8 January 2017 – When We Were Very Young

Poetry was something always in the background growing up. It wasn’t that my parents were particularly fond of it, or that I was private schooled with teachers that had us reciting Shakespeare at age 5. No, my upbringing was pretty normal – lots of running around, jumping in puddles, getting myself dirty (so I’ve been told). However, so many of the picture books I owned were not only brightly coloured, but in rhyming verse.

A particularly popular children’s book in New Zealand is Hairy Macleary from Donaldson’s Diary by Lynley Dodd. It sparked a series of wonderful books about Hairy Macleary and his friends, all in verse. The feel of the mete is just so natural to children – beating in time with the heart – ti-tum, ti-tum, ti-tum.

There are lots of poets whose best work catered to children, and who remain in the hearts of many as they grew into adults. I had copies of A. A. Milne’s (of Winnie the Pooh Fame) poetry collections. Spike Milligan, Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, T. S. Elliot and of course Dr Seus – some of the most recognisable poets wrote for children.

When I was about six, I remember having to memorise and recite The Owl and the Pussycat in front of the class. To this day, I can still recite it without a pause.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea 
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
(Edward Lear)

7 January 2017 – Midnight Poetry

Written at 12:30am (a draft)

And so it is
Our Carousel
Brightly coloured
The music loud
We step up, step up
Our expectations
Deflated and thin
Our smiles spin
With the world around
Tilting up
And down
The lights blur
We’re moving fast
But only go
So far.

(Sarah Kelly)

There is something very reflective about the wee hours of the morning. Most of your side of the world is asleep, the streets are quiet. The peace sinks into your bones and the ideas start too bubble to the surface.

Some days it’s really hard to get out of bed. This morning, I lay here looking up at the horrible 1970s stipple ceiling, smothered by the weight of the world. My heart is tight and fear hangs over the bed like a Harry Potter dementor. All the happiness is draining, and if I stay long enough, the fear will turn into numbness. Which seemed like a better feeling. With too many late nights, I hadn’t the energy to resist.

Fortunately, because of incredibly supportive friends, I was dragged out of bed by the afternoon and thrown into the sunlight. Light, fresh air, and exercise. It isn’t much, but enough for me to break the surface and come up for air.

There is a great deal of sadness in poetry. There are millions of verse written about loss, heartbreak, teenage hormones, or death. Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, W. H. Auden, Emily Dickinson, all of them have known enough sadness to write poetry that is both beautiful, and utterly depressing.

It’s unclear whether the creativity itself contributes to the mental illness, or if extreme creativity is the single ray of light in the storm – the karma for the rest of the shit we have to put up with.

6 January 2017 – Throwback Friday

I am a day late for Throwback Thursday, but I wanted to share one of my old poems.

This was written when I was about nineteen-twenty years old. It’s an interesting poem to look back on, as it seems to hint on the depression I was already starting to face at that age without really knowing it. Anyway, it’s titled Shine All You Can

Don’t be the one in the silhouette
As the sun starts to set.
Details ‘aint guessed
When staring at profiles
Faded and dim.
What used to sing, they’ll fade to nothing
You gotta be brighter than them.

Keep a shine that can dazzle
Entrance and dismantle
The ideals of any mannered man
Be the star that shines through the twilight sun
The first the children all wish upon
Be what they all wish to be.

Don’t glister with restraint
Or the loss will gleam in tears
Glimmers of love and heartbreak as frail as gossamer
Just to be brushed away.
Glister with the hope in every corner
That the dark cannot touch.

Mediocrity
A disease that plagues the dynamic
An obstacle too great for the mediocre to climb
Impeding their shine
Leaving them bowed
Like a mask, hiding a cunning smile.
Are you a star, or a cloud?

Be the moon ever present
Nothing subtle, iridescent
Blind them and they’ll forget who you were
Be the world over
Don’t be a supporter
And follow your leader
Stand in your spotlight
Your time’s right
You deserve it.
Now Shine.

(Sarah Kelly)

5 January 2017 – Here I Start

Today is day one of a belated start to a month dedicated to appreciating poetry. Expectedly, it starts off as a perfectly ordinary sort of day.

Not that I want to delay this any further, but before we get started, you may have some questions. If you are reading this, welcome. It’s lovely to have an unexpected guest. While I might be publishing these things to the public, it’s really just to hold myself to account. I didn’t expect anyone to actually read them, especially you. Why you especially? Why not?

You have stumbled across a blog about experiences. That’s what I intend for this to be about anyway. What form those experiences will take, I cannot say. It might be photos, stories, talking about books and movies I like, people I’ve seen, the music I listen to. I might show you what insignificant little bits of creativity I’ve managed to produce, or take you through the process – successes and setbacks all – it took to produce it. You might get recipes, book extracts, works of fiction by myself and others, links to things I like, recommendations of places to go. Perhaps you’ll get it all.

Whatever it is you get, it will be honest. I have a horrible habit for hiding behind white lies, but you won’t get that here. Otherwise, what would have been the point to all of this.

Your next question might be why are you reading this blog of experiences? Unfortunately, I can’t answer that. That lies with you and you alone.

Sorry, you might want to rephrase it to why am I writing this blog? That’s both an easier and harder question for me to answer. Eventually, I may get into this in greater detail, but for now I’ll (try to) keep it short.

See, I suffer from depression and anxiety. Like many millions of people. I am high-functioning, which means unless I talk about it, no one really knows what’s happening. But sometimes my mind goes into incredibly dark places where it sinks like Indiana Jones in quicksand. The more I struggle, the deeper it goes, and what little light I can see just gets further and further away. Right this very minute, I don’t feel too bad. This is partly because I’m currently on holiday and partly because writing calms my mind. But if I think about work, or focus on how people perceive me, or the path my life is currently on, there is a chance I’ll spiral.

The reason writing calms my mind is that it gives me something to focus on. Something positive. So if I have something new to focus on every month, it might give me stronger tools to fight that evil monster next time it rears its ugly head.

So I don’t want this blog to be about depression. I don’t want to focus on something so negative. But mentions will be made.

How does this benefit you? I don’t know. Completely selfishly, this is for my benefit. Shouting truths out across the void in the hope something in me will alight. We all seek a purpose, and this is about me seeking mine. Perhaps you may also feel a little lost. Maybe we could look for purpose together.

Getting to the poetry part, today I was in Christchurch’s #1 independent bookstore, Scorpio Books, as I am want to do, and stumbled across a very pretty copy of “The Poetry of Emily Dickinson.” It made me think of a poem I read by her years and years ago, back when I was a bleeding-hearted teenager, that has always stuck with me.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t in this particular collection, but I bought it anyway.

Unlike many of the other greats, Dickinson never intended for her work to be published. She wrote rough poems, scrawling notes everywhere that were gathered and put together by her family after her passing. There is something very raw about them that I have always appreciated, and that spoke to my inner emo child. Anyway, this is the poem in question:

After great pain, a formal feel comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions, “Was it He that bore,”
And “Yesterday, or Centuries before?”

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardess grown
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of lead
Remember, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

(Emily Dickinson)