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.)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Loss of Illusion

Only a little while ago it seemed that my friend was living a fairytale. She is a being of joy, sensuality, courage and sweetness, so it seemed only right and natural that she should experience such a thing. It seemed that, for her, fairytales could come true.

Alas, no.  Her husband announces on a social networking site that he is single again and ‘ready to party’. I could kill him. She is in his country, far from her homeland, with two young children, one still a baby. She is dependent on the kindness of friends and even strangers, as he is not supporting them financially. She says she is moving around, so I gather she is homeless and staying with different people for short periods. Fortunately there are already many there who love her. She is touched and amazed by that.

I don’t know the story and she is not saying anything against him except that things ‘got nasty‘ — ‘things’, not ‘he’ — and that the relationship is obviously over.  There are two sides to every story, it is said. I don’t care; regardless, I’m on her side. We have been friends for some years. We met through poetry. It’s as good a way as any to get to know a person.

I remember how delighted I was for her when the fairytale began. Only one thing gave me pause. I looked at the photos her handsome husband posted at his profile and thought, ‘This is a very vain man.’ It wasn’t just that he is extraordinarily good-looking, so much as the way that he posed himself: romantically, like a model or a movie star, often near-naked — lots and lots of photos displaying, narcissistically, his undoubted beauty of face and form.

But then, there were also happy photos of their small family. And he appeared to be as clever and talented as my friend, and as interested as she is in both spiritual development and the arts. I told myself not to be judgmental on the basis of one foible when they had so many other things in common. Surely they were soul-mates.

And at first she did sound blissfully happy, enjoying her new life and soon new motherhood as well. I rejoiced for her.

In a way I do now, too — not for her sorrow and practical challenges, but because it is better to be free of illusion. She has always been able to look deep, confront whatever is there, and express it honestly. She is both strong and humble. I believe these qualities will get her through, and pray that it shall be so.

Friday, July 09, 2010

TEXAS POETRY TOUR: Lamesa, West Texas

On April 28th 2006, I emailed Andrew asking him to send Reiki to Thom and me for our coughs, and to Forrest Fest, Lamesa for joy and success of the Festval. Forrest Fest is an arts festival, featuring music, poetry and visual arts, started in 2000 by Connie Williams who is herself talented in all those art forms. An extra source of excitement for me was that Connie had invited me to participate in a Beltane ritual with local witches. 

'No sweat,' replied Andrew.  'Sent Reiki all last night to you.  Will send to you both today.'

I replied:

Great, thank you. Did OK at ritual, need voice for poems especially Saturday.

Last night at Austin saddish. Cafe Caffeine had no audience, but my dear Rhie (22-yr-old performance poet) came just to say goodbye, taking time off work, and we exchanged email addresses. She read from Ginsberg, great stuff. Neil also came to say goodbye; we sat and yarned. Then Thom and I drove from 10pm to 4.30am, me staying awake to keep him awake.

Here we are in the desert with great people.

May be able to email briefly more often. Home so soon now!!!!

These are my kinda witches here; we muddled around a bit, laughed a lot, improvised, changed the plans made over many months, spoke well — and raised power. When we invoked the wind, it roared. At the end, a coyote howled.

On April 30th I said: 

Hi darlin'

We just finished Forrest Fest. I am sitting in a loungeroom full of featured poets sitting around drinking (mostly soft) and chatting, at Connie's, where we all came back to. Thom's going to drive to Austin tonight to be back for Neil's birthday party tomorrow.

I won the anthology poetry contest, prize $100. I met more wonderful people, new friends for life. Amazing contact with a highly psychic couple. Heard great poems and music. This morning at Connie's request I conducted the tree dedication/blessing. Everyone said how beautifully I spoke. This surprised me; I just said what came. We danced around the tree (globe willow sapling) afterwards.

The people here at Lamesa (pronounced Lameesa by the locals) are very down to earth; suits my Aussie soul – as I told 'em from the stage tonight. I am sad in some ways to be leaving soon.

Clarence (witch/poet) suggested they should keep me here and not let me go. Instead, he and his wife will come to plane Monday to see me off.

I did an amazing psychic reading yesterday for Tony, the 'cowboy poet' and came up with astonishing shared past life!!! And he already knew about it!

The world is full of wonders. I was so definitely meant to be here, in so many ways. Not all clear yet. Psychic poet today (Alan) says it will all come clear shortly after I go home.

