When Inspiration Strikes – Write



I’ve often mentioned how lucky I am.  How blessed and privileged, to be working in community houses and teaching people who want to write, and who love words as passionately as I do.

Today, with mid-winter cold and rain creating a day where staying in bed, or hugging the fireplace seemed a good move unless a better option arose, I  cheerfully organised myself for work.


As a teacher,  you are not supposed to have favourites, but my class on Wednesday morning is pure delight. Ages range from the early 30s to 87 years and each decade in-between.

Our cultural backgrounds and life experience encompass  Armenia, Egypt, Israel, Scotland, Ireland, England and Australia.

Professions: nurse, teacher, event manager, administration, retail, hospitality, lollipop lady, cleaner, small business owner, musician, author, artist, police officer, disability speaker, estate agent, receptionist…


Life experience: mother, wife, widow, divorcee, never married, single. Some siblings, some knew parents, some brought up by grandparents, some have been in care…

There are travellers, happy-at-home, armchair travellers, ex-military, and those with a bucket list of places to see – exotic and mundane.

We have Post-grads, those whose education was cut short or limited, a Bachelor of Theology, Catholics, Protestants, atheists, agnostics, spiritualists, non-believers, secular Jews, Buddhists…



Wednesday mornings rich with stories, good writing, fun, and laughter. And today was no exception with one of the students, Donna reading a wonderful piece, “Hatitude My Life in Hats” – an earlier version available online.

With Donna’s permission, I’ve started taking photographs because she brightens up the class with her style, stories, and indeed always a fashionable hat!

Her story today eliciting spontaneous applause!

When I opened my curtains this morning, I smiled, despite the rain dancing on the driveway and street, adding that extra swish as cars raced past.

I smiled because my beautiful bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae)is healthy and blooming, I smiled because it is great to be alive.

And because like  most mornings, Mr or Mrs Magpie visited to sing an aria or two. However, recently the magpies have been upstaged by an extremely vocal Noisy Miner.

So vocal, that my lovely daughter MJ has considered avicide.

I am more forgiving – and Tuesday evening being bin night, my sleep was already disturbed  by the growling and clattering of the garbage truck at 6.00 am, so the off-beat duet didn’t cause me to frown.

Because we all share this small planet Earth, we have to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. That is not just a dream, but a necessity.

Dalai Lama, Tibetan spiritual leader.

And by the time I arrived at Godfrey Street, Bentleigh, via foot, train, bus, and foot (Bentleigh Station not due to reopen until the end of the month) the rain had stopped and I could enjoy the short walk through the garden and appreciate the love and care enveloping the house.


Number Nine Godfrey Street

Mairi Neil 2016

The garden a delight from someone’s green fingers
A profusion of pastel colours glistening
While sunshine smiles and fickle autumn spits rain.
I watch visitors stream inside the nondescript house
Their footsteps echoing on shaded verandah.
Walkers scrape and stroller wheels squeak.
A magpie trills in dinner-suited elegance,
Preening glossy feathers and strutting the footpath
As if ushering passersby to enter stage right ––
The Isadora scarf or Hitchcock cigar missing.

A young woman, nursing a toddler on her hip,
Grins a welcome to the elderly gent who
Clutches his chessboard and secret moves.
Their families farewelled to independence,
Seniors care for themselves in exercise classes.
Small talk in craft sessions produces big results.
Delightful aromas drift from the kitchen ––
Homemade pumpkin soup, sweet chocolate cookies,
Spicy curries –– recipes shared with curiosity and love
Sauced with tales from distant lands.

Oil paintings and pastel drawings, the fruit
Of nurtured local artists decorate the walls
This house celebrates learning, laughter, and leisure …
Friendships bubble and overflow to the neighbourhood
No need to cruise the retail choices of Centre Road,
Sup lonely cafe lattes amid chattering conversations
Or sit mesmerised by mobile screens
A house in Godfrey Street plants seeds
And grows friendships; welcomes newcomers,
Encourages indigenous and immigrant to bloom.

