Friday, August 30, 2019

Moonlight Musings

How exciting to see the new ‘interactive’ Moonlight Musings hosted by Magaly get such a great response. There will be more!

Meanwhile this is the regular version, where we invite discussion in the comments but don’t ask you to write any creative pieces on the topic (unless you're overwhelmingly inspired to do so – in which case you might care to share them at a future Poetry Pantry).

Today I am wondering: 

What Name Are You Making?

As a writer, do you use your own name?

Or – in some cases – which of your own names do you use?

Do you write under your real name or a pseudonym?

Does every writer face the decision whether to use their own name or a pen-name? Or does it never occur to some of us to be known as anything but ourselves?

I was still a schoolgirl when I started to speak about choosing ’writer’ (or, even more daringly, ‘poet’) as a profession. Some people asked if I was going to take a pen-name. The question surprised me; I hadn’t thought of such a possibility. When I did, I quickly decided that I wanted to stand behind what I wrote, and that seemed to mean using my own name. I wanted to write so honestly that I could face being called on it. (Whilst understanding that truth and fact are not necessarily the same, and aiming for authenticity in my fictions too.)

But I didn’t like the surname I was born with. Luckily, my writings as Rosemary Robinson appeared only in school magazines. By the time I wanted to go more public, I had a married name: Nissen. 

So I did use my own name, legally mine, just not the one I was born with. (I felt a bit sorry sometimes that schoolteachers and classmates who knew me as Rosemary Robinson would never find out I had fulfilled the writerly promise they once saw in me – but not sorry enough to use the old name.)

That was all right until, many years later, I divorced and remarried.

The complications of changing one's name

In a women writers’ group recently, someone asked about the wisdom of hyphenating her name after a forthcoming marriage – her name as a writer, that is – or sticking to a byline she’s already known by, and using different names in public and private. 

‘Stick with what you’re known as,’ most people advised. It did seem like good advice. I’d received the same myself, after remarrying. 

‘You’ve already got a name,’ my poet friends said, meaning a name as a poet. ‘You’d be mad to change it.’ Not only had I been widely published in magazines and anthologies as Rosemary Nissen, and established the name as a performance poet, I’d had two books published with that authorship.

I considered the distinguished Australian poet Judith Rodriguez. As a young woman she started being published, to some notice, as Judith Green. On marrying she changed her name both privately and professionally to Rodriguez, and went on to great acclaim. When she and her first husband divorced after many years of marriage and she married fellow-poet Thomas Shapcott, she continued to write and publish as Judith Rodriguez. I'm sure it never occurred to her to do anything else. It was a very big name by then, very well established.

On the other hand, the younger poet Liz Hall, who had also made a name for herself (if not quite to the same degree) hyphenated her name on marrying and became Liz Hall-Downs. Similarly, poet and children's author Paty Marshall, well-known by that name, on marrying a second time became Paty Marshall-Stace. It seemed to work for them.

Andrew Wade and I moved interstate soon after marrying, where no-one had heard of me as a poet, and everyone knew us as Mr and Mrs Wade. Hyphenating seemed the way to go.

It wasn’t the best idea, professionally. Melbourne people still thought of me as Rosemary Nissen and Murwillumbah people knew me as Rosemary Wade. And, having moved from a major city with a thriving poetry scene to a small country town with none, I embraced the online poetry world instead. That didn’t help. 

I almost disappeared! When I sometimes reconnected with people I’d known previously in literary circles (other than close friends) it wasn’t uncommon for them to say, 

‘Oh – Rosemary NISSEN! NOW I get it.’

Gradually I made a name as Rosemary Nissen-Wade, and there are people now who understand that Rosemary Nissen and Rosemary Nissen-Wade are the same. But it’s taken two decades! Meanwhile some editors who knew me back when, and also know I’m now Rosemary Nissen-Wade, have still published me as Rosemary Nissen (without consultation). Others, who didn’t know me before, have put my name in the index under W instead of N, though I thought the hyphen would have ensured otherwise (so again I disappear).

