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.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Book review; Gerald Durrell: The Authorised Biography

Gerald Durrell: The Authorised Biography (Text Only)Gerald Durrell: The Authorised Biography by Douglas Botting
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thoroughly engaging read; a thick volume that left me sorry it ever had to end – as I could say of Durrell's life too.

I fell in love long ago with the child Gerald and his family, as written of by his adult self in 'My Family and Other Animals' and its sequels. Also I saw some of his TV programs about wildlife conservation. He himself was a very engaging writer, a beautiful wrier in fact, and a man with an admirable mission in life – indeed, a huge vision – which he did his best to realise, and a very good best it was.

Botting, a fellow naturalist, does him absolute justice with his own writing, and also includes long extracts from Gerald's writings – largely his letters and diaries.

I read it as an ebook – which I prefer – text only. I'm sure any illustrations would have been interesting, but photos of the main characters and creatures can be found online. The wonderful words are the thing, and the wonderful story in all its ups and downs. It was a life well lived, albeit unconventionally. I can't recommend the book highly enough.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 03, 2017

JORELL by Andrew Wade, re-published as an e-book

The fairies need Tim's help. Their home in the old-growth forest is in danger of being logged for timber. Can Tim convince his father, the manager of a sawmill, to stop old-growth logging in the forest, and save the fairies? But Tim also needs the fairies' help. He desperately wants his father and classmates to believe his story about Jorell being a real-life fairy. Can Jorell help Tim be believed?

Andrew's environmental story for children, also loved by adult readers, has just become an e-book. It is something he wanted to do with JORELL, shortly before he died, but we ran out of time. I'm glad to finally make it happen.

I tell people that the story is fiction but at least two of the fairies (Jorell herself, and a being called Lady Fairy) are real.

I have vivid memories of Andrew, when we lived under a local mountain called The Pinnacle, going outside to sit under a particular tree to meditate, tune in, and connect with the nature spirits (fairies). Then he would come back inside, sit at his computer and the words would pour.

The cover artist, Tom Giffin, suggested a different cover design from the paperback. My favourite book designers, Delaina and Kristin of Content X Design, worked with that suggestion to realise it professionally. 

I published it on Smashwords which makes it available in all the various ebook formats.

It's just in time for Christmas, and a steal at $2.99 USD!

Re-publishing JORELL

The fairies need Tim's help. Their home in the old-growth forest is in danger of being logged for timber. Can Tim convince his father, the manager of a sawmill, to stop old-growth logging in the forest, and save the fairies? But Tim also needs the fairies' help. He desperately wants his father and classmates to believe his story about Jorell being a real-life fairy. Can Jorell help Tim be believed?

Andrew's environmental story for children, also loved by adult readers, has just become an e-book. It is something he wanted to do with JORELL, shortly before he died, but we ran out of time. I'm glad to finally make it happen.

The cover artist, Tom Giffin, suggested a different cover design from the paperback. My favourite book designers, Delaina and Kristin of Content X Design, worked with that suggestion to realise it professionally. 

I published it on Smashwords which makes it available in all the various ebook formats.

It's just in time for Christmas, and a steal at $2.99 USD!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Success as a Poet?

What is it? asks Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides.  He had interesting things to say, which, if this subject interests you, you would surely enjoy reading – things about money, fame, artistic achievement, immortality....  He invited other poets to share their views. The following is my own response:

I started as a very young child. I lived in a household – and extended family – which valued poetry, and my Dad used to read it aloud. I thought it was the most beautiful thing a human being could make and wanted to spend my life at it. I am now 78, and I have, and do.
In the days of print media only, I even earned a little money from it, maybe $20 or so when accepted by literary journals, which happened fairly often for a few years, plus getting something from sales of my books – of course, not enough to live on, but it seems I did a bit better than most poets do nowadays.
Fame – well I had a small amount of fame within Australia for a few years, both as published poet and performance poet, but poetic fame is limited in any case. The man and woman in the street have never heard of me – and they probably also have not heard of poets far more famous than I ever was.
I ran away from the poetry ‘scene’ eventually, rather disenchanted. I found most poets to be beautiful people, helpful to each other – but for some few there was nasty politicking going on, and it tainted things. I kept on writing of course, just not participating.
Why ‘of course’? Because, like you Robert, I have to. I have always had to. And it has always been and will always be a very high priority in my life.
And now – my goodness, for the past 20-odd years in fact – I have embraced the internet, where I find many absolutely brilliant and wonderful and largely unsung poets. I have a blog. I follow prompts from time to time, as well as still getting flashes of fresh inspiration. As I have always done, I experiment with forms, styles, voices, and I strive to make my art as well as I can. For it is indeed my art form, beyond self-expression (though it’s that too) – a making, a putting something new into the world that wasn’t there before.
And all this begs the question of value judgments. It’s what I do. Some people will like it and respond; others won’t. Sometimes I will do it well enough to please myself; often not, no matter how I strive, how I tweak. I always find it worth the endeavour. It’s how I chose to live my life, and so far no regrets.
When I was a little kid, I wanted to spend my life making poems. I could think of nothing better. How lucky am I? I fulfilled this dream and continue to do so. Thanks to the internet, I even get read; in fact my blog has a far wider audience than I received when published in prestigious paper journals. I feel greatly blessed.
Is not ‘success’ achieving one’s dreams?