In the house singsong voices of children tinkle
While mellow murmurings of writers’ words
Capture imagination, life experience, and wisdom.
Pens scratch notepads as the sewing group
Across the hall coax machines to whirr into life,
Garments appear patterned by creativity
Wordsmiths spin sentences for pleasure
Every room thrums and hums as
People connect, care and communicate
Their commitment to lifelong learning

I accept the magpie’s invitation
Submit to being ‘led up the garden path’
To follow a thirty-year trail and discover
Like the vibrant blossoms in the garden
Community and harmony flourishes
At Number Nine Godfrey Street.

mordi beach in winter

A Triolet Can Be Child’s Play

d53f9f494a3bd30c67725c2d0dba4b23Before writing a serious post about Remembrance Day tomorrow, I’d like to share the lesson this week in my Writing For Pleasure classes at Mordialloc and Bentleigh.

I introduced another type of form poetry – Triolet – pronounced TREE-o-LAY. The form has 13th-century French roots linked to the rondeau or “round” poem. The triolet is perfect for line repetition because the first line of the poem is used three times and the second line is used twice. That leaves only three other lines to write: 2 of those lines rhyme with the first line, the other rhymes with the second line!

The triolet is a short poem of eight lines with only two rhymes used throughout. The requirements of this fixed form are straightforward: the first line is repeated in the fourth and seventh lines; the second line is repeated in the final line; and only the first two end-words are used to complete the tight rhyme scheme. Thus, the poet writes only five original lines, giving the triolet a deceptively simple appearance: ABaAabAB, where capital letters indicate repeated lines.



A template of the triolet would look like this:

A (first line)
B (second line)
a (rhymes with the first line)
A (repeat first line)
a (rhymes with the first line)
b (rhymes with the second line)
A (repeat first line)
B (repeat the second line)

The form was often used for light, humorous themes, but like all poetry it can be a vehicle for serious themes – melancholic or philosophical reflections. Especially if the repetition marks a shift in the meaning or mood of the repeated lines.

In class, we concentrated on the structure and had fun getting the rhyming scheme right. (For rhymes just Google the word you are trying to rhyme and choose a site like rhymezone, or download a free rhyming dictionary.) We laughed at Godfrey Street when Jan wrote her poem about Triolet being mistaken for toilet and one repeated line was about ‘the loo’.

It is a pure form, but can be tricky remembering where the repeated lines and rhymes go, so I suggest using the template until the rhyme and rhythm occur without prompting.

It is also important, like any good piece of writing, to spend some time choosing the introduction (in this case the first two lines) because that will determine the theme/mood and also the rhyme scheme.

For the construction of my first triolet, I chose as my first line: “Stand behind the yellow line” and decided to make my second line: Or under the train you’ll go. (A consequence of being too close to the edge – a message repeated daily on Flinders Street Station in Melbourne. )

A Stand behind the yellow line
B or under the train you’ll go
A Stand behind the yellow line
A Stand behind the yellow line
B or under the train you’ll go

With more than half the poem already written, I simply brainstormed some rhymes and crafted other lines to fit the train platform situation. Then, I added a title.

Terminal Triolet
Mairi Neil

Stand behind the yellow line
or under the train you’ll go
The painted stroke a warning sign
Stand behind the yellow line
a disembodied voice will  whine
as distracted passengers ebb and flow
Stand behind the yellow line
or under the train you’ll go.


Spring Joy
Mairi Neil

I hear a voice, it must be Spring
A clear refrain morning, noon and night
What makes it happy, makes it sing?
I hear a voice, it must be Spring
Constant, confident the music flowing
The Butcher Birds are in full flight
I hear a voice, it must be Spring
A clear refrain morning, noon and night

image from birdsinbackyards
image from birdsinbackyards

And thinking of tomorrow:

WWI Noted
Mairi Neil

Letter writing an important skill
Expressions of love so precious
Mining emotions like a drill
Letter writing an important skill
Soldiers had more than time to kill
Words written to soothe the anxious
Letter writing an important skill
Expressions of love so precious


Write a Poem You Say
Mairi Neil

Writing poems not for the faint-hearted
Words, technique, emotions expected
Whether for the living or dear departed
Writing poems not for the faint-hearted
Sometimes it’s hard just to get started
Brain, heart and hand not connected
Writing poems not for the faint-hearted
Words, technique, emotions expected

The Triolet form can also be used to write a longer poem, perhaps beginning with a statement or observation:

Mairi Neil

On the last night of October beware,
the witches and spirits are about
make sure you dress with special care.
On the last night of October beware,
perform some tricks for delicious fare
be extra polite and never shout
On the last night of October beware,
the witches and spirits are about.

