The Power is in the Word – an Intergenerational Project

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On Wednesday, October 4th, Kingston Seniors Festival 2018 was launched at Westall Community Hub in Clayton South, a new community centre and library that will be twelve months old on Sunday.

The Festival opened by the Mayor, Cr. Steve Staikos who celebrated the completion of the latest Intergenerational Project: The Power’s in the Word.

mayor and ceo close up

The project presented in a partnership between the City of Kingston Social Development team, Kingston Youth Services and Kingston Arts.

I heard about it from Lydia Sorenson, the Positive Ageing Officer, Social Development whom I’d worked with when she was with Youth Services in 2016, my first involvement with an intergenerational project.

I was thrilled to work with Youth Services officers Mealea and Sophie who were involved in the earlier project too.

In 2016, I wrote a short film script and collaborated with a multi-aged team to produce it. Along the way,  we learned about camera angles, lighting, sound, scouting locations and props, permits, schedules and networking.

Favours asked of friends and family. We shared skills and professional knowledge – I gave a writing workshop, photographers lectured on the importance of light, sound experts ran us through recording equipment and dialogue, cinematographers and not for profit filmmakers gave tips and inspiration on what was possible with a limited budget and excess enthusiasm!

The school children and teenagers involved shared their ideas, knowledge and confidence of new technologies and love of all things screen. The premiere of the completed project held at the Shirley Burke Theatre in Parkdale.

Everyone revelled in the Academy Award atmosphere…

It was such a positive experience, I didn’t hesitate to get involved in this latest project.  My friend Jillian and fellow writer played the lead role in my short film, but ill health and travel commitments meant she couldn’t be involved in Power’s in the Word. However, she made the launch and enjoyed the presentations.

me and Jillian
Me and Jillian

This project began in June and entailed a commitment of 12 workshops on a Tuesday evening at the Kingston Arts Centre in Moorabbin.

Story, Print & Poetry Workshops: Inter-generational Project 2018

It was a privilege and fun to be involved with several other seniors and young people. Artwork, including linocuts and poetry, were made and displayed and at the launch, several of us read a poem written for the occasion.

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Both projects enabled me, not only to meet and interact with people I may never have met otherwise but also moved me out of my creative comfort zone. 

We worked alongside writer Emilie Zoey Baker and visual artist and printer Adrian Spurr who taught and supervised the linocuts we produced. To learn printmaking was the drawcard for me,  and to link it with poetry.

Adrian was everyone’s idea of a favourite art teacher. He made a klutz like me feel I’d produced something appealing!

The ten finished pieces from the group looked impressive although I’m not sure what the mayor will do with his framed copy!

Great Things Never Come From Comfort Zones

We started to meet in June and for 13 Tuesday nights we learnt printmaking, discussed various topics, shared stories, and wrote haiku and short prose.

There was a schedule but lots of flexibility.

It was winter and people got sick, or members of their family did. As with any free and volunteer project, people also dropped out. The timeframe coincided with the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, which meant Emilie’s attendance and input varied.

Adrian’s print workshops turned out to be more intense and time-consuming than the organisers realised. The schedule below rearranged as the weeks passed:

  • Introductions and Rumi’s Cube writing exercise
  • Writing about “love”
  • Collograph – flower print-making
  • Collograph and monoprints
  • Writing on Place – haiku
  • Writing on Place – childhood
  • Monoprint and linocut
  • Writing on Place – first home
  • Writing on Place – current linocut
  • Writing on Place – dreamscape
  • Signing of prints
  • Rehearsal and editing
  • Submission of 1-2 pieces on places we have lived

Rumi’s Cube Personality Test…

Emilie had us write as she introduced the various elements of the well-known Rumi’s Cube exercise. 

Briefly, you imagine yourself in a desert and there is a cube of whatever size, material and colour you choose. There is a ladder – you decide where it goes, and a horse – you decide where it is in the position of the cube and what colour and type of horse. There are flowers – how many, colour, type or where growing is up to you. There is a storm cloud – how far away or severe is again up to you.

