Archive for the ‘being a poet’ Category

I’ve just read Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, which suggests that creativity can be stimulated, rather than handicapped, by highly structured formats.

‘ … look at poets, who often rely on literary forms with strict requirements, such as haikus and sonnets. At first glance, this writing method makes little sense, since the creative act then becomes much more difficult. Instead of composing freely, poets frustrate themselves with structural constraints.

But that is precisely the point. Unless poets are stumped by the form, unless they are forced to look beyond the obvious associations, they’ll never invent an original line. They’ll be stuck with clichés and conventions, with predictable adjectives and boring verbs. And this is why poetic forms are so important. When a poet needs to find a rhyming word with exactly three syllables or an adjective that fits an iambic scheme, he ends up uncovering all sorts of unexpected connections; the difficulty of the task accelerates the insight process. ‘

The following two posts embrace the constraints of the 5-7-5 syllable Hiaku and then 14 line, 10 syllable, iambic pentameter – Google it-  sonnet.

The following Hiakus are by Canberra poet, Ralph Sedgley.



On Julbup water

                  Two ducks on Julbup

                           leave converging trails, sparkling

                   in the winter light.




 The heron

Through outgoing tide

a heron stares intently;

alder leaves drift by.




Pelican lovers

                        Two pelicans

                                      slowly spiraling upwards,

                                     soaring above the city heat.

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A good poem for me has to slip under my skin and inhabit my being. Here is a poltergeist poem that has set up residence in my conscious mind and keeps rustling through and disturbing my thoughts when least expected.  Its range from statistics to thermodynamics is broad. But such matters are inconsequential compared with the theme of this poem, which stretches beyond the universe and outside of time.

This extract from the book Generosity by Richard Powers is an embedded poem of polestar brilliance. (As quoted in The Australian 19/12/09 Book Review Geordie Williamson)

Art is a way of saying what it means to be alive,

and the most salient feature of existence

are the unthinkable odds against it.

For every way there is of being here,

there are an infinity of ways of not being here.

Historical accident snuffs out whole universes

with every clock tick.

Statistics declare us ridiculous.

Thermodynamics prohibits us.

Life, by any reasonable measure, is impossible,

and my life – this, here now –

infinitely more so.

Art is a way of saying,

in the face of all that impossibility,

just how worth celebrating it is

to be able to say anything at all.

Richard Powers

Richard Powers is the author of ten novels, including Galatea 2.2 and The Echo Maker , Generosity. His writing often combines fiction with the themes of historical events or, as with his latest book, scientific developments. He has received numerous honors and awards including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Historical Fiction. He lives in Illinois. (Photo credit:Lorenzo Ciniglio. Books can be purchased through Richard Powers website.)

Generosity (Atlantic 2009)

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Motherlode: Australian Women’s Poetry, 1986 – 2008 edited by Jennifer Harrison & Kate Waterhouse will be launched @ Daltons Books 54 Marcus Clarke St Canberra City on Saturday 12th September, 2.30pm.


Motherlode can also be ordered from publisher Puncher & Wattmann   #mce_temp_url#

Anthologies by nature must have a great many voices trying at times to out shout one another or combine in a mesmerizing chorus. I haven’t managed to get my hands on Motherlode yet… but here is a poem from Motherlode by Jane Gibian. This poem could be loaded, ambiguous. Is this domestic bliss or captivity, love or resentment? Writers will, of course, read their own lives into the poem. Writing steals time. Writing steals you away from your lover. The writing (not the writer) can be resented and this resentment appears in the writing.



As I write
My mother told me always
keep your own bank account —
I called it my running away
account — I can’t standaussie bush
his footsteps in the house
as I work; I have to walk
out into the fields where
ghosts from the goldmine shafts
hover amongst the weeds —
back then I was stronger;
with my first I went into labour
on the mountain slope,
and finished rounding up
the cattle — but he’s very good,
gets his own breakfast
and all — yet sometimes
I can’t breathe when his
thoughts drift through me
as I write —




Sydney poet Jane Gibian’s work offers emotional depth free of pretension or affectation, dry humour, a quick and sharp wit, and an equally sharp and poised eye for detail. You can find more of her poems #mce_temp_url#

PIc Matildashiela Photostream: #mce_temp_url#




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On Popular Poetry by Kerry Cue  Review The Weekend Australian 27th Dec 2008