Scary apparitions wander street and lane
Halloween is their special night
Imagination may drive you insane
Scary apparitions wander street and lane.
It’s a night for real ghosts to reign
in the dark where there’s no light
Scary apparitions wander street and lane.
Halloween is their special night.

Ordinary people may don a disguise
shadowy figures designed to scare
werewolves, wizards and witches rise
Ordinary people may don a disguise
the ‘best pretend ghoul’ always wins a prize
‘Take off your mask’ the fearless dare
Ordinary people may don a disguise
shadowy figures designed to scare

And of course, Triolet poems can be simple and poignant. This morning walking past the nursing home at the end of my street a memory was triggered:

Mordialloc Monday, November 9
Mairi Neil

The ambulance left with flashing light
With palpitating heart my emotions roam
As memory stirred of the terrible night
The ambulance left with flashing light
Resuscitation an unforgettable sight
Dad alone and prone, in nursing home
The ambulance left with flashing light
With palpitating heart my emotions roam

But here is an image I will always have of my Mother and a reflection on that memory:

Remembering Mum
Mairi Neil

I can see you sitting reading a book
Twisting your hair, deep in concentration
I know you’d rather read than cook
I can see you sitting reading a book
Into another world with such a contented look
Did Dad envy the Mills and Boon destination?
I can see you sitting reading a book
Twisting your hair, deep in concentration

I’m looking forward to the wonderful variety of Triolets the classes will produce next week – why not try some too and please share them with me.

Triolet can be child’s play it just depends on what you have to say!

Haiku, Twaiku and Poetweets are Treats

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken in  Warsaw September 27, 2013. Twitter Inc, the eight-year-old online messaging service, gave potential investors their first glance at its financials on Thursday when it publicly filed its IPO documents, setting the stage for one of the most-anticipated debuts in over a year. Picture taken September 27.  REUTERS/Kacper Pempel (POLAND - Tags: BUSINESS TELECOMS LOGO)
People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken in Warsaw September 27, 2013 and printed in the New York Times recently when Twitter announced its financials.

It’s the Digital Age and most of us know about Twitter – even if we don’t use social media. Twitter is a form of communicating in short sharp messages. You can only use 140 characters, including spaces between words, punctuation marks, line breaks and numbers.

If you are on twitter and tweet you’ll have an address that identifies who you are – it will be something like @whateveryourname is and then a # hashtag preceding the post. You can follow people and they can follow you!


Adventurous writers have embraced yet another form of communication and as time passes even traditionalists find themselves participating in exercises and competitions focusing on new technology.

Welcome to the future where you are required to write a short story, a poem, even a novel, in bite-sized messages of no more than 140 characters! However be careful you don’t land yourself in a heap of trouble like seventy-year-old poet Craig Raine who tweeted his fantasy about a young airport worker and unleashed some very angry responses. This one was succinct and to the point:

Adam Warne@ MrAdamWarne
‘Craig Raine, the poet?’
We have less than half a minute.
‘I studied you. For my MA at uni.
I did an MA in misogyny and the male gaze.’

I teach in community houses and most of my students fall into particular demographics: many are retired and come along to write their life stories, or that novel they’ve talked about for years. Others attend to up-skill, improve gaps in their education, or come to enjoy working with words, being able to write poems and prose the way they want rather than what they were told at school. Others are on maternity leave, long service leave, extended sick leave… many reasons to be looking for a course to enjoy.

Others want to relax and have fun being creative and learning about writing techniques, using the various tools available – and as one class title suggests ‘write for pleasure and publication’.

In most classes, I also have students with disability – acquired brain injury, physical disability related to ageing or accident, early onset Alzheimer’s and a variety of other mental health issues ranging from depression, bi-polar to schizophrenia. The wonderful advantage of teaching and studying in community houses is socialisation and appreciation of diversity, the acceptance that everyone has the one desire – to share stories and imagination through their writing – regardless of (dis) ability.

I plan my lessons to be inclusive – accepting students have a range of abilities, a range of needs – many have been attending for over a decade so I’m hoping I’m doing something right! We have successes with students having work accepted in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines. Some have produced their own books.


