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, January 24, 2008

The State of the Body


Yesterday I blogged about growing up with a feeling of being disconnected from others – to the extent that a psychiatrist speculated, years later, that I might have been somewhat autistic. This morning I read Cerebral Mum's blog about trying to enrol herself at University without her glasses, and feeling disoriented, confused and – yes – disconnected. And I remembered that I was nine years old before my adults realised I needed glasses.

It hadn't shown up too much in class because I was in fact short-sighted. Even with astigmatism as well, I could read my books all right – though people did keep urging me to literally take my nose out of them! ('You'll ruin your eyes,' they kept saying, and none of us realised my eyes were crook already.) And I liked my lessons (most of them) and didn't particularly want to muck up in class, so I was happy to sit in the front where I could see the blackboard.

Outside the classroom, and outside my beloved books, it was a different story. I gained an undeserved reputation for being 'stuck up' because I couldn't see who was who until they got close, so people thought I was ignoring them on purpose. As I said yesterday, I also couldn't interpret non-verbal cues very well, and I was physically clumsy. Therefore I was pretty hopeless in social situations, which increased my withdrawal into myself and into the world of reading, ideas and daydreams.

I'm not complaining exactly – I loved that world and still do – though I'm glad I also learned to relate to people eventually. I did have a few friends back then too, and I wonder how come they persevered with me in the face of my various oddities.

But what a revelation, to realise that the whole thing very probably stemmed not from some innate mental condition but a physical one, my poor eyesight!


Today in an unfamiliar shopping centre I rounded a corner and nearly collided with a huge, fat woman. A moment later I realised I was looking at a mirror wall, and the large lady was me!

Oh dear, I knew I'd put on a bit this last year – but THAT much? Evidently so. Yes, I was wearing my glasses; no chance of seeing wrong this time.

(This is why any photos you see here are at least a year old.)

Roll on Letitia! Hmmm, perhaps 'roll' is an unfortunate choice of word. What I mean is, my pal Letitia Lee is about to make a documentary on Thinkin Trim Taut Terrific and I can hardly wait to get the benefit of her expertise on the subject. She's used this method before to become slim. This time she had to get very big again on purpose, so as to be her own main demonstration model. I didn't exactly do it on purpose myself, more by carelessness, but I'm sure going to rectify the matter very purposefully!

Now, it's not that I think fat women can't be beautiful. I know some who are downright gorgeous! Luminous skin, wonderful eyes, great hair, volutptuous curves in all the right places....

And it's not that I think old women can't be sexy. The most delicious flirt I know, adored by her male friends of all ages, is a vibrant 80. She's also a believable blonde.

Alas, the woman in the mirror was not like this. The worst was, she didn't even reflect what I like to think of as my personality. She looked tentative, even a bit scared, and I have to say there wasn't much sign of intellect.

'Poor old thing,' I would have thought, had started to think, before I saw that she was me.

Well, I am of course a Senior Citizen – but I don't FEEL elderly on the inside. How shocking that I should look it, even despite my lovely magenta-coloured hair.

Something has to be done! I'll take all the help I can get, but actually I'm the one who has to do it. See you later, folks; I'm off out for a walk.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Quest for Identity

Well, that's the name of the Spiritual Voyager card I pulled yesterday morning as my card for the day – Quest for Identity. (Spiritual Voyager cards are part of the Soul Quintessence system created by my friend and colleague Raeline Brady. Her website's under reconstruction at present, but Google her name and/or Soul Quintessence and you'll find all sorts of fascinating material.) Among other things, this card's about new understanding, and a reassessment of certain characteristics we commonly accept as being part of us.

Right on cue I received a loving email from a friend whom I know sees deeply into people – but what she saw in me surprised me.

"I want to tell you right now," she said, "what is the number 1 thing I love most about you.

"Rosemary: you are not innately have developed that...its not a gift...its something you have accomplished, I have that gift so in a way it means less...than someone who has accomplished it...thats what I admire and love most about you."

"What's she talking about?" I thought at first. "I'm a Scorpio. I feel deeply; I feel intensely."

But then I remembered. When I was in group therapy in my twenties, my psychiatrist once expressed the – admittedly tentative – opinion:

"I think you might have been a missed autistic child."

