Apr '15 15

Wonderwalls The North Wall. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I wasn't feeling particularly inspired today and half-started a few things which may eventually turn into other things. So today's offering is almost an anti-poem; well, a bit of prose really. And speaking of inspiration: Calliope was one of the nine muses, and her particular domain was epic poetry.

Date with Calli

She prances into my office, barely glancing at me, and drops her black Prada handbag on top of the messy piles of paper on my desk. She sits down on the only other chair in the room, flashing red sole as she crosses her Louboutin'd legs, and carefully pats her fashionably mussed 500-dollar-haircut tresses. Miss me? She grins as she lights a slim Vogue cigarette. I shake my head. The dull, half-written, unedited piles of crappy copy seem to shift and shimmer and grow all around me. She arches one perfectly-plucked eyebrow. She could be auditioning for a movie, the way she’s carrying on. I don't need you, I mutter. I'm doing just fine on my own. She takes a deep drag of her cigarette, purses her rouge-Dior'd lips and exhales in my direction. She mouths: I. Don't. Think. So. Wait, what was that? A nicotine hit with…unmistakeably peaty overtones. You've been drinking, I snarl. Lucky you. Except that's not useful to me. She smirks and looks around the room; then she winces. She actually winces. Well, I need inspiration too, you know. This isn't exactly a creator's paradise. She stares at me, then jumps to her feet. I have an idea! She stubs out her cigarette on a cracked saucer on my desk, grabs her bag in one hand and my arm with the other. You're coming with me. I know just the place to kickstart you and me. Get your coat and your notebook; we're going to the pub right now. What could I do? When the Muse proposes, you acquiesce. And that's when she and I first got scuttered together.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 14

Messy pile -> poem.

Today I selected books – some poetry, some prose – from my shelf at random and set about writing today's poem from their titles. In the end I was left with these 30 titles (including the poem title), to which I added some linking words and phrases. I've listed the books and authors in alphabetical order below, after the poem.


In a world without maps
Pharaoh's daughter is drifting under the moon
in the Celtic twilight, across the stones of Aran.
Between here and there, the mining road curves
through the rough field like the bend for home.
Around her shoulders is draped the astrakhan cloak;
at arm's length she holds a book of migrations,
a journey with two maps,
but between the lines are secrets
about the fall,
about what this earth cost us,
riddles reminding her
that because of sleeping with monsters
our banished misfortune
is in her own image; is the price of stone.
In this new territory
the veiled woman of Achill,
the big fellow and the flower master
form a human chain,
and through the square window
we may see the blue swallows –
with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold –
but here, or there, or anywhere
what love comes to is this:
perhaps the heart is constant after all.

A Book of Migrations ( Lorrie Moore)
A Journey with Two Maps (Eavan Boland)
At Arm’s Length (Anne Chambers)
Between Here and There (Sinéad Morrissey)
Between the Lines (Jon Stallworthy)
Drifting Under the Moon (Ger Reidy)
Edgelands (Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts)
Human Chain (Seamus Heaney)
In Her Own Image (Eavan Boland/Constance Short)
New Territory (Eavan Boland)
Perhaps the Heart is Constant After All (Mary Dorcey)
Pharaoh’s Daughter (Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill)
Sleeping with Monsters (Wilson/Somerville-Arjat)
Stones of Aran (Tim Robinson)
The Astrakhan Cloak (Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill)
The Bend for Home (Dermot Healy)
The Big Fellow (Frank O’Connor)
The Blue Swallows (Howard Nemerov)
The Celtic Twilight (W B Yeats)
The Fall (Jordie Albiston)
The Flower Master (Medbh McGuckian)
The Mining Road (Leanne O'Sullivan)
The Price of Stone (Richard Murphy)
The Rough Field (John Montague)
The Veiled Woman of Achill (Patricia Byrne)
Through the Square Window (Sinéad Morrissey)
What Love Comes To (Ruth Stone)
What this Earth Cost Us (Theo Dorgan)
With the First Dream of Fire they Hunt the Cold (Trevor Joyce)
World Without Maps (Geraldine Mitchell)

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 13

Twilight Silhouette. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I started to write today's tongue-in-cheek poem during Easter a couple of weeks ago, then left it, so today I revisited it. It was sparked by my skimming through Marina Warner's most fascinating book Alone of all her sex The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary.

