Apr '13 15
Today's poem is probably half the size it could be due to it being half-way to the end of this poem-a-day project.

Are we there yet?

Half way,
where the distance ahead
equals the distance travelled:
there to there divided by two.

You and I measure our closeness in silence.

Half way,
the middle ground
for optimists and pessimists.

Here we ramble, you and I.

Half way,
where a fence-sitter perches
before making a decision.

Our fences are flimsy.

Half way,
signalling the end of a beginning
and the imminence of finish.

You and I are our better halves.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 14
Day 14's poem.


You never know what you will find
in an op shop;
discarded trash
becomes your treasure;
someone's boredom
with their wardrobe
yields designer brands
and other riches
at recycle prices.
Sometimes, like Russian nested dolls,
you might uncover treasure within treasure:
I have found a five-dollar note
in the pocket of pristine Esprit jeans ($15),
an Italian business card case
zipped into a Kenneth Cole handbag ($6),
a first edition of Seamus Heaney's North
with his signature on the title page ($5),
and once,
tucked into the lining of a blue Yves St Laurent jacket (₤35),
a crumpled, black-inked note
from 'Jean-Pierre' to 'Rose'
confessing several affairs and
wishing her all the best.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 13
Lovely and talented Irish poet Eleanor Hooker posted a link on Facebook to linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky delivering a lecture in Dublin. He discusses the fundamental nature of language and what it is designed for. He opened by defining language as 'sound with meaning'.

Irish clergyman Edward Hincks (born in 1792) was one of the decipherers of Mesopotamian cuneiform (cuneiform script is one of the earliest known systems of writing).

And so, today’s poem.


Language may be
sound with meaning
or meaning with sound
but I've been fumbling with wording,
mumbling in ears
for years;
my blunt reed
scores cuneiform script
that no-one can read
on clay tablets
that bake
then break.
I say things I don't mean,
say mean things,
or mean things, but don't say them.
You are my Edward Hincks.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 12
It's strange, what happens, when you don't know what you're going to write, but start writing anyway. I was running out of time/ideas/inspiration this afternoon, then the first three lines of this poem came to me.

The biblical image of a camel passing through the eye of a needle has always fascinated me, so I looked here for common phrases that originated from the Bible.

And thus today's poem came to be.

In the end, there's no word

I have no sand to stand on:
it's quick, and disappearing,
like the love in an old lover's eyes;
like the rebel camel passing
through a needle's eye;
like the stubborn, now dead, fly
in the ointment of the apothecary;
like the flesh, thorned,
weak despite a willing spirit.

Let my clay feet
run me far away
from the fat of lands,
run me far away
from pigs playing with pearls
to the ends of the salted earth,
return me to ash and dust
at the foot of mountains
moved by faith.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 11
The pinhole camera or camera obscura has been known to scholars since the time of Aristotle and Chinese philosopher Mozi (470 to 390 BCE). Mozi referred to the device as a 'collecting plate' or 'locked treasure room'. (Read more here.)

camera obscura

A vision:
rapidfire mind
clickety click click click click click
remembers ancient secrets
of a locked treasure room,
frames the answer
for public viewing.
Without strain
the honest among us
see truths;
without pride
the kind among us
capture the greatness
of small miracles;
without prejudice
the fair among us
correct distortions
and with each fine grain of good
our divine future tilts
towards a pinhole of light.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 10
Today we lost four days of entries on our (several) websites due to hardware failure of our server. Our in-house techno-guru aka Robert has been working hard all day and evening to nurse the server back to health and recover what we can.

I had to re-enter the last four poems plus my commentary (luckily I had them in Word documents). Sadly, however, it means I've lost the many lovely comments that had been posted.

I'm so sorry about that, especially as you took the trouble to not only visit and read the poems, but to write and load those comments (and type the ole anti-spammy-majig).

I hope it won't put you off commenting on the remaining 20 poems that I will be writing for the month!


Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 10
I read yesterday (over here) that the body of Chilean poet and senator, Pablo Neruda, was exhumed on Monday to establish the exact cause of his death in 1973. He was reported to have died of heart failure when suffering from pancreatic cancer. His driver, however, has long claimed that Neruda was poisoned by the Pinochet regime just two weeks after the coup in Chile during which Neruda's friend, Salvador Allende, was murdered.

So I wrote a poem, using a selection of approximate poem and book titles from this much-loved Nobel Prize winner.