This past week we’ve had a lot of fun discussing how we can harness the digital age to improve our writing, or just keep up with advances in technology. Form poetry is always a satisfying challenge and in one class at Godfrey Street Bentleigh for the last 4 years we have written terse verse to match inspiring works produced by the art class. This marrying of creativity becomes a calendar sold as a regular fundraiser at Christmas.

We decided to embrace ‘Twitterdom’ and although some students had heard of Twitter and tweets, no one utilised the platform.(Not even me!) And yet it has been around a long time in the writing world as this article explains: How do I love Thee? Count 140 Characters

Thank you Internet!

I also discovered interesting articles at the excellent source for journalism, Poynter , What Twitter teaches us about writing short and well. It really is great practice for editing, being succinct, searching for the ‘better or more appropriate’ word rather than just writing the first noun or verb that pops into your head.

A clever teacher/educator, Tracee Orman has devised a Poetweet and Twaiku Poetry Exercise.


If you haven’t worked it out Twaiku is three lines and 17 syllables like a haiku, but it also limits how many characters (including spaces) are used: no more than 140 and that includes your twitter hashtag.

Remember: Traditional haiku has the first line containing 5 syllables, second line 7 syllables, and the last line 5 syllables.

A Poetweet is poetry inspired by the social-networking site Twitter. The users of this site post tweets (like Facebook status updates) limiting them to 140 characters. The original poems created are called poetweets.


This is not new – The New York Times Online, Week in Review, March 20, 2011 called on well-known writers to submit poetry – one of my favourite poets, Robert Pinsky submitted this:

Low Pay Piecework
The fifth-grade teacher and her followers–
Five classes, twenty-eight in each, all hers:
One-hundred-and-forty different characters.

So now enough of the background – I had to get down to writing – I always do the task with my students – my effort in splurge time today –

Mod Weddings by MCN
Marriage in the digital age
Invites via Facebook & tweets
One-hundred-and-forty characters
The guests just off the street

Penultimate by M C Neil
The writing class complained
Digital tools are not for them
Pen and ink and even type
Will outlast this Twitter hype!

The Twaiku a bit easier – especially since we could just make up a Twitter call sign.
I decided to use ‘by@tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil’

Here are good examples from twitter.com

raining on sunday
time to do the spring cleaning
watch raindrops instead
By @Gianinec Gianine C

Plain white pages wait
For black ink to carve a path –
Our dreams given life.
By @lilledharmabum Kate Garrett

Here are some Twaiku efforts from me in response to ABC Radio National news this morning (perhaps it’s just as well I don’t tweet):

Farewell Phillip Toyne
You made a real difference
Land and People Care
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

Trans Pacific deal
Economic benefits for whom
Free trade free for all?
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

Stop the boats he said
We now pay people smugglers
Moral compass lost!
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

Now Julie Bishop’s
Definition of foreign aid
A ‘bucket’ of crap
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

News feeds us horror
Like finding out butterflies
Will feast on dead flesh
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

Hilary Clinton
Running for the presidency
Will Bill trip her up?
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

I think back to my childhood when the telephone was considered innovative and few houses could afford to have one connected. My parents did because railwayman Dad got extra shifts if he was easily contactable and with six children to feed and clothe most of his life revolved around chasing money!

My mother always seemed to know where we had played, what we did at school etc and she’d say ‘a little bird told me’ – I was 9 or 10 years old before it clicked – the telephone a great gossip spreader! No wonder the logo for twitter is a little bird – very appropriate.

Writing Twaiku or poetweets a lot of fun and helps hone your writing skills – why don’t you try it!


Colourful Words


I can remember when Petula Clark released Colour My World in 1966; I had just entered teenage with hormones rampant, aching for romantic love. The lyrics of this song resonated more than Rabbie Burns’ A Red, Red Rose, a poem-turned-song I knew well because of my Father’s  love of Scotland’s most famous bard. However, it was the 60s, transistor radios and pop music aboundedColour My World had a catchy tune to match memorable words.

You’ll never see a dark cloud hanging ’round me
Now there is only blue sky to surround me
There’s never been a grey day since you found me
Everything I touch is turning to gold

So you can colour my world with sunshine yellow each day
Oh you can colour my world with happiness all the way
Just take the green from the grass and the blue from the sky up above
And if you colour my world, just paint it with your love
Just colour my world


What is the difference between poetry and song lyrics?

