Rosemary Nissen-Wade: Aussie poet and teacher of metaphysics – a personal view
My bestie nicknamed me SnakyPoet on her blog, and I liked it. (It began as
'the poet of the serpentine Northern Rivers' and became more and more abbreviated.)
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Sunday, October 01, 2023

Death of a Poet and Humanitarian



It takes me an hour after waking

to remember last night’s news. 

In that time I hugged the cat,

had breakfast, read a new chapter

of the current novel, reviewed

my shopping list in my head,

worked out what day of the week this is …

and suddenly, somehow, memory

rises like a sudden spectre – 

oh no, Allan’s dead. 

Last night I cried, sent messages 

to a few people who would want 

(and not want) to know, lit a candle, 

spoke a prayer, removed

his photo from my healing grid …

‘Death is the greatest healer,’

my Reiki Master always said.  

There is nowhere else to go

with this. Perhaps I’ll re-read

his poems – again – or perhaps

not just yet. There's a day to encounter;

ordinary, practical things to be done.

I'd looked forward to showing him 

the two books, so soon to be released,

in which he features. At least 

he knew they were happening. 

‘He wanted to go

swiftly when it was time,’

his friend told me, ‘and he did.’


© Rosemary Nissen-Wade 2023

When I wrote my memoir* about running poetry workshops in Pentridge Prison back in the eighties, I didn’t identify particular prisoners I mentioned, but used labels such as ‘Tallest’ and ‘Youngest’ in order to protect their privacy. (Not that I had anything bad to say about them. My experience of them and with them was one of friendship and respect.)

One man I called ‘Mr Outstanding,’ because the visiting poets agreed that his powerful work was the most outstanding of all the amazing poetry being written there. He was finally freed many years ago, and since then has quietly done much good in the world, e.g. working to help the homeless and the disadvantaged.

One of the visiting poets who formed a friendship with this man, and kept in close touch with him all these years since, emailed me a few days ago to tell me he had just died, in hospital after a fall. He was 68 years old.

So I can tell you now (what readers of my memoir who were involved in those prison visits will easily guess) that he was Allan Eric Martin, whose book, Spitting Out Sixpenny, was published in 1984. He also had poems in various literary magazines, notably Overland. 

A serious poet with a true vocation, he was happy to give me permission to republish his particular poems in a new edition of Blood from Stone, the prison anthology first published in 1982 under my then imprint, Abalone Press. In his private life he was indeed a very private person, but he was happy to be known through his honest and revealing poetry.

We who liked and admired him are sad now.

I had been so looking forward to sending him the new edition of Blood from Stone, as well as my memoir and spin-off chapbook which are to be released simultaneously. I try to console myself with the thought that it would have been painful for him to revisit those difficult times. (A last-minute delay in the printing of the memoir is the only reason he didn't already have the books. The progress of this whole project has seemed blessed by the Universe; perhaps I may trust that this apparent glitch just at this time has been for the best too.)

Despite his earlier problems and mistakes, for most of Allan's life he was a man of great integrity.

Breaking Into Pentridge Prison: Memories of Darkness and Light, to be launched in November 2023, along with the prison poetry anthology Blood from Stone (2nd ed.) and the chapbook Letters to a Dead Man.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

The Vegan Adventure

 I decided to go Vegan a few weeks ago. I've been almost vegetarian, or mostly vegetarian, for years and years. A friend directed me to a YouTube video showing that even vegetarianism can involve cruelty to other creatures, and that did it.

Here is my update on this new adventure:

Update on The Vegan Adventure. 

I’m still in transition. Had some non-vegan food in the house (eggs, cheese …) and I can’t afford to waste food I’ve bought – though I did give some away, which I couldn’t contemplate the thought of any more. 

I’ve been using oat milk and Nuttelex for years (Nuttelex actually for decades) just as a preference, so that’s no problem.

Fake cheese is nearly as awful to my taste as fake meat (which I consider HORRIBLE). I’d rather go without.

Coconut yoghurt, though, is lovely!

So is vegan chocolate.

Vegan biscuits and chips and such are all right too.

I get my honey in big jars from the Bray Park servo. It’s produced by a Euengella couple, not by any of the big commercial companies. Google shows their product listed alongside items from organic growers in the region. So I am telling myself that it’s probably all right and doesn’t involve cruelty to bees.

I’m not mad keen on the taste of the vegan bread which was recommended. Toasted, it’s bearable. But I’ve discovered, to my joy, that Burgen rye bread, a dark rye which has been my favourite bread for decades, is vegan.

My doctor said the diet is liable to make me gassy. Yes, I have noticed! But he also said it’s OK to take charcoal tablets for flatulence, and if I only have a couple a day there won’t be any of the nasty side-effects the internet warns about.

Research tells me that the vegan foods which contain protein also contain iron. Good to know!

I’m surprised to note I’m not missing the animal products. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O'Neal

When We Believed in Mermaids
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The most beautiful book I’ve read in a long time

The plot and characters are engaging, and she delves deep into the human heart … but what really captivated me was the beauty of the writing. She makes it seem effortless, but I’m sure it’s not. I was unaware of this author before finding this book. I see she has written a number of others and is described in a way that suggests she has won many awards for them. I don’t wonder at that, and I plan to read everything else she’s ever written. This one was un-put-down-able, not for things like suspense and excitement, though it had those qualities among others - but because it was such a beautiful read that I couldn’t bear to stop.