Tag Archives: poetry

Poem 97: Self-portrait on a blank canvas

(Today’s story will make an appearance at midday (New Zealand time). But first I wanted to post a poem. This is the third (and possibly final) self-portrait poem. The first was “Self-portrait in landscape“. The second was “Self-portrait in still life“. And here’s the third – “Self-portrait on a blank canvas”. Thanks for taking the time to read/listen!)

The blank canvas calls for colour;
a pale blue perhaps for endless sky,
a fresh-filled swimming pool,
Our Lady of Lourdes,
a blue cat.

Perhaps a vibrant green
for vernal growth,
jade parakeets,
new chestnut leaves,
bile spewed or envy all-consuming.
Not everything on a palate’s palatable.

Blotches of red;
too much splattered that
the portrait’s doomed and ruined.
Scarlet garnets show for miles.
There’s no grace in brazen crimson,
no joy in bloodshot blood.
I wish that red would fade.

Other tints ungrace and grace the picture:
a cowardly yellow,
fractured gold,
orange sunlight shattered, a purple patch,
brown (common brown), a slice of black, a splash of grey,
bits of missed transparent canvas.

Sometimes a person comes along
and scrawls unprompted in a space.
Most (but first let me stir another sweetened brew)…
most enter; and exit after scribbling… nothing much.
They mutter in their passing, “What a… what a mess.”

I’m sorry, but it’s all there is and it’s all I’ve got.

If the above link doesn’t play, then try clicking HERE!

1902. Elegy

Gwyneth’s career was about to take off. For maybe a decade she had spent hours a day honing her writing skills, polishing her poetry, proof-reading her novel and proof-reading again and again. And now! A publisher had accepted a collection of her poetry for publication.

It was so rare to get a collection of poetry accepted by a publisher. Volumes of poetry simply do not sell well these days. Every publisher and his mother avoided publishing poetry anthologies like the plague. So to get it accepted was exciting!

Things don’t come automatically however. Things have to be revised and rewritten. Gwyneth was assigned an editor. She was determined to humbly follow every suggestion made; perhaps a change of word, perhaps a different title for this poem or that. The process lasted for two years. It was a tiresome task. Somehow Gwyneth made it through. And then at last! at last! the day arrived! She held her book of poetry in her hands.

Over the next three years two copies sold. The publishing company has now folded.

Poem 96: Self-portrait in still life

(Today there is no story, but Poem 96. This is the second “Self-portrait” poem – the first one was “Landscape” and this one is “Still Life”. This poem is probably not to everyone’s liking. I try to cover as much territory as I can and sometimes feel a bit strangled by the expectations of the occasional some. So if I don’t follow myself I end up in some quagmire of  uncreativity and consumed by self-doubt. Sorry if this didn’t make sense. For those who prefer to be warned, there is a swear word in the poem).

Today I pulled out weeds in the garden.
I don’t have a clue what the weeds are called.
I s’pose they have names.
I have a weed book (with illustrations) called
“Weeds”. All the names inside

are Latin, like Taraxacum officinal
which is just an antediluvian nomenclature for dandelion.
A friend of mine once made tea out of Taraxacum officinal and got the runs.
Yes, I have friends.

(Fa la la la la).

One of the weeds was all tanglely and sticky.
Another had roots so deep it snapped underground.
Yet another was prickly
and another slimy because of spit beetle spit.
Anyway, I couldn’t help but think –

I am a fern frond stuck in a vase in a still life painting
– not that a fern is a weed –
stuck in a vase with a couple of dowdy dead flowers,
and next to a banana.

(Fa la la la la).

I am a fern frond stuck in a vase.
I am a fern frond stuck in a vase next to a banana.
The frond reminds Mabel up the road of the most intricate lace.
But it’s the same all the way up.
It’s the same all the way down.

Everything’s the same.
It’s the same fa la la la la.

(Fa la la la fucking fa la).

Some days I feel the need to escape
the picture.

If the above link doesn’t play, then try clicking HERE!

Poem 95: Self-portrait in landscape

The landscape’s crumpled undulations
stand perhaps as some sort of metaphor.
It’s as if when god got to make me a muttering was heard:
stuff this, who cares about this one?
The blueprint was screwed up
and tossed to the ground.

You know, you know,
people snapshot it, they take pictures
of the blueprint as if it’s the beautiful thing,
and yet the scene proclaims…

(nothing really, it doesn’t matter).

The landscape’s crumpled undulations
are as green as anything; muddled as anything.
There is no old history.
There’s nothing to say the place is sacred,
this dude is home, this fellow’s holy,
this guy is worth half another look.

You know, you know,
people snapshot it, they take pictures
of the blueprint as if it’s the beautiful thing,
and yet the scene proclaims…

(nothing really, it doesn’t matter).