 It is certainly true that poems are taught (for better or worse) in classrooms and made a part of the canon of literature, whereas songs, especially popular ones, usually are not. If song lyrics are studied in school, often it is ethnographically or anthropologically, to learn something about a culture, not as literature per se. What I suppose some musicians want is not to be considered poets, but for their lyrics to be read with the same respect they imagine poems are…

The ways the conditions of that environment affect the construction of the words (refrain, repetition, the ways information that can be communicated musically must be communicated in other ways in a poem, etc.) is where we can begin to locate the main differences between poetry and lyrics.

Matthew Zapruder, poet, translator, and editor, Boston Review 2012

This week in class we had fun using colour in our poems. I went on the Dulux Paint site and printed off their colour palettes to distribute, not only to have many colours and shades as triggers but also to encourage the use of the innovative and descriptive names given to the colours.

Colour is all around us, affecting our mood, it’s a given that it adds to your writing – sight being one of the most important of our senses. Add a colour when describing and the detail makes the image clearer. I have two beautiful books about poetry addressing the use of colour. Written for children, I discovered them in a local op shop and in the words of another song ‘bless the day’ I did.

 Writing Poems by Michael Harrison and Christopher Stuart-Clark focuses on techniques and forms of verse, with examples and exercises encouraging children to experiment with their writing. Poems include:

Christina Rossetti

What is pink? a rose is pink
By a fountain’s brink.
What is red? a poppy’s red
In its barley bed.
What is blue? the sky is blue
Where the clouds float thro’.
What is white? a swan is white
Sailing in the light.
What is yellow? pears are yellow,
Rich and ripe and mellow.
What is green? the grass is green,
With small flowers between.
What is violet? clouds are violet
In the summer twilight.
What is orange? Why, an orange,
Just an orange!


James Reeves

Grey is the sky, and grey the woodman’s cot
With grey smoke tumbling from the chimney-pot.
The flagstones are grey that lead to the door;
Grey is the hearth, and grey the worn old floor.

The old man by the fire nods in his chair;
Grey are his clothes and silvery grey his hair.
Grey are the shadows around him creeping,
And grey the mouse from the corner peeping.


In Hailstones and Halibut Bones, a delightful children’s classic, described correctly as ‘adventures in colour’, Mary O’Neill’s magnificent poems, explore a particular colour, the colour spectrum summed up by the last poem in the book:

Mary O’Neill

The Colors live
Between black and white
In a land that we
Know best by sight.
But knowing best
Isn’t everything,
For colors dance
And colors sing,
And colors laugh
And colors cry –
Turn off the light
And colors die,
And they make you feel
Every feeling there is
From the grumpiest grump
To the fizziest fizz.
And you and you and I
Know well
Each has a taste
And each has a smell
And each has a wonderful
Story to tell…


We had wonderful discussions about colours in my classes – we all have favourite ones, particularly regarding fashion and what colour we believe suits us. There were passionate debates about shades and names. About writing reflecting happy and sad moods.

Cheltenham, Tuesday, October 21, 2002
Mairi Neil

Opposite the cemetery
on the bus shelter roof
there’s a drumbeat dirge
this wintry day
in springtime Melbourne.

Grey sky
Grey pavement
Grey faces
Grey tombstones…

A river of vehicles
flowing past
swishing, swooshing
dispersing grey puddles
splashing kerbs.

Roy Orbison’s, Pretty Woman
explodes from a passing car.
Pedestrians pause
eyes a-sparkle
lips stretch into smiles…

At the cemetery gates
a daffodil yellow taxi
ferries a passenger
her pain masked
by rain-splattered windows.

in a tsunami of grief
I too, no longer anyone’s
Pretty Woman.

I wrote this poem the day I returned to work, a month after my husband’s death when the whole world did indeed seem grey.  But what of those who are colour blind? Those who struggle with limited colour in their lives. Well, we poets are adaptable and will write about anything!!

The Colourblind Birdwatcher
U.A. Fanthorpe

In sallow summer
The loud-mouthed birds
peer through my hedges
As brown as swallows.

