Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Re-reading Xaipe by e.e. cummings

I originally posted this over at Goodreads, but thought I'd post my waffling on here too, to make up for the sudden dearth of blogging!

e.e. cummings has been my favourite poet since high school. I carry a 'selected poems' around in my handbag (for emergencies), but it's always interesting to revisit a whole book, rather than just what someone else thought was a 'best of'. You get standout poems that don't make it into other collections, alongside lesser ones. Xaipe (pronounced "Khai-er-ree" to rhyme with 'fiery') means 'rejoice' in Greek, and the collection is often movingly joyous.

Cummings sometimes gets accused of being sentimental, deliberately impossible to read, and even casually racist. I can see how he could be read thus.

But I think his playfulness rescues him from sentimentality (I adore his poems about children):

if a cheerfulest Elephantangelchild should sit

(holding a red candle over his head

by a finger of trunk,and singing out of a red

book)on a proud round cloud in a white high night

where his heartlike ears have flown adorable him

self tail and all(and his tail's red christmas bow)

--and if,when we meet again,little he(having flown

even higher)is sunning his penguinsoul in the glow

of a joy which wasn't and isn't and won't be words

while possibly not(at a guess)quite half way down

to the earth are leapandswooping tinily birds

whose magical gaiety makes your beautiful name--

i feel that(false and true are merely to know)

Love only has ever been,is,and will ever be,So

His impossibility - shredded/recombined words and absurd punctuation litters his poems - suits the way I read poetry. I just read it headlong, straight through the first time, not pausing over words, punctuation or to try think or match up the parentheses. And interestingly when I go back for a second look, the image I've got the first time around usually still stands up. Try it yourself:

the little horse is newlY

Born)he knows nothing,and feels

everything;all around whom is

perfectly a strange

ness(Of sun

light and of fragrance and of

Singing)is ev

erywhere(a welcom

ing dream:is amazing)

a worlD.and in

this world lies:smoothbeautifuL

ly folded;a(brea

thing a gro




Cummings himself responded to the racist controversy (mainly around his line "a kike is the most dangerous") in typically cryptic fashion:

'Cummings' "Good American point," as he told Allen Tate, was "that the kike isn't(helas) a Jew..." (but is an invention of Gentile society).' (quote from the inner flyleaf of Xaipe).

I loved revisiting Xaipe. It's flawed and joyous and sometimes extremely funny:

o to be in finland
now that russia's here)

swing low

sweet ca



(pass the freedoms pappy or

uncle shylock not interested

Additionally, when I re-read it, a copy of poem by Gwendolyn Brooks that I had been trying to remember for ages (When You Have Forgotten Sunday: The Love Story) fell out - I'd been using it as a bookmark! Brilliant.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Poems by request

Well, that was an unexpected delight. Whee!

In early February, I wrote a poem on a whim, for Penni Russon and Kirsty Murray (because I idolize them a bit), and instead of squireling it away for a dusty publication, I posted it on my blog. I got some nice responses, and I tweeted something along the lines of "I should do this every day. What should I write about tomorrow, Twitter?" @facelikethunder replied that I should write something in dactylic hexameter, so the next morning I did, and posted it on my blog. More nice responses. That evening, I asked Twitter what I should write about the next day - and people responded with suggestions.

And so it went on - to 100 poems. It's not quite 100 days, all up, because there were a few days where I wrote two poems (crazy kid). It's tripled the traffic to my blog (which usually lies pretty fallow as I am slack). The most popular poem, hits-wise? This one.

For a very non-prolific person (I usually amass a grand total of about five poems a year), writing 100 poems in a couple of months has been liberating and heartening. Turns out if you just sit down and write stuff, then you've written stuff. Who knew?

Writing a poem every day (no weekends off!) for 100 pieces means I've written in practically every possible physical and emotional state I can think of. I've written poetry while I was happy, angry, tired, manic, ashamed, proud, crying, laughing, drunk, hungover, sick, stressed, hungry, spaced-out, distracted, sweaty, freezing, you name it. A couple of times I was prevented from posting my poem on the actual day - technology, parties, emotional disasters can get in the way of these things, but I'm proud that I never actually missed a day. I always wrote the poem, and it got to the blog at least within a day of being due.

I wrote poetry when I thought I couldn't face it, I wrote poetry when I thought I couldn't face anything. Sometimes the last thing I wanted to do was write a fucking poem. Sometimes it gave me a reason to live through the night, or get up in the morning. Sometimes it was so much fun.

Writing a poem every day - and in a way I couldn't cheat ahead with, as suggestions for the next day's poem were always taken the night before - has forced me to loosen up the way I write. Writing a poem in the morning, editing it and posting it that evening is a far cry from the strangulated way I usually write a poem over months. I've written poems entirely composed of quotations, I've written poems entirely composed of in-jokes. I've tried forms I never would have tried on my own - anti-poetry, sestinas (OMG sestinas are hard), visual poetry, concrete poetry, villanelles, terza rimas, etc. It's reminded me that I love formal restrictions, and how they can sometimes create better work than writing unfettered by rhyme schemes and meter.

It's overflowed into my non-blog writing, too. I've calculated that in the last three months I've written 20,000 non-blog words in the form of other poetry, short stories and essays. That's pretty much unheard of for me. I hope to keep the momentum going, because when I stop writing, I tend to get paralysed. Thomas Mann said "A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." Sounds about right.

