I first met Robyn Emerson at a dinner at the Snout in the Trough. I think we talked a lot. Such a joy to discover someone so into living an artistic life so fully. It was months later when I had the chance to attend the series of creativity workshops she was offering. So over a month a small group of us participated in a range of artistic activities, reading, meditation and most importantly sharing our own creative ideas. The most valuable thing of all for me (and I know others felt this too) were the other group members, some of whom were known to each other professionally, others not at all, but each of us driven by that insistent creative force. There are many things I loved about launching ‘Small Acts of Purpose’, but having that group of now friends there, as well as members of previous Creativity workshops was one of the highlights. There is so much of the creative act including the self doubt that occurs in solitude that makes the public response to the final creation so valuable to the artist. The Corangamite creative community is one of the most supportive and enabling I have encountered in all my years. May we treasure that.
Today I will wear silence
I will not watch the re-runs. I will not stare into the grief. I will not give media a reason to shove cameras and microphones into the faces of the devastated. I will not endorse the theft of precious moments or the intensifying of their tortuous journey of grief.
I will not watch the calls for retribution, revenge, recall. I will not advocate for action that will make life harder for people whose life is already hard beyond my imagining.
In the silence I will take up my pen and write. I will write to Tanya Plibersek and tell her that I thought her revelatory speech was the bravest thing I had ever heard spoken in the parliament of this country. I will write to Julian McMahon. I do not know what I will say to this man who gave his all at a cost to self that most of us would never countenance. Perhaps in the silence the words will come.
I will work today with the quiet gratitude of one who is reminded of the preciousness of each moment that we have. I will work humbly with the focus and attention of one who has been reminded of the flaws of each of us. In the quiet of today, I will consider the humanness we share, the inherent problems of egocentric weak leadership and the capacity of generous strong leadership and the option we have to choose either in every day we live.
Today my pen will be my companion. Perhaps in this time of self and national reflection, when we have been made so aware of the power of story, it is a good companion to have.
Today I will wear silence like a cloak, bunkering down into it, giving grief and loss its due.
I could see it budding, a tiny drop of violet. I knew the sensible thing was to pluck it out, to not have the plant energy going into this flower but rather have it form leaves, roots, green strength. But I was already in love with the idea of a purple impatiens.
I let it go and then on one of those intense days when one fears breaking, I walked into the kitchen and it was there; a perfectly formed deep violet impatiens flower grinning at me.
It is still there. For ten days it sat brightening every morning, a calm greeting in the afternoons, my companion at dishes’ time.
I was way beyond any thought of pulling it from its green stem when another perfectly formed impatiens flower popped open. Perhaps root tendrils will form, perhaps not. That no longer seems important. It is enough to have these gems now, in this moment, this day.
Another International Women’s Day beckons with the theme Make it Happen. Each year I wonder about the women who inspired this poem and these girls from Queen Salote College. Where are you now?
International Women’s Day
Women’s voices drift above the palms
across the edge of night, colouring
the Tongan morning with holy songs
a benediction for the waking world.
Filtering through western latitudes
into coffee shops brimming with chatter
the day passes in the telling of stories
the night throbs with the dancing
and stomping of women till the darkness
is full of the sound of breaking glass.
The women who first blessed the day
sit in the glow of the new morning
gouging at coconuts, the white flesh
Falling into a pile of soft wafers.
(In between the dancing)
Autographing a book has got to be one of the most satisfying of literary actions. I suppose it’s a sign of acceptance and completion – of accepting that this is what I have been able to do now, of handing the book over, of allowing the created poems to become newly created in the reader’s mind. I am literally signing off.
I listened to Lionel Shriver speaking about her book Big Brother (a very different use of the term from the same named TV series). Shriver argues for the importance of a project; for the heavy person, it might be losing weight, for the novelist, writing the book, but, she asks, what is to happen then?
I think of satisfying poems that encapsulate the notion of project and yet how ambivalent are their endings. In the poem, It’s Late Jennifer Harrison recalls
Miss Wickham (saying)
That every fisherman is unhappy with his catch
And most happy when he has caught nothing
and, as the narrator watches a fisherman journey homewards, recalls another fisherman leaving the beach and the shells of the abalone.
and the light begins to dry over
all that will be abandoned differently.
Bruce Dawe laments that he did not accept the supportive care that was offered alongside his wife’s palliative care (White-water Rafting and Palliative Care).
I’d have found it easier then to simply hold you
instead of bobbing to and fro so much,
for it was you who seemed to be more tranquil
– and I whom death reached out to touch.
Harrison, Jennifer (1996) Cabramatta/Cudmirraa. Black Pepper Press, Nth Fitzroy, Australia
Dawe, Bruce (2011) Slow-Mo Tsunami and Other Poems Puncher and Wattman, Glebe, Australia
I’m happy to let you know that though I signed off on Maisie in 2012, she is now in her second print run. So if you missed out or would like an extra copy, get in touch via the Contact page of this website.