15 January 2017 – Message Clear

Today I really just wanted to share this beautiful poem in the back of one of my books. I have a soft spot for poetry like this, that not only relies on meter, rhyming and vocabulary to perfectly convey a message, but the shape of the words. Poetry in design.

am                          i
i am
he r                 o
h         ur       t
the re                    and
he            re          and
he re
a                                  n      d
the r                                    e
i am        r                                         ife
i  n
s            ion and
i                                              d         i  e
am     e res       ect
am     e res       ection
o                      f
the                                         life
o                      f
m      e                      n
sur  e
the                              d          i e
i                    s
s      e  t       and
i am the     sur                    d
a     t      re            t
o                   life
i am   he r                                           e
i a                           ct
i                r    u             n
i   m     e   e            t
i                                t                        i  e
i                    s          t       and
i am th                      o            th
i am        r                        a
i am the     su             n
i am the     s             on
i am the   e      rect on              e  if
i am        re                  n         t
i am            s                    a                fe
i am            s       e       n         t
i          he   e                          d
i        t   e    s           t
i                re                     a  d
a     th   re                      a  d
a                 s          t on                     e
a      t     re                     a   d
a     th   r                  o                       e
i                resurrect
a              life
i am                          i  n                  life
i am        resurrection
i am the resurrection and
i am
i am the resurrection and the life

(Edwin Morgan)


14 January 2017 – In memoriam

You don’t get to my age without losing a few people.

Honestly, I’m not actually that old, but I have been to my fair share of funerals. The sad part is that most of them have not been for elderly relatives. Instead it’s one great-grandmother, one grandfather, two suicides, an accident, and a murder.

The murder was the hardest. She had been a close friend in highschool. A time when I was the emotional, romantic, poetry-writing, My Chemical Romance loving, angsty teenager who had so many ideals and feelings she had to share with anyone who would listen. This friend would always listen.

I didn’t speak at her funeral. Sometimes I think I should have, but over the years after highschool we had become more distant, seeing each other only at parties, making fake promises to catch up over a drink together sometime, just us two. Instead I listened to others speak, simple sentiments, the occasional poem. Songs were played in her memory, I still can’t listen to Zombie by the Cranberries without feeling sad. And we all separated, a funeral home bursting full of young, lively people, dressed in black, grieving for someone that shouldn’t have been grieving for.

The person who killed her stabbed two hitchhikers before he was caught.

I don’t remember the poems they read at her funeral. I wish I did. Many poems read at funerals are not in the best taste. It’s as if those who are reading it never actually read it. It sometimes comes across like a mournful hallmark card. And it’s rarely as if those people enjoyed poetry. At least not to my knowledge.

Funerals are not really my thing. It’s not for those who have departed, but for those who are left. And in these circumstances, I would rather be alone. Then the poetry isn’t for them, it’s only for me.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put the crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

(W. H. Auden)

13 January 2017 – The Language of the Heart

When did we stop writing poetry to woo our intendeds? Probably when we stopped calling the men/women/other we date intendeds.

Being the slightly strange, romantic, whimsical sort of girl in high school, I had a few men dedicate little bits of verse to me in high school. It’s unfortunate I never kept any of them – some were very sweet. And looking back, it’s warming to know that someone wanted to impress me so badly that they actually sat down and created something especially for me. And created something that could’ve had them mocked by their peers if I had been the sort of person to spread it around school. To those boys who wrote me poetry back in the day, thank you for putting your self-esteem on the line. And I’m sorry it didn’t work out.

I have also written poems for the men I love, but they rarely saw them. Because often, while they inspired poetry, many were tainted by a little sadness and the suggestion of loss, or walking down a path together that would eventually end in heartbreak. I couldn’t help but insert those feelings into the poems, so they immediately became personal, and not something I could share with anyone else. At the time I would tell myself that it was just a story, that I didn’t actually feel that way. But that wasn’t true.

These honest love poems are the ones that, for me, have stood the test of time. Those that talk about love’s imperfections, fleetingness, or ability to stand just out of one’s reach feel so much more real than verse that waxes on about some unknown’s beautiful nose. Today’s poem was one that is both incredibly harsh but incredibly sweet – a perfect love poem that takes the object of his affection off her podium and places her on the ground beside him. That’s the perfect relationship – where both parties are equals who can see the other for who they are. Imperfections and all.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
          And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
          As any she belied with false compare.

(William Shakespeare)

12 January 2017 – Throwback Thursday 2

This was the poem I wrote and for the first time thought, maybe I’m not too bad at this.

Written in about 2008, titled December.

Like crushed velvet, she wept her decorum,
In rivers of red cherry wine,
Drinking for those that were before him,
Those that once called her mine.
Envision those moments that shine,
Like the gems within her.
Dazzles so cruel to remind
Of my darling, December.

