Archive for the ‘New Poetry in Progress’ Category

My last day here in England was glorious. We set off to Durham, to see the cathedral there in mid-morning. It’s not far at all. (I’m notorious for always thinking distances on paper or internet maps are either a) much shorter or b) much longer than they seem to be! My cousin Frank and his wife, Darlene, can attest to this issue that I have, especially when it comes to the terrain of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. In this case, our drive from Newcastle to Durham wasn’t much more than a half hour’s drive.)

Durham is a small town, but it’s interestingly centred and clustered around the cathedral, which rises up on a hill. As Jack said, “All roads lead up there.” You can’t get lost, really, and it seems to me that would have been the thing for travellers and pilgrims to do, to use a tall and imposing tower as a way to guide them towards nearby towns and villages. Durham Cathedral was certified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1986, and the cathedral is the final resting place of St. Cuthbert, who spent time out on Holy Island (or Lindisfarne). The city itself can be traced back to AD 995, when a group of monks brought the body of Cuthbert there to rest. Imagine that! It’s so very old.

We spent time wandering through the building, which is so beautiful. Each pillar has a different design on it, running from floor to ceiling. High above, well, let’s just say that it was a neck cricking day for me. I warned Pippa, Jack and Karen that I have a problem with touching old things in ancient buildings. I always feel it’s better to let people know. (Having someone see you with your palm caressing a stone pillar, or running your fingers around the edge of a carved wooden rose on the end of a pew, could — I feel — be a wee bit awkward if you didn’t know what the person was doing. Better, I think, to just admit you have a sensory issue and like to grope historic buildings. I have a fetish, I suppose, and its mostly historical and architectural, and artistic, in nature. Sigh. 🙂

Jack and Karen went off to see a friend of theirs, but Pippa and I stayed in the cathedral. We got to chatting with a guide in a purple cloak. When he found out I was from Canada, I just blurted out, “I love it here. I have a problem, though. I would like to touch everything in here!” He looked at me, a bit stymied, and then said, “Well, as long as you don’t touch the guides in the purple cloaks, we’ll be okay with you. Canadians!” So, of course, I cheekily reached over and patted him on his purple cloaked arm. He shook his head, looked at Pippa, and said, “Those Canadians…they never listen, do they?”

Then he told us that there would be a choir singing in “The Crossing,” the part of the cathedral where the centre of the cross of the building meets, just in front of the High Altar. Pippa and I sat and listened to the choir sing for about twenty or twenty-five minutes. I so wanted to record it, because it was so beautiful, but it felt so sacred, the music echoing and winging its way around the stone spaces, that I couldn’t bear to do it. Instead, I found myself wanting to weep again. Listening to Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and Mozart’s “Laudate Dominum,” amongst other pieces of sacred music, was uplifting. I could see a third of the grand rose window through one of the High Altar arches, and I just kept thinking, “Oh my God…how many people have been here, since the beginning of it all?” Just before we sat to listen, we lit candles. Then again, I had the same thought. “How many prayers and intentions are offered here, every single day, and then compound that by hundreds of years?”
I lost my hands in my lap again today. It’s a common happening of late, these out of body arts experiences. (I guess my soul just gets too excited to stay inside my body….so I ‘hover’ a bit if things are too beautiful…like poetry or music or theatre.)

I know it’s a more and more secular world. I get it. I still love the beauty of ritual, though, and perhaps this is why I am drawn to services (whether Catholic or Protestant) and sacred music. There is a timelessness about it. The other thing, though, is that hope shines through in each candle that is offered, in each quiet prayer that is sent up to the heavens, past the sound of a choir singing on a Monday afternoon, and winging its way up around the arches and through the roof. There is something truly glorious about that, these little acts of hope, in the face of a external world that is increasingly violent and without reason or compassion. While everything seems to fall apart around us, there are still tiny moments of grace, whether they are spent in the company of a good friend, an “anam cara,” or whether they are spent listening to an afternoon of choral music with absolute strangers. In amidst the gathering of strangers, there are such strong sparks of hope and light. I’ll put my stock in that these days…