I didn't say to Robert, but will add here:

Nine years ago, someone who wanted to destabilise me asserted that I was not a poet, suggesting that I was only kidding myself. (Leaving aside Marge Piercy's 'The real writer is one / who really writes' which is the definitive and best answer) –

He asked,

'Do you write poems every day?'

'Do you spend time making them as good as you can?'
'Do other people read them?'

'Do people say they like them or that they are moved by them?'
'Do poets you admire tell you they think highly of them?'
'Do they get published (not just self-published)?'

He apparently did not know me very well, as he seemed to expect that I would have to answer no to these questions. But I answered yes, and he kept having to ask new questions to try and get the 'no' he wanted. Which did not come. 

Instead of a destabilisation it was a validation. I had not questioned that I was a poet – I have known that about myself from a very early age – but it was thrilling to have it affirmed via this check-list.

(I must confess that at present I am not making poems every day – just nearly every day.)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Strange Case of the Much-Loved Poet, or, The Friendship That Never Happened

Migrated from LiveJournal / Dreamwidth

A poet I knew slightly, online, has just died of cancer. Our mutual friends are distressed, and posting on social media about what a lovely, kind-hearted woman she was and how much she will be missed. Which I am sure they would not say unless it was so.

'Thank you for letting us know,' I said to the mutual friend who broke the sad news. Which I trust was sufficient, because it's all I can offer. A few years ago this poet and I got off to a very bad start from which we never really recovered.

We were in an online poetry group together – except I never noticed her name, much less read any of her stuff. It was a large group; she either didn't post often, or not at times when I was looking. So when I got a message from her asking about a magazine which she thought I was publishing, I didn't recognise her as anyone I knew in that or any other context.

I explained politely that she was mistaken; I was not publishing a magazine. She said she thought she had seen somewhere that I was requesting poems and stories for it; I reiterated that this was not the case, and we signed off politely.

She must have put in a friend request soon after that, which apparently I barely noticed and didn't act on. Then I got a message (out of the blue, it seemed to me) taking me to task as follows:

'I see that you don't want to be a friend of mine. I am very surprised. And I guess there is something that I must learn because the Australians that I have met on the Camino and later on in the Scandinavian Book Club in Brisbane - always had and always have a keyword "yes." I see that you don't.'

I had been under the impression that, according to social media etiquette, non-acceptance of a friend request was within one's rights, and it was not the done thing to take offence at it. However, I replied:

'I apologise for hurting your feelings. I misunderstood; I thought you were primarily interested in my supposed magazine. I have a ridiculous number of friends already and I don't have time to be a very good friend to them all, so I am reluctant to add more if I am only going to neglect them. I prefer to concentrate on those I actually know. Also, at present I have sad things happening in my personal life — my husband is dying. That is my whole focus at present, and I'm sorry but I had quite forgotten your friend request. I see we are in one of the same groups, and look forward to interacting with you there. Perhaps we may become good enough friends there to warrant taking it further. That has happened with others. I wish you all the best anyway.'

She responded warmly, saying how sorry she was about my husband, and immediately launched into a lengthy chat about other matters, which I got out of as quickly and politely as I could, being wary of giving further offence – particularly as she reiterated at some length how she'd always thought Australians and people from her country had a special bond and was so surprised when I obviously didn't. In the end I said that after this conversation she didn't feel like a stranger and so I would accept her friend request, which I then did.

We didn't have any interaction immediately, largely because five days later my husband died. I posted a status update to that effect and expected my friends would see it, which most did.

A week after that she initiated a chat. I told her:

'Forgive me but I am not in a chatty mood, I am arranging memorial service etc. with my stepson via fb messages.'

She expressed condolences for my loss and then asked me if I would like to go to a big Scandinavian festival next day in Brisbane (two hours drive from where I live) to cheer myself up.

