Friday, July 27, 2012


afternoon tea, then of course it was much more than just tea and cake
old Mrs Bridger tries to eat the flower-pattern from her plate
you, on best behaviour, sit silently watching this funny sight
waiting, waiting for someone to help her do things right

coming round a country corner unwittingly, it was fate
the last of Hewitt’s herd stumbles out the open gate
an obstinate brown-eye stare quite oblivious to our intent
waits for the farmhand’s stick-switch before the slightest movement

old age and the doctor have been quick to define
rest, total rest, you must now take your time
no garden, no car-clean, no walking the dog
you’re told to sit tight by your fire, put on a large log

an empty chair, a painting, the sun dusts the blind
time to recover, to reflect, at least journey the mind

Richard Scutter 15 June 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bagpipe Music - Louis MacNeice

   It's no go the merrygoround, it's no go the rickshaw,
   All we want is a limousine and a ticket for the peepshow.
   Their knickers are made of crepe-de-chine, their shoes are made of python,
   Their halls are lined with tiger rugs and their walls with head of bison.

   John MacDonald found a corpse, put it under the sofa,
   Waited till it came to life and hit it with a poker,
   Sold its eyes for souvenirs, sold its blood for whiskey,
   Kept its bones for dumbbells to use when he was fifty.

   It's no go the Yogi-man, it's no go Blavatsky,
   All we want is a bank balance and a bit of skirt in a taxi.

   Annie MacDougall went to milk, caught her foot in the heather,
   Woke to hear a dance record playing of Old Vienna.
   It's no go your maidenheads, it's no go your culture,
   All we want is a Dunlop tire and the devil mend the puncture.

   The Laird o' Phelps spent Hogmanay declaring he was sober,
   Counted his feet to prove the fact and found he had one foot over.
   Mrs. Carmichael had her fifth, looked at the job with repulsion,
   Said to the midwife "Take it away; I'm through with overproduction."

   It's no go the gossip column, it's no go the Ceilidh,
   All we want is a mother's help and a sugar-stick for the baby.

   Willie Murray cut his thumb, couldn't count the damage,
   Took the hide of an Ayrshire cow and used it for a bandage.
   His brother caught three hundred cran when the seas were lavish,
   Threw the bleeders back in the sea and went upon the parish.

   It's no go the Herring Board, it's no go the Bible,
   All we want is a packet of fags when our hands are idle.

   It's no go the picture palace, it's no go the stadium,
   It's no go the country cot with a pot of pink geraniums,
   It's no go the Government grants, it's no go the elections,
   Sit on your arse for fifty years and hang your hat on a pension.

   It's no go my honey love, it's no go my poppet;
   Work your hands from day to day, the winds will blow the profit.
   The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall forever,
   But if you break the bloody glass you won't hold up the weather

Louis MacNeice (1907 - 1963)

You might consider the title an oxymoron unless you come from Scotland of course. Louise MacNeice was born in Northern Ireland and spent most of his life in England. Written after a vist to the Hebrides in 1937 at the time of the Depression. Simply a must as a poem to be read.

Blavatsky - Madame Blavatsky (1831 -1891)- Russian scholar of ancient wisdom literature, founder of the Theosophical Society
Ceilidh - pronounced caley -  a party with dancing and live music
Cran - a measure of the quantity of just caught herrings

Monday, July 16, 2012

Best-Selling Poetry in Australia

Best-Selling Poetry and other Oxymorons

Bronwyn Lea has recently put up a post on the above topic …

But first what is an oxymoron … see
… basically a contradiction in terms  … FUN run immediately comes to mind

But I was interested to see what poetry was most popular in Oz (based on sales) … the following text was taken from Bronwyn’s Post…

Neilsen BookScan, which records book sales in Australia since 2002, reveals twentieth-century Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran, as the clear favourite.

Born in 1883 in Bsharii in modern-day northern Lebanon, Gibran died of liver failure at the age of 48 in New York. The Prophet, his first book, was published in 1923. Its fame spread by word of mouth. By 1931 it had been translated into 20 languages, and in the 60s it was a hit with American youth culture. It’s been popular ever since.

