Personification in Poetry, Poetic Phrases and Personal Pain


20 James Road, 1988
Mairi Neil

The TV babbles,
the gas fire hums and hisses
to the squeaking, creaking
Jason recliners
settling down for a night
in front of the ‘goggle box’.

Dad’s brandy glass
smooches the table
between sips
until the final
perfunctory kiss –
Goodnight Sweetheart!

Mum’s tea cup
gossips with the saucer
gulps snippets of
the day’s details
digested and refuelled

A cigarette smoulders
fuming or
tension released.
The marbled green ashtray
a present from Venice,
from friends now gone.

Curtains shimmer and shake
new moon’s light filters
the delighted red sky,
the room aglow,
forty years of marriage
comfy as snoozing slippers…


Albert Street, Autumn 2015
Mairi Neil

Towards the railway station
the sky turns to navy and
muted purple hue
stains remnants of clouds.

Parrots soar across
the sky; black darts
seeking branches to rest
as dusk descends.

In the orange glow
of street lamps
red and green flashes
squeal and squawk

Rosellas determined
to fight sparrows or thrushes
for roosting perches in palm trees
lining Mordialloc Main Street.

Most trees still and silent
this mild autumn night,
the sea breeze too gentle
to rustle leaves, shake fronds.

Beside the stoic finery
of native gums and ti-tree
branches of imported trees
already stripped and stark

Proud and strong and
uncomplaining, they’ll rebirth,
withstand the years of
insect and birded demands.

Watching people pass,
hearing trains trundle
inhaling the exhausts
of countless cars.

Mother Nature’s guardians,
the earth’s lungs
the Creator’s gifts
to be treasured.

I looked around the room, focused, reflected,  wrote whatever words came to mind. Short sentences and phrases, staying with a single thought in rhythmic lines…

Forgotten grapes fermenting
or is it the apples?
Buying ‘specials’ has its price.

Jasmine leaves dying
possum nests abandoned
winter on its way

Must kill the wisteria
before it destroys the fence
beauty sacrificed to finance

Ornate wooden crocodile
carved from driftwood
memories of Darwin and Kakadu

Two silver bejewelled elephants
a long way from home
reminder of senseless slaughter

Purple, tall and willowy
gifted orchid
struggling to survive

The year of the horse over
Yellow origami steed
memento from Chinese writer


Margaret’s Gift
Mairi Neil

A Waterford Crystal glass
four thistles etched for
a Scottish touch from the
Emerald Isle.
It reminded her of me…
(or perhaps it was the flaw
marring inside rim)

The seahorse wine stopper,
another reminder of …
flatmates, drinking buddies,
the good times often rolled.

Gifts painstakingly parcelled
trimmed with recycled silk ribbon
‘life is for living’ stamped
green ink on soft silk.
Bubble-wrapped and boxed,
declaration of a loving friendship
that needed no reminders…

Security at the airport alert
to a pointed silhouette
‘Please step aside’ embarrassment.
I babble about a funeral,
an old friend, we flatted together
an unexpected inheritance,
‘…crystal, fragile, be careful… please’

A young man with empathy
and clumsy gloved hands
unties the ribbon
opens the cardboard,
unfolds the bubble-wrap,
unwraps the tissue paper
‘I’m sorry for your loss…’

He fumbles and blushes
hands hampered by latex
and inexperience.
My flight is called
I hear my heart pounding
his breathless frustration…
‘It doesn’t matter,’ I whisper.

Nerves as fragile as the crystal
equilibrium shattered.
Cancer’s curse has robbed
me of yet another friend
memories more precious
than mementoes…

On board the plane
the gifts repackaged,
grief compartmentalised.
I stare at the shifting clouds,
wonder if there is
life after death…
as surreptitious tears
flow. Smothered
by the sounds of flight.

Friendship never Ends, Love Never Forgotten

the blues

Shadows of Sadness Sneak into Consciousness…
Mairi Neil

This blue day
I want to share with you
blue sky,
blue sea,
blue pen,
blue ink…
recording my thoughts.