I was taken aback, and puzzled. 'Are you in Brisbane?' I asked. I'd thought she lived in Europe. It turned out I was right. She replied that she was not in Brisbane but had Scadinavian friends there and would love to support them. Also, she suggested, it would be good for me – which she knew because she had lost her husband nine years previously, and so she understood.

I didn't think she understood in the slightest! My husband so recently deceased, and she thought I would want to drive two hours to a different city, meet people I didn't know, and have a party!!! And if I had been prepared to do that, or even capable, she expected that would be all it would take to cheer me up? I am still flabbergasted recalling it now, nearly five years later. Even if she didn't see my status update about his death, I tell her he's dying and then a week later say I am arranging a memorial service – it can't have been hard to work out that he'd only just died, a few days previously.

I excused myself from further conversation, and after that turned off chat except for my closest real-life friends. That was not only to avoid talking to this woman; I realised I could be contacted by strangers who didn't know my situation, or even other online friends trying to be kind. I had quite enough to cope with, I decided, both emotionally and in terms of having a lot to organise in a short time.

I became fairly inactive thereafter in the poetry group we belonged to, only because it was a big group and I like smaller ones better. I had no further encounter with her until a few months ago, when she commented online how much she enjoyed my status updates. I was faintly surprised, but thanked her, and that was that – until the sudden news the other day, of her untimely death.

Our mutual friends are devastated. They are saying what a good soul she was, and how they will miss her warmth and caring. I say nothing. I don't doubt what I am reading, and I expect there was the possibility of a lovely friendship there for us too, if we hadn't got off on the wrong foot – but after all she and I both had plenty of other lovely friends. I am vaguely sad at the thought of anyone succumbing to a nasty illness while not yet very old, but I'm not deeply upset or anything.

It's just that our interaction seemed so bizarre. I guess I just want to exclaim about it to someone, and say, 'Hey, how about that! Can you believe it?' But she is dead, and people are grieving. Of course I'm not going to do that ... except here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Oh, I am madly excited!!! My poetry collection, SECRET LEOPARD: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS 1974-2005, has just been reissued as an ebook, via my favourite publisher Content X Design. (Thank you, Delaina and Kristin!)

You can get it for only $2.99 USD in whatever format suits you (mobi for Kindle, epub for other e-readers or pdf for your computer).

Lots of wonderful poems, if I do say so myself 
 and you won't find them on my blog!

(There are still a VERY few paperback copies left which I am now selling for $10 USD — and to Aussies $10 AUD — plus postage. You'll have to message me if you want one of them.)

Here is the link to the ebook.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Shameful Lapse in Taste

Migrated from LiveJournal / Dreamwidth

When my mum was in her late seventies to early eighties, widowed and living alone, I was a little shocked by the kind of novels she borrowed from her local library – mostly romances, indifferently written by authors not known for their literary prowess. She would get several at a time, and apparently enjoyed them. My mum, who had always had such good taste in her reading matter!

I was also a little disappointed in her that she no longer engaged with ideas and/or the state of the world in the form of current affairs programs on TV. She had always had such a keen intelligence! In fact, the evidence was that she still did, and yet (from my point of view) she was dumbing herself down in these ways. 

I tried to rationalise it. 'She's an old lady,' I told myself. 'At her age, if she wants to waste her time like this, I guess she's earned the right.' She was housebound, and many of her friends had passed on; I thought I should be thankful that she could find pleasure in her reading and viewing, however deplorable the content seemed to me. But it was hard to fathom how she could sink so low.

Now here I am, in my late seventies, widowed and living alone. I am far from housebound, I'm very glad to say, and have somehow acquired such a busy social life that some weeks I am glad if I have a whole day at home. But in other ways I am following in Mum's footsteps. It's rather startling.

I promise you I have always had excellent literary tastes, and still have. Yet (thanks to the lure of cheap or free books on Amazon Kindle, which often turn out to be Book 1 of a – still cheap – series) I quite often find myself reading and enjoying indifferently written romances by decidedly non-literary authors. The ones available these days frequently have some erotic content that probably wasn't in the ones my mother got, but I don't know that for sure – I so despised her choices back then that I never actually read them.

I do use the  'look inside' feature before buying. There are some which are so pathetic I couldn't bear to subject myself to them, and don't, but most can keep me entertained despite the atrocious editing (or lack thereof).

Furthermore, nowadays I seldom watch any of the excellent current affairs programs available on Australian TV. (Except Q&A, in which public figures, often politicians, are quizzed by a thoughtful audience. I still find this entertaining – and it reinforces my prejudices, which makes me feel good.)

