Sunday, November 17, 2019

Pantry of Poetry and Prose #4

Hello word weavers and word lovers! For those who don't know me yet, allow me to introduce myself... my name is Rommy Cortez-Driks, tea-adoring, music-appreciating, witchy-flavored, nerd extraordinaire. I am honored to be the latest addition to the staff at Poets United and will do my best to uphold the standards of all the people who have given their hearts and words to this page.

Harvest Brew by Lady Viktoria

While you are enjoying your Sunday beverage of choice, you may want to linger over this past week's offerings. Winter came early in Sumana's Midweek Motif. This last Wild Friday introduced us to the work of Christine Strelan. Get ready for an Awakening for this upcoming Midweek Motif.

So hit us with your wordy wonders--poetry, prose, fiction, nonfiction, old, new--it's all good. But keep prose pieces to 369 words or under, please. Thanks and enjoy the word magic.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Wild Fridays: I Wish I'd Written This

This is the Place 
by Christine Strelan

Do please click on the (short) video before scrolling down to read the text! Christine's delivery is clear and beautiful, and should be your first experience of the poem.

The poem itself is clear and beautiful, and is from her latest book, electric lady lands, published 2015.

When (in late 1994) I first came to live in the Mt Warning caldera, in the sub-tropical Northern Rivers region of NSW, Australia, I discovered two of Christine's poetry books in a wonderful pottery (so it was named) which stocked not only stunning pottery but all manner of other works by local artists, including books.

A quick glance inside the covers of Christine's books and I was hooked, and bought them on the spot. I've acquired others since, over the years, the latest at a recent poetry reading where I was lucky enough to hear her perform this piece and several others. 

She also writes fiction, and self-publishes her work in paperback. Inside this latest book, we are told:

For enquiries or mail order, contact 
Christine Strelan at 
P.O. Box 536
Nimbin NSW 2480

This modest marketing and the fact that she is a rather private person (who did not wish personal details included in this post) has led, I think, to her being much less celebrated than she deserves. I think she's one of the best poets in Australia but I have the impression she is not widely known, even in poetry circles – 
except locally, where she frequently participates in spoken word events and is justly admired. 

Her work is varied. It can be bitingly satirical, gently humorous, passionately romantic ... or several of these at the same time.

I love the beauty of 'This is the Place' – not least because I live in the same region, though not quite so deep in the bush as the poem suggests she might. The place she is celebrating is clearly very specific, not the Northern Rivers as a whole so much as her particular corner of it.

Still, I have a number of friends here who do live more rurally than me, am well acquainted with those environments, and can relate very much to her love for this part of the world. I frequently ask myself rhetorically, 'Why would anyone ever want to live anywhere else?' 

Here is the text of the poem, for those who like to see things written down:

This is The Place

Is this the place
in the sink of the valley
on the banks of the creek
by the curve of the caldera
where rain pools like ichor
under a shining web of leaves?
This is the place.

Is this the place
where thick spring mist crouches
through the night and does not depart
till dawn finds every green thing
drenched in its residue
and dirt dents like a sponge underfoot?
This is the place.

Is this the place
where palms spread their scissor-hands
beside glistening lilli pilli
and the earth's grass fur hackles
rise and fall as I pass,
bamboo bows like shaggy monks at matins
and the fig is queen of a ravine
the machine never reached?
This is the place.

Is this the place
where hoop pine hide curls like a
gilded manuscript tinted in blood
while I work my way through
the paperbark scriptorium
learning the language of the birds
and persuading acacias to spill their secrets?
This is the place.

Is this the place
where I sieve spirit crossing the creek
seized and pierced by
an iron maiden of ether?
All life takes refuge in a single space.
This is the place.

Copyright © Christine Strelan 2015

Note: As this post goes live, the devastating bushfires in several surrounding regions are coming close enough to be threatening to parts of the beautiful Northern Rivers, and we have had a thick smoke haze on all horizons for days. So far we are luckier than many others.

Christine tells me she herself is well out of danger; not so sure about her place.

Material shared in this post is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Winter

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”— Albert Camus


“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”— Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

      Midweek Motif ~ Winter

Winter is not that much cold, bleak and depressing where I live. It rather sends off a vibe of joy and color. It’s a time for comfort and good food. Winter is sunny, bright with a nip in the air. Everyone is happy as the sweltering heat is no more.

It would be perfect if such winter story was true for all. For the poor and homeless winter is a more or less grim struggle as elsewhere.

For this week write a winter poem.