Blue thoughts of you,
true-blue friend.
My blue bright and positive
a joyous feeling

But for you –

blue held a deeper sombre hue

Invading soul

I tried to convince you
of blue’s beauty
the promise of a new day
the cleansing of pain and fear
a sea of calming blue
not turbulent navy.

But, you took your blue pen
and scribbled your blueness
on blue paper
framed with blue flowers

What were you thinking
in the pre-dawn?

Facing the dark blue diesel…

Melbourne’s autumn
delivered a perfect blue sky
and the blue sea sparkled
mocking our tortuous despair

I forget-you-not true-blue friend.


Quintessential Quilters With an Abundance of Talent.


This could have been my beloved Aunt Chrissie’s motto as well as my older sister’s! Both talented artists displaying brilliance with needle and thread and sewing machine. Aunt Chrissie taught sewing, Cate takes what she absorbed to prize winning levels beyond basic dress-making and design …

I was privileged (and gobsmacked) to attend the Australasian Quilt Convention on Sunday 19, 2015, at the  Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne. A memory day with delightful company ( thank you DF and CG) plus unforgettable images. I left with an increased appreciation of the amazing talent of many people – my older sister, Cate included!

In a world where we are bombarded daily with doom and gloom, it’s important to seek joy and immerse yourself in beauty and see the constructive side of humanity, whenever possible.

Motivated to see Cate’s entry in the Lest We Forget Challenge organised by the AQC to commemorate the centenary of the ill-fated WW1 Gallipoli Campaign, D and I caught an early train into the city and walked up from Parliament Station. The free travel for seniors on a Sunday a price hard to beat. There is no excuse for Melburnians not to explore their city by public transport on the weekends because even for others the travel is cheap.

Arts and Crafts really grew as an arts movement in the 19th century, but sewing patchwork and quilting has been around a lot longer. As a skilled activity it is growing in popularity in our society, probably because people have more leisure time and disposable cash, to turn what were items of necessity into beautiful works of art. These slide shows of the other entries in the Lest We Forget Challenge show just how creative and beautiful quilts can be.

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Talent Exhibited 2015
Mairi Neil

A salute to Australasian Quilters
their art worthy of the Tate
Delightful treasures to enjoy
Sighs of envy at  awesome talent…

Sewing a skill forever developing
begin early or late
stitch by hand or machine
tackle projects big or small

Quilts on display perfecting
the importance of the artist’s eye
Colour and perspective creating
visions beyond the mundane

Nuanced narratives revealing
words as stitches
stitches as story
story as history …

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The grand venue perfect for the convention. Magnificent 19th century architecture surrounding and complementing the designs displayed. How wonderful for these high-domed ceilings and ornate walls to echo with the buzz of chattering visitors, exhibitors and enthusiasts explaining and discussing the delightful work on show.

Paintings of cherubs and angels smile benignly at modern art and craft suppliers spruiking their wares.  Experts in their craft conducting seminars and workshops, companies advertising the latest machines, demonstrating kits and finished products.  Rooms off the main area filled with keen learners and experienced quilters glad of the opportunity to indulge their passion.

And it is a passion.

I loved hearing my sister’s expert commentary as she discussed the merits of exhibits, the level of difficulty, the immense skill necessary to achieve the desired result – and of course the difference between hand sewn quilts and machined quilts. I appreciated her enthusiasm because that’s what I feel about words and writing.


Cate has experienced complicated grief like me and as I turn to pen and paper, she picks up needle and thread. Many of the quilters submitted pieces they had started when diagnosed with breast cancer or were experiencing other trauma. Just as writing can be therapeutic, so can any form of art and craft. To ease pain by focusing on a project or labour of love instead of the grief or challenge is a good start on the journey of healing.

In 2009, when Mum was dying in Maroondah Hospital, a nurse suggested we place the beautiful quilt Cate had made for Mum on the bed, to remind her  of home, and to brighten the harsh whiteness of hospital bed linen.