I'm not sure why this change has happened.

I can explain to myself the disengagement from the current affairs programs. I've experienced more than enough grief, horror etc by now, either in my own life or as an observer of world affairs; I'm not going to rub my nose in any more. I still keep abreast of the news and read some commentary online. e.g. in The Guardian; that'll do me. But what about these lowbrow books?

I don't have any romantic partners now, let alone sexual ones; but then, I don't want to go to the bother anyhow. Relationships take work, and I've never been much interested in one night stands. In any case I don't really find elderly men attractive. (It was different with Andrew; I loved him.) And although I have in the past had some relationships with much younger men, I can't say any are showing up on my doorstep these days. Even if they did, would I want to exert myself? I'm enjoying my own company and that of my platonic friends (mostly women). So I suppose the books might be some kind of substitute. My choices often contain things like dragons, vampires, feisty heroines and handsome but somewhat 'damaged' heroes, all of which I'm a sucker for (in fiction if not in life, where I have learned to prefer emotionally mature men). But the happy acceptance of barely adequate writing, even alongside my continued love of beautiful writing, that's a mystery!

'What you resist, you become'? There were many ways in which I strove not to be like her, but it seems that, in some respects at least, I am my mother's daughter.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Revelations, or, The Things You Learn When Writing a Memoir

Migrated from LiveJournal / Dreamwidth

1. Sensational or Underwhelming? 

I am actually posting excerpts of the memoir (first draft!) on a (different) blog – out in the blogosphere with my own name on it and all. And I post links to the episodes on facebook and Google+. It seems I am a bit of a storyteller after all – just not in fiction. At any rate, people say they enjoy reading it and urge me to keep going.

The last episode got very, very personal about my sex life. My sex life in my twenties, that is; there's not a lot to disclose now. But back then there was dysfunction closely followed by adultery. I hadn't thought to disclose so much detail as I did. I found that I needed to in order to tell the real story.  I was proud of myself when I'd got it all down, for the way I dealt with it and the fact that I told so much of the unpalatable truth.

What surprises me is that there has been so little comment on facebook. I finally struck them dumb, eh?

2. Self Image

 I have spent all my life thinking I was ugly; only attractive to those men who could see past the physical. In the course of writing the memoir, remembering back, I realise that lots of men thought I was attractive enough that they wanted to go out with me – more than I am including in the memoir, because I am only including the men who were important in my life. And actually, there were a fair few of them too. And they were all good-looking fellows themselves. It finally dawns on me that I simply couldn't have been as ugly as I thought.

Why did I think so? I believe I know.

When I was very young – maybe five – I went to stay with my aunty and uncle and cousins in another town, for a holiday. My aunty found my long hair difficult to manage. Dad, who was a travelling salesman, called in when he was down that way. My aunty asked him if she could cut my hair, and he gave consent. It was blonde, and had been nearly down to my waist. She cut it straight across, neck length. When it was time to go back home, Dad came and fetched me. We arrived back at our own place, and my Mum came rushing out to meet us. She saw me, stopped in her tracks, and wailed at him, 'Oh Rob, her hair – it was her One Beauty!' (I swear I heard those capital letters.) 
I think, now, it said a lot more about her than me. But I was five.

Perhaps it says even more about a society where there was one standard of beauty, and if you were female it mattered very much. But it was more than 70 years ago.

And I'm still buying it, one way or another! All the same, it's good to finally realise I can't have been all that ugly after all.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

On Writing Haiku

Readers of my 'Passionate Crone' poetry blog will know I've been having a lovely time lately, re-acquainting myself with haiku and tanka via the Carpe Diem blog hosted by Chevrefeuille, and learning new things about writing them – particularly haiku.

I've been responding to prompts, and have also been reading the very informative e-book, IN THE WAY OF BASHO, available free from the site.

Chevrefeuille often quotes the late Jane Reichhold who used to co-host with him. I particularly like the following: 

There is, thank goodness, no one way to write a haiku. Though the literature has haiku which we admire and even model our own works on, there is no one style or technique which is absolutely the best. Haiku is too large for that. Haiku has, in its short history been explored and expanded by writers so that now we have a fairly wide range of styles, techniques and methods to investigate.

– Jane Reichhold, haiku poet (1937-2016)

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Selene Turns Nine, and Other Milestones

Selene turned nine years old yesterday, and has now been living with me for one year, two and a half months.

She has become resigned to being an indoor cat again, as the extreme weather means there are too many mosquitos outside. Neither of us wants to go outdoors in that sort of weather anyway!

