Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Spring Rain (Poem)

all night long it rained
big fat thrumming teardrops on the roof and the ground
like the heart of the sky was breaking
like heaven itself was grieving the wounds of the world
the deep cuts and the little ones

this morning the soil is rich-brown
there are puddles everywhere
the paths are washed clean,
the birds feast on surfacing worms
and droplets, like silvered mirrors, lace the roses

and sadness bears its fruit, as it always does -

from pain, growth.
from tears, beauty.
from grief, life.

- Kathy, 25/10/17

Monday, October 23, 2017

Welcome to the Word Factory

In one week's time, it will be November. In November I am going to:

- start a new big project for an interstate client
- push hard to finish two big existing work projects
- do NaNoWriMo - that's write a 50,000 word novel in a month
- post every day of the month on this blog
- probably, go a bit strange in the brainpan region

In November, I am not going to:
- do any seasonal preparation whatsoever
- cook anything new
- bake
- talk to anyone except my family, my clients and my NaNo buddies
- do anything social, houseworky or otherwise responsible

It's still going to be a very big stretch, and I am flexing my mental muscles in preparation already. I expect to be a very tired, very depleted woman on 1 December.

But I missed NaNo SO MUCH last year. I ached to be doing it. I don't want to let it go again just because things have suddenly got hot with work.

So onwards and upwards! Once more into the fray! I can (probably, possibly) do it! Anything is possible! And all that good stuff :-)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Gift (Poem)

This news story DEMANDED that a poem be created in its honour. I mean, the headline itself! "First-seen neutron star collision creates light, gravitational waves and gold". That's the poetry of the universe right there, isn't it?

The poem is another English Madrigal. "Keep practising until the form collapses in submission" is my motto :-)


Two stars in helix, dancing to their death;
Miasma clouds of many kinds of light
The show unfolds, and look! Einstein was right.

Ripples in space-time for half a breath
as precious atoms, formed-unformed, take flight.
Through telescopes, we spy on our own death
writ large in starbursts, etched out in the light.

The sound you hear is breaking shibboleth:
a universe that cuts through all we write.
No earth-bound stories hold us down tonight.
The neutron suns that, somehow, in their death
gave to sentient primates, here, some light:
spoke their cosmic truth, and became right.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Book Thing

Saturday night bravery, because if I don't say it publicly it's too easy to back out:

I am bringing out a collection of poetry in 2018. It is not titled yet but it is a themed collection of poems about women from key iconic stories - from the Torah, from mythology, and from fairy-tales.
The poems are in a range of styles, from my favourite form (villanelle) to sestinas, pantoums, rondeaus, haiku, madrigals, stream of consciousness, and free verse.

Each poem is accompanied by a prose version of the story of the woman who it is inspired by. Some of the poems are fairly straight retellings of the story; some are reinterpreted or twisted in a range of ways. Sometimes the story is just the jumping-off point for the poem.

I'm self-publishing it and it will be available via a few online book-buying channels and (hopefully) to bricks-and-mortar retailers as well. It'll be a paperback and probably also an e-book. I have a lovely editor and a talented designer lined up to hopefully make it the best book it can be.

I am aiming for a June 2018 launch date and when we get closer to that time, I will put an invitation here for anyone who wants to come along to the party thing, which will include fuds that I make and perhaps a cake if I can talk someone into making one (I'll look forward to seeing all three of you, and my Mum, there! :-P)

This is all quite scary. My imposter syndrome is screaming in my ear constantly, telling me it's all garbage, but stuff it, I'm in my mid-40s - if I don't do this now, it's odds-on I never will. So I thought I would share this plan, to keep me honest and keep me going.

Here is one of the poems that will appear in the book, in case you are interested. This was previously published here and is inspired by the story of Scheherazade - the desperate bride who was the teller of the 1,001 Arabian Nights tales.

A Thousand Nights

Listen, king, and I will tell you a tale.

It starts in a city of saints high in the desert
where the morning light has such a clarity
and the pink hills all around glow with life

and then there is a boat that goes under the sea
nosing up to the shallows like a curious porpoise
inviting you to come beneath, and yet

the sky gallops like a wild mare, ribbons of white foam
chasing each other towards heaven

there is a woman in it, with eyes like muddy stars
a gaggle of geese in a field, and a treasure -
only time will tell what kind

I saw it when I slept, and the song the colours sang
tore my heart into pieces at my feet

Listen, king, and I will weave you a new palace
the filigree of dreams is finer than any lace

honey-golden with promise and the longing,
that aching longing,
that comes when you look to the west
or at the vast night sky, and the soul cries out -

Once upon a time in a land far, far away...

