family history love, loss & longing poetry transcending

Remembrance and unconditional love: thoughts on ANZAC Day

April 28, 2017

unconditional love

Anzac Day

25 April is ANZAC Day here in Australia. It’s a day of remembrance for those of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps who served and died in war and related activities including peacekeeping. And a day to remember those who serve now. Celebrated on the day of the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915, the spirit of Anzac and its qualities of sacrifice, courage and mateship have immense meaning for Australians and New Zealanders around national identity, bravery and freedom.

For me, it’s always a very emotional day. As a Queen of Swords, INTJ, Virgo, (some might say ice maiden) type, it’s surprising how this day seems to touch me so deeply and I am in tears for much of it.

I don’t know exactly why but it’s the stories that touch me, the young men and what they went through in World War I and II and other conflicts. Stories we really can’t fathom or ever truly know. And our own personal connections with that through our family history or people that we know directly involved now.

It’s the families and loved ones left behind and impacted when they came back. It’s those who serve now and what they face and experience. The solitary courage of it, the fear, the silence of those who cannot or could not tell their stories. The inner strength they need to search for and the support of each other. It’s the sadness of it all, that it just should not happen, the unnecessary waste of life; that people should not have to go through all this and the aftermath of physical, mental and spiritual pain and suffering.

It’s also that we can be thankful that we have people who can be strong when it’s needed to do this work for the freedom, support and safety of others. Mostly men, mostly young, mostly strong but also vulnerable.

Postcards from the war

In the last few years, I received a box of memorabilia and photos that belonged to my great aunt, Vivie, who died in 1992. A strong woman who never married, she was a connector and recorder within the family, capturing daily life in photographs and keeping in touch with many in the extended family.

In this box was a beautifully embroidered postcard sent from the Western Front in France in 1916 by my great uncle Walter to Vivie, his sister back in Australia.

WWI postcard

The stitching, perfect and precise, must have caught Walter’s eye and he has written on the back of the postcard. It’s a message saying he is well and not really saying much more except that he will be in touch with other family members too. What could you say about those horrors of war except that I am here, standing now? And I am thinking of you and love you.

I knew a little about Walter’s war service but I looked into his war records on Anzac Day this year. Joining up with the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) on 1 February 1916 and leaving the country on 13 May that same year, he was on the Western Front in France in the 55th Battalion and saw active service amidst some of the most difficult conflicts of the war.

He served in the Anzac Light Rail as part of this, building and running light railways on the Western Front to provide transport through the difficult terrain. I cannot imagine how hard all of this work was and the terrible conditions in which it was carried out. He was discharged from the AIF on 16 July 1919.

Walter received a Military Medal in 1919 for:

“conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an attack on St Denis Wood Perone on 2/9/18. During the initial stages of the attack heavy machine gun fire was encountered. This man, noticing this with great courage and deliberation worked his way forward into a position from where, by sniping he was able to place an enemy machine gun out of action, not withstanding that he was under enemy observation and continually fired at the whole time. This soldier’s action in silencing the enemy machine gun enabled a Lewis Gun to be brought forward thereby greatly assisting the attack. The man’s courage and disregard for personal safety during the operation was most noticeable and his action through-out were a great incentive to his comrades.”[1]

This is not to condone violence or war in any way. Personally, I find violence in any form hard to contemplate or witness. But it happened and for Walter it was real. The postcard is a poignant reminder of the fragile and powerful connections with home in all of this – beauty amidst chaos and war; love of his sister and family sent from afar; such vulnerability and risk.

I cannot imagine how precious that card was once received in Newcastle in Australia on the other side of the word, in so few lines saying so much. Or hard it was for Walter to find words to say along the lines of “I am okay” when the reality was most likely far from that.

Closer to home

The other overlay of emotion for me on Anzac Day is about my brother. Martin served as an Australian Federal Police Officer in East Timor in 1999 as part of the United Nations peacekeeping effort and was awarded the Overseas Service Medal in 2003. Martin is no longer with us now, having passed away tragically in 2007.