Looking forward to seeing you and friends. But I am different.

I gave away my old Voyager deck and got new one, while still in Austin.

My hair is growing a bit long and is faded ginger now. I bought elastic sided lace-up boots today for $2 at garage sale. The bug is getting better slowly; I managed to go on and be great, and snuffling and coughing rest of time (Thom same).

Getting back to party now. Luv ya

and later:

Party over some time ago, luvverly music was played. (Romantic, and my mind wandered pleasantly to you!) Connie & Tony & I bin sitting around yarning, v. ready for bed now. Some poets/musos staying at motel may come for breakfast here tomorrow.

I am very happy here – not on the ecstatic high of Austin area, more down-home. My glamour has pretty much gone, and it doesn't matter, these are down to earth people and I love 'em. Well of course, this is a small town and not a city, so I would be at home here.

Again I have made friends for life, soul brothers and sisters.

Night-night, see you soon.



Connie and I had been corresponding by email before I left Australia, thanks to Thom putting us in touch, and already 'clicked'. We really felt like soul-sisters when we found out we'd both dyed our hair deep red in the same week.

Her home had several extra bedrooms; Thom and Tony and I were all staying there. It was luxuriously comfortable, and her computer was always on and available for her guests to send emails, and her kitchen table laden with all kinds of hearty, help-yourself food.

In person I discovered her to be a tiny, dynamic woman: warm, down-to-earth and very talented. She had a degree in music, played guitar, sang, and even wrote her own songs as well as being a wonderful poet.

The first morning of Forrest Fest, Connie, Thom and Tony left early to entertain people in an old folks' home. Not being the least bit musical myself, I slept in instead, which I very much needed after our long ride across Texas to get there.

That evening we did our thing in a local café, to the bemusement of some of the locals and the enthusiasm of most. By then we were joined by several other poets from Austin and San Antonio, such as Rod Stryker, Philip, 'Hippie Rick', and musician-poets Kathleen Romana of La Tazza Fresca, Fred Williams, Paula Held and Steve Brooks. Paula's voice in particular was hauntingly beautiful; I could have listened forever.

The park where we held the tree planting coincided with a gathering of people dressed up in medieval garb. We went to say hello to them afterwards and admire their costumes.


The night at Ruta Maya was two events in one. There was a reading inside the large cafe space. I put my name down and got a spot in the 'open section', but mainly I enjoyed hearing another group of excelent poets I hadn't encountered before. One man, Maslow, read a poem about lovemaking which I thought every man who doesn't know how to please a woman should read! I asked him for a copy. He emailed me one after I returned to Australia, and I reciprocated with my famous C*** poem.

After the reading ended, Thom took me out to the veranda, where a group of musos improvised enthusiastically late into the night. Thom improvised poetry against this background; a young woman danced. I was so carried away with it all that at one point I actuallly leapt into the circle and improvised four lines — after which, being me, I sat down and wrote them out. I wandered off by myself to do so, and caught myself feeling melancholy. Suddenly I had had enough of being in a city. I shook it off, went back to the musos, and sat and 'drummed' vigorously all night, tapping my fingers on the tops of my legs and pounding my heels on the floor.

Improv at Ruta Maya
with Thom and musicians, April 25 2006

Poetry pours from his pores.
On the veranda at Ruta Maya
he shouts it out with the music.
I can’t hear particular words,
only a wall of sound, the beat
of drums and guitars. I jump
into the circle, jig and yell
my sudden homesick longing
to be away from the city, any
city, even Austin where poetry
dances at night accompanied
by fast, insistent music. Then I sit
next to a drummer I know and
clap my hands and click my heels
all night in a rhythmic trance.
A girl of sinuous grace enters the
pounding ring of sound, performs
intricate visual poems of dance
and flowing gesture. Sometimes
one or another man, drawn in
to the pull of her rhythms, joins
to partner her briefly, then retires.
She alone sustains the weaving forms.
The music too never stops, though
this musician or that may pause
for a moment’s rest. Thom smiles
and shakes his rattles, watching
it all, perceiving macrocosm
(‘She is the poetry’) and microcosm:
a path needed for a wheelchair here,
a drummer there growing tired,
a new young guitarist to welcome.
And every so often he leaps up,
joins the circle, dances with his hands
and shouts his spontaneous poetry.