Perhaps I should have expected it. My husband Andrew was christened Ewart Wade, by which name he was known as a film editor and as a writer and publisher for the Australian film industry. He told me he'd hated his first name and got sick of people spelling it Uitt or pronouncing it ee-wart, so he changed it legally to Andrew (because he had a girlfriend at the time whose children said he looked like an Andrew) – and promptly disappeared for many people. Later, as Andrew E Wade, he was a journalist and a children's author. Because of the name change, it was as if there were not only two different careers but two different people having them.

Embracing the Invention

My friend Helen Patrice (fiction writer, non-fiction writer and poet) published as Helen Sargeant when she was young and single. It was her name, but she didn’t like the surname much. She didn’t particularly care for her married surname either, and it’s lucky she never used it for her writing because that marriage ended early. During the longish period before marrying a second time, she decided to select her own surname. She chose Patrice because (a) many women were choosing women’s names as surnames at the time, and (b) she fell in love with the name after seeing a newsreader whose first name was Patrice. She says she ‘test drove it’ for a couple of years, then adopted it legally.

I asked her what were the ramifications. She said:

‘Basically, having to start over. People not connecting the two identities despite it being no secret. Having someone tell me that I wrote like Helen Sargeant, who suddenly stopped writing, probably died.’ 

Like me, she has now forged her writing identity under the new name – and it’s on the covers of her published books – but it took a while.

Prominent spoken-word poet Tug Dumbly must have taken that name early in his career. In his recent book Son Songs, he describes that name as ‘the pseudonym that swallowed the man formerly – and in some parts still – known as Geoffrey Robert Forrester (which is a better literary name)'. Is there a tinge of regret inside those brackets? Tug Dumbly must have seemed like a great name for a performance poet when he adopted it, and he probably didn’t realise how respected a poet he would become. But he’s earned the acclaim and it’d be crazy to change such a well-known name now.

Blogging names

What of those who use pseudonyms on their blogs? Many who do so still let it be known who they really are. Others have always been more firmly anonymous, or at least pseudonymous, not revealing any personal details. 

I have the impression that most use their real names when they publish a book. I can think of several from this community who have done so.

In conclusion

Yes, I suppose it all comes down to what we intend to do with our writings, both in the short and long term. Yet how can we know from the beginning where this path will take us? 

If we want our work to be remembered, does it even matter what name it is remembered by? It’s Alice in Wonderland we love, whether it’s by Lewis Carol or the Rev Charles Dodgson. We don’t need to know the full name of Dr Seuss to be able to quote from his books. Would John Le Carré’s or George Orwell’s works chill us any more or any less under their authors' real names? There are many such examples. Pablo Neruda, Stendahl, Voltaire, Henry Handel Richardson, Mark Twain, James Herriot, Bob Dylan….

Meanwhile, a new performance venue in my little country town is flourishing. As a regular, I am becoming known simply as Rosemary. People who know me only from that context greet me by name in the street. Rosemary the poet. I love it!

And you?

What name are you making for yourself? What if your writing should achieve lasting fame – who would you want to be remembered as?

Note: I use myself and people I know here because I am familiar with those particular details. (Except for Paty Marshall-Stace, they have all previously been featured at Poets United.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Glory

Age is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.”— Martha Graham


“Love of glory can only create a great hero; contempt of glory creates a great man.”— Charles Maurice de Talleyrand

Midweek Motif ~ Glory

Paths of glory can be many. Which do you want to traverse?

The First World War poets well realized “that war is not glorious and the people they are fighting are not their enemy.”

You can either keep your focus on human theme; that is directing your poem towards the meaning ‘high renown or honor won by notable achievements’ or towards ‘magnificence or great beauty’.

Here are some ‘Glory’ poems:

Buddha In Glory
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet--
all this universe, to the furthest stars
all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,

a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead. 

Glory of Women
by Siegfried Sassoon

You love us when we’re heroes, home on leave,
or wounded in a mentionable place.
You worship decorations; you believe
That chivalry redeems the war’s disgrace.
You make us shells. You listen with delight,
By tales of dirt and danger ardours while we fight,
And mourn our laurelled memories when we’re killed.
You can’t believe that British troops “retire”
When hell’s last horror breaks them, and they run,
Trampling the terrible corpses-blind with blood.
O German mother dreaming by the fire,
While you are knitting socks to send your son
His face is trodden deeper in the mud.