I love making things for people. Poems by request let me make something every night, and hand it over like a present. I'm ending the daily poem posting at 100 (because I'm a little weary, and it seemed a nice round number to stop at), but it's not really an end as such. I still intend to post poems, and take special requests. Just not every day!

What now? More of the same, really. Submissions, writing, reviewing deadlines, mothering, partnering, reading - and you know I have a day job, right? For the time being, anyway. I'd quite like to resurrect my reading your favourites thing too, though it takes a lot longer to get to blogging about that each time. I hate leaving things unfinished!

Overall, I want to say thankyou. The response from all of you has been quite overwhelming. Night after night, you kept coming up with suggestions for the next day's verses - I've had suggestions from lifelong friends, old friends I've just met, complete strangers, family, authors I admire, toddlers and children. Thankyou to everyone who's commented, tweeted, and spoken to me about how they've enjoyed this spontaneous project, and special thanks to everyone who's made a suggestion. Namely *drum roll* these 91 peeps (I hope I didn't miss anyone!):

  • AG
  • Aimee
  • Allysha
  • @_boobook_
  • @_camer0n
  • @1000yearsago
  • @1000yearsago
  • @alphabetsoupmag
  • @anitranot
  • @anthonyeaton
  • @anti_kate
  • @awurster
  • Charlotte
  • Claudia
  • @cochineal
  • Daniel
  • @dogpossum
  • @eglantinescake
  • Erin
  • @ernmalleyscat
  • @facelikethunder
  • Fred
  • G____
  • Gabe
  • @greenspace01
  • @GretasTARDIS
  • H.
  • Hamish
  • @hleighthree
  • @iFigaro2u
  • Janet Punch
  • @jellyjellyfish
  • @johnnypurple
  • @juliansanelli
  • Justine
  • Keira
  • @kenrob2037
  • @kirsty_I
  • @kirstymurray
  • @kissability
  • @kumuda
  • @lucyrogue
  • Luka
  • @margolanagan
  • @marklawrence
  • @matchtrick
  • @mindlessmunkey
  • @MJPhotographer
  • @mlledelicieuse
  • @msmaddiep
  • @msmisrule
  • Mum
  • @notcharming
  • Ollie
  • P.
  • @pcblues
  • Peter Punch
  • @pinknantucket
  • @PipHaz
  • @Quadelle
  • @realnixwilliams
  • Riley
  • @robcorr
  • @ryanpaine
  • @sarahhazelton
  • @SeanMElliott
  • @simmonehowell
  • @skippy_2
  • @slimejam
  • @snazzydee
  • @sorrel_smith
  • @sorrel_smith’s 3yo (and her 1.5yo sister)
  • @spikelynch
  • @spikelynch's three girls
  • @sulphura
  • @sushipyjamas
  • @sushipyjamas
  • @suz_la
  • @suznannah
  • Tammy
  • TG
  • The Boy
  • @TheEndeavour
  • @tiggyjohnson
  • @timsterne
  • Toby
  • @twitofalili
  • @tysonarmstrong
  • Una
  • @VayaPashos
  • @xutraa

Thanks guys. What a trip. I'm so grateful.

xxx ARP

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


(based on suggestions from - deep breath - @realnixwilliams, @facelikethunder, @GretasTARDIS, @TheEndeavour, @PipHaz, @lucyrogue, @pinknantucket, @SeanMElliott, @notcharming, @ernmalleyscat, @johnnypurple, @timsterne, @suz_la, @dogpossum, @_boobook_, @msmisrule, Mark, Erin and Janet)

Dark blue morning opens sharp as a cat’s eye.

Magpies awdle louder than light switches;

gargling day to prayer with broken vase voices.

Whisper kettle towards rhymes, tuck up long feet.

Dim screen pins my arms like Golgotha nails,

evening vodka corrupts. Absolut vodka corrupts absolutly.

Last night’s endeavour leaves no spirited insignia,

blank missions to colour in; crayon may not be enough.

Back of my head houses deep pockets of

words expensive as flowering macadamias.

Squirreled away references to fish fingers,

recipes for lamingtons, the need to go swimming.

Pretend this head is buttered dish, all I need do

is place the cherries triumphant. Not so easy.

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts

of his aren’t very new at all. Flowers among thistles.

Breathe quietly; small blonde boy wakes soon.

Wriggles free of blankets like a bag of kittens

exclaiming dreams of triangles and how cows go MOO!

Skin smoothed cream as ostrich eggshell

arms wider than the moon is far. His smile

is achievement, tiny ritual of baby teeth

enormity of lit-up eyes at my greasy face.

It is a miracle that our children love us.

Leave in hurried goodbyes, carry home and friends

in our pockets. Snail shells have room for hundreds.

The internet is bigger inside, we find what’s needed

in a flurry of little endings, mouse and monkey tails.

Hashtags cast rubber fishnets, sweep for laughter or rage.

A small white bar asks: ‘what’s happening?’

Fearing tumbleweeds: speak softly to the keypad.

Loved and beloved, we are surprised by the warm chorus.