Sharing a few poems now:

by Pablo Neruda

From the window I saw the horses.
I was in Berlin, in winter. The light
had no light, the sky had no heaven.
The air was white like wet bread.
And from my window a vacant arena,
bitten by the teeth of winter.
Suddenly driven out by a man,
ten horses surged through the mist.
Like waves of fire, they flared forward
and to my eyes filled the whole world,
empty till then. Perfect, ablaze,
they were like ten gods with pure white hoofs,
with manes like a dream of salt.
Their rumps were worlds and oranges.
Their color was honey, amber, fire.
Their necks were towers
cut from the stone of pride,
and behind their transparent eyes
energy raged, like a prisoner.
There, in silence, at mid-day,
in that dirty, disordered winter,
those intense horses were the blood
the rhythm, the inciting treasure of life.
I looked. I looked and was reborn:
for there, unknowing, was the fountain,
the dance of gold, heaven
and the fire that lives in beauty.
I have forgotten that dark Berlin winter.
I will not forget the light of the horses.

The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Not Only the Eskimos
by Lisel Mueller

Not only the Eskimos
 We have only one noun
 but as many different kinds:
 the grainy snow of the Puritans
 and snow of soft, fat flakes,

 guerrilla snow, which comes in the night
 and changes the world by morning,

 rabbinical snow, a permanent skullcap
 on the highest mountains,

 snow that blows in like the Lone Ranger,
 riding hard from out of the West,

 surreal snow in the Dakotas,
 when you can't find your house, your street,
 though you are not in a dream
 or a science-fiction movie,

 snow that tastes good to the sun
 when it licks black tree limbs,
 leaving us only one white stripe,
 a replica of a skunk,

 unbelievable snows:
 the blizzard that strikes on the tenth of April,
 the false snow before Indian summer,
 the Big Snow on Mozart's birthday,
 when Chicago became the Elysian Fields
 and strangers spoke to each other,

 paper snow, cut and taped,
 to the inside of grade-school windows,

 in an old tale, the snow
 that covers a nest of strawberries,
 small hearts, ripe and sweet,
 the special snow that goes with Christmas,
 whether it falls or not,

 the Russian snow we remember
 along with the warmth and smell of furs,
 though we have never traveled
 to Russia or worn furs,

 Villon's snows of yesteryear,
 lost with ladies gone out like matches,
 the snow in Joyce's "The Dead,"
 the silent, secret snow
 in a story by Conrad Aiken,
 which is the snow of first love,

 the snowfall between the child
 and the spacewoman on TV,

 snow as idea of whiteness,
 as in snowdrop, snow goose, snowball bush,

 the snow that puts stars in your hair,
 and your hair, which has turned to snow,

 the snow Elinor Wylie walked in
 in velvet shoes,

 the snow before her footprints
 and the snow after,

 the snow in the back of our heads,
 whiter than white, which has to do
 with childhood again each year.

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

(Next week Susan’s Midweek Motif will be ~ Awakening)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Pantry of Poetry and Prose #3

Autumn snow, Pinterest 
Snow danced in the light, choreographed by November as days slide slowly toward winter. Hello everyone! This is Sanaa and I will be your hostess for the Pantry of Poetry and Prose this Sunday. 

This week, Susan intrigued us all with her Midweek Motif, "Authenticity," to which there were several great responses! It's amazing how a prompt can elicit different emotions in people. 

Rosemary delighted us with her "Wild Fridays: Poems of the Week," where she featured our very own Audrey Howitt and had a lovely conversation. Do scroll back and check it out in case you have missed it!

For now, I invite you to share your entries, as Poets United welcomes both poetry and prose (i.e. stories, articles, essays) feel free to link anything new or old and relish in the work of others. Also, if you opt to share prose then please keep it to 369 words or fewer.

Optional: For those of you whose muse desires something, here is a beautiful poem by Maya Angelou. Remember to give credit if you decide to write inspired by it.

Pierre Bamin, Unsplash
 Next Wednesday Sumana's Midweek Motif will be ~ Winter

And now, without further ado, let us dive into the Pantry! Looking forward to grabbing a cup of coffee and reading you all! See you on the trail!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Wild Fridays: Poems of the Week

No-one can replicate Sherry's wonderful Monday features! We're not even going to try to emulate her fabulous interviews and full schedule. But, as our Friday topics are already varied, we thought we'd sneak in some Poems of the Week here too – not every week but now and again. It's always been such a pleasure to read those features which showcase members of our own community. (Note: 'Poems of the Week' doesn't mean they were written this week, but that they are chosen to be shared this week.)

