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.)

Thursday, December 16, 2021

What Shall I Do Over The Holidays? (Writing-wise, that is.)

1) Put the memoir on temporary hold.

True Confession:

At a recent pre-xmas lunch with VOW (Village of Women) Writers, when I started sharing what I'd been up to with my writing – specifically re poetry – several people said enthusiastically, 'And the book!'

For a minute or two I wondered blankly, 'What book?' then remembered – oh yes, the memoir. The story of my magical-mystical life. Wow, in the space of a week or two I had forgotten all about it! How could that be? And after I'd finally got a real start on this long-promised volume, following several previous abortive attempts. Such a mental blank didn't seem to argue any great dedication to this project!

Then I realised, my writing partner in this latest attempt, bestie Helen-in-Melbourne, had gone quiet on her own memoir too. The emails with her chapters, which always excited me and inspired new ones of mine, had stopped arriving. I checked in with her, to find she's exhausted after a particularly trying year – in fact many trying years as carer for a disabled (now adult) child, and with serious health challenges of her own.

I realised I myself have a lot on my plate just now. I have some health issues too – chronic, not incapacitating, but I need to take the time to consolidate the health regime which keeps them manageable.

We agreed to let go of memoir writing during the holiday period and pick it up again next year. It may not be the kind of writing we turn to spontaneously, but it still feels like something worth doing, indeed needing to be done.

All this made me realise:

Partners and Committed Listeners Can Be Vital

When taking on a new, long-term project, having a partner is a very good idea! It keeps you up to the mark. In this case, it took me a little while to notice my partner had gone AWOL, cos I had too – but when I was reminded, I touched base with her and found out what she and I both needed at this point in order to continue with our commitment. Left to ourselves without that communication, it might have been far too easy to drift into prolonged inaction. But because we did set up this particular writing partnership, sooner or later one of us would have thought, 'Hey, what happened?' and addressed it with the other.

I also had, almost accidentally, created a panel of committed listeners – people who take on the job of supporting you in a project, noticing when something is getting in the way of it, and encouraging you when you need a boost. Of course, any writers' group one belongs to has this among other functions, even in just the friendliest way: 'How are you going with the book?'. When I decided a little while ago to share my memoir project with VOWWriters to get their feedback on excerpts, I automatically made them my committed listeners – which meant the lapse in the memoir got noticed and acted on very quickly.

2) Continue the poetry project
(ordering and submitting)

I did something similar, more intentionally, when I decided to put my poetry backlist (or backlog!) in order and start submitting things to likely publications. I announced the intention on facebook and invited my readers to take on a witnessing role, to keep me honest. A number enthusiastically volunteered. (I have the best friends!) That is enough to have me report on my progress on fb from time to time – which means I have to make the progress first. Upon which my witnesses / committed listeners rally to cheer me on!

I enjoy mucking around with poetry, so I'll keep on with this project over the holiday period.

3) Take a vacation from (most of) the poetry groups and communities

The online community of writers who blog, Poets and Storytellers United, which I coordinate along with the wonderful Magaly Guerrero and Rommy Driks, will take a couple of weeks off over the Christmas break.

My offline writing groups are vacationing too. VOWWriters aforementioned, which meets fortnightly during school term and which I officially mentor, will also have time off. We started our holidays with that pre-xmas luncheon, and are not officially due back until Jan 28th when schools here resume after what is, for Aussies, the long summer holiday – but we enjoy our meetings, so those who can will start back earlier, on the 14th.

The LitChix, a small group of mutually-supportive writers who meet on equal terms (no leader, and all teachers of each other as occasion arises) is also taking a break. We meet monthly, so this just means we miss only two meetings, in December and January.

(Other online groups I belong to, i.e. various haiku, senryu and tanka groups on fb, don't require regular commitment, so I'll no doubt go on posting and commenting there as and when I feel like it.)

4) Take on a new kind of writing / journalling

I've just re-read Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within, by Janet Conner. (San Francisco, Conari Press, 2008.) When I first bought it, I flipped through and set it aside, meaning to take it up seriously 'as soon as I had time'. OMG! That was back in 2015! In March, to be precise.
I think it's not the time I've found, so much as the need – and even more, the willingness. (The will!)

