Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Fragrance of Dust

The heat has finally dissipated and the last night of spring has opened in all of its glory… the perfect night for reading and contemplating haiku and its related forms. As you all know, Patricia Prime is one of my favourite reviewers, so it is again, my pleasure to be posting this recent review.

The Fragrance of Dust

The Fragrance of Dust: Haiku Stories Poems by James Norton. Uxbridge, Alba Publishing. www.albapublishing.com (2012) Pb. 102 pp. ISBN: 978-0-9551254-8-5. Price: €15/US$16.00/UK £12.00. Reviewed by Patricia Prime

James Norton worked in the field of therapeutic horticulture and teaches within the Shambala Buddhist community. He has been an editor and is a founder member of Haiku Ireland and the Redthread Haiku Sangha. The Fragrance of Dust is his second collection of haiku and haibun.

Norton is a thinker, a lover of the lyric line, so it is that certain words can be applied to his writing: modest, assured, precise and finished. This is a poet who likes structure. His collection is subdivided into nine sections, and inside the sections there are haiku, poems and haibun.

The Fragrance of Dust invites its readers in with “Owl House Days”: the section opening with the haiku

She walks her horses
up the long hill, three heads
bowed to the rain

The haiku is followed by a poem and a rensaku. “Three Abandonments” contains three poems, while “Doublin’ Back” opens with four haiku which lead on to three haibun, several haiku, three more haibun, three haiku and two more haibun. The haibun feature vivid vignettes from the poet’s Irish background – a homage to Yeats and Joyce, for example, in this excerpt from “Sandscript”:

Baby William Butler Yeats was wheeled in a carriage through these streets. Young Stephen Dedalus strode into eternity along this strand. There Bloom ever wanders, ogles Gertie while his Molly plays. Which is real, who imagines?

Herons
mirrored in sky-pools
ruffled, rippled

Hand in hand
two tiny figures
cross immensity

Then there’s the Sunday morning cycle ride in “Between Bridges” with its evocation of Dublin:

A Sunday morning in early July after a night of warm rain, clouds promising more, the air tumescent with scents. At Lansdowne Bridge on impulse cycle upstream along the Dodder – An Dothra, the Flood – towards Ball’s Bridge.

The contrast between the haibun is a delight, while well-placed detail evokes a world that is surely passing, along with the donkey rides that are mentioned in “Knockree”:

City children holidaying. There am I in sepia, seated on a donkey, its ears back, not pleased. No more I am myself, braving it, but her arm around me and she smiling. Happy then.

The next section, “Westerlies”, is composed of a haiku sequence, individual haiku and seven poems. The poems serve to illustrate another facet of Norton’s writing: his tendency for lyric phrases and cadences. Here we have the grace of lines and stanzas, the imagery and intensity of diction, as we see, for example, in the final verse from “At Thoor Ballylee”:

Out back a damson:
fruiting stone.
The sounding water rushes on.

In “Another Country”, two haibun are dedicated to friends: the first, “Welsh Rarebit”, to the eminent haibun poet, Ken Jones, and his wife Norah, and the second, “One for the Slate”, to Jane and Mickie. “Welsh Rarebit” is a lovely example of the poet’s recollection of a visit to Jones and his wife in Cym Rheidol. It is a vignette of the poet’s love of history and nature, reinforced by perfect precision, as we see in this final paragraph and following haiku:

Something shifts. The truth of being as it is. Place and moment gather into completeness. We limp back to Plas Plwca as night falls.

His thin-ness –
two skeletons embrace
departing

Three haibun and several individual haiku are grouped under the heading “Aragonese”. The first of these, “Romerias 1, 2 & 3” is particularly good. It focuses on a visit overseas to see a sculptor friend. The haibun is constructed in beautiful shapes, sound and tone: here is the haiku and opening paragraph from the first section with its frustration at airport holdups brilliantly evoked:

night sounds
hearing silence in each creak
and fading footfall

Bedlam at the airport. It seems we all want to leave. Security can’t cope. I miss the flight, and ring to say no go. Then I’m on standby. Six hours to explore Departures.

