Monday, July 23, 2012

On Finding a New Poem to Love

I've always loved the American poet Robert Frost, based almost entirely on his poem 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'. There's something about that poem that calls to me, the rhyming scheme is there, but even though the poem's loaded with rhyming, it doesn't intrude.

I love the fact that the rhymes are never the most obvious word, the word seems to have been carefully chosen as just the correct word for what Frost wanted to say, and he didn't ever go for cliche.

I was raised on the rhymes of Banjo Paterson, another clever rhyming poet, and I wonder now, was it merely coincidence that Frost died at a time I was not quite born yet, but was growing into a baby to be born a couple of months after Frost's death...

This fact, coupled with Banjo's ballads often as an after dinner snack, made me alert to what a fine rhyme can and should be, and hostile to poor and obvious rhyming that brings no sense of rhythm. Rhythm surely must be there with the rhyme, or the poetry is lost and becomes a weaker squawking that has no music to it.

My poetry now follows many forms, sometimes I rhyme, sometimes not, but I try to always have a sense of rhythm in my verse. Anyway, these are a few thoughts on Robert Frost and poetry and rhyming. 

I've just realised this entire blog post doesn't talk of the thing that prompted it in the first place. The new poem I found this morning was a poem of Robert Frost's 'A Considerable Speck'. I found this somewhere on the internet, can't remember how, now, but it struck me as a gorgeous whimsical little thing, that should be considered further, and shared with those who could come to love it, as I am coming to love it.

Feel free to add your thoughts to the discussion, I will reply...

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Poetry Competition 2012/2013

The Elements
Classical elements, air, fire, earth and water – these four elements give us everything there is in life. Or perhaps the Chemical Elements are more your thing?
Write a poem about one, some or all of these elements, and send your work to the Poetry Competition. The Adelaide Plains Poets Poetry Competition has now opened, with a closing date of 19 January 2013.
There are cash prizes for the winners, with Commended and Highly Commended certificates, as awarded by the judge. Winners will be announced in March 2013.
If you’d like entry form and guidelines, contact the Competition Secretary, c/- 1594 Germantown Road REDBANKS 5502 or email

Or cut and past them from this website.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My First Poem that Gained Praise

When I was at high school, in Year 9 I think, I wrote a poem as part of a History assignment. I'm sure that my teacher, Mr Scalzi wasn't expecting a poem to be there, but there it was. Mr Scalzi, by the way, went on to bigger and better things after he finished being a school teacher - he went into politics gaining the seat of Hartley for the Liberal Party in 1993 to 2006 in South Australia.

I think Mr Scalzi was impressed by my poem, but I'm not completely positive. I do know however, that my mum was impressed by the poem, because she has kept a copy of it over the years, and has it still. Not the actual poem I wrote for the assignment, but she wrote it out and keeps it written into a journal she has. 

The assignment was something to do with somewhere in the Ancient world that began with a 'C'. It may have been Carthage, I really don't remember. I've never been that interested in History, I prefer things that are happening now.

When I was at Mum's place last week, I finally got around to asking for a copy of the poem. I knew in general what the poem was about, but couldn't remember how it actually went. Now I know. Mum photocopied the page in her journal, and I brought the copy home.

I was in Year 9 in 1977, so I guess it's not that surprising I can't remember the poem word for word. What is amazing, I feel is that my dear Mum has kept the words. Now that's the sign of a good Mum, and my mother is definitely one of the best mothers around!

Anyway, in the interest of posterity, I've decided to put this dear little poem 'out into the world wide web' so here it is!

Earth Mother
I sacrificed my daughter to you
But still we are hungry
What more must we do?

Must I give you my son
my cows, my wife
Or must I give to you
my own life?

I welcome any and all feedback - remember I was 13 or 14 when I wrote this, and I'm not sure if I'd written much poetry before this. I had been brought up on Banjo Paterson though, my dad was a huge fan of his. Banjo was one of Australia's great Bush Balladeers in years past.

Friday, July 13, 2012

More on my Verse Memoir

Today I had what I consider to be a brilliant idea. I decided I would trawl through my journal to see if there was anything in there that could/should be added to my Multiple Sclerosis memoir. I've had this journal for a while - my dear son Jake gave it to me for Mothers Day in 2011. I don't use it like a diary, I use my mobile phone for the daily stuff I need to remember.

I use the journal more as a place I can visit to talk through things that are happening in my life. And of course, there are things happening, things that are new and different in my life. MS is the main thing in my life that's new and different, so of course I've written about it in my journal.

I was actually surprised to see the number of things that were relevant to my memoir, and I intend typing them up and putting them into the best places, One of the first things I did when I started thinking about this memoir, was to write a list of chapter headings. This gives me a good idea about which bits of writing should go where.

It's comforting to know that if I put something in the wrong place in this 'first draft' time of writing, then I can go back and move it in a later draft. I'm so glad for the computer with its wonderful 'cut and paste' facility! Life would have seemed impossible without this, typing up a memoir on a typewriter would have seemed impossible, instead of being completely do-able.