I’m off home tomorrow, and I’m anxious to see my little furballs, Sable and Gully. I’m also anxious to get to work on the final edits of my poetry collection, and then to move on with my novel writing work sometime later next week. I feel so blessed to have had this time to write, and to be around writers, over these past few months. It has changed my life. Being able to travel here, first to Scotland, and then here to Newcastle, has allowed me to meet poets from this part of the world. They are all so amazing, and I have made new friends. I’m going to miss Pippa, especially, but I know we’ll always stay in touch. Soul sisters in poetry are impossible to separate, even if there’s an ocean between them. How blessed am I? How very blessed and grateful am I? Very.

Find (and share) your spark, friends. Beam your light!


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What I find interesting about “spending time” with Georgia O’Keefe, by reading her letters or diaries, or by listening to interviews on YouTube, is that her mind and creativity was amazingly diverse. People so often speak of her flower paintings, but these Hawaiian pieces go beyond that, to include the waterfalls of the Iao Valley on Maui, and the lava fields. She was, quite simply, pulled into the natural world, and to the vast landscapes that she was drawn to so often in her lifetime.

With research, I learned that she hated the fact that people only viewed the most famous of her flower paintings as representations of the female genitalia. These interpretations only began after her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, took and exhibited some nude photographs of O’Keefe. Perhaps she didn’t know they would end up being exhibited when he took them, but once there were on the walls of New York art galleries, the work ended up creating a mythology around her own paintings and persona. She was, in so many ways, a very private person who was sexualized by her own husband’s photography exhibition. She never intended her own flower paintings to be analyzed from a Freudian perspective, but she had no say in the matter.

I never knew that until I started reading about her over the last few months. Imagine loving someone so much that you trusted that person to photograph you while naked. (I’m sure that’s common these days, what with the culture of selfies, sexting and such, but Stieglitz’s photographs of O’Keefe are beautiful works of art, and a testament of his love for her.)

Anyway, here is a new poem, created this afternoon on the back porch, until I was driven indoors by a sunshower that threatened my laptop. It’s a draft….work in progress.

Black Lava Bridge, Hana Coast,
No. 1, 1939
(for Georgia O’Keefe)

On the edges of things,
away from the pineapple fields,
she found the ocean, smashing itself
up against the rough skin of lava
that had naturally found its way to the sea.

Far from the Iao Valley,
where ancient chiefs were buried,
their sacred voices now silenced
by the rushing of waterfalls
amidst rainforest green,
this eastern coast of Maui
spoke to her now with new words.

Here, the lava made a crazy coast,
carved out by the gods, painted all black
with bright blue
waves that reflected sky.

At Hana, the waves rise up, pounding surf
rising high
into the air that hovers,
so that lava poured by Pele is sculpted
into bridges, pathways, gates,
etching out holes where water
sprays, hissing and blowing,
letting the light in with each wave’s retreat.

She climbed all over those rocks,
feeling the push of rough lava
up through the soles of her shoes,
rooting herself just as the ocean
rose up to meet her with saltwater,
ready to paint again.

*The italicized words in this poem are taken from a letter that O’Keefe wrote to her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, on March 15, 1939.

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Well, I’m working on a manuscript. There are plenty of poems on paper, all pooled together in a file folder, scratched out on little notebook pages, some jotted down while I was supervising June exams. (I know….it’s illegal….I did invigilate, but I also wrote down a couple of ‘first lines’ for poems. It happens and, if you’re a poet, you know that if you ignore them, the words vanish as quickly and mysteriously as they have arrived.)

Last August, when I was in Hawaii for a few days en route to Australia and New Zealand, I found an exhibit of Georgia O’Keefe’s work. She and Ansel Adams both visited Hawaii to work on artistic commissions. It was common in the late 1930s and 1940s, I’ve discovered through research, although I’m sure they both battled with the eternal question of whether or not art should be made commercial. In any case, O’Keefe negotiated fiercely with the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later to become good old Dole), committing herself to painting just two stylized posters even though they wanted more. Beyond that, she shifted from the island of Oahu and then moved over to Maui, spending about three months in the Hawaiian islands, but falling head over heels in love with Maui. Her paintings are stunning. They remind me of some of Emily Carr’s totem paintings of the Haida.

