Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Waking up with sorrow


by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in the white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

To be useful

from The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition, by César Vallejo.

For several days, I have felt an exuberant, political need
to love, to kiss affection on its two cheeks,
and I have felt from afar a demonstrative
desire, another desire to love, willingly or by force,
whoever hates me, whoever rips up his paper, a little boy,
the woman who cries for the man who was crying,
the king of wine, the slave of water,
whoever hid in his wrath,
whoever sweats, whoever passes, whoever shakes his person in my soul.
And I want, therefore, to adjust
the braid of whoever talks to me; the hair of the soldier;
the light of the great one; the greatness of the little one.
I want to iron directly
a handkerchief for whoever is unable to cry
and, when I am sad or happiness hurts me,
to mend the children and the geniuses.
I want to help the good one become a little bit bad
and I badly need to be seated
on the right-hand of the left-handed, and to respond to the mute,
trying to be useful to him as
I can, and also I want very much
to wash the lame man’s foot,
and to help the nearby one-eyed man sleep.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Remembering and moving forward

Finished Vargas Llosa's The Feast of the Goat in a day more or less, fascinated by the detail - this corresponds to Renee's telling me to 'write more, more' more' and me understanding a little better what she means, so took something I'd written in the past and inflated it with words, ideas, more detail, and to my surprise found the process satisfying.

He writes the novel going forward in two different periods in parallel, someone in the present who is visiting San Domingo after a long absence, and who remembers the past for us, and in the past moving forward towards the murder of Trujillo and  its consequences.

I am particularly inspired by the description of Trujillo, the way his thinking is portrayed and the mystery that which we finds link the pieces to each other. The book is strong on atmosphere, the heat, despair and fear are almost palpable.

Monday, 15 July 2013

John Pule's poetry

Went to a John Pule exhibition Sadness Spirit at Pataka - 18 poems on big sheets of thick creamy paper, pinned directly on the wall, no frame, blue handwriting on white paper, the blue ocean-deep, deep deep.  The poems are all reproduced in the catalogue, albeit in the wrong colour, unbelievable. The catalogue is given away free - and that is generous.

John Pule himself read his poems, "No second-hand words", he said.He also said that he wanted people to think of them as proverbs, something they might say to themselves in the morning.
Here is an easy one to do that with, which stayed with me since I saw it:

You can see that the colour is not a beautiful blue. Go and see the exhibition for yourself, preferably on a day when there are only a few people there.
Also read in the catalogue the list of awards he has received, the list of exhibitions, the honors. Sometimes the powers that be do get it right. If he is affected by his success - which he must be, though in which way? - it does not show.
Was disappointed in Pataka: they did not provide him with anything to put his papers on, nor make any effort to provide some quietness - we listened to the poetry against a loud hubbub from people who were attending a launch of another show nearby. Pule himself seemed untroubled.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Dropping like a stone

The book is going through a change of shape. Received a beautifully written 'sermon' (her word) from Renee, my mentor, in response to the latest writing I sent her -

Kia ora Navina, more, more detail, more detail, more detail, write as though your reader knows nothing.  Describe your mother, your sisters, you don’t mention your father.  And if this is your weekly output it's not enough. Not nearly enough. 

I like the idea very much, I feel it’s nearer the heart of the matter, but I need to say that  this is a serious project and it could work extremely well but you must give it your if not whole - at least a large part of - your time and attention.  You need to have an aim when to finish a draft.  You need to set a deadline.  You need to have a weekly output to which you keep. 

You need to write as though it matters intensely that the reader understands this story. You need to write as if someone was trying to stop you and you’re determined to get it finished.  Have a good think about it.  This is not a pastime like embroidery, this has to matter and it has to matter to you enough so that you set aside time, regular time, that it becomes something that you have to do not something you choose to do.  I think you are at the crossroads and only you can make these decisions.  It's like falling in love, you have to drop like a stone into the pool and go with it.  I hope that you do. Aroha, Renée

I am one lucky person to have Renee at my elbow.
I'd be a fool not to follow her advice.

Here we go then...








File:2006-01-14 Surface waves.jpg

Photo from Wikipedia, picture taken by Roger McLassus, improved by DemonDeLuxe, Sep 2006, entitled Surface waves of water.

For more about Renee, her writing,  her teaching and her friends, see her blog here,