She follows me about like a dog

She usually spends her mornings in the spare bedroom, enjoying the pheromones coming from a dispenser plugged into the power point. Afternoons, if I am home she follows me about like a dog, happy to hang with me wherever I am; lying on the floor somewhere near, or beside me on the couch in the evenings if I watch TV. 

And she has playful times when she chases her toys around the floor – toy mice or tiny plastic balls with bells in them – or I dangle long fluffy cords for her to leap and catch. 

When I go to bed, she hurries to come too, snuggles up against me and purrs. (Yes, these days she often purrs, albeit very faintly, always to express her pleasure at being next to me.) I leave dry food and water out for her overnight. If she gets off the bed to go and have a snack, when she returns she always comes straight up to me and greets me all over again before settling down. Eventually – after I put the light out, but not immediately after – she moves to the foot of the bed and stretches out to sleep.

She likes me to stroke her, and I'm happy to oblige. If I'm reading in bed and stroking her with one hand, she looks up if I stop for a moment, to politely ask for more. If I'm walking around the house and she's lying on the floor, she requests (with body language) a pat as I go past. She still doesn't miaow – unless I happen to step on her if she's come up soundlessly behind me. Then I find out she is only non-vocal by choice; she is quite capable of a hearty yelp!

[Update on the update, two days later: The purring is becoming ever louder and longer and she now stays snuggled against me all night, to my great joy. Could this be the result, not only of pheromones etc, but also of my projecting light and love at her purposefully, every time I remember? Of course it earns her extra strokings anyway, and so the bond grows closer.]

Allergy update

As well as the pheromones to calm her, I give her feline tranquilisers which are largely Vitamin B. (All this on vet's advice.) Something's working! She now submits to an occasional dab of the calendula cream prescribed for her mosquito allergy. The first time she stayed still and allowed me to put it on, she then washed it all off again with her paw! But now she doesn't even bother doing that. She must have realised the stuff doesn't hurt her.

There are still limits. I can't even attempt to put cream on her poor, denuded belly. However, it is starting to grow fur again, a fine fuzz. The vet also prescribed some tablets I was able to crush up and put in her wet food, and she took them without any trouble. They seem to have done the trick.

She is now costing me a fair bit for the pheromones and Vitamin B, and the expensive foods which keep her teeth clean and her gullet free of furballs – but I don't grudge it (well, not TOO much) for the sake of keeping her healthy and happy.

It's HER home now

She's comfortable in her home now, has explored every room, and exudes the confidence of ownership.  If there are unaccustomed noises on the street outside – voices or car sounds that don't belong – she comes to attention and inspects the situation through the flywire at the front door. I'm glad to say she never shows any inclination to go out that door. I have a look too, and explain to her calmly what's going on, then she ignores it again.

When someone knocks on the door, she disappears. You wouldn't know there was a cat here. If they stay awhile, and she decides she likes their energy, she'll eventually come out to say hello – though rarely with men, whom she distrusts most. She trusts me more and more, but I think it's fair to say she trusts her own judgment best and will always be slightly suspicious even of me.

Understanding each other

But we rub along, having come to an understanding of each other. She amuses the heck out of me at times, with her funny little ways. I don't know that I amuse her, but she is very patient and tolerant with me when I am slow to understand what she's trying to communicate. And there are times when I don't misunderstand, I refuse. (Such as feeding her what I consider too much to be healthy.) She has learned to understand both 'No' and 'Yes', and also 'Fish!' when I'm about to give her a treat.

'You are the most beautiful cat alive,' I tell her. This wording stops me feeling guilty towards the ghosts of previous felines, who were all beautiful too. At times I still miss Freya and Levi acutely, but that is a separate matter from my relationship with Selene. They were my precious children, no matter how old they got; she is my house-mate and companion, becoming 'family' but in a different way. I address her as 'girlfriend', 'honey-bubble' and 'darling'. I inform her that she is my treasure. She gazes back at me meaningfully, and arches her head for a pat.

The perfect cat for me at this time in my life 

I am not blind to the fact that she is the perfect cat for me at this time in my life. (Thank you, Universe!) I am sorry to think that it came from being abused, but the fact remains that she is the best-behaved cat I ever met, and possibly the most intelligent. She has her own mind, but as long as her boundaries are respected, she is incredibly obedient. 

I have my boundaries too, and she respects them. I'm happy to be obliging to her in other ways, if I can. When I say no to something, she might ask, 'Do you really mean it?' once or twice, but then she accepts it with a good grace, and finds something else to do.