Memory triggered, I reminded Cate she had started making me a quilt to comfort me through chemotherapy in 2010. However, life can intervene, projects can remain unfinished or lose their focus, other priorities occur. If it arrives, it will be treasured, but as a writer I know all about the dips and curves and changing nature of creativity!


 sewing defined

A Stitch in Time
Mairi Neil

She sits sewing by dim lamplight
embroidered threads by her side
Contented, happy, eyes shining bright.

In the stillness of evening light
needle and thread silently glide,
As she sits sewing by pale moonlight.

Cross stitches pattern small and tight
new techniques taken in her stride
Contented, happy, eyes shining bright.

Her creativity in wondrous flight
imagination flows like the tide
As she sits sewing by candlelight.

Machines embraced despite Luddites
mass production becomes her guide
Contentment gone, eyes no longer bright

History records seamstresses’ plight
workers stripped of all but pride
Many still struggle in shadowed light
Exploited, sad, eyes no longer bright.

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No sign of sweat shops at this convention and plenty of laughter and intense conversations as people took respite in several cafes sensibly placed in corners. We too succumbed to the enticing aroma of fresh coffee, toasting bread, naughty fried food and sweet scrumptious desserts.

Because of the record crowds we nipped across the way to the Museum thinking their cafe would have smaller queues. However, it was the opening of their WW1 exhibition so it didn’t take us long to rush back, flash our butterfly stamp at the gatekeepers and grab something to eat with other quilters.

Of course, there was another gallery of quilts to show the spirit of the ANZACS and honour those who sacrificed their lives at Gallipoli. Jan Irvine-Nealie, one of the world’s most talented quilters honoured those early soldiers in beautiful quilts presented as a retrospective and Lucy Carroll’s Gallipoli Quilt honoured all soldiers moulded by the ANZAC tradition.

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But the exhibition wasn’t all about the Gallipoli Centenary – thank goodness – because in the last year we’ve been into overload in Australia with every aspect of the campaign and WW1 dissected and projected on our screens, at festivals, museums, on stage, at book launches, photographic exhibitions… You name the media and it’s been done.

There were magnificent examples of work representing various interpretations of “True Blue”. I loved the variety. They reminded me of the astounding varied responses from the same writing prompt! To think these pictures are created by scraps of material and wool, hand stitches and machine – what patience and persistence, what talent!

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There were quilts that made you have a double-take and ones that immediately inspired verse or a story – many of course a complete narrative in themselves:

The Connection
Mairi Neil

The glance
Has lingered
Emotions soar

Caresses and whispered words
Open eyes; feed a receptive heart
Natural laws of attraction at work
Nuances of touch press flesh tenderly
Ephemeral or eternal memories,
Casual coupling or
Ties that bind?
In a moment of passion
Our lives change
No turning back time…

There were plenty of quilts showing a sense of humour as well as social commentary and one that poked fun at the judges:

the judges are so particular

Intricate designs passed down through centuries and reinvented by modern quilters, William Morris influenced panels,  interpretations and  new creations showcasing the boundless expertise of Australasian quilters. A comfort to me who has difficulty threading a needle nowadays never mind planning a masterpiece!

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A truly inspiring day and one last look outside at the wonderful trees in autumn finery and my pocket notebook works overtime.

Autumn Leaves
Mairi Neil

autumn leaves and tree exhibitob bldg grounds

Autumn, a time of contemplation; leaves
Underfoot, scuff and swirl
The wayward wind encouraging dance
Unaccompanied by music…
Maroon, magenta, green, gold, burnished brown
Never dull. Colours raked and piled
Light fades early
Easter celebrations and
Anzac marches ensure
Valour and sacrifice remembered at
End of day fireside reveries
Smoke and thoughts wafting skywards

Some days we are truly blessed to be with people we love and to experience the inspiring and creative qualities within our community. The following witty observations spot on!

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