Today's poem is based on 35 suggestions from 19 peeps:

  • @realnixwilliams: “small rituals”
  • @facelikethunder: “rage”
  • @GretasTARDIS: “The TARDIS! Ostrich egg. Fishing nets. Lamingtons. Fish fingers. Abraham Lincoln. Feet. Triangles. Vodka. Cows. #many”
  • @TheEndeavour: “yes. The Endeavour is about to go up. Second last shuttle launch EVER. ME SAD.”
  • @PipHaz: “swimming! or small children…Well done on 100. Impressive tally…”
  • @lucyrogue: “colouring-in. (I feel sad about this ending) xo”
  • @pinknantucket: “Clafouti! Also that feeling you get when you’ve achieved something great.”
  • @SeanMElliott: “Calvary"
  • @notcharming: “kittens!”
  • @ernmalleyscat: “breath”
  • @johnnypurple: “well, I always like your cat poems, so how about the best things in the world: cats, books and love.”
  • @timsterne: “Magpies. Rhyming. Swimming.”
  • @suz_la: “going back home”
  • @dogpossum: “squirrels and nuts”
  • @_boobook_: “pockets”
  • @msmisrule: “broken vases”
  • Mark: "Ultramarine negritude"
  • Erin: "Endings!"
  • Janet: "Goodbyes"

This is officially the most suggestions I've crammed into a poem - I suppose being #100, and the final #poemsbyrequest, it was going to be a big one. I was determined that it not be longer than the four 8-line stanzas, though (perhaps at the expense of density, but poetry is about distillation, but no one wants to read forever).

Appropriately enough, the 100th poem is mostly about the #poemsbyrequest thing as a whole, and the rituals it has created for me around writing a poem each day. For something I started on a late-night whim, I'm somewhat surprised I kept it up for this long.

I'll leave it at that for today, though tomorrow I intend to post some kind of...reflection, I guess, and a thank-you to you all for being so enthusiastic and encouraging.

Because I am very, very grateful.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Eight things that will end

(based on suggestions from @_boobook_ @skippy_2 @spikelynch @ernmalleyscat @snazzydee @mlledelicieuse @TheEndeavour)

Winter whispers in sharp blades of grass.

Leaves threaten the ground: cool days press harder.

Favourite biro is no heirloom fountain pen

Refill-resistant, found under a chair. Limited ink.

Almost grown past the under-18 solo section

Fills her lungs with music like it’s her last breath.

Morning gold enlightens a ruffled brown river

Nirvana in brief seconds: the sun climbs higher.

Air slips through swimming butterfly fingers

Hovering five inches from waking grounded.

Young hands touch her too anxious and often

She has had many men; he knows he is not the last.

Metal spinning top corkscrews slower

Falls still and sideways in childhood outgrown.

Filled with baby, tight and shiny as eggplant

Soon they will be as far apart as they’ve ever been.


Today's poem (the second-last!) is based on suggestions from seven peeps:

  • @_boobook_: “Spinning”
  • @skippy_2: “Nirvana. The state of being, not the band.”
  • @spikelynch: “Song contests? If that hasn’t been done. Or eggplants”
  • @snazzydee: “Have you covered swimming through the air in dreams yet?”
  • @ernmalleyscat: “The ultimate pen”
  • @mlledelicieuse: “The penultimate of anything. The bittersweet feeling of knowing something will soon come to an end.”
  • @TheEndeavour: “autumn leaves”

I've always liked writing poems that are lots of different things gathered up under a common theme (I have poems in a similar vein called 'Ten Best Caresses' and 'Five Pieces of Summer'). It's a bit of a pillow-book urge, I think. I like making lists.

One poem to go...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hidden treasure

(based on suggestions from @realnixwilliams, @mlledelicieuse, @lucyrogue)

Kept them almost all the sweetened year

White and dark and milk, the flavours three

Silver linings, eggy clouds held dear

Brothers scoffed the lot down before tea

Whined for months about her hidden stash

Knew the useless cadence of their plea

Another Easter shone round in a flash

Foil peeled, her prize devoured slow

Toothy crack of shell and gentle smash

Away from siblings, secret pleasures grow

Melted lips and chocolate eyes aglow.


Today’s poem, the third-last, is based on suggestions from three peeps (how appropriate):

  • @realnixwilliams: “flavours that come in threes”
  • @lucyrogue: “The last Easter eggs”
  • @mlledeliciuse: “Write 3 stanzas, trilogy style”

I always kept my Easter chocolate for ages, even as a kid. Even now Paul has dispatched his by lunchtime on Easter Sunday, and mine hangs around in the cupboard almost until the next Easter. It nearly kills him not to eat it. Probably just as well I’m an only child, as this habit would have driven my siblings mad. Or more likely they would have just found my eggs and eaten them.

Today’s poem is a terza rima, a form where the stanzas have three lines with the interlocking rhyme scheme ABA, BCB, CDC etc (you can have any number of stanzas, but @mlledelicieuse requested three). A terza rima usually ends with a couplet that repeats the rhyme of the final stanza’s second line (hence ‘grow’ and ‘aglow’ to rhyme with ‘slow’ in my poem). Terza rima was first used by Dante, and usually is written in iambic pentameter (five feet to a line: da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM). Here endeth today’s lesson in poetic form.

Two poems to go…

Saturday, May 14, 2011


(based on suggestions from @notcharming, @marklawrence, @ernmalleyscat, @_camer0n)

If a blind-hearted stranger in your local

offers a mouse’s tail at cheap rates,

you be wary of such a sight in your life.