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Madrigal for Roses (Poem)

 My final go for now at an English madrigal - inspired by the inexplicable yet undeniable mood lift I always get, every year, when my roses bloom. 

I grew up with roses - my Dad had beautiful standard rose trees in both our front and back yards and tended them lovingly, and it was my job to water them in the warmer months. I always, always loved them and the way they smelled and the way they felt and the colours and the joyfulness of the exploding buds. 

When we moved into our current home, 13 years ago now, the very first thing I planted was the deep pink rose tree. (My partner's first planting choices, which has been equally successful, were our lemon tree and our front-doorway lavender). I planted in the white and gold roses some years later. I love them all with an irrationally deep love, and this poem sort of picks at why that might be.

A Madrigal for Roses

It must be spring, for now the roses come
Fibrous and silken, deep pink and gold and white:
pink for friends, white for love, and gold-delight.

Dense around, the air is filled with hum
of bees and flash of hunting birds in flight.
Soon enough, the rogue loose tendrils come,
creeping up the wall pale green and white.

A weed so beautiful it makes me dumb;
caught in reverie in lemon light,
life that whispers pleasure in the night.
Old blooms fade but new buds always come
And birth as well as death is dressed in white
And in all heaviness there is, still, delight.

- Kathy, 13/10/17

Monday, October 9, 2017

Four weeks in review, four weeks in view

This has been a very, very full 4 weeks, as I expected it would be, and a few surprises have cropped up in it too. The nicest surprise was getting close to locking in a big new work job for an interstate client - I'm quite stoked about that, and should know for sure next week if it's going to come to fruition. There were a few other littler things too - like discovering that I *can* actually write hard poetic forms I thought were out of reach for me (sestina, madrigal).

The trip to Sydney was jam-packed, but as I've already written about that, I won't belabour it here. This last week of the school holidays has been much more low-key and that's probably a good thing for all of our energy levels.

The four weeks coming up will be the first four weeks of the final term of the year, and also encompass big project commitments, Halloween, a couple of cons, and the start of NaNoWriMo. It is going to be extremely hectic, but we'll muddle through ... I think!

FOUR WEEKS IN REVIEW (11 September - 8 October)
- 12 days paid work (5 in week of 11 Sept, 3 in week of 18 Sept, 4 in week of 2 Oct)
- School sleepover for youngest
- Homelessness awareness sleep-out for elder two kids
- Leave for me (21 Sept - 1 Oct) and school holidays for kids (23 Sept - 8 Oct)
- Family holiday in Sydney (24 Sept - 1 Oct), incorporating the Sherlock exhibition and OzComicCon (*this was great)
- The Virgin Australia Epic Omnishambles Debacle (*this was not great)
- 2 weeks of extracurriculars: gymnastics, jujitsu, chess, skating
- Online Book Club (11 September): Jane Eyre (great discussion!)
- More work on Women of Story development
- Wrote 8 new poems, including trying two new forms
- Submitted a poem and a pitch to different publications

FOUR WEEKS IN VIEW (9 October - 5 November)
- Minimum 16 paid work days and could be higher (projects are running hot atm)
- Kick-off on new interstate project if it proceeds
- (Unconfirmed but probable) Interstate work trip
- Extracurriculars x 4: Gymnastics and swimming (8 year old); jujitsu (14 year old); ice skating (12 year old)
- Online Book Club (18 October): Exit West
- Halloween shenanigans of various kinds
- Stargate 20th anniversary convention (me and 14 year old) - 5 November
- Anime convention (12 and 14 year olds with friends) - 4 November
- Commence NaNoWriMo journey (on 1 November) - this will dominate writing goals in November overall
- Write at least 6 new poems
- Submit at least 2 poems to publications or competitions

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Madrigal for My Ageing Body (Poem)

Practicing is the only way to get better at most things, fiendish poetry forms not excepted. Here is my second take at the English madrigal form. 

A Madrigal for My Ageing Body

Everything now sends signals to the end:
loosened muscles, acquiescence of the bone
the mother passing, welcoming the crone.

The lines around the eyes become a friend;
every wound half-healed is there to own.
the time of being young is at an end;
the future sunset written in the bone.

New power comes with it - now one can bend
the light around you, hide in shadows grown.
no-one sees old women; all unknown
you watch, and see, the body make its end
while the birth of suns swims in your bone
and, made of stars, you welcome in the crone.