In the fictional set up for The Prophet, Almustafa has lived for 12 years in the foreign city of Orphalese and is heading home when a group of people stop him. He offers to share his wisdom on an array of issues pertaining to life and the human condition: love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, houses, crime and punishment, beauty, death and so on. The chapter on marriage is perhaps the best known, as it’s a regular in wedding ceremonies. A testament to love (and an argument against co-dependence), it concludes:

Give your hearts but not into each other’s keeping.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and they cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Thinking about bestselling poetry, there’s one more quality worth mentioning.

Laughter - in terms of sales for an individual poetry title, the second ranked poetry title in Australia is Michael Leunig’s Poems (Viking 2004).

Which goes to show that while Australian readers like thinking about god, they have retained a sense of humour.

My comment

My copy of ‘The Prophet’ contains illustrations … and Michael Leunig books rely on illustrations for effect … perhaps another important consideration for success is to consider multi-medium work.

 … and in that regard I have just come to understand a new term –
 ekphrasis … a verbal or written description of a visual presentation … see

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sylvia Plath - Birth, Statues and Museums

Sylvia Plath defines birth in terms of a museum and statues ...

Empty, I echo to the least footfall,
Museum without statues, grand with pillars, porticoes, rotundas.

SP (Barren Woman 21 Feb 1961).

Museum ... a building used for storing and exhibiting objects of historical, scientific or culture interest.

A woman is a museum in that she carries the history of humanity. A barren woman is like an empty museum. Any noise echoes the tragedy of such a state. A museum is of little value if has no exhibits?

Statue ... a sculptured, cast, carved or moulded figure of a person or animal - especially life-size or larger.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

SP (Morning Song 19 Feb 1961)

The echoes now have a sense of joy but the nakedness and fragility of birth is in stark contrast to the solid structure of the surrounds. And of course a new baby is very much on exhibition. How is the new statue going to fit into the historical context?

Here is the memorable first line from Morning Song ...

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

What a strong positive statement on birth that only a mother can truly understand. Babies are fat, gold is pure and you may, or may not, believe that love generates life. A watch is an apt analogy not only to the link to the heart beat pulse tick, but to time. Birth and time are inextricably connected.

Note ...
Morning Song was the first poem of SP's self-chosen set of poems called Ariel (named after the horse she rode in Devon). A memorable first word to open the collection. … love

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ode to Melancholy - John Keats - analysis

Ode To Melancholy

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
    Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
    By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
    Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
        Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
    For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
        And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
    Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
    And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
    Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
        Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
    Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
        And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty - Beauty that must die;
    And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
    Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
    Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
        Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
    Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
        And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
John Keats (written 1819)

Stanza 1
Lethe – Greek mythology, one of the five rivers of Hades
Wolfs-bane- poisonous plant (Aconitum)
Proserpine - Greek goddess Persephone, queen of the underworld

The message is clear – do not consider suicide and of more import accept the experience of melancholy  - experience to the full the anguish of the soul (today we use anti-depressants)

 Stanza 2
Look to beauty in nature and focus on that … and the beauty of woman (ignoring other side issues in this regard) … glut thy sorrow by drinking deep into this form of antidote

Stanza 3
Your melancholy is a measure of your appreciation of the world (sensitivity) the two must go hand in hand … joy and sadness goes hand in hand …
In the very temple of Delight
    Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine

Here is an internet link to more detailed analysis on this Ode … including an initial stanza that was removed prior to publication

The removed stanza below would have been an good introduction …
Though you should build a bark of dead men's bones,
    And rear a phantom gibbet for a mast,
Stitch creeds together for a sail, with groans
    To fill it out, bloodstained and aghast;
Although your rudder be a Dragon's tail,
    Long sever'd, yet still hard with agony,
        Your cordage large uprootings from the skull
Of bald Medusa; certes you would fail
    To find the Melancholy, whether she
       Dreameth in any isle of Lethe dull.

... you can’t find or pinpoint melancholy down in any physical sense on any journey into Hades

Medusa – Greek Mythology  … gazing on her would turn you to stone … using her head as a weapon see …
… and an Internet link to the life and works of John Keats …