"You couldn't possibly have been!" said a woman I repeated this to, who had had experience of a child with extreme autism. But nowadays we know a little more about degrees of autism, in conditions such as Asperger's Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism.

As a child, I was awkward and physically clumsy. I was inappropriately friendly and trusting when I was very little. As I grew older, I became painfully shy and had trouble meeting people's eyes. My vocabulary was always above average, and I shone academically in the subjects I loved, but I was known as dreamy and introverted. I had trouble even noticing, let alone interpreting people's non-verbal cues, or knowing how to conduct myself in social situations. I've never been any good at small talk, and I've always needed frequent periods of solitude. All of these qualities are apparently typical of people with HFA.

And I remembered something else. I wanted to be loved. I dreamed of it, yearned for it.

Don't we all? But I experienced myself as "different", unpopular, strange – an outsider. I had no idea how to fit in and be normal. I also thought I was ugly. I fervently wanted friends, and I wanted passionately to grow up to experience romantic love.

I don't remember where I heard or read that, in order to be loved, you have to love. But I came across the idea somewhere when I was still very young, and it made a huge impact. I received it as the unquestionable truth.

The conclusion was obvious. This was what I must do. I would become a loving person. Yet even at that age I knew it would only work if I did it for real. You can't pretend love and expect that to work.

How did I do it? I can't altogether explain. I wasn't a dumb kid; I could see who had genuine warmth and kindness. I sort of checked out their energy and generated in myself energy that felt the same. I wouldn't have put it in those terms at the time; I couldn't have. I just somehow knew instinctively how to do this. And so I learned empathy. My responses to other people became more appropriate and more spontaneous.

It didn't happen overnight by any means, but I gradually became less awkward, less introverted. It took decades. It took having to support myself and hold down a job, and it took having and raising my kids. I couldn't remain in some kind of ivory tower and also perform those obligations properly. I had to look outwards and become more practical.

And it took a friend noticing about 13 years ago that I wasn't fully in my body, and telling me how to get myself there. She suggested exercises such as walking on the earth very consciously, feeling my whole foot treading on the ground. There's a definite corollary between being grounded and being fully aware of others and the feelings of others.

Now I'm officially a senior citizen, with a wealth of life experience. And I can tell you that I have been – and am – well and truly loved. No-one is more blessed in their friends! And as for romantic love ... ah, that's where the depth and intensity come in. ;)

Monday, January 14, 2008

What a Party!

The invitation came by email, and read:

Greetings Chums!!!
THIS COMING SUNDAY 13TH January from 5.30 PM you are invited to
daevid's 70TH BREATHDAY PARTY Party at EWINGSDALE HALL turn right immediately (approx 50 metres after the exit roundabout) once you have turned off towards BYRON BAY from Pacific Hwy coming from the north.
There will be yum vegie food for sale but bring: intoxicants, YOUR POETRY(for the poets open mike from 5.30-6.30 and in between acts) songs, drawings, brilliant ideas, crazy costumes, instruments, & a pal or two and kids if you like!
The line up:
5.30 poets open mike
6.30 the molotov with stefanie petrik
7.30 Kirtan & acoustic songs
8.30 Trypswych (Sound Art )
9.30 Vashuda & friends
10.30 GONG 70.
This means 1970's gong set played for the first time live in Oz with ORLANDO FURIO drums GREG (Hunter.S.Thompson 2) bass DAEVID EL ALIEN guitar GILLI SMYTH: chaoswhisper MICROCOSMIQUE additional surprise soloists. YASSS!!!
MC'd by Willie of the Zinnias!!!
Hope you can make it rain or shine!!
HUGE hugs!! LUV Y'all!!
daevid & tribes

Let me translate a little. I met Daevid Allen in 2005 through Thom the World Poet, I met Mick
("Microcosmique") last year through his wife Parvati, and knew Gilli Smyth back in Melbourne days when we were both around the poetry scene in the eighties. She was working with Daevid back then too, but I didn't get to meet him at that stage. They are wild and wonderful performance poets and "space-age rock" musicians. Daevid is part clown, part elf: sweet, clever, funny and irreverent. His energy would be amazing in anyone, let alone a man just turning 70.