In an acrid autumn
High-flying birds
Splay in formation
As brown as magpies.

In the wan winter
Audacious birds
Besiege my windows
As brown as robins.

In sepia spring
The punctual birds
Resume their habits
As brown as blossom.

At the other extreme, people who hear, taste or smell colour exist. They have synesthesia, a rare neurological condition in which two or more of the senses entwine. I’ve had several student writers over the years with synesthesia and they’ve produced amazing work.

After the class discussion, we wrote a poem together just to get into the swing of thinking about colour before our splurge time of free writing –

Tuesday Class Poem – Godfrey Street, Bentleigh

Tuesday, a scarlet day, like a magnificent sunset
It’s a blushing woman, ‘Gone with the Wind.’
It’s a juicy Victoria plum dripping sweetness
It’s a burning bush splashing golden sparks
It’s the last glass of claret enriching palates
It’s a heated argument getting out of hand
It’s a colicky baby seeking comfort

Monday Class Poem, Mordialloc Neighbourhood House

Red is Monday, in writing class
A happy day full of friendship
An energetic day like an express train
A red-leg day watching doves dance in the garden
A fired-up day flickering like flames
An angry day falling out of bed
A passionate day – beware of love
A taxi day stopping at all the traffic lights
A red-letter day writing in class


Encouraging each other to ‘think outside the box’  we splurged using the paint cards as a starting point:

What Colour is Tolerance?
Mairi Neil

Green comes in forty shades
The Irish folk group sings
Soft moss by rivers streaming
Tarragon glory of fairy rings

Ireland the true emerald isle
Celtic forests delight and intrigue
Crushed pine perfumes the air
Woodland ferns soften history’s deeds.

When English mist descended
Paradise green became no more
Even Dublin Bay laced with blood
Years of bomb blasts and gore.

Like the famed Amazon jungle
Impenetrable; peace seemed futile
But as spring buds banish winter
Persistence gave reason to smile!

From green felt to cameo silk
Ireland’s metamorphoses proudly displayed
Acceptance of all shades of green and pink
In May 2015, history is made!


Greening Me

Mairi Neil

I want to be green
Because the grass is green
Grass grows everywhere
I’d travel far across lands
Meet up with different grasses
Grow anywhere and fit in

I want to be green
Because Kermit the Frog is green
A reminder of childhood
Innocence, laughter and fun,
Easy to be green, like Kermit
Revisiting a joyous green

I want to be green
Because many vegetables are green
The ones really good for you
Green vegetables are nutritional
I’m glad to be healthy and alive
A tasty green too

I want to be green
Because my mother was Irish
The Emerald Isle in my blood
Celtic music and folklore
Memories of Mum in my heart
Green the colour of my love.


Colours of a Writer’s Day
Mairi Neil

What is blue? Ink is blue
When my pen flows free and true
What is white? My notebook page
Words rolling raw at every stage.
What is violet? My thoughts a jumble
Ideas, emotions, fears all tumble.
What is brown? My desk is brown
Where I smile and also frown.
What is green? My garden’s green
Daily relief from the computer screen.
What is yellow? My lamp is yellow
Evening air oh, so mellow.
What is red? My editing pen…
Write, rewrite, rewrite again!


Autumn Feast
Mairi Neil

Frenzied and flaming
Leaves flicked in the air
Scattered by a bitter wind
Whistling through the park
From the icy southern ocean.

Falling autumnal leaves
A plush velvet carpet
Colours of a Caribbean dawn
And Moroccan dusk.

Children skip and skitter
Cherry Ripes and Candy Canes
Giggling and rosy-cheeked
Kicking and throwing leaves

Into nutmeg clusters
Roasted pumpkin piles
Sunflower symphonies
Ruby fountains
Grecian garlands
And emerald delights.

The crunch and crackle
Scuff and crinkle
Perfumes the air…
Eucalyptus, pine, mellow maple
Mature oak, liquidambar
Eastern spice and lemon chiffon.

The sky a Damson dream
Angry clouds of volcanic ash
Dissipate and make way for
The marble swirl of autumn glory
Truly a feast for the poet’s eye!

Next week it will be exciting to read the polished poems produced by the writers and any new inspirations they produce.

What role does colour play in your writing life?

Memories, Mirrors and Musings to stir the Muse!