This time I read it through attentively over several days. I found a suitable notebook. I decided what kind of pen to use, and the time and place to set aside for my daily 15 minutes of talking to God – or The Universe, as I have long called that overall Source of guidance, protection and wisdom.

[I do also say 'God' when praying, and in recent times have often addressed that same energy as 'Goddess'; also have interacted with specific angels, deities and guides. But for so long 'The Universe' was Who/What I called on in times of need, and also whom I committed to serve when I was called upon – as in my usual response if asked who I worked for: 'I work for the Universe, and the pay is good.' Now that I have white hair and wrinkles, I'm rarely asked that question, but the answer remains true.]

This kind of writing is different in various ways from other kinds of journalling. I'm excited to start, and also have some trepidation. The promise is that it will change your life. The catch is that if you ask God for advice, you're really bound to follow it when received. Which might be uncomfortable!

Why would I want to do this now, at this stage of my long life, when I have known much happiness and fulfilment, and have arrived at a place of great contentment, with as much security as anyone can reasonably expect (perhaps even a little bit more than most)?

Ah but, there are those health issues. There is my tendency to self-indulgence, often satisfying but sometimes regrettable. There are some areas of stuckness and procrastination. At 82 there is concern about my future, both in this life and beyond, and particularly during the transition. There is my care for those I must eventually leave behind.

Besides, it's time I had a new adventure!


(Image by Jess Baily on Unsplash – where it's in colour.)

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Meghan and Harry: The Real Story by Lady Colin Campbell – Review


Meghan and Harry: The Real StoryMeghan and Harry: The Real Story by Lady Colin Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Her Ladyship builds a case that Meghan is a controlling, manipulative fake and Harry a besotted idiot – all the while declaring at frequent intervals how much sympathy she has for them and how she hopes to see them do well.

In some ways she is quite convincing, partly because she moves in aristocratic circles in which she has access to both facts and gossip that most of us don't. However she is fond of extremely spurious methods of argument, saying things like, 'Some people might think that ...', 'It's possible to interpret this as ...' and so on – and then, later in the book, using these speculative incidents as if they were proven fact, as the basis for saying things like, 'This is yet another example of [some piece of reprehensible behaviour or bad intentions]' or, 'As we have seen, [X] is typical.' (I'm paraphrasing from memory, not quoting exactly.)

She defends the tabloids against accusations of bias, and the British against a racist attitude to Meghan. Sorry – I became very interested in Meghan when her romance with Harry first went public, so I did a lot of research online and read everything that came up about her. In the tabloids, the poor woman couldn't take a trick. Whatever she did, it was wrong.

For instance, I bought the issue of Vogue she edited. (It wasn't distributed to Australia, but I was able to order it.) It seemed a very interesting thing for a new member of royalty to do, so I was curious. That's when I first realised that, whatever else Meghan is, she is essentially a writer – which has now been proved several times over, with other things she has authored. I might add, I consider her a very good writer.

I liked and respected what she had to say there, and other aspects of her editing of that issue. She was soon questioned as to why her own face was not included on the cover, among 'women of influence'. When she said she thought that would seem boastful, this was immediately touted in the tabloids as insulting to both Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge, who had been featured on Vogue covers. Could nobody see the obvious – that there's a vast difference between being invited to appear on a cover and putting oneself on the cover of an issue which one has oneself edited? Of course she would have been criticised for being boastful, had she done so!

I could cite many other instances of tabloid prejudice, distortion of facts and outright lying. Suffice to say that Lady CC's defence of the tabloids doesn't really hold water.

There's also the telling point that Prince Harry's two previous most serious relationships, with Chelsey Davy and Cressida Bonas, broke up (we are told) because neither young woman would continue facing the intense media scrutiny.