The memory of Martin as an unarmed police officer who went to East Timor, now Timor Leste, to provide support, peace and justice to people in the most challenging of circumstances, fills me with pride and love. It symbolises the strong sense of justice and fairness that drove his passions and focus in his career and life.

Here he is in action in East Timor, featured at that time, in Time Magazine on 27 September 1999 and in Aussie Post Magazine in October 1999:

Martin Ryan

I don’t know what he saw there. I don’t know what he experienced there. Like many first responders and police officers, they cannot always talk about what they saw, experienced and felt. And whilst I am proud, I sense that the experiences in East Timor somehow had a deep impact on the sensitive soul that was and is my brother. How could they not.

A poem of remembrance and peace

So in the early hours of Anzac Day this year, these words come to me:

On Anzac Day

I lay a flower in the remembrance
of my heart,
wreathed there,
amidst the days, red poppy lights
flare occasionally,
lighting up your smile,
buried beneath granite, grass,
days of pain, cascading
hours of grief.

I lay a flower in the remembrance
of my heart,
at nearly dawn here,
for you, my own service,
my own dawn,
my own not forgetting
that war somehow
touched you
and led you down a path
I wish you had not gone.

I lay a flower in the remembrance
of my heart,
amidst tarot, words, books,
the morning’s nearly dawn,
the marching of feet,
to come,
the early days towards
ten years of remembering you,
to come.

I lay a flower in the remembrance of your heart.
I shift that stone of trauma laying there.
I hold the hands of our hearts in peace.

Rose, rosemary and remembrance

Shortly after on Anzac Day, in an Activate sessions with Amber Adrian, working with healing energies and guides, both rose and rosemary comes up as energies to work with, with remembrance as a strong message.

We are reminded to activate our inner love, work with remembrance and our true divine self, and to connect with that unconditional love that is our essence. We are reminded to work with protection techniques every day especially around protection of judgement of others and ourselves.

It’s an emotional day. You can see why the tears come.

Tears of memory, gratitude, appreciating sacrifice and remembrance. And the lessons I’m still learning of unconditional love.

Let us all keep focused on these immense qualities in moving forward:

  • focusing on the beauty in life
  • maintaining a passionate sense of fairness and justice in everything we do
  • and finding a love that can transcend every difficult moment.

And may we all be peacekeepers.


[1] Source: Australia, WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: National Archives of Australia: B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.

The Rose of Unconditional Love in the featured photograph is from the beautiful Plant Ally Healing Cards deck by Lisa McLoughlin.

Thought pieces

Ask for help, talk to others

This was not an easy piece to write especially with regard to my dear brother. However, I felt it needed to be written as there is too much silence. I also want to highlight the power of remembrance and unconditional love in healing and moving towards peace.

I am aware it may not have been easy to read for some people. If anything I have written in this post triggers anything for you, I encourage you to reach out to others for support. Talk to a trusted family member or friend. Or contact organisations set up especially to provide support. In Australia our key organisations for support are Beyond Blue and Lifeline. International support organisations can all be found here.

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You might also enjoy:

Healing with words of gold: The Empress, Kintsugi and alchemy

Overwhelm, intuition and thinking

inspiration & influence introversion intuition poetry

Being a vessel or working with introverted intuition

February 10, 2017

Practising introverted intuition

Introverted Intuition is my dominant preference as an INTJ Myers-Briggs Type. I’ve been working recently at how to tap more into this strength more. It’s a creative gift and I am focusing on how to translate this into words.

Learning to be aware of and capture my night thoughts has been a crucial part of this. This post outlines how I’m working with my introverted intuition to inspire my creativity and direction. I hope it may also inspire yours.

What is introverted intuition?

Introverted intuition is one of the eight psychological types developed by Carl Jung and described in his work, ‘Psychological Types‘ first published in 1921. Jung saw these different personality types as gifts. Introverted Intuition can be seen as having the gift of visionary insight. Angelina Bennet in The Shadows of Type, describes Introverted Intuition this way:

Introverted Intuitive types quickly see the connections between things and use these to create new concepts. They enjoy theory, innovative ideas and making connections. They are motivated by implementing original ideas and value inspiration and originality.