So today I've added more than 2,000 words since Tuesday this week, with another couple of hundred words at least, sitting there in my journal and waiting to be typed up. This feels like it's going well, and I'm excited!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Memoir - Word Count

So, a week after realising I had to actually get moving with the writing of my memoir I'm writing about my new life with MS (multiple sclerosis), I've begun writing bits and pieces most days. I'm following the advice my poetry mentor, Ray Tyndale, gave me, and picking the bits I feel like writing, and not worrying about writing down in a linear way.

I've been thinking about a final word count, how many words a verse memoir should amount to. It's a tricky question, because there may not have been terribly many verse memoirs written in the past. Writing in verse rather than prose requires fewer words for the final product.

Anyway, I feel like 50,000 words is the correct number to be thinking about/planning for. I spoke to a writer friend today, and this is the figure she felt might be good, up to 50,000, less would be OK. I'm not happy with anything less than 50,000, I don't think. Less than 50,000 seems too flimsy...

Anyway, I wrote some the day before yesterday, the more yesterday, and I've written more today. Some of the word count is made up of poems I wrote before, as part of getting over and accepting my diagnosis. I've written about my walker, acceptance, tripping and falling. As I think about each chapter, I find the appropriate poem in my computer folders.

As of 7pm today, my word count for my memoir is 6,000 words. This is over ten percent of my proposed final word count, and I've still got 5 months to go! That feels completely like something I can do. I mustn't get complacent though, and having a mentor who I meet up with often will make sure of that.

It's a work in progress, and it's progressing well!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Update on my Verse Memoir

Today I've sent the next part of my current work-in-progress to my poetry mentor. I'm more or less happy with what I've written, but I'm open to ideas and suggestions. If I wasn't, then this mentor thing would be a waste of time fro the two of us.

As it is, I'm enjoying the process very much so far. It's only early days, but I have a new focus on the style of my writing of the book, and I have an idea of how much time I should be giving myself to get the first draft written. Hmm, and idea from my mentor and I didn't faint when she said the words - six months...

No I didn't faint, but I mentally caught my breath. With a six month time limit, it means I'd better stop strolling around the edges and looking through my head in a lackadaisical kind of way. I'd better get working!

So, starting today, I will write something new every day on this work. I've been thinking about medicines, so that's where I'm going right now. Off to the medicine cabinet!

If you have MS and you have any thoughts on your medications, I'd love to know what you think about it all.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Society of Smiling Scribes First Meeting

I was prepared to be the only person there for the meeting of the new group, the Society of Smiling Scribes. I'd told the hotel I was holding the meeting there, and I'd put the word out in the local newspaper. I'd received three apologies, and was prepared to sit there with a nice cup of coffee, and a yummy slice of cake.

Imagine my pleasant surprise then when a woman walked into the hotel, with a notebook in her hand, looking around as though she wanted to find someone she didn't already know. I asked if she was there for the poetry group, and she said yes! Yay, the first meeting of the Society of Smiling Scribes was on!

We chatted about ourselves, our writing, our experiences in writing. We both wrote know poems, each a limerick about the Mallala Hotel, and other poems too. All in all, it was a successful meeting. I took notes and we made a date for the next meeting.

So, in a weeks time, the second meeting of the Society of Smiling Scribes will take place, perhaps with at least some of the people attending who'd put in their apologies for today's meeting - I'm one happy little poet!

Do you meet for poetry writing meetings? I'd love to hear your stories about the things that you do in your group!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Visit to Poetry Mentor, New Direction

I travelled to Semaphore this morning to see Ray Tyndale, who is my mentor for the writing of my MS memoir in verse. Ray had read the initial part of my memoir, and offered some extremely useful comments. 

She praised my writing, but let me know she felt I would be best off embracing verse more fully in the writing of the parts of my memoir that aren't actual poems. My memoir is all about my experiences so far with my new disease of MS (multiple sclerosis). I've included poems I've written as I work at getting my head around my new life of living with MS. 

With the prologue, I had tried to go halfway between prose and poetry, in the writing of it, but I lost my 'voice' to some extent, and ended up simply writing chopped off lines, rather than writing poetry. As soon as Ray pointed this out to me, I could see what she meant. I've taken her words to my heart, and will try to write with my poetic voice now.

Hearing Ray's praise of my poetry was heartening, and I feel revved up and ready to go with this project. I will send more of my memoir to Ray as soon as I can, and will see her again in a fortnight, so we can both see how I've gone with my new direction.

Writing about my experiences, I hope will bring much to other people who are struggling with their own challenges. I've found much from reading and hearing the stories of others, whether they are living with what I'm living with, or something else. Most people have challenges, and I'm doing my best to live my life well, with MS and with whatever else that stands in my way. Living my life in the best way I can, is my challenge, one I'm glad to say I'm meeting almost every day. 

Challenges are helping me to grow into a better person.