Friday, December 11, 2015

I Wish I'd Written This

By Linda Stevenson

Setting aside a mask, or several

she plays, as when a child

pressing against

the beaten bronzed air

stroking the shiny surfaces of afternoons

as they drift;
finds and picks out from faded grass

or from between the leaves

of now shelved books

the different gifts

for the ones she loves, kneels
and hands up to them, with no words

their four-leafed presentations.

Linda Stevenson is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We sat next to each other in Library School (Melbourne) when we were young women, though we spent the first few weeks talking to the students either side of us in the brief breaks between listening to lectures. Once we did start talking to each other, though ... well, it's been a lifelong habit ever since, though now we live in different parts of the country and mostly do it on facebook. Poetry didn't bring us together, but as we were both writing it, it soon became a bond. We have collaborated on various projects over the years, in support of other people's poetry as well as each other's. There was a time when our library careers merged briefly and she was my boss – but it is now decades since both of us left that career for more artistic pursuits.

So there's my interest declared! However I'm sure you will have no trouble believing that I like the poem for its own sake, regardless of who wrote it. I wanted to use it now, in the lead-up to Christmas, because it describes gift-giving – and because this is as close as I can get to Christmas, being the last 'I Wish I'd Written This' until the new year. (You'll have a 'Living Dead' post next Friday.)

Linda still lives in Melbourne, and describes herself as 'having a background of environmental interests and community service'. She is a painter as well as a poet, whose work has been exhibited in local venues. She once ran a printing studio using a special technique to create art prints, and gave classes. I asked her to share one of her paintings with us (see below). 

This is how she tells it: 

I've always written poetry, but sporadically.  Always read and appreciated poetry.  Don't consider myself a "poet" because I haven't dedicated the time and effort necessary.  I respect and admire the work of my true poet friends, colleagues and acquaintances who have that commitment.

Now in the latter phase of life, I have also become a painter, and am working to integrate my visual art work with my writing. The painting here is inspired by C.P. Cafavy's great iconic poem "Ithaca". I paint as I feel, with images, symbols and references to create a work which has meaning. There are analogies with writing a poem...inspiration and energy, followed by analysis, crafting, deleting, adding and refining to achieve a worthwhile end.

Last year, I commenced hosting private Salons at my home in Frankston.  Salons in 2014 featured recent paintings by local artists and readings by local poets. More are planned for next year, with music performances to be added to the mix. The keynotes of the Salon are "Creativity. Conviviality, and Compassion". People who have attended so far loved the poetry readings in my studio; it was an opportunity for intimate poetry performances to be integrated with visual artworks, and for some new poetry fans to be enthused.

(Poets United recently featured Cavafy's poem in 'The Living Dead' – if you'd like to re-acquaint yourself with Linda's inspiration.)

Linda does plan to create a blog to share her work, but at present you can only find it on facebook. In view of that, and as 'Clovers' is a shortish piece, I'll treat you to another – with a rather different message. 

I remember Joan Baez saying that 'What Have They Done to the Rain' (by Malvina Reynolds) was the gentlest protest song she knew. I expect you are familiar with it, but if not, it's an environmental protest. Baez added that the message was not gentle, but the song sounded gentle.  The following poem of Linda's is one of the gentlest environmental protest poems I know. That is, it sounds gentle and conjures up some gentle images (among others) but the message is heart-rending.  The background story is here.  

At a time of year when many of us are focused on thoughts of love, these are, in different ways, two loving poems.

Adani Coal Mine Approved

It pares down

to the palest of skies

to a native fledgling

thirsty, untended

to whether a black stinking

mess of outmoded greed

is claimed as our chosen soil

when we might have lifted

up into the quiet transparency

taking the winds


carrying the young bird

with us

as our token.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. Oh Rosemary, how Linda has touched my heart - and broken it, with the story of the coal mine and its alternative: that we might instead have EVOLVED as conscious beings, and held the fragile bird aloft "as our token." I think of a bumper sticker I saw once that said " EVOLVE, DAMMIT!". LOL. If only we could. Wonderful writing, you have a marvelous friend, and I am agog at the idea of holding salons. What a fantastic idea!!!!!!

  2. Oh yes, oh yes! I envy her talent to use image so densely to elucidate and not obscure her message. And both poems are about gifting, what we might gift, what we have. Bless you and thank you, too, for your gifts, Rosemary, which continue to make my life a better place.

  3. What a beautiful poem, Rosemary! And what a wonderful long-time friend. I do hope that she does start a blog sometime soon.

  4. I feel very much enriched by the powerful pen of Linda, a greatly talented person...both the poems touch so deeply and her endeavor to promote art is laudable...

  5. Australia is the last country in the world that needs to mine coal. I am so ashamed at what the rest of the world must think of us, a country that could easily have 100% renewable energy, yet profit comes first not our future.

  6. What a beautiful set of poems, and what a wonderful story of friendship... I hope we might see Linda's poetry in the blogosphere too...

  7. Yes I too agree a beautiful story of friendship and poetry - though perhaps they are one in the same ... the selections here lovely and written as though painted ...and Linda "salons in your studio?! ...heavenly .... Thank you both ❤️❤️

  8. Both of Linda's poems have strong messages, but seem flavored with the gentleness of her heart. She sounds like such a giving person. I like her poetry and art work and admire that she hosts poets and artists so their work can be shared. Thank you Rosemary for introducing Linda to us.


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