So true! Another phrase to describe the Introverted Intuitive is ‘The Seer’. Gary and Margaret Hartzler in their book, Functions of Type, describe the hallmarks of Introverted Intuiting skills, including:

  • insights that seem to come out of thin air and learning to rely on them
  • the ability to see intrinsic patterns and working with them from different perspectives, and
  • being energised by and making meaningful connections using visions, images and symbols.

From this you can see why an Introverted Intuitive like me loves poetry, imagery, writing, strategising, big picture visioning and imagining what might be. Balance can be provided by realising that some things are just as they are and by focusing on the senses more. This rounding out tends to develop more fully later in life. As Hartzler & Hartzler put it:

This leads the individual to being much stronger, both ethereal and real.

What a fantastic combination to strive for! This post describes and explores the experience of working with introverted intuition to make it both ethereal and real.

Listening to introverted intuition

On this occasion, I wake in the night with a word clearly in my mind. It happens quite often. This time, the word is ‘vessel’. I note the word down, knowing that, as clear as it is, it can be forgotten by the morning. When day breaks, I reflect on this word that spoke to me from my inner voice in the night.

I start with definitions and check in with Google and and come up with:
• a ship or large boat
• a hollow container, especially one used to hold liquid, such as a bowl or cask
• a duct or canal holding or conveying blood or other fluid.
• person regarded as a holder or receiver of something, especially something nonmaterial: e.g. a vessel of grace; a vessel of wrath.

In essence, I see it’s about being a receptacle or conduit, especially in relation to liquids or transportation, and apparently derives from the Latin word ‘vascellum’, meaning ‘vase’ and also ‘ship’.

Being a vessel

I think of what ‘vessel’ might mean at this time: being a conduit, a channel, surrendering a bit more, allowing things to move through me as blood moves, intuition, ideas, finding my purpose, what others might need, with me as a channel. Maybe it’s about a quieter way of being, without the ego chattering away.

I wouldn’t want to be an empty vessel making the most noise. I would hope that I could be a vessel that can conduct things of value, like: life, blood, music, words, something created out of silence and flowing, moving through to keep things, me, other people, alive. A receptacle: receptive, open, transporting, watery, fluid, flowing.

Then I remember I have written a poem called ‘Vessel’ many moons ago.

Only yesterday, I went through all my poetry files and created a receptacle for them, something I have been trying to get to for too long.

The placeholder, entitled ‘Poetry Working Files’, is now set up in the Scrivener writing software space, ready to be filled. Elsewhere, I have all the files organised in alphabetical order by poem. It’s a small but powerful thing now to transfer them in as a body of work. From there, I can conduct magic with them. I know where they are, where they’ve been, how I can combine them, coalesce, revise, add to, edit and seek to publish them, if I so choose.

It’s a receptacle now, an empty vessel right now, but one easily filled with the richness of years. Receptacle, coming from the Latin – ‘recipere’ – to give back, receive, be receptive. I now have a place to receive, and give back. I have a place for poetry’s heart; even if it’s only on my computer, it’s a start.

Vessel – the poem

‘Vessel’ is actually a poem I love, previously published in a writing anthology, Writers at the Raglan. I don’t know where the title came from. The titles of my poems are often a word or phrase that just arrives capturing something more than I know. Sometimes arriving in the dead of night.



Your hands are all encompassing
in their imminence,
but maybe you are simply
too large.

And I, the virgin field
of your imagining,
dressed in white
for your uncovering,
feel the widening flaws
expose the cotton armour
of my longing.

Will the hard rubbing
of your words
make me shine
above the clouds
I manufacture
in silence
without you.

The poem captures the feeling of being an empty vessel, waiting for another’s blessing, being alone and feeling vulnerable. There’s abrasion, exposure, a waiting to be filled.

It’s from a long time ago when I used to spend a lot of time waiting for others, waiting to be blessed, ordained, consecrated, to be made pure, to be approved of. It’s not a practice I engage in so much now, if at all, but it’s good to be reminded of the risks through these words penned from another time.