Say my love, of a will to console,
Bubbled in chilled champagne
A scar on the skin of her soul
A mark that no one can claim.
Say my love, of one broken fame
Don’t you remember
There was a time when you longed for my name
And my love, December

Lipstick kissed on the memory
A rouge that’s smudged and faded
Reapplied with the desire to be
The dreamer who made it
Sad eye gilded and jaded
Shined bright as an ember
The summer of hopes that were dated
My hope, December

She smoked her life in a cigarette
Watching the crows surround
The smoke won’t curl while it’s wet
The crows won’t cry on the ground
When she sings she will find her renown
If the bottle don’t kill her

And the ash will add to the sound
Of the birds in December

The struggles embedded are seeming
Chipped like the nais that know
A black that melts with meaning
Contrast in her snow
It’s the next summer who will show
The roses within in
But despite, the wine will flow.
Til again, December.

(Sarah Kelly)

11 January 2017 – Hallelujah

Poetry and lyrics are not the same. They are brothers, and both equally gifted in conveying meaning. But poetry is handicapped by metre. Where lyrics can rely on the music to help with tone and ambiance, poetry can only rely on itself.

That being said, lyrics have replaced the once popular poetry as our preferred means of delivering the message. Whether it’s our ability to Party in the USA (see, I’m hip with the kids) or an 80s rock ballad, lyrics have invaded our modern pop culture. We see them quoted in school books, and in pretty typefaces on young-adult walls. Sometimes a single phrase is just what you need to evoke your day’s emotion. They’re little bites of written perfection. Just like poetry.

Some song writers are better poets than others. Leonard Cohen being a prime example – the writer of the most perfect song in the world. Cohen is not only a songwriter and a poet, he’s a perfectionist. 40 verses of poetry for one song. And even then, when it was first released, its brilliance just wasn’t seen.

There is just something all too depressing about the original. It’s too heavy, too weighted by its own meaning, and just too dark. It needed something more to work its way into our hearts.

Enter Jeff Buckley, a singer-songwriter who covered a cover. His beautiful voice and sultry guitar made the song so simple and stunningly beautiful. If you haven’t figured it out, I love this song – I love Buckley’s version and I have never heard better. Because his is so raw that the lyrics just wrap around you until every breath your drew is Hallelujah.

And now, believe it or not, there are at least 300 versions.

Sometimes genius is created over night. Like Under Pressure by David Bowie and Freddie Mercury – banged out after a bender. Sometimes it years in the making. And the world is a better place for both.


10 January 2017 – Dead Poets Society

It’s been years since I’ve seen this movie.

Imagine if every public school still taught Yeats, Keats, Whitman, Browning, and Byron. I don’t know what it’s like in Australia, England, Canada, US etc but it’s not the case here (NZ).

There is something inspiring about the idea of young people gathering to share poetry, creativity and ideas. Any group of people coming to create rather than destroy is always inspiring, especially in the young and impressionable. I wonder how different my life would be if those sorts of positive influences had been around in my informative teenage years. Better or worse? My teenage years created a lot of material.

I forgot how many amazing young actors were in this film. Ethan Hawke. Gale Hansen. Yum.

I am hoping this year will encourage me to spend my time consuming media that is far more intellectually stimulating than vegging on the couch watching Gilmore Girls. I want to be the sort of person who can discuss the difference between Robert Frost or Walt Whitman, not the sort of person who can talk about Lorelai’s favourite shoes.

Today’s poem is where O Captain! comes from. Oh Captain! My Captain by Walt Whitman.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
(Walt Whitman)

9 January 2017 – Maggots and Death

It hasn’t been the most poetic of days. As I prepared to do the vacuum, I found a plastic bag full of half-decomposed sushi left by my flatmate and his friends over Christmas. To spare you the gory details, I’m going to be having maggoty dreams for months.

Speaking of death and maggots, I thought I would share you another favourite poem of mine by the master of the gruesome, Edgar Allen Poe. When I was a teenager, I fell in love with The Raven. It’s heptametre beat had me absolutely enamoured and I dreamed of being able to memorise every verse. I never got it all, but enough to sometimes crack out at parties. I’ve added it to my useless tricks. Including dancing the Charlston.

The Raven is by far his most famous work. Partly because it once starred in a Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror. For something a bit different, he’s a link to the episode (read by James Earl Jones).

However, this isn’t my favourite of his anymore. As well as being a master of horror, Poe was also gifted at writing about loss, fulfilling the age old adage “write what you know.” This poem is about two lovers unable to unite, and the eventual death of the muse, Annabel Lee.

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABELL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love –
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
       In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
So that her high-born kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
       Went envying her and me –
Yes! – that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my ANNABEL LEE.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we –
Of many far wiser than we –
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE,
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling – my darling – my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

(Edgar Allen Poe)