I write the date of these events,
subtitling the poem, and see
it was Anzac Day at home. Far 
from home, I spared no thought
for wars and heroes, old or new.
It was air and forest, light and ocean
I missed … as now I miss the joy
of the strong, never-failing beat,
that family of laughing musos
whose warmth included me,
at Ruta Maya in Austin, Texas,
on a soft, unsettling night
in the middle of Spring.


On the 25 of April 2006 I was surprised to receive the following email from Andrew:

Dearest Rosemary,

I apologise for my last email.  Maybe it was because of Anzac Day. Also yesterday I found myself under psychic attack twice.  And it all got the better of me.  And my computer clock is up the creek.  It's actually 6.20am. I'm fine today. Have a great Beltane Ritual and Forrest Fest.


I responded:

Have no idea what yr last said, as it is no longer in my inbox. They only stay coupla days and I have not been able to log on since Thursday. Am now at Neil and Dorsey's briefly, having had opportunity to do session 2 of Voice Dialogue, and begged use of the spare Mac laptop — before going on to open mic at The Hideout tonight.

Glad you are fine now.

SLIGHTLY LATER: Had another look, found the previous after all. Oh dear, I am sure it must be hard for you. I am over here having all the fun!  Won't be long now, luv u too, heaps n heaps. And despite the fun starting to feel a wee bit homesick.

But anyway, must seize chance to tell you all about Festival. Yet more skiting!!!

As you know I was one of the featured poets selected to perform at Opening Ceremony, an audience of renowned poets — rather different from the venues around town. I was on early — with The Dress, naturally. I was SO nervous, and nearly fluffed lines coupla times in the Down Under poem (which I will send copies of to people when I get back).

Most of the audience was listening expressionlessly but attentively. Scary! Only one guy was killing himself laughing (silently), and my few pals there — e.g. Neil, Patricia, Christine, and Patricia's friend Agnes Meadows, featured poet from London — were beaming love and encouragement, but otherwise I couldn't tell how I was going.

I followed it with Vagabond and The Goddess Without (we only got a 5 min sample reading each). Luckily all got great applause. Neil came up after and said, 'You did good!' and Rod Stryker, my host at one of the San Antonio readings, clapped my arm approvingly.

But I really did not know how I had gone — in fact knew it was my worst performance so far — until next morning when Anne and Sally from Kerrville picked me up and went to the registration venue, and a man sitting there told me had written about me on his blog that morning. I asked what he had said, and he told me, 'Oh just that you were the highlight of the Opening Ceremony.' (Not to mention this GORGEOUS — and very young — black slam poet, male of course, who said, 'Hey, dahlin', where you reading next?' Ooh, instant melt!) And all through the Festival various renowned poets expressed delight in my work and/or regret they had not been able to hear more — as after the Opening, venues were scattered all over town at same time and we could not all get to hear everyone else.

After the Opening, Patricia and I and her guest Agnes were all on at a bookshop — and it went very late and was tiring ... and a few more people of all ages and genders fell in love with me. One old man said he had the title of his next poem about me, something about bodaceous bazooms!

To return to Opening Ceremony, a well-known woman musician-poet around town who was introduced to me there, said, 'Oh, Rosemary — you're a legend! Welcome back to Texas.' I said, 'It's my first visit,' and she said that she had heard so much about me and read my name so often that it felt as if I was already part of the Austin family for a long time.

I moved into the Austin Motel a few days as guest of the Festival — very small room after the luxury I've been used to, and I moved back to house-siting Patricia's friend Kate's place Saturday night, more convenient for Patricia to drive me around Sunday (yesterday). But the resaurant next to motel was real good, authentic Mexican which I like so much better than Tex Mex. Great to see Anne and Sally, who took me about on Friday, and Anne and I read together at The Hideout that afternoon as part of the Festival. It was a most exciting reading, some great poetry. I am also outrageous in audience, and stamp and whoop and yell for the good ones, and clap till my hands hurt.

(Just had phone call with you — so great! Glad you rang.)

I found out a while back that witches in Texas do wear their pentacles, and in Austin often visibly, so went and got one — silver, very good price, smaller than the one I left home, and I love it and wear it all the time now, and all the witches around the place (many of them poets) are delighted. Agnes is another. She says The Dress is a Hogwarts gown!

She is a wonderful, bawdy, witty lady who writes great poetry. Patrcia kept saying, 'You'll love Agnes!' I didn't know the half of it. We have chummed up like mad, and she wants me to go to England next and be part of her women writers' network. She didn't join me in Kate's house though as she wanted to be in with Patrica, her great pal for years. Suits me; I like the place to myself, and they are close enough, just across the lawn. We three wicked women together are dangerous, I tell ya! Well, would be except the others have been fairly ill with coughs, Reiki only relieving symptoms temporarily.