She is sufficiently self-contained to put up with a writer who spends large chunks of time at a computer. Unlike most cats, she has never attempted to come anywhere near the computer, let alone get between me and it. If I won't give her my attention, she doesn't keep demanding it. Perhaps she knows she'll get some later; but no other cat I've ever had has shown that degree of patience.

Despite attention to writing and other things, my life revolves around her. It has to; she is my responsibility. And, though I have lots of people and activities in my life, at home it's mostly just me and her. What I realised recently is that, even more so, her life revolves around me. I'm actually all she's got, the only one. It's a good thing she seems to have decided I'll do.

I should add that, like all cats, she's magic. 

Occasionally she disappears. She's a quiet wee thing, but eventually I notice she's not around. 'Where are you?' I ask out loud. No response. I check the spare room. I check every other room. I look under the beds, the tables, behind the couch, inside cupboards, calling her name. Nothing. It's as if she's dematerialised. I start to worry that she might have gone outside, but I know I haven't opened any doors she could slip through. Anyway, she's always hesitant to cross those thresholds.

Just when I'm at a complete loss, I turn around and there she is in the middle of the floor, calm and self-possessed, looking at me enquiringly. I never see where she materialises from; she just suddenly, silently, reappears.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A New Interview

Sherry Marr at Poets United interviewed me for Blog of the Week, and the interview has just been posted at the Poets United site. We discussed some of my poems that Sherry particularly liked; and we talked about the recent book collaboration with Jennie Fraine and Helen Patrice, THREE CYCLES OF THE MOON (see also right side-bar here).

The blog concerned is 'The Passionate Crone'.

Sherry's a good interviewer, who drew me out. Then, in the comments, one person asked such interesting questions that I practically wrote an essay in reply!

Click here to see both interview and comments.

Friday, March 10, 2017

It Is Possible ... 'as well as' rather than 'either/or'.

Re-posted from facebook:

[Don't know who the (obviously American) author of this is, but I like the thesis!]
For all of you who aren't sure, it is possible to be gay and Christian. It's also possible to believe in God and science. It is possible to be pro-choice and anti-abortion.
It is equally possible to be a feminist and love and respect men. It's possible to have privilege and be discriminated against, to be poor and have a rich life, to not have a job and still have money. It is possible to believe in sensible gun control legislation and still believe in one's right to defend one's self, family, and property, it's possible to be anti-war and pro-military.
It is possible to love thy neighbor and despise his actions. It is possible to advocate Black Lives Matter and still be pro police. It is possible to not have an education and be brilliant. It is possible to be Muslim and also suffer at the hands of terrorists. It is possible to be a non-American fighting for the American dream.
It is possible to be different and the same.
We are all walking contradictions of what "normal" looks like. Let humanity and love win.

(The author is encouraging copy/paste if you like. If you share, only our mutual friends will see the post.)

Chromosomes, Bigotry and Science

(Re-posted from facebook, so as not to lose it.  Author unknown.)

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Year with Selene

Yes, she came to live with me on January 19th 2016.

For the most part it’s been a happy year, gradually building trust  and affection between us, establishing our little domestic routines and learning each other’s behaviours and boundaries. 

She likes to hang with me, to be close to wherever I am; but she also regards the spare room as hers, and sometimes likes to retreat to her own space for a snooze. She is thrilled when I sometimes have occasion to go into 'her' room. She welcomes me with a big fuss, as if I'm paying her a visit. 

In the evening, if I watch TV, she will soon be relaxing on  the couch beside me. She gets VERY relaxed.

I have some long, dangly things I use for playing with her; the game is that she jumps up and tries to catch them. Once caught, she is not so much interested; she lets them go so I’ll start all over again. When she sees me getting ready to retire for the night, she insists on having playtime first.

When I do go to bed, she comes straight onto the bed with me and settles down. But at some point, after I’m asleep, she goes off to her own space again.

As I may have mentioned before, she is mostly non-vocal. But there was the day I came home after a very busy morning and decided to have a little nap, which I rarely do in the daytime. She came up onto the bed next to me as usual, and then she began to purr. It was very faint but it went on for about two minutes. For this cat, that was A LOT! I was thrilled to pieces.

The long danglies we play with usually live in a drawer but one day I left them on the table. She knows she is not allowed on the table, and they stayed there untouched while I was out that day. But after I came home, I walked past the table and she reached up to where the end of one was hanging a little over the edge and gave it a tug with her paw, looking at me meaningfully. ‘Initiating play,’ said my social worker friend approvingly, when I told her later. (Yes, she got her game.)