The landscape’s crumpled undulations
can be unravelled if anyone cares to loosen;
undo the screwed-up-ness, flatten the blueprint out.
But it’s munted, the twisted scene’s munted,
the blueprint’s screwed-up twice
and chucked to the ground.

You know, you know,
people snapshot it, they take pictures
of the blueprint as if it’s the beautiful thing,
and yet the scene proclaims…

(nothing really, it doesn’t matter).

Someday someone might pick up this bit of trash
and set it on fire.

If the above link doesn’t play, then try clicking HERE!

1870. Quotations and Announcement

I said a day ago that this week I’d do a couple of self-indulgent postings. This is the second. It could be fun, since it will rightly never be done in real life, to pretend astonishing fame and glean quotations from various theatre plays I’ve written over the years and present them as if in a quotation anthology!

No sooner were these words out (and this is true!) than an email arrived saying that six of my poems had been selected by a publisher in Wisconsin for an international anthology! I had been invited last November to submit some poems. More about that at a later date. Thank goodness my portrait shown below had already been hung in the National Vallery otherwise I’d need to go for a more pretentious look. In fact I had a terrible time taking the selfie this morning while everyone was still asleep. I didn’t want anyone to see and think that vanity was a motivation. My right hand is on the computer mouse to press the button. What a relief I had a post-lockdown haircut yesterday. But enough about me – here’s more about me!

Famous Quotations by Cloven Ruminant
whose portrait hangs in the National Vallery

I don’t know fancy names for coffee. Just give me the stuff with the fluff on. – Café Play (1998)

It’s a great mystery – how we pass by. It’s sort of… meaningless. – River Songs (1994)

I just killed what would have become the ancestor of the first intelligent moth. – Here Legends Lie (1993)

There was no need for you to tell me that what I was doing was a waste of time. I have to do something. – Voyage in a Boat (1989)

A real man does shrimp cocktails and garlic bread. No, no. Not my Arnold. Over done. Over boiled. – Deep End (1992)

So you’ll be sitting on the veranda in the still of the evening will you, barely changed from your wedding gown, and be admiring each other’s brains? – Cloud Mother (1990)

There’s a great silence before a funeral. As if heaven waits to let them in. – Sheer Silence (1999)

Just because I say I want two budgerigars doesn’t mean to say I want two blue ones. – Café Play (1998)

It was a satire – like “King Lear”. – Zachustra (1993)

I’ll not be sitting here day after day taking all this muck from two tarts when you could be up in the rigging swinging with a sailor and doing whatever it is your profession demands. – Cloud Mother (1990)

It’s all very well for Thingy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to fall in love with Who-dacky by taking a bit of stuff but with… you think I’m wandering don’t you? – Um (1997)

There’s so little we know. About what goes on. It’s best to be guilty. – The Chimney (1996)

All straight lines in the universe are human lines – have you noticed? – and I can’t stay on a straight line. Straight lines are perfection, and I can’t be perfect. I can’t. – Secundus (1992)

I don’t want a happy marriage. I want a tragic marriage. It’s very fashionable. – Fishbone in the Blancmange (1997)

Although he was computer savvy, he died drunk, unhappy, friendless, twisted and embittered. – Weave a Web Blog (2020)not from a play but I thought I’d throw it in because it’s rather amazing to discover that it’s more than 20 years since I wrote a play. The “quotation” is not biographical!

Thanks for reading. There’s over 60 plays (I think) if anyone these days ever wants to do one!

 

Poem 94: More blazing than the sun

The song I heard you singing falls more blazing than the sun.
The woodlark in the coppice calls more blazing than the sun.

It’s little things that seem to joy our peace-filled days and yet
any sullen silence quick-galls more blazing than the sun.

Children frolic on back garden lawns with shrieks of laughter,
and then a bee stings one who bawls more blazing than the sun.

Wings of butterflies, rasps of crickets, hung webs of spiders,
the ordered world of ants, enthrall more blazing than the sun.

The distant haze of blue, line-dancing mountains row on row
makes late afternoons stop and stall more blazing than the sun.

The tiny flower, unnoticed, hidden, nameless, lost, unknown,
outshines the fields of peonies tall, more blazing than the sun.

And Bruce, his song so incomplete without your voice to sing,
entrusts you hear his words, though small, more blazing than the sun.

If the above link doesn’t play, then try clicking HERE!

1795. Future classroom dialogue – c. 2162 CE

Student: Excuse me Miss. Do we really have to study this?

Ms. Honeybun: Yes, Zenith. It’s written by a great writer. It will stretch your imagination. It will open your eyes to possibilities.

Student: But we have already studied his novel and poems, and now we’re expected to study his short stories. Why can’t we study someone interesting, like Shakespeare or Emily Bronte or Thorkel X. Kaftan. (Note: Thorkel X. Kaftan didn’t appear on the literary scene until around 2098 CE).