- Kathy, 8/10/17

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Madrigal for the Future, Supposing it Exists (Poem)

Time for a new poetry form challenge, as my last four poems have all been sestinas and I'm starting to get the hang of them now (so need to mix it up!) My sestinas, incidentally, have been Flood, Lovesong Sestina, one I haven't published here called Psyche on the Mountain, and Bronte Beach Sestina. Of them, I'm happiest with Lovesong Sestina, although I think the Psyche one will come along with a bit more work. (It's for my forthcoming Women of Story collection).

So this time I am going to try a Madrigal. These come in both the English and Italian varieties, but I am sticking to the pattern used in English. It's absolutely fiendish, but here it is:

Line 1: A
Line 2: B1
Line 3: B2

Line 4: a
Line 5: b
Line 6: A
Line 7: B1

Line 8: a
Line 9: b
Line 10: b
Line 11: A
Line 12: B1
Line 13: B2

The capitals represent words that have to repeated, whereas the lower-case letters represent a rhyme sound. So, effectively, you have only two "sounds" in the entire poem - your A and B sounds - and indeed only eight actual end words with all the repetitions ("A" and "B1" get used three times apiece, and "B2" gets used twice).

It's a very restrictive form and is meant to be written in iambic pentameter too, just for kicks. Probably the most well-known proponent of it in English is Chaucer, but I refuse to go for a Chaucerian effect here!

So ... here goes my attempt at a madrigal. I have gone slightly whimsical and futuristic in theme, because it seems pleasantly incongruous with such a traditional form.

A Madrigal for the Future, Supposing it Exists 

some live in the light of a doubled sun
and eat phosphorescent lover-fruit, starlight grown
so far and far the terrestrial seed was sown;

some live on the interstellar run
in fat-bellied ships and stations in the zone
and never walk beneath a native sun
and raise their children, floating, porous-grown

so strange, to think, that there was only one -
a first and natal, blue-skimmed chunk of stone
a birther mythos for them all to own
only dust, now, under that first sun
the used-up husk from which the pod was grown
a barren harvest reaped from what was sown.

- Kathy, 4/10/17

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Week in Sydney

We got back in the wee small hours of the morning from a week's holiday in Sydney. 

It was not the *plan* to get home in the vampire hours, but we got caught up in Virgin Australia's epic omnishambles yesterday, occasioned by a system failure on the part of their telco provider, Optus. 

There was blame and finger-pointing aplenty, but the bottom line for us was that instead of being home in
our house sipping tea at 7:30pm as we should've been, we staggered through the door, bagless (yep, they lost our luggage) at about 12:45am, and frankly we were lucky to even do that, as many people were left stranded until this morning.

So the less said about the journey back the better, but the Sydney trip itself was a very worthwhile one. I would not class it as either our best or most relaxing holiday ever (best is still Port Douglas in 2014, most relaxing would be a tie between our multiple Phillip Island and Warrnambool holidays over the years - PI and Warrnambool are such soothing, beloved places for us). 

It was, however, one of the most interesting and diverse, and certainly one of the most active, family holidays we've ever had - my Fitbit reported that I walked 100,000 steps in the 7 days we were there, which is certainly a personal best and I think objectively a good result!

We arrived in Sydney last Sunday evening (smooth journey up!) and headed to the AirBnB in Bexley that we had rented for the week to share with our family friends, who were also going up for part of the time. 

The accommodation was called "The TARDIS" (bigger on the inside etc), and although that might have been slightly over-egging the pudding, it's true that what appeared to be a modest single-fronted villa ended up sleeping 10 people without anyone having resort to the floor, so you can't fault that. Its true virtue, though, was its easy proximity to Kogorah station, which became our portal to the adventures that followed on every day we were in Sydney. It's a super convenient station for everything and we made extensive use of it all week.

So we ended up doing a lot of things.

On the Monday, we trained in to Circular Quay, walked along the harbour to the Opera House, then did the Opera House guided tour. 

In all my 44 years, which have included at least 15 trips to Sydney and maybe more, I have never set foot inside the Opera House, despite having seen it from the outside countless times. The one-hour guided tour was amazing - way better than we had expected. The kids were all fascinated, as was I. It was well worth the money and the time, and set us off on a good foot.

From the Opera House, we walked along the Harbour into the Rocks, and looked around the historic buildings and laneways. Ice cream may also have been involved! We returned to our accommodation in the early evening a little footsore but contented.