Ruminating Over Rumi – Mairi Neil

Miles of sand stretching to the horizon…
a clear blue cube, water glistening like dew
a ladder of tree branches rooted in the earth
the cube drip-feeds a carpet of yellow daisies
a large grey mare, heavy with foal shelters
alongside the cube, nibbling at the flowers
preparing to lie down.
Aware the sky is now changing
white clouds becoming bruises on a sea blue sky
transforming to stormy grey
the ladder trembles and sinks
returning to the earth as the cube begins to melt
the landscape awaiting rebirth…

If you Google there are numerous interpretations of the significance of your responses. Emilie’s interpretation just one of many and had some similarities to this:

  • The cube represents you. The size of the cube is your ego. What it is made of (wood, marble, or the texture) determines your feelings or personality.
  • The ladder represents your goals. The length of the ladder shows the scale of your goals, the shorter the ladder the more simple the goal.
  • The horse represents your ideal partner
  • The flowers represent your family and friends. The number of the flowers determines your connections and how close you are to them

  • The Storm represents the obstacle(s) in your life. If the storm is close to the cube/ stationary, then you are experiencing some emotional, mental and hard situations right now.  If the storm is in the distance then you have overcome many challenges and will continue towards victory.

Emilie said she had never come across ‘a pregnant horse’ response before!

Psychoanalysis can make you hungry for comfort food…

After that exercise and the interesting discussion it raised, I was ready for a cup of tea.

Most of the workshops were between 4.30pm and 6.30pm, a couple started at 5.00pm. The lovely council officers ensured food was delivered, they arranged taxis if needed. Always their priority was the happiness and comfort of participants.

In a way, there was too much food, but we gratefully took home plastic containers of leftovers – especially on the pasta and pizza nights that the young folk enjoyed the most. A couple of the participants shared cakes and sandwiches with their U3A writing class the next day!

Collographs and Monoprints and Love

I missed the workshop on Collograph flower prints because I fell that day and had an unplanned trip! The work the others produced amazing, particularly when most were new to the art form.

The larger pieces below examples of Collography.

The writing task was about ‘Love’. I missed out on creating a collograph but could write at home without too much effort.

Love
Mairi Neil

Can love be put into words?
Trust, passion, security, contentment –
limiting the concept seems absurd.
Love is all encompassing, enthralling,
ecstatic and entrancing, but also
mundane, steady, unconditional ––
not all excitement and romancing.

It’s the years of care from a doting Dad –
caressing his ageing skin and feeling sad.
Massaging Mum’s arthritis, being close
savouring the aroma of her Sunday roast.
It’s marmalade and toast made with
daily devotion – delicious pancakes
and scones triggering emotion.

A smile causing the heart to flutter –
a light behind your eyes for no other.
Unexpected flowers to cheer the day,
orchids or roses have something to say.
A heartfelt cuddle, a warm embrace,
loving strength, if trouble you face

It’s gentle bedtime snores confirming
belonging and comfort at night.
Shared laughter and crazy dreams
It’s pride and happiness on sight.
A special tone of voice, whispering
your name, and other endearments,
a baby suckling at breast, content
the promise of future fulfilment.

Nurturing children, bathing and caring
the pleasure of siblings playing together
the squabbles, support, and sharing.
Holding hands with lovers and
celebrating each day with joy
free to be embarrassed or unduly coy.
What is love? Can words describe it well?
Live it, breathe it, only your heart will tell…

Monoprints – what a challenge

Adrian told the class to follow on from their idea for the Collograph and draw something for a monoprint. This would then be drawn on acetate with ink applied and a print produced.

I can’t draw a straight line without a ruler, in fact, I can’t draw anything and don’t try.

What was I to do?

Fortunately, a few days before, I’d been completely enthralled by the first blooms appearing on my bird of paradise plant outside the bedroom window.

Inspiration!

I tried to draw the flower head to appear like a bird – what a mess – a few more strokes and it looked like a bird sucking on the plant.

‘Don’t fiddle’ my mantra – it would have to do.

Adrian gave it the okay and I printed it off. He suggested I use a different paint tool and create a second print. And I did.

In one session I did something I never thought I could.

The monoprint was an expression of a haiku written on the train on the way to the workshop.

After worrying over the session I missed, feeling embarrassed at my artistic ineptitude and lack of talent, I achieve something that doesn’t look too bad.

I’m enjoying this project!

Outside my window
July flowering delights
homegrown paradise

Writing on Place – haiku

With my first haiku written about a place – the garden –  I continued on that theme and write about my home in Mordialloc.