I threw on my purple Goddess gown, grabbed my latest book of poems, some intoxicants of the alcoholic variety, my husband Andrew and a couple of pals, Raeline and Dan who are visiting Australia at present. Raeline's an old friend, an Aussie who's been living overseas for 12 years but gets back here now and then. This is the first time here for Dan, who lives in the Florida Keys. So far he's seen Melbourne, Sydney, and a rather wet and dreary northern New South Wales, where he did at least manage some surfing at Byron Bay a few days ago.

'Love your frock,' said a woman in jeans behind me, when we stopped to raid the ATM.

The Goddess gown

We got a bit lost on the way to the party – which allowed us all, and Dan in particular, to observe the stunningly beautiful scenery in the Byron hinterland. When we arrived, Daevid greeted us with warm hugs and shouts of, 'Hello darling, I'm so glad you could come!' Other poets I knew came up to kiss me too and tell me how good I looked. (The Dress is always a winner!) And then I couldn't wait to find Stefanie.

She's been my friend on MySpace for a while, and wrote my favourite celebratory poem about our recent Federal election. And she's off to Austin soon for the April poetry festivals, like me a couple of years ago and Bob Mud last year (he's going again this year too). Great to meet each other in person, and she promptly put me down for the open mike she was organising. Then she opened the proceedings herself with a rip-roaring number about 'Maracca Man'.

'Who's the man in the hat?' I whispered to her during the subsequent performances.
'Archie, from Nimbin,' she whispered back. I knew it! Another MySpace poet friend I was about to meet in person; great! But before that could happen, Mick (yes, the muso – also sound and lighting engineer) came and snuck me away to give him a Reiki treatment. His house was in the recent floods in Murwillumbah; the water came up to his chest and a lot of stuff was ruined, including his equipment for gigs. He was pretty stressed.

Stefanie put me on last to accommodate the Reiki, but I got back in time to hear a number of other performers, including Ghost Boy – yet another MySpace connection – who delighted us with a poem to "Your Anus".
I did two birthday poems in honour of the occasion, although not written for the occasion. Thom had sent through two by email that morning, which were written for it – one of which you can now find on the Gong website (click on News in the sidebar) – and I thought, 'I bet he wants someone to read them'. But I looked at them and saw they relied on a lot of shared history with Daevid so I didn't think I could do them justice. Instead I did these:

Birthday Poems

These two poems, Rosemary and Magic, were written in 1984 when I invited Carmel Bird to my birthday party. She recalled the time when we were children in Tasmania, and she came to my party.



If I come to your party
Will there be a cake
With green jelly
Dark green jelly
Deep pool jelly
For the frogs?
Shall we go into the summerhouse
Underneath the willow
Our smiles revealing
The gaps between our teeth?
Will the butterfly cakes
Filled with the red jelly
And the cream
Leave icing sugar dustings
On our noses?
Are we going to look
For a fairy ring?

Or has there been some alteration to the plans?

© Carmel Bird 1984

When poets have events, they tend to do it with poetry. Some time earlier, Carmel and I had been in the entourage for Melbourne poet Ken Smeaton's wedding to Marita, and recited poems onstage. I refer to that in my reply to Carmel:


For Carmel

Behind the summerhouse
under the willow,
do you remember
there was a swing?

I used to drift,
leaning against the ropes,
toes ruffling the dirt,
watching the sky through leaves.
I trailed the stems’ transparent green
around my hair and fingers.

I’ve read somewhere
that willow casts a spell:
it turns us into poets.

When you came to play
on my birthday,
did you sit in the swing?
I know you went into the summerhouse.
You must have gazed hard
at the sky through slats
and up, through curtaining fronds.

Now, when we play on stages,
it’s not for elocution, not for school.
This power, these words, are ours.

Last week, you wore white frills
and flowers in your hair.
I was dressed in glitter.
There were balloons.
We showered our audience
with rose-petals, lollies….

You ask,
if you come to my birthday this year
will there be magic?

first published Women’s Studies Journal Vol. 1, Nos. 4 & 5, Special Section on Celebration. Also published in my Secret Leopard: Selected Poems 1974-2005. Paris, Alyscamps, 2005.)

