Thursday, 28 February 2008

Late again

Today was a day at Whitireia, busy and good. We all worked hard.
I've been reading the poems for the short introductory course, such fun. The name of the poet was Mark Levine.
I was deeply touched by his last line - The Mother. The matter. The fabric. The fold. - Of course, Mother and Father, the fabric enfolds, holds, lovely.
Don't understand much of what went before - The breeze in the wardrobe ? The cracked archipelago ? Shall see if anyone else on the course can make sense of it, that might be fun.
Have printed the poems out and gathered them into a folder for re-reading, I think it takes a while to get the gist of this.
Have gained confidence that there is Something There, which makes it much more fun. A bit like crosswords.
Still no new title for this blog. Unhappy with the almond tree, have discovered how commonplace it is in blogdom, linked to lots of religious meanings. Am not against religion, but not here.

The List poem I wrote - Introduction - went down well everywhere, including James, Helen and Peter. That must be good.
The poem I wrote for the 2nd year course, that's another story: it had four stanzas, two big ones and two little ones. The first big one I was not sure about and wrote it in italics to signal that it might have to go (why did I think that italics would indicate that? no one understood it that way, people were polite about it) - they thought that was the best part of the poem. In fact, the rest could just go. Am happy with that.
I learnt today that writing 'poemy' poems is Not On. No one liked the word 'agony', nor would I use it much in speech myself, come to think of it. Too melodramatic. So no more melo. That's if I can detect it in time, before it gets exposed.
I haven't done my writing practice today except for 10 min at the course, so have to get going. It's late.
Maybe my title should be No melo. There's a Hebrew expression like that but I can't remember it now - Bli drama , two words meaning, Let's just do what needs to be done and not fuss, or run around screaming. Succinct, Zen.
Hah - title for the blog: Don't run around screaming ? No melo ?
Something like that. Give it a day or two to mature.
That's all for today.

The Holy Pail

Reading all kinds of poets. The skill is unmistakable. One particularly obscure one had such a lovely sound, the Holy Pail, a list by someone called Marc Levy, I think. Or was it Levine. It's too late for me to check.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Blueberry tart and terrorism

The blueberry tart took far too long this morning, plus I dashed off to Whitireia to get my new student card which I then mislaid. Not much reading except Dibdin's Aurelio Zen (1990), this one entitled Vendetta which I must have read sometime in the past but blissfully cannot remember. As it is written by an Englishman, this detective is reserved and a bit autistic. His mother is old, gaga and lives with him. The writing is good. It makes me realise that what makes Dibdin so readable besides his style is the fact that he makes comments that strike a chord in a reader, who nods, True, so true.
"There had been a time when such mindless acts of terrorism, however shocking, had at least seemed epic gestures of undeniable significance. But that time had long passed and re-runs were not only as morally disgusting as the originals, but also dated and second-hand."

It's actually a bad example. How can an act of terrorism be ' dated' and 'second-hand'. I can hear someone saying that in Italian and what was meant is clear: it is just a tired old repeat of what has happened before, no originality, no creative spark, but then, we are not talking about a work of art, are we? Just a plain old assassination - a successful one, a human being has died as a result.

Not good, Dibdin.

I shall read this book until I finish it.
Tomorrow shall phone Unity and find out about Saramago's Death book. I hope they've got it on order.

Monday, 25 February 2008


Busy, a very physical day, but lots of writing, some reading - Lynn J's review of Gunter Grass's Peeling the Onion,

Always a struggle whenever anyone acknowledges that the Germans had a tough time too, though I know it myself from reading about Wilfrid Israel. I have to rediscover the quote of his - he wrote a speech for a famous bishop (so famous I don't know his name) in which he said that the first nation conquered by the Nazis was Germany...
Thousands of them arrested and killed.
And yet when I read that someone is sorry for the Germans, it sticks in my craw.

Who said that one has to be logical all the time?