For You – My Garden Haiku
Mairi Neil 2018

Outside my window
July flowering delights
homegrown paradise

The warm dawn sunlight
penetrates the ti-tree bush
baby birds awaken

Red geraniums
withstand sea breezes daily
to perfume driveway

A sturdy bottlebrush
succour to Noisy Minors
Jack’s living tribute

Magpie serenade
from majestic woody throne
a morning Etude

Wattlebird feasting
on blooming grevillea
picnic on the wing

A whiff of rosemary
reminds us of sacrifice
seeds of love and hope

Freshly cut roses
carefully arranged in vase
memories of love

Floral posies in
aromatic profusion
the colours of love

Marigolds dusk glow
sunflowers smiling happiness
promise of sweet dreams

Comments from Participants

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And You Too Can Haiku!

Emilie gave everyone the most common guidelines for haiku: the standard seventeen syllables split up into three lines of five, seven and five syllables respectively.

A good starting point, however, most of the young participants didn’t know about haiku poetry we had a lesson where everyone was writing and mouthing syllables as they counted and worried about fitting into the criteria.

Nowadays the form is more fluid. Poets write one, two or four-line haiku and the syllable count can vary enormously.

The extreme minimalism– absolutely no unnecessary words – and the presentation of a defining moment are the most important requirements.

It is important to present the thing itself, the simple truth. No tricks –

Linda France, Mslexia

The haiku is a classical Japanese form. It was an important influence on the imagists – poets like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, and later the Beat Generation, in love with Zen and now it is popular with the generation into mindfulness and ‘living in the moment’.

That is essentially what the haiku is: a moment; a vivid image that seems to make time stand still.

Economy and observation are its two main qualities  –  excellent disciplines for writers, no matter how old or what genre you prefer.

Writing on Place – Childhood – and an idea for Linocut

Brainstorming, thinking in haiku mode, and seeking an image from childhood that could translate onto a tile to be printed – an image I could actually draw so it resembled my words and was achievable for a novice in the art of linocut!

my haiku displayed

Childhood Memories of Scotland
Mairi Neil

At our kitchen table
babble of happy voices
the breath of family

Weather for lamb roasts
rosemary thriving in pot
the smell of Sunday

Scones, pancakes and tea
bramble jam bubbling on stove
Mum’s off-key singing

Bitter icy winds
Jack Frost and his snowmen arrive
snowball fights are fun

The teapot ever ready
Soothing sorrows and worries
culture and comfort

Dad’s railway uniform
always trailing soot and coal
and the sound of steam

Daily tidal dance
a rumbling in the distance
tuning life’s rhythms

But shipyards must close
jobs and happiness are scarce
Australia needs us

At the dinner table
lively discussions hosted
no topic ignored

Time to leave our home
the inner child’s fear frozen
warm climate ahead

The learning curve and level of excitement rose as Adrian demonstrated the various carving and cutting tools and the method for sculpting. We were given a special board to ensure no nasty slips with very sharp objects!

Despite there being octagenarians, septuagenarians and sixty-five year old me around the table, there was no tragic blood-soaked workshops.

It is not an easy task drawing on a tile and then deciding what is positive and negative space so that you cut out a design and produce a print of what you want – what parts of the drawing will remain solid and black, what parts will not be inked.

Tanya, one of the participants who is a well-known artist in her own right, advised me to chalk white the parts that I didn’t want to carve and then wipe off the chalk when finished. Great advice.

Most of us took our tiles home in between sessions and used the tools Adrian kindly lent us so that we’d be finished by the end of the project. I am indebted to my daughter, Mary Jane for helping me and ensuring I didn’t cut away too much of the tile.

close up of my linocut

My first attempt at inking resulted in a couple of dirty marks. Adrian showed me how to clean up the tile and reprint until I was satisfied with the finished product. The second print was fine.

What a relief to know that you get a second chance, even with something as complicated as this.

Writing on Place – First Home – Belonging – What we remember…

It’s amazing how one memory triggers another and in a writing workshop, like pirates, we pick up gems from others and it helps us to remember, reflect and write.

