Apr '13 30
I love the final line of F Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
So I decided to decimate and recreate.

I wanted to see how far I could break down the sentence phonetically. I changed words but remained reasonably close to the original sound, whether or not the resulting sentence made sense. It was quite difficult; I managed only four variations, then I turned it into a poem. 'slí', pronounced 'shlee', is the Irish word for 'way'. A French 'que' also made its way into the piece.

And so, we have what might be called a conceptual poem for day number 30, the last day.

Tomorrow, I rest. Maybe.

Grate gads, be

So we beat on,
boats against the current,
borne back ceaselessly
into the past.
Soho wee beet un,
bow oats eggs ends the currant,
boron beck seas less lean
to passed.
Sew 'e, be ton,
beau its sag sense it the cur and,
beaux're on bex 'e's Leslie
en tooth pass it.
Sow he bee ten,
beaux it Sagan Seti thick runt,
bore on baa que sees le slí
in topaz.
Sowie, beaten,
boa wits egg sensed thee icky rennet,
bow Ron bah access Les lien
two thee pest.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 29
Today I came across two poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky and I fell in love with the titles: 'Talking with the Taxman about Poetry' and 'A Cloud in Trousers'. I decided I wanted to write a poem including the two titles.

I went to this page, 'Poems for every occasion', which lists 22 rows of themes.

I selected one theme in every row (I chose the first theme in the first row, second in the second row, third in the third row, first in the fourth row, and so on).

From these I selected the most interesting and appropriate poem title; I made no changes to any title. I didn't look ahead to plan the flow, nor did I go back and select a different title to suit what followed.

Then I inserted the two Mayakovsky poem titles where I thought suited best.

The poem title itself is from the final theme ('Poems about living and human experiences'). and voilà! Poem number 29.

(I really wanted to include 'Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens' by Jack Prelutsky from the section of poems about birds but it didn't fit the flow!)

What the living do

somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond
the storm
I explain a few things:
a litany in a time of plague
the thread of life
the routine things around the house;
from you have I been absent in the spring,
sitting outside
by the road to the contagious hospital,
a cloud in trousers,
home after three months away,
reading Plato.
As I walked out one evening
some part of the lyric –
the testing-tree
the still life –
fat southern men in summer suits
talking with the taxman about poetry,
telling the bees,
compulsively allergic to the truth;
the sheep child
poet as immortal bird,
song of the trees
thrown as if fierce & wild.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 28
This afternoon I dipped into a wonderful book called Secret Wisdom and read about Marsilio Ficino, who was known as the 'first Renaissance man'. Ficino was a key figure in the Italian Renaissance and the development of European philosophy. He revived the wisdom of ancient philosophers by translating key ancient Greek and Egyptian texts into Latin, making them relevant for his contemporaries and for us. He was also famous for his music and he believed that he had revived the actual music of Orpheus.

Drinking Kykeon in ancient Greece during initiation ceremonies induced a 'revelatory' state.

while dreaming of Orphic hymns
I turn towards the Choirmaster
release my soul
in harmony;
I hear
music of the spheres,
recognise intervals
from moon
to planets;
applied universal philosophy
yet eleusian mysteries
elude me;
I wish
for just one sip
of Kykeon brew...

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 27
Day 27. A suggestion here prompted me to plug my name into this anagram generator. I set a limit of a minimum word size of three. It generated 1,633 words and I eliminated repeating words using this tool. Then I randomised the list 14 times (the number of letters in my name).

I rescued poem number 27 from the pool of words.

Enter, not for its life

Soften sire,

Felons loiter,
felines trifle
jot notes
sort linen.

Foes riot, flee.
Lone son stolen.
Stonier inner filter
tenor tones.

Lifers sneer.

Sinner risen,
feels soft,
frees son.

elfin seer siren
silent for eons!

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 26
Language thinks us and so we must resist its insidious influence so as to rid ourselves of the crushing presence of the déjà-dit.

-- Flemish poet-critic Jan Baetens.

If language thinks us
it is conscious;
if language thinks us
we are patterns
distributed across space
evolving in time,
we cooperate as neurons
in pre-designed algorithms,
carried by
we enable decisions,
transmit choices,
convey solutions,
we under-lie imagination
and creation;
we allow language
to express what it thinks
what it means
who it means:
we are the meaning.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 25
From that time on, I basked in the Poem of the Sea,
A milk-white suspension of stars that devours
Raw azures. Through it drowned men
Fall like bleached driftwood, heavy with trance.

