Friday, May 6, 2016

The Living Dead

~ Honouring our poetic ancestors ~

Gorgeous Breasts
By Dorothy Porter (1954-2008)

After our first time
    we went to a Chinese restaurant
    and counted on our
        charged fingers

the relatives
the friends
    who'd never be the same

we were breathless
in the high wind
of our secret

that first kiss
like a dancer
    in the bullring
    over the bull's horns
        on a quick breath

what a flirt
before the gorgeous breasts
        of the crowd!

(from her book 'Crete')

Dynamic, award-winning Australian poet Dorothy Porter died too young, from cancer, at 54, but left a fine body of unique poetry. The blurb from the posthumous Penguin volume, The Best 100 Poems of Dorothy Porter, says: 'Dorothy Porter was one of Australia's true originals, renowned for her passionate, punchy poetry and verse novels.' 

The verse novels were very readable as stories. One of the first, the detective story The Monkey's Mask, was made into a film. She also wrote the libretto of an opera, Eternity Man, by composer Jonathan Mills, which was staged at the Sydney Opera House and later adapted into a 64-minute film. In addition, Porter wrote young adult fiction, libretti for chamber operas, and at the time of her death was collaborating on a rock opera with musician Tim Finn.

Her Wikipedia entry notes: 'Porter was an open lesbian and in 1993 moved to Melbourne [from Sydney] to be with her partner, fellow writer Andrea Goldsmith. The couple were coincidentally both shortlisted in the 2003 Miles Franklin Award for literature. In 2009, Porter was posthumously recognised by the website as one of the most influential gay and lesbian Australians.'

A fascinating interview from early in her career, republished at the time of her death, is largely about her poetic influences. It's well worth a read. (The rather startling photo featured is the cover illustration of her exciting first book, Little Hoodlum, published when she was 21.)

Google seems to be the best place to shop for her books. And you can read an extensive collection of her poems at Australian Poetry Library, along with a good, concise article about her life and work.

All her poems are wonderful, but with so many of them being part of full-length narratives, and others being rich with specifically Australian allusions, I looked for a piece that could stand alone and be accessible to all readers. I love its delicious joy and slight cheekiness, both qualities characteristic of her poetry.

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Secrecy

“There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, 
there is not a swindle, there is not a vice 
which does not live by secrecy.” 

"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; 
art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine."

Secrecy is sometimes considered
of life or death importance. 

“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” 

― Benjamin FranklinPoor Richard's Almanack

Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park,
Photo by Diane Arbus (1962)

“A picture is a secret about a secret, 
the more it tells you the less you know.” 
― Diane Arbus

I feel that telling my secrets makes me less vulnerable. 
What would make me vulnerable are the secrets I keep. 

Midweek Motif ~ Secrecy

According to Wikipedia:
Secrecy (also called . . .  furtiveness) is the practice of hiding information from certain individuals or groups who do not have the "need to know", perhaps while sharing it with other individuals. That which is kept hidden is known as the secret.
Doesn't that make "secrecy" sound clinical and devoid of poetry? I love mysteries and parables which hold more secrets than can be unraveled at any one time. And I enjoy the characters in literature who have secrets or grapple with them. What about you?

Your Challenge:  Write a new poem with a secrecy motif or narrative.

Le Secret

Related Poem Content Details

Since I am   
Somebody’s dream,   
I have a good life. 

Sometimes I go away in my sailboat on a cloud   
and take a quiet little trip. 

I have a secret 
which I have learned how to read inside myself; 
if I told it to you, 
it would make you laugh. 

My heart is naked 
and no one can put clothes on it,   
and nothing can be put on 
that will not immediately fall off. 
        . . . .
       Read the rest HERE.

Related Poem Content Details

for Tomás Mendoza-Harrell & Lauro Flores
I cut / / / / /

I multiply everyday images. I apply an aluminum point. 
To the landscape. 
To the sentence. 
To the photo. 
To the figure. 
To the word. 

And suddenly, with a slight tremor of eyes, vertebrae and fingers, I 
destroy everything that exists. 

Through the years, I’ve rebuilt the cells, uncovered the signs of the cold, 
immaculate, academic vestibules and of the dead lips and histories in the 
metropolitan streets. 

My surgery is criminal. 

No one has been able to identify the skeletons, the remains, the thousand 
scattered nerves of personages I’ve gathered in order to bring this figure 
back to life. The scars are numberless and invisible. 

Who would suspect a grafik artist? 
Who would suspect this gray table as a chamber of murders? 
. . . . 
Read the rest HERE.


Please share your new poem(s) using Mr. Linky below and visit others 
in the spirit of the community

(Next week Sumana's Midweek Motif will be Birds.)

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Chat with Elizabeth Crawford: Step-By-Step: How to Write a Poem When You're Blocked

My friends, I went through a period, late winter, when the grey skies had sent my Muse into hibernation. I could not have been less inspired! Our friend Elizabeth Crawford, who writes at Soul's Music,  offered me a step by step exercise in writing a poem and, as I followed the steps, it occurred to us that this info might be very handy for many of you, since we all have those times when the words won’t come.