The other piece I read Oh joy was a review of Saramago's latest book in the Guardian, Death at Intervals. A society where death ceases to happen... Death is female in Portuguese apparently, and they have kept her that way in the translation. I was very happy to see that the reviewer connected her with Terry Pratchett's Death. Also funny. Can't wait to read it.

Finished the Terracotta Dog, noticed more cultural differences, people - men - hugging and kissing , an easy expression of love and devotion between peole. Looked for the Saramago moment which occurs when Montalbino talks to his erection and his erection talks back. Couldn't find it so can't quote, sorry. Book had to go back to friend.

Off to bed, it's after midnight, busy day tomorrow too, have to make a blueberry tart for Clare.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Early sunday

Early Sunday - still not finished The Terracotta Dog, but am struck - again - by the difference in culture, how it shows even in a story like this, an old copper tells the detective that he is being 'rude and obnoxious', how unthinkable that would be in Kiwi culture and how much difficulty there was in coming to this country and being what was called 'blunt' when one made an ordinary remark.
Also in the book there is a very nice Saramago moment, which should be quoted here.
More later.

We watched a very good Swedish movie called A Song for Martin, impressed with the acting and pacing. Also as always with Scandinavian movies enjoyed visiting a different country - different architecture, decor, landscape and the people's colouring and way of dressing.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Amichai after forty years...

Watched a slow and wonderful Korean movie entitled Why Bodhidarma came from the East. Peter fell asleep on the couch beside me towards the end. It reminded me a bit of the other Asian movie about a Zen master, called by the names of the seasons, Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn, only am not sure which season was the first. In both, it happens a child is cruel to an animal... In this film, an ox breaks lose and is lost. It is found at the end, the final picture has stayed in my mind, of the ox tethered and compliant, following the man, both silhouetted against paddy fields covered in water.

More reading of John Marsden and Natalie Goldberg. John Marsden is not good enough, his own writing is shoddy, too many adverbs and adjectives, and yet I feel obliged to finish, in case, just in case the idea for structure suddenly appears among the chaff.
No time yet for Michael Dibdin. Went out for pizza with a friend tonight, and she lent me another book about an Italian detective, this one originally written in Italian, the friend says good translation, it takes place in Sicily. Entitled The Terracotta Dog, by Andrea Camilleri. The book belongs to her daughter, so I must read it quickly and return it.

Read some Amichai last night - the book has the Hebrew original and the English translations, some of them in collaboration with Ted Hughes. Rediscovered the poem about Jerusalem which was the one that made me remember Amichai, written after the Six Day War, when we were naive and innocent. It affected me differently now.

If I forget thee, Jerusalem,
Then let my right be forgotten....
Let my right be forgotten and my left remember.
Let my left remember, and your right close
And your mouth open near the gate.
Should my right forget,
My left shall forgive,
I shall forget all water,
I shall forget my mother.

A terrible love.

Better is this:

On a roof in the Old City
laundry hanging in the late afternoon sunlight:
the white sheet of a woman who is my enemy,
the towel of a man who is my enemy,
to wipe off the sweat of his brow.

In the sky of the Old City
a kite.
At the other end of the string,
a child
I can't see
because of the wall.

There is more but I'll stop here because of copyright.

Yesterday, Hinemoana read us a text called The Solution by Sharon Olds, from a book The Gold Cell. Wanting not to be shocked, I was shocked, and then delighted by the ending.
They have three of Sharon Olds books at the Central Library.

Aurelio Zen

Browsing among the rows of books in our writing room at Whitireia, suddenly found an Aurelio Zen mystery by Michael Dibdin. Aurelio is an urbane and sophisticated detective who lives with his mother in Florence, and the atmosphere of Italy is well captured; nice to read for relaxation.