In the second haibun, “A Tear of the Sun”, the poet is in a Spanish supermarket “stocking up for a week of mountain solitude, in flight from Christmas jingles.” And in the third haibun, “Ruta Orwell”, he writes about George Orwell and the Spanish Civil War. I quote the last paragraph and haiku:

The trenches and sandbagged redoubts are reconstructions but the scouring wind and the sense of melancholy in these hills is real.

Monegros
the heroic struggle against
boredom and lice

“Warrior Cries” contains one haibun, “Leaf-bursts”, and three poems. “Leaf-bursts” takes us to Poland, where

Apartments from the soviet era squat beside crumbling brick barns, greying timber houses. Implements in yards, each eloquent in its own, the broken and the useful, in rain and sunlight, idleness and labour, just as they are. Black soil of vegetable plots, turned and ready.

the sick catnow
into ginger fur
licks warm sun

The section entitled “Laborare est” contains three haibun and several individual haiku. The first haibun, “Yeh Go I” focusses on a “slow boy” and to his delight in racing round a go-kart tract:

Then to the figure-8 go-kart track. Around and around he goes at a     sedate pace while I watch. Tiring of it, I go back to the van for a snooze, leaving the attendant to keep watch.

The next haibun, “Seedling”, is bravely honest in its portrayal of a marginal figure:

See him raking leaves on a winter’s day, bent to his task, hoodie shadowing his face, he’s a diminutive serf locked in the margins of a Book of Hours. See his absorbed expression listening to vintage reggae – he’s burnin’ Babylon.

While the last haibun, “Something in the Air”, is a delightful portrait of a workman: his day done, he admires his work:

Job done, he pauses in the roadway, looks about expressionless. The blower’s nozzle swinging idly across the detritus of chipping randomly patterns the underlying surface. He squeezes the throttle gently. Shapes appear and dissolve. Smiles.

just a few raindrops
enough to release it
the fragrance of dust

Here are three haiku from the section:

The little larch
still wearing its name-tag
it too turns brown

Lengthening
a snail’s shadow
draws out the sun

April hail –
two robins at a pear-bud
freeze in mid-flight

The final section, “In an Acorn Cup”, contains eight poems and six pages of haiku. In “To a Fallen Swallow”, a nature piece which has much to commend it, Norton’s cadences seem very appropriate to the theme. Here is the first verse:

Sweeping round the office park
I find the little clochan
fallen from the eaves, its nest
dissolved to mud and straw by winter rain.

That’s a superb image – effective and memorable. In another poem, “What the Shed-boy Said”, the poem records a boy’s joy at not having to live in a bricks and mortar house, but in a cabin surrounded by natural sights and sounds:

Last night I heard the vixen scream;
the dogs went wild and bayed a while.
And so I thought – yeh,
blest that in a cabin dwell

One cannot do justice to this collection in a review as it is jam-packed with material. The mapping of personalities and places is integral to the poet’s vision and the confessional passages of the book are complemented well by his experiments with form. At his best, Norton blends the complex tradition of Japanese verse forms and lyric poetry into something wholly his own. His poems are both original and informed by the tradition he loves. They are also visually and aurally satisfying. This is a book that celebrates life, a book for which many readers should make time.

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Spotlight on QLD Poets #6: Jenny Wright

This is the last in the spotlight series, but it will not be the last you hear from these exciting new voices, so be sure to keep your ear to the ground for new work from each of the ‘spotlighted’ poets. I also want to thank everyone who has read and/or commented on each of the spotlight posts. As a poet, it can be daunting to send your words out into the world, so thank you all for making each of these poets welcome. To finish off the series, it is my pleasure to introduce Jenny Wright.

Jenny Wright is Welsh and at fourteen arrived in Australia. In the sixties she went to P.N.G. and remained for twelve years. Jenny has had seven children, has eight grandchildren and one great grandson.

She lives alone, except for her dog, in a very old house that originally was a hall. Jenny does little housework and aims to paint or write most of the day, except when travelling, although friends and family do take up pleasurable time.

She enjoys wandering in the desert and tries to spend six months each year exploring Australia.