I kept track of our emails and Elizabeth's step-by-step instructions, as we wanted to share them with you. You can keep these steps in mind next time the words are elusive. Let’s dive in!

Sherry: This chat began when Elizabeth left a cool comment on one of my Wild Woman poems: “Wild Woman calling to Wild Woman. I hear you and know this deep within me.”

I replied: Maybe it’s time for we wild women to write another poem in tandem? Though I am absolutely without inspiration at the moment….any ideas?

Elizabeth: Yes, I do, as a matter of fact. Give me a bit of time to work it out. This could be fun.

(It wasn’t long before my email pinged. It was Elizabeth.) How about I walk you through a step by step process of building a poem? Giving you the steps one at a time, maybe three or four steps.

Sherry: This sounds intriguing, but daunting, at my end, as I am brain-dead at the moment. Let’s give it a go.

Elizabeth: First step is a stream of consciousness list. But you must make some preparation. Make sure you are in a place and time where you won’t be interrupted. Have clean paper and pen. Have some kind of timer near at hand and set it for five minutes. Sit down and relax. Breathe in through your nose, then slowly release it through your mouth as though you are blowing out a candle gently. Do that three times. It is a signal to  your subconscious that you are ready to begin.

I’m going to give you a word. Let it float through your mind and begin your list. One or two words, a short phrase, whatever comes into your head. Try to be specific. Use actual names of whatever you see or feel coming at you. People, places, feelings, things, animals….whatever. Continue to write for as long as you can, but for no more than five minutes. No going back to look before you are finished. This is a stream of thoughts, associations, reflections, feelings, nothing more. No sentences, just a few words to remind you.

When I send you your word, I trust you not to peek before you are ready to do the exercise. Only then can you look at the word and begin.

Sherry: Kids, when the word came, I was careful to not let my eyes fall on it. I printed the page out and set it aside until I had time and space and energy to begin. Only then did I look at the page. It said:

Elizabeth: Now you are ready to begin. You will write whatever list of associations that occur when you read this one word. Don’t think. Just let yourself drift through all that comes into your head. Write words, phrases, etc. for no more than five minutes.

Sherry: Then I turned the page to look at the word. And it made me smile, because the word my friend and fellow wild woman gave me was:


I did my breathing, checked the clock in front of me and began. This is what came, in the order they arrived:

Nature   Grandfather Cedar    the ocean’s roar   draped in old man’s beard
   Moss   wolfsong    seaspray   the call of the Raven     the howl of the wolf
Freedom   sunrise, sunset   the inner wild: unrest     midnight moon
Sorceress       feeling caged   incantation   earth, air, water, fire    
 Longing    where is the soul’s home?    Windsong   
                   take me to the forest        
Lulled by the waves   
                            wild woman    the sky of mind

Kids, I was amazed. Since I was not inspired, not writing at all at that moment, that week, that month, I was impressed at how this process revealed itself to be so productive. This is when I began to think, if an actual poem resulted from this exercise, we would bring it to you in a chat to help you through your own thorny moments.

Sherry: Okay, my friend. I finally had time to look at the word – what a perfect word for me! – and I wrote my list of associations. In four minutes, I came to a stop. What is the next step?

Elizabeth: Another word, of course. And the same process repeated with the second word. Glad you enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next steps. I will send the word separately, so you can do it at your own convenience. Okay?

I dutifully printed off the second word, eyes averted, and set it aside till I had some time.  Sooner than I was ready, my eye happened to catch it as I was sorting some papers, rats! So I stopped and prepared to gather my words.

Elizabeth: Sherry, here is the second word. Follow the same instructions that you used for the first word. Just jot down impressions, associations, memories, images, colors, feelings…..

The second word is: woman.

Sherry: I cracked up! So I stopped and did my five minutes of word-gathering. Along trotted the words. I dutifully wrote them down. Not inspired. Just whatever came:

Archetypal    moon goddess    forest nymph    an ancient knowing
Pulled by the tides      in love with the moon         friend of wolves   
       sings to the trees        inner wisdom     the path of heart  
 lover of the sky         converses with birds         a sense of wonder      
      intuitive    communes with wild creatures      lover of the wild     
                           seeker: finder of what was sought

Then I emailed Elizabeth: What is the next step? (This is cool!)

Elizabeth: Next Step: Take each of your lists created from the words and study them. Choose three to five from each list that best illustrate your personal sense of the word itself. Sense imagery is best, what we can touch, feel, taste and smell. But don’t eliminate something that you respond to strongly because it doesn’t seem like sense imagery. This is your poem, your words, thoughts and ideas. Choose items from both lists that best express that reality. 

We’re three quarters of the way through, kiddo.

Sherry: I went back and looked at my lists. I took those words and phrases that spoke to me most strongly, and listed them on a separate page from top to bottom, with lots of space around each. Then I emailed Elizabeth.

All righty! I’ve picked my phrases – ready for the next step.