Am still reading Natalie G's Thunder and Lightening, as well as a book on writing by John Marsden. His stories are for young adults, well written - that sounds condescending, they are best-sellers - I found the first books in the series absolutely mesmerising, very realistic, terse and fast paced, a group of young people in Australia, going on a tramp for a week, and when they come out again, they find that the country has been taken over by an enemy (unspecified, but human). This book is about writing also aimed at young people, and not all that good all the time, but am looking for a solution to the structure of my book, and I feel I am feeding that part of my brain that is busy with it by reading books about writing. Plus keeping motivated for the free writing practice.

Had a look at the library at Whitireia, a good section on poetry, including a book of poems by Lily Brett, not Holocaust inspired for once, so more interesting. When I get my student card, shall be able to tap into that - next week in fact.

Also was lent a book by Israeli poet Yehudah Amichai. I didn't know he had died. Am wondering if I'll find something there which might fit in with my project, about inner peace and the connection with a place which is home. Am not quite sure that is an accurate description of my project, but that'll do for now. My reading has to go in that direction for the next year, that is my main reading. I'll read for inspiration and for soothing and for fun and for learning. Only some is obviously useful. Enough for now, off to bed soon. In the last week only three blogs, not good enough. Also four practices. It should be six of each. A goal to aim for.

If anyone reads this blog and has an idea about a poet I should read on this topic, do let me know please.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Da y Two

More about that tomorrow - optimism.

Have moved along smartly on other projects, must not leave this behind.

Etty Hillesum: a Jewish mystic, upsetting to read. People in Westerbork, which was the Dutch transit camp, where she volunteered to go. Every week a train left for the East. She wrote about what she saw. A young woman, twenty-seven, wiser than her years.

"... the faces of that squad of armed, green uniformed guard - my God, those faces! I looked at each in turn from behind the safety of a window and I have never been so frightened of anything in my life. I sank to my knees withe words that preside of human life: And God made man after His likeness.
That passage spent a difficult morning with me."

That last sentence may have been improved in translation, it is more natural in Dutch than in English, I think. As it is, it carries a punch.

Before going to sleep am reading Natalie Goldberg as much of her as I can lay my hands on, a good companion. Returned Living Colour and Wild Mind to the library, finished Writing the Bones and now am busy with Thunder and Lightening. None of her poetry or her novels are available from the library, shall see if I can get hold of something 2nd hand via the Web.

These books cover the same material over and over, from slightly different angles and I rejoice. Maybe something will stick.

I'll see if I can find something by that Polish poet who won the Nobel.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Day One

The name of this blog comes from a dream and from a song,

Under my window
there is an almond tree
with flowers
as white as paper...

A writer writing is like an almond tree flowering.

Watched the podcast on Maxine Hong Kingston again, with Peter. We both enjoyed it.

Checked out the name of the poet with the hard hitting-lines whom she mentions, it is Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish poet. Copied some of her poems from the Nobel Prize website. The ideas seem great, but they not poetic as such, in terms of their rhythm, at least at first reading. I imagine that they may be a lot better in the original language. She's been translated into many languages. They have only one of her books at the Central Library. I'll get it next time I'm there. Shall write her name down in my diary - I won't be able to remember it otherwise.

In the mean time I find that others also want to read Natalie Goldberg, and I've got almost every volume of hers which is available at the Central Library, except for one which is safe in far away Miramar. I must return them. Am loath to part from Living Color, hanging onto it as if it were a talisman, though fully read. It is mainly for the story of the garage door which she did not paint:

"I had a pad with me, but I thought the paper was too small. The door felt too big. And besides I had four miles to walk back to Plum Village where everyone else was doing sitting meditation.
That mistake haunted me for a long time. The turquoise door had a life of its own and that life wanted me. I failed that door, that moment in history. Something wanted to be painted, and I did not heed it."

Shall have to get my own copy. Tried Book Haven, they have Maxine Hong's The Fifth Book of Peace, real cheap and other works of hers, but nothing by Natalie.

What I'm reading at the moment is Etty Hillesums' A life Interrupted and Letters from Westerbork. More about that tomorrow.