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say

Bryant H. McGill

Another youth worker involved in the project was Sophie and one night,  some new young people joined us and we did a getting to know you exercise called Intergen Bingo. We moved around the room to discover various facts about each other to match at least three pieces of description to a person:

  • was born overseas
  • has a dog
  • favourite food is pizza
  • catches public transport
  • likes listening to rock music
  • enjoys gardening
  • drinks coffee
  • plays a musical instrument
  • cannot eat a certain food
  • likes to tell stories
  • plays a sport
  • has an older sibling
  • wears glasses
  • can speak another language
  • has a job
  • has green eyes
  • likes going for walks

The room was soon abuzz with multiple conversations, laughter and surprise. The questions had led to more questions and a better understanding of each other.

I ticked plenty of the boxes, discovered three others had hazel eyes like me, that dog lovers outnumbered cat lovers and the names of two groups the Avalanchers and Jokers played music regarded as ‘surf rock’ – a genre I didn’t know existed.

We discussed what to read at the launch of the project. The presentation needed to be as close to a minute as possible.

A poem about the house we came to live in when we migrated to Australia in 1962 was deemed suitable.

close up of me reading

Aussie Childhood
Mairi Neil

I grew up in bushy Croydon
the trees grew thick around,
milk and bread delivered
to a tuneful clip-clop sound.

Kookaburras laughed and swooped
to steal our pet cat’s food
it wasn’t Snappy Tom, of course
but ‘roo meat, raw and good.

The streets were mainly dirt tracks
a collection of potholes and clay,
most people walked or cycled
and even strangers said, ‘gidday’.

Our weatherboard house peeled
the corrugated tin roof leaked too,
a verandah sagged under honeysuckle,
the rooms added as family grew.

Mosquito nets caused claustrophobia
possums peered down chimneys three,
but the dunny banished down the back
the most terrifying memory, for me.

Electricity brightened inside the house
so torch or candlelight had to suffice
night noises and shadows of the bush
and the smelly dunny was not nice!

The path to the toilet lined with trees
growing tall to seek the sun
but when the dark cloak of night donned
branches became hands from which to run

During the day our block was heaven
definitely a children’s adventure-land
blue tongues, geckos, tadpoles and frogs
all shared our world so grand.

A snake the greatest danger
or a bull ant bite on the toe
a truly carefree wonderful time
my rose-coloured glasses show.

I also read Sammar Bassal’s haiku because she was too bashful to read it herself.

The poem and tile great representations of how the library was her home as she struggled to learn English and find a place in her adopted country.

A design student, Sammar’s tile detailed all these wonderful fantasy characters emerging from an open book.

Home away from home
Surrounded by written words
The library has gone

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October is a month when Victoria celebrates seniors and the City of Kingston’s Seniors Festival has the theme ‘Get Social’ encouraging everyone to be involved and feel part of their local community.

Involvement in the Intergenerational project and exhibition, visiting the Westall Hub for the first time and meeting up with many new people during the course of a wonderful, learning opportunity was not only social but fun.

Kingston is a proudly diverse city, with residents coming from more than 150 countries, speaking 120 languages and following more than 28 different faiths. Council is committed to helping foster an accepting and inclusive community, regardless of anyone’s origin, ethnicity, faith, economic status, disability, age, gender or sexual orientation.

Cr. Steve Staikos, Mayor, City of Kingston.

Whatever the intergenerational project is next year, watch out for it and participate – you won’t regret it.

Here are a couple of pics of some of the seniors involved plus Sammar and the Mayor ‘getting social’.

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Writing, Refugees, Responsibility, Reflection

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I chose to have a break from the pressure of writing deadlines, including blogging – and it’s been wonderful – once the guilt receded.

The last few weeks have left me drained and struggling to find my usual positivity and so I gave myself the freedom not to write once my classes finished for the term.

I produced three anthologies for the different classes at Mordialloc, Bentleigh, and Chelsea and it is wonderful to have a record of the delightful writing from last semester’s students. And it encouraged me to polish a few pieces.

However, the editing, laying out, printing and collating of the books entails hours of work and always leaves me tired.

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I appreciate teachers at universities, TAFE, and schools have greater workloads, larger class sizes and more demands on their time than me. However, the pressure of end-of- term projects, bureaucratic paperwork and the looming lesson-planning over the holidays is ongoing for most teachers.