Even if you’re seeing double by that hour.

It may well be just a sloughed-off skin rag

like he says, the skirt of a whirling dervish

with no hacked-off legs inside the cotton.

But that cut-price stump might come from

the farmer’s wife, herself.

It might be a fez box with a head inside.

If you find the time to sit out four repeats of

nursery songs read aloud,

could you resist proudly displaying your

carving knife prize to a child?

You want to shutter the rhyme with a cleaver,

reveal the true dark blood?

Walk away from the sale of the dead, sunshine.

There’s no point cutting off your own

tail to spite your arse.


Today's poem is based on suggestions from four peeps:

  • @notcharming: “Finding time to sit and read”
  • @marklawrence: “Blind as in three blind mice? One of my youngest’s favourite bedtime songs.”
  • @ernmalleyscat: “Whirling dervishes and fez boxes”
  • @_camer0n: “Blind like blotto?”

Today's poem is quite ugly, I think. I took the theme of the 'three blind mice' nursery rhyme (which is a rather violent ditty, really), and just played around with the idea of taking it home from the gritty bar-room to the clean child's bedroom.

When we were in year 7, we were told in Science only to pick up the mice at the very base of their tails, because if we lifted them from any further up we might peel off their tail-skin in one go. I have no idea if that's true, but it's stuck with me for 19 years.

Three poems to go...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Goldfields summer

(based on suggestions from @realnixwilliams, @pinknantucket, @slimejam)

Reading back over old photo albums

peels the skin off memory and tastebuds.

Crackle of transparent static across time

squares decades with rounded corners.

Chocolate icecream white t-shirt

early Pollock talents in evidence.

Pale long feet tucked to the ankles

in off-clear Bendigo bore water.

Invisible sharks butt against toes

splitting maul boats in choppy harbours.

The tall mast of the bath boat

gets a real-world wind whipping.

Adults pour Mateus rosé, guitars emerge.

Strains of ‘If I had a hammer’ harmonise

hippie parents and friends at dusk.

‘Gone the rainbow’ up next, my lullaby.

It was probably a carob icecream.

None of this Sarah Lee ultra-chocolate.

I can taste my childhood in natural

peanut butter, brown rice pie-crusts.

Mason Pearson brush smooths

hair towards bedtime. Side part,

never interrupted by wispy fringe or

hid behind heavy Americana bangs.

Goldfields summer. Hayfever air

of dry grass staggers to evening.

Flavours of Moosewood Cookbook

fade from Colgate milk teeth.

Turn the page, weaken the taste.

Remember this in the nick of time,

catch events like an early bus.

Polaroid an era in an instant.


Today's poem is based on suggestions from three peeps:

  • @realnixwilliams: “tall ships and boats in the bath”
  • @pinknantucket: “How about ultra-chocoalte?”
  • @slimejam: “Hammerhead sharks. Catching a bus in the nick of time. The difference between a ‘fringe ‘and bangs’ (if there is one)”

There’s a photo of me somewhere, aged about four I think, standing in a paddling pool in our Bendigo back yard, wearing a white tshirt covered in chocolate icecream. I can’t vouch for it actually being ‘chocolate’, as I was fed a great deal of carob as a child (hippie vegetarian mother mutter mutter mutter). The flavours of my childhood are very distinct – Hunza pie, pumpkin soup, cheese & onion sausages, carob, and natural peanut butter that we got from the Bendigo co-op (I remember that well as you fed the peanuts into the machine yourself, and out it came like poo). And Moosewood Cookbook recipes, of course. It’s funny how visual prompts, like photos, can evoke memories in other senses like taste and smell.

My years of Baby-Sitters Club reading suggests to me that a ‘fringe’ is messier and less heavy than straight-cut ‘bangs’. But I think at base ‘fringe’ is UK, ‘bangs’ is American for the same thing.

Please note: if you start googling different types of hammers, you may get the giggles. Not that I’m immature.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chelys galactica

(based on suggestions from @dogpossum, @anti_kate, @facelikethunder, @TheEndeavour)

Universes are built to scale,

secret behind thin rubber walls.

Shells and ancient wings sprout in

foundations of foam and living glue.

pong balls by the hundred

peel open on a cold night and a prayer.

No Melbourne taxi speeds them safe

to the sea. They are a lottery of lives.

Tiny beaks surprise the landscape,

erupt in a volcano of diamond grains.

Unlisted on the stock exchange,

amazement has no dollar value.

Flippering across infinite beach

towards the largest star ever found.

Sand tiled in tessellated domes.

Turtles all the way down.


Today’s poem is based on suggestions from four peeps:

  • @dogpossum: “eggs, please. but not eating eggs. bird eggs. or turtle eggs. or curate's egg.”
  • @anti_kate: “on being "rich". Or not.”
  • @facelikethunder: “Quantum foam and VY Canis Majoris.”
  • @TheEndeavour: “praying for a taxi on a cold Melbourne night.”

You know that amazing footage we’ve all seen where the turtles lay a bazillion eggs in the sand, and then eventually all the babby turtles hatch and once and make a mad break for the ocean? Never ceases to astound me. I love how the beach looks like it’s come alive, with all those little flippers.

I can’t vouch for my understanding of quantum foam (knew I shouldn’t have majored in genetics), but I’ve done my best with what I could sort-of-kinda-like understand and morph into poetry.

