Rusty

When I was a kid in High School we learnt things ‘off by heart’:

poems by Keats and Coleridge, extracts from ‘The Ancient Mariner’,

soliloquies from ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’, whole passages from Dickens;

chronologies of The Persian Wars, War of the Roses,

biographies of the Tudors; not neglecting the sciences, we memorized

physics and maths formulas,chemical equations, and slabs from The New Testament —

we were walking Wikipedias; now I’m a big kid, into my senior years,

I’ve grown rusty, which is why I’m in the backyard walking up and down —-

the bees must think I’m mad —- learning by heart my NEW mobile number

which everyone but me knows





  • what things did you learn ‘off by heart’?
  • do you still remember them ?

No Special Hurry

The crow

in the crossbars of

the power pole

is saying, Hey John.

You don’t have to worry, man.

You are not one of those who bring so much courage

to the world that it has to kill you

So don’t ruffle your feathers.

Pardon? I say.

I can read you like a book, he says, speaking of which

‘But it will break you.

It breaks everyone.

But you are one of those strong in the broken places’,

as Hemingway would say.

You read Hemingway?

Of course, who do you think I’m quoting?

You are a most learned crow, I say.

But it will kill you, he says,

‘It kills everyone

the very brave and very gentle

but if you are neither of these it will still kill you

but there will be no special hurry’.

That is sort of comforting, I say. Thank you.

‘Farewell to Arms’, he adds. Due attribution.

You should read it sometime.

I think I have, but not with the diligence you accorded it.

And with a flick of his suave black wings, he flies away.

Where Celebrities Grew Up

Reading an article by David Remnick,

editor of ‘The New Yorker’

since 1998

I discovered

he was born in Paterson, New Jersey

the same place as Philip Roth,

the novelist whose biography Remnick was profiling,

as was Ginsberg,

the man who wrote “Howl’

that poem that still echoes down the decades.

the same place too

as William Carlos Williams,

the man who wrote ‘the red wheelbarrow’

and wait for it,

Lou Costello,

the comedic partner of Bud Abbot

whose films split our sides

in the fun house of the fifties;

what do they have in the water of Paterson, New Jersey,

that so many famous people

grew up there;

it must be quite a place

The Worst Thing

“What’s the worst thing?” I was asked in my zoom workshop.

“The worst thing? What a writer can do? Let’s see.” I said. “The worst thing is being staid”.

I had to spell the word to make sure they got the right meaning.

“You know what ‘staid’ is?” I asked.

:Yes,” Tamara answered. “Unadventurous. Dull.”

“Correct. And you know where the word ‘staid’ comes from?”

There was silence.

“It’s the adjectival use for the past tense of ‘stay’ which is ‘stayed’ so the worst sin of a writer is being rigid, unadventurous, unchanging, unwilling to take risks, staying the same.”

I let that sink in.

“Living things evolve,” I said. “Let your writing evolve. Take risks. Don’t worry if some don’t take off. Others will hit their mark. But you don’t know if you don’t try.”

We took a short break … and we all came back a little different.





  • do you agree? what do think the worst sin a writer can commit?

The King and I

Like George V1, the king

subject to stuttering

I had a speech therapist too

who taught me how

to word switch

to philander with synonyms

I could slip into

how to pace myself

and summon the scribe

of stutterers before me

Lewis Carroll

Neville Shute

Updike

& dear old Aesop whose thoughts

often outran

the tired tortoise of his tongue.

Overshooting the Mark

I was driving towards my destination

a place I had never been

when I missed a number of turnoffs.

I had overshot the mark.

It made me wonder how often in life

I had overshot the mark

& missed some vital turnoffs

where, for instance. I could have become

a famous novelist like David Foster Wallace

& worn a red bandana

or rakish rock star like Keith Richards

or, god forbid,a prominent politician.

Or even married someone else!

What if you didn’t marry grandma?

my granddaughter once asked,

would I have still been born?

Most of us overshoot the mark.

It may be a good thing.

Danny Kaye, that Court Jester, once famously said,

we always land where we were meant to be.

Maybe it’s true.

I could have done worse.

Barry

This is Barry.

Say hello to Barry.

He runs the Central Market Books in Adelaide.

I had a chat to him last Friday night.

Apart from who he reads — Jo Nesbo, Robert Ludlum and Lee Childs —and what he’s into: Magic, Militaria, Espionage and Angels —the most remarkable thing about Barry is that he’s a man happy in his own skin.

And isn’t that the goal, the purpose, the station we want to arrive at?

And o, don’t mention Stephen King. His inner echidna comes out then.

I Like Graphic Novels

I like graphic novels.

I always have.

I like the illustrations.

It’s the little kid in me.

I always wanted to be an illustrator

but I never got past

little stick men, sorry, people.

I like that they can tell a novel-size story

in 64 pages or less

when some writers – I am thinking Pasolini here —

can push it up to 900 pages.

Come on!! as Lleyton Hewitt would say.

I have my little list of favourites:

‘Wilson’ by Daniel Clowes and ‘A Taste of Chlorine’

by that French author

and ‘Maus’, of course, the classic by Art Spiegel.

I remember the excitement when I purchased

‘The Dark Knight Returns’ by Frank Miller when it first came out.

It was like when I bought the just released “Revolver’ by the Beatles

and ran down the ramp of the Adelaide Railway Station to catch

the train home so I could play it on the turntable

only to come a cropper at the end.

It was that kind of excitement.

When in doubt, choose a graphic novel, I say.

What I Would Really Like to Do Now

“But what I would really like to do now is write children’s book.”

“Like ‘Pollyanna’?” I suggested. “Or ‘Possum Magic?”

“A bit more edgy,” she said, “Like ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, like the poems of Shel Silverstein.”

“I see.”

“What drove you to this.”

“The kids books in doctor’s waiting rooms. I want to throw them in the fish tank. I reckon I could write better than that. I’ve started one already.”

“You have? What’s it about”.

“A lizard. A Gilbert’s Dragon. I’ve called it ‘Gilbert Goes to Hollywood’.I’ve already written the first paragraph. Would you like to hear it?”

“Sure.”

” ‘Gilbert had always wanted to go to Hollywood. Ever since he sat on Julian’s lap and watched ‘Godzilla’ on TV. He wanted to be a star. An animal star. The Tom Cruise of lizards.’ “

  • have you ever wanted to write a children’s book?
  • Have you started one? how does it begin?
  • what’s your favourite children’s book? favourite children’s author?

Accent

I don’t mind her reading passages from ‘The Secret Garden’ before breakfast each morning , if only she didn’t go around the house the rest of the day speaking with a Yorkshire accent

*have you read ‘The Secret Garden’ or seen the film?

*when’s the last time someone read to you?

*what’s the most difficult accent you’ve had to contend with?