Ms. Honeybun: Shakespeare is so very yesterday and greatly overrated. In my opinion we are studying the greatest writer since Euripides.

Student: But Euripides wrote plays. This stupid idiot didn’t write plays.

Ms. Honeybun: He’s not a stupid idiot, Zenith. And oh yes, he did write plays. His plays are the next thing on the syllabus we will be studying.

Student: I hate having things shoved down my throat.

Ms. Honeybun: When you are older you will thank me for having so forcibly introduced you to this lustrous author. Euripides and Bruce Goodman are undoubtedly the two greatest writers in the history of the world.

Second Student: Speaking on behalf of the rest of the class, we simply adore what you are teaching us, Miss Honeybun.

Ms. Honeybun: Thank you, Echinacea. I’m glad most of the class recognize greatness when they see it. Now could you please all turn to Story 1795: Future classroom dialogue.

Footnote: See the links at the top of the blog page!

1774. The Perfect Book Tag

Imagine my excitement in having just returned from taking the dog for an extended walk (and in the process collected a bucketful of wild mushrooms) to discover that someone has challenged me to complete The Perfect Book Tag (even though I’m a free spirit and not taggable). That someone blogs at Dumbest Blog Ever; a blog that is self-described as Stu(pidity) on Stareoids. The postings range from the erudite to the enjoyably stupid, from the sublime to the cor blimey. The blog is well worth the visit (I reckon).

This posting sees a departure from the daily story, and is a bit longer than usual. Of course nothing is perfect, not even myself when I was eleven, but these are some literary works I have enjoyed over the years.

Some snippets of these reflections you may have heard before. I’m not averse to repeating myself. I’m not averse to repeating myself. I hope the selection (which borders on the classic and boring) doesn’t show me up to being a tedious snob. I’m not averse to repeating myself.

The Pretty Good Genre
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

This is the title of O’Connor’s collection of short stories, and contains the best short story ever written – also entitled A Good Man is Hard to Find. Even though you know from the start what’s going to happen your hair stands on end as it happens. The writing is both funny and horrifying. I’ve always been a fan of Flannery O’Connor and a big fan of the short story genre.

“She looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity.”

The Perfect Setting
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange and the Yorkshire Moors are the perfect setting for this extraordinary novel – which surprisingly a lot of people haven’t read. The plot IS the setting. The setting IS the characters. The setting IS the theme. Everything in this novel is integrated into the one thing. Perfectly constructed. I guess I’ve read it maybe 50 times or so.

“I said his heaven would be only half alive; and he said mine would be drunk.”

The Pretty Good Main Character
The Book of Thel by William Blake

Thel is the character in this longish poem by Blake. She is too afraid to come into existence, because that begins the journey towards death. Thel is ephemeral.

Ah! Thel is like a watry bow, and like a parting cloud,
Like a reflection in a glass, like shadows in the water,
Like dreams of infants, like a smile upon an infant’s face,
Like the doves voice, like transient day, like music in the air.

The Pretty Good Best Friend
A Certain Age by Cynthia Jobin

Many readers will be familiar with the poetry of the late Cynthia Jobin. She took a keen and positive interest in so many bloggers and posted her brilliant poetry on her blog. Her final poem Night Draws Near, Brother Ass is heart-rending. I was unaware she had died when I received in the mail from her a collection of poems by William Stafford called Even in Quiet Places.

Let me down easy
the way hints of winter
fall exquisitely today
scattering icy lacy flowers
from a cloud bouquet

The Pretty Good Love Interest
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

I’m not heavily into love stories, although I have read a great number of novels by Danielle Steel and enjoyed every bit of them. Shhh! But I chose Richardson’s Clarissa because it’s one of the earliest books written in English and I got through the hundreds of pages of love letters never once being able to work out if “they were doing it”. It was all insinuation. Clarissa Harlowe is abducted by Robert Lovelace. That was the gist of it, and I found it pretty riveting really. Besides, I had to read it for exams at university.

“Love gratified, is love satisfied — and love satisfied, is indifference begun.”

The Pretty Good Villain
Richard III by William Shakespeare

I know it’s predictable but it’s inevitable. Richard III is one of my favourite plays. That horrid movie with Ian McKellen missed the point because the film omitted Queen Margaret’s great cursing scene. Each curse comes true, bit by bit.

Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!
Thou that wast seal’d in thy nativity
The slave of nature and the son of hell!
Thou slander of thy mother’s heavy womb!
Thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins!
Thou rag of honour! thou detested—

The Pretty Good Family
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My sisters adored this novel in my childhood. Once I grew up I was old enough to be seen reading it. When I studied in Boston, USA, I would go to Walden Pond in New Hampshire. The Alcotts, Hawthorne, and Thoreau lived within walking distance from one another. It must’ve been something in the water.“I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.”