VY Canis Majoris is the largest star discovered to date. And ‘turtle beak’ is actually a Chinese star constellation, I discovered afterwards, which matches up nicely. And there's the whole Terry Pratchett star turtle thing, of course. That's where 'Chelys galactica' comes in.

Five poems to go...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What she writes she will remember

(based on suggestions from @ernmalleyscat, @realnixwilliams, @jellyjellyfish, @_camer0n)

She writes what she will remember

about swimming and dolls.

Instructions for diving under waves

and conducting wedding ceremonies

for soft toys. Yellow teddy bears

marry small blonde dolls and

pour forth disproportionate babies.

Even stuffed animals divorce.

Baby girl pens serious poetry,

none of the plastic sarcastic ink.

Her first epistle to future daughters

fixes the difficulty in a mother’s eyes.

She notices adult words and turns

over clods of earth as secrets.

Digs up “You don’t say!” into truths

you don’t say. Little pitchers.

The best place to photograph a daughter

is the soft neck curve between earlobe

and collarbone. It is laughter and

causes fits of wriggles. Seven lives

out of nine are giggled along before

she can spell her doll’s name. Catch her

skin quickly before you discover

you’ve kissed a photograph.


Today's poem is based on suggestions from four peeps:

  • @realnixwilliams: “the seventh life”
  • @ernmalleyscat: “Before you reach 100 I’d really like you to do something on this I’ll tell you the real story then.” (The link is to the photo I've posted here)
  • @jellyjellyfish: “Swimming”
  • @_camer0n: “ ‘You don’t say!’ ”

I love this photo from @ernmalleyscat. I have no idea what the story behind it is, and at first I thought it was a baby sibling beside her on the step, but I think it's a doll? And I'm not sure what she's doing, but I decided it could be drawing or writing. So I made her a little story from there.

When I was younger my diaries were basically repeats of beach-swimming stories:

"We went to main beach this afternoon. It was quite cold. Leah came too. I dived under a wave."

and tales of what all my dolls and teddies were up to:

"Yvonne married Big Teddy. There was quite the turnout. The bridesmaids wore pink."

These are actual quotes from my 8yr old diary, by the way. Some of my younger diaries demonstrate what children hear, and understand, that we mightn't think they would. Little ears catch big thoughts. I should remember that.

Six poems to go...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wake-up cake

(based on suggestions from @mlledelicieuse, @notcharming, @_camer0n)

I fell asleep because when you are three

you just sometimes fall asleep. Mum shed

coconut fur onto buttercream cats and

dotted white bread with tiny bright fairy poo.

I woke in a panic of unlooked-for naps

to find all my guests had arrived.

Unclipped a ribbon of tears and fright that

still visits me on unexpected late wakings.

Brought out a blotchy face that still takes

hours and hours and hours to fade calm.

Only one option in these kinds of emergencies:

Twisties. Inhale crop-dusted handfuls of

orange turds in multiples of lucky numbers.

Eight is fortuitous unless you’re the tail of a snake.

Chain-smoking junk food proved a better balm

than inevitable grazes of helicopter rides.

Powdered cheese saved on musical chairs injuries,

Lurid fingertips produced more winners than

cheating at bobs and statues. It’s always bobs.

Ignore your friends and guard the chips.

My cake loomed creamy and wise as a sphinx.

This modern self looks at edible feline art

and doubts maternal instincts. Constructing the

Women’s Weekly mother of all birthday cakes

is not high on my bucket list of parenting.

Happy baby fists press under my chin and

still-rosy joy is snapped up in the fishbowl

of old cameras. I can see my recovered eyes

but this is feeling the photograph, not the moment.

What I really remember is that terror, on waking.


Today's poem is based on suggestions from three peeps:

  • @mlledelicieuse: "Chinese obsession with 8 being a lucky number - 8, 18, 28, 38 etc."
  • @notcharming: "childhood birthday parties with fairy bread and 'helicopter' rides"
  • @_camer0n: "bucket lists"

I fell asleep shortly before my 3rd birthday party, and when I woke up everyone had already arrived, and I burst into tears. I still do this if I wake up late/unexpectedly. Photo one is me chain-eating Twisties to recover from my fright. Photo two is me, recovered, with my awesome cat cake made by mum. (I kinda love how my parents documented both moments). I don't remember the cake, but I remember the waking in fright.

I have so far outsourced all Luka's birthday cakes to my friend Aimee - I love baking, but doing it the night before a party, and icing the damn things is just not going to happen.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Trigger scissors

(based on suggestions from @_camer0n, @sushipyjamas, @timsterne)

This is one giant that I can’t style.

Just because he came to my studio

and sat down in the padded seat

with his strength all akimbo doesn’t

mean I can fix that helmet head.

He’s got Samson in his locks

I’ve got Delilah in my veins.

David wasn’t scissor-happy and

never needed to slip Saul a scarf

to cover his flippant skull.

Pretty, pretty curls the giant had.

I’ve overtaken his image across

double hairlines alone and not once

checked my wingnut mirrors.

There is no victory greater than

a bad perm. If we’d frizzed up

that man-eater, even the smallest boy

would have chopped a shot at him.

Guard your coif like you're five foot high.

These shears are on a hair trigger.

Watch out, watch out, tall man.