Mammy's boy

It all started over a few pints in Egans of a Sunday
not long after you found out you were expecting
and it took off like Chinese whispers.
I remember you saying
how the kid was conceived in the back of a panel van
one night after the pub had closed
and that his deadbeat dad had already run for the hills,
but didn't he deserve a better story than that?
And after the seventh shot you had it worked out:
not only would you give him a better life
but you'd find a good husband, too.
He was a grand little fella and grew up so obliging
although to be honest he was a bit cocky, but that's the young for you.
Did he get his charisma from you or his long-suffering stepfather
who believed that visitation story of yours?
The story went on for so long you couldn't collapse it
couldn't dismantle it, fold it up and store it away.
The lad believed everything, of course –
he always had a soft spot for his mammy –
so between that and his conjuring tricks
he really had it going on with his pals.
And somehow this shaky, flaky house of cards stayed upright.
He never moved out of home; sure why would he
when you would be feeding him his favourite dinners –
he loved the ole Shepherd's Pie
and the bit of lamb roast of a Sunday –
and you were happy enough to wash his clothes and mend his sandals.
There wasn't a chick around these parts
that had the measure of him or were good enough for him anyway.
The boy did lose the run of himself a bit
and really got up those Romans' noses
but sure weren't we all a bit wild ourselves when we were younger,
and we didn't get hauled up for treason.
Sure weren't you only a mammy who loved her wee lad?
You loved when his pals came over for the bit of supper,
although you always had your eye on that one young buck.
I remember that time we met in Starbucks for coffee:
you said it then, and you warned your young lad;
not to be trusted, that one, you said, he's dark as the devil
and isn't it a reminder to all of us
that keeping our friends close and our enemies closer
mightn't always work out for the best?
And now look at your fine fella, poor lamb,
how has it come to this?
Him having to answer that crackpot prosecutor,
although he really should answer straight
instead of shifty-lad replies like 'it is you who say it',
sure what does he mean by that at all?
If he's not careful he'll be in desperate trouble
and see the other eejit washing his hands now…
…wait, what is wrong with these people?
Shut your gobs, you amadáns. He's one of our own.
Sweet mother of God what just happened?
He's to be… what?

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 12

Arc of age.

I was looking through the writing prompts at the NaPoWriMo website here and one of them was to write a visual poem. I am inclined to write words in a 'visual' way anyway and my notebooks are dogs' breakfasts-worth of doodling, angled writing and text experiments. So I revisited some of my old notebooks to see if I could rework any but I ended up creating a new one.

The text reads as follows:

Arc of age
Pendulum of grace
exuberant youth
trajectory of our days
towards rest

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 11

The Matrix Unloaded. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I've been getting quite a few spam comments on my website so I decided to 'rescue' a poem from yesterday's spam offerings (you can read about my 'rescue' process here). The poem turned out to be something of a question and answer session.

incredible stunning online benefit

Selling wonders: digital silver and gold
melodic pings fracturing the physics
familiar conversation, yet who is this
playing in my own connected world?

Us, trying to guide you: easily, more vigor,
profitable investment, free videos, connections,
weightless, simple losing, hold your searching
casino, members, see: you just got bigger!

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 10

Stormy. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

Today's poem is self-explanatory and inadequate. That is all.

News and weather

For H.

The sun is shining here today
but an icy wind blows in the shade
and the weather has become unpredictable…
…but I'm not that writer
who metaphors climate for catastrophic events;
I'm not comfortable with
environmental similes for human conditions;
I prefer to modify language itself:
verbalise nouns and nounify verbs
reimagine inadequate vocabulary
connect unconnected ideas
with hook-and-eye words
yet today the flair for it fails me;
today, when I most need
to express my concern;
today, when I most need
to wish love and light
to a dear friend who's staring into the eye
of a terrible, sickening storm.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 9

Temptation Moonset. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

Today's poem is the result of a (few days old) prompt from the NaPoWriMo site here. The suggestion was to find and rework a poem by Emily Dickinson. I chose 'The Moon is distant from the Sea - 387'. When I started playing around with the poem, I wondered why she had altered the relationship between the moon and the sea in the final stanza so that the feminine character sounded fragile and dependent – the opposite of how the poem begins. That had to change! (I've posted the original version at the end of this post, after my one.)