Torn Down From Glory Daily
by Anne Sexton

All day we watched the gulls
striking the top of the sky
and riding the blown roller coaster.
Up there
godding the whole blue world
and shrieking at a snip of land.
Now, like children,
we climb down humps of rock
with a bag of dinner rolls,
left over,
and spread them gently on stone,
leaving six crusts for an early king.
A single watcher comes hawking in,
rides the current round its hunger
and hangs
carved in silk
until it throbs up suddenly,
out, and one inch over water;
to come again
smoothing over the slap tide.
To come bringing its flock, like a city
of wings that fall from the air.
They wait, each like a wooden decoy
or soft like a pigeon or
a sweet snug duck:
until one moves, moves that dart-beak
breaking over. It has the bread.
The world is full of them,
a world of beasts
thrusting for one rock.
Just four scoop out the bread
and go swinging over Gloucester
to the top of the sky.
Oh see how
they cushion their fishy bellies
with a brother's crumb. 

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 ~ Literacy)

Monday, August 26, 2019


This week, we will hear three more of the men's eloquent voices. Michael Phan, who writes at  grapeling: it could be that, Eric Erb of erbiage, and Scott Hastie of his blog of the same name, are sharing a poem each that we know you will enjoy. Let's dive in!

give me the far winds that feather heaven,
that twist and tumble and clutch
autumn’s last leaf to earth’s hearth.
give me ice, and rest
and the earth chilled to silence
only seeds hear.
give me tendrils. give me a cherry’s flirty first blossoms
, emerald hills spiced with orange and mauve,
a double-winged dragonfly patient as water.
give me skies paling pink, trilling crickets,
light high as the north star,
cool red watermelon with plenty of seeds;
give me your eyes’ fire, the thump in your breast,
the wisp of your bangs,
your forefinger’s crook motion
– your vermillion lips
– your heart sharp as words
for if you give me your days
you will have mine 

Sherry: Your imagery is so rich in this poem, Michael. Just lovely.

Michael: Just a poem about seasons, and maybe keeping an eye open to details...

Sherry: And beautifully done. Eric's poem employs wonderful imagery, too. Let's take a peek.

I’ll try to write this in your terse speech
Upon the skin of my kin you call paper
Such a small word for the crushed pulp
Of my people. There is nothing in that word
Of the books you make of it, nor
How it is the vessel of your moments.
Nor the majesty that stood centuries
Rooted like we are in the sky,
Nose to the ground.
But these small words of yours are upside down
And backwards. It’s our branches that hold
Us fast in spirit. The matted whiskerbeard
Is what keeps us kissing the earth. The
Parts and the meaning are entwined.
The same, and not. But where was I?
In this poem of a time that ticks
In trees long perception.
What persists, what appears
In one moment, gone the next
Like deer
Most of us sleep all winter
A trick we taught the bear-clan people
Winter is as night in treetime
And the thing you call summer
We call day, in our language.
We hardly notice the strobe
Of that thing you use that word for…
If you want to see the world
As we see it, sit. Be still.
Stop tricking yourselves
With your movie-reel motion.
Though in this too, like poems
Is a truth that is not present.
Moments, when strung together
Never become water.
I know that river
It licked my toes once
Egged on by angry thunderheads
There are some poems that
Can only be discerned at night
Then their words swell and ripen
Their bitter meaning sound sweet.
This I hear in the sigh and creak of branches
Sit in darkened rooms
Run the wheels at breakneck pace
Love the lie of video.
Or if you dare, and can find out how,
Slow the footage and you’ll come to know
Each moment is its own now.

Sherry: I love this poem, which reflects upon trees - and us - so wonderfully. "Each moment is its own now" is a great closing line.

Eric: We take so much from trees, and they just keep giving.  It doesn’t seem like we take the most valuable thing they offer though.  I’ve been trying to be still, and pay more attention to things I take for granted.