Preparing for transition

So I am now preparing this vessel again, this space to fill with words, receptive and ready to transport and be transported. I think of the imagery of the Six of Swords, the journey across the open water into the unknown and the card I used to symbolise the start of the Quiet Writing journey. It’s a message of surrender, but a soulful surrender, creating a vacancy for the new, for what is to come.

six of swords fountain tarot


It’s a watery journey, and there’s spirit involved, fire as well – all the elements coming into play, as I ground myself as a channel for what comes next. The destination is open-ended with an out-stretched sky, but a faint horizon to anchor me, there in the distance.

There’s receiving and giving – being open-hearted, flowing, dressed in white perhaps but not feeling quite so vulnerable. My own skin is now something I am much more used to and happy to be sitting within. The lifeblood of poetry is coursing through again and taking me to new places with the heart of the old whispering guidance.

I’ve learnt you need to listen and watch for signposts that quietly show the path: like two white feathers and a shy rainbow one day recently. And words that arrive in the night. Like the single word ‘vessel’ that started this piece and the train of connection to form a message winging its way through the dark to inspire a circle of light.

Thought pieces

For more on Introverted Intuition, one of the eight personality functions, this article is a great introduction. A key thought:

The powerful means by which Introverted Intuition reveals its solution are associated with a gut sense of conviction and certainty. INJs “know” at a deep intuitive level that it is correct. But they cannot stop there. Once they have received the intuition, they must work to flesh it out. They must articulate and illustrate it in order to render it accessible and useful to others.

Hence this article!

I would love to hear your thoughts on Introverted Intuition and creativity. Jung has described the Introverted Intuitive as one of the most difficult of the types to understand, one that has elements of mystery.

So I encourage your comments on this as we explore writing with spirit here. Please share in the comments below or on the Quiet Writing Facebook page.

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Quiet Writing is now on Facebook so please visit here and ‘Like’ to keep in touch and interact with the growing Quiet Writing community. There are regular posts on creativity, productivity, writing, voice, intuition, introversion, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), tarot and yes, passion!

Subscribe via email (see the link at the top and below) to make sure you receive updates from Quiet Writing and its passions in 2017 – including MBTI developments and other connections to help express your unique voice in the world.

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creativity love, loss & longing poetry

Poetry into the light: Sapphire

October 25, 2016


Letting go the lovely images
I watch them slide
out to this sapphire stretch
of water, your eyes riding
sometimes between the waves,
grass catching in the dark
lines of your hair,
silver turning into grey,
translucent with the sun’s
invitation upon your warm skin.

Can you feel your body
superimposed here
upon the landscape,
your face,
the varied impressions
I study?

Sometimes between the sound
of the waves curling
and the calls
of birds catching in the wind,
I can almost hear your voice
inflecting the most
commonplace words,
marking my stare
as the blue of the ocean

Thought pieces:

Experience October 2016:

This post had its genesis in Experience October 2016, initiated by Rae Ritchie and mostly taking place on Instagram. Sapphire was the prompt for day 12. Some prompts take you to a moment in time on a given day; some take you much deeper as this one did, back to this poem written many years ago. It’s been good to brush it off and bring it into the light. Thanks Rae for a thought-provoking and inspiring October and for this creative nudge especially. You can go to #experienceoctober2016 on Instagram for more creative inspiration and connection.

Poetry into the Light:

A key focus in Quiet Writing is bringing poetry into the light: the writing of it, the celebration of it, the reading of it, the sharing of it. Poetry is often the quietest writing of all – unseen, unheard, but the lifeblood of so many of us especially at difficult and threshold times.  You can read more about my thoughts on this here: Poetry into the Light. I’m still working out how to do all that here but have shared quite a few of my poems here along the way. I am less inclined towards chasing the submission/rejection and formal publication process at present and leaning more to sharing here and self-publishing. With social media and online creative links, I think poetry has the opportunity to reach more people that way. I look forward to sharing more here and connecting with other poetry writers and lovers.

Recommended poetry blog:

On that note, I recommend Claireylove: a Poetry Shaped Life – the beautiful blog by my online creative buddy, Claireylove.  I love how she is sharing her poetic works and creative endeavours. Here’s a quote from Claireylove’s blog to round off our thoughts here:

Poetry is about connections and their ambiguity: how meaning, sounds and images create associations and how these associations are interpreted. Writing poetry can help us to make connections about the events and patterns in our lives. It strengthens our intuition and satisfies our souls’ deep need for spiritual meaning.