It was particularly appropriate as, in their youth, Daevid and Gilli were proteg├ęs of Robert Graves, in whose book The White Goddess I read about that property of willow.

Raeline urged me to recite my C**t poem. When some other readers came back for a second go, I asked if I could have an encore too, and Stef obligingly announced me again. It brought the house down as always, and Ghost Boy told me afterwards he thought it was an excellent response to his Anus poem. Some of the women thanked me for it, and when I finally introduced myself to Archie he told me I'd stolen the show.

Love it, love it, love it! I'm such a ham, when I actually get to do any performing I wonder why I don't make the effort to attend spoken poetry events much more often.

And then the real show started. There were some stupendous women musicians as support acts – Mohini who sings in the Beach Hotel at Byron Bay, Yashuda who is also a well-known local performance poet – and finally we heard Daevid, Gilli and crew. Their music was psychedelic and wonderful. I'd never attended a Gong concert before. I joined the swaying throng in front of the stage. Quite an experience – an alteration of the senses for sure.

"Imagine if you were stoned!" I whispered to Raeline. It was such a buzz even without that.

Driving home, I told Dan he hadn't done too badly: "You surfed at Byron, and now you've attended a hippie party and heard a Reiki Master recite obscene verse!" But he was studying an interesting car we passed, and I don't think he heard.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Meme: 2007

I stole this meme from Pomgirl.

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before?

Drove to Ballina airport.

Disbanded a coven.

Allowed the Prodigal Son to be right when he was making me wrong.

Had a book reviewed in The Smoking Poet.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for this year?

Eschewed resolutions last year.

This year – going to bed at same time as Andrew (NEARLY every night, lol); keeping in touch with family more often; turning Olga's novel into an ebook.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Birds in the neighbourhood.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Unfortunately some birds and lizards, due to my cats (who now have more efficient bell collars).

5. What countries did you visit?

Countries of the mind.

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?

An easy, peaceful relationship with the Prodigal Son. Clean carpets. Financial prosperity. Abundant book sales. New car. New Mac. Going to the movies much more often. More time with the Firstborn. Travel (to other places besides Melbourne).

7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

The whole of December: the visit of the Prodigal.

Election night: the long-awaited and resounding defeat of Dishonest John.

My birthday: dinner at Maureen and Alan's with Marg and Debbie – and loud, wild pre-election debate.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Breakthrough with the Prodigal.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not succeeding in helping my friend find his stolen wolf-dog.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing serious.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Bountiful Years, a posthumously published volume of poems by my beloved friend Joyce Lee who died in February aged 92.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Scraping by.

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

30 poems in 30 days.

The poetry of George Wallace on MySpace.

14. What song will always remind you of 2007?

Animus by Wendy Rule.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Not particularly sad, but less happy; this time last year I was ecstatic.
b) thinner or fatter?
A bit fatter.
c) richer or poorer? A bit richer.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Making poems. Reading. Going to movies. Making love.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Feeling irritated.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

Feasting at Letitia's place.

19. Did you fall in love in 2007?

All over again, even deeper, with the same people. (Yes, plural.)

20. What was your favorite TV program?

Dr Who.

21. What was the best book you read?

How does one measure 'best'? The one that made the most impact was The Active Side of Infinity by Carlos Castaneda (which made me think he must be the most important writer of our time).

22. What was your favorite film of this year?

Didn't get to many movies in 2007, and those few we did see weren't particularly memorable.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 68. Ate and argued. (See memorable dates, above.)

24. What kept you sane?

Good friends, on and off-line.

25. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Still and always Johnny Depp ... and Angelina Jolie.

26. Who did you miss?

Lorenzo after he stopped communicating.

27. Who was the best new person you met?

The Cerebral Mum – whom I met in cyberspace, on the 30 poems in 30 days project at Writer's Resource Center.

I hear it’s not cool to tag people with memes anymore, but let me know if you do it.

Being Evil

funny pictures
(some time)

moar funny pictures

Having a non-serious evening! Just discovered lolcats, courtesy of Pomgirl. Oh yes, and I've been watching DVDs of Buffy. Not that I wish to slay this vampire, lol.