Elizabeth: The next step is the first line of the poem…..using the two words. Your first line is:

This poem is a wild woman…

And, yes, it may take the boomerang form, or go wherever you wish, using some or all of those items you got from your list.  Above all…have fun.

p.s. While structuring this I, of course, started hearing whispers of a poem. I’ve blocked it out, as I want to see what you come up with first.

Sherry: Maybe you should write yours before you read mine, and see what we each come up with?

Elizabeth: Will do. The few lines floating around in my head were interesting but not nearly wild enough, if you know what I mean.

Glad you are liking the process. When you use it regularly, I find that the process becomes almost automatic. I’d just let my mind roam through the words of a prompt and most often a first line would emerge. Sometimes I had to sleep on it, or go off and do something else for a few hours. Then I could sit down and find the basics for a poem that I can play with.

That is what happens when I do the wordles. Some of the words set me to stillness, just listening, and images, memories, and feelings arise and I am off. Most often, the rest of the words seem to find a place inside whatever formed from those first one or two words. I’ll let you know when I settle in to write it. This is fun!

Sherry: So I applied myself to my list. What emerged on the page, bare bones, looked like this with my chosen words:

This poem is a wild woman
The inner wild: unrest, away from the wild places
The call of the Raven
The howl of a wolf
Where is the soul’s home?
She chants an incantation:
earth, air, water, fire
sorceress of the midnight moon
Wild woman---the sky of mind
From the second list:
An ancient knowing
Sings to the trees
Communes with wild creatures
A lover of the wild
Wild woman has always been a seeker,
Hoping to become
A finder of what was sought

Now it was time to go into Word and get serious. I didn’t have to work very hard before the poem was complete. This emerged after only a few minutes of trying, discarding and substituting repeated words.

This Poem

This poem is a wild woman,
knocking down invisible inner walls,
the better to observe the sky of mind.
This poem is agitated,
the inner wild a climate of unrest
when too far away from the untamed places.
Attuned to the call of the Raven,
the howl of the wolf,
this town full of monster trucks and logging rigs
assaults her senses, she feeling
as alien as a cougar
inexplicably materializing
on a sidewalk in the middle
of this grey little industry town.

Where is her soul’s home?
Deep, deep, in the wild places
where only the creatures live.
Sorceress of the midnight moon,
follower of the shaman’s path,
she drums a primal beat
that speaks “Home! Home!”
with a stick carved from her breastbone,
chants incantations to earth, air, water, fire,
prays her spirit guides will lead her well,
back to the ocean’s roar and the forest’s
sacred, hidden trails.

While waiting, Wild Woman
makes her escape in a poem:
sings to the trees, communes 

with restless spirits, ululates with owls,
flies up and away over the mountain pass
every morning, every eventide,
to where the wild things are,
always and forever, forever and always,
a lover of rainforest and ocean-song,
she knows where she belongs.

Confined, her spirit finds no rest
away from her soul’s home.
Wild Woman restlessly circles and turns,
within the inner landscape,
like a too-large dog circling a too-small bed,
trying to make what does not fit, fit,
too tight the wrappings that keep her 

from flying free,
for she has always been a seeker,
now hoping to find, one last time,
what has for so long been sought.

copyright Sherry Marr March 2016

Thank you, Elizabeth, for this poem, which would not exist without your midwifery. Now let’s hear yours.

This Poem

This poem is a wild woman
clawing her way up and out
of domesticated darkness
that ensnared her for years.

This poem is a hermit, points
its nose at the moon, croons
an ancient tune that celebrates
their shared aloneness.

This poem is a gray and black badger,
swift to defend her inmost den
with a snarl whenever, wherever
it is threatened.

This poem colors its world
with odd hues from Purple to Carmine
Red, that are not supposed to blend,
but then somehow do.

This poem is magic, dances
with delight at its own ability
to breathe and celebrate
yet another solitary moment.

This poem is a lover, as well as a mother,
prowling deserted beaches and wilderness
paths, sniffing out any who might
be in need of her wild word wisdom.

This poem is a seemingly capricious
wind, where an eagle screams
and a hawk stalks its prey
from constantly swirling currents.

This poem is a tree, rooted
in rocky soil, willing to bend
extend its branches to sun
and further nurture.

This poem knows sorrow,
cries for beautiful wild world
being destroyed by human
greed and indifference.

This poem knows it could be
many things. Also knows it
will always be, yet another poem
in the making…

Elizabeth Crawford  3/21/2016

Sherry: Oh, my goodness, Elizabeth! "This Poem" is spectacular! I adore every single word! "This poem knows sorrow, cries for beautiful wild world...." Oh, yes, it does.

As we can see, my poet friends, this process absolutely works. We are excited to share this with you, in hopes it may spark some poems when you need a little nudge. Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your wisdom and techniques, for the love of poetry. You are a wonder.

Wow. When two wild women get together, stuff happens! LOL. Do come back and see what we get up to next. You never know who you’ll find in here of a Monday. Who knows? It might be you!