horse carrying this grief on its back and in its person.  Thank you, Sherry, for including me in this grouping of wonderful poets! 

Here is a pic from my book, which will be called Dogspell. (This is a dog in a backpack.) 

Sherry: This is an adorable sketch (and backpack!) Congrats on a new book coming out. I love the title! Thanks, Karin, for allowing us to add your poem and thoughts to this conversation. 

For our third poem, let's turn to Elizabeth's "A Certain Loneliness". It is not a poem about grief, per se; it is about aging.  But there is an element of grief in aging, the counting up of our losses.  What I most love about Elizabeth's poem is that it offers a wonderfully positive conclusion. Let's dive in.


There is a certain loneliness that ripples
through the days of aging. A sort of twilight
zone that might snare a delicate psyche,
creating a cold slap that makes one gasp
while pausing to remember all of the losses.
But, there is a way to dial down this sort of
fall, even when grazing through these bleak
tufts of dust from the past, munching on what
best is left to the care of angels. Gladly turning
fragile wrist of time back toward the future.
Breaking its hold by recalling that past is past,
can not be changed, and all we really have is this
wet with life, present moment. Then deliberately
choosing to use it.
Elizabeth Crawford  1/3/16
Sherry: "...this wet with life present moment". How that reminds us, instead of mourning what we have lost, to be fully present in the Now, which will all too soon have passed. Yes, we have had many losses. But look how much we still have!! Thank you for this, my friend.

Elizabeth: It was the beginning of a New Year. Unlike others, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, because they often end up being self-defeating for me. Not a good way to begin. Instead, I like to reflect on the year just passed and list the positives and accomplishments. 

This year was different. I’ll be turning seventy in a few months. My reflections turned into an awareness centering on that reality. And to be honest, this poem became a note to myself more than anything else. A reminder that, no matter the number of years, each moment is precious and there is still a great deal to be accomplished.

Sherry: And you succeeded to perfection, my friend. Yes, so much to do! I am writing faster than at any time in my life!

In closing, may I say a grateful "thank you!" to you three talented and wonderful ladies! Thanks for starting our week off with such heart.

My friends, I hope you enjoyed these lovely poems as much as I enjoyed presenting them to you. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

down the wind, listen for me in the sigh
of waves upon sand.