    Poets of Australia you are letting us, the general public, down. You can, of course, write whatever you bloody well choose to write in your poems with or without full stops, capital letters or verbs. You can take your inspiration from Keats, kestrels and cathedrals or expose your post-modernist angst with some poetic self-flagellation.  No problem. I’m not here to tell you what to write. I am here to tell you what we, the general public, need with regards to poetry. You must have noticed. We actually do need poetry in our lives.pop-poet

         We read poetry at the great ceremonial moments in life such as weddings or funerals. The sad truth, however, is that most of the poets we choose to read out loud at social gatherings are dead. Khalil Gibran kicked the bucket, metaphorically speaking, over 75 years ago; while the Sufi poet Rumi has been dead for centuries. Moreover, when couples choose poetry for their weddings they often turn their backs on contemporary poets and call on the likes of an Apache Poem written, possibly, by a nameless Hollywood script writer for a B-grade Western. What’s going on?

         Some of you would insist that poetry is not a service industry. Too true.  Yet despite the sweat and labour you put into your word-smithing few want to read what you write. You are producing a one-legged table. There are those who would appreciate the magnificence of your craftsmanship but few know what to do with it. As a consequence publishers have lost interest in printing poetry – You try and sell a one-legged table- and those few newspapers and magazines that publish poetry stow it in small spaces in tight corners.

         Moreover, many poets who write for magazines and newspapers seem to have no idea that a poem is published in such a journal for the purposes of being read by the general public. Some poems seem to have been slung together from the clues from the cryptic crossword. Others read like a sheet of newspaper wrapping itself around your face in a strong wind. The poem arrives suddenly, you struggle with it and before you can get hold of it, it‘s gone. Then there are the poets, who seem to be speaking to someone standing behind you, their worthy thoughts flying over your shoulder to some bespectacled academic who stands there nodding knowingly and taking notes. Who has the time to read a poem that has to be sedated and strapped to a table so the meaning can extracted like a tooth by a cold-hearted professor? (Just a little tribute to Billy Collins.) We, the general public, want immediate access to a poem that speaks directly to us.

         We know this is possible because Auden’s poem ‘Stop all the clocks, Cut off the Telephone’ read at the funeral in the film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ kick-started a poetry revival in the UK. This is not surprising. The poem is a raw outcry of grief and grief is a very common emotion. More significantly, neuroscience can now tell us why this poem stands like a poetic monolith rising above the post-modern literary fog. During our long walk through time evolution left its imprint in our brain. At the bottom of your skull is your reptile brain ticking-over basic functions. On top of it sits your mammal brain. This survival brain generates all emotional responses. Wrapped over these chunks of evolution is the human brain, Left and Right.  But your emotional brain is not conscious. You cannot tell yourself to ‘cheer up’ or ‘stop worrying’ because your chatty human brain is talking to ‘an animal’ but you know this already. You know you cannot pluck happiness out of the air nor will away your worries.

        We are, however, visual creatures. You can access your emotional brain through pictures, through pictorial language and Auden was a master of this craft producing exquisite and useful goods. Your Right brain thinks in pictures and therefore understands parables, myths, proverbs, fables and allegories. These tales often reflect a complex duality. The Hare and the Tortoise, ‘Don’t cry over spilt milk’, the Greek myth of the youth Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection in a stream are a part of the inherited wisdom of this side of our consciousness that stretches back through the vast shadow of history to long ago, when human thought was simply a handprint on a cave wall.

        Your Left brain doesn’t get metaphors. It ‘does its best’ while your Right brain ‘reaches for the stars’. Your Left brain uses language directly to label and sort your world and it can trap your emotional thinking. Pictorial language can, however, free you from pacing, up and down, in the cage of your own logical thoughts. The right words delivered at the right time can change your life. This, poets of Australia, is what we the general public need, poems that can change lives.  

         Surely some of you could write poems specifically for those in need.  I’ve coined the phrase Jailbreak Prose to describe pictorial language used to free thinking from logics cage. I wrote this piece for anyone who has suffered emotional or physical abuse. It’s based on the psychology of mindfulness (Rumi could have been a psychologist!) whereby you do not fight a harrowing memory but allow it to pass through your consciousness without a struggle. I call it:

 Moving On.

You cannot harm me

You are a fading shadow

In a thin film of memory

And I am strong.


You cannot pull me into the past

And hold me there

The skin you touched

I have shed

Now it is dust

And I am whole


You cannot cut me with your lies

These words echo in an empty room of past memories

I live elsewhere

You are a scrap of paper

Blown into my consciousness by the winds of thought

I pick it up and look at you

I scrunch it up and throw you away

And move on.


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