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departure

what country did they leave
to live in this poor shack?
rough walls
a rougher shelf for tea caddy, clock
and origami bird.

two cups of tea grow cold
‘be safe my love. take care.’
he stares at her hand on his.
how to bear this parting?
how long before she touches him again?

their child sleeps.
they fear to wake her
but she must not rise to find her father gone.

they never dreamed of this despair
or separation.
maybe they pray all will go well
or maybe faith has fled.

*****

desert dawn

all is still and no crow calls
shadows listen for the sun
roos martial ready for the day

the light bursts against horizon
flows down Round Hill
engulfs spinnifex scrub and stones

roos disperse to forage
a wary rabbit twitches
as overhead an eagle hovers

an hour later a myriad flies swarm
and sweat needles red earth tattoos
on my bare face and arms

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Last reading for 2012…

It has been another massive year, but I am not quite ready to put the feet up (keep your eyes on this site for the announcement of an important fundraising project later this week).

So before the Christmas rush hits, I would love you all to come out and support my final reading of the year. I don’t do many feature readings in Brisbane these days, and I am really excited about this one, as I am sharing the bill with two exciting artists; Angela Gardner who is one of the founders of the unique, light-trap press and one of my favourite Australian poets, Laurie Duggan, who will launch his book, Leaving Here… on the night, in what is an all too rare opportunity to hear him read on home soil.

Here’s the details:

Join Light-Trap Press and Queensland Poetry Festival to celebrate the launch of Laurie Duggan’s latest collection Leaving Here…

…a suite of poems about being here and finding one’s feet elsewhere,
with an original lino-print cover by Angela Gardner. This beautifully
produced limited edition of only 100 signed and numbered copies is
the third in the light-trap press poetry-in-print series.

Laurie will take to the mic to read from the collection, joined on the evening by local poets Graham Nunn and Angela Gardner. Along with fine poetry and a glass of wine, Light-Trap Press will be giving away a lucky door prize on the night – a unique hand-printed letterpress broadsheet ‘Swung Weight’.

When: Thursday 29th November
Time: 6pm start
Where: Queensland Writers Centre, Level 2, State Library of Queensland, Cultural Centre, Stanley Place, South Brisbane
RSVP to sarah.qldpoetry@gmail.com

*****

I hope you can make it out to what will be an incredible event!

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Spotlight on QLD Poets #5: Deborah Norrie-Jones

It has been a time of riches here at Another Lost Shark… and those riches have come in the form of the words of some of QLD’s emerging voices. Today, the spotlight is on the crystalline words of Deborah Norrie-Jones.

Deborah Norrie-Jones is an artist, arts therapist and poet. Her childhood features the wild west coast of NZ, Dunedin and PS 43, Harlem, NYC. She had a solo exhibition of poetry and art; Grief’s Resonance in Brisbane 2005. An Australasian (citizen of both Aotearoa and Oz) she reads poetry at Speedpoets, Brisbane, and Poetry Live, Auckland. She has been published in Takehe and Poetry Lines, has been a guest poet at Lopdell House and is off in January 2013 with a one way ticket to Mexico for the San Miguel International Poetry conference.

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back courtyard
golden canes sweep sunshine
into Buddha’s eyes

*****

Moon

You’ve done enough.
Leave me alone
this night beside the river.

Into dark fig trees
I turn – A sudden slash
of silver light, slices
down my back.

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Spotlight on QLD Poets #4: Angela Willock

Thank you to everyone who has commented on the first #3 spotlight poets… the vibrant voices keep tumbling out of the Brisbane fabric! And this evening, I am delighted to shine the light on an exciting poet and performer, Angela Willock. If you like it, spread the word!

Angela Willock is a Brisbane based poet, awkward conversationalist, and alphabet enthusiast. She has been slinging words around Brisbane for the better part of a year, and can usually be found skulking in dark corners of Jam Jar Poetry Slam, Words or Whatever, and any other event going .

Her recent successes include becoming a finalist in the 2012 QLD poetry slam, performing roving poetry at Island Vibe festival as part of Monologolous Rex, and winning a jar of jam. She has also just finished facilitating poetry workshops with young women at a community organisation. She will be featuring at Raw Poet Roar on December 1st.