Today's poem is based on suggestions from three peeps:

I must admit to not having much of a deep driving plan behind this poem - it's was basically written straight out in one go and it's just me mucking about with hair-dressing metaphors and bible stories! As you do. Oddly enough, I really quite like it.

Eight poems to go...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Last day of eighty-nine

(based on suggestions from @ernmalleyscat and @realnixwilliams)

Ancient smell of kitchen sponge

and grey microwaved potatoes

creeps in as the light falls cold.

Tiny points of temazepan loom large

they are white in the middle

like the centre of sleep and the

edges of dying. Perchance to

push back waking into a blank.

Four score years and ten

bandied about roughly like Hallmark

calligraphy. Cardboard sentiments

string along caravan venetians.

Close the blinds; they shuffle

like a mortal coil of birthdays

and children and so many forgotten

terrors in the night. Dreams will come.

Bed folds down. Mattress has a

permanent kink, like the cat

who got his tail caught in the screen door.

It fits along the groove of spine.

Tomorrow is a wish and a counter meal;

a child, a grandchild, a side of chips.

Sleep falls like a hammer and

the smell will be gone by morning.


Today’s poem is based on suggestions from two peeps:

  • @realnixwilliams: “living in a caravan.”
  • @ernmalleyscat: “going to sleep on the night before your 90th birthday.”

Today marks my 90th #poemsbyrequest. That’s rather a lot for as many days.

I’ve decided I’m going to get to 100 and then give it a rest for a while, aside from – you know, special occasions and offers I can’t refuse. So stand warned – you’ve got 10 days left if you want to suggest something.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Maid of honour

(based on suggestions from @GretasTARDIS, @ernmalleyscat, @robcorr, @pinknantucket)

They’ve been on the windowsill since the wedding.

She kept them as a talisman to ward off satin dresses

and ill-advised gin and tonics with cucumber and then

without cucumber. Once the garnish is dispensed with

it’s all over. The wind blew her up the hill and

the evening’s conversations drifted as zephyrs

through the branches in her head. The yeah/no,

the you knows, the yeah I knows, the years of knowing

that these are the same exchanges as last time.

Always the bridesmaid; never the nice dress.

The point of getting married is you choose your outfit.

Her sister had smiled “You can’t have a bridesmaid

who outshines the bride!” Yeah no. Yeah I know.

Once upon a time those flowers would have wilted.

But each stem is rough-ended into a water tube

a bouquet of condoms shoved into her hands.

“That way it’ll last like forever!” chirped the bride.

She eyes the blooms for a week. Gets up.

Grabs those life-preservers in a handful.

Rips them off. No more safe sex for roses.

Let marriage at least outlive their bruised petals.


Today’s poem is based on suggestions from four peeps:

  • @GretasTARDIS: “wilted flowers”
  • @ernmalleyscat: “yeah no, you know, yeah I know”
  • @robcorr: “wind”
  • @pinknantucket: “Gin & tonic, preferably Hendricks with a slice of cucumber but this Bombay Sapphire with cumquat is ok too.”

I write a lot of poems about myself and people I know. Today’s is an attempt at fiction, at someone I don’t know and a story that hasn’t been part of my life. Though I do hate those little water-tubes they stick on the ends of flowers.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Common timelines

(based on suggestions from @_camer0n, @Quadelle, @marklawrence)

Accustomed to background chatter

Washes around like warm pub air

Local watering hole wrapped in a

Conversation management system.

If velvet monkey fingers have no

Hamlet to whicker out on the glass

Watch work-crap outbursts and

Let scroll the televised one-liners.

Snooze out goodnights and goodbyes

Odd comforts across time zones.

Wander down to the internet common

Someone’s always up for ice cream.

The cheer is crystal, no translation

from the latin is required. We all know

what #teamjellyjellyfish means.

If we don't, it doesn't even matter.


Today’s poem is based on suggestions from three peeps:

  • @camer0n: “ *imagines snoozing* HTML/CMS/BUTTON-MONKEY/WORK-CRAP Maybe not idea just outburst.
  • @Quadelle: “Goodbyes”
  • @marklawrence: “Being off Twitter.”


Twitter reminds me a bit of the Junior Common Room at college, while @matchtrick has likened it to a local pub. There’s a conversation going on pretty much all the time, and you can wander in and quickly be brought up to speed: “What are we talking about? Baboon boners? Ok.” Sometimes you miss out on hilarity and wish you’d been awake. Sometimes the conversation gives you the irrits, so you wander off. If you’ve got nothing to say but need some distraction, you can just hover in the background and watch. Sometimes Twitter is a lifesaver. Today, Twitter has been an epic place for friends.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


(based on suggestions from @_camer0n, @ernmalleyscat, @realnixwilliams, @eglantinescake, @jellyjellyfish)

Inside of a sarcophagus, it’s too dark to read.

Sometimes we keep the blinds shut all day

and peer through the slick yellow bulb light

at our computers. It sounds like we’re stuck

on a bus, squinting out at those bright air folk

who stride the footpaths with their certain words.

Outside of a language, a dog is man’s best friend.

Young babies and old cats and medium canines

know exactly how to make their thoughts known.

A thumb and a forefinger, a claw and a stretch

is all they need. It says: “Keep me so closer.”

They say: “We need to touch you for a long time.”

Somewhere between outside and inside

is where you write words like you’re another.