There have always been trees near my home, and at this house there are two big venerable pines, and a river.  Their presence I often notice even when I can’t see them.  So our disrespect of them was prominent, and how could we ever understand a life that seems so different from ours.  It was written in springtime, when the trees were just waking up from winter, so that got in there too.  This was a gift from the trees to the humans, I’m grateful that I was able to get out of the way and let it flow.

Sherry: me, too. How lovely, to live near ancient trees and a river. Thanks, Eric. Let's see what Scott has for us today.


See how,
The stream’s
Silvery edge,
Reflected light
Dances on the surface
Of rushing water.

The very essence
Of life
And motion itself,
Effortlessly tapping
Into timeless truths
That, once absorbed,
Echo right back
At you
More than ever before.

And with a peerless
That’s both soothing
And humbling
Of how,
In a single lifetime,
One could never oneself
Such knowing grace,
Gather up such melody,
Nor offer such endless

Still here
With the chance
Of some
Sweet release though.

And, for so many
Amongst us,
Would that it were so!

To dream
That one day,
Such a river might flow. 

Sherry: I love those closing lines!

Scott: I regard the over-arching theme of my work to be a personal investigation into the positive potential of the human spirit. This I think is clearly evident, running through most of my poems. Not that I believe my work can ever be said to be some sweet pastoral panacea, because it never shies away from pain or suffering – and is prepared to also explore the darkness, as well as the light and, crucially, the fundamental significance of their inter reaction. This being, to me, the absolute axis (the truly dynamic and crucial interdependence of the light and dark, of joy and sorrow, of love and loss, in the grand Romantic tradition) and that key notion of duality which I hope still lies solidly at the heart of my work and my approach.

I remain determined always to be challenging enough to try and reach deep into the core of the meaning of the human experience - although I do readily accept that, as my work has developed, then my voice has also become more reflective and spiritual in its emphasis.

I have aimed, at any time in my career, to always be as simply expressed and as readily accessible as possible – For me, this is a vital component of all my work to date. And it is here that you can also hopefully see how simple often short line length structures also play their part – though still carefully shaped for emphasis, controlled rhythm and musicality that lifts key passages, enhances meaning and always looks to carefully and lyrically draw the reader towards the concluding climax of any piece. The success of which for me is always a critical consideration and the key litmus test of success of any particular poem. Hope you enjoyed See How!

Sherry: I did indeed, as well as your process for writing it. Thanks for sharing, Scott.

Well, my friends, wasn't this a treat? Thank you, gentlemen, for sharing your fine poems and thoughts with us. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

Sunday, August 25, 2019


Happy Sunday, poet friends. We hope you had a good week. We certainly did at Poets United, with another great one coming up. On Friday, I featured the Canadian poet Marilyn Dumont, and her poem about her love of the land. It is worth scrolling back if you missed it.

Tomorrow, we will enjoy poems by Michael (grapeling), Eric Erb and Scott Hastie. It is always lovely to hear from the menfolk. We are sure you'll enjoy the poems they share. On Wednesday, Sumana's Midweek Motif prompt will be Glory. That gives us a lot of scope. We hope you'll join us. And Rosemary will finish our week off with one of her interesting features.

Next Sunday, Magaly has an intriguing theme for her next Pantry of Prose : "Gothic Fiction". That sounds like a LOT of fun! Magaly provided us with a sneak peek: the following link, so participants can think or write ahead, if you wish: 

The weeks do fly by. It is amazing to think summer is coming to an end. Today, let's read some poetry, and then get out into the sunshine. Thank you all for being here. We couldn't do this without you!

Friday, August 23, 2019

I Wish I'd Written This


this land is not
just a place to set my house my car my fence

this land is not
just a plot to bury my dead my seed

this land is
my tongue     my eyes     my mouth

this headstrong grass and relenting willow
these flat-footed fields and applauding leaves
these frank winds and electric sky

are my prayer
they are my medicine
and they become my song

this land is not
just a platform for my dance

Marilyn Dumont

This poem speaks to me, as a lover of the land who recognizes we are only one part of the natural world. We non-aboriginal folk are belatedly learning this truth, as we experience what our attempt to dominate nature has done to the environment. Our interdependence is well understood by  First Nations, who have lived in harmony and respect with Mother Earth for millennia.