Emily dashed: the moon is (not so) distant from the sea

The moon is distant from the sea,
and yet, her amber hand
commands him ebb and flow just so;
he seems to understand.

Striking balance, finely tuned:
natural laws at work;
then why does Emily's last verse
reverse the moon-sea roles?

Oh, Signor, mine's the amber hand
and thine the distant sea.
Just so we're clear, I've turned it round:
my eye's imposed on thee!

Here's the original poem by Emily Dickinson.

The Moon is distant from the Sea – (387)

The Moon is distant from the Sea –
And yet, with Amber Hands –
She leads Him – docile as a Boy –
Along appointed Sands –

He never misses a Degree –
Obedient to Her eye –
He comes just so far – toward the Town –
Just so far – goes away –

Oh, Signor, Thine, the Amber Hand –
And mine – the distant Sea –
Obedient to the least command
Thine eye impose on me –

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 8
Inside the Teepee. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

This started out as a little riff on that old saying 'Home is where the heart is'. A change of letter in one word and it all veered off, then circled back unexpectedly.


'Home is where the heart is', so my heart is here at home.
Or home is wherever my heart happens to be.
Where my head happens to be.
Home is where the head is?
In my house?
Home is where the house is?
Home is where the horse is?
Homer is the horse?
Homer IS the horse.
A horse named after a poet.
Horse is where the poetry is
where the trough is
where the water is.
Water is where the drinking is.
Drinking is where the wine is
where the mind is
where the fun is.
Fun is where the laughter is
where the life is
where the friends are.
Friends are where the love is.
Love is where you are.
Love is … here you are.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 7
Surfing a Celestial Wave. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I really have nothing to say about today's poem.


I fell off the edge of the world
on Tuesday at 9.30 pm.
Dreamily I realise the thin silk line
has frayed and snapped.
Slowfloating away
I notice a tabby cat who'd disappeared from our street
seven months before;
one sock of a favourite pair, long mislaid;
an unfinished apple;
a disconnection notice from the electricity company.
I waft through the atmosphere's edgelands
colliding with cosmic junk and space debris.
I begin to wonder what I'm doing here
and where everyone else is
when I spot a silver spaceship
rocketing towards me
and there's a man inside
waving and smiling
so I wave and smile back
and he yanks me into his capsule.
Pleased to meet you, he says,
shakes my hand
asks if I've been up here long.
Me, he says, I'm just floating around
in this tin-can up here
and there's nothing I can do
I love my wife very much but
you know, it's quite quiet here...
...oh sorry, so rude of me, he grins
my name is Tom,
Major Tom.
And the pot I smoked
and the Bowie records I hazed to
all begin to make sense
as Starman and I
share beers and Pringles and chill
more than one hundred thousand miles
above blue planet earth.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 6
Maserati. Photo by Robert Rath.

Last night we went to see the movie Fast and Furious 7. Today I was reading some of Alicia Suskin Ostriker's book, Stealing the Language The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America. It's a discussion about women and the gender bias generally associated with women's poetry.

Today's poem twists these wildly different yet complementary creative ideas together. And in the interests of irony, I pinched Ostriker's book title.

As always, today's poem has just been moulded, so please forgive its rough edges.

Stealing the language

I will break out the jargon
of corporations
and thug nations
I will steal it back
modify and transform it
turn native cams and coils
over and inside out
cranking and revving that engine
then parachute its supercharged ass
from a plane
in an alien sky
fuel-inject it
then reverse it off impossible cliffs
hyperjump it between buildings
joyride it rough
through no-through roads
and hairpin bends in conversation
making sense of nonsense
tearing this sorry town down
from its lofty, mannish notions

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 5

We bought a frying pan at IKEA yesterday and I was reminded of how much I love reading their catalogues. As a copywriter myself, I love to read good advertising copy and IKEA's ticks all the boxes for the win. I decided that I would 'rescue' a poem from the 2015 catalogue.

You can read about my 'rescue' process here.

Basically I write a poem using only the words from a limited amount of text I have transcribed – that might be a couple of pages from a novel/novels, or in this case, seven 'blurbs' from the 2015 catalogue.

