Saturday, March 28, 2009

Why do we Write Poetry?

There are many different reasons why people write poetry. Some write because they like to share their words with others, some write with the hope of getting published. Some think they can make money by writing poetry (teehee, if only they knew!)

Some people use poetry as a way to explore their thoughts, to get a better handle on what they think about issues. Others write poetry as a form of personal therapy.

Sometimes the reason is to impress someone, or to let them know how you feel. Sometimes people write to entertain or to teach.

All of these reasons are valid reasons for writing poetry, and sometimes the reasons blur somewhat, like when a heartfelt poem written as personal therapy can reach out and touch other people. Poetry, when it is good poetry, tends to focus on the particular, not some undefined thing, but at the same time being universal, so that readers can see their own meaning in it.

Poetry can be written to amuse others, such as limericks written about people you know, or as lines in a greeting card for someone special. Sometimes you may write a poem with no intention of ever sharing it with anyone, only to find a certain somebody who your words seem to have been made for. Connecting with people through your poetry can bring an extra dimension to a friendship or relationship.

Try it, you may be glad you did!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ekphrasic - a poetic form

Look at various pieces of art and describe what you see. What does it make you think of? Can you tell a story/write a poem about what may be going on in the picture?

Or just describe the picture itself, especially focussing on the colours and designs.

Ekphrasic poetry is the name for this type of poetry. Think Keats’ ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’. That is ekphrasic poetry – a poem based on a work of art. You can go high falutin’ and visit an art gallery, or you can use any artwork at all – the towers at McDonalds, posters you see on a bill board.

I encourage poets and writing groups to give this form a writing a go. It can be amazingly effective at getting poets to step out of their comfort zone. For this purpose, the group I’ve been involved in used postcard sized pictures of paintings by famous painters. Everyone enjoyed the exercise, though some found it challenging. Being challenged is good for you, it makes your brain travel down new paths, creating new pathways as it goes.

I chose a painting of Picasso’s ‘Seated Nude’, to write a poem, which was all about what I thought of when I studied the painting for the set time period – it may have been fifteen minutes, I can’t remember now. I was there inside that painting, feeling for the poor woman, almost weeping for her. I was happy with the depth of feeling I created with the poem I wrote and I went home satisfied with my efforts.

I promptly lost the picture and when I tried to locate it on the internet I discovered Picasso may have had a talent for painting, but he didn’t have a talent for coming up with original names for his paintings – there are lots and lots of Picasso paintings entitled ‘Seated Nude’. I have never found the right one.

But whenever I re-read the poem I crafted, I can see that poor woman and I remember the dark paths I travelled down to write that poem. Dark, but ultimately successful, in that I shook out and chased off some of my personal ghosts. It feels good to have dealt with these ghosts in such a way.

That is one of the reasons I have works of art at the bottom of this website, so that people can use the works as prompts and create their own literary work of art based on the painterly works of art. A different one every day, potentially a new poem from you every day.

Have a try, then make a comment so others can see what you have learned.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Answer to Editor of Plains Producer

This letter was published in the Plains Producer the week after the Editor published the piece I complained about.

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the poetry comments in the “My View” column of last week’s edition of your fine newspaper. I took your words as a bit of satire and grinned like the Cheshire Cat as I read them. What is it they say? “All news is good news”. So thank you for bringing poetry to prominence.

As I said in my speech opening the Adelaide Plains Cup Festival Poetry Event at the Mallala Hotel on Saturday afternoon, ‘…record numbers of entries in the Adult section this year, nearly cracking the ton, so if anyone tries to tell you poetry is dead … it’s thriving, all across Australia’. Poetry is not dead, but I agree it may not be for everyone.

Neither is going for a run, or watching a horse race; we’re all different, and there’s plenty of room for us all at the Adelaide Plains Cup Festival. There will be a poetry section again next year, and I hope we can get more involvement from the younger members of our community next year.

There are some fine schools in the Adelaide Plains, and it was sad there were no local students amongst the winners. Surely there can be room for poetry in the school curriculum. Balaklava High School has been prominent in the poetry section of the Adelaide Plains Cup in previous years, and it’s time for other students and their teachers to step up and get involved.

Adelaide Plains Poets would be delighted to get assist if any schools require help in getting their students interested in poetry.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I do heaps of stuff, some of it I can't tell you about.

I take care of the animals, human and canine, and dream a bit, think a lot, write stuff. The things I think about would make you blush, or if they wouldn't make you blush you should be ashamed of yourself!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hold the Presses!