Two Poems by Audrey Howitt
(aka Divalounger) and a chat.

Dreams of Trees

The night coats the rim of the moon with its cloak.
The night pours its lush scent into the secret indentations of the trees,
Into the carnal world of darkened bark.

The night lives in the scent of its admirers,
Those admirers who pour into its blackness,
Who come covered in oils so rich in fragrance
that they ooze the carnality of the trees, of the night, of the moon.

Oh radiant moon, find me this night and cover me in the softness of your down,
That I may scent you in my dreams and sight you in my eyes.

My Soul's Song

I sing my soul alive each day,
With the grace of the breath of the great light
United and shining within.

Intoxicating, this song.
I am drunk with my life
As it fills and sates me.

Who will sing my soul alive
When my body lies desiccated,
Mere dust upon the crust of the earth?

I hurry not toward death’s door,
For its hinges creak in unseemly harmony,
Discordant to well-tuned ears.

Yet I feel death’s dark breath upon my back
As I hurry away.
The song of light calls.

Audrey, who describes herself as 'Poet, Singer, Voice-teacher, Recovering Attorney, Psycho-therapist, Middle-aged Mama and lover-of-life', has recently renewed her active participation with us after being otherwise occupied a while. But for these lovely pieces I went back to earlier posts at her blog, so hopefully not too many of you have already seen them. There are two because I love them both so much that I couldn't choose! In both poems I find the combination of mysticism and the obvious feeling for nature inspiring and moving.

Following Sherry's example, I asked Audrey some questions:

Rosemary: Would you care to tell us how each of these poems came about?

AudreyTrees are a favorite subject of mine. I write a lot about them and feel a special pull toward them.  Dreams of Trees is an early piece.  I was just starting to write poetry then. It was a time of intense stress for me in my personal life. We were putting the kids through college, I was back in school and still trying to make enough money to pay the bills.  Dreams of Trees grew out of my feelings of needing to escape, to be cradled again by the trees I spend most of my time with in my yard. 

Rosemary: I'm very fond of trees myself and think they are wondrous, sentient, benevolent beings. No wonder you turned to them – and no wonder I liked this poem!

Audrey: I wrote My Soul's Song during my mid-50's--I was feeling my age and starting to focus on what I wanted my back half to look and feel like. (I am optimistic I think--maybe it was my back 1/3rd).  I have always felt a pull toward the light and connectedness that exists between us. For me, this piece was about being in the light as I move toward older age. (I hope this doesn't sound too weird Rosemary.)

Rosemary: Not to me! It is very much what I'm up to as I age, too. Also I do believe that our poetry can be one way of spreading the light to others – when we happen to manifest it in a poem, as you have done with this one.

I notice that some of the comments on your recent posts remark that you are a master of minimalist poetry or micro-poetry. And I agree! You can encapsulate an essence and, in just a few words and some excellent placement of spaces, succeed in conveying both fine nuances and depths of meaning. Yet the two pieces I've chosen, which are earlier, are longer and more detailed. Is brevity something you've arrived at gradually?  And was it a conscious choice from the outset, or something that snuck up on you?

AudreyI have come to minimalism gradually. and not really intentionally. I have always been drawn to smaller forms, especially the Japanese forms. Japanese poetry is so clear, simple, and elegant. But I am a rule-breaker and so I was not interested in the stringency of the forms.  I started experimenting. I wrote pieces in English and then translated them into Japanese, trying to get the feel of clear, simple images in both languages. The minimalism grew out of that. But I still write in longer forms as well, I am working on a series of pieces right now in longer forms.

RosemaryYou speak and read Japanese???? I'm impressed! How did that come about?

I speak Japanese and Russian--I lived in Japan as a young adult and then studied the language, but quit in the face of learning all the Kanji. Russian is the first language I learned. (I am the first child born here of Russian immigrants.) I learned English from watching cartoons.  

Every time my younger daughter hears me sing in German, she says that it sounds like a Russian singing in German--

I like languages!

Rosemary: Wow!

And this answer leads to more questions.

When you say, 'the first child born here of Russian immigrants', where do you mean by 'here'? 

Audrey: I am the first child born in the US.

Rosemary: How amazing is that! I thought maybe you meant in your little corner of it.

And where does the German come into it? More and more intriguing, lol.

Audrey: I sing and teach classical singing – opera and art song – so I sing a lot in Italian, French and German.

Rosemary: Ah yes, the 'Divalounger' aspect of you. How lovely it must be to have a gift for music as well as poetry!