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Therefore, it has been a short-lived break but in the words of an old Monty Python skit ‘a merry one’ – well not exactly merry but a break I needed with some memorable high spots.

I spent quality time with two special friends Glenice Whitting (we attended an evening celebrating the stories and contributions of refugees – more of that in another blog) and Lisa Hill (we attended a one-man show at Kingston Arts Centre: Is it Because I’m An Indian? enjoying a delightful dinner afterwards at the Bawarchi Indian Restaurant, Moorabbin).

An intensive day of shooting over the weekend saw at least the filming completed in another of my projects. This one organised by Kingston Youth Services where participants share their skills and enthusiasm to write, produce and complete a short film based on the theme of Transition.

This intergenerational project involved several workshops with industry professionals and won’t be completed until the end of September with films to be shown at a public screening in October. Our enthusiastic crew is well on the way to meeting the deadlines.

A triumph of networking, flexibility, adaptation and cooperation meant my script Home was accepted, survived several drafts, including a major rewrite to substitute characters and locations and accommodate the availability of people, places, and equipment.

Another dear writer friend (I’ve found writers are the salt of the earth!) accepted the major role and was available for a 6.30am start on a freezing winter’s day!

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I’m looking forward to blogging about the experience from ‘start to finish’ to encourage others to put their hand up and volunteer for Arts projects, especially when you get the opportunity to work with different  generations and people you have never met. The bonus of picking up new skills and knowledge has kept this lifelong learner on her toes.

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The film shoot was Saturday – the preparation (cleaning my house, moving furniture) seemed to last all week!

On Sunday, I helped Kristina, an ex-student of my Monday class and now an active member of Mordialloc Writers’ Group, make our Readings by The Bay more special by hosting an author event with picture storybook writers, Isobel Knowles, and Cat Rabbit. (More of that in another post.)

When Is A Break Not Really A Break?

On reflection, my break from writing fed my passion for writing – on books, refugees, film, collaborative projects, teaching, man’s inhumanity to man …

The last three frenetic weeks filled with things to do, people to see, and places to be. But in the background, some seismic global and local events almost making my mind shut down and energy disappear. 

The Orlando Massacre, a shocking immobilising crime that dominated social and mainstream media and conversations of friends and family. As an activist who is passionate about social justice, I was overcome with sadness. The level of anger, disaffection, hate and desire to hurt others evident by the perpetrators of horrific crimes never ceases to appal me.

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In Australia, we are undergoing the longest Federal Election Campaign I can remember and I’ve been voting for 45 years! One of the issues is the current ruling party wanting a plebiscite on gay marriage. Many people fear this will encourage bigotry, fear and ignorance to flourish.  The consequences for the extensive LGBTQIA community could be terrible. An expensive, divisive plebiscite that is unnecessary because parliament can pass the necessary legislation.

The recent referendum and unknown consequences of the UK’s ‘Brexit’ from the EU also caused me anxiety, especially with the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox that many people seem to have forgotten already. I was born in Scotland and returned there for two twelve-month periods in my early twenties – the murder of a politician like this is devastating. What is happening to Britain?

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It is frightening that immigration and the plight of asylum seekers and refugees are often used in political campaigns here and abroad stirring up xenophobia and racism. There is no doubt we are experiencing the biggest global movement of people since the Second World War and instead of individual nation states closing their borders we need a considered global cooperative approach. Solutions not selfish posturing.

Perhaps it was serendipity that one of my final lessons of the term in the Life Stories & Legacies writing class at Godfrey Street Bentleigh was on the subject of Serenity to put events in the private and public arena into perspective.

Negative feelings and emotions challenge our equilibrium: What can we DO about the horror/sadness/helplessness/hopelessness?

I write and it helps me. I encourage others to try and find words, ideas, and memories to match their feelings and because it is a  Life Story class, I encourage reflection.

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Serenity Writing Exercise

Once a year, sometimes more often, I visit Stony Point on the outskirts of Melbourne. This tip of the Victorian coast looks across to French Island among other smaller islets and the tide flows out to the sea. There is a pier always populated with anglers – more in some seasons than others.

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There is a ferry to French Island and half the pier is now fenced off for Navy patrol boats installed during John Howard’s ‘be alert not alarmed’ crusade.

I visit because my husband John requested his ashes be scattered where they would be carried out to sea, ex Royal Navy he was more comfortable on the water than land and Stony Point fitted the bill.