The Tuesday was back into the city - this time for the Observatory and a picnic lunch looking out over the city and the Bridge, and then to the Botanic Gardens to take a ride in the tourist mini-train and look at the landmarks. By the time we got back to Kogorah Station, my friend and her two kids had arrived from Melbourne and lo, there was much rejoicing (our five combined kids are very, very fond of each other!)

Three adults and five kids headed to Bondi Beach on the train and bus on Wednesday. After Bondi cafe milkshakes, we finagled the kids into doing part of the Eastern Beaches coastal walk, which was just magnificent. 

The day was warm but not unbearable for walking, although the shaded portions were welcome! We fetched up at Bronte Beach for cafe lunch and a two-hour swim / play at the beach, which all the kids thought was fantastic.

Thursday was the long-anticipated (for me, anyway) International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes at the Powerhouse Museum. Words cannot express how much I loved this exhibition. All five kids enjoyed doing the puzzles, but it was the collection of Sherlockania that pleased me the most. 

After the Powerhouse we had lunch in Chinatown and fielded the first semi-catastrophe of the holiday, where my youngest daughter's eye suddenly swelled up; it was off to the doctor then the optometrist to get her checked and sorted, a bit scary but all resolved in the end.

Thursday night the final two members of our temporary household arrived (in cars) from Melbourne, and there was merriment into the evening.

On Friday we caught the train to Darling Harbour and checked out that area, then walked to Circular Quay, where we parted company with our friends and headed back to Bexley to freshen up (our friends went on to catch a ferry to Watsons Bay and later have dinner in Darling Harbour). After showers, we headed to Newtown to meet up with some Sydney-based friends for dinner at a Thai restaurant. The food was magnificent and the company wonderful.

Saturday was taken up in its entirety by the core purpose for our "housemate" friends to be in Sydney at this time of year - the Sydney OzComicCon event. Our friends own a pop culture toys business and sell at all the major cons throughout the year. 

We all had a good, if tiring, day, at the show - my 14 year old in particular, who went off to panels, got a photo with a Doctor Who actress, and generally went nuts on the merchandise. My 12-year-old loves to organise things, so she was deputised to reorder the stock when customers disarranged it, a task she took very seriously. 

My partner and I helped with the serving on the stall and the wrangling of the two 8-year-olds, which hopefully freed our friends up a little. 

As always, the cosplay was the best part for me, as was finally meeting a longtime Internet friend in real life for the first time. We made a roast beef dinner to share that night, which was well received after a long day of retail!

Sunday was meant to be OzComicCon in the morning, airport in the afternoon, home for dinner, but ended up being OzComicCon in the morning, airport in the afternoon, stuff-up of gargantuan size and home 5 hours late ... not the flashest end to a holiday to be honest, but it is what it is, and it's important to not allow that to taint our memories of the trip as a whole. (Just of Virgin, who are now on my perpetual shitlist).

So, in the lessons learned category ... These are specific to us, and YMMV.

Don't fly if we can realistically drive or take a train, but if we do have to fly, do NOT do it in the evening after a heavily packed week. Too stressful for us overall if things go wrong when we are already exhausted, which they seem to do more and more often these days with air travel. (Obviously you have no choice for overseas).

Filling up every day is great, but tiring. Next time we have a highly active holiday, I'll take more care to either build in a downtime day for every three busy days, or else allow a buffer on returning home before we all have to be on our best game again. (In fact the kids do have such a buffer, still being on school hols, but partner and I are back to work). 

Our next jam-packed holiday will be Japan in April next year, and I'm already looking at our scheduling there to make sure I am building in some rest days.

Holidaying with another family with similar aged kids is wonderful. I know my kids enjoyed themselves even more for having their friends with them, and the opportunity to talk / spend time with / even share the cooking and child-wrangling with my own friend was lovely.

A week is not really long enough in Sydney when you are enthusiastic tourists. We did a lot of things, yes, but there were many more that we would've liked to have got to but didn't - from more coastal walks, to the ferries, the Zoo, Madame Tussaud's, the Queen Vic building, etc. 

I wanted to get out to Manly too but we just did not have time. In hindsight, I probably would've been better extending our trip to Wednesday or Thursday this week (of course, had I but known, if I had done so I would've avoided Virgin's SystemGate nonsense as well!)

Bottom line - it was a good week, I'm really glad we went, and we made some memories as a family and with our friends. It might take me another week to get my energy back now though!