I see that, like me, you sometimes play with Satya Robyn's and Kaspalita Thompson's initiatives such as 'small stones' and 'writing your way home' – using writing as a way of mindfulness and, in the case of the small stones, looking outside oneself for inspiration. Has this influenced your development of poetic less-is-more?

Audrey: S
mall stones fill my notebooks--I am not sure that they are all poems, but they are my way of dealing with life and sometimes poems grow out of them.

Rosemary: Well, small stones don't have to be poems. Most of mine are, because that's what I like to write, but sometimes doing them in prose feels right. I turn to them when I'm blocked. I find it a very useful practice, not only to keep writing alive, but for my own wellbeing too. It's so nice to come across others around the world who are still writing small stones years after being introduced to them.

Many thanks, Audrey, for being so open with us, and allowing me to share your lovely poems.


Hope you enjoyed this post, everybody – and, as Sherry would have said: Next time it might be you!

And now – I'm excited to announce that the wonderful Rommy Driks has joined the staff of Poets United, and in the very near future will start hosting some of the Sunday posts.

Material shared in this post is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Authenticity

  “But to be what I am, to live what I was meant to live, to want to sound like no one else, to yield the blossoms dictated to my heart: this is what I want - and this surely cannot be arrogance.”
Rainer Maria Rilke (Letters on Life)

“Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.”
W.H. Auden

File:The authentic look of a deer.jpg
“To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect — and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are. I’ve learned that there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.”
 Brené Brown

 Midweek Motif ~ Authenticity

 (the quality of being real or true)

What makes each of us authentic?  Where and when are we most authentic?  Do people perceive us as inauthentic if we change?  In what ways does authenticity shape anyone's writing and art?  

As Sumana would say, "We are all ears."


Bouquet of Roses in Sunlight 

 by Wallace Stevens

Say that it is a crude effect, black reds,
Pink yellows, orange whites, too much as they are
To be anything else in the sunlight of the room,

Too much as they are to be changed by metaphor,
Too actual, things that in being real
Make any imaginings of them lesser things.

And yet this effect is a consequence of the way
We feel and, therefore, is not real, except
In our sense of it, our sense of the fertilest red,

Of yellow as first color and of white,
In which the sense lies still, as a man lies,
Enormous, in a completing of his truth.

Our sense of these things changes and they change,
Not as in metaphor, but in our sense
Of them.  So sense exceeds all metaphor.

It exceeds the heavy changes of the light.
It is like a flow of meanings with no speech
And of as many meanings as of men.

We are two that use these roses as we are,
In seeing them.  This is what makes them seem
So far beyond the rhetorician’s touch.










An Ancient Gesture

I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
Penelope did this too.

And more than once: you can't keep weaving all day
And undoing it all through the night;
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don't know where, for years.

Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.

And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
Ulysses did this too.

But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied
To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.

He learned it from Penelope.

Penelope, who really cried.
Odysseus and Penelope by Francesco Primaticcio (1563)

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
And mouth with myriad subtleties,
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while

     We wear the mask.
We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile,
But let the world dream otherwise,

     We wear the mask!


Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—
(Next week Sumana’s Midweek Motif will be ~ Winter )

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Pantry of Poetry and Prose #2

I’ve always loved reading letters written by poets and storytellers. So, when I noticed that The Letters of Anne Gilchrist and Walt Whitman—where the latter declines a marriage proposal by the former—are free for our reading pleasure, I had to share the finding with you. I haven’t finished the book yet, but the bits I’ve delighted in are delicious.  

Today, and every Sunday after this, Poets United is open to both poetry and prose (stories, articles, essays, letters…). Entries can be old or new, the choice is yours (if you choose to share prose, your contribution should be in 369 words or fewer).

photo by Álvaro Serrano, on Unsplash

Glimpse into the past and future:

Last Monday - a Farewell to Mary and Sherry.
Last Friday - Rosemary provoked our thoughts with Jasmine Logan’s “Imagination”.

Next Wednesday’s Midweek Motif - Susan invites us to explore “Authenticity”. 

Please, add your old or new or upcycled entry to Mr. Linky. Enjoy other participants’ words. And have the most delightful of Sundays.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Wild Fridays: Thought Provokers


We need to review our past to fix the broken cast that we all need to heal
The seal that is always broken that needs to be forespoken
To make everyone awoken
That our imaginations are limitless
If we come together it will be bigger than ever
If we collide as one, when we are done
We can see what we have become

Before one expression can lead to depression
The pressure of being yourself has made you feel left behind.