On exhuming Pablo Neruda

On the blue shore of silence –
calm as if absent –
the briny soil yields broken things:
crushed mud and light,
unquiet stones,
your socks,
salt, tomatoes and wine,
mermaids and drunks,
a carnal apple and a burning hot moon,
a full woman
and a rose, separate,
fleas (that interested you so much),
a book of questions
and songs of despair with the saddest lines,
a lemon absence,
a yellow heart,
a clenched soul in a continent of hope.
A gentleman, alone.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 9
Last night I went to the 10th anniversary celebration of Poets' Corner, a wonderful poetry group that hosts guest poets every month (Alison Flett and I were guest readers at the most recent one in January, which was the evening before friend and poet John Pfitzner passed away). Yesterday's celebrations included a tribute to John. Sean Gilbert delivered a moving opening speech about poetry and prayer, and how poetry, like prayer, is a 'reaching out'.

I was thinking more about this, and about how some prayers are poetry in and of themselves, if you slough away the heavy chains of association with man's religious prejudices.

Raised a Roman Catholic, my childhood was sprinkled with learning and 'reciting' prayers. I wondered what poem I could rescue from a selection of prayers that I know so well. I chose seven: the 'Our Father', the 'Creed', the 'St Patrick's Breastplate', a 'Guardian Angel' prayer, the 'Salve Regina', Psalm 23 ('The Lord is my Shepherd') and the 'Act of Contrition'. To be consistent I took the text from here.

you are the banished

Almighty guide descended
eyes of earth toward evil resolve.
In the darkest valley of temptation
a quiet stranger

Spirit me to forgiveness
beside rose waters,
beneath the light of grace,
behind gracious power;
restore me to hope
above buried heaven
near a hallowed presence
through days of mercy;
lead me to believe
that the worthy shall lead,
that a god shall comfort,
that tears for a mother and father
are tears of an angel,
that to walk above waters
is communion with earth
and that when life and light are done
I shall come
in from exile.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 8

I just read today that yesterday, 7 April, was William Wordsworth's birthday – he was born in 1770. He figured heavily in my introduction to poetry: my mother and I used to recite together 'Lucy Gray' and 'Daffodils' when I was about six or seven years old.

The two poems are very different: 'Lucy Gray' tells the story of a young child who goes missing in a snowstorm, while 'Daffodils' recounts the joy experienced by the poet when he comes across 'a host of golden daffodils' when he was out for a walk.

So I decided to shake up the text of these two poems and see what poem was waiting to be rescued. Here's the result, which is definitely influenced by how well I know the subject of both poems.

Happy birthday, William. Thank you for your poetry. I hope you're not turning in your grave at this.

She is all, and night is just

Sound never looks this lonesome.
She wandered, small,
overlooked, scarcely there.
She was inward, broken,
dancing vacant
on solitary wild.
Night was tossing
the wretched daffodils.
She danced, wanton,
chanced a glance
at lantern moon
shine sprightly golden
reached downwards beside
on milky snow.
She gazed wide at lonely heaven
and through sparkling
stars tracked waves of twinkle.
She danced, pensive,
yonder mother mountain
a steep, stormy rise homeward.
She danced, wept,
her footmarks lost,
never to be seen.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 7
I listened to a ‘Poem Talk’ podcast today of a discussion of Caroline Bergvall’s poem ‘Via: 48 Dante Variations’. The poet collected English translations of the first three lines of Dante’s Inferno from the British Library and arranged them in a certain order.

(The podcast is here.)

So I decided to do a little experiment of my own, which turned into something completely different from what had been discussed in the podcast! I selected a poem called ‘Je suis comme je suis’ from the book Paroles by one of my favourite French poets, Jacques Prévert. The first two lines of the poem are:

Je suis comme je suis
Je suis faite comme ça

I translated them, then worked my way through repeating the two lines – but each time I changed the punctuation and/or order of the words without altering the rhythm of the first two lines. In the first few lines I changed a few words. I retained the same number of lines of the original poem (32) and a stanza break at the same point (after line 12).

The meaning transformed and ended up somewhere quite poignant. Here it is.

just words

I am what I am
I am made that way.
I am who I am
I am made like that.
I am who? I am.
I am. Made. Like that?
I am I am who?
I like that, am made.
Who am I? Are you
like that? I am maid.
Who are you? My eye
likes that maid, I am.

I am who? Are you
who I am? What maid?
You are who my eye
likes, you are made you.
I am. You are. I.
You are. I am. You.
I am. You are. I.
You are. I am. You.
I am. You are. I.
You are. I am. You.
I am. You are. I.
You am I am you
You are why. We made.
You are I, my who.
You are who, and why.
You and I, who are.
You who are my why.
You and I were who?
You who were my who?
Who? You? Me? We? Why?