Look back at a slat-blind dream of letters

Rake over your work with commuter eyes

Fear it is over and you have already touched off.

Happened before. It’s not over. Happens again.


Today’s poem is based on suggestions from five peeps:

  • @_camer0n: “Outside language, there is no self to express.”
  • @ernmalleyscat: “Looking out the passenger window at passengers on a bus”
  • @ realnixwilliams: “Peeping through venetian blinds”
  • @eglantinescake: “Pincer grip – which Avery has mastered. (Carrying him is like carrying a little crab)”
  • @jellyjellyfish: “Something to do with Egypt. Have excursion to the Tutankhamen tomorrow with one million tiny childs. SEND HALP”

You know how sometimes, very rarely, you write so easily that it’s like transcribing, like taking dictation? It happens so freaking little that you remember it like you found the holy grail. And you know if you could just get back into that mindset, you’d produce the most amazing things.

So you sit down at your computer or page, maybe at an Underwood if you’re lucky (and have kids that sleep really soundly). And the white blank in front of you draws all the blood and fire from your veins and turns it into bland alphabet soup. A couple of hundred words and a couple of hundred hours later and you probably should have cleaned the bathroom instead.

But every now and then (count it in months if you’re lucky, years if you’re normal), you sit down and before you know it you’ve transcribed something easily. It doesn’t happen very often. I choose to believe it will happen again.

As Margaret Atwood says, we can’t whine, because we chose this. No one is making us. We could just get another job, choose another thing to do.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Sword Of

(based on suggestions from @timsterne, @realnixwilliams and @notcharming)

Cleaves like a V-Slicer

Rips through daisies

And slices mean as a

Papercut with lemon.

Flailing cooked spaghetti

At dwarves won’t pierce

No armour. Chain mail fail.

The blade of banality

Attacks reality tv shows

Sharkjumper dices series five.

Yonder, Dirk Prong carves up

Some excellent character names.

Wibbly wobbly swordy wordy

Overmentions that its scabbard is

Really big on the inside.

Despair, mine enemy, at our

Secret ninja trending skills.


Today’s poem is based on suggestions from three peeps:

  • @timsterne: “Dirk Prong”
  • @realnixwilliams: “The blade of banality”
  • @notcharming: “Cooked spaghetti”

To explain: last night on Twitter @timsterne’s hashtag #crapfantasyswords got trending in Australia. The idea, as you’ve probably gathered, was to make up names for crap fantasy swords. There was a lot of snorting with laughter going on – some of my favourites were “Dadjoke”, “Nohandle”, “Mostlyscabbard” “Papercut” “Overcompensator” and “Wibbly wobbly swordy wordy”. Hee. So today’s poem is basically a big in-joke (which sounds like a #crapfantasysword in itself: "Tremble, for I come bearing - The Injoke!")

The poem’s also an acrostic, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Autumn dogs

(based on suggestions from @_camer0n, @sulphura, @realnixwilliams, @Quadelle)

March sounds like a wet poodle.

It brings out the best in locked room

mysteries. There is no alternative

to clothes when the day turns cool.

All cotton shirts smell like

too many days in the machine.

Stretch on polyester, synthetic

crackle of background outfits.

There is the worst noise in the

back of my frizzy head today.

It stinks of ugly dogs but I'll

get them washed tomorrow.


Today’s poem is based on suggestions from four peeps:

  • @_camer0n: “Synthetic background noise”
  • @ sulphura: “Jonathan Creek as an alternative to crap TV?”
  • @realnixwilliams: “What autumn smells like”
  • @Quadelle: “Best and worst of the day.”

I woke up late today and didn’t have time to write a poem. Then I had to come home from work, and spent most of the day asleep. I wasn’t up for writing one this evening in the slightest. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I have written one anyway. It’s short, because time is short.

Monday, May 2, 2011

In Stereo

(based on suggestions from @greenspace01, @1000yearsago, and @matchtrick)

Not enough music is carried

at shoulder height any more.

We annoy each other politely

with polyps tucked out of phase

Tiny boom-boxes secreted

about our person like

Potter in the broom cupboard,

voice coils and cones replaced

with expanding foam plugs.

Speakers used to manifest as fashion

A parrot for a sound-pirate

blaring like a million fire engines

chasing ten million ambulances

through a war zone. It squawked:

the funk soul brother was coming.

Right about now. Check it out.

It made the empty air bleed.

I’m not saying it was pleasant.

Played at a volume that squeezed

your vagus nerve in a group hug.

Vital fluids braked with a screech,

the bottom dropped out of the world

like a javelin broom handle.

A transient response wrote

beats on the wall of your skin.

It was unapologetic, it had balls.

That’s all I’m saying.


Today's poem is based on suggestions from three peeps:

  • @greenspace01: “Boom-boxes, broom cupboards and group hugs”
  • @1000yearsago: “expanding foam”
  • @matchtrick: “If there’s a chance you could squeeze DM’s take on Fat Boy Slim into a future poem, you’d be doing me a favour.”

Big stereos were awesome. They annoyed people without apology, not in the tinny-music-that-you-pretend-other-people-can't-hear-that-bleeds-out-of-crappy-earbuds.

This is all very 'back in the day' of me. But boom-boxes on shoulders were a statement. They said: "I don't care if you don't like my music. Complain and I'll cut you." Yeah.