They drove me about on Saturday and Agnes and I read at same venue in the arvo. Evening, there was a reception, with the three biggest stars reading. Apart from The Dress, the most successful clothes have been the pieces I got from Ariba. In fact everything I brought has been good, and The Coat of The Dress very versatile. The hair has faded to auburn — very pretty actually. The shampoo Parvati sold me refreshes it when needed and it is still magenta enough to work with poems referring to it. So on this occasion I opted for quietly elegant glamour!

Anyway, one big star was Russian born Ilya Kaminsky, both sweet boy and unique, brilliant poet. I bought his book; he said, 'You're the one who made that wonderful rhyme we've all been talking about.' (vestibule/festival, from the Down Under poem). Now that is high praise! My cup runneth over.

Another nice man was Eddie Tay from Singapore whom I met first of all as I registered. Oh and so many other people; I have lots of email addresses. I particularly bonded with Marian Haddad, very beautiful woman and beautiful poet, Arab-American, living in San Antonio. She writes a lot of woman-centred stuff so of course liked my work, as I hers.

I left out account of Poets' Forum on Saturday arvo before our reading. Five of the big stars discussing a quote from Brecht which implied we should be writing about issues rather than pretty things about trees. All spoke well. When audience comments/questions were called for, I was first up and pointed out that trees are an issue now and how guilty I feel about paper, and asked if they had any ideas, e.g. should we all go to computer only. Most panellists said how they love books; the Chinese lady, Zhang Er, said in China they make paper from grass, which excited me, but later she told me it is not very good quality paper.

One way and another I have become repoliticised as a poet via this Festival; so much discussion of what we as poets might do to help our troubled planet. And so many great political poems aired!
I withdrew from the Dead Poets' Slam Friday night, just did not feel easy about presenting Michael Dransfield's work in that context. Nancy (organiser) eventually said, 'It's meant to be fun, not torture' and accepted my withdrawal — which freed me to go off that evening and play with some witches (non-poets) of which more another time. Patricia sent Rod Stryker to pick me up at motel Saturday morning to get me to a venue she was hosting, poetry and music. I got to just listen, and it was beautiful.

Sorry I am getting this all out of order.

Back to Reception. After the readings it was eat, drink and mingle. An arm came around me, and it was Anne Schneider, teary and saying a final goodbye. Had great time with her and Sally Friday; had gone to Reception mainly in hope of seeing her but didn't until just then. They were not staying for the Sunday poetry brunch, so that was it. I was sad too, despite knowing we'll be in touch for life. It's not the same.

The poetry brunch was not like it sounded — was a reading upstairs of cafe, no food provided, we had to order our own. Staff (volunteers) not properly informed, and snowed under. It worked out in the end. Agnes was reading. She asked at one point did we want sex, trees or anti-war. People dithered and muttered coupla minutes, till this Aussie larrikin at the back of the room put her hands to the sides of her mouth and yelled, 'SEX!' Everyone looked around and laughed; it was what they had all been wanting to say.

At the end, I was sitting with coupla middle-aged men outside waiting for my lift. They were discussing whether another bloke was going to succeed in chatting up this gorgeous young woman poet, whom many men had been trying to chat up. I had seen her Thurs. night with very nice boyfriend, and had given her some discreet mentoring on not apologising for her verses when reading. So what happens? She flies downstairs, falls into my arms and begs to know where I'm reading next. (Have I got it or have I got it?!) Then I get to hug goodbye the rather nice bloke who was hoping to chat her up, on the grounds of being an older woman who can be allowed such familiarities!

My lift I was waiting for was this lovely Reiki Master who took me off to participate in Reiki shares. Different way of working, but luvverly. Just what I needed by then. I got great foot massage too!
Sunday night (last night) party at Patricia's — Thom and Wendy, Christine, Neil, Patricia's neighbour Kathleen, coupla visiting British poets, and an activist publisher called Susan Bright. I drank too much red wine and ate too much of everything. Great! Poor Agnes went to bed instead but is feeling better today.

And then I got invitation to come here and do second session of Voice Dialogue which was just great.