The important distinction between my rescuing process and other process-based approaches such as 'finding' poems is that I do not select a complete phrase or sentence; after I transcribe the text I jumble it so that all the words are in random order, and then I choose words as individual building blocks. The resulting rescued poem is usually quite surprising, then, because I take the words out of their original context and impose my own creativity on them, combining them to give a new twist – as is the case with this little rescuee.

little people of IKEA

even the tiniest children are complicated
up and down in a million moments
these unique little freaks
lost in worry-free space
home in happy safe place
ideas become needs
become want want want
getting and giving
getting and giving
high on make-believing every day
hide in giggling sleep every night

and you think
you can stack time
in smart storage
but that's not the way
it seems to play out
and one day
the world takes these
little people

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 4

Once In A Red Moon, In Our Backyard. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

This evening Robert and I went to Tungkillo, about an hour east of Adelaide, to watch and photograph the eclipse. I used an old eclipse image of Robert's for this post, but I know he'll have some sensational shots of tonight's lunar activity. Just not soon enough for me!

A lunatic proposition

The blood moon she rise, she rise...
...but how can I write about that lunar disk
high above a low horizon
being eclipsed, our shadow slowly covering her
over the greened-granite ground of Tungkillo?
I am reminded how
timing is and isn't everything,
how a break through the haze
may lead to a hope for understanding,
how the sky is 3D-clouded
just like my judgement
of the wisdom
of writing about
what writers and artists and photographers
have already witnessed
in true poetic justice.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 3
Someone Else's Images. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

This evening Robert and I went to the Trent Parke photography exhibition, The Black Rose, at the Art Gallery of South Australia. I had already visited it with several lovely poetry friends during the week, but the exhibition needed at least a second viewing. The body of work on display is immense, powerful and spans a range of subjects; dark, personal and moving. Many of the images are accompanied by text written by the photographer about dreams and life events deeply connected with the images.

Today's poem inspired by the exhibition refers to images in the exhibition but offers a sinister twist. Originally, the first line of the poem was it - the entire poem - but more insisted on being included.

Candidly speaking

The woman in the photograph followed me home.

Out of that dark room.

A sombre kind of shadow.

Mirroring my breathing,

my captured memories: like butterflies in cages

and rabbits in sand dunes;

the fox! the fox!

Spines and skeletons and bones

are everywhere reminders.

Here a mother’s hair.

There a father’s gallstones.

Depressed shutter; press. Press. Firm.

Here with me now, she frames the doorway

of this dark room,

she touches my cheek; whispers

that she is moved by my portrait.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 2
Ash, Rain, Clay and Smoke. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

Hello day two.

The title of today's poem is from a rather enigmatic essay I was reading today called 'The Laugh of the Medusa' by French feminist Hélène Cixous in 1976.

We are black and we are beautiful

like the barrel of a Beretta
like pudding: blood and bone
like a length of salted liquorice
like the slick-swoop of a crow

like your morning-kickstart coffee
like a Nazi’s polished boot
like a layer of tar for feathers
like your formal mourning suit

like the ink on first-love letters
like Roisín; mail; and mass
like a supermodel’s mascara
like a hole; a little dress

like a porcelain black cowry
like keys that tone a chord
like that mongrel on your shoulder
or your winning, ace-filled hand

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 1
Small Moves to the Orion Nebula. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

So, here I am again: I had a momentary lapse of synaptic connectivity and registered for NaPoWriMo, the 2015 poem-a-day project.

I read somewhere recently about how we may all have been born under different astrological signs if the so-called thirteenth sign of the zodiac, Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer, had been included. Today's poem imagines how that may have unfolded for poor old Ophiuchus.

As always, I preface these poems with the reminder: they are daily-fresh and may need time to mature after rework!

The forgotten constellation

Serpent-bearer Ophiuchus
left out in the astrological cold
clenches a furious fist
spits venom at his exclusion
from the circle of twelve
while his cold-blooded pet
slides lazily
up his tightened right arm
along the back of his broad, hunched shoulders
then down, encircling his waist
in starry-eyed slitheriness;
Ophiuchus huffs and puffs
stamps on Scorpio
in stormy rage
hollers about unlucky thirteenth
at his Milky Way neighbour;
tired of the temper and the celestial carry-on
the serpent glides down, down
over knotted limbs
and meteored feet
slips silently into a black, black hole
leaving Ophiuchus desolate:
purposeless now,
permanently banished
to an astral wasteland.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

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