-- 'Drunken boat' ('Le Bateau ivre'),
from Arthur Rimbaud Selected Poems and Letters,
translated by Jeremy Harding and John Sturrock.

Falling through

You would think it
a gentle time,
this basking
in a sea of stars...

...but no!
poems dart by
brushing my toes
teasing my
wrinkled skin
wriggling through
my thirsty fingers
punishing me
with promises
parching my hope...

the way they
raw azures
roars in my ears
blinds my eyes
sucks my taste
and as the stars
shuck my shine
and catch my breath
before I can
I slip
a lifeless









Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 24
Today nothing I read inspired me to write a poem (or maybe everything I read inspired me and I was overcome with choice), so I began to think about excuses.

The dog ate poem number 23.5, so here is poem number 24.


There are times when
the mind
needs a break,
takes off
to let off
takes on
a teen-ish tint:
disappears to watch Dr Who re-runs and write fan fiction;
vamooses to discuss time travel with little green men;
heads to McDonald's to drown in a McFlurry;
sings and dances on bedroom-floor-stored clothes;
glances at the leaning tower of poemwork and goes out for a swing;
leaves for the land of long and cloudy dreaming;
decides to grow an idea then forgets to water it;
devours two-and-a-half books in one day with time left over;
ambles out of its room at the last minute;
questions quantum physics and names the stars but can't find its sports shoes;
saunters away from you mid-conversation;
sits texting, reading and watching Dr Who re-runs (again);
meanders through bookshops in a heavenly state;
holds its secrets close and its mysteries near.


Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 23
This morning I was going through a book called The Poetics of Indeterminacy by Marjorie Perloff. One of the chapters was called '"The Space of a Door": Beckett and the Poetry of Absence'.

I wrote the following few lines: 'The space of a door / displaces me / frames a no, / a yes, / a maybe...' and then I left it to finish later.

This evening I went to a most moving launch of a book written by one of my very talented uni colleagues, Kristina Olsson. The extraordinary story is called Boy, Lost; Kristina’s mother lost her baby boy, Peter, when he was snatched by his father from her arms as she sat in a train waiting to leave Cairns. I was privileged to hear Kristina, her sister Sharon and their lost – now found – brother Peter, speak so eloquently and bravely about the secrets, the heartache and ultimately the healing.

Then I came home and finished the poem.

boy, found


The space of a train door
displaces him
frames a no,
a yes,
a maybe,
faces her towards
a terrible symmetry;
safety for them both
was for her
pinned here
on the nearer side of there,
was for her stolen infant
on the further side of her(e).


Decades of tight-lipped memories,
secret sibling absence
a haunting presence
in the hearts of innocents,
waiting patiently.


A lifetime.
A searching.
A file.
A family found.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 22
Today I was reading some poems by Jack Spicer. His 'Letter to Gary Bottone' captivated me.

So I replied using his vocabulary.

Letter to Jack Spicer

Dear Jack,

although I cannot see you either
I can still love you.
I have love enough for us both.
I remember when I walked
into my own dreadful, wonderful Bohemia.
I'm still navigating the hellish corridors,
eyes not yet open,
not yet despairing,
but I trust I will soon see windows into heaven
and expect to blast a few myself
through the rocks of hell.
I haven't yet paid
the price you paid
but I hope you're there,
all the same,
waiting for me
with open arms.
For now,
these poems will go on
and I will continue
to love you
by letter
from an alien world.


Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 21
For a writing exercise in our poetry group, we had to take a foreign-language poem and translate it.

I chose Jacques Prévert's 'Pour toi mon amour' from his collection Paroles.

Here is the original poem followed by my translation.

Pour toi mon amour

Je suis allé au marché aux oiseaux
Et j'ai acheté des oiseaux
Pour toi
mon amour
Je suis allé au marché aux fleurs
Et j'ai acheté des fleurs
Pour toi
mon amour
Je suis allé au marché à la ferraille
Et j'ai acheté des chaînes
De lourdes chaînes
Pour toi
mon amour
Et puis je suis allé au marché aux esclaves
Et je t'ai cherchée
Mais je ne t'ai pas trouvée
mon amour.