I so agree that poetry is about connections, intuition and spiritual meaning. One of my Core Desired Feelings  is ‘connected’; others are ‘poetic’ and ‘intuitive’…..all such lovely words that coalesce so well.

So do please connect here and tell me your thoughts about poetry and bringing it into the light, I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Poetry: December

December 1, 2014


You take the calm upon you
freely as a dress
flows in summer.

Something about sprinklers spinning
over lakes of grass.
Something like the cool hand
of the sun going down.

Each day is suddenly
a song you recognise
easily as fish swim.
What was that storm that raged
its way under winter’s skin?

Published: December, Terri Ryan  (now Connellan), 1989 poetry — Appears in: Mattoid , no. 35 1989; (p. 41)

introversion poetry

Poetry and me – into the light #2

September 20, 2014


Poetry and the writing of it is to me a sacred creative, transcending thing. It has always been something secret, special and introverted, not something I talk about. It’s been an intermittent relationship, a journey with many stops and starts, but a desired and committed journey nonetheless, like an old friend I know so well who is always there to connect with, to rely upon, to give to and to learn from.

And we have been through so much. From early times, when I learned to love the value of words as a passion ignited from some deep place I was unaware of. In ‘The touch and reach of poetry‘, I reflected on these early influences and my enduring love, noting that:

Poetry especially can feel like a driven art with not many places to go. It’s easy for it all to go underground for a while in between other things like work and family, but it springs back up eventually. You cannot keep it down forever it seems.

I have woven poetry into the tapestry of my days, if unevenly. When at university studying education, I also studied literature so I could keep reading poetry and study the writing of it. When doing my Honours year on education and literacy, I chose to do a research project on ‘Poetry in Education: developing affective response’ about the aesthetic reading process, how poetry is taught and why this does not generally ignite a love of poetry. It worried me that so many people leave school without a love for poetry and that the teaching of it seemed to miss its heart.

Poetry became the way I transcended heartache, sadness, hurt and loss – finding the words to hold a moment just so, to fix it, to crack it apart or to recreate it and fashion what could never be except in the shape of the words I laid on the page. It was a way of saying good-byes that could not be said in any other way.

I wrote in Poetry: into the light about the freeing up of poetry and the revisiting of it. Sage Cohen’s book, ‘Writing the Life Poetic‘, became a touch-point for poetry being pulled down from its pedestal and integrated more into my daily life. I re-engaged with my poetry writing, organised and reworked my years of drafts of poems and engaged directly with Sage and her teaching through her inspirational online poetry writing courses.

Wanting to reconnect more with poetry and modern poets, I’ve recently started the Massive Open Online Course, ModPo, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, led by Al Filreis through the University of Pennsylvania. It’s a wondrous journey and community and especially celebrates the ‘close reading of poetry as a social act‘ via online connection. People from all educational backgrounds from all over the world link to discuss poetry for mostly no other reason than the joy of poetry. It is simply so grounding and freeing to see and hear poetry being discussed, read and enjoyed in this way. Starting with Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and stretching to the present time, the language and art of various American poets is widely shared.

And then there’s the world of publishing poetry – old and new. Once upon a time, poetry success was judged by publication in literary journals and only very few poems could be seen this way. This option still exists but poetry accessibility is now more opened up with people publishing their work through the internet on their blogs, through print on demand, chapbooks and various other media, and with Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook as ways to get poetry out there and to communicate with readers. Though it seems poetry has remained a publishing challenge generally and especially for e-readers.

Witness however: ‘Tyler Knott Gregson’s poetry cracks the best-seller’s list‘! Tyler has been incredibly committed to poetry and to social media, writing “at least one new poem a day for his blog over the past five years”, sharing his work on Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook without missing a day. He now has 259,000 followers on Tumblr, 184,000 on Instagram and 31,000 Twitter followers. And from this, his first publication of poetry has hit the best-seller lists. According to the Wall Street Journal article:

Mr. Gregson doesn’t edit or revise his work. He simply types the poems on scraps of paper—boarding passes, receipts or pages torn from notebooks—and posts a new one online each day.