Poetry has hit the pages of my local newspaper, the Plains Producer(link). The newspaper reported, as one would expect , on the various events at the recent Adelaide Plains Cup Festival. In the editorial the editor, Terry Williams, commented on poetry in a rather derogatory way, wondering whether anyone but the poet would be interested in it.

I rang him that day, and we had a little chat. Terry's point was a good point - who can deny that some poetry is solely for the poet? We all write for a variety of reasons and sometimes venting one's spleen is the reason for a poem being created. Venting of the spleen doesn't necessarily lead to fine poetry. Sometimes it leads to absolute drivel, which has no meaning for anyone beyond the poet.

Anyway, Terry has a point, yes, but I reckon the poetry read at Mallala the weekend before last rose well beyond that point. Perhaps Mr Williams might like to come along in 2010 and hear what poetry gets awarded prizes, and is read out afterwards.

Mr Williams might not like a lot of what gets read though, he still lives very much in the poetic past. He likes bush ballad style and is of the 'poems must rhyme' school of thought. If he wants to be an old fuddy dud about it, that's his business. I've done a poll and I know I'm with the winning group who say whether poetry rhymes or not depends on the poem.

So Mr Williams will continue liking Banjo Paterson, and his ilk, and I and others like me can live in the present day of exciting new poetry.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Adelaide Plains Poets Inc The Winners "Tracks and Trails" poetry competition

Opening Speech

Distinguished guests and others, I welcome you here today to celebrate contemporary Australian Poetry. Poetry has been a part of the Adelaide Plains Cup Festival from the beginning, in 2005. That year there was a travelling bush poetry workshop with noted Owen Bush Poet Ann Rogers, and with a Bush Poetry competition. In the years that followed, the poetry reins were taken up by a new group Adelaide Plains Poets, with themed competitions ranging from Birds of the Adelaide Plains, to Country Pubs and the Bush, Homesteads and Tin Sheds and Everything in Between, and this year, Tracks and Trails.

We’ve received record numbers of entries in the Adult section this year, nearly cracking the ton, so if anyone tries to tell you poetry is dead, I’m here to tell you it’s thriving, all across Australia! This years’ competition attracted poems about racing cars, youth suicide, insects, stars, trains and a huge range of things in between.

There were disappointing numbers of entries in the junior sections, but we will continue to hold these sections, which raise no money, unlike the adult section, because Adelaide Plains Poets think poetry is important for young and old.

Next years’ competition is already being planned, with both a judge and theme chosen. The judges name will remain largely secret, but I have great pleasure in telling you the next theme will be "Life, the Universe and Everything", the phrase made famous by the late writer Douglas Adams with his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series of books.

So, no excuses now for not knowing what to write about. Anything goes! Entries will open in the third term of the school year, and with any luck some more students will have a go for 2010. If you know of any kids who like poetry, get them involved, they might be amongst the winners next year!

Willaston poet Helen Lindstrom has recently had her first poetry collection, Cold Comfort published. It was launched in Gawler last Sunday to a large and appreciative crowd.

Today you can get yourself a signed copy of Helen’s new book “Cold Comfort”, as well as a copy of the two anthologies Adelaide Plains Poets have published, or a copy of the little book “Dig It! Gardening Tips for Dogs”, written by me and illustrated by local artist Allyson Hean, who also illustrated the two anthologies.

Helen’s book is $15.00, the others are going for whatever you want to pay above $5.00.

And now it’s time for the open mic session. We’ll start with Helen reading, then I will read two of my works that meet the Tracks and Trails theme, then we’ll work through the names in the book! If you’ve brought a couple of poems along, and you haven’t written your name down yet, now is your chance!

And I ask you to fill in the survey kindly provided by the organisers of the Adelaide Plains Cup Festival – the information they receive will help with the next Adelaide Plains Cup Festival.
Adult Section

1st place - Millipedes, by Sharon Kernot, SA

2nd place - Train Strike, by Suzi Mezei, Vic

3rd place - Stuarts Party reaches the Gulf, by Robert Brady, SA

Commended - The Murray street Schmozzle, by Brad Slate, SA

Special Mention - The Women Walkers of Hahndorf, by Max Merckenschlager, SA

District Council of Mallala winner - Ant Tracks, by Gabriele Hansen

Wakefield Regional Council - Tracks and Trails, by Joy Woodroofe

Primary School Section

1st place - Tracks and Trails - by Grace Cummins,

Holkschter Award (best poem that refers to the dog)
The Hunting dogs, by Robyn Peck, Vic