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Learning to Count

It’s a matter of mathematics

One tired table hosts three empty chairs,
While two distraught lovers cover two months of heartache,
Dampen the death of speech by muffling one hand over the other.

Two cups of tea grow cold while four ears strain against the silence,
That was once filled by one child’s laughter.
One paper crane sits high on a shelf,
Saved by ruin from ten tiny fingers
While two breaking hearts pretend not to notice it’s irrelevance.

It’s ten past ten and the twenty concerned neighbours
Have stopped bringing food,
As if eight weeks was enough time for grieving

There are three pictures on the walls,
Stick figure photographs that they treat as priceless art
Too expensive to sell
They think of the countless number they threw away over his six years,
And go into too many pieces to count

Two sheets of blank paper mock them from the table,
Knowing they’ll never fulfil their destiny

It’s a matter of mathematics

When you’re a family
Three minus one
Leaves nothing.

(In response to an artwork from Shaun Tan’s “The Arrival”)

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Miscarriage

July cable stitched winter over
white sandstone cliffs,
The vast sprawl of darkness
swimming near the shore

Witness the corrugated whiteness of her eyes,
and blazing glitter of her fall

The current ruffles
an unmade mind
Makes your eyes water
Leaves breath cold

You will find no sign of death here

But if you close your eyes,
you might completely miss
This unknown life within you

As if she never existed at all

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still pond
the blue heron steps
over a cloud

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Spotlight on QLD Poets #3: Anna Jacobson

It is very exciting to be bringing you the sounds of some of QLD’s exciting new voices. This state seems to be splitting its seams with words! Tonight it is a great pleasure to introduce you to the gentle, intimate words of Anna Jacobson… another name you are sure to be hearing more from.

Anna Jacobson is a Brisbane based poet and photographic artist. She graduated from the Queensland College of Art with a Bachelor of Photography with Honours. She loves creating soundscapes with poetry and video art and in 2009 she won the Queensland Poetry Festival Filmmaker Award. She is currently studying Creative Writing at QUT. She is grateful to her poetry mentors Graham Nunn and Pascalle Burton for their inspiring workshops at the Queensland Writers Centre. Anna’s artist website is www.annajacobson.com.au

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Breathe

I would have liked
your picture,
the one that was lost,
framed in my room
so that I could gaze upon it each
day.

Your laugh always helped
before my nerves got the better
of me and
you smiled when I told you this.

For you the war was
trapped in a radio
when you evacuated.

For me it’s trapped in my head.

Nana, you travelled-
I looked at your photographs,
imagined myself inside them,
mimicking your path.

The grandfather clock has stopped
but the wood still sighs-
the pendulum sways in a non-existent
breeze. And I breathe with it.

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Typing Nana’s Story

Perfect skin and the scent of
something I can’t quite name.
We are both seated near the computer.
I am watching her type and there’s none of this two-finger business.
Every finger is typing in the correct position,
with slow but perfect precision.
Except for her pointer and ring fingers,
which have seized up.
I can see her trying to push past the MS,
to expel it from her being. And although it has her fast,
it may hold captive her body, but it doesn’t own her mind.
‘How do you know to type like that?’ I ask.
‘I used to be a typist.’

Next time I visit,
her hands are clawed and don’t press well,
so I offer to type for her. ‘Do you know what you’d like to write?’
‘How does this sound?’ she says
and she rattles off these brilliant paragraphs,
these intimate details.
‘That’s great,’ I say,
trying to capture it all,
fingers skate over the keys to keep the magic of her words.
I don’t want to tell her to stop,
so I push myself to catch each phrase, each story.

Her musical dictation plunges me into the scene.
At school her friends called her the Polish princess.
Now she is a regal queen, and I her loyal subject.
Her memory is wired and sparking.
The keyboard is electric with her tale –

Last week it was escaping the Pogroms in Poland.
This week is the final paragraph.
She writes the ‘Shema’, a parting prayer.
‘The Rabbi will like that,’ I say
and I know she wants to impress him.

And there’s this feeling of completion.
She has left her legacy, for generations to come.
I hug her awkwardly through the arms of the wheelchair,
sinking into her soft skin,
breathing in that nana scent.
And she is forever an artist,
forever my queen,
forever a Polish princess.

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