We have had nice times out in the back yard together, me sitting in an outdoor chair meditating, reading or writing; her reclining nearby or inspecting the garden. It’s a small enclosed back yard. She can’t get out under the fence and shows no inclination to climb over it – much too afraid of what might be on the other side. She knows there are dogs and men in the neighbourhood.

She still hides when visitors come, but when they are women she’ll eventually come and check them out. She was OK with a gay male friend, too. It’s masculinity that scares her most.

She has got to the point, I believe, of loving and trusting me as much as she could any human being. Although it's unlikely she’ll ever be a cuddly cat, she has even let me pick her up now and then. And I do get to stroke her when she’s lying beside me on the couch or the bed. 

Everything progressing so nicely – and bang! Trouble. In this heatwave summer we’ve been having, she doesn't want to go outside in the middle of the day (neither do I). But she asks to go out briefly in the morning before it heats up, and again late afternoon / early evening, when it cools down again. Mostly I haven’t accompanied her, and she hasn't stayed out long. But long enough.

I started noticing odd little white spots on her fur, which appeared immediately after her being outside. Also the hair over her eyebrows has thinned noticeably, and under one paw. Her beautiful white eyebrow whiskers fell out a while back. (‘They do moult,’ said one of the vet nurses; but so far they haven’t grown back. I’m glad to say her whiskers proper are still there.)

I made a vet appointment, and for a few days beforehand accustomed her to having her special fishy treat in her carry cage – that is, the food in the cage and her poking her head inside to get it. But on the morning of the appointment, when I tried to push the rest of her in, she was quick to wriggle out of my hands. I waited a while, and then tried to pick her up. Instead of letting me, she twisted and bit my thumb before running off to hide. It wasn’t a hard bite; she really doesn't wish to attack me too fiercely nowadays. There was no bleeding, but the skin was broken in two places.

I went to the vet without her, but with photos. The vet thought it was probably an allergy to mosquito bites, and agreed to do a home visit when she could. That happened yesterday, and she confirmed the diagnosis. Selene hid at first but then came to say hello, and the vet was able to pick her up and pet her. But when she went to give her an injection, Selene bit her too. The vet was wearing cat-proof gloves, so no harm done. But no injection either; Selene was off her lap and away very smartly. 

The vet had come prepared, and gave me some tablets to crush in her food. That works. I am also supposed to slather calendula cream on her areas of fur loss. Well I can get it on the spots behind her ears, but she won't tolerate it anywhere else, and by now is afraid to come near me in case I try and put it on. No more bites, but if I were to try and force the issue, I’m sure there would be. So the next thing is to get a sedative from the vet tomorrow and see if that enables me to get her in her cage and take her there the next day. 

The worst thing is her poor little belly. It was always a bit furless around the nipples, indicating she’d had a litter. I hadn't noticed that the pink area had gradually spread. When the vet remarked on it, I said, ‘It’s always been like that.’ Then today I saw her washing it, and to my horror realised the bald area is already spreading down the insides of her back legs – since yesterday!

She seems happy enough, apart from distrusting my medicinal intentions, and not in any discomfort. But I am distraught. I realise that I can’t manage her in a crisis, and that the trust I’d established over a whole year is fragile. She will be 9 in April; she is not likely to change at this stage. For a while I was comparing how easy it was to manage our other two cats when Andrew was here to help. But really I doubt if even two people would be able to manage Selene.

The rest of the time she’s a sweetie, extraordinarily well-behaved and keen to please. But when she’s afraid, there’s no reassuring her.

I have been feeling guilty too. I had originally intended she should be an indoor cat, which was what she herself obviously wanted. But a friend heavied me about it being cruel to keep her inside, and around that time Selene started looking a little curious about the back yard, though perfectly content to survey the front yard and street from safely behind the flywire. So I made sure the back yard was safe for her, and encouraged her to try it. I have been doing some beating myself up that I didn't stick to the original decision and keep her inside, safe from the wretched mozzies. However, she has enjoyed the back yard, and as the vet said, 'It’s a summer problem.’  

The vet also said, ‘Don’t let her out at dawn or dusk.’ Well, in this weather, that’s exactly when she was going out! So now she’s not going out at all, and we are mooching around the house looking warily at each other, wishing for the rapport we had so carefully established before, but with very different ideas of what needs to be done about it.

PS I went to the vet to pick up tablets she prescribed during Saturday's home visit and also a pheromone diffuser to set up near where Selene sleeps (OK, near where she most often sleeps). I was advised to give her the tablets for two weeks before worrying about trying to sedate her and take her in, as they should clear up the trouble, even that bald belly! – Yrs considerably relieved.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Poetry Competitions

I don't usually enter them. I question the notion of competition in art – though I can see that, to many, big prizes and high recognition seem well worthwhile. (And then, every submission to a magazine or anthology is a kind of competition.)