She glances at the photo, and the pilot light of memory flickers in her eyes.

Frank Deford


Where have the summer holidays gone? What happened to all my writing plans? The household tasks? The ‘to participate’ list for Melbourne’s wonderful festivals, events and permanent art venues? The catch-up cuppas with friends?

Some of the above were achieved, but not as many as I hoped and now it’s lesson planning time and in less than a fortnight I’ll be back at work at Mordialloc Neighbourhood House, Longbeach Place, Chelsea and Godfrey Street, Bentleigh teaching: Writing for Pleasure & Publication, Writing & Editing, Memoir to Manuscript and Life Stories & Legacies.

I’ve spent many days researching and organising to make the lessons fresh and interesting, the revision and research reminding me of the importance of always honing the craft of writing to learn and apply a variety of techniques. The learning curve necessary for tutor and student alike – I need a challenge too, or I’ll become stale and boring.

At least the writer’s mantra has been applied over the holidays:  read, read, read – and write, write, write – then rewrite, rewrite rewrite!! This blog has helped keep me on my toes,  given me insight to what writers are doing in many other parts of the world and freshened my outlook. Variety indeed the spice of life!

The Internet a seemingly infinite place/space to research, read, find jobs, markets, meet people, network, but most of all learn and much appreciated by a lifelong learner like me.

gardenworld        11retiring-pic2-articleLarge

Mirror Mirror on the Wall…
Mairi Neil

In the mirror there’s an image I see
Grey hair and wrinkles – how can that be?
Is that old woman really me?

In my head there’s whimsy and fantasy
My body bursts with playful energy
And my growing soul aches to run free!

In the mirror this image I see
Grey hair and wrinkles – who can she be?
An old woman – yes –  but not really me!

A mirror mirage with lips that plea
The grey hair and wrinkles others see
Belong to a future that’s still to be…

In the book of life I accept my age
Uncomplaining – feel no need to rage
As long as each day begins a new page

Wrinkles represent life’s trials -a trace
Of hardships and triumphs we all face
Effects of ageing accepted with grace

In the mirror there’s an image to see
Grey hair, wrinkles layered as a tree,
But that  woman is not the real me!

I still believe in whimsy.  Need fantasy
So must harness lots of playful energy
To be the me, I want to be!

The variety of classes I teach make life interesting and a challenge, particularly when many students return for another year and there is a range of age groups (the oldest student will be 94, the youngest 24), backgrounds, abilities, dreams and needs (some students have mental and physical health issues, but thrive in the safe friendly environment of a community house).

What a blessing and privilege to be teaching a subject I love in local centres with students who choose to be there,  to share their life experiences, imagination and personalities,  knowledge spanning several generations, countries, genders, continents!

A shelf groans with class anthologies and revisiting their delightful contents – each poem, story, anecdote and memoir takes me back into the classroom to hear the voice of the writer, picture them writing and reading… imagining… ‘pilot light of memory’ flickering.

Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.

Oscar Wilde,The Importance of Being Earnest

We put so much of ourselves into our words. We share each other’s triumphs and support each other’s writing goals. When a poem a student wrote in my class was accepted into Poetica Christi’s latest anthology her joy jumped off the Christmas card she sent me. Let’s hope there are more successes to come. it’s wonderful when the words work and are appreciated by others.

The Mirror
(after Sylvia Plath)

Why do you challenge me every morning? Do you think muted morning light will make a difference to the harsh incandescence of nightly fluorescents? Your eyes seek what I cannot give. I cannot stop you turning into your mother, or give you back your youth. I cannot heal the surgeon’s scar; replace the slice that changed your life.

I know you think I’m fickle. You rub to polish my view, seek a clarity I cannot give. It may make me reflect more clearly your desires, but not reality. A trick of the light your excuse as those once bright eyes mist and dull. I cannot control your heart or mind. I tell it how it is for me. I may be silver-coated but not silver-tongued.

But, why believe me? Does my opinion matter? I cannot reach out into the world, engage with people the way you can. Take well-worn advice, seek and ye shall find. There’s a window to your soul only you can unlock, and change is constant. Don’t challenge me because my view will always be limited. My reflections dependent upon light.

My power is gifted – take it back.

Mairi Neil 2013

Now back to my planning, revising and writing because …