For you my love

I went to the bird market
And I bought birds
For you
my love
I went to the flower market
And I bought flowers
For you
my love
I went to the scrap iron market
And I bought chains
Heavy chains
For you
my love
And then I went to the slave market
And I looked for you
But I didn't find you
my love.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 20
I usually rescue a poem from prose texts (read here about my rescue process).

Today, however, I thought I'd rescue a poem from two poems, each called 'The Fish'. One is by Marianne Moore and the other is by Elizabeth Bishop.

I read Elizabeth Bishop's poem once, quite some time ago, and I still haven't read Marianne Moore's poem, so I am not yet familiar with the content of either poem.

The surprise with the poem I rescued is that it's not about fish at all.

I love surprises, and I love this rescue process.


terrible things
in an ancient, sun-cracked face
age burns like hatchet sun
its swiftness, weapon-like:
                marks not mine are mine.
orange crimped feathers
white lilies
big spread rainbow of shiny glass
are rusted tinfoil.
                marks not mine are mine.
crisp yellowed stare
from my eyes like medals –
not medals,
like barnacles,
like sea stars;
my grim wisdom, grunting,
lip down, sullen,
shafts of fight
abuse my aching jaw,
rainbow strokes the turquoise water
rainbow shapes speckled jelly-fish
rainbow keeps fish of youth submerged.
                marks not mine are mine.
everything is here:
my strips of tarnished skin
are rust-brown evidence
of a shiny edifice
tremendous heavier flesh
attached to tiny little bones.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 19
In his poem 'Lamia' John Keats used the phrases 'cold philosophy' and 'unweave a rainbow' to lament science's cold deconstruction of a rainbow into seven colours.

According to Richard Dawkins, however, when discussing his book Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder , the opposite is true: solved mysteries reveal deeper beauty and as such, science can be the inspiration for great poetry.

Night wonder

She asks a question
about the halo of ice crystals
around Adelaide's half moon tonight
and the conversation flickers
around reflected light
and lunar bows,
a rainbow's shyer sibling,
its darker moonlit twin.

Cold philosophy
may have unweaved rainbows
but has yet
to whet its blade
on moonbows,
long abandoned by leprechauns
with pots of gold in tow.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 18
I wrote today's poem after reading a prompt suggested by Robert Lee Brewer two days ago at Writers' Digest over here. The prompt: to write an impossible poem.

The whisper

You cannot write an impossible poem,
'they' say.
(Why do I refer to faceless, nameless experts
to underpin arguments,
to reinforce doubts,
to underscore futility?
'They' often get their way
and in my way).

Every impossible poem whispers 'I'm possible'
and if I hear it
I write it,
therefore only possible poems exist.

I find that the probable poems
are most unlikely.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 17
Today, day 17, I played with randomness.

I wrote a phrase, 'The empty basket of wonder'. Then, I wrote lists, independently, of close rhymes for 'empty', 'basket' and 'wonder'. After that I ordered each list alphabetically.

Today's poem is a list of those phrases, with the first phrase being the 'control'.

I love interesting and unexpected results!

Random 17 wonders

The empty basket of wonder.
The angry anklet of blunder.
The bendy bandit of comfort.
The brandy banquet of drunkard.
The cranky biscuit of hunger.
The friendly blanket of jumper.
The handy classic of monster.
The manky credit of number.
The phlegmy dammit of puncture.
The plenty elastic of runner.
The randy facet of slumber.
The sandy gadget of songster.
The scanty hamlet of summer.
The swanky magnet of sunder.
The testy palette of thunder.
The trendy plastic of tumbler.
The twenty respite of under.
The zesty tablet of youngster.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 16
Today I spent some time researching mind mapping software.

Oh hello, poem number 16.

I might develop this idea further.


Like a spidery weather pattern
my ideas are mapped on screen;
coloured lines like isobars
associate words,
connect concepts.

My ideas,
precipitated by incessant rainstorms
and erupting volcanoes of my thinking systems.
How do I map these internal topographies?

Over time, I have felt
my coastlines of conviction erode,
my oceans of hope evaporate,
fissure vents rupture my meadows of joy.
Every day I witness
climate change.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

(Page 1 of 3, totaling 31 entries)