I certainly discerned racial undertones in much of the tabloid coverage, as well as snobbishness on the basis of class – a snobbishness which Lady CC's book is also full of. Half the time she doesn't even seem to realise she has this attitude, but it's very apparent. Perhaps someone of her background takes it all for granted. I of course, as an Australian, am one of those colonials whom she gently disparages as not really understanding British manners and mores.

Oddly enough, that very point is one of the strengths of this book. She has spent considerable time in America too, and is able to explain clearly the great differences in British and American customs and attitudes – which account in large part for the very different ways in which Meghan and Harry are perceived on different sides of the Atlantic, and also for ways in which Meghan upset and offended people in her new country without having any notion that that's what she was doing – and without such people realising she wasn't intentionally being rude and thoughtless.

I'm grateful to this author for clarifying that for me, and doing so in some detail. Otherwise I would never have guessed at some of the finer points of British (and particularly aristocratic) sensibility. It's a fascinating look at these social distinctions. Nevertheless I'm disappointed that she only pretends to be giving a fair, balanced and sympathetic point of view whilst really doing a nice little hatchet job. If I ever read Lady Colin Campbell again, I'm afraid it will now be with a fair degree of cyncism.

However, credit where it's due. It's one big mark in the book's (publisher's) favour that typos and other copy-editing mistakes are almost absent.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 23, 2021

DUPLICITY by Rajani Radhakrishnan

Rajani Radhakrishnan, whose work I first encountered online some years ago, in poetry groups we both participated in, soon became one of my favourite poets. 

Hers is not the kind of poetry I immediately love and admire, go ‘Oh yes!’ and as quickly forget. Rather it’s the kind that – while I do both love and admire it – constantly surprises me with its complexities of language and thought. Born of deep reflection as well as intense emotion, it causes me to reflect deeply too. It can be returned to repeatedly without ever growing stale.

 The blurb of her latest book, ‘duplicity’, says that it ‘examines life and love in a big city, before and during the pandemic, tracing the transformation from chaos and dissonance, hope and enticement to silences and death, loss and helplessness.’

A sombre undertaking? Undoubtedly, but the poetry is so beautifully crafted, the language so original yet accurate, I feel lifted out of myself when reading. And then, perhaps, returned to myself enhanced.

Her craft is meticulous. She is a master of enjambment, and also excels when working in form. Her cherita sequence in this book, Word Upon Brick, is particularly engaging despite its sad subject matter, and the haibun, The stories I cannot tell, is stunning. Its closing haiku is nothing short of profound – even as its message, once stated, resonates as unmistakable truth.

Much of the book is about unhappy love, but it is also very much about the experience of the pandemic. There has been a LOT of poetry written about that subject, yet she makes the known new, e.g. ‘Hope too is curfew, hovering 1.8 metres / away, masked and gloved. … This city / reverberates with the loud silence of prayer.’ from This is the time, isn’t it?  Then there are details specific to her country, India, such as, in Summer: for those who never made it home, the horrifying account of the many who tried to walk long distances to their home villages early in the pandemic, often dying along the way: ‘This / summer of mangoes, red with blood, scattered / on a highway with the luckless dead.’

She is a very clever writer, as instanced in her section titles with their play on the word city: Duplicity (as in the overall book title) and Ferocity. It’s also seen in extended metaphors, e.g a piece called This city as punctuation, using punctuation and poetic language metaphorically to describe so much more, e.g. ‘The space between your arms. The space / between possibility and semicolon. Between / being and full stop.’ Or in The lover who never arrives in which that title begins as metaphor, e.g. ‘But want is this city’s other face. … Want is the litany buildings / hum when they pretend to sleep’ and moves subtly but inevitably to being about the literal interpretation of the title – an agonising poem in the end, in closing lines which manage to be both restrained and intense.

As you may gather from the lines quoted, she is never merely clever, in a facile or attention-seeking way. It’s always in the service of the deeper message, and presenting that in a way so arresting yet right that it first shocks me into fellow-feeling and then consolidate that with its truth.

I could go on and on. Re-reading finds always more to love, admire and praise. But I’d better stop now to let you enjoy this remarkable volume for yourselves.