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 6
Earlier this evening we watched an animation about how our complex universe evolved by following a set of defined scientific rules.

That lead me to think about how writers use language and its associated rules to bring complex worlds into being.

And thus poem number six was created. (Maybe I should rest on the seventh day.) I think this one has potential (pardon the pun) to be reworked into a good piece.

how physics and poetry collide

we are creators:
we start, uncertain
with the magic of our ideas
we combine quarky commas
electron verbs
protonic nouns
molecular sentences
craft countless worlds and universes
with their own laws
for inhabitants to understand and follow
for observers to wonder

meanwhile, physicists
take simple rules
to deconstruct our complex expanding universe
from galaxies
to stars
to us
via a periodic table
to a quantum world
where all becomes uncertain:
at Planck's levels
it's magic

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 5
Today I was reading through contemporary conceptual poet Caroline Bergvall's 'Eclat'.

A statement from it hopped into my awareness and swung around the beams there:

'Where are you not who.'

No question mark.

No punctuation.

So of course I wrote a poem. When re-reading it, I realised that it touched on the idea that there is no trace of an author's self in conceptual writing – unlike more traditional poetry, where the self of the writer/poet/narrator is apparent.

éclat de conscience

where are you not who:
you might peek around the edge
of a deconstructed sentence
or curl up, contortioned,
in the shelf of an A,
drape yourself languidly
in delirious-sounding prose,
meander through memory-loss
in mis-spelt words,
imitate the yellow blob
that means something
(but not everything)
to someone.
wherever you are
you'll not discover
who I am

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 4
Today's poem had an interesting birth. Earlier in the day I was reading 'The Ubuweb: Anthology of Conceptual Writing' . The article discusses the idea that conceptual poetry turns its back on traditional 'romantic' notions of poetry being a vehicle for emotional expression and instead, embraces procedure and logical process.

Later I was thinking about ideas for today's poem. I decided to go through my 'rescued' poem process (read more about that here) using the Ubuweb article about conceptual writing as my source text.

Here's the rather interesting result: a conceptual/constrained piece about itself.

art crossings

poetry experiments
misapplied language
the presented form
extraordinary writing abstractions,
which the story words,
string legible pleasures and
bleed verbal probabilities,
reengineering écriture possibilities;
a collection of cannot language
a recall to chance concept
vibrate structures
into sculpture:
the idea of
truth itself
in rigorous procedure
and derived into presence

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 3
Today I was reading an essay from Lyn Hejinian's book The Language of Inquiry. This intriguing title, 'A thought is the bride of what thinking', prompted today’s rather tongue-in-cheek poem.

An inquiry of marriage

A Thought is the bride of what Thinking?
What glamorous wedding occurred?
Who oversaw the conjoining?
Who had the final word?

What Thinking was led to this Thought,
seduced by her insight and flair?
Her poetics and logic astonished
her pithy expressions compared

to no others that Thinking considered.
Did Thinking find her, alone?
Or was she ensconced in a fortress
waiting for Thinking to come?

Or did she come to Thinking, no warning
while he was alone in his room?
While he partied with friends in the city?
While he walked by the ocean at noon?

This union's unlikely to last
Thinking will wed many more over time,
but Thoughts will have the last laugh
when they check out of his aging mind.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '13 2
Today's poem - which I think has potential to be developed into a good piece - is inspired by one of my city loves, Sydney. I used to live in Sydney and I've just got back after spending four glorious days there.

Although I've called this 'Ode to Sydney' it does not have an ode's traditional rhyming scheme. Actually it has no (external) rhyming scheme at all, but it does praise Sydney. That's ode enough for me.

Ode to Sydney

You wear your days with panache
and your nights without care,
your harbour bling and city diamonds glitter,
your Opera House is pitch-perfect
while your gold-scarf beaches and ribbon-waterways glisten.
I beat your streets, loving every hot minute of your shimmering bitumen.
I breathe your air, loving every cool moment of your moon-dripped water.
I gaze at your nonchalant posture with a backdrop
of sapphire skies and clouds that change their names like underwear.
You seduce me and I leave,
jealous of every designer-shirted exec striding your streets,
jealous of every gym and drug junkie working your corners,
jealous of every angry cabbie and the silent, hunkered homeless,
jealous of every bored regular, of every wowed first-timer.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

(Page 2 of 3, totaling 31 entries)