There are mini wetlands (or mud flats) at Stony Point frequently visited by shearwaters, pelicans and of course the ubiquitous seagulls. The place oozes tranquillity.

The area is attractive to fishermen and regardless of the season you will always see boats coming and going. The gutting and scaling table is regularly visited by a host of birds who seem to know just when to land and wait for a feed. The take-offs and jockeying for advantageous positions to catch thrown leftovers provides a raucous display by the birds, especially the pelicans.

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My daughters laugh at my delight and are convinced I have the largest collection of photographs of pelicans in the world!

I love watching the interaction of the birds, their acceptance of each other – there is a lot of noise and jostling but rarely violence.

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Many people visit Stony Point and there is a caravan park with permanent residents as well as frequent holidaymakers. Every day there will be bush walkers, anglers, picnickers, fossickers, commuters to French Island, naval personnel from nearby Cerberus base and a handful of locals who operate a rundown cafe/shop.

There is also people like me who come for serenity.

Stony Point is the end of the line for the train – a little diesel that comes from Frankston. The station personnel seems to be from another era of Railway culture – a more friendly, relaxed era.

Stony Point’s charm is irresistible. 

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I always leave feeling calm and at peace.

Where do you go for serenity?

(This may be a room, a church, a friend’s house, a special tree in your garden, or indulging in an activity (like writing)…

Have you a special place you visit only once or twice a year? A place that may hold a strong emotional attachment or memory? Perhaps a favourite holiday destination that allows  you ‘to get away from it all’!

What is the opposite of serenity for you? Is there one particular time or event that stands out as particularly stressful? How did you cope and recover or are you still troubled?

Summer’s Serenity Shattered
Mairi Neil

My evening walk a relaxing end
To a day of relentless heat
That baked trees, people, cars, and concrete.
Oven temperature lowered,
I’m no longer a hot lump
Of fatigue and frustration.

Exhausted birds peep
From their sheltered boughs.
They flutter feathers but leave evensong
To the cicadas celebrating the cool breeze
From the foreshore.

The summer sun slides seawards
While the silver shadow of the moon
Waits in line to shine.

Crick, crack…
A faint discordant note
Followed by a crash.
No twig or dead branch
Protesting summer sizzle
But shattered crockery.

Screeching curses jump
From the window of a nearby house
Adult voices spit and spew.
A dog yaps hysterically
Accompanying the invective
Timing perfect, as if scripted.

This is no television drama.
Rather a domestic tragedy
Of Shakespearean proportions unfolds.
Years of resentment boiling over
No stuttering
As domestic bliss unravels

Suddenly, silence

Hold breath, chest aching…
Awaiting the cry of ‘Help!’

What to do?
Pat perspiration from hot cheeks
Stare at white handkerchief…
Have they called a truce?

I remember to breathe.

No more yells or broken china,
No slammed doors or weeping.
Although my body weeps
As voices in normal tones
Float from the window

Sweat snakes from armpits,
Pools beneath breasts.

The summer sun slides seawards
The silver shadow of the moon
Waits in line to shine.

I resume my walk –
Perturbed
Sweltering
Fatigued
Feeling a failure
Seeking serenity.

images

 

Some writing suggestions:

  • Describe your serenity setting.
  • Imagine yourself there. Why are you there? Has something prompted the visit?
  • What happens when this place is disturbed or no longer available, or your plans must change? Do you have an alternative?
  • Write a poem inspired by the word serenity.
  • Write about how you unwind or handle stress – this may have changed over the years.
  • Did you ever consider ‘stress’ before it became a much talked about health issue?

(When I recorded the history of our local primary school in Mordialloc on its 125th anniversary, I interviewed many past students and staff. A woman who attended the school during the depression years of the 1930s and coped through the tumultuous war years said, ‘no one had stress then – we just got on with life.’)

Reflect on the lives of your parents and grandparents. Do you think they suffered stress? How do you think they dealt with the difficult periods of their lives? Was the pace of life really that different? If so – how?

 

a day in Fitzroy gardens
A picture suggesting serenity, Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne

 

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.

poets.org

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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
A Stand behind the yellow line
a
b
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.

IMG_0720

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

Writing_letters

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:

Halloween
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!