The Pretty Good Animal
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter

I loved this story as a kid – and still do. I think it was because Jemima wanted to hatch out baby ducklings and I kept ducks as a kid and was forever hatching out babies. I didn’t mind the fox in the story because in New Zealand we don’t have foxes. There is something quite magical about a bird’s egg!

“Quack?“ said Jemima Puddle-Duck, with her head and her bonnet
on one side.

The Pretty Good Plot Twist
The Leader by Eugene Ionesco

This short ten minute play by Ionesco is one of my favourites. Mind you, all of Ionesco plays are my favourites! The leader off stage is watched by fans on stage. They go ape-shit over him/her. They go goo-gar. “He’s patting a pet hedgehog! He spits a tremendous distance.” (Incidentally, the actor who said those lines in a production I once directed became the Prime Minister of New Zealand in reality!) When the leader does appear at the end he/she is headless. “Who needs a head when you’ve got charisma?” Ionesco used to write to me but his letters stopped once he died. Strange.

“Shut up! Shut up! You’re ruining everything”

The Pretty Good Trope
Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame

Janet Frame was a New Zealand novelist and this was her first novel. It tells the story of a women with mental problems, who gets shut away in a mental hospital and watches the mountains through the keyhole in her cell. (The story is a lot better than that). Throughout the novel, Frame creates associations with images, so at the end of the novel she only has to mention all these jolly images and you burst into tears! (At least I did).

“She grew more and more silent about what really mattered. She curled inside herself like one of those … little shellfish you see on the beach, and you touch them, and they go inside and don’t come out.”

The Pretty Good Cover
A Guide to Folk Tales in the English Language by D.L. Ashliman

I bought this book for about $250 around 25 years ago. It has a summary of 2,335 folk tales. Back then I earned a living writing for children to perform on stage so such a book came in handy! I don’t care too much about covers, although for a novel I don’t appreciate an artist showing me what a character should look like. That’s the writer’s task. It’s why I’ve never seen any of The Lord of the Rings movies – they ruin the imagination. I like this cover. It’s plain, and in another life I learnt the skills of a book binder and could create plain covers like this!

The Pretty Good Ending
The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge

I think this is my favourite all-time play (at least for today). At the end Pegeen Mike whispers: “Oh my grief, I’ve lost him surely. I’ve lost the only Playboy of the Western World.”

“… it’s great luck and company I’ve won me in the end of time – two fine women fighting for the likes of me – till I’m thinking this night wasn’t I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in the years gone by.”

Thanks for reading!

Poem 93: Yet another poem about a dead cat

My cat woke me at four each morning.
She would jump on the bed and claw the pillow
right next to my eyes.
I would wake, fearful for my sight.
Would I never again see the day slip over the hill?
Would I never again see the moon slip over the hill
or the barley field wave in the wind?
Perhaps by patting the cat I could doze a little longer.
Bloody cat.

Fourteen years ago,
on a night I could not sleep,
I rose from bed at four and fed the cat.
Breakfast at four became her rite, her right.
Bloody cat.

Last year she was sick.
The veterinarian said
“That’ll be one hundred and thirty dollars please.”
I gave up wine and stuff for a month to pay for it.
That bloody cat was more of a nuisance than I ever imagined.

Last week she died.
If she came back I’d let her scratch out my eyes.

1765. Thanks for the poetry

Hi Harvey

Just a quick note to thank you for sending me your book of poetry. Congratulations on getting it published. I was very keen to read your poems as I didn’t until today realize that you wrote poetry. It tells me a lot more about you than I ever imagined.

The book arrived in the mail just as I was about to go to the bathroom. As I was so excited to begin to read it I took it to the bathroom with me and began to peruse your poems while “enthroned”.

The first thing I noticed, and this is a little critical, is that the cover is excellent, as is the print, but why, oh why, did it have to be printed on cheap newsprint? I suppose it’s fashionable to use recycled things, but personally I was distracted by it thinking that your poetry would most certainly deserve better.

Well, I started reading your poems thoughtfully and I guess I carefully read the first half dozen. Look, I don’t want to be negative about things, but quite honestly, the poems did nothing for me. I thought they were banal and simplistic. I’m telling you this not to be cruel and offensive, but because honesty is always the best route to take. How can one improve if one already thinks that one is the cat’s whiskers?

Heave ho! upon the briny deep,
Oh sailor man.
Wither doth the waves caress the shore.
Who could wish for more
In days of yore?

I can see why you had to get it self-published.

Anyway, thanks again for thinking of me and sending a free copy.

Regards
Maurice

P.S. Don’t you just hate it – like once every eleven years or so – when you’re in the bathroom and realize you’re out of toilet paper?