The full Dylan Moran take on Funk Soul Brother is here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

They are very good at pleasure

(based on suggestions from @marklawrence, @eglantinescake, @pinknantucket, @_camer0n, @SeanMElliott, @hleighthree and @iFigaro2u)

They sleep in your bed for a reason.

Because their bones are growing,

children always look surprised.

Getting taller helps, it spreads out.

You know it's a sad day when your

child looks at you and asks

'Daddy, are these organic?’

I don’t see teenagers any more:

I see youths. Slumped S shapes

plotting something terrible

like making cider out of blood.

There are two types of wine, essentially.

There’s the one where you drink it and go

‘can we get 8 of those please.’

Then there’s the other one, you know,

the one that turns to Jesus.

This is children’s booze.

All great religions are built on shame.

Why not just have a physical afterlife?

It’s only going to escalate from there,

just come back as a tentacle with a set of lips.

Fruit... it's just God showing off.

Here, have a judge’s bun.

Chocolate bread! I was in Paris recently,

that’s how they start the day.

It’s the kind of place you go to commit

proper, serious pleasure:

smear it all over your face.

The cookery programmes are ridiculous,

it’s not really baking, is it?

Give me one of those chocolate guys,

not twigs fried in honey. Think of a bee.

Do you have any bee-keeping equipment?

Who has the time, though,

who really has the time to dip it in

duck’s tears and anything runnier than bread?

We suck stones for money

in order to attend the party.

The fact is that you’re not an adult at all,

you’re just a tall child holding a beer

having conversations all like,

"Hello. How are you?"

Adults are terribly confused, messed up people.

Children aren't like that,

which is why they look so young.

What a child hears is:

cake is the language of love.


Today’s poem is based on suggestions from seven peeps:

  • @marklawrence: “Our young children growing older. Cuddling them. How do we still hold on to them? Literally! Big=gangly=can't fit in arms.”
  • @eglantinescake: “making bread.”
  • @marklawrence: “Bees. Keeping bees in backyards?”
  • @pinknantucket: “fruit buns”
  • @_camer0n: “Transubstantiation & "Like hello"”
  • @SeanMElliott: “commitments.”
  • @hleighthree: “money orders!”
  • @iFigaro2u: “time”

Several bread-related suggestions! So naturally I decided to make a poem composed entirely of quotes from Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Grieg (but mostly Moran because he talks about bread a lot). I haven’t added any words, but I’ve chopped them about mercilessly in order to fit in all the suggestions.


(based on suggestions from @_camer0n, @realnixwilliams, @notcharming, @ernmalleyscat, @slimejam, @SeanMElliott, @iFigaro2u)

We didn’t have any kids, but we did

get a new cat a few years ago.

Can’t be entirely a different tune

we were about to dance to.

How we concluded it was right

must have been the flick of the coin

across a doctoral submission. We were

bored enough with the march of days.

I knew about folate and caffeine

not getting boozed or too stressed.

The last night we went out drinking

I chucked in my handbag in the taxi.

A fine herald to tracking luteal phases

taking temperatures and vitamins

far too much knowledge about mucus

tinny chime of a thermometer in darkness.

Every site clicked out different snippets

of guilt and dodgy web design. These women

weren’t me, hadn’t eaten my history.

I didn’t fit their cycle of acronyms.

Sex was bound to dates, not inclination.

It’s wet weather timetable, folks.

Today we have to stay inside, even if

we’d rather run around in the storm.

I don’t know how many little sticks

I pissed on that came up single-lined.

I had already given her a title

she was named, in all but reality.

Each surprise of dark blood

gushed out tears and dispirited

bottles of wine. I snapped three

tests in half and stabbed the wall.

It is unbearable to suspect

your body is a failure. It feels

like a desecration of evolution

a misconception of simple biology.

When a second pink line glowed

in early morning bathroom light

I didn’t tell you straight away

in case my eyes had failed me too.


Today’s poem is based on suggestions from seven peeps:

  • @_camer0n: “in reality, in all but name.”
  • @realnixwilliams: “stupidly designed websites”
  • @notcharming: “deciding to start trying to have a baby”
  • @ernmalleyscat: “stormy day at school stuck inside with the lights on”
  • @slimejam: “new cats”
  • @SeanMElliott: ‘Finding a title”
  • @iFigaro2u: “music”

Deciding to try for a baby was easy (essentially because we had no idea what we were in for). Actually trying for one was a rollercoaster of anticipation, disappointment, anticipation, disappointment, overwhelming amounts of knowledge about fertility charting, anticipation, disappointment, really wanting to get drunk but not being able to, anticipation, and then, because we were lucky: joy.

I ended up knowing far too many acronyms about menstrual cycles, and Paul took on more knowledge about mucus than any man should ever have to. In the months where we didn’t conceive, I felt like a physical failure. Perhaps my body simply wasn’t up to the job? It wasn’t like I had treated it particularly well over the years. The idea of not being able to have children, and it being my own fault, was almost unbearable.

After several months, the baby I was convinced was going to be a girl (he’s not) was conceived. Photo is indeed THE pregnancy test that told me I was pregnant. 10 dpo, almost faint enough to not be true. He held on tight for the next nine months - until he was 10 days overdue, in fact. How disgraceful for a librarian to have an overdue baby.

I can’t imagine trying to conceive for years and years. We were so lucky. I am so grateful.