Poetry finds the way

Although I had to ditch Life Expectancy, the title I had chosen for the novel about my father because it was the title of a book by best-selling author Dean Koontz, I did find a title for my blog: Family and Fiction

For the blog, I decided not to use the title of the book. The blog is about the book and more… about investigation, research, reading, writing, rewriting, soul searching, self-doubt related to the book and beyond.

Discouraged about not finding a title for the book, I put it aside. Better not to think about it. Concentrate on issues at hand – an open house party for a visitor from Venezuela, helping my older son and his spouse to move from Nairobi, Kenya to Canberra, Australia, activism on climate change and for human rights for asylum seekers.

The book and the title were shoved out of sight, out of mind. Neglected, yet festering in the background, telling myself I should do it. I should continue. It had to be done. But I ignored those interior voices and kept myself busy with everyday life.

Until…Poetry finds the way.

I attended a panel at the poetry festival, Poetry on the Move, in Canberra. I brought with me a blank journal with illustrations by Ebenezer Edward Gostelow (1866-1944) that I had purchased at the National Library of Australia. I’m a sucker for buying beautiful journals as gifts. But not for myself. Easy to write on the computer when you can change it anytime but in a journal? More thought and better handwriting required.

A side journey:

Ebenezer Edward Gostelow was born in Sydney Australia in 1866. From 1889 he taught in country schools across New South Wales. As a self -taught artist and lover of Australia flora, he livened up blackboards in his classroom with captivating chalk drawings of flowers.

My journal is livened up with a drawing of a banksia on the front cover (photo) And on the inside with 10 full-page color illustrations as well as small sketches of flowering plants that pop up when least expected.

Back to the poetry festival: 

While waiting for the poets to begin a panel discussion, I sat down in the front row and read previous entries in my Australian flora decorated journal. I found quotes copied from books I had been reading, including Land Fall, a poem by Clive James and several quotes from Tim Winton, Island Home. Then a quote from a poem by Gary Snyder, Rip Rap and Cold Mountain Poems:

“Tracking the human future of intelligence and despair.”

That was it. One sentence that says what I’m trying to do in the book I’m writing.

The title found me: Tracking the Human, with a subtitle from a poem by Kenneth Patchen, Nobody’s a long time.

                         I’m on the road again… to writing, blogging, publishing….

How did you find the title for your book, short story or poem?

Your comments are welcome.  Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                               I’m on the road again… to writing, blogging, publishing….

 

Word Count: 456

Keywords: Poetry, Poetry on the Move, Canberra, Ebenezer Edward Gostelow, National Library of Australia, Banksia, Australian flora, Clive James, Tim Winton, Gary Snyder, Kenneth Patchen, Tracking the Human, Nobody’s a long time, title

Who is the Queen of Australia?

What?

You didn’t know that Australia has a queen?

Well, the Queen of Australia is not Australian.

The Queen of Australia is…..

The Queen of England…

Yes, indeed folks.

So if and when you become a naturalized citizen of Australia you are supposed to pledge allegiance to the Queen (of England). This is irksome, if you don’t believe in royalty and you do believe in social equality. Very irksome.

Australians have been trying to do something about this anomaly for some time now.

According to the book This Time by Benjamin T. Jones, “Republican voices have been heard since the early colonial days (in Australia) but they were never mainstream.” Jones documents the first Republican Campaign in Australia in 1850.

As an Australian citizen born in the USA, the fact that Australia still is NOT a republic and that the head of state is the Queen of England is almost unbelievable.   In terms of everyday life, it would seem that the Queen does not play that significant a role.

But look again, as Jones does in This Time, an easy-to-read, well-documented book about Australia’s Republican Past and Future. http://benjaminthomasjones.com/new-book-this-time-australias-republican-past-and-future/

Look again at the symbols that surround us in our everyday life in Australia.

The flag: the Union Jack is in the upper corner of the Australian flag. So what is Australian about this flag? We need a new flag. Ausflag is a non-profit organization working towards a new flag. Many beautiful and appropriate designs have been submitted to their website. Check it out at www.ausflag.com.au

Just two of many beautiful designs submitted to http://www.ausflag.com.au

Jones noted, “For many Australians, the relics of empire and monarchy are so ubiquitous that they become invisible. ” For those of us NOT born  in Australia of British background, it is quite noticeable. I already mentioned the flag, which is British rather than Australian. The coins all have the Queen of England on them, as does the five-dollar bill.

Three of the five states have British names: New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. As noted by Jones, “Every major city, and indeed most regional towns, have a central business district marked with George, Edward, Victoria and Elizabeth streets, in honour of royals past and present”. Jones asks, “What constitutional model and national symbols best represent modern Australia?”

All Australians and people interested in Australia are encouraged to read this book and think about “What does it mean to be an Australian?”

Your comments are always most welcome.  Thank you.

Reading while camping, snorkeling, hiking

So very fortunate to be able to camp at Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay, South Coast of Australia https://parksaustralia.gov.au/booderee/ during the Christmas holidays.

The campground is so beloved that those interested in camping during the holiday season (December-January) have to make a booking in August. THEN wait until September to find out if they have gotten a space.

Every day I went snorkeling (highlights included seeing a giant ray, wobbegong sharks, squid, and an octopus), hiking, and swimming in the crystal clear waters of Jervis Bay.