Being kind is not a self act, it’s a selfless movement
This containment needs to be released as if it was our relief
From our so called ugly self image
Our disapprovals our negative thoughts
I’m not being figurative, the damage of us hurting ourselves
Has changed us as a whole as if someone made the wrong fold.

Now tilt the container.
Do you feel a sense of calmness and relaxation?
As if that fracture has been repaired but left a scar.

If you don’t that’s OK
All you have to remember is time isn’t now and you’ll feel it one day
But sometimes that’s what keeps us going of the fuel to power our minds to steal our sadness away
To conquer our imaginations
Don’t stay how you are now
Work on yourself even if that means bending yourself down to pull others up
Because if we all do that then who will be down?

When you look at your property do you realise that others are living in poverty?

In school there are people who think they are cool
But what they don’t realise is that in a time scale smaller than a cup
Starting from the word 'sup' makes the ones the majority thinks aren’t cool feel lower than a stool.

Don’t be a fool to be proud of someone who is down and think it’s hard
That is how it is now
What we all need and know is that this generation can quickly turn foul.

– By Jasmine Logan

It's a time when the young are speaking up with powerful voices. Sherry gave us a great example in her last 'I Wish I'd Written This', featuring Shane Koyczan on bullying.

I admire the way this poem, too, while deploring the nastiness some young people can engage in, also urges the positive values of kindness and imagination.

Jasmine Logan, pictured sharing this poem at a recent 'Poets Out Loud' event in Murwillumbah, Australia, is 13 – the youngest participant in these local readings. Soon to turn 80, I may well be the oldest. 

A very confident performer, Jasmine came in second to me in one of our recent slams; I beat her by only 0.2 of a point. It was the only slam I've ever been in, so I was pretty chuffed to win; but, until the announcement, I was actually sure she had it won, and I told her so afterwards. Now the oldest and youngest local poets have become friends, and I asked if she would let me share her words here. 

At this stage she is very much writing for performance, so you need to 'hear' the sound and the rhythm as you read her words – or even better, try them aloud.

In the photo, Jasmine is wearing the colours of the Australian Aboriginal flag. I asked her to explain what the t-shirt says, because I was sure that otherwise someone would be bound to ask. She replied:

'Free the Flag', the t-shirt says.

It’s because the Aboriginal artist (Harold Thomas) has sold the flag to a non-Indigenous company who are Aboriginal art frauds. Now they have got rights to use it while everyone else has to pay. We just want to use our flag like every other Australian.

You can read the history of this flag – one of the officially proclaimed flags of Australia – including the situation she mentions, here if you're interested. (I think most Australians are already aware.) I asked her if she would like to say something about being an Indigenous Australian. She said:

Being Indigenous has made me really connected to culture and this land, although it comes with a cost. It is so upsetting to see people climb Uluru and Wollumbin.

[These are sacred mountains; the second is local. The indigenous custodians have recently ended the climbing of Uluru.]

Jasmine also finds it upsetting to contemplate the Stolen Generation.

My cousins were stolen, and my dad, aunties and uncles had to hide in my nan’s house until it was safe.

Here is one of Jasmine's most recent poems, on this subject:

Staring back at me was the Stolen Generation

I looked in the mirror and found a great mystery
Staring back at me was my people's history

Its name was a generation stolen
Sad event with children taken away
Many aboriginals had fallen
Mums are home anxiously every day

Terrified and NO parents of their own
Forbidden to learn about their people
Strange people around, feels like you're alone
Silence all around, besides one beetle

Forced to sing for the boss, they were made slaves
NO dreams, they were made to be maids when they grow
Least they tried, run back because they were brave
Blindfolded taken feels like it is slow

Mixed heritage identity unknown
Imagine that’s you. See! Are your minds blown?

She says: It breaks my heart to know how much racism there is in Australia ALONE, but I’m proud to call myself Indigenous.

May her strong voice be widely heard!

Material shared in this post is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors. This photo of Jasmine is © Sarah Temporal 2019.

Sanaa's 'Wild Fridays' title is too good to waste – even though Sanaa herself won't be using it any more. Instead, she and Magaly will be taking turns to host our Sundays, now that Mary and Sherry have stepped down.

We think the title fits the way all sorts of topics pop up on Fridays, in random order. So we're making it the overall title, now, for all the Friday posts. This banner is Sherry's photo of wild waves in her glorious home environment, used with her permission – an acknowledgment of our original Wild Woman of Poets United!