And now Neil will take me off to the venue, where Patricia and Agnes will be too, and my gorgeous young female fan, then later back home to Kate's place. Don't know when I'll be near a computer again. Can't make Patricia's or Kate's work for Gotalk. Hope to sort out books tomorrow; going up to Lamesa with Thom late Wednesday after Cafe Caffeine. Some other friends will be going there too. Ruta Maya tomorrow night; improv venue. I MAY get game to have a go....

Luv & many xxx

TEXAS POETRY TOUR: Book Launch and Cafe Caffeine

I must be the world's worst procrastinator! It is over four years since my memorable Texas poetry tour, and nearly two years since I posted here! OK, with the intention of wrapping up fast now, a typos-and-all email to Andrew, sent him on 21 April '06:

Grabbing free access real fast in cafe. All is well.  Motel ridic
small. May move back to Patricia's neighbour's soon. Will play by ear. Not home anywhere much next few days.

Book launch Tues was most enjoyable tho few people and already converted. After reading answered lots of questions about Oz.

Cafe Caffeine last night pure heaven. Thom said, a conversation in poetry. I didn't know what he meant. Didn’t wear Dress, saving it for today; nice to be just me in old black daks and T-shirt, jumping round with poets & musos. It was anyone jump up and do something, if you have a response to it do that – or whatever you like.

Fantastic young poets, I felt outclassed. But they all whooped and cheered for me too. First poet did thing about koalas, so I jumped up next and said I knew it was true cos 'I am the poet from Down Under...' They ended up nicknaming me 'Down Under'.

Even better than Hideout, lots of same crowd, by now I have a community of friends here. Might even be game to do improv any time soon.

Wrote exuberant doggerel about being in love with all these Texans and did that to improv music behind me. Loved it like mad.

Sorry typos, in great haste, must go to Opening Ceremony at Festival real soon.

Luv R

To expand on that hasty email —

My book launch, hosted by BookWoman on Tuesday 18th April (2006!) was, as the management had feared, attended by very few people even though both Thom and I had tried to drum up an eager audience. In fact it consisted almost entirely of people who had already heard me read and bought my book, who came in order to support me — and very grateful to them I was, because without them there'd have been no event. Even one of the students from my Schreiner University gig turned up. Despite the small attendance, or perhaps because of it, it was a fun night in the tradition of 'the show must go on' followed by a no-holds-barred (though very friendly) question and answer session.

People were always interested to find I grew up in Tasmania, a place some had considered mythical! On this occasion, one gay woman who had once visited Australia said she'd avoided Tasmania because of its reputation for intolerance. I was happy to be able to report that Tassie had come a long way since those bad old days. Its attitudes were certainly nothing to be proud of then, but now things are very different. The leader of one of our political parties, the Greens, is an out-of-the-closet gay Tasmanian man, much admired for his personal qualities in his own State as well as the rest of the country.

Doing my thing at BookWoman
to a small but devoted audience.

One of my most vivid memories of the Cafe Caffeine night is of meeting Shana Young. I didn't know who she was when Thom introduced us, saying something to the effect that we'd be wanting to connect. But we both looked at each other a little puzzled, wondering how we knew each other. We didn't — but when Thom added, 'Witchy, witchy!' I said, 'So it's true that we always recognise each other!'

We had little chance to talk then, and never saw each other again, but chummed up later on MySpace, being enormous admirers of each other's poetry and personas. She blew me away at Cafe Caffeine with her signature piece, 'Texas Girl', a no-punches-pulled performance poem.  On MySpace, later, she published some chapters of her own version of her own initiative, The Book of I Like. Thom told me that after she created the idea, she then created empty volumes and gave them to writers and artists she knew to fill in their own ways.  I loved the idea and have written some chapters of my own. It's an ongoing exercise; there'll be more.

And here's my doggerel referred to in the email to Andrew:

Texas Love Poem

I am in love with a long, tall Texan
with deepset eyes, and he talks like Elvis.
A man of the desert who plays with rattlers,
raises wolves and drives a truck —
right outa my life, just my luck!

I am in love with a Southern gentleman,
whose accents caress me like his soft blue eyes.
A guitar-playing, bearded honey of a man.
Alas for me, he’s in love with his wife.

I am in love with a tough Texas girlfriend
who drives a mean poem to the back of the room.
I am in love with a beautiful singer
who mines true gold from a tiny drum.

I am in love with the town of Austin.
Texas is the place I long to get lost in.
I am in love with all of you.
I’m comin’ back if it’s the last thing I do!