Monday, August 25, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Morning Glory, by Siobhan Harvey

Morning Glory

These final moments of sleeping
cradle something which can never be

reclaimed. Like land and water, we
have shared the space, the companionship

of mother and child. Now posed in simple relief,
your marble body, your eyes closed appear, like a statue,

imagined of substance which might simply break.
Soon, you’ll wake up anew

to friends, books and independence strangers will measure
out with their invisible, impartial scales. In metamorphosis

quick as an intake of my breath, you’ll be dressed
in your first uniform. As swiftly, I’ll see you own it

and so will attempt to still a need to cry.
For all the years I’ve held back the stirring

of these things with a sentinel’s weakness, I break
the slumber of our moment by calling our your name.


"Morning Glory: is taken from Siobhan Harvey's recent collection, Cloudboy which won the 2013 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award.

Some poetry books can be dipped into here and there. This is one I read straight through from beginning to end. It gains power as it goes, being an account of the author's relationship with her autistic son, and his difficulties entering school. The poem above is a lovely example of the sensitivity expressed in the collection.

Another poem from the collection, Cloudmother was earlier posted on the Tuesday Poem main hub site, with a commentary by the hub editor, Helen McKinlay, and Siobhan's own comments on the collection. To these, I have little to add, and recommend clicking through to read those comments, if you haven't already done so.

Thanks to Siobhan for permission to post "Morning Glory" here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Christian Milne (1773 - ?)

On a Lady
Who Spoke with Some Ill-Nature of the Advertisement of
My Little Work in the
Aberdeen Journal

Says pert Miss Prue,
"There's something new
In Chalmers' weekly papers -
A shipwright's wife,
In humble life,
Writes rhyme by nightly tapers!

"That folks of taste
Their time should waste
To read them, makes me wonder!
A lowborn fool
Ne'er bred at school,
What can she do but blunder?

"Write rhyme, forsooth!
Upon my truth,
"Twill put it out of fashion;
She can but paint
In colors faint
Rude nature's lowest passion.

"A wife so mean
Should nurse and clean
And mend her husband's jacket,
Not spend her time
In writing rhyme
And raising such a racket!"


While on holiday it was a delight to discover several excellent second hand bookshops, at one of which I picked up a fat volume "British Women Poets of the 19th Century". There were a few I had heard of, such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Christina Rossetti, and many many more that I hadn't. Perhaps sentiments such as those expressed in the poem above - women should stick to domestic business - explain why so many female poets didn't receive greater recognition.

I enjoyed the humour of this poem, and was interested to read about the author, who was the child of a carpenter. Her mother died soon after her birth, and her stepmother tried to prevent her learning to read and write. She married a ship's carpenter, and they had eight children. I was intrigued to read that she received 100 pounds for her only volume of poems, and that she invested it in a sixteenth share of a ship. So her poems must have been quite well received, as it seems unlikely that publication of a book of verse today would earn sufficient funds to buy one sixteenth of a ship, even a small one!

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.

Strangers from Afar

Carmi's Thematic Photographic theme for the week is strangers from afar. Looking into my photo files, I find I don't do that very much. I did, however, find the above photo that I took a couple of months back, outside Christchurch's transitional cathedral. Something about the electrician's kneeling figure intrigued me. Perhaps it is to do with the motto "laborare est orare" (to work is to pray). (Which reminds me, I intended to write a poem based on the scene).

To find more, I had to go back much further in my files. It turns out I'm less shy of taking photos of strangers when I travel overseas (which is not very often).

The modern centurion in the photo above seemed to have echoes of the fellow in the photo below:

The last of my selection was taken in Singapore.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Photographed at Te Puna Quarry Park.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lenticular Cloud over Wellington

We were up early last Monday morning on our way to the ferry terminal, and spotted this amazing cloud over the hills at sunrise. I had heard of lenticular clouds before, but never seen one.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On the Beach

We have been on holiday.More photos to come, in the meantime here is an image for Carmi's Thematic Photographic. This week's theme is look straight down, which this photo seemed to fit, more or less.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tuesday Poem

Busy this week, but Helen Lowe has posted one of my poems as Tuesday Poem on her blog - Learning Italian.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What I've Been Reading

Every so often I come across a list on a blog, generally at the end of December or early January, titled something like "the best ten novels I've read this year". You won't find that here.I mean, who has time to read that much? Possibly, if you only read novels, there would be time to read enough - say twenty or thirty - that it would be worth picking the best ten. But my reading is not restricted to novels, there are of course newspapers, and magazines, lots of poetry books, non fiction, research related to family history, and so on.

And then there is my day job, and other pursuits like writing, sewing, playing bridge (one of the few things my husband and I do together, so I am not about to let it go), and getting out and about for some exercise and inspiration.

So - "best ten" - not so much, and as for "1001 books you must read before you die" I once calculated how many I would have to read a year, and laughed at that book title, which doesn't seem to allow any time at all for additions for personal preference, or all the books that are going to be published between now and the date of my demise, whenever that might be.

I have however read a couple of books lately that I thought worth a mention. The first, one that has often popped up in "must read" lists, and the second, one I had never heard of before.

The first novel I ever read by Rose Tremain was "Music and Silence", a historic novel which I found mesmerising. I wanted more, so tried a number of the author's other books, and was disappointed. Her modern novels don't appeal to me - I tried "The Long Road Home" - OK but not outstanding - and "Trespass" in which I found most of the characters unpleasant and unappealing, although admittedly by the end of the book they had grown on me a little. Then there was "The Colour", another historical novel, but set in New Zealand rather than Europe. Somehow, the setting just seemed inauthentic and I couldn't get into it properly because of the overwhelming sense of "not quite rightness".

Finally, however, I got round to "Restoration" and more recently, "Merivel", both of which I enjoyed enormously. And I can't quite say why these grabbed me when the others didn't. It's not that the characters are less flawed. Maybe I prefer flawed characters who are firmly in the past? Perhaps if the settings are suitably remote, I can forgive flaws as being of another time and place? I haven't come to a conclusion yet.However, I can say for those who like deeply layered, complex historical novels, these are well worth reading.

The other book which I am just about to return to the library is one that I found on the new books shelf. I knew nothing about the author - it's her first novel - but the book looked intriguing so I picked it up. And I'm very glad I did. The author is Jess Richards and the book is "Snake Ropes". Jess Richards was born in Wales and grew up in South West Scotland. The setting of the book is a mysterious island somewhere far to the west of Scotland. The inhabitants have long been isolated. Their only visitors are the mysterious tall men who come from the mainland to trade for fish and for the women's craft work, being careful not to disturb the culture of the islanders too much. The story is told in the voice of two young girls, Mary who is an islander, and Morgan whose parents have settled there from the mainland, after fleeing something dark in their past. If I had to label this book with a genre, I would say "magical realism".Morgan can talk to the dead, and the myths told by Mary's grandmother become tangled in the story so that it is not quite clear what is myth and what is real. The blurb on the back of the book reads "The day the tall men come from the mainland to trade, Mary's little brother goes missing. She needs to find him. She needs to know a secret that no one else can tell her."

It's a stunning book, highly imaginative, unlike anything else I have ever read. I highly recommend it.