A shout out to my poetic guru, Susan Rich in Seattle, Washington, who has officially got me hooked on ekphrastic work. I did a lot of it before I went to Eyeries two years ago, but I’m fully committed to it now. 🙂 Thanks, lady! 🙂

So…..here is the introductory poem for the “suite” or “sequence” of poems that I’m working on….based on the paintings I viewed last August at the Honolulu Academy of Art.

Hope you enjoy it!

Her Hawaii
(for Georgia O’Keefe)

From Sun Prairie, in Wisconsin,
to the badlands of New Mexico,
she searched for wide open spaces,
with deep reverence, as a seeker does.

Flipped through travel brochures,
found one for Hawaii, went there
to paint pineapple posters for Dole,
but fell in love with Maui,
her heart toppled by waterfalls,
lava bridges, bright salted ocean spray.

She was 51 then,
in a marriage that floundered
like a fish out of water,
when she bravely crossed oceans
to find white birds of paradise
and pineapple buds of promise.

Landed on Oahu, stayed in Honolulu,
afterwards shifting to Hana, on Maui;
transfixed by sea caves, sugar cane fields,
tasting tamarind, star fruit, avocado & mango,
so that they soon became colours on canvas,
marked on her heart ever after.

She expected so little of those islands,
after being seduced by the badlands,
but they surprised her, catching her unaware,
sweeping her off her feet, gathering up her heart,
paintbrushes mad with passionate abandon.


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A fellow Sudbury poet, Irene Golas, who writes beautiful haiku pieces, suggested that I write a poem about a Facebook status I created the other day.

The post read: “Dearest Zucchini: now that I have discovered how best to cook you to unleash your most flavourful potential, I do believe we should spend more time together…especially at dinner, over a glass of white wine.” So, as promised, I’ve just written a little something zucchini-esque. (Is that like Puccini-esque, or even Fellini-esque?) I thought of William Carlos Williams when I wrote it. “This is Just to Say” is, after all, one of my all time favourite poems.

Just remember it’s a first draft, so it’s likely to evolve before it sees its way into print some day in the far-off future!



I have sautéed the zucchini
& plated it with care,
so that it waits for you,
as do I, with
semblance of patience,
but underlying
frisson of urgency.

For the rain has frozen,
the roads are slick,
and time ticks onward,
while I wait
in winter.

Addendum: Hmmm….makes me wonder who (or what) will arrive? Perhaps a side of quinoa or spaghetti squash? Or one of my many “secret husbands”? One never knows!

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Love Song for Beara

Here in this place, where the Skelligs sit off shore,

cows dance, ducks speak, faeries scuttle, the dog speaks,

and the Ring of Kerry rises, but never bows down.


Paths swivel and surprise,

birds natter and gather,

ivy tangles trees, rooting itself in moss.


Sky moves, landscape shifts,

transforms itself with beams of sun–

paints green gold, warms & brightens day,

sweeps away rain.


Slow boat putters out of Coulagh Bay,

trails silver in its wake, disappears behind the headlands,

finds its way home now that the sky has begun to lift.


Pluck and taste ripe blackberries, bushes bountiful at edges of lanes,

next to fields owned by coal black cows and tiny horses made by God.

Traipse through bog near strand and wonder if

you will be found, the next day, after having fallen in.


Walk out on strand, feel sand shift under feet, hear water lapping,

slipping inwards with tidal pull.  Watch dogs race against wind.

Kneel down, gather water in cupped hands, in gratitude, taste salt of sea.

Try to find your way home, a new way, but discover a single cow

standing solid, blocking, chewing cud, where sea meets land,

where seaweed ribbons meet marsh grasses.


Church bells at noon and six, peal out to mark divisions of day.

Houses painted the colour of crayons, never to be erased.

Eight miles to Kilcatherine, over loping hills and round curled lanes,

a two hour walk from there to here, from ancient bone-yard

to seaside pub with picture window, pints, and poets.