Reminder: December is summer in Australia

While camping, I  managed to read three books in five days

  • Small Wrongs, How we really say sorry in love, life and law by Kate Rossmanith
  • Sarah Thornhill, sequel to The Secret River by Kate Grenville
  • The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk

Small Wrongs was also about big wrongs…that is, major crimes, including murder. The book wrestled with the idea of remorse, what it is and when it happens. According to a New South Wales Judicial Commission official, “Remorse is very important for prisoners because, if they feel genuine remorse, they’re more likely to address their offending behavior and produce positive results during the various prison rehabilitation programs” ( p. 119). But what is “genuine” remorse? And who decides if it is genuine?

Sarah Thornhill is a novel about colonial Australia. The novel reveals how settlers’ massacre of Aboriginal Australians threatened the integrity of their own families despite cover-ups and lies.

The Red Haired Woman is an intriguing story of contradictions and similarities between mythical stories of Europe (Oedipus) and Iran (Shahnameh), both of which focus on violence between father and son. “There were in fact surprising parallels between Oedipus’s life and Sohrab’s. But there was one fundamental difference, too: Oedipus murdered his father while Sohrab was murdered by his father. One is a story of patricide, the other a story of filicide”. p. 141

Thanks to book reviews on Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the public library of the Australian Capital Territory for sharing these books with me.

Enjoy your reading in the coming year and forever!                    Comments most welcome.

Shell Shock

A shell is something beautiful, signifying containment, the protective hard outer layer, yet now empty.

Thus is the novel Shell by Kristina Olsson… beautiful, containing history, events, the 1960s in Australia (1960-1966), the building of the Sydney Opera House, conscription of young men sent to Vietnam, protest, sabotage and families torn apart. P1300633 Shell Front

Shell has flashing moments of insight, of great beauty that resonates, and brings the reader closer to the main character, Pearl Keogh. Her pain at separation from her brothers, who ran away from an orphanage where they were sent after the death of their mother, goes on and on. She’s lost track of her brothers and searches for them, fearful they’ll be conscripted and sent to Vietnam.

When she eventually finds her two younger brothers,  her pain somehow dissipates. They’ve changed. Their values are far apart and irreconcilable from her own. How does Pearl keep going having achieved the goal of finding her brothers, yet realizing that they are farther apart from her than ever? Her calm acceptance of the profound chasm that has opened up between them seems  implausible.

Pearl has an on and off relationship with Axel Lindquist, a Swedish artist working on glass sculpture for the Sydney Opera House. Their time together, their lovemaking, seems random and unfulfilled. Some of the most powerful writing in Shell is of soliloquys when each of them is delving into the loss, pain, guilt and shame of their individual lives.

Each character seems to live inside her or his own shell. They don’t quite make contact with others, P1300635 Shell back .jpgincluding family members. Letters between Axel and his mother, who is in Sweden, does portray some warmth in their relationship, but it is at a distance.

Considerable time is taken up in the book regarding the process of glassmaking, which could be a metaphor for their lives and the interrupted process of the construction of the Sydney Opera House.

Shell is a book to admire, to turn over in your mind as you would a beautiful shell in your hand and yet wonder what is missing.

A beautifully written book that somehow disappoints.

 

 

 

Compulsion

I never think of

my  city

my country

As if I own it

I think

I’m here, now

When asked

 Where are you from?

I answer

wherever I’m currently living

– Narrabundah (Australia)

– Nairobi (Kenya)

 No, but where are you really from?

As if that will “place” me

confine me

describe me

 Do I detect a U.S. accent?

 Where are you from in the U.S.?

My (unspoken) reply:

 How much time do you have?

 Do you really want to know my life story?

 All the places I’ve lived and worked

 Is this my identity?

The Hate Race

The Hate Race

By Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Hate Race

 

Contrary to the title of the book,

a story full of love

for family

for friends

for acceptance in the face of hate.

 

Does hate exist permanently?

Is it cast in stone for ever more?

Even a stone can be worn down

over time

with the right conditions.

 

Reading The Hate Race

the reader becomes more aware

more in tune

with people around them.

Aware that words do hurt

chip chip chipping away

at a person’s sense of self until

someone is left shattered

bits and pieces in a pile.

We must open up our hearts and minds

accept ourselves and others

and win

The Hate Race.

 

Have you read books that gave you insight into another person’s suffering?

 

Do you think books can help create empathy?

Brutal honesty: One Hundred Years of Dirt

Response after reading: One Hundred Years of Dirt By Rick Morton

I am not born in Australia.

I am not gay.

I am not male.

I am not a journo.

I did not grow up on a property in western Queensland, Australia.

I have mild anxiety attacks but usually keep going.

When depressed, I get into bed and cry.

I am trying to renew my extended family through writing a novel about my father.

I am trying to be a steadfast supportive mother.

 

My reaction to this book?

No words.

This book is so courageous.

How can anyone write about his inner self with such honesty and power?

 

100 Years of DirtI heard something about One Hundred Years of Dirt on ABC Radio National. I don’t remember what. I picked up a copy at my public library. I put it on my stack of to-be-read books on the floor in a corner of my bedroom.

Whoops. An email reminder from the public library. I had only four days to read One Hundred Years of Dirt. I read it in three. The power of this book with all its exposed pain, lifted me out of a depression and back into writing. Thanks Rick.

Spoiler alert:

This book is NOT about living on a property in Western Queensland.

Dear Reader,

What books have had a powerful emotional impact on you?

Have you ever been amazed that someone could write with brutal honesty?