"Not Just a Platform for My Dance" is taken from the reprinting of Ms Dumont's first book of poems, A Really Good Brown Girl. Ms Dumont is of  Cree-Metis ancestry, and is a writer and educator. She grew up in Alberta, and has been writer-in-residence at universities across Canada. The poet is a descendant of Gabriel Dumont, a military and political leader of the Metis in the 19th century.

Reading A Really Good Brown Girl, I was moved by the close family life depicted in her poems. Ms Dumont does not hesitate, in her work, to address the issue of racial prejudice,  a sad fact of life in Canada. She writes of "the mystery of the white judges who sat encircling our two-storey schoolhouse", ready to judge, and I applaud her strength and clarity in putting words to this issue.

This book won the League of Canadian Poets Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for the best first book of poetry by a Canadian writer. Her second book, Green Girl Dreams Mountains,  won the Stephan Stephansson Award from the Writer's Guild of Alberta and the Alberta Book Award for Poetry. And her third, That Tongued Belonging, won the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year award. Her work has appeared widely in publications and anthologies. I hope you enjoy this introduction.


I have carried your pain     in metal buckets and
I still go for water     every so often
and that water     is so cold and hard
that it stings my hands,     its weight makes me feel
my arms will break     at the shoulders and yet
I go to that well     and drink from it     because
I am, as you,     made of water

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, August 21, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Museum(s)

“The building has the ability to wrap itself around you, making you feel safe. All the animosity if the street is left outside, for everyone in there has come for the same reason. To be humbled by art.”
Carrie Adams, The Godmother

"When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums."

“As once-colonized nations seek to stand on their own, the countries once denuded of their past seek to assert their independent identities through the objects that tie them to it. The demand for restitution is a way to reclaim history, to assert a moral imperative over those who were once overlords.”
Sharon Waxman, Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures . . .

File:Castillo Serralles.JPG
Street facade of the Castillo Serrallés — overlooking Ponce, in southern Puerto Rico
(An agricultural museum that showcases the sugar cane and its derivative rum industry)

Midweek Motif ~ Museum(s)

Can museum be a verb?  I love museum-ed objects of art and history and the buildings that stage them and the evidence of choices made of what to include and why.  Lately, I sit down frequently, so appreciate the many benches that dot museums.  Also, I've grown to enjoy smaller and more obscure collections than in the past.  How about you?

Your Challenge: Pick a museum, pick any museum, and write a new poem that takes us there. 

The Louvre in Paris.

Museum Piece

by Richard Wilbur

The good grey guardians of art
Patrol the halls on spongy shoes,
Impartially protective, though
Perhaps suspicious of Toulouse.
Here dozes one against the wall,
Disposed upon a funeral chair.
A Degas dancer pirouettes
Upon the parting of his hair.
See how she spins! The grace is there,
But strain as well is plain to see.
Degas loved the two together:
Beauty joined to energy.
Edgar Degas purchased once
A fine El Greco, which he kept
Against the wall beside his bed
To hang his pants on while he slept.

by this point you must be hungry
for God not the real thing only
flecks of gold paint the marble bust
of a half-bull half-man

today I took a visit to the only
museum and every last gallery was
packed with snow I mean this
literally the whole place

frozen I didn’t stay long
I was worried about melting
the art I touched my eyes lightly
to each flake and when I left

the museum I believed a bit more
in God the strangest thing was
I never shivered I knew love
the whole time

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

'Truth is not the secret of a few
you would maybe think so
the way some
and cultural ambassadors and
especially museum directors

you'd think they had a corner
on it
the way they
walk around shaking
their high heads and
looking as if they never
went to the bath
room or anything

But I wouldn't blame them
if I were you
They say the Spiritual is best conceived
in abstract terms
and then too
walking around in museums always makes me
want to
'sit down'
I always feel so
in those
high altitudes

Map of museums all over the world (interactive map)

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 ~ Glory.)
When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums. Andy Warhol
When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums. Andy Warhol
When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums. Andy Warhol

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