It’s refreshing and inspiring to see how far poetry can be freed up and communicated and loved so widely.

I am learning from Sage Cohen, ModPo and Tyler Knott Gregson about how poetry can be taken off its pedestal and loved and communicated widely via new approaches, especially via online learning and social media.

And for me? Writing poetry has been a key love of my life but it’s been a stop start affair, partly because I make it so sacred sometimes, maybe too sacrosanct and special. I have a body of work of some nearly 200 poems now, crafted over time. I have been published – in literary journals, in a local writers’ anthology and online including on my own blog (apparently that counts as publication these days!).

It’s time though to dust my work off and let it shine and let more light in so there can be more growth and more light.

As Sylvia Plath famously said:

Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.

So I will learn from these key people about freeing up the writing, the reading and the publishing of poetry. A first step will be gathering what has been published of my work here in one place as a starting point, getting this, my body of work, into the light. Then working on the next steps…

What are your thoughts on freeing up poetry – writing, reading and publishing…I’d love to know!

inspiration & influence poetry

Poetry in the heart of Tokyo

June 21, 2014

Meiji Jingu

When in Japan recently, I visited Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine near Shibuya, dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken and established in 1920. Surrounded by a forest of thousands of trees threaded through with peaceful streams, the shrine area is a sacred sanctuary in the heart of Tokyo.

Poetry is also at the heart of Meiji Jingu. Both Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken were poets, writing the traditional waka, Japanese poems of 31 syllables (5-7-5-7-5-7). The divine virtues of the Emperor and Empress are celebrated through their poetry.

Visitors can draw a poem from 20 specially selected poems, with English translation and explanation, from the “Omikuji” (poem drawing) box in front of the main shrine building. It is a special way of keeping the spirit of the Emperor and Empress alive in the shrine itself through their poetry.

OmikujiMy special poem:

‘Ever downwards water flows,

But mirrors lofty mountains;

How fitting that our heart also

Be humble, but reflect high aims.’

Empress Shoken –


Shinjuku Gyoen

More information about the shrine and the Waka poetry by Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken can be found here: “About Meiji Jingu“.

poetry transcending

Remembering Sylvia Plath

February 11, 2014

Sylvia Plath's grave at sunset, Heptonstall, West YorkshireI visited Sylvia Plath’s resting place at Heptonstall in May last year. Coming from the other side of the world, I had somehow ended up in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire without any forward planning to be able to honour the poet whose work had impacted me so much over the years.

We had dinner at the Stubbing Wharf Hotel – a place where Sylvia had also had dinner I later discovered. Then we ventured up the steep hill at twilight to Heptonstall.

It was quiet and still, the sun was setting, daffodils bright against the grey light and headstones. There was just my partner and me there in the cool air. It was so peaceful and I was able to silently honour Sylvia’s memory with thanks for all that her writing has meant to me.

On this anniversary of her death, I remember that quiet evening in Heptonstall and reflect on Sylvia Plath’s poetry and its value to me. These words of Sylvia’s run through my head:

Surely the great use of poetry is its pleasure– not its influence as religious or political propaganda. Certain poems and lines of poetry seem as solid and miraculous to me as church altars or the coronation of queens must seem to people who revere quite different images. I am not worried that poems reach relatively few people. As it is, they go surprisingly far–among strangers, around the world, even. Farther than the words of a classroom teacher or the prescriptions of a doctor; if they are very lucky, farther than a lifetime.”

Sylvia Plath, from her essay “Context”, The London Magazine, February 1962

introversion love, loss & longing poetry

People hide their love

July 28, 2013

Flower in the karst landscape, Co ClareWhen I was in high school, I used to travel to stay with a friend and her family at a little cottage high on a hill overlooking beaches on the south coast of New South Wales. It was a wild place, wind-swept and exposed; you could sit on the bed at the back of the house and see hang-gliders cruising past like coloured seagulls surfing the wind’s current.

The house smelt of kerosene lamps, wooden floor boards and that not disagreeable but musty smell of holiday houses. Above all it was homely. There were books, blankets, beds and beaches. You could lie on the bed and read and sleep. There was nothing you absolutely had to do.

