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

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.

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?

 

 

 

 

 

Unseen people

At the Gallery

Paintings by Kate Stevens: Scenes from an Afternoon

Gorham Art Centre Canberra, Australia

IMG_3410.JPG Landscape

Sweeping landscapes

on small canvases

Heavy oil paint

applied in thick daubs

Foreground mauve

purplish colour

Distance implied by

yellow fields

massed green trees

Big sky

light light blue

 

Just when I’m getting bored

seeing similar landscapes

the same colours

over and over again

I step away

and am captured

 

Australian pastoral landscapes

not my favourite

and yet the

sweep

space

colours of

rippling land

low rising hills

attract

 

Quietly appealing

limited colour palette

mauve

yellow

dark grey green

light blue sky

hint of fencing

daubs of black

cows with white face

Inhabited land

controlled by unseen people

IMG_3405 landscape.JPG

History Through Fiction: The Making of Martin Sparrow (part two)

I am continuing with my response to the novel The Making of Martin Sparrow and learning about history through fiction. Reading the book, I entered into the world of settlers on the Hawkesbury River in southeastern Australia at the time of the flood of 1806.

Colonies are built on dreams, but some dreams threaten ruin Martin Sparrow Cover

This was the single sentence on the first page of The Making of Martin Sparrow after the title page.

Women were only minor characters in The Making of Martin Sparrow. Evil and not so evil men dominated. Many settler men met their end through the harsh environment – wild boars, wild rivers, a prick from a platypus, or disease. Others through retribution by indigenous men, who selectively killed settlers who had massacred their people.

The ending of The Making of Martin Sparrow didn’t quite satisfy. It was a little too neat. Yet the book had to end sometime. I had to leave that time and place and return to the present day.

Here are a few samples of the beauty of the writing in The Making of Martin Sparrow about a harsh violent history of the forcible settling of Australia by convicts and their keepers.

It was almost sunset and the clouds to the north sat flat, as if on a straight edge, and they were lit bright pink on the underside and the sky beneath was the palest petal blue. (p. 297)

I’ve seen those clouds and that sky.

Or they might not find them at all and instead find Dan’s musket wedged in a tree, draped in the deathly grey of flood-borne shrubbery, the floodwaters a master of random arrangement. (p. 404)

I’ve seen shrubs, trees, stranded, washed up along the banks by rising rivers after they’ve subsided.

Just one thing can shape your whole life. (p. 423) Quiet insights in the dialogue, especially from the character Cuff, are sprinkled throughout the book. Somehow they become believable, although the reader may doubt the character’s ability to reflect.

The author, historian Peter Cochrane comments in the Afterword

The Making of Martin Sparrow is a work of fiction in which the documented past provides points of departure into an imagined world. (p. 447)

Can the reader find historical truth through fiction?

Are novels a more powerful and accessible way to learn about history and other cultures?

What do you think?

Your comments are most welcome.  Thank you.

 

Harshly Boring: The Making of Martin Sparrow

My last post was about learning history through novels. Here’s my response to a novel by an Australian historian, Peter Cochrane.

I heard a review of The Making of Martin Sparrow, on ABC Radio National here in Australia. I put in a request online at the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) public library.

That’s how I came to having a copy of The Making of Martin Sparrow. I was already reading several other books so I put it on top of a pile. A few days later, I received a reminder from the library by email. The book was due in three days!

I read The Making of Martin Sparrow as an emotional journey. When the first page had a long list of characters, I was skeptical.  I skipped over that page and started reading. Tentatively. I kept on, although the main character, Martin Sparrow, was not particularly likeable.

At one point I thought the story was harshly boring and was ready to put it aside. The writing, the odd turn of phrase, the originality kept me going, even when the narrative seemed tedious.

My perseverance was rewarded. I entered into the world of settlers on the Hawkesbury River in southeastern Australia at the time of the flood of 1806. A world dominated by male violence, drinking, whoring – not topics that usually hold my interest. There was something more shining through… patches of sunlight in a forbidding, very dark sky.

My emotional journey through The Making of Martin Sparrow continues in the next blog.

Have you read this book

What are your reactions?

The Truth of Fiction

In my previous post, I said that the posts on this blog would be about the process of researching, writing and rewriting a novel that is and is not the story of my father’s life.

Change of plan.

Instead of presenting myself as a writer, for the next few blogs, let me share some thoughts as a reader.

Some years ago, when I knew I was headed to Pakistan, I tried to read everything about Partition* through novels. Novels written by Muslims, Christians, Hindus, non-believers. Novels written from the Pakistan side, from the Indian side, from the time just before, during and after Partition.

* Note on Partition: the division of the Asian Sub-Continent by the British in 1947, which created India and Pakistan. Partition forcibly displaced over 14 million people on religious lines. The violence of Partition created hostility between India and Pakistan that continues today as an ongoing deeply felt trauma.

To find out about history, culture, values, peoples, heroes and villains of the different countries where I’ve lived and worked, I go to novels.

Why fiction? Because a different truth lies in stories where point of view is acknowledged. Readers can draw their own conclusions and think about what happened or might have happened.

Novels bring us into a different reality. That was always true for me. As a girl growing up in a rather boring Midwestern town in the USA, I read novels constantly. Even after bedtime, under the bed covers, with the aid of a flashlight. Was I trying to escape or to learn? Probably both.

Currently my reading is dominated by the place where I live, that is, Australia. I hear about books and authors interviewed on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National.

Pamela Collett RN 2

                                 This is me with my Radio National umbrella.                  Kangaroos in the background so you know this is Australia.

The next blogs will be about my reaction to books I heard about on the radio and then requested online at my local public library.

Do you think novels have more profound truth that non-fiction?

Where do you go for information about a country or culture where you may be visiting or living?

How do you find out about books you might want to read?