And it was there, in Eyeries, on Beara,

that I found myself:

out of darkness, into light;

and I thought of love, and lost love,

and life, and my lost ones.


Memory bound, this place, etched on heart.


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This poem, “Vigil”, is based on a painting of the same name by an artist named Axel Mirel, who lives in the west of Co. Cork, Ireland.  (If you’re a Facebook friend, you can search for the painting amongst my photos.  It’s the one of an old Irish woman, in a church, lighting a votive candle.)


I come to you, in faith,

with certainty, knowing

you are here–

in stillness,

in silence.


I cover my head,

show respect;

drape fabric like a cowl,

enter into this sacred space.


So many candles,

so many prayers

lit to dispel the darkness,

to illuminate the world.


I come to you in faith,

with palms open,

with heart blown open

by sea’s wind,

by my own life,

even as my candle flickers.


From darkness into light,

this one offering to join others;

hopeful intention reaching

ever upward, towards sky,

towards heaven, by flame—

not one, but many together.

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(after a painting by Nicola Slattery)


This boat is worn, has carried many,

but now carries only a girl and her sheep

in true ark-like fashion.


The sea storms, all blue-green and white caps,

waves mounting and then crashing

against some unseen shore.


The moon, suspended in sky, sleeps soundly.

(It simply cannot worry itself with futile

human endeavours on Irish seas.)


Blue dress with red collar, she stares at sheep,

cradling its head in her hands, comforting it.

The sheep, ignoring her, peers out at the world,

with simple mind, but knowing eyes.


On a Castletownbeare hill,

in someone’s back garden,

an abandoned fishing boat,

clearly marked Mary Rose,

leans sideways, achingly, towards sea–

as if it knows there will be no reunion.


Your ship has long since sailed away from me.

Same continent, different countries,

but I wonder, when moon rises

and the sea shifts without us even knowing,

if you will ever miss me as much as I do you.

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The house gives nothing back to its visitors,

except a nagging query as to how the rebel tree

even came to be.


After rooting, in genesis,

so many years before,

it birthed itself, violently,

through grey slate roof,

so that shale fell sharply to ground.


Moving from origin, the tree grew,

reaching its limbs out with wild abandon,

and through its childhood and adolescence,

until its rings finally marked its age,

until it reached the heights

where wind both whipped and caressed,

causing the tree to moan, weep and creak.


Then magpies and rooks came to nest,

finding solace in the foliage,

raising offspring of their own.


I wonder now–

where have they gone,

those who once lived here?

Vanished from this place,

or let down and then taken up?


The window is ajar,

as if someone will soon return,

but the tree knows they have gone;

it is most certain, having rooted itself in

the broken tiles of kitchen floor,

and having grown tall in detritus of plaster.


It invites itself, but no others.

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Solitary bicycle

leans up against bleached wall;

seems weary, bereft even.


(How many kilometers covered now?

How far from there to here?)


Time stretches out,

like an endless ribbon of pavement;

pathways marked and unmarked

speak of journey’s worth,

without concern for destination.


See the fragments

as pieces of the whole;

trust in moments

rather than worry away

hours into days.


Up against Clauskey’s pub wall,

the sounds of

glasses clinking,

pints sloshing,

and voices speaking

slip out front door and slide into

narrow, twisted street.


Bicycle wishes only this:

to leap,

gather speed,

crest hills, and fly;

thinks, dreamily, it will sail off into damp air,

land solidly and speed off towards Cork,

trailing sea and sky behind it,

but finds it must wait,

bide its time, not rush to go.

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Solitary bicycle

leans up against bleached wall;

seems weary, bereft even.


(How many kilometers covered now?

How far from there to here?)


Time stretches out

like an endless ribbon of pavement;

pathways marked and unmarked

speak of journey’s worth,

without concern for destination.


See the fragments

as pieces of the whole;

trust in moments

rather than worry away

hours into days.


Reassure self that

time will reveal;

don’t rush in and

miss the purpose in the path.

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