In that house, in those holiday breaks, I discovered something of the essence of poetry. I found an old edition of ‘170 Chinese Poems‘, one of Arthur Waley’s books of translation of Chinese poems, originally published in 1918. In there, I found what has since been one of my favourite poems, ‘People Hide Their Love’:

People Hide Their Love
By Wu-Ti, Emperor of the Liang Dynasty (AD 464-549)

Who says that it’s by my desire,
This separation, this living so far from you?
My dress still smells of the perfume that you wore;
My hand still holds the letter that you sent.
Round my waist I wear a double sash;
I dream that it binds us both with a same-heart knot.
Did you know that people hide their love,
Like a flower that seems too precious to be picked?

This poem, these words, have stayed with me over the years like an underlying theme. I owe to them, to Arthur Waley’s book of translations I found in that musty holiday house, my love of poetry. It was about this time that I started to write. I was not aware at the time but these words and the spare and simple beauty of Chinese poetry stitched their way into my heart.

I don’t even know what it all means that people hide their love. I do know that there are reasons why we might hide our love: circumstance, loss, not knowing if our love will be reciprocated, just not finding the time until it is too late, not knowing if it is the right thing to do or say, not knowing if it is the right person, not knowing if we are good enough, or so we say to ourselves. And through all this, there is a sense of intense longing that this poem so delicately captures.

Perhaps my love of poetry also is something I hide. I don’t talk about it, like it’s some rarefied jewel or hidden piece of me, sometimes held a little too preciously. I let it languish and there is a distance I feel from it despite it being the essence of me. The poems I have written over many years are the heart of me and yet feel so far away.

Perhaps there is something there also of not knowing if it is the right thing to do, if I am good enough (or so I say to myself), if there is really any point, of who will read these pieces of my heart anyway and what does it really mean to be a poet. And for these reasons, the distance can grow across the years with some time before anything else is written or said.

Perhaps we hide our love of valued things like poetry as well as people because it is too much for us, too precious, or we feel a sense of not being up to them. Sometimes this might be out of our control due to circumstance; sometimes we might impose this on ourselves, this hiding of our love becoming potentially a loss of ourselves and to ourselves and what we might otherwise be or create.

Why are we not saying what we think, what we feel, to people? Why are we not writing the poems that are in our hearts?

You can see why this quiet poem can be the voice of a lifetime.


music & images poetry

Poetry: Destinations

October 27, 2012



You are the exotic destination
I depart to, my fervent feet
walking the streets
to the Venice of your heart.

Or perhaps you are Oliphants,
deep in the Kruger, from where high
above thorn trees, I watch hippopotamus
float down the river somehow.

Or perhaps the Eiffel Tower,
shimmering in the morning light,
from where I look down at the city
laid out like the story of a novel.

You dream and then one day,
you step on a plane and arrive
to do the most ordinary things
in the most exotic way.

You are my destination,
sometimes nearly ordinary,
sometimes taking
my breath away.

love, loss & longing poetry

Poetry: Optical Illusions

July 1, 2012

Personal poems recount lived experience so it is re-felt, but with resolution, rising above the tragic.

Writing Personal Poetry,’ Sheila Bender, p4

Sometimes, eyes can play tricks. What seems solid and tangible is only a shadow, possibly your own. You try to get hold of what you love, but it fleets downstream. You choose a setting, you hold a camera, you level a fixed lens, you get just the right aperture and the shutter clicks firmly. You have a perfect image, but not the original you desired. At least you have that image to hold onto for a long time afterwards. Even then, it can still play tricks, watching you, reflecting the light this way and that, catching a smile, wandering and jagging like a fishing line pulling at something, possibly your heart.


Every night that river chased dreams
like sleek fish
running from the echo
of sleep.

Rivers seem so simple now:
just filling themselves
no emotion to speak of.

You stood in a doorway,
I took a photo,
and there was a river
dancing behind.

You, the one clear eye
I craved and strived to
capture neatly in a
single frame.

That horizontal string
of sparkling promise
you always offered,
that river I can still taste.

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