I do sometimes take part in smaller competitions with no remuneration, such as those offered by Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides. He likes to acquaint his readers with different poetic forms, and often gives us a month-long challenge to write in a particular form. I enjoy trying out new forms – some more than others – and trying continually for a month is a great way to learn.

I like that it's called a challenge rather than a competition. Although a number of poets take part, it's a friendly experience. Essentially, we're all challenging ourselves.

I'm not so anti-competition that I'm not thrilled to have been placed in the top 10 a few times recently!

In the Haiku Sonnet Challenge I came 7th, with Walking Around Town.

In the Dizain Challenge I came second, with Burning.

In the Trimeric Challenge I came third with The Peaceful Place and also 10th with Reminders.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Interview at Smashwords

(a request to my readers)

I had to devise a self-interview as part of my profile on Smashwords, where my latest poetry book is published (actually a collaboration with Jennie Fraine and Helen Patrice: THREE CYCLES OF THE MOON).

You can read the interview here. I request that you please do so, and please tell me in the comments at this blog post whether there are are other questions you would like me to answer.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Falling for Flavia – Book review

While detective fiction isn't my top favourite genre, I can stand a bit of it now and then – in a wide range, from Agatha Christie to Matthew Reilly. 

11-year-old detective Flavia de Luce, as written by Alan Bradley, is something else again. I have rapidly fallen in love with her.

She had me from the very first sentence I read, but I'll give you this excerpt from early in the first chapter of THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE (the first book in the series) to show you why.

    The eyes, as blue as the birds in the Willow pattern, looked up into mine as if staring out from some dim and smoky past, as if there were some recognition in their depths.
    And then they died.
    I wish I could say my heart was stricken, but it wasn't. I wish I could say my instinct was to run away, but that would not be true. Instead, I watched in awe, savouring every detail: the fluttering fingers, the almost imperceptible bronze metallic cloudiness that appeared on the skin, as if, before my very eyes, it were being breathed upon by death. 
    And then the utter stillness.
    I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn't. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.

How could one not adore a girl like that? She is the girl I should have wished to be, if I'd been a lot smarter and wiser than I was at 11. But I did have one thing in common with her: a singular passion from an early age. Whereas mine was (and is) poetry, Flavia's was chemistry. She was especially fascinated by poisons – and their antidotes. Flavia is tough-minded and sometimes vengeful (particularly towards the two older sisters who torment her) but far from evil. And she is good at solving murder mysteries.

Yes, these books are in the 'mystery' sub-genre, and it's fun to watch Flavia assemble the clues. She tends to be several steps ahead of the police by means it doesn't occur to them to use. On the other hand, her favourite policeman, Inspector Hewitt, usually arrives at the same place at the same time by more orthodox methods.

The stories are set in the nineteen-fifties, in an English village, and are full of cultural references I am old enough and literate enough to enjoy. Flavia is quite well and widely-read – with some unusual preferences – and was born in the same year as me.

I see from the Wikipedia entry about him that her author, Alan Bradley, was born a year earlier and was brought up with two older sisters, which no doubt gives him a lot of insight into Flavia's sibling situation. He certainly gets into the mind of an 11-year-old convincingly, and I never questioned Flavia's gender. I still don't – heck, Flavia is REAL. 

My friend, author Leah Kaminsky, once said to me about reading fiction, 'I don't care about story; what I love is language.' I love language too, and think of people like Markus Zusak, Carmel Bird and Leah herself as shining examples. Also I need the story to be sufficiently interesting. But I have realised that the aspect which fascinates me most in any novel is the characters. Flavia is a winner! 

I encountered her via two books mid-series which I picked up at the library. Books in this series are stand-alone enough to be read out of order, but I so loved Flavia that I had to go back and start over at the beginning, and I certainly plan to complete the rest – ten so far, but that doesn't daunt me as they are so readable. 

They are designated Young Adult, I see – correctly, I think – but in my local library are also shelved with adult fiction. I like reading Young Adult books anyway; also, as a former children's librarian, I firmly believe a good book for children of any age is one that can be enjoyed by adults too. (Incidentally, another thing that endears Flavia to me is her notion that heaven is a place where the library is open eight days a week.)

I am far from her only devoted admirer. There's a fan club, and talk of a TV series, and Flavia has won Bradley several literary awards. 

I'm glad to note she is still only 12 in the tenth book. It wouldn't do to have her ageing too fast!